You haven’t really lived until you’re running through an Italian train station with you backpack on, duffel bag swung across your body, and a two-year-old hitting you on the forehead screaming because he wants to run for the train by himself.
Thankfully, aside from some delayed motion sickness, that really was the hardest part of taking four kids to Europe! So, here is our first tip for surviving three weeks and countless train rides, flights, and public restrooms with a small army– plus, some pretty travel photos.
Tip #1: Food Rules
Anyone who knows me in real life understands that food makes my world go ’round. Our kids are awesome travelers because we don’t wait for a meltdown to start a mealtime.
Getting there: Before we left, a wise Army mom suggested that I split my snack bag into individual bags for each person for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With applesauce pouches, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, trail mix, and frozen Panera bagels, we successfully navigated the international flight, including a 2am body clock layover in Iceland’s tiny airport. Choosing a family-friendly airline like Iceland Air was a huge plus: complimentary meals were delivered to each child before beverage service began.
In our apartments: Stocking up on bread, jam, crumpets, cereal, milk, and water was a must each time we arrived in a new city. Breakfast was always at home, even if we were getting pastries once we walked out the door. We followed the locals to the grocery stores and markets– and even lucked out by having apricot trees in our Florence garden. We never let the kids start the day on an empty belly.
Out and about: Our daypack always included snacks, gum, and a two-liter water bottle. With a mix of American comfort snacks (Goldfish came everywhere) and local treats (Jacob’s cream crackers, Jaffa cakes and Club bars), we could always push through to the end of a hike or the next gelato stop. Even if it was just before a scheduled meal, keeping everyone full and hydrated kept the kids happy and the adults capable of patience and flexibility.
At restaurants: Hubby did an excellent job scoping out restaurants ahead of time to make sure our street food was delicious and our main meal was filling and worth the money. Whenever we ate out, the kids got the same things: cheese pizza, sausage and fries, or something equally as boring and normal. Hubby and I went for more adventurous foods and shared bites, but we chose good behavior and full bellies over forcing the kids to eat local. Along the way, they tried calamari, fried prawns and anchovies and walnut pesto sauce, while developing a taste for balsamic vinegar on gelato, prosciutto, almost all local fruit, and two-year-old (not three-year-old) aged parmesan cheese.
Stay tuned for our essential packing list coming up next!