I will never forget the one-page article I read decades ago in Newsweek by a prominent female journalist about the importance of transgenerational travel and how it changed her life. I was in my late 20s at the time, living and working in Chicago and had just returned from skiing in the French Alps with my parents. I was soon to be married and start a family of my own yet I could not let go of the love and joy I felt traveling with my parents as an adult. The article talked about how the writer had traveled the world with her mother well into her mother’s 80s and how that time together journeying around the world were some of their most sacred, special times ever together as mother and child. It struck a chord with my soul for I too had always traveled with my parents and they were the ones who introduced me to travel at a young age and gave me my wanderlust soul.

Decades and trips later, I have continued to travel with my parents to such far-reaching places as the Himalayas of Nepal, the Andes of South America, the perched villages of Provence and the European cities of Prague, Paris and London adding my sister into the mix. These times together have been some of the most sacred memories of my life and without question our shared love of travel meant that at some point we would have to introduce our own children to exploring the world.

The idea of a transgenerational trip to Europe launched a few years back when my mom, sister and I did a trip to London, Paris and the south of France. We knew that we wanted to do a girl’s trip once again with my mom yet include our daughters. We just needed to wait until they reached the age where they could handle all the walking and traveling. With my daughter Sophia at the age of 11 and my niece Hanna turning 13, this summer was the prefect time to do a three-generational trip to Europe and it was planned.

As the time for our departure approached, there was a last minute change of plans. My husband had planned on flying over to Europe with our son Max to meet up with us at the end of the girl’s trip yet he injured his back and couldn’t go. Since the trip was already planned and mostly paid for, we changed plans and had my father fly over to Europe with Max and take my husband’s place. We would be doing another transgenerational trip, this time with my dad, my son and daughter, throughout Germany and Austria. Despite the disappointment that Paul couldn’t go on the trip, there was a silver lining. My dad was able to come and get to spend 13 days with his grandkids exploring the Austrian Alps.

All in all, it was an absolutely amazing trip with lots of silly travel mishaps, magnificent moments and fun stories along the way. It will take me quite some time to put the entire journey into words but I’m excited to start sharing our trip with this first post on some of the main highlights. I hope you enjoy!

Our route: First a flight from Minneapolis to JFK then London. Four days in London with a day trip to Warwick. Next the Eurostar to Lille, the TGV to Paris and then a flight to Munich where we met my dad and Max and picked up our car. The rest a driving tour through Germany and Austria.

First Transatlantic Flight for Kids

The day of our departure I rose with the normal pre-travel jitters. Sophia and I were flying from Minneapolis to JFK where we would be meeting up with my mom, sister and niece for our Virgin Airlines flight to London. We hadn’t all been together since Christmas so our airport reunion was filled with hugs. We were able to get five seats all in the same row and paid for the premium economy upgrade giving us extra leg room.

Our excitement would soon fizzle when we had our first mishap of the trip. Right as the plane was about to lift its wheels off the ground and take off, the pilot slammed on the brakes and we came to a jarring halt. In all my years of travel, I have never experienced an aborted take off and it was darn right terrifying. We had no idea if we were going to crash into something or what on earth was going on. Ten minutes later the pilot announced that we had to abort our take off due to wind shear. We had to go back to the gate, let the brakes cool down, refuel and check the plane. Meanwhile a passenger on the plane had an anxiety attack and refused to fly meaning we had to search the entire cargo for her luggage, setting us back even further. Four hours later, we left and I would be lying if I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous about take off attempt number 2. But all was clear and we began our six-hour flight to London at close to midnight.

What surprised me the most is throughout the entire ordeal the girls just chatted away with not a worry in the world. In fact they almost didn’t even seem to notice what had happened. Their excitement for the trip was utterly contagious and once we had a wine in our hand we were all calmed down and ready to start our European adventure.

Seeing London through the Girl’s Eyes

Seeing London through my daughter and niece’s eyes was pretty magical. Our four days in London were jam-packed with checking out the main tourist sites, walking, shopping and eating til we dropped in our beds well past the girl’s bedtime. Highlights included watching the changing of the guards, riding the hop on hop off bus throughout the city, taking a river cruise down the Thames, dining at outdoor restaurants in SoHo, and watching the Lion King live. We also took a day trip to the Warwick Castle and had a delightful lunch in Stratford Upon Avon where Shakespeare was born. Perhaps the most fun of all was eating out. We always had lots of laughs and loved exploring all the different creations.

