I'm currently planning a 7 week camping trip, across Europe, with two young children. I haven't got too far yet in planning the itinerary, but the basic plan is to go Calais - Belgium - Germany - Austria - Italy - Ferry to Greece - Halkidiki and back.
Any travel tips would be much appreciated. I've got so many questions, its hard to know where to start... but here goes!
What's it like to take the ferry from Italy to Greece? Any routes / ferry operators to avoid? Is it worth booking a cabin, bearing in mind we will taking our car?
What's camping like in Italy?
Any good camping book recommendations?
What about travellling with young children? Any advice on things to bring etc.
What about security and travel insurance?
Hippychick x x
Hi hippychick, and welcome to TP!,
Firstly, sounds like a great trip, and best of luck to you.
As you do have two young kids, I’d be wary of trying to cram too much stuff in, or also long days of just traveling/driving which are likely to tire/bore your kids (or cause you to go nuts if they are always screaming/fighting etc in the back). Although obviously this depends allot on your kids. I never had a problem on long trips/consequtive days travel when I was young – even on boring trips like Calais – Reims – Strasbourg where essentially all you saw all day was fields. I was always happy. My brother however, used to get really bored and restless on such trips, and my mother also struggled with them, particularly on 2 consequetive days.
As to your questions:
Lots of Italy – Greece ferries, and which route you take depends on how long a crossing you want (do you/kids get se sick at all?) and where you are going to be in Italy. The two main routes are Ancona – Patras (22 hrs) and Bari (16.5hrs)/Brindisi (15hrs) – Patras. Both routes are served by more than one company and generally also stop at Corfu and Igumenitsa on the way which may also be worth considering. The Ancona crossing is longer, but 500km further north which will saving driving time in Italy, depending where your in Italy you are coming from. There is also a Venezia – Patra ferry, but that is considerably longer (35hrs) and probably much more expensive. All times are approx. Couldn’t say any of the operators are any better/worse than any of the others, but I’m not really the person to ask about that.
As to booking a cabin, having a car makes no difference – your not allowed to stay in the car deck (or even enter it) during the crossing. You can choose to stay in a public lounge with reclining chairs instead of cabins, but with kids (or if you need your sleep/are a light sleeper) I’d probably suggest getting a cabin.
Camping in Italy is normally quite good, particularly in the northern areas – lots of people camp, and standards are generally high. Be aware of European style toilets though, if that is something likely to both you/kids.
Sorry I can’t recommend a camping book or insurance. Security, is basically common sense – with camping, don’t take any really expensive/irreplaceable items, but other than that you should be fine. If you’ve not done much camping before, try searching for books about camping with kids (they exist, but can’t name any I’m sorry), and also make sure your kids know what to expect.
As for camping with kids and what to bring, without knowing your kids, that’s hard to answer helpfully – however, particularly on such an extended trip, your kids are likely to get bored. As such a supply of favourite toys/games etc will help. Also try an get them involved in the trip – set them little tasks like helping with tents/collecting water etc where feasible.
Also, depending on the kids, for journeys, try and get them to play observation games which can be continued/adapted on different days etc and something they can keep a score with. I.e a point for the first one to spot a pink car, or a horse, or a type of roadsign or name on a sign – pick things which are rare enough that they won’t be shouting out every 10 seconds, but often enough that they won’t get bored because they never see it. You can adapt it so they have to look for several things on a day etc. etc.
Hope some of that helps. Any further questions, just ask – there’s lots of helpful people on TP. Good luck and happy traveling.
How old are your kids?
We took some great trips in the US when the kids were little. I always gave them a blank compostion book and carried one myself. Each night we made our journal entries and pasted ticket stubs and brochures from places we visited in them. If we had film developed on the road, we added pictures. This wasn't always the most popular activity of the day but they were proud to show Grandma and the aunts where they had been. Unlike some of their friends who had taken family trips, they had a vague idea where they had been. When they were very young they drew pictures and I wrote their comments for them.
These journals have come in handy over the years. In the Miami-Dade public schools they do a lot of projects that are no more than easy to grade busy work. We've gone back to the journals to construct "about me" project display boards in elementary school and to build time lines of their lives in middle school.
I admire you for traveling abroad with your kids. I loved traveling with mine. Each year I threw them in my van and took the from our home in Miami to my sister's house on Sullivan's Island, S.C. for at least two weeks of beach, visiting places of interest to them and just having fun.
Now as young adults they are both terrific travel companions and I think some of that was molded by our early adventures together. My 21-year-old-son called tonight wondering where our next trip together will be.
This hippy mom urges you to show your kids the world at a pace at which they can embrace its wonders.