National television series host and recognized travel expert, Colleen Kelly, talks about traveling with family.
Biking in Switzerland
Colleen meets a local owl at Cardiff Castle during a Season Two episode about Wales.
On set in Switzerland.
On shoot at Cardiff Castle in Wales.
Meet Colleen Kelly
About Colleen Kelly
Colleen Kelly is a parent, travel writer and seasoned traveler who grew up exploring the world with her family. She has experienced the United States from coast to coast and has visited 30 foreign countries. Her vast knowledge of travel made her realize the need for a new kind of travel experience and focus—one that is centered around the family. So she co-created "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly" to offer personalized tips to parents like herself.
Colleen visits Swansea, Wales on a shoot with Catie Keogh, her sister. Colleen's sister hosts "24/7 City Secrets" on NBC5 in Chicago.
Kelly is host and co-executive producer of the show, as well as co-owner of Travel Film Productions, LLC. Her expertise
and fun-loving personality pulsate through every moment of the show. Kelly also was the co-creator and Emmy-nominated
executive producer of NBC5 Chicago's successful "24/7 City Secrets," and she has been a correspondent on
the show. Kelly regularly provides travel expertise on Chicago TV newscasts and radio programs, as well as in print
publications. She frequently speaks at high-profile travel conferences.
In Europe what are the two countries you like best, and why?
Italy is one of my favorites, specifically Lucca in Tuscany. It's a quaint little village surrounded by a Renaissance-era wall, with winding streets, a cute market and lots of green space to explore. It's easy to get to and a perfect home base during a visit to Tuscany.
Austria is also near and dear to my heart. I lived there when I was younger and got engaged and married there. It's a stunning place full of castles and historic towns but also amazing modern architecture. It's great for nature lovers who want a breathtaking place to walk, hike, bike and ski.
What countries do you feel offer a lot of opportunities for family travel?
Ireland is a wonderful family travel destination. In fact, I love it so much that I just returned there to shoot a Season Three episode for "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly" (I also featured Ireland in Season One). I once traveled there with 27 members of my family, including kids. Some of my best travel memories are from this trip. We explored my grandfather’s land, visited castles, went hiking and biking and enjoyed shopping and dining in the welcoming towns of the countryside. The people of Ireland are so proud to share their culture and traditions with visiting families. On my more recent trip, we traveled along the scenic Wild Atlantic Way (the west coast).
Colleen explores the Swiss Alps and its inhabitants.
Switzerland, featured in Season Two of my show, is also amazing for families. We went paragliding and sledding in the mountains and saw glaciers up close. We stayed at some intimate hotels in the Swiss Alps that cater to families. And Switzerland is famous for cheese and chocolate, so of course kids will love it!
What are five things to remember when traveling with kids overseas?
First, bring adapters for all of your electronics and portable batteries for your phones (you don't want your phone to die in the middle of a great day if that's how you're taking pictures). And since the flight will be long, bring a neck pillow and whatever the kids have at home that will keep them comfortable, like a favorite blanket. Also bring your own over-the-counter medication, because in some countries, hotels don't carry any of this and you have to go to a pharmacy. If they're closed, you'll be out of luck. I also think it's a good idea to purchase travel insurance. Planning a European trip can be expensive, and when you're traveling with kids there's a lot more that can go wrong. You don't want to lose all of your money if you have to cancel.
Finally, don't over plan! It's important to have a basic itinerary in mind, but be open to new directions that the day might take you. And be willing to cut back on the schedule if the kids are getting tired. Your trip will be memorable for all the wrong reasons if the little ones are overwhelmed and crabby!
What was the best trip you and your children have taken in Europe and why?
Ireland, because they learned all about our family history, and my mother and father were able to come along. It was so special to share those moments together.
For overnight accommodations, what should parents look for when traveling with children?
A lot of European hotels offer complimentary breakfast. Check on this before you book, because that can be a great value. Having a hotel pool is also very helpful. Try to stay in an area where kids can get out and run around and explore. You don't want them to be cooped up in the hotel during down time.
Also, traveling by train is so interesting for kids and adults, and there are many opportunities to do this throughout Europe. If the kids aren't too young, you can incorporate an overnight train trip into your itinerary.
With ages 10 to 15, how long (how many days) can parents usually expect kids to be engaged when traveling in Europe, before it's time to come home?
If you go to the trouble to venture to Europe, you want to stay longer than the typical vacation close to home. But you don't want to be away so long that the kids lose interest or get homesick. Ten days is probably an appropriate amount of time. Involve the kids in the planning to make it more exciting for them. And be sure to plan lots of activity (walking around museum after museum will not cut it!). Older kids can be especially tough to please. But you should be okay if you incorporate a daily dose of adventure, like biking, hiking, skiing, surfing, sea kayaking, etc.
Some families would like to take their children to Europe with them, but the costs are prohibitive. What can parents do to cut corners/costs?
Go during the off season. Do some research to determine when that is in the country you want to visit. Generally, summer is more expensive. The dollar is very strong right now, so this is a good time to go. This can change, so stay up to date on the value of the dollar overseas. Buying packages that lump flight, hotel and attractions together can also give you a better value.
How would you recommend parents help their children cope with a new language before and during a European trip where a foreign language is spoken?
Don't overwhelm them, but teach some basics that will help them get by (hello, please, thank you, where's the bathroom). You can also download an app to help them translate. If you and the kids want to learn some language basics before you go, I like the free app duoLingo.