Traveling with a larger family can be a challenge.
Most European rooms are described as "doubles" -- that means two
Full size beds are rare...Queen and King are almost non-existent.
Some hotels and B&B's offer "family" rooms
In some cases they are like two room hotel suites ...more often than
not...it could mean five twin beds....literally pushed side to side.
Many times we have booked two rooms -- which can be price
prohibitive. We would put our littlest in with us and the boy and girl (two
years age difference) in a room by themselves.
Many times, a "hotel" will only accept a family of four.
So we have left one child outside...and snuck them in later...throwing
duvets and comforters on the floor to make a bed
Some places will drag in a cot or a spare mattress for the floor.
The point is....be flexible.
It will never be "like in America"
That is a good thing...
we travel to try new things
How We Travel
We try to bring one week of clothes.
Check out the "Once You Are There"
page for more info
Bring old underwear and socks. Wash
them once on the trip, then throw them
away...leaving room for more souvenirs.
Bring your oldest and most comfortable
Throw them away before returning to
Same thing with water shoes
Swanson Rule: If it smells...throw it out
Usually everyone has one small carry-on size case
One duffel bag for shoes and coats
One duffel bag as catch-all.
Total of 7 small suitcases for five people for three
weeks of travel
Even my teenage daughter can pack for three weeks
into a carry-on
Each person needs to be able to lift and carry their
own suitcase up/down stairs(for example up six
flights like pictured below)....on/off trains....on/off
subway trains etc.
|Turret Guest House
|Hotel or B&B
We have stayed in both fancy name
brand hotels and family run Bed and
Breakfast establishments. We much
prefer the B&B's.
Of course, free is free. We have cashed
in travel awards with Hilton and Marriott
and had some excellent stays in big
cities (Paris, Munich, Salzburg, Prague
On many occasions, we have pulled into
the village or town, visited the local
tourist information office or TI and used
their room booking process.
However, in most cases, we have
research on-line or in travel books (We
love Rick Steves) and reserved rooms
before we went.
In almost all cases, the smaller inns and
B&B's offer friendlier service and
sometimes unique and interesting
"homes away from home"
Bring a Day Pack with you
It is great for carrying your
cameras, emergency umbrellas,
jackets, snacks, water bottles,
first aid kit, medicines and
sometimes even picnic supplies.
We also collect pins and patches
from our travels. It is a great
conversation starter as people
love to talk and share their
travels. It has even been
photographed by tourists.
You can buy it
you can fit it in your suitcase
(it goes for Mom too!)
But look at what we can fit in our
suitcase....Remember to balance
out weight wise what you throw
away (old shoes socks, underwear)
and use up (toiletries)---to what
you bring home
|Most Important Tip
Buy the Rick Steves Travel Book for the area
you are traveling.
Read it, highlight it, Carry it with you
You will not believe how helpful it is
We call it our Travel Bible
Rick Steves' has many, many travel books
specialized by country and sometimes by city.
Buy the book several month in advance.
Read it, highlight it, cover the page edges with
sticky notes. Carry it with you at all times.
We follow almost all of his self guided
"Walking Tours". We see sights that he
recommends...we go where he recommends,
when he says to go and do what he says. Of
course, we use his recommendations and
personalize his info to make the trip our own.
However, We find that our dining experiences
are better when we eat at listed
restuarants...His B&B and hotel information
saves alot of time and stress in planning. His
travel advice and tips are not to be ignored.
I also condense the info into cheat sheets. I
have provided samples to the left. These are
invaluable for planning our day and quick
Another idea is to make copies of important
pages and maps for easy access.
I (as mom) also assigned homework...making
three copies (for three kids) of any pertinent
history sidebars, biographies or even
They love me.
In planning your trip, do your
research and summarize on cheat
sheets. This idea is a HUGE help in
planning and organizing your trip
I personally make cheat sheets of
each area or town that we visit. So
that when we arrive I can simply
grab that cheat sheet, a copy of
the town map and head out to
Prague, Czech Republic
|Swanson Family Travel Rules
|Drinking Age Limits
Europe is very open minded about early
exposure to alcohol. When we order a
carafe of wine in France, the waiter will
automatically bring wine glasses for
children as young as twelve.
