Our family of 5 recently returned from a 3-week trip over the holidays to Europe and I thought I’d start sharing highlights of our trip by answering the most common questions I’ve received since returning – plus a couple that I bet you’d like to know! Check them out below and let me know if you can relate to any of our favorite items we packed …or travel fails, ha!
Where did you go/what was your itinerary?
- We flew from our home in Nashville to New York City where we had a 14-hour layover, so we explored Christmas in the city for the day.
- Next, we flew from NYC to Lisbon, Portugal to Frankfurt, Germany.
- In Frankfurt, we rented a car and drove to our friends home in Sulzbachtal, Germany.
- We stayed in Sulzbachtal through Christmas until December 26. While there, we also drove (about 2 hours) and spent a night in Strasbourg, France followed by a night in Baden-Baden Germany. We also took a couple other day trips around Sulzbachtal.
- On December 26, we drove to Warsaw, Poland to stay with friends through the New Year with one overnight trip to Gdansk, Poland by train.
- On January 2, we flew to Lisbon, Portugal and extended our layover overnight to explore the city.
- On January 3 we flew to NYC where we got stuck in the blizzard (or “bomb cyclone”) until January 6 when we returned to Nashville. Just over 3 weeks in total.
Where was your favorite place?
- Sarah: Everywhere we went was truly amazing and unique, but my favorites were Strasbourg, France and Gdansk, Poland. Both sweet, small, beautiful European towns full of history and culture. I would also love to spend more time in Lisbon, Portugal.
- Brad: Warsaw, Poland. I loved the big city, the old town square and history of Warsaw.
- Grace (age 11): All of the Christmas markets in Germany and France. Also, just hanging out with our friends in Warsaw.
- Lila (age 9): The farms in Germany where we pet and fed horses and the train to Gdansk where we made a movie with our friends.
- June (age 6): Strasbourg, France (where I got my bunny named lapin) and Baden-Baden, Germany where Cayce and Will played with us while mom & dad went to the spa. Also, I loved ice skating in Warsaw and eating waffles in Gdansk.
What was the most surprising place you visited or thing you did?
While in Baden-Baden Germany, our friends sent us to the spa while they watched the girls. Baden-Baden literally translates to bath or bathing and the town is world-renowned as a luxurious spa town at the edge of the Black Forest. Brad and I went to an ancient spa for 3 hours in the evening where we progressed through the 17 steps/rooms of saunas, various pools and showers. It was incredible and truly luxurious. Apparently Germany and Austria have kid-friendly spas too – but this was really nice to indulge in, just the two of us.
What was your favorite food & drink?
Sarah: I loved the gluhwein (warm mulled wine) at all of the Christmas markets, the dumpfnudeln (sweet steamed dumplings) and the sausage in Germany. In Poland, I loved the Oscypek (smoked cheese) and Perogies.
Brad: The beer everywhere! Also dumpfnudeln, and the fresh bread in both Germany and Poland.
Grace: Nutella crepes in Strasbourg (and made by our friend Darcey) and hot chocolate in Poland.
Lila: Dumpfnudeln, hot chocolate, and a traditional French Raclette cheese dinner served by our friends Cayce & Will!
June: The waffles and hot chocolate in Poland!
What are three things you’re glad you packed?
- My wool Irish sweater – I think I wore it every day!
- Band aides for the girls – these seemed to fix most ailments on this trip, lol.
- An airplane size dry shampoo.
What are three things you wish you packed?
- Better boots for the older girls – we brought old, hand-me-down Uggs that didn’t fare well on the wet days.
- Small Roller bags for the girls – instead of using backpacks as their primary bag. (More on this below.)
- A small backpack for me instead of my weekend bag – although we primarily used Brad’s backpack for day adventures.
What are three things you wish you had NOT packed?
- All of my 6-year-old’s clothes except the one outfit and one pair of PJs she pretty much wore the entire trip, ha!
- Earmuffs for the girls – we had plenty of winter hats and jackets and it was hard to keep up with the earmuffs.
- Airplane pillows for the girls – they were gifted these before the trip (because they had been begging for them) and they hardly used them. Also, like the earmuffs, we had a tough time keeping track of those darn airplane pillows.
Three highlights of the trip:
- Being with friends – both in Germany & Poland. We are so lucky we have incredible friends who are like family and love to travel and adventure as much as we do! They shared their wonderful towns and favorite spots. We shared family meals, went on overnight adventures and laughed at least daily.
- The girls’ creativity, curiosity and ability to go-with-the-flow while traveling. Of course, we had our occasional moments and meltdowns (honestly, far fewer than we have at home), but we constantly commented on the fact that they are amazing little explorers that make travel so much fun!
- The kid-friendliness of Europe! From flight attendants to servers, from strangers & fellow travelers to shop owners – everyone was genuinely patient, generous and kind to the kids!
Three mishaps or fails of the trip:
- The girls’ backpacks –While we pride ourselves on packing super light and efficiently, the girls packed all of their things in their own backpacks (clothes, snacks, electronic devices, etc.) which were too heavy for them to carry for long periods. This was mostly an issue during our airplane travel days. We devised creative solutions, but next time they will take smaller/lighter backpacks and we will let them each be responsible for a small 4-wheel roller bag.
- We lost my Kindle on an airplane, boo.
- I never felt like I got a grasp of the German or Polish languages. Even basic words and phrases were difficult for me to recall. Thankfully, most everyone spoke some English – and I tried – but struggled.
Three favorite purchases or souvenirs:
- A cuckoo clock from Germany.
- A (free) Strasbourg event poster from the Christmas Market (read about my love of foreign posters here).
- Some Polish pottery.
Three things I’m kicking myself for not buying:
- A poster in Poland (I’m going to order one online).
- An antique bread-baking dish in France for Brad (my bread-baking husband) – it was super heavy and would have been a bear to bring home – so just a tiny tinge of regret!
- A small olive wood nativity in Baden-Baden from Bethlehem – we were out of euros and were having ATM issues in this town.
Clearly, the trip was a dream and as I recall our adventures, I can’t wait to do more traveling with my crew!
Please let me know if you have specific questions about our trip that you’d like me, Brad or the girls to answer. In the meantime, please come back for more posts about the trip including museum visits, Christmas markets, city guides, how we budget for family travel, new tricks, tips and thoughts on traveling with kids and more!