A couple from Arlington, Tex., wants our help planning a road trip through Sweden and Denmark with their 11-month-old daughter.
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Dear Trip Coach,
My husband and I are picking up our new Saab in Sweden, and then we're planning on driving south, through Sweden and into Denmark. We're bringing our daughter, Raquel, who'll turn 1 on the trip. We'd definitely love some help! Tina Rendon, Arlington, Tex.
Tina and Rolando Rendon's first overseas trip was their honeymoon in Rome in 2004. "We had fun exploring the city," says Tina, "but we feel like we may have missed out on some things." This time, the Rendons (she's a quality-assurance manager for a poultry company, and he manages a Jimmy John's sub shop) have a new challenge, as they'll be joined by their 11-month-old, Raquel.
What's Planned So Far
Most European carmakers have European Delivery Programs, in which U.S. buyers can pick up their new car in the country where it was built--avoiding dealer charges, customs duties, import taxes, and port-clearance fees--and then take the car for a driving vacation before it gets delivered to the States. The car companies even throw in incentives: The Rendons not only save quite a bit of money buying their gray Saab 9-3 SportCombi in Sweden, says Tina, but Saab also gives them $2,000 as a travel allowance. What's more, Saab arranges pickup at the Göteborg (Gothenburg in English) airport, the first night's hotel (at Ronnum Manor), a three-course dinner, and a ride the next morning to get the car. For the rest of their 10-day trip, however, the Rendons need some advice.
Questions and Concerns
Their big question is about lodging. "We want to visit Stockholm and Copenhagen," says Tina, "but we may not want to stay there, because it might be quieter and less expensive somewhere outside the city. Also, there would be a little more freedom for Raquel to run around." Tina likes to plan everything in advance, but she doesn't know where to find good information on accommodations.
Where they stay, of course, depends on where they go. "We kind of want to cram in as much as we can," she says, pointing out that they may not return to the area for a long time. (In fact, they originally planned to travel for 15 days, driving through the Netherlands, and then fly home from Frankfurt, Germany. But their plans changed because of work-related issues; now they've decided to fly home from Göteborg.)
Traveling with a baby adds complexity, and the Rendons aren't sure what to pack: Diapers? Toys? "We haven't taken her anywhere yet, except to visit family," says Tina. "Should we buy diapers over there? How much will they cost?" Also, are there attractions that'll be more likely to appeal to Raquel?
And if There's Time...
Rolando is a huge hockey fan, and the Rendons would love to take in a hockey game while in Sweden. "My husband is from Detroit," says Tina, "and there are seven Swedish players on the Detroit Red Wings, so it just seems like it'd be fun."
Here's Our Advice
European cobblestones have been known to eat American strollers for breakfast. It might be wise to buy a temporary one on Blocket.se (Sweden's Craigslist). Select Göteborg, then search for "barnvagn," or stroller. Even if you can't read Swedish, you can still see the price, phone number, and e-mail address. Odds are the seller will speak English.
The dollar is in the tank, and that's where much of your money will go: Gas is roughly $7 a gallon, almost as pricey as Scotch (well, not really). Expect sticker shock for every meal except lunch, when you can usually find $8 deals for the daily special.
As for diapers, a bit of shopping around at supermarkets can turn up a 62-pack for $15 or so. And Ikea stores are a great place to purchase chewable toys (ikea.se).
First, the bad news: The last regular-season hockey match was in early March, and play-off tickets can be hard to get.
The good news: Scandinavia is a very easy place to travel, and in spring, you don't really have to do a lot of advance work. Outside the cities, affordable lodging should be plentiful, even at the last minute.
One terrific option is a farmstay. You can avoid inner-city parking hassles, and farmstays are usually very kid-friendly. You can browse for farmstays in Sweden at Bo på Lantgård (bopalantgard.org).
There's not much going on in Trollhättan, where the Saab factory is located. Göteborg, 48 miles south, has more life (goteborg.com details visitor info).
Molle, a hillside coastal town, is about three hours south of Göteborg. It's Sweden's Niagara Falls in that it attracts honeymooners--but without the waterfall and the kitsch. On the way, you'll pass Höganäs, home of Höganäs pottery; there's even a factory outlet (keramikbygden.se).
Farther south is Lund. If Lund were a kid, you'd want to pinch its cheeks. The town is adorable--and highly walkable.
Malmö also offers nice walking areas along the coast south of town and in the old town center. Try a sauna and a dip in the freezing seawater at Ribersborgs Kallbadhus. It's fairly common to bring kids (ribban.com, $8, kids $4.50). For a very kid-friendly activity, rent a canoe from the Malmö Canoe Club and paddle the canals to explore the city's 17 bridges (011-46/40-97-20-47, $15 per hour).
After you drive across the new Øresund bridge to Denmark, take a quick detour north and visit Kronborg Castle, the setting for Shakespeare's Hamlet and, as such, one of Europe's more famous castles (kronborgcastle.com, from $5.50).
There are also ecofriendly farms in Denmark where you can stay: Økolologisk Bondegårdsferie has a list (ecoholiday.dk). Danish manor houses and castles also rent rooms: The website of Danske Slotte & Herregaarde is mostly in Danish, but you can download a list of properties, or just pick up a brochure once you're in Denmark or call them when you're close; they'll point you in the right direction (011-45/86-60-38-44, slotte-herregaarde.dk).
Some of the best-preserved Viking ships in the world are on display at Vikingeskibsmuseet in Roskilde, a half-hour west of Copenhagen (vikingeskibsmuseet.dk, from $9). Another worthwhile stop is Odense, on the island of Fyn, the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen (visitodense.com).
Egeskov Castle, south of Odense, is a true fairy-tale castle with towers, a moat, and a garden labyrinth (egeskov.dk, from $20). The inside is only open from May through September, but the outside is picturesque. It makes a happy ending for any trip to Denmark.
Empty your car whenever possible. When you can't, keep things covered in the trunk. Break-ins of rental and foreign-plate cars are sadly commonplace in Europe.
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