Discovering the Adventures of Train Travel

Growing up, I was fortunate to have traveled to Europe twice for three weeks each with my parents, and a huge highlight of the trips was traveling by train. There is nothing I love more than to watch the glorious passing countryside as the train rolls from city to city, country to country. In those days, we used to grab a baguette, some cheese and salami and have a picnic lunch on the train while playing cards to pass the time. These journeys have always been precious memories so we wanted to make sure that the girls would be able to experience a bit of train travel on our trip. Luckily, we were able to take two train trips, one to Lille and the other to Paris.

We took the Eurostar on the Chunnel from London to Lille and it was the first time I’d ever been on it despite all my years traveling in France. I thought the darkness of being in a tunnel would disturb me but before we knew it we were on the other side in France. Best of all is that we left from St. Pancras Station right across the street from King’s Cross Station, famous for Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express Train. My daughter has read the Harry Potter series at least four times and has seen the movies many. We had to go over and see the real thing which was a big treat! They even have a Harry Potter store filled with tons of memorabilia to buy. Trying to budge in through all the tourists to get a photo was definitely a challenge but worth it in the end. Sophia even bought another Harry Potter book to add to her collection.

We spent a quick afternoon and night in Lille before heading back to the train station the next morning to take the TGV to Paris. That is where the real European adventure began. After almost boarding the TGV heading to Bordeaux instead of Paris, we realized our mistake and had to run with four huge suitcases battling hundreds of people to get on the TGV to Paris. Feeling frazzled, we inadvertently boarded the wrong car and didn’t realize it until we tried to sit down in our seats and they were taken. At that point, the whistle started to blow and we had no choice but to leave all our luggage in car 13 and run as fast as we could to car 1, over a dozen cars down. Just as the last whistle blew, we jumped on panting and had to cross over four more cars to find our seats. Meanwhile I got locked in the train bathroom and had to pound it for five minutes yelling help. It was extremely embarrassing but I was relieved when a Frenchman heard my cries of terror and helped open the door for me. In a nutshell, it was a mess but we made it and our luggage was right where we left it 13 cars down when we arrived in Paris.

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Introducing my Daughter to Paris: Where it all began

The best memory of the entire trip was bringing the girls to Paris and showing my daughter where my love for travel all began. At the tender age of 13, my parents brought my sister and I on our first trip to Europe and it changed my life. I will never forget the moment when we arrived at the magnificent Place de la Concorde at the start of the Champs-Élysées. I took one look at the spectacular beauty of Paris and decided on the spot that I would learn French and live in Paris someday which I did seven years later during University. My time living and studying abroad in France began my lifelong passion for travel and exploring the world. I had to show my daughter. It had been a dream of mine since the day she was born. Watching her fall in love with Paris and seeing it through her youthful, inquisitive eyes meant the world to me.

Priceless

There were many highlights of our time spent in Paris as what is not to love about this magical city of light and love? Of course exploring the city on foot taking in Paris’ magnificent monuments, glorious architecture and multitude of outdoor cafes was a huge highlight. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tour, shopped for street art on top of Montmartre, cruised down the Seine on a Bateau Mouche and watched the world go by at many outdoor cafes and restaurants. The girls loved sitting at their own cafe table playing cards while my mom, sister and I shared a glass or two of wine. The sun set late in Paris that June and we enjoyed watching it set below the Eiffel Tower from our eighth floor Parisian apartment. Oh la la….the memories! Paris never ever disappoints.

 

The Departure and Arrival

We said a sad goodbye at the Paris airport to my mom, sister and niece on June 23rd, my mother’s birthday. As I looked through my photos to see what I could come up with for a first blog post on the trip, I felt the normal sense of disappointment. For all that time in such beautiful cities, I really had hardly any good travel shots. But then I realized something. That despite my utter lack of travel photos for the blog I had something much better: Photos of love, laughter, silliness and joy. It was a much different kind of trip than I usually take. For once, I threw away my obsession with taking the right shots and getting in as much as possible for the blog and instead embraced being on vacation and enjoying the moment. It was a valuable lesson and reminder that our time together is fleeting and family is the most important thing there is in life.

