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Planning (and not) for Europe

2018 August 3

When I booked our upcoming trip to Europe several months ago, it felt like it was a million years away. Now that a million years has passed and it’s only one week away, I am trying my best to take an organized, but not overly organized, approach to the whole thing.

We aren’t locking in too many activities or things to do ahead of time (with the exception of Harry Potter studios outside of London, because it’s basically the highlight of my daughter’s life and I wasn’t leaving it to chance). We are hoping to leave a lot of time for exploring and wandering and while we are planning to check off must-sees and major sights, we also want to give ourselves some time to just go with whatever feels right each day.

Packing-wise, I am trying to stick to carry-on only. For four people. For 17 days. I know, it seems ambitious but I am hopeful we can do it. We are traveling to three different countries, four different destinations, and I want the ease of carrying on everywhere we go. So each of us will have one carry-on roller bag and one backpack for our personal and entertainment things. To (hopefully) help with that, I bought packing cubes that compress and bags that expand. I am also limiting the kids to one stuffed animal each (a hot topic in this house) and limiting myself to two – ok, maybe three – pairs of shoes. I am going to stick to a very basic color palette so my pieces can mix and match and yes, you will probably see photos of me in the same dress multiple times. I am ok with that, to keep things simple.

The other thing I am preoccupied with is the flight. It’s a long overnight one and I am really trying to make it comfortable for my kids. They will each have a small travel pillow and blanket. They’ll be dressed in light layers. And we got two window seats one behind the other so they will each have somewhere to lean while they try to rest. I am not going to do any sleep-inducing pills or Benadryl or anything (we tried that with my son when he was two and it totally backfired and he was wired the whole time). My husband is far less concerned about it than I am so I am trying to follow his lead and just embrace what might be overtired chaos for a day. Or two.

Tech-wise, we can’t go too light because my husband and I both need to bring a laptop for work access. It’s just the reality of our careers and one we can embrace since we have the flexibility to get up and go to Europe for two and a half weeks in the first place. I will be leaving behind my beloved “real” books and downloading this and this to my Kindle app instead. I have a white noise app on my phone that always comes in handy with my kids since they sleep with white noise at home and will bring my iPod Nano (yes, I keep my music separate from my phone altogether — is that weird?) for music.

Any other tips, tricks or favorite things you want to share from your own travels? Would love to hear them in the comments below.

Have a great Friday. One week from now, I’ll be saying that from London. x

*image via Dust Jacket Attic via The Everygirl 

8 Responses
  1. karsha chang permalink
    August 3, 2018

    Pack a small spray bottle of Febreeze or air freshener. For whatever reason – we always end up needing that when we travel internationally. Trains and some hotel rooms are stinky (as are little kid sneakers after a long day exploring). Bon voyage!

    • WWGD permalink*
      August 7, 2018

      ha, love that you said this!

  2. Christina V permalink
    August 3, 2018

    It sounds like you’ve thought of everything! We traveled to Europe (3 countries) with our kiddos a few years ago and we also took a carry on and one backpack each. No problems at all. We stayed in AirBnBs and any chance we had to do laundry, we did! We also took an overnight flight- I won’t lie, it wasn’t the easiest (one of my kids got claustrophobic and kind of freaked out at one point, but he was mainly just delirious from needing sleep).

    A couple of things we’ve learned from traveling with kids- 1) always keep them fed! Whether it’s snacks you’ve brought or just the flexibility to pop into a bakery/Starbucks outside of a mealtime. A non-hungry kid is a happy kid! 2) As much as possible, maintain a balance of everyone’s need for downtime/activity time. We have one kiddo who really needs a chunk of downtime every day. It can be hard on vacation when we want to get the most bang for our buck and see everything possible, but I have to remember that it’s his vacation too. We try to keep this in mind and only plan for one major activity per day.

    Have a great time! We were in London, Paris, and explored Ireland on our trip and it was awesome! Some London suggestions that we loved: The Princess Diana playground was a hit and “The Play that Goes Wrong” (theatre) was so funny!

    • WWGD permalink*
      August 7, 2018

      Ooh, great tips! Thank you, Christina! I am already starting to open up my mind to just one checked bag…let’s see if I pull through!

  3. Natalie permalink
    August 3, 2018

    I can’t say enough great things about travel books by Rick Steves, particularly if you are not a huge advance planner. Rick does the most amazing travel books (often with kid-specific suggestions as well) that include walking tours of most major European cities (and multiple walking tours if the cities are large enough to break down by “region”) that tend to be history-focused, but include more offbeat things as well. His guided walking tours of the major museums are great if you have people with varying interests. (I tend to read it ALL and read aloud the small number of things my husband will care about!) Rick also recommends food choices by area of town, super helpful if you are just looking for a quick bite while out and about. (His food tastes tend to focus a LOT on budget and I am a food-based traveler…so they aren’t always my cup of tea, but they are often good jumping-off points.) I’ve never used the Kindle version, but they are inexpensive enough that I will sometimes “shed” the books as I travel to lighten my load! I hope y’all have a fantastic time!

    • WWGD permalink*
      August 7, 2018

      Thanks, Natalie! Will try to check them out!

  4. Kate Lafleur permalink
    August 3, 2018

    We did this trip last year. Also with only carry on. It can totally be done. Harry potters studio will not disappoint. I also highly recommend the play Matilda in London. We loved it!!! Have the best time! And don’t stress to much about the flight.

    • WWGD permalink*
      August 7, 2018

      Thanks, mama! We have some very excited HP fans over here for sure.

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