Ask Lonely Planet: Child-friendly fun in Europe

1 comment
The UK is generally a safe destination for travellers. Photo / Bloomberg
The UK is generally a safe destination for travellers. Photo / Bloomberg

We're planning a four- to six-month trip on which my partner will be working at various destinations and I will be looking after our 3-year-old son. We'll be leaving in July/August for London and then Europe, including France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain and Greece, then on to Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and back to Auckland. Could you please tell us of any hotels, tours or tips for travelling with a 3-year-old? - Victoria Preston

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

You will likely find Lonely Planet's Travel with Children book invaluable, as not only does it contain a raft of general, practical advice but has chapters covering 35 of the world's most popular destinations, including most of those you mention.

As your son will only be 3, you may as well focus on activities that fulfil your own fantasies, ruling out only those that involve base camps and nightclubs. You'll find that most will be amenable to families. To find paths of least resistance, check out the myriad websites dedicated to "London for children" and suchlike.

Many list free stuff like parks, playgrounds and places to have a paddle. It's actually never been easier to travel with kids.

That said, the wheels are bound to fall off at some point. This may be less often than you expect, however - particularly if you travel at a suitable pace. Factor in sufficient leeway to put the wheels back on.

As for accommodation, family-run and mid-range hotels are generally better suited to children, but don't rule out youth hostels. Many now have family rooms and are relaxed, fun places to stay where people who make a little noise blend right in. Self-catering will be your cheapest option all round, so carry a lightweight, compact picnic kit.

Before you go, talk to your doctor about illness prevention and work out a plan of action for common ailments. Make sure immunisations are up to date and that travel-related vaccines have been administered.

I am planning a trip to the south of England and part of Wales next year. For nearly half of my eight-week trip I will be travelling on my own and on the cheap. How safe is it for a 50-something woman to be travelling alone? I intend to use public transport and hostels. Do you have any tips for safe travel? - Ros Gallagher

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

You are unlikely to experience any trouble as the United Kingdom is a very safe destination. The risk factors can be further reduced with basic precautions.

Schedule your travel to arrive in destinations in daylight and if you fancy a snooze en route, secure your daypack to your body. Take one with a waist belt, and keep it done up when you're on the move.

Use secure storage - especially in hostel dorms - and if it isn't available keep your valuables on your person.

Ensure constant access to funds. We advise carrying both a credit card and your New Zealand debit card (check with your bank that it will work overseas), plus cash for smaller transactions. Stash a few notes somewhere else for emergencies.

Try not to look like a tourist. This is easy in the UK, and you can ditch the rucksack with the NZ flag embroidered on. Put your camera away when not in use, and exercise caution around tourist hotspots such as train stations and museums.

Walk with as much confidence and purpose as the circumstances allow, and wear sensible shoes. Take all the same safety precautions as you would on home turf. Avoid walking alone at night or in dodgy places during the day.

For a trip of this length you should consider bringing a mobile phone or, even better, a smartphone. Pop in a cheap, pre-paid SIM card and you can readily keep your contacts appraised of your situation.

You've made a good decision to stay in hostels, which are full with travellers of all ages. You'll find yourself in excellent company and will likely discover that the solo woman traveller soon makes many friends.

- NZ Herald

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