Travelling With Kids Through Europe

Preparing For a Fun-Filled Two-Month Journey Abroad

In this ongoing series, Barbara Dawson embarks on a two-month vacation in Europe with her family and is investigating how frugality and high adventure can come together to create a once in a lifetime family experience.

I remember going to Europe and seeing all the incredible works of art and beautiful architecture, living and breathing history and thinking to myself "how many more of these goddamn things to I have to see before I can have a beer". I am already sympathetic to my 8 and 9 year old who may rather throw themselves into the Seine than see every sight that Paris has to offer.

For this reason, I am planning this trip very differently than I planned the last one. We will see fewer cities, make more solid plans, drink less alcohol and take more breaks. We will only go to one museum in Paris (probably Musee d'Orsay), go to amusement parks and lie on the beach.

Preparation Is Key

In order to make the things we do see more interesting, I have been reading several books with the kids. We really enjoyed "Artbook for Children" which looks at famous art from a child's point of view. We have also been reading several children's books by Laurence Anholt that tell stories about different artists. These were loads of fun to read and now I can show my kids off like trained monkeys at dinner parties "C'mon kids, which artist was the one who cut off his ear and liked sunflowers".

So how am I going to keep my kids happy? We have started by creating a blog for the girls to write down their thoughts and post photos and videos for their friends and family. Little do they know that this is an underhanded scheme to get them to enhance their writing skills (insert maniacal laughter). They are both a little sad about leaving their friends and so we made little dolls that we are bringing. The girls can take photos of the best friend dolls at different places and then send the photos home.

Keeping The Kids Entertained

We have no phones, no ipods, no DS.....not a single we are going to have to make our own fun on long train and boat trips. I have found several good toys that could fill the endless hours that we are stuck together. Here are a few that I thought our family would like: pass the pigs, Rory's story cubes and the old faithful Battleship. I photocopied game boards and laminated them so they are easy to store,and we'll use buttons as players. Geocaching is also a really fun activity that will engage the kids in the places we visit. We have little Canadian flags and pennies to leave behind.

Other fun activities are friendship bracelets and sewing clothes from felt for their best friend dolls. I have a little pocket kite that we could use on the beach. I have tried to get all these toys and games to be as compact as possible but I think they are important for our we're wearing the same clothes every day to make room. Who will notice? I have laundry soap and a sink.

We are bringing a small computer to share so we are downloading movies and books on tape. Both my girls have Webkinz who could starve to death or die of boredom or whatever happens to them if you don't log in once in a while. And we'll utilize other educational sites too, Uptoten is French and English and there are some pretty fun math sites too. If we run out of books on tape we can go to this online story site.

Safety First

Finally I should mention safety. I am terrified of losing my kids and so I am satiating my terror by printing ID cards for my kids with their name, height and weight, our names and a message on the back in four languages that says "Please help me I am lost". We can show these cards to people if we get separated. My husband is humoring my neurosis but I always figure, better safe than sorry. I made them myself and printed and laminated them at Staples for $3.

My next post will be from the road. I hope the wind will be at our backs....and all that other syrupy Irish crap.

Hasta Luego!


Born in Montreal, educated in the Maritimes and now living in Vancouver, Barbara Dawson considers herself to be as Canadian as a Stompin' Tom song. Before children, Barbara was a Production Manager for George Lucas' company in San Francisco. It became evident that it was time for a change when her daughter's first words were in Spanish. She has since created her own business as a recruiter to the computer generated visual effect and animation industry in Vancouver. From a long line of cheapskates, saving money is a religion that Barbara and her convert husband practice with great devotion. Thirteen years ago they traveled the world together on $30/day.