Long ago when I was pregnant with my guys, we visited London and France to see my two besties who were living overseas. I can’t believe how much life has changed since then! Then last year, I went back to see S who was still there for a quick 3 night trip, my first away from my guys, and they couldn’t stop talking about how they wanted to see the Eiffel tower and hang out with S too.
But S and her hubby came back to North America and like most parents with young kids, I tend to dread long flights (actually I’m a terribly nervous flier and hate flying altogether but that’s a story for another day) so I kind of put this one off for a little while. And then I heard that stopping in Iceland makes the journey to Europe only a 7 hour flight from Seattle. When Iceland Air put on a promotion that let you stopover there for free on the way to Paris, we couldn’t help but book the flight.
So in a month we’ll be heading out to Iceland, France, Switzerland and Copenhagen. We were tempted to stop in Italy too, but I wasn’t ready to attempt this overnight train yet and we don’t have a whole lot of time. It’s called the Thello and it goes between Paris and Milan and please let me know if you ride it because if we see you have fun on it maybe we’ll do it another time.
In order to prep for a trip like this, I do a little research before-hand and this is the part I’m often asked about. For most trips, I look up the big cities we fly into and areas near there and search for things we like to do: coffee, pastries, animal sites, interesting forms of transportation, children’s attractions and factory tours. Then I search my twitter feed and pinterest for similar ideas because virtually EVERYTHING has been done by someone else before. I also go on Amazon and buy a bunch of books and exhaust my local library shelves too.
For Iceland I’ve been reading family travel blogs from Keryn at Walkingontravels and Mary from the World is a Book. Keryn hasn’t blogged a whole lot about her trip yet, (she just got back) but I have some great ideas about her travels there from this post and her instagram feed. Mary has an awesome Iceland food article and I really wanted to see puffins like her family did but I don’t think we’ll be there at the right time. We rented a car after talking to Mary and when I asked her what to do about car seats (we found out that car seats were exorbitantly expensive to rent and we’ve had car seats take hours to arrive on other vacations even though we’ve had them booked) she suggested just bringing our old ones and leaving them there. She is SO BRILLIANT!!! We don’t have old ones, but we found some really cheap ones and we’ll be bringing and probably leaving these in Iceland too. I was tempted to try some of those air-filled carseats called Bubblebums but they seem a little spendy to risk purchasing and I wasn’t sure if they actually work. (Please let me know if you use them-I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews.)
For Paris, we feel pretty comfortable about getting around, and the Paris Tourism site is fairly helpful but we’ve rented an apartment through Airbnb for the first time so we’ll see how this one goes. I’ve read a few great blog articles like this one by Wendy Perrin on how to avoid lines at some of the busiest Paris attractions and this one by David Lebovitz on Paris with kids because I’m reading his book, the Sweet Life right now and it’s making me drool about the food there. We’re also going to head to Strasbourg for a few nights because it’s about midway between Paris and Switzerland and it looks really neat. (If you’ve been to Strasbourg and have any kind of recommendations please let me know!) I bought the Dodsworth in Paris book for my guys because these books are hilarious and we adore them and we found them when we bought Dodsworth in Tokyo. I’ve also been listening to Pimsleur CD’s while I drive to make sure I (and the guys) can speak a little French while we’re there and hearing the language has been quite helpful. Growing up in Canada, we do learn French as a second language, but as soon as I get to Paris, I know the only French that will come to mind will be “Bonjour Madame/Monsieur. Je ne parle pas le Francais. Aidez-moi s’il vous plait!” “Hello Mister/Mrs. I can’t speak French. Please help me!”
In Switzerland I just want to go on this big funicular thing called the Gelmerbahn and eat a lot of chocolate, like the ones from Teuscher. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s worth it to get a rail pass for Switzerland and France. We’re only there for a short time, maybe a week total, but it might be be convenient and keep costs down too.
And we weren’t intending to stop in Copenhagen, but one of our flights was cancelled and Iceland air let us have a stop there too. Because it’s not a place that was ever on our radar and it seems pretty family-friendly we decided to hang out there for a few days so I’m totally reading up on all the things to do. I’m really excited to see the Tivoli Gardens, they just look spectacular. And I bought a book for the kids about Copenhagen called Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen. It’s okay, but I’m not thrilled about it and I know it’s not going to last in our house for long. I saw this beautiful anthology of Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales at Anthropologie and I think it would help my guys get a better feel of where they’re going. (And it’s such a gorgeous book!) I also think we’re going to get the Cats of Copenhagen by James Joyce.
So today, I’m shopping for my Europe outfits and supplies in between my family travel planning research. We’re going to be really lean in our packing similar to how we traveled through Asia in the fall and definitely using packing cubes. We’ve really enjoyed these Samsonite Suitcases for our guys (you’ll see them in a lot of our pictures after we got rid of the Trunkis) and I’m not sure what the hubby and I will use as of yet.
I picked up this cute carry-on from Sole Society and it is inexpensive enough that if I completely destroy it on the trip I’m not devastated and I really like the size. I don’t think there is any point bringing anything that I wouldn’t be sad to part with-I need room for the things I want to buy and bring home. (I did the same to an Old Navy purse I bought for our Japan trip. It looked like this Longchamp one, but was only about 20 dollars and it was easily replaced with lovely Japanese souvenirs.) I also found this inexpensive cross-body purse that might be helpful too.
So if you have any suggestions for things we need on a short spring trip to Paris, Iceland, Switzerland or Copenhagen or any suggestions for places to go, please let me know! I’d love to hear from you!
(PS. Of course whenever we’ve booked tickets to go somewhere we get something like this news of people worrying about some volcano errupting in Iceland. Thank you big volcano of doom. You’ve had so many years to explode, but now you are IMPENDING and of course that terrifies me.)