Sunday, August 30, 2015

Putting kids in charge of travel plans & budget – Munich, Germany – Family Travel

It was the second last day of our three week adventure across Central Europe.  Joel and I were sitting in our hostel in Munich, Germany wondering how we were going to make the most of our short time here.  This marked the last stop before returning home and even though we were all tired, the journey thus far had been fulfilling in so many ways. Ben and Liv traveled well and embraced the culture, people, and adventures along the way. I had taken care of booking most of the hostels, researching possible things to do at each destination, packing each day according to what we were doing and had ran out of steam by the time we reached Munich.  Joel, as always, was our rock and navigated us through countless trains, countries, and language barriers.  Both of us were equally tired of spending money, being responsible for planning a day that everyone will enjoy, and being in charge.  So we turned the reigns over to Ben and Liv.

Liv and Ben, our trusted guides for the day! (photo taken in Vienna)

The idea was Joel’s.  He is brilliant. That, or tired of constantly having to deal with Ben and Liv asking to buy ice cream, some knick knack and having to repeat “money does not grow on trees” over and over again.  This was going to be a way to help them understand what it takes to plan a day of travel and realize the true value of money.

Before we left the comforts of our hostel there were three key things Ben and Liv needed to be prepared for: Research – What were we going to do for the day? Is there something for everyone? Navigation – How are we getting from point A to point B? Do we need maps? Do Ben and Liv know how to use Google Maps on the iPhone? Budget – How much money will we spend? What are the expected costs? What are Ben and Liv willing to sacrifice? Can Mom and Dad ask for ice cream every time we see ice cream?  Here is how our day in Munich unfolded with the kids in charge.


The day started with a debrief on where we were on the map and what options we had as far as things to see and do.  Joel and I pointed out several possibilities of places to go but in the end it was their decision, together, of what we would be doing.  Another decision they were faced with was how we would be traveling throughout Munich.  Would we be taking the metro or walking? Then, the last discussion was about money. Each was given 15 Euros for the day (plus the change we had in our pockets) and that was to take care of all our needs throughout the day, including lunch and paying to use washrooms.  We had eaten breakfast at the hostel, included with our stay, and mom and dad would take care of supper.

The plan Ben and Liv came up with was walk to St. Peter’s Church and then find somewhere to swim in one of the man-made channels along the Isar River.  They even went so far as to packing our towels, swim suits, hats, water, and a few snacks we had left.  Seems like these kids do pay attention!


The chosen method of travel was walking. Ben did great navigating our way from the hostel to St. Peter’s Church.  Joel helped him learn how to use Google Maps along the way and Ben caught on fast.  Soon he was navigating on his own. When it came time for Liv to navigate, she too caught on fast but had to be quickly reminded that navigating through a city meant following sidewalks! Walking in a straight line across four lanes of traffic and two train tracks would not do!

Kids pick of activities in Munich

St. Peters Church, a Roman Catholic church, was built in the 11th century and has seen rebuilds several times due to war and fire. Visiting the church was a great way to learn about some German history, admire the various styles of art inside and marvel at the large ceilings and gilded high altar. Visiting St. Peter’s Church was a perfect fit for our budget.  Admission into the church itself is free. Ben thought it would be worth 6 Euros for all of us to walk up 306 steps to the viewing platform on top the church tower. The reward is a 360 view of Munich. Navigating the tiny spiral staircase that you have to take both up AND down was every bit as entertaining as the view.

Englisher Garten.  If you love outdoor spaces and variety of things to see and do, this is the place for you.  It is a large park, larger than New York’s Central Park, located in the center of Munich offering grassy areas to sunbathe (clothed or not), swim, cycle, walk and re-hydrate at a beer garden of course. Best go early as things get busier later in the day but even experiencing the crowds is entertaining.

On the Eisbach River, a man made channel off the Isar River, there is a wave at the Haus der Kunst that is a popular place for surfing. Surfing in Munich? Who knew? Fun to watch.

Click video below to see some Munich surfing action!

As we walked through Englisher Garten we waded in the channels to stay cool, had ice cream (kids caved) and had lunch at Chinesischer Turm beer garden, seating for a mere 7000! Oktoberfest would be an experience here for sure! Ben and Liv carefully selected a meal each to share with us and Joel saved them some money by packing in his own beer.

Where the Eisbach meets the Isar River is a small rocky beach area that is so far off the tourist trail only locals and their dogs can be found. We swam, we sun bathed, Dad jumped off a bridge, and we all got trampled on by over active dogs.  It was a great way to spend the sunny afternoon in Munich. We even witnessed a new type of river activity. Hang on to a bungee cord while on a skim board (or small surf board) and as you float downstream (facing upstream), hang on as long as possible and then let go. The result is being ejected upstream fast!  Pretty cool to watch. Those Germans sure know how to make fun happen anywhere.

Click video to see river skiing


I was impressed with both Ben and Liv who did a great job sticking to the budget.  The asking for ice cream was kept to a minimum and there was no mention of buying knick knacks. When it came time to eat, reasonable decisions were made rather than rash choices that usually cost more.  Joel and I know that sacrifices to the daily budget need to be made in order to travel the world as a family. After this experience I believe Ben and Liv too have a better understanding of it as well.

Liv’s budget was spent on the following:
  • 1 slice of pizza
  • 2 apples and 2 bananas to share as snacks
  • Lunch at beer garden– European sausage and sauerkraut salad for Liv and I
  • One scoop ice cream and sprinkles (shared with mom)
  • Lighting a candle in St. Peter’s Church and 2 postcards
  • Celebratory ice cream at the end of the night
  • Coins for some street musicians
  • paid for all washroom uses
Ben's budget was spent on the following:
  • One scoop ice cream and sprinkles (shared with Dad)
  • Admission for all of us to go up to the top of the bell tower in St. Peters Church 
  • Lunch for Ben and Dad – Schnitzel and fried potatoes in beer gardens
  • Lighting a candle in St. Peters Church and 2 postcards
  • Celebratory ice cream at the end of the night (never too much ice cream)
  • Bought Dad a beer at the end of the night
Our day in Munich under the kids control turned out to be one of the most memorable days of the trip and was proud of what Ben and Liv accomplished.  The wonderful green spaces in the heart of Munich stole our hearts and I will always have fond memories of our time in Munich. As promised, Mom and Dad were buying supper and as we strolled through Hofgarten, an Italian style renaissance garden built in 1617 we came upon an outdoor courtyard beer garden. I believe it was called Luigi Tambosi but the name is not important. What was important was our time here. We sat and enjoyed a few beverages together and shared in laughter. We had great discussions on what we were going to choose from the menu, mostly trying to figure out what the menu was, and reminisced about the previous three weeks of travel we had enjoyed. As the evening crept on, we slowly made our way back to our hostel. Our final few stops were at Odeonsplatz, a 19th century city square, to sit and relax on some outdoor cushions, listened to some street buskers play music, and purchased one last ice cream, with what was left of Ben and Liv’s money, as a way to celebrate the day and our last evening in Europe.  Ben even managed to scrap together his last few Euros and bought his dad a beer.  What a guy!

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