In winter an enjoyable type of travel is connected to my favorite winter sport.
I have always loved skiing. I have fond memories of ski trips with my cousins when we were kids. I would like my kids to have the same experience, to get to love the mountains and to enjoy winter sports as well. But how do you start this new chapter when you ski with your kids and not just the two of you or with some friends? What is the right age to start? When is it too early? These all depend on your ability to handle situations, but I can write about my personal experience. We had 5 kids in 11 years, so we basically always had a baby. We went skiing twice after the first two kids, but they were still too young to start. The time came after our fourth. The first three were 8, 7 and 4 by then. It is always different when you only have one, but we have a few more so it meant a little more work. J I had to teach three of them at the same time, it was quite a challenge. Of course, you can enroll them in a ski-course, but I wanted to teach them myself. Fortunately, they got the hang of it quite quickly. My youngest was 2 when he was on the slopes because of his brothers. He enjoys it. So, if you ask me what the best age is to start, I can say, the time you feel most comfortable with. When you feel you can handle the situation easily.
Where should you go?
First decide your means of transport. Do you want to fly, or do you want to drive? Make a decision on your past experiences. How far have you traveled until now? What kind of travel do your kids take best? Place them into focus and try to decide with them in mind. Once you know how far you can go, you can choose based on many factors. Most of the ski resorts in Europe have free ski passes for kids under 6 and most of them offer the baby slopes for free, so if you are a beginner yourself, you might be able to learn there as well. Always check out the range and difficulty of slopes when you are planning your trip. Choose the region that matches your abilities and your desire for adventure. It is worth having a look at the type of ski lifts. Choose the one that has the most child-friendly slopes and lifts.
The right type of accommodation
Location-wise it is also very important to know if you want your accommodation to be right on the slopes or if you’re ok with some driving. The ones by the slopes are always more expensive than the ones that are farther away but they are also a lot more comfortable. When you are trying to get ready in the morning with all the equipment, it matters if you need to take everything to the car and load them so that you can unload them at the slopes and start putting them on outside instead of the warmth of your hotel. There’s another reason why it is more convenient. If you get tired or hungry, you don’t need your logistics skills to solve the problem and get back to your accommodation because you are already there. Another question is catering. If you would like to have a fully relaxing holiday, have half or full board but if you like to cook or financially it would be better for you, if you have somebody with allergies or if the kids are picky, you might be better off renting an apartment. (If you rent an apartment and need portable equipment, contact us. We have travel size cribs and high chairs).
What to take
It is always a good question. Of course, you take everything you would on any trip but of course you need lots of extra stuff because of skiing or snowboarding. Take at least two of everything if you can, I mean like ski pants or gloves. If they get wet (they do fall quite a lot at the beginning) they will need a set of dry clothes to keep on practicing. If you don’t have an electric kettle at the hotel, take yours to be able to take hot tea with you in a thermos for the day. The kids will appreciate it. Also take warming pads. They can be disposable or reusable ones, but they can come handy for some cold hands or cold little feet. It might be worth considering a stroller for your youngest even if he/she’s not using one any more (even up to age 4-5). They can get tired, they might need to lay down in it. If you can, rent a jogging stroller as the big wheels work perfectly on the snow as well. Take a warm footmuff too, to keep those feet and legs warm in the stroller.
Never leave without an insurance. We like to be on the safe side so every time we go somewhere, we buy insurance. Last time we were skiing we were happy we insist on it. Our oldest fell on the slopes while we were night skiing. When we got back to the hotel and took off his coat, we could see that something was not right with his elbow. We had to take him to the hospital where they x-rayed him, put a plaster on him and told us what to do. Our insurance company immediately faxed the hospital the documents they needed (we called them at midnight) as proof of coverage and the guarantee of payment and they even called us the next day to ask how my son was doing. Read the policy carefully and know your options. Have the 24/7 assistance number handy, so that you can contact them any time. It saved us from a lot of stress. We hope we will not need it again, but it was a very positive experience to feel taken care of in a foreign country.
How to prepare
Try on the equipment not only once before you leave. We did it. Once only. Then we went to ski and my oldest could hardly put on his boots with his ski socks (though when we tried at home they seemed fine) and my youngest told me after his second round that his feet hurt, so we had to go and rent him bigger boots for the rest of the week even though at home he said his boots were comfortable… If you rent equipment that’s another possibility but if you have more kids, it might be worth investing in them as rental is not cheap and there are usually long lines to wait.
Take some snacks and drinks with you that are easily taken. Put some treats in your kids’ pockets so they can have a little snack or just a little boost of energy when they feel like. Prepare yourself that skiing with kids will not be easy for the first few times. Be patient with them. Try to train your mind that even though you’ll see all those beautiful slopes you wish you could use like in the old times, this might not be the time.
Nightlife might be a little different this time, too. Maybe you have great memories of evening or nighttime walks hand in hand in the beautifully lit snowy little villages, or drinking some mulled wine with friends after skiing the whole day, but this time you will probably not have the chance (or the energy) to go out after getting back to your hotel. This does not mean you have to skip the fun at all. We usually try to choose a hotel with a pool so we can go and have some water fun together or sneak into the sauna for a few minutes. We always take board games with us and this is another perfect way to relax in the warm room. Our kids enjoy those nights when we don’t worry about going to work the next day, so it is ok to play until late night. We always have a blast.
Spending time exclusively with your kids?
Another, maybe the most crucial question is if you want to spend the whole time exclusively with the kids or if you would like to have some time for yourselves. Either to ski or snowboard freely or to relax in the hotel in the evening, or maybe to go out for dinner with your love. Consider your options and plan everything. If you want to have some help, you can either take a grandparent or an uncle/aunt with you, you can go together with friends and watch each others’ kids once or twice. You can also have some free time if you hire a local babysitter (this can have language barriers) or when the kids are in the ski school. The best solution is what you feel most comfortable with. This is going to be your holiday as well, so you need to relax a little, too. Plan, organize and be ready to change plans.