The most important things in life aren’t things. I try and remember this whenever I am overwhelmed with all the “things” I can do, buy and give my children. We have decided travelling with kids shapes their world view and make their worlds bigger. We want them to see the good in the world and understand they share the planet with people who have a different background then they do. We have decided the best way to do is to travel. You can’t put a price tag on good experiences but, the reality is, that price tag does exist. Here are some key tricks that will make the trip less painful on your pocketbook.
Make Your Kids Pay. There really is no reason why your kids can’t pay for something. Our youngest was 11 when we travelled to Italy. He saved birthday money from grandpa and grandma and wanted to spend it on the trip. I thought he would spend it on a souvenir but, he quickly took maters into his own hands. While in Venice, he REALLY wanted to ride a gondola. It is a perfect outing in Venice but very pricey for a family. We walked by a few gondola operators and decided it would be good for Connor to find out how much it cost, so he would understand our hesitation. He talked to a few gondola operators and got the information about the price and then, he was persistent. We all knew how much he wanted to go for a ride. Practically all of Venice must have known. Connor was determined and finally offered to pay for more than his fare share. It was brilliant because he got to do something he really wanted and spend his own money doing it. I would much rather have the memory of this experience with him vs. whatever else he would have spent his money on. Plus, it allowed him to take initiative and be proactive about our time. If you have any questions about riding a gondola in Venice, ask Connor. He’s the expert.
Find Some Water. Europe has no shortage of amazing waterways and coastlines. Busses, trains and even a small tour group are great ways to get to the ocean. We spend money getting to the coast but once there, it’s an afternoon spent getting your feet wet, looking for shells, watching boats and exploring the coastline…. all at no charge. The beach is generally free and fun for kids to just get lost in the scenery. We travelled to the Amalfi Coast during April so it wasn’t warm enough to go for a swim but, it was still interesting and they loved it.
Let Them Be Kids. It can’t all be about sight seeing and learning. This moment in Rome reminded me that we’re all still kids at heart. We were in between sight seeing stops but the kids just wanted to wander around and enjoy the Piazza del Popolo when we stumbled on it. Interesting enough, it actually means the “People’s Square.” We spent about 20 minutes making them pose like the statues in the corner and even more time letting them chase each other around the fountains. Chelsea even wanted a ride on her dad’s back. I mean would you ever turn down that request from your 14 year-old? He gladly complied and I caught this moment.
Let Them Look. Constantly rushing to pack in as much as possible is tempting when you’ve travelled so far. However, when you’re actually at an important site, be sure and soak in the moment. Darren and I took a step back and watched the kids just have a conversation together. This view from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge is outstanding and even though I can only imagine what they’re talking about, they are all three talking together. We didn’t try and rush them off and instead let them take all the pictures they wanted and have their moment. Clearly they were impressed.
Get A Birds Eye View. Wandering around the sites and streets are pretty spectacular but don’t forget to raise the stakes. In Venice, the rooftop of the T Rondaco Dei Tedeschi shopping centre is free to the public. Ride the elevator up to the top floor and you’re there. The views from here are jaw dropping and you’ll get a good grasp of where you’ve walked and what else you need to see.
Let Them Eat
Cake Candy. Eating as a family carries a heavy price tag in Europe but one way we like to stretch the budget is by letting our kids fill up on junk food. Candy is cheap, it’s an adventure and what kid wouldn’t like a bit of a sugar buzz to get them through the day? We typically make our own breakfast at our apartment, eat a late lunch and then snack on candy for dinner. This has become a tradition and we’ve done this in every European city we’ve visited from Budapest to London. It’s a fun way to remember each city and the kids still talk about the candy they liked the best.