I often promote doing an “authentic experiential trip.” So what exactly does that mean? Well, let’s start by painting a visual picture of what you might imagine your next trip to Europe might look like. Perhaps you visualize staying in a 4- or 5-star hotel in Paris or London or Rome. You might see yourself visiting all the “must see” sites like the Louvre, the Crown Jewels, or the Vatican. This all sounds like a fabulous European vacation. Right? But, what if you could ramp it up and not only visit one or more of these incredible locations, but actually “experience” them?
That’s what you can do on an “authentic experiential trip” to Europe, because an authentic experience shows your family more about how the actual people of the country live. It teaches what the culture is like, the history of the country, what sports they play, what foods they eat, and a little about the language. It opens kids’ eyes to the differences between America and other countries.
The accommodations are often owned by locals who may have had the hotel or castle in their family for centuries, or they may be properties that have character and details that make them very unique and authentic. These may be 4-star or 5-star accommodations, but they make you feel like you are really living among the locals. The properties tend to be smaller, but can provide some of the personalized services you might not even get at the more recognized “big” hotels. You may not be able to get the Disney Channel or some of the more familiar comforts of home, but you will learn how the locals live. These are unique, wonderful hotels or homes that are truly authentic to the architecture of the country.
Activities in the City
In the cities, I encourage families to be like local families rather than tourists. Why make your kids stand in line to see the Mona Lisa? Instead, go to a small museum, like the Rodin, Picasso or Musee de l’Orangerie, where they can see a few famous impressionist paintings they have learned about in school? Or maybe visit the aquarium or zoo where they will run into other European families? See Leonardo da Vinci’s actual inventions, such as the bicycle or his flying machines. Local science museums, theater and amusement parks are other fun activities.
Activities in the Country
In the country – and yes, I always recommend families to visit the country and not just the cities – go on a bike ride past fields of beautiful sun flowers, hike in the Alps, explore castles, learn how to make chocolate or cheese. See a vineyard or a nobleman’s ornate home. Run around in beautiful gardens and spend a day at the Lake or sea. You will run into the locals and learn so much about the people and the culture.
Most kids and adults have a favorite sport. Watch a cricket match in England, a soccer game in Italy, a tennis tournament in France or play golf in Spain. There are so many opportunities throughout Europe for playing or watching sports of all kinds. They might even find a new sports interest!
Try the local foods, even if it is just dessert. Every country has local dishes they are known for, but these may be hard for American kids to digest, if they are picky eaters. However, anyone can go for a little gelato, crepes or pastries. Check out the cafes, bistros and trattorias. Don’t worry – kids can find pasta almost anywhere.
I can promise you this: You will have much more fun and far less stress on an “authentic vacation” than your crowded, typical European “must-do” vacation. You and your kids will learn a lot about the people and culture, and it will open their eyes to the world around them. Maybe they will come home and be a creator like Leonardo, or an artist like Picasso, or even a famous Chef.
If you are interested in planning an authentic European vacation of your own, just give us a call. We would love to have a part in helping your family experience a vacation that will truly Create Memories to Last a Lifetime!
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Liz and Mike Kohler
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We specialize in family travel to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.