How To Backpack Europe with a Large family on a Budget part 1 by Jase Bennett
The crowds would part, the whispers would start, and then you would see this family of 8 walk through the airport, train station, metro, taxi stand and, or ride share location. This is our life! We travel. We travel a lot. To introduce us again, We are the Ohana Adventure. We lived in Hawaii for 10 years. All but one of our children were born in Hawaii. We have also lived in a van while we toured the United states for 6 months. We have also moved to Alaska for multiples summers over the past couple years. Rachel and I have been to Europe multiple times and have been dying to have our children experience the beauty and cultures that can come from an extended stay there.
We decided 2018 was time to take our children there. After all of the planning we realized that the only thing we could do was to backpack the continent with our kids and only allow each one to start the trip with a single backpack. We also decided that to fully enjoy the surroundings, we needed to stay for a month.
To paint the picture, Rachel and I are in our late 30’s and our children are Klai (14), Rykel (13), Shae (11), Wyatt (10), Evelin (8), and Cora (6). Can you picture us all arriving into a crowd and watching the snickering and pointing? It is hilarious and it was hard for our children at first but once I explained that they were jealous that we could travel like we do and have best friends built into our family, like we do. They now get a kick out of the pointing too.
Because of our background as video creators, we decided to reach out to companies that we could assist with their marketing reach. If you have an instagram account and or twitter you could do the same even if they aren’t that large. You need to prove to the company or companies that you have something they don’t. What is that? Customers that they can’t reach.
We know how to do and prove that, so we did. We reached out to Eurail, Airbnb homes, travel agencies and boards of tourism. We got most of them to be able to trade marketing for services.
It was in motion. The companies started to call, message and DM us back. Not all said yes but the most important ones did. We were freaking out. We actually had to buy the tickets and pick dates. We were so nervous. Who takes 6 kids to another country and walks around aimlessly for a month? We do!
We film family games. We have always loved playing games as a family and started filming them back in 2016. While we travel we make it fun. We challenge the kids to do fun stuff along the way. We film ridiculous videos that do really well on YouTube. Are they meant for other platforms? No. Do they get great traction and SEO for the brands we work with? Absolutely!
Back on track… We landed in London and made the mistake of trying to visit sites that day. Instead, we got this…
Once the tour of london was done we caught a flight out of London Gatwick to Charles De Gaulle, Paris. The Chunnel on the Eurostar is a much more expensive option compared to the cheaper airlines. Plan ahead and book a flight. flying over the channel is amazing if it’s a clear day!
For French tourism the best bet is booking ahead and booking online. The perks of online booking is that you don’t have to wait in the ticket lines and you can have a better understanding of the options you want. Trying to read french and small print english are hard to do on the spot especially after waiting in the lines. ;)
A must do is the Arc de Triumphe. First, it’s the cheapest, quickest attraction in the city and second, The view of Paris is amazing. You’ll gain a perspective of the Eiffel Tower that you can’t gain from any other place in Paris. Once you descend into the metro again, its only 5 stops until you are at the feet of the Tour Eiffel.
TIP: Please pay for the top floor, and walk to the east side of the main platform. No one is ever in the east line compared to the west line that leads to the top floor elevator.
After we wandered Paris for the first day we figured that we should plan and set up the next days of the trip. (I know that not having an airtight plan would drive most humans bonkers. It drives my wife a little nutty too.) We found a bunch of places within a few hours of paris ( Mont St. Michele, Normandy, Utah Beach etc etc) and would take the TGV to those locations and return in the evening. That worked so much better than trying to ride a train from town to town and not look back while touring the country.
By creating a home base and doing day trips, we were able to gain some consistency for our kids because they are still completing their daily school tasks. (yes we home and world school our kids) We also got better rates on our rentals by staying a few days longer. (fewer cleaning fees too)
After we left our home base in Paris we flew to Nice and home based there while touring the Cote-Azur and enjoying the warmth of Marseille, Nice, Eze, Menton and especially Les Callanques in Cassis. Regional trains are a wonder and need to be taken advantage of. Take some time to plan, but you don’t have to be too obsessive over the schedule because they come fairly often.
We had scheduled a train to Rome from Marseille but after looking at our schedule and how we would lose an entire day, we decided to book Easy Jet. They aren’t the best and aren’t the most reliable but they get the job done for a tenth the time and half the price!
I deleted the rest covering Rome and will post it as a part two!