When I was young, taking small children abroad was practically unheard-of. Nowadays, everybody and his uncle is writing about taking the tikes to Timbuktu. When mine were little, so were my best friend’s, in France. So off we went when mine were almost-4 and almost-6, just the three of us, for a few weeks in France and England to get acquainted.
The first test came even before we took off; a 5-hour delay at San Francisco Airport — announced after we were dropped off, of course. Fortunately, there’s almost nothing to climb on, in an airport, just glass walls and plastic chairs. And an endless array of luggage conveyor belts, many of which were in constant motion — as was my son.
If you’ve been to Paris, you know that the French frown on walking on the huge lawns in the parks. All that beautiful, manicured grass…unusable! Just for looking at. Unfortunately, the oldest, most climbable trees sit out in the middle of those lawns.
So any time I heard a police whistle, I’d cringe. I knew who they were shouting at. Fortunately, my French is fluent, and I’d shrug a very apologetic Gallic shrug, shake my head and say something about “Kids!” in French. They never cited us.
Boundless physical energy drives both my kids — but their little legs were shorter than mine. So we walked mile after fascinating mile every day, until everyone was ready to fall into bed and stay there all night.
That’s really the key to traveling with kids successfully. Kids and dogs are alike in that; as the old axiom goes, ‘a tired dog is a happy dog.’ Same for kids — especially very athletic ones!
So we visited every playground we passed (and stayed until the other mothers got upset with my son’s climbing antics). We walked miles of subway tunnels and staircases.
And, of course, Alex being who he is, that is, someone who can — and must — climb everything, I have lots of stories about the unforgettable moments, the ones I’ll never be able to erase from my memory, no matter how hard I try! Someday I’ll put those all together for you to enjoy (maybe ‘enjoy’ is not quite the word!).
But we survived — and had a blast!
If you’re curious how to survive an 8-week-long trip abroad alone with little kids, send me your questions, and I’ll write about that later. I have piles of tips!