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Monday, July 16, 2012

Try It! Traveling to Germany With Kids AND Parents

German clocks like this remind me
of my grandparents.
It's almost time! In three days, we embark on a journey of discovery - we will discover if it's more difficult to travel with young children or older parents! (Sometimes my parents get on my nerves more than my kids do, sorry Mom and Dad).

We will spend almost two weeks in Munich and Berlin, visiting the places I lived for a few years as a child, seeing some friends, learning about history, new foods, trying out our very few German words and spending lots of time together.

I'm so excited to show my kids things they've only seen in books and also increasing my knowledge of modern Germany. My mom and dad are both mostly German heritage, and so am I, but I don't know a lot about everyday German life. I've started a tiny bit of research into my family history and can't wait to learn more. 

Photos of my time in Berlin
We lived in Berlin, Germany from 1977-1980 and my little brother was born there. I wish I had better memories, but I don't. I remember staring at this photo album, and other albums, but can't remember the place we lived or what we ate or the weather or the playground or all of the amazing places my parents took me. I was so lucky - but all I remembered was how to count to twenty in German. (Eine, zwei, drei..) Of course we have language apps on our iPhones but part of me does feel bad I didn't make more of an effort to learn basic grammar. Too late now - immersion time!

We can ask for milch und wasser.
So, yes, one problem we have is the language. When we go to Ireland, it's no problem speaking the language and it's quite fun to pick up some Irish words since a lot of signage and menus are printed in both languages. In Germany, I have a feeling everything (except really touristy stuff) is in German. So in preparation, we've marked a few things around the house with their German words and we've made a short list of words we really want to know in German and for us, the ones we wanted to know were all about food. My oldest decided he wanted to learn how to say "buffet" in German. It's "b├╝ffet." My middle son wanted to know how to say milk and eggs (milch und eier.)

My secret packing weapon!

Traveling with young children can be difficult - but we don't let it scare us. The secret is to keep your expectations low to moderate, relax and be flexible. We've traveled to Ireland with children twice so we aren't complete novices. I used these enormous bags last summer and it did help keep 3 sets of clothes organized. As we pack, I ask each boy to pick out their 5 favorite t-shirts, 5 favorite shorts, 2 favorite PJs, etc. and then I pack them into 1 big bag for each boy. Knowing their clothes are in 1 bag helps them get themselves ready in the mornings. That makes my life so much easier. We bring an extra bag for laundry - because we ALWAYS have laundry.

I save some surprises for the long flight home.

I also have a tried and true assortment of activities planned. I don't like to rely completely on iPhones and iPads to entertain my children but I'm not unrealistic, I know they will be used. But we're also bringing playing cards and art supplies, some small Lego Mini-Figures, new books to read and new snacks to try. As the kids get older, it does get easier, in many ways, to entertain them. Gone are the play phones and teethers but we are moving into an age of Hangman, Tic-tac-toe, 20 Questions and more. I actually find those kinds of games fun and love when my kids can stump me or defeat me. They love it, too, of course.

We've asked each boy what they want to see in Germany. Our middle son wants to see castles, our oldest wants to see the football (soccer) stadiums, and our youngest is willing to see Germany fire trucks. In Munich, we will of course visit The Glockenspiel and the Hofbrauhaus. I am eagerly anticipating the Viktualienmarkt and enjoying some downtime in the English Garden. In Berlin we'll see the apartment building where I lived, the remnants of the Berlin Wall, and possibly a performance by the Berlin Philharmonic! I wanted to try and find a lauf (a run) but nothing nearby fits into our schedule conveniently, so I'll have to make a trip back to Germany!

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