Hola mi amiga,
Traveling with children is a wonderful thing. It's a great way to be together while experiencing geography, history, art, architecture, literature, nature and developing a real appreciation for other cultures.
Mini-Lili flew to Europe (from Canada) her first time when she was 5 months old. She will be 7.5 years old this summer when she makes her 5th trip back to France.
Each age provides its own challenges and rewards. With careful planning everyone can have a stress free holiday.
I put together a "fun bag" for the long airplane trips and in the car. The bag changes and evolves as Mini-Lili gets older. For the first trip, when she was 5 months old, the bag contained diapers, blankets, soothers, diaper wipes, rattles, extra clothes. This year the bag will have books (several related to the area we are visiting), favourite stuffies, coloring supplies, diaper wipes (always handy no matter what age your child is), snacks that Mini-Lili is use to, and the ipad with earphones. During longer car rides, she will watch a movie on the ipad or nap, arriving at the destination ready to explore.
At this age, Mini-Lili loves the castles and palaces of Spain and France. They allow her imagination to come to life. Cinderella Castle is modelled after the Alcázar of Segovia and we had hours of fun pretending to be Princesses exploring the castle. We bought her foamy swords and she fought knights throughout many villages. She loves to sneak around the ramparts and pretend she is protecting the ancient city.
Markets are a wonderful place for kids to explore. I give Mini-Lili some money and she will wander from stall to stall sampling honey, cheese, strawberries or smelling the soaps. She often spends her money on a postcard of the area.
After the visit to the market, we will have our picnics at a park with a play structure for Mini-Lili to "blow off some steam" and play with the local children. It's a great time for everyone to relax and enjoy some quiet time before heading off to the next church or museum.
Every town, village and city in France has a merry-go-round, "le manège
. This is a in-expensive form of entertainment. We found a beautiful old one in Fontainebleau dating back to 1900s. Mini-Lili choose the white horse, of course. In Paris, the carousel in the Jardin des Plantes has jungle animals and even includes dinosaursun dinosaure".
The restaurants in France and Spain are child friendly. I will take some colouring books and crayons with us which will keep Mini-Lili busy until food arrives. On warm summer nights, she will play with other children out in the plaza. One night in Uzès, it was Mini-Lili who didn't want to leave at midnight... her parents were ready for bed but she was playing with all the local kids around the fountain.
When traveling with children it is important to remember to pace yourself- go at their pace, take turns doing the things you want with the things the children want. A visit to a museum can be followed by a visit to the park beside the museum. In France, the national highways have rest areas, Aires, which are located roughly every 20 km and have everything from gas stations to restaurants, picnic grounds and restrooms. Long drives can be broken up with a stop at the aires for some time on the play structure.
Visiting other countries as a family is an amazing opportunity for discovery and growth. I couldn't imagine not traveling with my daughter!