I recently came back from a 10-day trip to Europe in which I went to medieval towns, Mediterranean beaches, Alpine lake resorts and major cities — all with a two-and-a-half-year-old in tow. “How did you do that?” many people have asked me in complete wonderment. I could tell these inquisitive folks just about anything but I tell them the truth. “I rented a car,” I say. Having a rental car is the secret to successful family travel.
Now renting a car when you want to visit a lot of places might seem obvious, but some people think that they can rely on public transportation like trains, buses and taxis. Or that driving in a foreign country would be scary even if the roads are safer than they are back home. Or they have the mentality that once they arrive they just want to stay put, and even if they did want to go somewhere they couldn’t figure out how to get there.
My mantra for my last trip was that we could take one flight (no layovers) and then get right into our rental car at the airport. I knew that would be doable and successful with a small child. There was no room in my itinerary for attempting to take a squirming toddler and an excessive amount of luggage into any form of public transportation.
We don’t pack lightly when we travel because our foremost concern is that we want our toddler to be comfortable (under the premise that if the toddler isn’t happy then no one is happy). So on this most recent trip, we brought with us a travel crib, umbrella stroller, carseat, diaper bag, medium suitcase, large suitcase, DSLR camera with a zoom lens and a backpack. I have no idea how we got all of that into and out of the plane (and with no extra charges) but it was sweet relief once we were settled into our station wagon rental car. Throughout the trip, we packed it and unpacked it 10 different times because we stayed in five different places. A little nuts? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. And there was no way that we could have done it all without our rental car.
Next year when I finally get to go to Australia to visit my newly relocated friends (Australians who just returned Down Under after being in NYC for six years), I plan to check out Drivenow when renting a car on the Gold Coast. Our friends are Sydney residents but Brisbane natives, so I know we’ll spend at least some time on the Gold Coast beaches. Australia’s beaches are considered to be the best in the world, and I can’t wait to check out this Surfer’s Paradise for myself. I’m also excited to see the kangaroos and koalas. That is going to be one major road trip, dude. And I certainly don’t plan to pack lightly, because having everything you need for the kids is my other secret to successful family travel.