When travelling with kids you have to add a few things to the itinerary that keep them entertained. In Europe, whilst the culture and architecture are fascinating for the adults, the kids are not so readily impressed. It is important to pepper the trip with a few fun activities.
Tropical Islands is a bizarre concept that we gravitated to. About 60kms south of Berlin lies a large dome like structure that houses a year-round beach and waterpark. For a country that spends so much of the year in cold and darkness, you can imagine the appeal a location like this would hold for locals.
For Australians, slightly a strange thing to do given we have amazing beaches and weather - but we always like to do something a little bit quirky on our trips.
Tropical Islands is a complete one stop resort in the middle of the German forrest. Once you are in, they have you - there is not really anything close by.
More than just a day trip
Visitors come not for the day - but the whole night, or longer. Accommodation options range from pool side chalets, to fancy tents in the sand, to a block of hotel rooms - which we opted for. (AKA the cheapest option with it’s own bathroom).
Our family room was quite spacious, there was a seperate room with twin beds for the kids, a mini fridge with complimentary water and apple juice and the room included wifi. Rooms were made available at 4pm and checkout the next day was 11am, with access to the resort facilities until 10pm after check out.
Upon arrival guests are issued a wrist band that doubles as a room key, payment card and locker key. Everything in the resort is swipe to pay and whilst we had breakfast included, all other meals had to be purchased. The breakfast buffet however was amazing and we certainly maximised this offer after a full day in the pool the day before.
Mega Water Play ground
The actual water park offered a number of options. Waterslides, outdoor pools and jacuzzi, lagoon pool, beach pool and an adult spa and sauna.
When you got all wrinkly and needed a break from the water, there was a rainforest area walk through with a variety of animals and plants to explore - including some flamingos! Or for around AUD$100 a family you could take to the air for a balloon basket ride that gave an inside aerial view of the resort.
The sheer size and magnitude of this place blew me away. Taking a nap near the beach pool I estimated at least 2000 deck pool chairs in that area alone. It was mind blowing.
not a cheap adventure
This was however by no means a cheap quirk to our itinerary, but we decided to add it in regardless. At just short of AUD$500 for a family of four - including park entry, overnight accommodation and buffet breakfast - plus the meals and drinks purchased during the day, it was an AUD$600 overnight excursion. Actually - add in the apple watch that came off during a waterslide ride - and it brings it to over AUD$1,000!
So as long as you are not on a tight budget - or if you are happy like us to splurge on a couple of activities in your itinerary, we recommend you give it a go. It is definitely something different that will be a forever memory. Take a look at their website for more details.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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Travelling Europe with kids has it’s challenges. Whilst the adults marvel in the history and architecture - it does not quite hold the appeal a Disneyland holiday has for a 7 and 10 year old. Keeping the kids entertained whilst also giving them a historical and cultural lesson can be tricky.
Our kids hate doing bus tours, they simply don’t enjoy any part of them. Before children we would always do a hop-on-hop-off tour to orientate ourselves in a new city. However our kids simply whinge the whole time - trust me we tried it!
It is for this reason we have started to opt for city cycling tours. We have done a few in places like Bali, Vietnam, New York and now have added to the list with the Fat Tire Berlin Day City Tour.
Range of Kids Bikes
Depending on the tour company, kids are catered for in a range of ways. Child bikes, child seats for the adult’s bike - or as we just tried in Berlin, tag-along bikes. Essentially a tandem bike, the child has their own seat and pedals but the adult bike brakes and steers from the front whilst the child tags along.
We started with a child’s bike for our seven year old however as we were cycling on roads through some traffic we opted for the tag-along for safety. Whilst she can ride confidently on the open parks and walkways at home, we decided she probably was not really confident enough to ride through Berlin traffic. For the most part the tour was in parks and on cycling pathways, however there were occasional stretches of city traffic to manoeuvre.
Our 10 year old on the other hand relished the freedom and cycled up the front of the group right alongside the tour guide.
Berlin City Highlights
The beauty of a cycling tour is that you get to see all the main attractions - we visited Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Museum Island, The Berlin Wall, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and more, all the sights you would see on a bus tour - however the kids (and adults) were being active and having fun.