This is a very personal family decision;
however, we allowed our children to
sample, taste and even order beer/wine
at lunch or dinner.
Our philosophy...Learn to appreciate, not
over indulged. Learn to "taste", not binge
Beer is often cheaper that soda...and
twice the size
|Erica, age 12
Champagne tasting in Reims,
France at Piper-Heidsieck
|Jameson Whiskey Distillery
Brent, age 15 Erica, age 18
Amanda, age 11
Amanda, age 7
Just kidding folks....she's just
Forget Traveller Checks....that is old school
and Don't use credit cards for cash
advances unless it is an emergency to
avoid high fees.
Almost every destination will have a
ATM--that is your best access to cash.
Also bring several hundred dollars in local
currency (usually Euros)
It can be ordered through the bank
The easiest way....is to visit the ATM before
coming home from your last trip....to stock
up on currency to bring home for next time
Last Resort, there are currency exchanges...
shop for good rates.
Don't wait until you are desperate for cash
Another trick we have learned is to stay in one area longer....
We call it "home base"
and make side trips from there
For example, we stayed in Lindau...but made side day trips
into Bavaria, Germany and Eastern Switzerland, even
We also planned several days in Tuscany...
We homebased in Montepulciano...visiting 10 little village
towns in Tuscany...and even spending a day in Assissi (an
The Benefits...well, of course, time savings because you don't
lose time packing/unpacking suitcases, packing/unpacking
cars, settling bills, checking in etc.
There is also a cost savings as many places offer discounts
on multiple night stay.
Warning; We were even insane enough to try a day trip to the
Cinque Terre, Italy from Nice, France.
It didn't look too bad...maybe a two hour drive...
but it was more like four hours each way because of the
twisty, winding roads along the coast.
|Do your research.
Check out the Internet.
Explore travel sites like this.
Come up with a plan.
How long is my entire vacation?
What countries/cities do I want to visit?
What are the major sights I want to see?
Very Important...how do I connect the
dots...rental car, train, buses?
How long does transportation take?
How many days can I spend in one
general area (see Home Basing)
Then come up with a rough itinerary.
Book plane flights
and anything extra.
|Bryn B&B Conwy, Wales
with castle in the backyard
|Above: D-Day Cemetery
Right: Dachau Concentration Camp
|Traveling is such a great family
experience. Nothing brings family
together like putting three children in
the back of a small station wagon.
Not only does traveling expose the
kids to other cultures and history, it
teaches them be flexible, easy going,
and willing to try new things.
We love sharing our love of traveling
with our children. We hope these
opportunities and experiences will
shape their character in adulthood to
be knowledgeable of world history
including the effects of war,
compassionate of poverty,
understanding of religious and
political differences, tolerate of all
racial and ethnic backgrounds and
truly appreciative of their US
Again, to make this work for you...
do your research.
Some ATM fees are high, other banks offer
lower exchange rates.
If your bank has high ATM fees, consider
traveling with a debit card.
No fees, good exchange rates, interest on
We use our Visa Credit Card for large
purchases, expensive splurges for
restaurant dinners and most hotel stays.
Again, do your research. Make sure your
credit card is accepted in international
destinations. Make sure your credit card
offers a good exchange rate and low fees.
Don't assume your B&B or small hotel will
accept your card. Always ask at check-in
what type of payment is required at
check-out. You may need to plan a trip to a
ATM or exchange office for cash
Also notify your credit card company and
banks of your plans to travel internationally.
Some companies will notice "unusual
activity" and put a hold on your account.
This happened to us in Pisa Italy. For a few
hours we were stranded with no money.
Again, notify them before you go.
|Above: Erica sharing her
homework about the
Below: Amanda reads from
Rick Steve's walking tour
|Above: Souvenirs from 2008
Below: Souvenirs from 2009
Yes, we brought home 18 bottles of
wine....and 6 pieces of heavy pottery
|You need to bring small, lightweight
suitcase to be able to maneuver small