I still have not been across the pond with my kids, but this wonderful guest post about an Eastern European road trip with kids from Keryn at Walking On Travels has inspired me to make sure it happens sooner rather than later. I love her laid-back attitude towards road trips – one that I am now adopting as well!
EUROPE: 3 days, 4 kids, 3 adults, and one crazy road trip to Eastern Europe
I’ll admit it. I’m not your typical mom. Oh sure I look like the mom next door, who runs errands, hauls kids to play dates and lessons, and can never seem to get out of my yoga pants, but I have a dark side. I like to look the status quo in the face, laugh a little, and then shake hands with chaos. This darkness shows up the most when we travel.
In October 2012, I was in Europe for five weeks with my then 3 year old and 5 month old sons. We were visiting friends that had moved over the years for love, work, or who had simply been born there. When a childhood friend moved to Italy I was the first to raise my hand when he opened his house to visitors.
My friend’s wife was an insatiable traveler; it was travel mom love at first sight. She suggested we pop over to Croatia and Slovenia while I was in town. These countries were two of Italy’s neighbors on the eastern side. I like to equate driving around Europe to driving around the Northeastern part of the USA; two hours and you have already crossed the border.
Thus began our crazy adventure through three countries in three days. Did I mention there would be three adults with four kids under age 5 in one car? Our plan was fairly simple and looked something like this.
Day 1: Drove from Ferrara, Italy to Lake Bled, Slovenia. We dumped our bags, hopped in a boat over to the church in the middle of the lake to do some sight seeing, grabbed dinner on our way back to the hotel, and went to bed.
Day 2: Drove from Lake Bled to Rovinj, Croatia. We had a late lunch when we arrived in Rovinj, explored the town, even found a playground near an open-air market, gelato for dinner, and then off to bed.
Day 3: Drove from Rovinj back to Ferrera with a lunch break in Trieste, Italy to break up the 4-hour drive.
This itinerary sounds insane, and it was. Just as we had stretched our legs and started to settle in we would pack back up, strap the kids in their car seats and hit the road. There were meltdowns and laughter, naps, movies, and endless snacks to see us though.
A few key elements were necessary for this type of trip.
- Entertainment: Get your A game on parents. Fill those goodie bags with coloring books, crayons, special toys, and a tablet or portable DVD player when everyone is at the end of their ropes.
- Snacks: With 3-4 hours between each stop for the night you need to have a variety of snacks and water available for hungry, bored tummies to indulge.
- Restroom breaks: Breaks of any kind are a must, but those for the restroom are obvious for potty-trained kids, and diaper changing breaks for younger ones.
- Patience: This trip is not for the faint of heart. Having a companion is key. Know your limits, and when your patience is at an end pull over and catch your breath. You will arrive soon, I promise.
- Lunch stops: On our way to Lake Bled and on the way home from Rovinj we scheduled lunch breaks about half way through our drive. This was a lifesaver as it let the kids (and parents) stretch their legs, fill their bellies, and get ready for nap time the rest of the drive.
Honestly if I had to do it all over again I would add an extra day in Slovenia and Croatia. A few hours is not enough time to see anything, even a passing glance. Do I regret that we did it? Of course not! I saw two gorgeous sites that have given me a reason to go back to these countries to explore even more.
Keryn Means is the founder of Walking on Travels, a site that gives hope to today’s modern parent who doesn’t want to stop their lives; they simply bring their kids along for the ride. You can find Keryn dragging her 2 boys around Seattle most days and across the globe several times a year. Follow along on their adventures on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.