I admit, halfway through packing for my first overseas family holiday with a child in tow, I did question our sanity in selecting a cycling holiday! However I think it's only natural to be a little daunted by travel with little ones, and I learned a few things on our travels which I hope will help and encourage other families to enjoy the world the active way. Testing out one of Macs Adventure's newest cycling itineraries, the Loire Valley Cycle Path from Orleans to Chinon, turned out to be a great decision filled with moments to treasure. Here are my top tips...
A family cycling selfie. It's in the rules to take one!
1) You don't need as much "stuff" as you'd think!
Our package included baggage transfer for two overnight cases which would be taken to our new hotel each day, and with the baby seat on one bike, we knew we only had one set of pannier bags to fill. My mind went into packing-panic and list-writing frenzy weeks in advance! I think in the end we packed quite well, but we all had far too much clothing and could definitely have saved valuable kilograms. One benefit of little ones being confined to a bike seat for long periods of the day is that they don't have as many opportunities to get dirty! So just a few changes of comfortable kids' outfits would have been plenty. Plus with a 1 year old in tow, there were quite a few early nights for the adults too and we packed far too many evening outfits for ourselves. We also packed way too many "just in case" items (extra baby wipes for example) that could easily have been purchased along the way. There are babies in France too, and shops do cater for them!
What are the essentials?
Make sure you pack waterproofs for everyone, cycling helmets for everyone, a light sun hat for children, and sun lotion (we all shared the kids factor 50 stuff). Macs Adventure's packing guides have lots more cycling holiday packing tips.
Cycling helmets are a must pack. I suggest bringing your own so you are sure they fit well.
2) Self-guided is the perfect format for a family cycling holiday.
Any parent of under-2s will tell you that just getting out of the house can be your biggest achievement of the day. So it was great please ourselves when to have breakfast, when to set off cycling, when to stop for nappy emergencies (oh dear!), and when to stop for snacks. We even stopped for riverside nap time. Bliss! We took our time to explore the towns in the evening and enjoy a leisurely family dinner. Dining earlier than most continental diners wasn't a problem as it meant we had quieter restaurants.
An evening stroll to Chinon Fortress.
3) Wear your baby! Invest in a good baby carrier.
We didn't take a stroller or pushchair with us at all. We used our Connecta baby carrier instead, and it was a great decision! (There are lots of other brands available - take time to find the right one for you). We had free hands for passports and boarding passes at the airport, navigated the trains through central Paris with relative ease, and could pack the carrier away into our pannier bags to use when stopping for a break during the day. Our daughter enjoyed a fabulous nap in it as we took a stroll around Château de Villandry!
Sightseeing made easy by using a flexible and packable baby carrier.
4) Snacks Snack Snacks
Our daughter loved watching the world go by from her bike seat, and even pushed her arms out as if she was flying when we were cycling a bit faster - very cute! Taking breaks is crucial though. Whether your older children are cycling themselves, or the babies are in seats or trailers, it keeps them happy to have a rest and a feed. Pack plenty of snacks for all ages in your pannier bags - we stocked up on fresh fruit at each town, and brought rice cakes, and a few pre-packaged baby food items from home, which came in handy as we didn't always reach towns when we thought we would. As we were in France, well, it would have been rude not to stop at each pâtisserie too, right? The whole family deserve treats on holiday.
It's important to fuel up for a day on the bikes. Tarte Tatin is always a good idea.
5) Choose a flat route.
Even if they're not pedalling their own bikes, kids are heavy! We cycled the Loire Valley Cycle Routes and some surrounding quiet roads and lanes. It was a very flat and easy route, and if it was just a break for the parents we would have opted for something of a higher grade. We were glad we were on an easy route though, as it turns out babies are quite a heavy item to carry on the back of your bike! Some ideal cycling holiday routes for families (which are also perfect terrain for when the kids can cycle themselves) include Lake Constance, the Danube Cycle Path, and although not a specific family itinerary, we loved the Loire Valley Cycle Path too. Browse some more family cycling adventures here.
Flat cycle paths were a delight to follow.
Little ones are never to young to start enjoying an active lifestyle, and relaxing in the great outdoors with the family. We made wonderful memories on our first family cycling adventure, and would recommend it to all ages! Contact my colleagues, the tour specialists, on email@example.com if you're interested in finding out more about family cycling adventures on foot or by bike.