I love traveling during Christmas. It helps keep my children focused on spending time with family instead of gifts. We do not participate in the tradition of Santa so it is easy for us to have Christmas morning anywhere. Plus it is exciting to be a tourist during the holidays. Streets are beautifully decorated, and people are generally in a more cheerful mood.
When we announced our plans to travel with three children to Germany last Christmas most of our friends thought we were crazy, and maybe we were. It took two city busses, three plains, nine carry on bags, two strollers, and nearly 24 hours to get us there. At the time our children were 14 months, 4 years, and 7 years old. It wasn’t always easy. My son, the middle child, fell nearly breaking his eye socket, got electrical burns on his fingers TWICE, and fell through the train platform onto the tracks. Every time we moved between cities ( four times) we had to load everything up…walk to the rain station….get on the train….get seated…entertain the kids…get off the train…and walk to the new hotel. We didn’t always know where we were going, and our vision makes it difficult to see street signs. We didn’t even always find seats on the trains as reservations for all of us would have been expensive. Oh, did I mention we don’t speak German? It was all part of the adventure, and I would do it again in a heart beat.
True our kids were too young for activities like historical walking tours, Concentration camps, and the like. However, there are children everywhere, and we found plenty of interesting things for them to do. We went to five different cities, countless Christmas Markets, a perfectly preserved walled mid evil town, a chocolate museum, a salt mine, a zoo, two King Ludwig castles, the Duches Museum ( think German Smithsonian) , two fortresses, and several playgrounds we accidentally found. Just flipping through our scrapbook ( that I just completed by the way) wears me out.
There were also those everyday cultural experiences like eating at the Hoffbrauhaus, hanging out at the local laundry mat or grocery store. Watching German cartoons ( often Nickelodeon or Disney in German voices). They learned that Germans have two kinds of apple juice, one carbonated and one regular. We figured out very quickly the words for each as the kids hated the carbonated kind. They loved drinking juice from wine glasses, and trying all the different pastries in the doughnut shops and Christmas markets. They played on awesome playground equipment that you’d never see here in the States due to liability issues. Our hotel in Munich happened to be in a Middle Eastern ethnic neighborhood so my kids experienced a little of that culture as well.
They had a great time, and regularly ask if we can go back. I think the most valuable thing they learned is there is a great big world out there. People have, and do different things. Some you’ll enjoy, and some you won’t, but it is fun to experience it nonetheless. I am very fortunate to have been able to share my love of travel and experiencing different cultures with my children. I hope to take them all to China someday to experience the culture tha gave us our second son.
Salt Mine Salzburg Austria
That’s A Slide!! Munich Zoo
My daughter and I ridding on the train steps because all the seats were full.