The joy of a Father&Son trip: Vienna

The Vienna Giant Wheel - teaser for big little Woodpecker

The Vienna Giant Wheel – teaser for big little Woodpecker

Since a long time I am thinking to write a post about children and happiness. But never found the right angle to do so until now.

Because if you simply look at the statistics, they will tell you that after an initial boost, happiness and having kids is not really correlated.

Thats good news out there for people without kids: You can still be and stay happy!

But why is it then, that for Woodpecker myself having kids was an enormous life changer, and all to the better despite all that diapers, costs, sleepless nights, etc.?

I’ll put up the following theory (happy for any comments):

If you get kids and then want to continue an un-downshifted life devoted to work like you had it before without kids (as many people seem to do), then your happiness probably will stay flat.
Reason is that any happiness gains from having the kids (coming via the affection, your hormones, the new angle you’ll see the world from, a boost in optimism about the future, the sheer fun you can have with them etc.) will be counter-balanced by negative effects like having much less free cash-flow to consume plus having much less free time for other activities, if both partners are stupid enough to continue working full-time.
That’s a sad situation, but one that I can frequently observe among friends and colleagues. Many people do not really set the stage for enjoying the gift of kids to its full extend.

In contrast let’s look at a situation where you already are committed to downshifting, i.e. money and consumption does not play that much a role for your life satisfaction. And you work as little as possible and have no TV thus time is an ample resource to you (maybe that ample that you actually are one of the few happy people today that still know the feeling of boredom 😉 ).
Then kids will bring a wonderful boost of happiness to your life, so please:

Go ahead when thinking about having kids! Don’t wait for the “perfect point in time”, just do it now, before it is too late!

Hurray to father and son

Last week Woodpecker had some days off plus one of Germany’s luckily numerous public holidays (The day of work 😉 Hurray!)
Unfortunately, Mrs Woodpecker was not able to take this days off, so Woodpecker and Big Little Woodpecker (the three-year old boy) decided to do a mens-trip to my favorite city in the world, Vienna.

Vienna is the city I myself had my first father and son trip to ages ago, when we quite frugally cycled down the Danube from Passau to Vienna (yes, Woodpecker’s father was a good example in downshifting and having time for his kids as well!).

Vienna is the city that Woodpecker went to on his first holiday without parents and a friend only, when he was 16.

And it was the city Woodpecker had a simply wonderful time spending a year abroad during studies.

Now it would be the first city for big little Woodpecker to visit with his father alone (Ha! Dear old dad, outperformed you on that one 😉 ).

I’ll write about the uncountable beauties of Vienna in this separate photo-post, but here I’ll focus on promoting trips with your boy/girl as early as you can.

Fun and Fun costs

Well, it was a men’s trip, so we did take our comforts (by Woodpecker’s standards at least).

We spent the tremendous and unfrugal amount of I think 50 EUR at Viennas fun park, the Prater, riding the ancient giant wheel, a mini train, a horse (well, actually the little one did, and talked about it for days), auto-scooter, carousels etc.  while we were enjoying tons of totally unacceptable and unhealthy food besides. As some of you might know, it is not easy for a downshifter to spend money so recklessly (for most of the population it would have been a perfectly normal costly visit to a fun park though).

But wise Mrs. Woodpecker instructed me please not to look at money on this trip to make it something special. So we didn’t.  🙂

Next we had lots of more unhealthy food by enjoying at every occasion (and there are plenty!) the most of Vienna’s fantastic sweet bakery and confectionary products. We visited some Museums, see next post. Despite being three years old only, big little Woodpecker has more stamina in Museums than old Woodpecker, and he loves them.

The Vienna Tramway. Turned out to be THE highlight for the boy.

The Vienna Tramway. Turned out to be THE highlight for the boy.

And – very important – we made very ample use of our four day public transport ticket (only 16 EUR), riding the beautifully old-fashioned Vienna tram-ways up and down all of the city for sheer fun.
And, boy, that was fun!
Big little Woodpecker in the end was even more pleased by that simple and cheap pleasure than by riding the horses and the giant wheel at the Prater! At least 5 times a day he saw a tram somewhere and said: “And now, we have to ride that one, dad!” And so we did!

Two additional observations:

Feeling the time

As described here, Woodpecker’s sole new year’s resolution for 2013 was to experiment with time and e.g. living without a clock for a prolonged time.
We did exactly that the whole four days, except when we had to reach the trains to and from Munich.

We did not purposely look at the watch at all.

We simply slept until we woke up, got to breakfast (luckily the body clock is clever enough to wake you in time for that), start the day.
Looked for food when we felt like.
Did a break when the mood was for it.
Went back when any of us started to feel tired and slept when our bodies told us now it is time to stop to daff around in the chamber and to close the eyes. One day bed-time must have been after 11 p.m, after we had to make a final tram drive plus an ice cream in the dark. This is way later than the boys usual time, but then the next day he decided to do an additional nap around midday – a good opportunity for Woodpecker to have a coffee and read the newspaper.

What a fantastic experience! Simply drift through the sunny days and see where they are taking you!

Highly recommended with or without kids.

The plus with kids is, that this is actually their natural state of living, and I firmly belief you will see how relaxed even the most stressed and nervous kid would become, once you take the pressure of the clock from them. A very rewarding experience.

Getting into Contact

On top, doing it the slow way does get you into contact with all kinds of people, mainly locals. This is actually boosted if you are travelling as a father with a young kid, as fathers with young kids unfortunately still is a seldom thing in todays crazy world of work.

