Five Tips For Traveling Internationally With Adult Children

By on July 2, 2014

By Lucille Zimmerman

It started as a crazy dream. Six years ago our daughter Taylor studied abroad for a semester when she attended Baylor University. Now our son was graduating from the University of Colorado, but since his program did not offer a study abroad opportunity Taylor suggested we all go to Europe when Tucker graduated. All… meaning her brother, her new husband, and her parents. Smart cookie that girl.

It felt right so we prayed and saved our money.

The kids were in the flexible stage of life in regards to jobs and no small children. John and I still feel spry most of the time. We felt like we might never get an opportunity to take a big trip all together. So even though we weren’t sure if we could make it happen, we began planning where we would go. We knew we didn’t want to race through a bunch of countries and spend the bulk of our time on trains, so we narrowed it down to three countries over 13 days: The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

Specifically we spent time in the cities of Amsterdam, Delft, Maastricht, Bruges, Cologne, and Rothenberg.

We wondered, “Would the kids get along?” “Would we all enjoy the same activities?” How would we handle our different sleep schedules?” “Would anyone get bored?”

Our first togetherness test came 24 hours before our plane left Denver. We received an email from the airlines notifying us that we were not booked on our flight. After some scrambling, we discovered the reason was due to a pilot’s strike with Icelandair. We made a formidable team as each of us took to tweeting, telephoning, emailing, and calming each other. Finally, we spoke with a live person who re-booked us on a flight to Edmonton, Canada. There we caught another flight to Europe. Even though our travel time was extended by eight hours, it was better than canceling the trip, and losing all the money we had invested in Bed & Breakfast reservations.

I’m thrilled to report we had a blast and would do it all over again.

Lucille Zimmerman photo of kids in pub in Europe

All people should considering traveling with their adult children. Here are five tips:

  1. Consider sleeping arrangements – Taylor and her new husband would want their own room. So would my husband and I. Tucker was the odd man out. So, we took turns having three people in one room and two in another. Halfway through the trip we got Tucker his own room. I think he appreciated having more private space for a night. Many Bed and Breakfasts can make arrangements for three people or more. While in Rothenberg, we all stayed in one apartment that felt like a Swiss chalet. It offered incredible views of the medieval walls. We even watched the World Cup together in the living room. http://www.klosterstueble.de/en
  2. Plan on spending time together as well as apart – Since Amsterdam is such a big city, we stayed together.In the smaller towns we split up and agreed to meet each other every few hours. We had fun sharing our stories and taking each other to the places we had discovered.
  3. Lucille Zimmerman photo family europe tripBe open to spontaneity – You never know what you will encounter in European towns. My son-in-law and I danced while a man played the Yellow Rose of Texas on his accordion. On a whim we entered a grocery stores just to look at the unique foods. We played Trivial Pursuit in an Irish bar. When we couldn’t find a laundromat, we let the hotel clerks take our clothes and clean them in the hotel washing machines. Taylor and Rik had a PG-rated adventure at a spa. John and I shared a dinner table with a family from Spain. In a bookstore we had a long conversation with a man who worked for the United Nations. One rainy night we ran back to our B & B, all of us singing the Pina Colada song. We took a train 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam, to the little town of Haarlem, and there we discovered Corrie ten Boom’s house. We also found a unique brewery inside an old church. The beer recipes were kept by the clergy and dated back to 1407. http://www.jopenbeer.com
  4. Let your kids lead you – If John and I had gone to Europe without our kids we would have spend a lot of time in museums. But traveling with these kids was very different; it was more of a beer tour. One day we were walking in Amsterdam when Taylor saw an old pub so she peered inside and hollered, “Hey, this could be interesting.” A pub in the middle of the day? Not what I would have chosen, but what we found inside was fascinating. It turns out we were at one of the oldest pubs in Amsterdam. There was dust on the floors and bottles with pictures of every mayor of Amsterdam. We sat on barrels while the bartender poured various liqueurs including Dutch gins called jenevers. Along the wall were barrels with locks. Wealthy locals put their name on a three-year waiting list and then pay a sum to have their liquor in a barrel. They invite friends to the pub to sip off their barrel. As soon as we sat down, my son began speaking to an old gentleman—a regular—who entertained us with stories. This ended up being one of the most interesting parts of our trip. http://www.diffordsguide.com/pubs-and-bars/666/amsterdam/proeflokaal-de-drie-fleschjes

In Bruges, the kids took us to a place called 2Be. In the alleyway leading up to 2Be there was a 100-foot long glass case displaying over 800 beers along with a drinking glass. In Belgium each beer is supposed to be drunk in its specific glass. We alternated sitting outside while it poured rain, and later, outside overlooking the patio. Across the canal people were taking photos because this is the most beautiful vantage point in all of Bruges.

Lucille Zimmerman photo Lucille and husband in EuropeTaylor and Rik found a quaint spot called Staminee De Garre. You have to squeeze through a narrow opening in the alley where the bar is situated. This is the only place in Belgium that serves the excellent Tripel de Garre. This sweet beer is served with a goblet of gouda cheese.  We also toured De Halve Maan. This working brewery goes back six generations and had its origins in a hospital. This is where one of the most popular beers— Brugse Zot (Bruges Idiot) is made.

5. Have fun. The humor is what I remember most about the trip. On board Icelandair, we watched videos about the culture of Iceland. There was a weird Santa-like character that stole sausages. My son-in-law took on his persona:  “The Sausage Swipah.”  He would hide behind doors and scare us. In a high pitched voice he’d peep: “Excuse me, have you seen my sausages?”

Another running theme was Rick Steves. Our kids joked with my husband and me because we constantly mentioned advice the travel guru Rick Steves offered. Our kids got sick of it and mocked us. As it turned out, Rick Steves was touring the exact places where we were, always a day ahead or behind us.

I made an amateur video of our trip:

We had a few squabbles, and some stress buying train tickets, but if you’re thinking about a trip abroad with your adult children, I highly recommend it. We made memories we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

About Lucille Zimmerman

Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty professor at Colorado Christian University. She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice." You can find her at www.LucilleZimmerman.com.

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Five Tips For Traveling Internationally With Adult Children