This is the season where the Kaiserslautern community experiences a huge transition. Thousands of families depart, while a similar number begin their three or four year adventure. Transition is hard, and COVID-19 certainly isn’t making it easier.
We reached out to almost a dozen local bloggers and influencers and asked them each a simple question:
If you could give advice to a new family, what would it be?
The responses we received was amazing, and we can’t wait to share them with you in this blog series. We received answers that ranged from general inspiration, favorite day trips, to thoughtful words from one of our favorite departing bloggers.
I’m not sure what leads you to read this post. Maybe you are sitting in 14-days quarantaine, waiting to move in and get settled. Maybe you’ve been here a while already but still don’t know where to get started. Whatever your situation is, just sit back, and enjoy this three-post series from nine people, all who are eager to tell you “what you should know.”
Getting Started by Kari Turner
Follow Kari and Ryan at www.spunkytravelers.com
Transitioning to a new country is never easy. My spouse and I have both lived overseas (Ryan in Mexico and myself in Slovakia), but Germany was the first international move we made together. Let me tell you, Germany likes to complicate the transition. The good news is that the payoff and perks of living here are worth it! There are perks like the bread… oh, the bread! Also there are day trips galore! You’ll be in the heart of Europe and sampling new places, foods, and cultures before you can even say wanderlust (didn’t know that was a German word, did you?)You’ll likely have some downtime when you first arrive. Why not take a day trip to Trier where you can see ancient Roman ruins and spend some time hiking? This was one of our favorite day trips we took as new arrivals. Check out our Römerpfad post to see all the details.It’s hard being new because you don’t know what you don’t know. Join local Facebook groups to glean knowledge and search for ones that match your hobbies or special needs. It has been helpful for us to find a local infertility group, but there are also groups for those who play board games, enjoy crafting, or practice alternative living. Find your tribe!Also, check out these online resources. We found them to be particularly helpful as newcomers to Germany: Online Local Newspaper, BooKoo (local classifieds), 86FSS, and the Find it Guide (The online version is great, but get a paper copy if you can. It’s full of local culture tips, directories, and coupons). Finally, we highly recommend taking a Globus Tour in Kaiserslautern! This was the first time we have ever toured a grocery store, but it was incredibly helpful to learn how to order meats, what items can be sampled, how recycling works here, and to taste some delicious pastries.
Triplet Travels by Becca Brown
Jake and Becca Brown are the proud parents of triplets and occasionally contribute to Kaiserslautern Day Tripper
When given the opportunity, my husband and I gladly decided to move back to Germany. We love Germany and the culture of Europe, and because as the parents of young triplets, we were more than excited to give the kiddos the chance to see and experience Europe. We were happy to think that their earliest memories would likely be of trips through the German countryside or to other interesting places that lots of Americans just never get the chance to experience.Traveling anywhere with three rambunctious, loud American toddlers is a real challenge. This challenge is amplified in Germany, where many older Germans are still of the “children should be seen and not heard” mentality. That hasn’t slowed us down, and we’ve learned a few tricks along the way that make stressful, hectic trips a little simpler.One of the first things we found to be difficult with the kids was the process of getting from point A to point B. Whether by car, train, or airplane, a few simple ideas seemed to make a large difference in keeping the kids entertained and generally calm on long trips.Our first tip is to purchase small, kid-sized backpacks that each child can enjoy carrying around like a big kid. We recommend Jack Wolfskin Little Joe – they’re small, light, and blend in anywhere in Europe.
– In the backpacks, we always make sure to pack plenty of snacks, suckers, and small candies.
– Plenty of crayons and coloring books or just blank notepads. We’ve also had good luck with Melissa and Doug Water Wow! Books.
– On extra long trips, we generally let the kids use an iPad with headphones in the car or plane. We pack a few Disney movies and make sure there are a handful of kid-friendly apps.
– We also let the kids pick a few small toys to put in their backpack. It helps to give them a little ownership of the process by letting them pick their toys.– A portable potty seat has made long car rides a little easier, especially newly potty trained kids.
When we get to our destination and set off in a new city, we’ve found a few things that make exploring a bit easier.
– A lightweight, easily foldable stroller is a must for kids around 4 or younger, depending on how well they walk. Large tires are extra helpful on rough cobblestone streets (small tires are going to drive you nuts). Also, be prepared to lug a stroller up stairs in most places, as elevators are mostly non-existent.
– A kid carrier (i.e. a Toddler Tula) can also be extremely valuable if your kids are small. This frees up hands and is easier to navigate busy streets and crowds.– Kid cameras have been a big hit with our kids. They really get into taking pictures of all the buildings and people. It keeps them busy and occupied and they really feel part of the sightseeing experience.– Most large cities offer many different types of bike tours. These have always been a favorite. It’s generally pretty easy to find a company that offers kid-friendly tours and towable kid trailers. The tour guides are usually very good about navigating and avoiding dangerous busy streets.
