Yup you read that right – a month in Europe with three kids under ten! If you are a couple, and particularly a couple in a busy season of life, whether that be with kids, jobs or other factors, do you find that the best conversations with your partner happen in the car? Yes? Not just us? Ok great! So about 18 months ago in a car conversation Chris and I were talking about big dreams and things we’d love to do in the next few years. It was at a time that traveling was becoming an option again. We were day dreaming of warm weeks snuck into the winter cold and treks to see incredible heritage sites around the world.
Now if you just found this blog on the internet and don’t know us well, I will let you in on something that most of our family and friends know well. Chris and I are VERY skilled dreamers! We can take a pipedream and run with it for hours. They can very quickly go from pipe dream to “add to cart” if you know what I mean!
So as we drove and chatted about traveling. It began to dawn on us that our three kids, then three, five and eight were at an age where we *could* travel with them. The pandemic had kept us housebound for most of our youngest’s toughest traveling years. As the world reopened, for the first time in almost a decade we wouldn’t need to bring along ALL the things. No diapers, no playpen, no nap schedule and no stroller.
Needless to say by the end of that car ride we were seriously considering a month in Europe with three kids under ten! Now here we are. Eighteen months later and we are about to pack our three kids, now four, six and nine up and we are heading to Portugal and Spain for 1 month. Is it insanity? 100%!! Is it going to be challenging? Yes! Have I ever been more excited for anything? Probably not!
Here are the top 4 things I have done to plan for a month in Europe with three kids under ten:
I was very strategic in choosing our flights. We are flying direct to our first destination in Portugal. No connections. This did mean I ended up going with the Portuguese airline TAP. According to reviews it may not be as luxurious as other airlines in North America. I will report back on this post-trip. We felt that forfeiting our airline loyalty for a direct flight with kids was key to keeping our three kids under ten from imploding on travel days. I did NOT want to deal with layovers.
With trans-Atlantic flights you don’t have much say in the time of day you flight out. Our flight there is a red eye, arriving in Lisbon at 6:00 AM. Because of this we chose to book our first accommodation for an extra night on the front end. This means we can head straight there and not worry about killing 4-8 hours waiting for a check in time. With three kids under ten who have just spent the night on a plane and all our luggage-could you imagine?
After traveling for smaller stints with our three kids in tow pre-pandemic as well as this Fall, we have learned that the number 1 most challenging part of a journey for kids is baggage claim. The flight is done. We are in a new country, things surrounding us look a little different, the temperature is different, and now… We wait!
For how long?
I don’t know, kiddo.
One suitcase arrives.
Ok great now we can go?
No kiddo, we need 5 suitcases.
WHAT? Why didn’t they all come out together?
I don’t know kiddo.
*Insert Meltdown here*
See what I mean? Honestly *I* hate baggage claim, so it’s no surprise the kids do! See ya baggage claim! In order to make sure a 30 day trip out of carry on only will work we made a few strategic decisions.
First we did a ton of research and got some awesome carry-on suitcases. These are the ones we went with. I know there are a million opinions out there on carry-ons. But these ones were my favourite. I wanted 2 wheels only( kids use 4 wheel spinner ones as rides through airports- it’s not pretty!) The second must was a soft side with an easy access pocket on the front. I wanted the ability to have multiple colours and I liked that these ones have cinch belts on the sides to make it smaller if you didn’t pack it full. (Quick side note on the suitcases if you decide to buy- they go on sale multiple times a year, so don’t buy it full price!) We also got these compression packing cubes to help keep things organized in our suitcases.
Second thing I did was spend the last year asking for specific Christmas and birthday gifts for ourselves and the kids that would make our trip easier. These included quickdry athletic clothing for everyone, Native shoes that work as runners and sandals, lightweight soft shell jackets, a Kindle device for myself and a lightweight hiking backpack for Chris.
Lastly we made sure our accommodations had washing machines for us to use throughout.
We are staying in AirBnBs for our entire trip. Chris and I were careful to choose ones that are large enough to accommodate us all. They also all have a kitchen and a washing machine. We also chose ones that are all entire homes. There are a bunch of reasons for choosing this type of short term accommodation over a hotel room. The first for us was being able to have some space for Chris and I after the kids go to bed. In a hotel room when one goes to bed, everyone goes to bed.
Also with three kids, it can be tough to find a single hotel room to fit us all. Booking 2 rooms it can be a nightmare to make sure they are side by side. Also two rooms means that Chris and I are sleeping in separate rooms. With a short term accommodation like AirBnb, we have more room. This means less stress about being split up and space for us to chill after bedtime.
We also love being able to cook while on our trip. Our plan is to cook most breakfasts and dinners in our accommodations and plan for lunch while out and about (either at a restaurant or packed with us). The reason for this is twofold. Lunch is usually a less expensive meal to eat out. The kids are usually still acceptable for public consumption at this time of day. No one wants to see my three kids under ten at a restaurant at 7:00 PM after a full day of adventuring! We will also be doing a good amount of grocery shopping. We grabbed this bag to pack with us and use for food essentials that move from one place to the next with us. The last benefit to our accommodations is that most of them have a patio, yard space or pool to enjoy on slower days.
This one might sound crazy, but we actually think that a month in Europe will be easier on the kids than a whirlwind 10 day trip. The overall travel time is less (three 10 day trips means 6 trans-Atlantic flights, a 30 day trip means only 2.) We also feel that we can take the overall pace of our trip down a notch. Our schedule has several days allotted for just moseying through the town we are in, enjoying the beach and hanging out at the AirBnb. The hope is that this will make it easier on the kids and also give us more of an immersive feel of the countries.
So that’s how I’ve lined up all my ducks in a row for a month in Europe with three kids under ten! We leave in less than a month. I can’t wait to update you on whether my plans were good ones, or if my three kids under ten totally shoot all my ducks down. We will continue to update you as we go.
To learn more about Aiden and her family, you can read this blog post.
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