All the disadvantages that you still will encounter at your workplace if you seriously take out time for your family as a father are paid back by friendliness of people towards you if you move around with your small kid in public.

Example? Two times (!) tram-drivers got up from their steering wheel and helped me carry out the buggy without me asking them to do so.
Ten or twenty times I was approached by total strangers for a chat.
At least five times or so I got into contact with other parents as my and other kids teamed up for playing in one of the wonderful city parks.
At least five times the boy benefited from some sweets some people insisted on sharing with him.
All of the three breakfasts and one train ride we spent in nice conversations with other travellers.

Thus: Kids boost your social contact. Especially when travelling with one parent only.

Base Costs

As said, costs on fun, entrances and food were ridiculously high by Woodpecker’s standards.

But, guess what? Thats all no problem, as our “base costs” were really low, making the overall trip frugal again, despite a very loose brake on daily spending.

Of course we took the train to Vienna, relaxed, much more fun and contact, and cheaper than the car. With the regular special “Europe” offer, it was 90 EUR in total, kids being free.

Being there we stayed in a Youth Hostel for only 20(!) EUR per night, including breakfast. Kids again free. Absolute central location (send me a mail for details), two-bed rooms with own shower. Well, very basic but quiet and clean, what more do you need?

Thus a quick overview on total cost:

Woodpecker’s trip Average family trip Extreme frugal option
Transport for 2 Train, 90 EUR Car, 700km+parking, 150 EUR Car-Sharing, 50 EUR
Accommodation 3nights Youth Hostel,60 EUR 3nights Normal Hotel, 300 EUR As Woodpecker, 60 EUR
Necessary Food Eating out, plus some take away and picnics,70 EUR Eating out only,160 EUR Only picnics, 50 EUR
Fun Food Ice cream, pastry (a must!), frequent coffees (a must too in Vienna),50 EUR 50 EUR 0 EUR
Entrance Fee Museums, Fun Park,50 EUR 50 EUR Museums 20 EUR
Total, 2 persons, 4 days 320 EUR 710 EUR 180 EUR

Not too bad, isn’t it? 320 EUR for four days fun for two. Still fine with me, given we were so relaxed on costs. And still much closer to the extreme frugal option than to the average family trip.

The secret is that accommodation, transport and Eating out make most of the difference. Keep those in check and the luxury of daily spending will be ok.

Summary

All in all one of the best trips I had in my life, and of a total different nature than anything before.

A trip alone with your kid will force you to concentrate fully on him/her. If you do that and are willing to forget the clock, this will be a very relaxing experience.

It will make you see the world from a different angle.

It will be full of social contact.

It can still be frugal while having a lot of fun.

Go ahead and do it! (Or get a kid first 😉 )

Cheers,

Woodpecker

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8 comments on “The joy of a Father&Son trip: Vienna

  1. Woody says:

    Well, congratulations – that sounds like a great father and son experience! (Unfortunately I won’t enjoy this kind of fun, but that’s another story. Maybe our godchild will have a similar trip with us.)

    Did you realize, that dropping you a mail as you mentioned in your text is not as easy as you suggested? At least I was not able to find any hint on your email address somewhere on your blog.

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Thanks and Yeah, why not go out and ask if your godchild wants to come along, maybe as a birthday present or so?
      Simply tease with the giant wheel in the Vienna case or something different for another city. Probably the kid will have a bit of home sickness the first day, but then will not want to return home on the last day 😉

      And in fact, his/her parents will likely apprechiate a weekend on their own – as great as it is to have kids, weekends to concentrate on your partner unfortunately become scarce.

      ps. added an eMail Adress in the “about” section. Thanks for noting.

  2. […] the more general post on the fun of a father & son trip, I want to follow-up with some thought (and pics!) about the fantastic city of Vienna, that I also […]

  3. Great piece as always. I like your attitude towards downshifting and taking a more relaxed approach to life, especially when kids are involved.

  4. […] You can to a “mens/women only” weekend city trip with your 3-year-old (see Woodpeckers father and son trip to Vienna). […]

  5. Caron says:

    Hi, Woodpecker! I have been meaning to respond to this post for awhile, but life has kept interfering 🙂 I, too, loved this post but wanted to let you know that these wonderful, down-shifting adventures don’t have to end when your children get older. My youngest daughter (now 21) and I shared a very special trip to Germany last spring that was very similar to your trip with your 3 year old. In our daily lives we seldom have down time to relax and enjoy things together. She has full-time university studies, part-time work and, of course, the very important social life that does not include old Mum! But as we made our way from Frankfurt up to Bacharach and then to visit family in Hamburg we had the time to re-connect. We ate when we hungry (and often when we weren’t – the German tradition of cake and coffee was a big hit with us!), slept until whatever time we wanted to and shared exploring your wonderful country. Allissa is not a big adventure traveller (unlike her big sister who thinks if you don’t need malaria medication, it’s not a real trip!) and for me the opportunity to introduce her to a culture different from our life in Canada was so special. The key really was taking our time and experiencing what caught our interest. Missed the train? Oh well, there will be another one in an hour, just enough time for another cake and coffee! It doesn’t have to be expensive; we stayed in hostels and picnic a lot but it is so worthwhile that I would encourage anyone with kids (no matter how young or old) to make the time for it. You won’t regret it!!

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Thats good news!
      Hope my boys will still be in 18 years from now ;).
      But where the hell is Bacharach?!

      • Caron says:

        Bacharach is a slice of heaven in the Rhine Valley, just up from St. Goar and the Lorelei rock. You should definitely check it out; the hostel there (Jugendherberge Stahleck) is a 12th century castle!

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