My children were 10 and 11 at the time which meant that we would only have to pay 75% of the adult airfare. This rule applies until they turn 12 years of age. You will have to make sure they have their own passports which expire after 5 years rather than the usual 10 for adults, and if they are using existing passports that they still look like the photos inside. We all know how much they can change over the years.
We hired a car before we left with Passion for Italy Travel. This is cheaper than hiring in Italy. Once you get used to driving on the wrong side of the road, travelling around by car is very easy although you will have to pay tolls on the major highways.
With a car you can stay flexible with your plans and stop at any town you wish that might suddenly appeal to you. We found this easier on the children by allowing us to choose the pace at which we travelled plus they loved being in a flash new car. However never leave any luggage in a car or make sure it is hidden from view. We made sure all our luggage was on wheels including the hand luggage for the plane so everyone could grab something.
The first thing you notice about Italy is the beautiful and varied landscapes. We came through the Mt Blanc tunnel which the children thought was fascinating as it is 17 kms long. At the other end is a town which has a tourist information office who can supply you with maps etc. You will find quite a lot of people speak some English but it does help to know some of the basics yourself so a small guide to converting English to Italian is helpful. We used a guide issued by Lonely Planet which contains many useful phrases.
The children don’t have the same desire to keep travelling and seeing new things constantly. We fortunately had relatives in Torino to stay with before moving on to a small town outside of Como. This is part of the Lakes District. It is a beautiful area where you can take the children on ferry rides on two of the larger lakes, Lake Como or Lake Garda. The scenery is very relaxing and green. However the children’s greatest find were the gelataria where you can buy the most delicious and colourful gelati.. Most times they are reasonably priced and they were constantly trying new flavours.
Food was not an issue for the children as they love pasta and pizza. You can often walk into a Salumeria and ask for a bread roll and any sliced meat you choose. Many shops also sold pizza by its weight so you can have whatever size piece you like. My children mostly went for the plain Margherita (tomato and oregano) or pizza covered by prosciutto crudo or ham as we know it.
Remember to ask the locals for the best places to eat which caters for children. Always have a back pack with water and snacks in it that you can purchase from a supermercato (supermarket). It is cheaper to buy bulk packs of water although many places such as Rome have fresh water constantly flowing out of their drinking taps. However if you are not sure take drinking water with you. Also remember that most establishments use long life milk so get fresh milk from supermarkets also.
Another thing to consider is taking with you packs of cards and smaller games that they can play with when back at the hotel. Television is not usually an option unless they can understand the language. We asked Passion for Italy to find places with pools or near the coast so that the children could have time out swimming. Please bear in mind that if you are driving that you find places that cater also for your car as it can be expensive paying for car parking.
While travelling remember to not always head to the major cities and sights and head to some of the smaller towns. The children will love the old fashioned bakeries, animals in the streets and grape vines growing over the doorways. Each afternoon is time where streets are closed off and all the towns people gather and walk around saying hello to each other. You will all enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and quickly fall into a new way of life.
Lastly you may also be wondering about missing school. After consultation with a few teachers it seemed they felt that the life lesson the children were attaining by doing an overseas trip would outweigh any schooling they could miss. Teachers can give you homework to take with you which I found hard finding the time for. However they were told to write a journal each day of their adventures which they could relay back to their classmates or use it to remind themselves of what they did. This was an easier option but they must write it each day.
It will be an experience not easily forgotten. I would travel again with my kids and maybe consider a farm stay next time. There are many options open to families so ask Passion for Italy Travel. Our last stop was Rome where we dropped the car off and stayed in a hotel for three nights to relax and get ready for our journey home. We did not do a stopover on the way home which worked fine.
The children easily slept on the plane and played on their games consoles included on most overseas flights. We always asked to be near the toilets and were situated in the middle row so that we were all together. Have some warm clothes on board and socks on their feet as the temperature inside the aeroplane is quite cold.
Now start planning and enjoy your adventure as much as we did!