AdventureNotes #10: Special Edition, Family Euro Trip

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Despite the picture, no, I’m not going to write about my own family trip to Europe. Instead, this article is dedicated to ‘emak-emak rempong’ in Birmingham. It’ll consist of tips and other things to consider in preparing for travel and in traveling in Europe (well, most of the countries in Europe, anyway).

Maybe for most Indonesian, traveling to Europe is a dream. Having read many encyclopedias about European countries, seeing pictures of European typical scenery, and listening to other people’s story of their experience traveling to Europe made me promise myself that someday I will go to that continent. Maybe this is also the case of many people. Besides, the dream to explore the world is always tempting, right?

The world is getting narrower and narrower. The access to move around and to visit the far-away places has been opened. And now, as I live in the UK, I automatically think that it is such a good opportunity to explore Europe! Such an opportunist, I am indeed. However, it is a logical choice as the cost to travel European countries from the UK will be much cheaper than from Indonesia.

Based on conversations with other people who had traveled to Europe (cc: Mbak Magda & Mbak Ari) and my own experience, there are some points to consider in planning the trip and in traveling, especially when you are going with your family. It is going to be different from my usual tips in other AdventureNotes articles because traveling with family is definitely a different kind of challenge.

1. Transportation

The first step to plan your family travel is to find budget-friendly flight or train tickets. Other European countries are easily accessible by flights or train from London to Paris. We can search for the cheapest plan and train tickets using the ‘holy’ technology. I would recommend http://www.skyscanner.net/ as the website offers the comparison of plane tickets throughout the year so that we can really see the cheapest date to travel. Another way to get to European countries is by train. The fast train tickets from London to Paris can be found here: http://www.eurostar.com/uk-en. There is actually another way to travel, which is by ferry. Not too many people know this, but the port in Brighton and Hull offer ferry rides that connect those two cities to some cities in France, Netherlands, and Belgium. It can also be an option to consider. Plan your trip ahead to get the best bargain!

2. Accommodation

As I would suggest hostels for solo travelers, my friends who traveled with their family suggest AirBnB as the best accommodation option when traveling with family. The website, https://www.airbnb.co.uk/, enables you to search suitable accommodation for your family. The process of renting an accommodation from AirBnB is pretty simple, actually. Just search for the accommodations, compare the available options, and book the chosen one! There are just some things we might need to consider as we are actually renting a place owned by a person. It is recommended to check the guest reviews and contact the owner beforehand to see the owner’s flexibility – for instance when we are going to arrive late at night and such.

3. Car Rent

As most countries in Europe are located closely to each other, many modes of public transportation are available to help us move from one country to another. There are buses and trains connecting one country to another. As they are easily available, they can be considered as an option for your trip. However, traveling with family sometimes requires high level of flexibility, which does not go hand in hand with public transportation. Renting a car may be the best deal for families traveling to Europe. Some people are worried because they don’t have an international driving licence, but actually Indonesian driving licence is widely accepted here. Renting a car is also a simple process as you just need to book the car online and pick it up in your chosen place. The most convenient place to pick up the car is in the airport so that you don’t have to think about how to get into the city from the airport. Choosing the car that you want to rent is also a crucial step because you have to match the car with your needs. The chosen car should meet the number of seats needed, its GPS readiness, and whether it is in manual or automatic mode. Again, your preference will affect the cost.

4. Food

This is an inevitable expense during traveling. And sometimes, it cost a lot, probably a huge percentage of the total traveling cost. To reduce this expense, people who travel with families can consider to cook their meals throughout the journey. As AirBnB accommodation usually provide kitchen, it is quite an easy thing to do. Local shops and amenities will provide quite good range of groceries and food supplies. Easy peazy! For Indonesians, bringing ready-made food is also a good option.

5. Inner City Transportation

As in some European countries parking spot is a difficult thing to find, it may be a good choice to park your car outside the city and commute using the inner-city public transportation in order to explore the city. For some cities with bad traffic, such as Rome, it is also a very good option. You can usually buy inner-city public transportation tickets easily. Some cities offer family tickets, some others offer day tickets. It is an advantage to know these things beforehand to avoid unnecessary cost. A thing to consider in mind for families with children under 5 who may still be in stroller, it is better to commute by bus than metro or tube because bus is easily accessible whereas metro or tube requires you to go underground, sometimes without adequate facilities.

6. Attraction Tickets

For some families, strolling down the streets of beautiful cities or enjoying the scenery is enough. For some others, going into a tourist attraction is a must. Most tourist attractions offer group or family tickets. Ask for this when you are purchasing your ticket. Sometimes there are also city pass, which enables your family to enter several attractions with only one ticket. Sometimes, there are also 2for1 tickets or other promotions offered by companies or the attraction itself. Do search and take advantage of those promotional tickets!

With those points explained, there is no one-fit-for-all explanation. Each family should consider different aspects before deciding on the travel itinerary. There are three crucial factors need to be taken into account when planning your Euro Trip:

1. Time

Consider when you are going to travel. Is it a long school holiday? Is it winter? Is it summer? The time you are traveling is important because it will affect how you choose your outfit, whether it is easy to drive a car (it can be very slippery when the road is frosty), and if the day is going to be longer or shorter. It will also affect whether you enjoy the atmosphere or not – traveling during summer school holiday can be uncomfortable if you don’t like crowds.

How long you are going to travel is also a factor to be considered. Is it worth it to rent a car if you only travel for 5 days? How many cities do you want to visit? It is mostly important to determine your destination cities. Most Indonesian tours aim to visit as many cities as possible. Is that what you want? Or do you want to absorb a city’s spirit so that it’ll take you some times in one city?

2. Budget

I think this is the core of all travel plannings. How much do you want to spend for a trip? If it is okay for you to spend millions, probably you’d choose a nice hotel in the center of a city instead of AirBnB. I would suggest to budget every single detail of your trip. For example, I budget the food cost for each day to be GBP 20 or the cost of attraction tickets to be GBP 100 for the whole trip.

3. Condition

Traveling is an exhausting activity. Yes, despite the fact that it is fun and enjoyable and blablabla, it is exhausting! Therefore, you need to consider you and your family’s physical ability. It is especially important when you are traveling with very small children. You won’t want half of your trip cancelled because you are too tired, won’t you? Measure your pace and plan your trip accordingly.

So, plan your next trip now! Don’t worry too much because you are the only one who knows what you want and what you are capable of. And as a wise man says, when there is a will, there is a way.

Jan 10, 2016

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