Back in the 19th century the Grand Tour used to be all the rage – a way for young men to see all the important architectural and cultural sights of Europe before returning home to walk around their country estates or whatever it is they used to do. (It’s also what Helena Bonham Carter did in A Room With A View, although she got a bit sidetracked by one of those young men.)
When we were young my sister and I were taken on variations of a Grand Tour by our parents, albeit slightly less glamorous, and usually in my dad’s Datsun: Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France. This later progressed to Canada and the US (result). By the time I was at uni the Grand Tour had become Inter-Railing or Backpacking Round The World, now popularly known as the Gap Year (or Gap Yah, depending on who is paying for your trip.)
But the concept of a Grand Tour – that is, visiting more than one place on a trip, and discovering different cultures and historical treasures – is also fantastic for kids, because it offers families constant variety and ever-changing landscapes. The first time No 1 Son and I did a mini-Grand Tour was by accident rather than by design; it was the fateful Christmas Eve when our plane home from Cologne was grounded and we ended up taking several trains across Germany, Liechtenstein and France in a nerve-wracking race against time to get home before the Main Event. It was absolutely brilliant.
I think that’s probably why cruise holidays are such a revelation for families – not only are they great value, but I can’t think of any other kind of holiday that makes it so EASY to visit lots of places on one trip. You don’t even have to do the driving or change planes or trains to get there. On our recent cruise (I know, I’ve hardly mentioned it at all) No 1 Son and I visited FIVE countries in one trip, including Russia, making incredible memories and experiencing very different worlds as we travelled. It would have cost thousands to visit all those places in separate trips. This way, you get a taste (and we had two full days in Russia), and you can decide where you’d like to go back to and spend a bit more time.
And of course then there those families who are able to take a few months (or longer) and really see the world with their offspring. An incredibly cool thing to do, if you have the means.
But whether you choose to go by plane, train, automobile or ship, for a week or longer, or whether you’re exploring South America or Scotland, Grand Tours are great for kids.