Cycling holidays with kids can be brilliant. They’re a great way to experience new cultures and to harness some of the boundless energy kids seem to have. But many people avoid them like the plague.
Here’s some tips to help you make your first cycle tour with kids a success. I once met a Dutch lady cycling across Austria with a one year old baby in her bike trailer… and she was camping. If she can manage it, then you can too.
1. Make it fun
Almost goes without saying, but some kids need a bit more attention than others. You know what your kids enjoy, but there will be loads of ways to get them engaged and having fun.
Adventure in itself is fun for most kids. Get them to help with the planning and the navigating, or maybe decide the route themselves. History and archaeology is so much more exciting when you’re outside of the classroom. Kids might not enjoy being taught about the past, but actually visiting the past in person can have an amazing effect. It makes what seems like stories actually real when they stand in a castle that kings and queens grew up in and was fought over.
2. Don’t start too long
Unless you have older or very fit kids, it’s probably not a good idea to plan for cycling 40 miles a day! Some kids do find the cycling the best part and will push for more cycling less sightseeing (my brother, for instance, was always keen to get away from the museum and back onto the trail when we were teenagers).
The trouble with too much cycling and too much excitement is that kids can burn out early on in the trip. This makes for a tense and grumpy ending to your holiday if not handled right.
My advice would be to start short and punctuated with ice creams, then work your way up to a comfortable distance.
3. Be careful with local food
Kids are notoriously unadventurous eaters (aka Fussy!). You might be keen to try out the exotic local cuisine, but your kids may well just refuse to eat it.
Nope. If it doesn’t come with fries, I’m not eating it… This would probably be okay in normal circumstances, but cycling every day requires a lot of energy. Your kids may be happy to fuel this on cookies and ice cream, but they really do need some proper food at some point.
Of course, I’m not saying don’t try the local dishes, just keep a watchful eye on whether your kids are eating what you put in front of them.
4. Cultural Clashes
Cultural differences may be very awkward and embarrassing for kids. Some of my most vivid memories of cycle touring with my family as a kid, are where things got a bit awkward. Like when we ended up staying at a farm in Austria for the night, ate breakfast in the farm kitchen and didn’t speak a word of the language. All the time the farmer’s wife was very keen to keep us company and try to talk to us about where we came from and where we were going, keen to offer us home-grown food… It doesn’t sound too bad looking back on it – maybe even exciting and interesting. But at the time I was mortified. I just wanted to hide. Looking back on it, however, I’m almost glad we stayed there. It does make a good story and experiencing different cultures is a great learning experience at any age.
5. Have fun as a family
Don’t try to get everyone loving your cycle tour all of the time. It just won’t happen, sorry. Cycling can be hard work, the road is not always flat (or tarmac or heading in the right direction) and family stresses can quickly become unpleasant.
Working together will take the pressure (and the blame) off one person. Laughing at the times it doesn’t quite go to plan helps you bond as a family. It’s okay to go wrong, as long as you can correct it – that’s how adventures are made!
Try taking it in turns picking the activity for the day. If one kid wants to go to a visit a particular place, make it their day. Everyone has their own day and in exchange for the privilege, other family members just have to lump it. You can do whatever you want on your day, but you can’t moan on someone else’s. This applies for adults too…
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Emily Woodhouse is a freelance outdoors writer, with a love for adventure and inspiring others. Her obsession with mountains probably started in Yosemite, aged about 2. Born in the US but now based in the UK, she enjoys traveling in Europe and camping under the stars. Follow on Twitter: @TravellingLine
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