About Us
Rooms
Traveling with a larger family can be a challenge.
Most European rooms are described as "doubles" --  that means
two
twin beds.

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
Family Travels
How We Travel
Packing Clothes/Shoes

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
walking shoes/sneakers.
Throw them away before returning to
the States.

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
Edinburgh, Scotland
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
and Nice)

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"
"The" Backpack

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.
Souvenir Rule

You can buy it
IF
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
reference

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
vocabulary.    

They love me.
Cheat Sheets

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
explore.

Examples

London

Tuscany, Italy

Vienna Austria

Prague, Czech Republic
Swanson Family Travel Rules
Drinking Age Limits
and Responsibilities.

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
Czech Republic
age, 16
Jameson Whiskey Distillery
Dublin, Ireland
Brent, age 15  Erica, age 18
Guinness
Dublin, Ireland
Amanda, age 11
YUCK!
Augustiner Braustubl
Salzburg, Austria
Amanda, age 7
Just kidding folks....she's just
pretending
MONEY
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
Home Basing
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
Lichtenstein

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
hour south)

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.

Plan Carefully.
Do your research.

Read Books.
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
Travel connections
Hotel Reservations
and anything extra.
Bryn B&B Conwy, Wales
with castle in the backyard
Above:  D-Day Cemetery
Normandy, France

Right:  Dachau Concentration Camp
Germany
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
citizenship.
ATMS
Again, to make this work for you...
do your research.

Some ATM fees are high, other banks offer
lower exchange rates.

If your bank ha
s high ATM fees, consider
traveling  with a debit card.  
No fees, good exchange rates, interest on
the balance.

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
Roman Forum
Below: Amanda reads from
Rick Steve's walking tour
Above: Souvenirs from 2008
Below:  Souvenirs from 2009
Yes, we brought home 1
8 bottles of
wine....and 6 pieces of heavy pottery
You need to bring small, lightweight
suitcase to be able to maneuver small
winding staircases.