My family’s last summer hurrah was a trip to Europe that had been planned before COVID-19 (and one we had to take before losing the booking!). After such an awful year of lockdowns, the death of my father in New Zealand, and natural disasters, we decided to take the plunge and head to Paris with the knowledge that at a moment’s notice our plans could change with COVID restrictions. As I send my kids off to school this week, I reflect on the fact that this trip has given our family a new appreciation for life as it used to be. To take in all the beauty around us from Paris to the Swiss Alps, Italian lakes or Rome.
Being from Australia the kids are well seasoned little travelers but this was the first time we embarked on a trip with one carry on piece of luggage each and I wish I had done this long ago as it made traveling so much easier! We gave the kids a little duffel bag that folded up as a pouch inside their bags for souvenirs and gifts we purchased along the way. We figured by the end of the trip we could check our bags if necessary and have our duffels as carry-on.
We decided to hire a car on this trip which turned out to be a great decision due to the flexibility it gives you. The train is efficient and fast, however it requires a bit of planning and we wanted to be a bit more spontaneous and not locked into too many timetables. For example, we were able to wake up in Lake Garda and take a day trip to Venice at a moment’s notice. Having not travelled with the kids in a while, someone suggested that if we were planning to visit museums, art galleries or the ruins in Rome that we spend a little money and hire a kid-friendly tour guide. Best decision ever!! It avoided the pains a normal tour would warrant with moans of “are we done yet”.
We learned the hard way after not booking one at the Louvre Museum in Paris (we were Mona Lisa done and dusted almost!) The guides for the Colosseum and the Vatican specifically catered the experience for our kids, making it fun yet educational and it was well worth the expense.
Learning to alter and adapt was another lesson we really instilled in the kids. We had no power on our first night in Lake Garda and then no water so we all bathed in the lake - a fun experience for the kids and a great lesson is going with the flow!. I also encouraged the kids to learn simple greetings (please and thank you) in French, Swiss-German, German and Italian. It really went a long way with the locals as they always appreciate the effort and not an assumption that everyone everywhere speaks English. Traveling is sometimes the best teacher as kids get to see and experience different cultures, ways of life and learn to communicate to make themselves understood.
Whether you traveled abroad or domestically this summer, getting out and experiencing a change of scenery was much needed after the onslaught of 2020. As we head back to school and work, I am thankful for the quality time we spent as a family and the lessons we have learned along the way - being kind, grateful, flexible and resilient.
Wishing you an amazing start to your school year,