My husband and I love to travel, we always have. We’ve been to all corners of the globe, including Thailand, the Galapagos Islands, Austria and America. Many different places with many different stories to tell – and then we had kids.
Children give you a whole new perspective on travelling. Just getting out the door with a small child can mean you have to pack up the whole contents of the house in a small changing bag. Nappies, check. Change of clothes, check. Wipes, check. The list goes on.
Travelling with children to a different country brings another dimension to the experience of being a parent. How will my small children actually react to the change in environment and culture? How will they cope to the different food, language, countryside, shops and attitudes?
We have been to Austria twice now with the kids – for one week in both cases. The first time we went was in 2009 when the kids were only two and three years old. Since then we have returned this year, with the children being five and six.
Austria is not a traditional holiday destination for families. However, it is the perfect place for parents that love walking but have kids with very little legs that get tired quickly. It’s amazing to be able to go up in the cable cars to take in some wonderful views, and then walk half-way down a mountain to a restaurant with a playground or trampoline for the kids and some traditional Austrian grub.
We made sure our kids were prepared before we went away, as we were conscious that this would be their first time in Europe.
Try the food beforehand
Austrian food isn’t actually that complicated; and it suits kids. It’s Weineschintzel. It’s Pizza. It’s spicy sausage. However, if you are off somewhere more exotic, then trying the food before you go is a must. This is particularly the case where culturally spicy food is the norm.
Beware the child who gets obsessed by these new tastes. My son loved the food in Austria so much, that he had a few tantrums after we told him he couldn’t have Weineschintzel yet again. I guess it made a change from always demanding to have chips at home.
Show pictures of where you will be staying
Austrian houses and villages are very different from here; spectacular in some cases as they are built up the sides of rather steep mountains. We showed the kids photographs of the hotel we were staying in. Doing this before we went meant they were much more comfortable with the wooden houses and balconies that are traditional out there. It also meant we could explain that the balconies were dangerous if they weren’t careful on them. We nickname my little son, Stuntboy, for a very good reason!
Use videos to give them a flavour of the place
The power of the internet can come in very handy when you are travelling to somewhere out of your cultural comfort zone. We showed them video footage of Austria, particularly explaining about the cable cars that take you up the mountains above the snow line. Our kids became very excited at the prospect of seeing snow in June!
To younger children, chair lifts, and cable cars can be a frightening experience. We simply don’t have many in the UK for them to be able to relate to them. They can appear to be very exposed, and in the head of a small person, very unsafe.
Having seen them on the computer, my daughter found them fun. However, my son still decided he wanted to get off the chairlift half-way up, despite being quite happy to get on in the first place. Managing a wriggling, two-year old while you are dangling over a mountain-side makes for a slightly raised heart-rate; I had to hold on to him very, very tight!
Expose them to the language beforehand
The UK is pretty diverse. Your kids are more than likely to have been exposed to a number of different languages already. However, it’s quite fun to play around the language of any country you are visiting before you go out there.
Play some simple word games with your kids beforehand; picking up everyday objects and explaining what the word is for that object in the language of the country you are visiting. If your child is older than 3 and already has a good vocabulary in English, you will be surprised what they can pick up.
Wherever you are going with your child, these tips will help you to have a great experience with them; whether is France or China. Remember, even the smallest change in routine can disrupt a child, so being in a country with a different culture can be a major shock for them. Anything you can do to help will make your family’s trip much more enjoyable.
Have you been travelling with your children? Do you have any stories to share? As usual, please do add your comments in the box below :-)