What's it like to travel abroad with children during the pandemic?

Travelling abroad has been paused for many of us, during the pandemic. In her weekly column EIMEAR HUTCHINSON recalls a recent trip abroad with her children
What's it like to travel abroad with children during the pandemic?

The week leading up to travelling I was nervous, so says Eimear Hutchinson.

WE went abroad last weekend, it was my first time in an airport in almost two years although it really didn’t feel like that long had lapsed, maybe I’ve subconsciously blocked out the last 18 months of upheaval!

I flew from Dublin with three of my four ladies to visit my sister in Amsterdam. I really only felt comfortable travelling knowing that we were going to visit her, I was obviously nervous about leaving the country in these current times but knowing I had somewhere to stay should anything have gone wrong helped me relax a little.

The week leading up to travelling I was nervous; nervous the girls would pick something up in school, nervous about travelling alone with three young children as I felt so out of practise and nervous of not having the right documents with me. 

All the nerves aside we set off from Dublin Airport on what was reportedly the busiest day of the year but flying with Aer Lingus from T2 was very easy and very quiet so we were off to a good start!

I had heard reports of massive queues at security but for us passing through at around 3pm on the Friday of a Bank Holiday there was just over a 15 minute wait.

Travel through the airport wasn’t really that different than it used to be, probably because we are now used to most of what is required, aside from having to wear a mask the entire time the only unusual thing was that many of the restaurants in the terminal were closed so go with a picnic in your bag.

I was asked only once to show my Covid Cert, as I boarded the plane in Dublin Airport – after that I was only ever asked was I vaccinated to which a simple yes seemed to suffice. Returning to Ireland, I did need to fill in a passenger locator form before I left The Netherlands.

We had a wonderful trip, my sister was a great host and we were able to hire bikes with large wooden baskets on the front so the girls could sit in them while we cycled places. I don’t think I would recommend the bikes unless you have someone there who can teach you the rules of the road because it is busy with cars, trams, pedestrians and bikes to contend with. I basically followed my sister everywhere so it was very easy. People were so considerate though, when they saw us coming with the kids in the front they would always stand back regardless of whether we had the right of way or not.

We did a boat trip along the canals, although I’m not sure this is something I would recommend for younger children, mine were only mildly interested because realistically it is just looking at buildings and a history lesson – I loved it but they were too young for it. My poor five year old was positively green by the end of it too even though the water was flat calm.

We visited the Artis Zoo which was a huge hit with the girls, it is centrally located and the setting is beautiful, full of trees and walking around felt like an adventure to see what was around different doors and corners. There were lots of animals from elephants all the way down to crickets. We spent about four hours there and we probably could have spent longer.

We also went to the Nemo Science Museum and again this was a huge hit and was without doubt the girls favourite activity because it is unlike anything we really have here in Ireland. It was suitable for children from around three years old up to adults and was filled to the brim of interactive stations that gave children a hands-on learning experience across topics from engineering, chemistry, biology and physics. It was busy when we were there as it was during the school holidays but we went in the afternoon and by mid-afternoon it had quietened down.

I brought my nine year old to the Anne Frank Haus, she had started the book but didn’t know much of the story but still found it hugely interesting, it left a lasting impression. 

I had booked the introductory talk but Google maps led us astray on our bike so we missed it but no harm, there was a self guided audio tour throughout the house that gave just the right amount of information. It is a haunting experience, it was my third time there and it still never fails to leave an impact.

We aren’t seasoned travellers by any means but I think Amsterdam has been the most family friendly city I have ever visited, the whole vibe of the city is relaxed which makes it a pleasure with children. The food and drink options were brilliant and very reasonably priced compared with home.

We will be back but we will give my sister a while to recover from the whirlwind that we are!

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