As we gave one more hug and said our last teary-eyed goodbye, it was on to part two of our adventure. We flew to Munich where we met up with my son, Max and dad to continue our trip through Germany and Austria. For the next 12 days, we went to see Neuschwanstein, the castle where my husband proposed to me 19 years before, and then drove to Tirol and The Salzkammergut (lakes region) in Austria. We did tons of magnificent wandern (hiking) and basked in the divine glory of the Austrian Alps where Der Berg Ruft (The Mountain Calls). It was a distinctly different trip than the one we had just been on which made it all more enjoyable. We stayed at farms, rented apartments with the locals and felt like we truly got far, far away from it all. It was the perfect way to end an amazing trip.

To Sum it All Up

We arrived home on Wednesday, July 4th which felt a bit ironic after being out of the country for three weeks. Although we didn’t make it up for the fireworks we were happy to be home once again with my husband and our dog. I realized that it hasn’t been since our honeymoon over 18 years ago that I’d taken a three-week vacation and how bittersweet it was that Paul couldn’t come yet my dad was able to take his place.

As I reflected upon the past three weeks and looked over my photos, I also felt that common tinge of sadness that our grand adventure was over and my pictures could never ever truly capture what this trip meant to me. I took far less photos than I normally do and a lot of them didn’t turn out as I had wanted. But perhaps that is the true message of the trip. That some memories are more priceless than getting the best photos for the blog. That this trip was way more than simply sightseeing and exploring a new place with my third eye. Instead, this trip was about love, laughter, telling stories and spending precious time together with my extended family. These are the memories that are the most sacred of all.

24 comments

  1. I enjoyed reading your adventures in Europe because I experienced some of those too. My wife and I had no idea which train to take from a small Dutch town of Lelystad to Amsterdam. There were lots of running and hopping. Luckily for us, we boarded the right train but it was nerve-wracking. However, it didn’t stop there. We were running and rushing to board the tram, the boat at the canal and the bus, in part due to the rain. Paris is a show!!! We did exactly what you did and I can’t help saying “wow” every time. I’ve never been to any city in the world that made me do that. As beautiful as it is, Sydney, Australia didn’t make me do that.

    1. Thanks! Sounds like you had a similar experience! It is always so stressful at the moment when you think you are going to miss your train and you are a wreak! But then when you get home and reflect upon the hilarious situations you had and the “lost in translation” moments it makes traveling all the more wonderful. We flew through Amsterdam and I really wanted to get out of the airport and check it out. Its been years since I’ve been there. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. What a wonderful adventure- and all of the mishaps that are hard at the time, make for great stories down the line 🙂 I love going to places with the whole family where there is either no data or we don’t use it because we are in a foreign country because we are all forced to talk to each other, without distractions haha.

    1. Thank you! Yes, the mishaps are what make traveling so fun and adventurous and darn right frustrating too! I didn’t put in the post (since it was already way too long) the funny story of how I used google maps to get us to the fortress high above Salzburg. We ended up driving up some very narrow crazy mountainous path with no way in site to the castle. We all freaked out when we nearly hit a bike and couldn’t turn around but got down ok without any major accident or going off the cliff. Reminded me of what my dad did to us when we went to Europe and had similar situations. We didn’t find it funny at the time but now I look back and laugh. And yes, being away from all the distractions was amazing. My kids like their electronics too much so it was beautiful not having much electronic time. Thanks for reading. Hope you are doing well and enjoying your summer! 🙂

    1. Thank you! Yes, it was something I had wanted to do for a very long time as it is very important for me to have my kids get out and see the world. I am very glad we waited until the right age, 11 and 13, to go. It was perfect! The kids did amazing with the flights and all the travel and walking. They also truly appreciated the trip which is important because it is not cheap to go on a family trip to Europe. I am going to be writing more posts with tips I learned to help with planning. I learned a lot! 🙂 Stay tuned and thanks for reading my post! 🙂

  3. What a great trip. My parents were never interested in travel. I took off on my first trip to Europe from Australia alone at the age of 19. My son has inherited my interest in travel and we have done a few trips together. Sometimes it is best to forget the camera and just enjoy the moment.

    1. Thanks Debra! So I’m curious what inspired you to take off to Europe at age 19? That would be a fabulous blog post! Obviously it changed your life with your home in Italy. 🙂 Wonderful that your son loves to travel as well. Does he live in Australia? As for your advise, yes forgetting the camera and embracing the moment was very very important for me.

