I know… It’s a peculiar title, but there is a story to tell…
This summer, we knew that we wanted to visited my brother and his family, who live in Ireland. There was no guarantee that they would be living there after this fall. We also knew we wanted to give our kids an amazing learning experience. Plus, we have only a few more years while our oldest kids are even home to travel with us.
Once we decided to give it a try, we had to plan around my brother’s schedule, and our own schedule. Plus, there was weather to think about, most cost-effective times to travel, and finally preparations to make.
We had to buy Passports for the kids, and thankfully, I began the process as soon as we decided to travel this year. We would wind up traveling two months before we had originally planned.
We also applied for our business credit cards and began the process of making all our necessary purchases on the credit cards so we could earn the many points for booking flights. As a result of these cards, we were able to gain 180,000 miles plus our over 40,000 miles we had at the start. That gave us 220,000 miles, which translated into plane tickets for our entire family, rental car, and a hotel.
On top of that, my husband just “happened” to Google for cheap plane flights one day and found us unbelievable rates for flights to Ireland. We were able to book flights for $1000 total for all 7 of us to fly to Ireland! We actually could have gone cheaper, but we paid for $200 extra to insure our kids would have seats next to us. After we booked, the amazing deals quickly disappeared, as the 747 Boeing issue happened, and Norwegian Air no longer offered amazing deals from the little known airport in Stewart, NY. It’s just as if God saved that deal just for us.
When we booked our first AirBnB in Ireland, it seemed like an amazing deal: an entire house for less than $80/night and breakfast! Plus, it had WiFi which is almost unheard of in rural areas in Ireland. Within two weeks, our reservation was cancelled. At that point, very few options were available. Hotels were costly and booked. Very few AirBnB’s were available — especially for our family size. We then found an AirBnB which “happened” to be only 5 minutes from my brother’s home. Plus, the host gave us 20% off. It had WiFi, had plenty of room for our family, and had breakfast items. We were thrilled! The first place we had booked was 45 minutes from my brother, and later, we would find out what a nuisance that would have been.
When planning our trip, we had a range of about three weeks we could work with so we began to plan the order of our trip, based on cheapest costs.
As we planned, we realized that once you get to Europe, there are many cheap flights from country to country so we decided to make this the trip of a lifetime with our kids. We used points to book flights from Ireland to Germany and to book our rental vehicle in Germany. Once in Germany, we found an AirBnB that was central to four countries so we could take day trips and visit them all.
We stayed in Austria and from there, drove to Switzerland and Lichtenstein one day. Another day, we drove to Germany. Finally, we spent a fantastic day touring in Austria.
The best flights were then to take a flight home from Paris back to NY. That meant that our daughter got the desire of her heart to see Paris. We used points to book our flight to Paris and our hotel in Paris. We then used public transportation to get around Paris.
As we prepared for our trip to Europe, I was incredibly excited but also scared. I knew that things could go wrong when you are novices traveling in a foreign country, and we were attempting this with five kids and no travel agent. I remember praying, “God, I just need to know you are with us.” I knew it was a silly prayer as I knew theologically that God was with me. In response, I remember God kept giving me the verse in Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
It was amazing how many ways God showed how He was looking out for us! For example, originally, we were trying to find a place to stay in the center of Paris but couldn’t find anything reasonable. We just “happened” to find the hotel with our travel points, and it happened to be close to the Eiffel Tower but outside the city. Little did we know when we planned our trip, that demonstrations would be occurring the day we flew into Paris, and that it was a good thing we stayed outside the craziness. By the next day, the demonstrations were over, and we had a perfect day to tour.
When we flew into Germany, while we waited to get our rental vehicle, my husband just “happened” to be standing next to a guy who told him that we needed to buy a special pass before we crossed into Austria to avoid fines.
We just “happened” to plan a “staycation” at our AirBnB on a day that I wound up with a fever and was glad to have a quieter day to recover.
We just “happened” to be upgraded to a larger van in Germany, which at first seemed like a nightmare. The upgrade wound up being a huge blessing, as it provided ample space for luggage and extra wiggle room for our kids with so many hours in the van.
We just “happened” to get a rental van in Ireland with extra room for our luggage — something that is uncommon.
When we tried to leave Ireland, the rental place tried to accuse us of damaging their van. Thankfully, my brother had warned us beforehand that this is a common practice and how to handle the shysters.
We just “happened” to be touring St. Gallen, Switzerland, when there was a street festival with special music and foods.
We just “happened” upon gorgeous historic blocks in St. Gallen, Switzerland, and in Innsbruck, Austria.
We just “happened” to have gorgeous weather for the days we toured the various cities.
My husband just “happened” to catch a thief trying to pickpocket his phone in Paris.
There were so many blessings — so many ways that God showed that He truly was with us!
Traveling as a family was incredibly special! The timing was also perfect as our oldest three were a huge help with luggage, keeping an eye on our things, and helping to give piggy-back rides to our littlest member. Plus, our littlest people are not napping, potty-trained, and able to walk a lot.
The kids did amazingly well with missing hours of sleep while traveling!
Highlights from our trip were the opportunities we had to minister to people in various countries. One situation happened in Ireland. We were walking through the extensive gardens at Bunratty Village and came upon an elderly gentleman that had fallen. There were staff on-site, and they thought the gentleman had broken his neck. I asked if I could pray for him and then asked the gentleman. I was given permission. After praying for him, the staff had tears in their eyes and thanked me for praying. I was thankful that I could help to bring comfort and peace to the poor gentleman!
The second situation was in Paris. There are many homeless in Paris, but in this particular encounter, my husband and I, individually, both felt strongly from God that we were to stop and reach out to the fellow. We did stop and talk to the guy and were able to encourage him, help him a little, and pray with him. It was definitely a moment that we will remember. Our kids graciously were okay with us taking the time though they were exhausted, and it was late.
In preparing for our trip, we discovered some items that made our trip easier. They are the following:
We used this great little zip-up pouch to hold all of our passports:
We used this great pouch to hold all our electronic cables and chargers:
We used this inflatable neck pillow:
We used this battery pack for charging cell phones when touring all day:
We used this converter for helping with mainland Europe and also in Ireland:
These were great for hours on the road and on flights:
This was handy for keeping our money and important tickets safe:
We used one checked bag. The rest was carry-ons that needed to be very light as each flight had different weight requirements.
Here are some of our favorite pictures: