I have written about travelling with kids numerous times – one article I did 10 years ago. I used a pic from exactly the same hotel we stayed in in Bangkok as we did this time. And I do have to say, it was the same positive experience – but oh so different.
I recently came back from overseas, Germany (mostly). We travelled over to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday.
Due to training and HSC commitments of our oldest son and work for hubby, I just took the two younger ones, 13 and 15 years old.
- Check passports and apply for leave with the high school
- Buy (cheep) airline tickets – hanging around at airports for hours is not such a big deal with older kids. As long as they are fed and have their devices with them!
First hurdle we faced was getting them to actually wanting to come – and I asked them in all earnest: with the prospect of no internet at our main places of residence – Grandma in Nuremberg and my dad in Munich. It took the 13 year old two days to make up his mind (which pissed me off, but what can you do) but taught me the first and most valuable lesson for this trip:
- No one can predict a teenager’s mind and entertaining them, or making sure they have fun is not my problem. If teenagers want to have fun, they will, if they don’t, they don’t and there is nothing a parent can do about this.
This helped tremendously as I sometimes just did my own thing, asked them whether they want to join, sometimes not even that. They needed their time without me, time to ‘chill’ (whatever that involves – mostly wifi and doing nothing) as much as I needed time without them. Kids are hard work, and that doesn’t stop just because they move into being young adults. I still had the responsibilities, the financial burden and had to feed them.
- Picking strawberries and making smoothies is good kids entertainment for Aussies. Embrace it.
They are their own people: taking them sightseeing might not be that exciting, but visiting the cousin’s school and witnessing 500 kids travel to school with pushbikes makes it onto their Facebook page.
- Stay in contact over social media with them – this way you know what really tickles their fancy.
- Embrace their independence – leave them alone
My kids speak the language, so I left them to their own devices as often as possible. We don’t spent 24/7 together at home.
I bought a SIM card for the older one (a constant source of unfairness for the 13 year old) and he managed to travel from Munich to Ulm by himself and they made it back to my dad’s house on bikes form the CBD, which is a 30 min bike ride, just using their instinct and google maps.
- Try to make it possible for them to make decisions, do what they want even if that means doing nothing
The kids wanted to do an Alpine Crossing so one morning we took the train into Austria, hiked to a hut where you can stay overnight– to continue early the next day. Well above the tree line, through fields of snow from last winter, walking into Switzerland over the ‘green boarder’.
Absolutely spectacular and so great for me to show my kids the stuff I grew up with. I am so happy that they ‘got it’ how beautiful this landscape is;
I loved it when they got excited and couldn’t stop mucking around in the water on a sailing trip we did on the biggest Bavarian Lake. The sparkle in their eyes when I chased them up the tower of a church in my hometown Munich. The satisfaction of eating so many delicious sausages that you are not hungry any more (a big deal for the 13 year old!!!)
- Feed them, constantly
I loved their enthusiasm over things I grew up with; picking strawberries and eating them straight from the field, going out at night and cycling there – and back – in the middle of the night (without a helmet!!!)
Long days with daylight till 10pm. Medieval towns and villages. Grand art Deco suburbs in Prague, intense heat and a third world country on the stopover in Bangkok.
- Trust them
I was truly amazed at the sense of direction my 15 year old has, and saw a lot of things through their eyes, which gave me a new perspective (like the forest right behind my dads house; it’s just pine trees, but as Tim pointed out, “ not like the bush at all”)
- Don’t worry
Send them to the pool at the hotel by themselves; they eat pretty much everything; they have enough energy to walk all day.
- Be upfront with your expectations: like behaviour when you eat out, or when visiting relatives. Tell them what’s in it for them (like great food or a couple of Euros)
- Tell them what to pack for little trips – but leave it to them what they actually wear and take.
- Take enough e books to read.
- Make communication with their friends at home possible – they need to vent and stay in contact.