– Ice cream and playgrounds. Period. We like to try to break up long stretches of boring things like museums, shopping, and sightseeing with plenty of opportunities for ice cream. Sometimes when the kids are at their breaking point, just 15 minutes at a simple city playground can completely turn their attitudes around (bring hand sanitizer and baby wipes).– Another of our favorite websites/apps is WithLocals. It is a travel company that connects you with a local resident who provides private tours. Many of the large cities offer a selection of kid-friendly tours for strictly your family/group. This way you don’t have to worry about your kids bothering other tour members. They often offer free tours for the kids and just the adults pay!
– Our kids have been amazed by the huge, soaring churches in many of the cities in Europe. They are always excited to go inside and walk with mom or dad. We made a rule very early on that the kids had to be very quiet and whisper inside any churches to show respect. We also only allow them in one at a time with one parent, which keeps them from getting too unruly with their siblings.– When we hit up festivals, which are one of our favorite activities, we make sure that the kids know there is a limit on rides. Our rule is one ride for each birthday! The triplets were 4 last year, so when we went to festivals they each got to ride four rides. This made sure they had a clear expectation and helped us avoid most of the whining. We liked to have a turn for the parents (walking around looking at booths or having a beer or wine) then a turn for the kids (a ride of their choosing).When it’s time to duck in to a restaurant for something to eat, a few of our earlier tips are handy once more:
– Crayons and paper! Most European restaurants don’t provide these kinds of things for kids, so we always make sure we have a small bag of entertainment.– Once again, baby wipes are your friend. My husband is a clean-freak, and it’s always great to be able to clean hands and faces after (or during, if necessary) dinner.
– McDonald’s (or Starbucks), which are found literally everywhere, are a great source for a reasonably clean bathroom. They will often charge 50 cents to get in the restroom, but usually they’ll give you back a voucher that you can use on a drink or snack.
When thinking about where to stay and what is needed to stay in each place, there are a few things that make life away from home a little easier.
– We have found that Airbnb is our best source for finding a place to stay, if you are a family with more than 4 members. Hotel rooms often max out at 4 and make you get two rooms, making Airbnb more affordable. It also allows you to save money on food because you have a kitchen to cook a meal or two in, rather than eating out every meal.
– We take a white noise machine with us everywhere. We like to stay centrally located in the cities, which comes with noise. The white noise machine helps the kids fall right asleep even if there are parties happening near us until early morning.– Travel cots have been super helpful for our kids. They like to sleep in the same room, but don’t do well in the same bed. Our kid size travel cots come with a sleeping bag type cover so it has a built in pillow and blanket and they fold up to the size of pack and play. We have use them as a kid item on Ryanair as it usually states you can have a stroller and travel cot. We have many favorite trips from our time here but one of our best family destination trips was our 10 days in Spain. We flew into Malaga, drove to Gibraltar, Ronda, Seville and then to the beach in Albufeira Portugal. That area was very kid friendly and there were city playgrounds everywhere, plus a nice mixture of beach and city exploring.Our favorite local trip usually involves visiting castle ruins and our hike to Neu Dahn castle as well as a short visit to the city for ice cream is in our top favorites.
Exploring Europe with three toddlers has been an experience. It is never easy and at least one kid has a meltdown or two on every trip, but the memories made are totally worth it.
Staying Healthy on Vacation by Nellie
Nellie is the better half of Ollie & Nellie and a main contributor to Healthy With Nellie, Ollie and Nellie Explore, and Kaiserslautern Day Tripper
Going on vacation. It’s time to relax, have fun, and eat all the food, especially here in Europe. But how can you go on vacation and still stay healthy, not gain a lot of weight, and come home refreshed? I’m glad you asked.We recently spent a week in Germany and Southern France, walking through lavender fields, lounging on the beach, staring at the Alps, and exploring colorful markets. With so many days away from home, we came up with a plan to eat healthy while still indulging in pasta and pastries as well as staying active but relaxed at the same time. It was a fun balancing act.First, we packed food for our road trip. We have coolers ranging from small lunchboxes to the bigger ones, and on this trip we brought a big cooler. We packed salad fixings, sandwiches, fruit, and other snacks. On our way back, we grabbed food at a gas station which offered some fresh and healthy lunch options – so even eating out on the road can be healthy if you make the right choices.Second, we brought along food to cook for a few dinners. I brought along a few ingredients and then along the way, we hit up grocery stores for things like fresh produce or meat. I love cooking things like soups, tacos, and pasta dishes while on vacation. I made sure to pack any pans and utensils I would need, from a can opener to a cutting board and knife.And third, we worked out as often as we wanted. Some of our favorite things to do in a new area are to run and hike. There is nothing like exploring a new city on foot or rounding a bend for the most amazing views. On this trip, we ran around Lake Eibsee and in Port Grimaud, hiked the Calanques, and even tried stand up paddleboarding for the first time. In Holland or along the Rhine, we always love riding our bikes to see flower fields and castles. Active vacations are the best.And of course, we chilled and relaxed, and ate out for some delicious food both in Germany and in France. Like I said, it’s all about balance. I wouldn’t dare say no to paella or macarons… or my favorite, Five Guys (three years away from the U.S. and you just miss certain things).I hope this helps you make some healthier choices while on vacation. From a picnic at the Eiffel Tower to a tulip field bike ride, these affordable options are sometimes the best part of the trip!