  4. Perhaps this trip is the one you really explored with your third eye!
    The TVG trip sounds like a travel nightmare, but the rest of it sounds fabulous. Who cares about the photos?!
    Alison

    1. Oh Alison yes so true! This was by far one of the most special trips I’ve ever taken in my life. To be with my extended family and with three generations was pretty spectacular and special. I wish so bad my husband could have joined. Hoping his back improves soon —it has been three long difficult months —as life has been so uncertain and I really want a family trip with him, even if it is only a short drive up north in Minnesota.

      Your trip looked wonderful! I am still reading through all your posts. Was it hard not having Don with you? For us, it was three weeks without Paul, the longest I have ever been away from him before. Too long yet “absence makes the heart grow fonder” as my mom always says. What is next for you and Don this summer?

      1. My most recent post addresses how awful it was to not be with Don 🙁
        We’re staying put this summer – Don needs a minor day surgery (the reason he couldn’t travel with me will be fixed – yay!) that will have him on a 6 week recovery path. We’ll probably go somewhere in the fall.
        Hope Paul recovers quickly and well! Sending good vibes . . . .

      2. I loved your post Alison. Seven weeks away would have been very very trying. It was such a beautiful post in so many ways. How is your hip after all that walking? My mom has had a lot of problems with her knees and was very nervous about all the walking in Paris and London. We literally left at 8 am every day and didn’t get home until well past ten. She did amazing but towards the end she was in a lot of pain (we took the metro a lot in Paris which meant a lot of stairs). But now she is doing much better at home and really proud that she did so much walking! 🙂 Thanks for the good vibes for Paul. This has been a very very hard three months. In fact, the past year has been a bit of a challenge as I am going through some sort of midlife crisis! I know it is normal but that doesn’t make it any easier. That is why your post meant so much to me about you feeling lost and ungrounded on your trip to China and Japan. That is how I’ve felt for the last year as I try to figure out what my next steps are with my life. 🙂

  5. Nicole, happy to see your family chill out in Europe. Luckily, despite initial take off issues you guys seem to have a great time. I’m not sure if Family trips are very popular in your part of the world, but here in India family trips are De-facto vacation choice. In fact, solo travel has just started taking off and for most people barring the urban and educated, it is not accepted easily.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Arv! Yes family trips are very popular and most common here too. Most Americans do a nice summer driving trip somewhere here in the States. For us, doing an overseas trip as a family was a big deal. It was very special. AS for solo travel, yes that is a much newer thing and especially for women as it poses more issues and risks at times. I’ve been fortunate to do a bit of both but I have never truly been “solo” when I’ve gone on trips without my family as I’ve always met up with a group or team of people. Hope you are doing well!

      1. Thanks for sharing this information, Nicole. It’s good to know that you always team up with people on trips. I’m doing good, Nicole 😃 Thanks for asking and care.

  6. How fortunate Sophia is to have you for a mom! I have no doubt she will remember this trip for the rest of her life — and that her highlights will be the moments she spent in your company. Thank you so much for inviting us to join along vicariously.

    1. Ah that is so kind of you to say! I love my children so much and feel so utterly blessed to have them and be able to spend time with them. We had a really special trip together. I’m glad it is still summer as they are home a lot as I miss them when they are at school all day. How are you doing? Have you enjoyed your summer so far?

  7. What a wonderful trip for you and your family. Even if it didn’t go quite as planned. Still, it must have been heartbreaking to not be able to share it all with your husband.

    1. Thanks Otto. There is definitely something very special about traveling with family and with multiple generations. This was a very meaningful trip! Yes, I was very sad my husband couldn’t go but like he said we are young and there will be more opportunities. It was very special to have my dad there. He loved being with the kids!

  8. The first time I ever flew was transatlantic NYC to Paris to study. My dad was a frustrated traveler because my mom wouldn’t fly so he shared that enthusiasm with me. Like you I’ve been all over the world as my husband loves it as much as I do. I’m sure your daughter will be as bitten by the bug as you are!! Enjoyed your adventure tales very much!

    1. Thanks Tina! So you studied in Paris too? What did you study? I was a french and international relations major so went over to do a semester studying french. I haven’t used it at all in my career but was actually quite surprised when we were back in Paris and I was able to have a thirty minute conversation in french with our taxi driver! It has been well over 25 years since I lived there and it all just came back! 🙂

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