fjord views in norway

As a child I lived in Arkansas, then Oklahoma and then at age five moved to London for a year. From there our family took a short hop across the North Sea to move to Stavanger, Norway for nine years. I am what is known as a third culture kid. That experience shaped me and I have so many wonderful memories of that time of my life.

It afforded me opportunities I never would have had otherwise — from horseback riding camp in Wales, to summer camp in Switzerland and trips with my school to sports tournaments throughout Europe. But most importantly, it was a time in my young life where I was able to safely experience independence. It has been thirty-five years since I left. And, it has been a dream to make return to Norway with my kids.

Growing Up in Norway

Childhood days were spent horseback riding at a local stable, picking raspberries in our backyard, trips to the mountains to pick blueberries or spending snowy Thanksgivings in a cabin in the mountains. We visited stave churches, learned all about vikings, their ships and the trolls of Norway. Many times we passed by Sverd i fjell, symbolizing peace. We visited Hitler’s teeth and learned about the history of the Nazi invasion of Norway during World War II. Even discovering an old WWII bunker under our neighbor’s raised patio during our many hours spent playing outdoors.

Sverd i fjell, outside of Stavanger, Norway
Sverd i fjell, outside of Stavanger.

My middle school years in Stavanger were spent riding my bike miles around town, taking the public bus to down town or to nearby ski slopes with friends, often without parents or any other adults. We didn’t have cell phones back then.

But there were also missed opportunities. As a teen, I opted not to go with my family one beautiful day to hike Preikestolen. I have regretted that and am beyond excited to have another opportunity all these years later.

I know how lucky I am to have had those experiences. And, now, I am lucky enough to be planning a return to Stavanger Norway with my own family, after thirty-five years. It is more than luck though. It is also a plan that has been in the works. A couple of years ago, as I started approaching midlife, I set a couple of goals. The primary one was to return to Norway when I turned fifty. Well fifty is approaching and I just booked airfare (on points and miles) to Norway for our family.

Insider Tip: I recently discovered the world of travel with points and miles. Hear how we amassed 400K Chase Ultimate Rewards in four to five months to pay for airfare for a family of four to Norway (value of $7K).

harbor of stavanger at sunset
We used to visit the fish market at the harbor in Stavanger weekly and it was a treat to get to eat shrimp right off the boat. Sadly, I understand the fish market is no longer there.

Norway with Kids

A trip to anywhere in Europe is a big one. The travel with kids isn’t always easy. I don’t envy my parents having done it once a year for a decade.

My family’s travels started within the United States, branched to a Disney Caribbean cruise then down to Costa Rica. As our kids get older and more experienced at travel, it gets a bit easier. That isn’t to say that they won’t get jetlagged and grumpy from long travel. They will. Just as we will. They are just a bit better at communicating, and understanding when they might need to tough through something.

This Norway trip is about sharing my past with my family. Most travelers would head north to Tromso for the midnight summer’s eve or northern lights, or to Oslo for culture and history. Of course, everyone will want to visit fjord country and Bergen, including us. Those are the most popular destinations in Norway. The primary goal our trip is to show my family where I grew up, and take a trip down memory lane. So, Stavanger is our primary destination.

While Norway isn’t a huge country it can take quite a bit of time to travel between major tourist destinations. We only have 10 days so want to keep travel time in the country to a minimum, other than when travel is the destination.

Trains, ferries and buses in Norway all provide a way to see sights you couldn’t otherwise see. There’s even a famous tour called Norway in a Nutshell that basically combines these way of seeing the country into a moving itinerary.

cobblestone streets of old stavanger in norway
Old Stavanger, in my opinion, should be on any Norway itinerary.

Our Norway Itinerary

To make the most of our limited time we will fly into Bergen and out of Stavanger. This will allow us to see this historic maritime town of Bergen, and easily jump off into fjord country for a couple of nights.

We can take the Norway in a Nutshell loop from Bergen but spend a couple of nights in Flåm to dive deeper into the area’s fjords. Here we can cruise the Nærøyfjord, ride a bike down from Myrdal, explore the Borgund Stave Church and just take in the majestic views.

Then we will take a mini-cruise on the ferry from Bergen to Stavanger. This will be a fun way to see the coastline from the water. We’ll take four days to see Stavanger. From here we will take a day to hike Preikestolen to make up for that missed opportunity from my teens. We will explore Old Stavanger, the harbor area, walk around Breiavatnet where a goose once bit my sister in the bottom to steal her ice cream. Visit the Stavanger Cathedral where I spend many a magical Christmas Eves listening to beautiful music. We will explore the pristine beaches, and make a visit to my old school campuses (Stavanger American School, now International School of Stavanger).

If I am truly lucky, perhaps I will get to reconnect with a couple of friends from my childhood who made Norway their permanent home. This is the trip of a lifetime for me. I feel so fortunate to get to make my way back home, and share it with my children and husband.

More Help Planning a Trip to Norway with Kids

Looking for more detailed help in planning your exciting trip to Norway with kids? While Rick Steves doesn’t focus specifically on families, I have always found his guides a reliable source of information, especially for transportation, activities, lodging and dining. The guide I’ve found most useful, so far, in planning this trip has been A Return to Norway with Kids

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