Our tour guide, Alex, was fantastic and kept both the kids and adults fascinated at each location. Although it was quite a heavy history lesson to digest, the kids took in bits and pieces and we were able to discuss further after the tour where they had questions.
Great Tour Guide
There is definitely something to be said for an enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide - Alex was a great story teller and was animated in his delivery. A Canadian, he had a clear passion and enthusiasm for the city and it’s history which he shared with us all.
As well as the major sights the tour also took us through a large stretch of Tiergarten, Berlin’s premier city park. We covered ground that we never would have seen by foot and visited a Beer Garden tucked away in a corner of the gardens that only a local would find.
The tour took a total of 4.5 hours and included a one hour stop for lunch. The kids loved every minute of it and not once whinged are we there yet!
If you are travelling with kids and see a city cycling tour - give it a go! For details or to book this tour, visit Fat Tire Berlin City Tour.
Itchy Feet Family
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A flight to Europe from Australia is no mean feat for a traveller - let alone a family. So when we booked flights with Qatar Airways, recently voted World’s Best Airline, I had high expectations.
Here were the highlights and the lowlights of flying on the World’s Best Airline - Qatar Airways, as we experienced on a flight from Adelaide to Doha on June 27, 2017 - unfortunately the highlights are slim.
2. Kids Packs
The kids packs are pretty impressive - as voted by our 7 and 10 year olds. There were activity packs and a mini ‘Game of Life’ board game - that although they did not play - they were impressed with! And the bag they come in can double as a soft iPad pouch - so that was impressive. The kids definitely rated the kids packs.
3. Direct out of Adelaide
Qatar Airways now fly directly out of Adelaide to Doha, Qatar, and then on to a myriad of destinations around Europe.
The Adelaide to Doha leg takes 14 hours, the beauty of this is the elimination of a domestic flight out of Adelaide.
We continued on to Berlin - a further six hour flight. Twenty hours of flying time - add to that the transit times, pre-flight check in etc, and our trip still ended up being nearly 30 hours from the time we left home until checking into our Berlin hotel.
In comparison to Qantas international where you receive a menu, including beverage list, have access to a pantry for fruit and snacks throughout the flight, receive hot chocolate and ice cream during the flight, as well as a personal snack pack and bottles of water to keep you going. Qatar really did not hold a candle to other international carriers when it comes to onboard food, snacks and beverages.
The kids received their “kids meals” first before the main service, which is always helpful - however their meals were exactly the same as the adults.
2. Seating configuration
The seats are configured in rows of 3 - 3 - 3 seat configuration. For a family of four this configuration always causes a dilemma. Do you split up? Travel in pairs and have a stranger in the third seat. And if you do that - do you take the aisle or the window? The alternative - which we opted for - was to take a row of three, 1 Adult and 2 children, with the second adult essentially flying solo on an isle seat in the middle row.
The adult on their own sits next to two strangers for a 14 hour flight - the other adult has 14 hours to deal with two tired children frustrated by not being able to lay out and sleep - on their own.
3. Doha City Tour
One of the draws to flying Qatar Airways was the opportunity to explore a Middle Eastern City. Qatar Airways offer a free city tour to passengers in transit. Knowing this, we booked a flight with a seven hour transit time so that we could take advantage of this opportunity. However, in reality, by the time we made it to the City Tour desk the 8am tour had already booked out! So, despite booking a seven hour transit and applying for Transit Visas, we ended up spending the seven hours inside the airport. It would be great if these tours could actually be pre-booked so that you knew if you were going to fill your transit time and see the sights of Doha.
If you are wanting to get on one of the city tours, also try not to make the mistake we did by exiting the airport (as opposed to going through to transfers). We passed through immigration and exited the airport only to find that the tour needed to be booked from inside the airport in the transit area. It took us over an hour to exit the airport and then re-enter through immigration and security. On the plus side, we got our passport stamped!
So for what reason Qatar Airways was voted World’s Best Airline I am unsure. If the price was right I would fly them again, however I would prefer Qantas International or Singapore over Qatar.
What are your thoughts, have you flown Qatar?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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