1. Decide where you want to go and determine if you can go there with your children
The answer is usually YES. After all, they have children everywhere.
One thing we’ve learned over the course of our travels, is just because you CAN go, doesn’t mean you always SHOULD go. Figure out what you want from the vacation, and how much energy you have. If relaxation is high on your list – pick a child-friendly place with baby-sitting services; something with amenities on-hand to save you from packing your newly cluttered world into your space-restricted suitcases. Playgrounds on-site are also handy.
Alternatively, if sightseeing and new adventures are what you’re looking for, travelling with children can be a very rewarding experience. Pacing is extremely important if you want to have a good time. Don’t expect too much from your kids. I’ve found that the slower pace actually helps the essence of wherever we are visiting to sink in.
I really like to read other parents’ blogs as a way to figure out what activities are good to go to with children. It’s the online version of word-of-mouth, and other parents know best when it comes to what children enjoy. I find that these blogs focus on the parts of the city that are ignored by travel sites: What attractions sound good, but aren’t and vice versa. Two of the hardest questions to answer before getting to cities are: What restaurants are welcoming to little ones? And, where is that nice open space that a toddler can run around?
If a blog post has helped you to plan a trip – please send us the link! I will start building a library of them on the ‘Cities’ page.
If I can’t find a local blog or a travel blog, I try to figure out what activities might interest Daniel (our oldest and most demanding at this point). He’s almost 2, as I write this, and for the past few months we’ve found that he needs a place to run around (for 30 min to an hour) in the morning and in the afternoon. Either a park/open space or the home-base are good options. We try to find those open spaces and then when he’s tuckered out – go to lunch or somewhere we’re interested in visiting while he takes a kip. Aquariums, Zoos and Transport Museums are also a hit for awake times as they are often a good place for him to walk around, and he’s entertained by what he sees. When in a pinch, sometimes all he needs is a set of stairs – they can entertain him until he wears himself out.
We have tried several different services for booking our trips. www.hotwire.com is excellent if you want to stay in a hotel and get it for a bargain. We find Hotwire’s ‘defined area’ which shows you the area where your hotel will be located is smaller than with www.lastminute.com. Since we are mostly walking with a pram, we want to be close to the city centre to minimize transit requirements. (More hotel booking sites can be found here.)
Homeaway.co.uk is a good option if you’re looking to rent someone’s house/apartment. (Airbnb is another good option for this type of accommodation). We prefer these sites as they provide an affordable way to get a unit with multiple rooms, you can often find a place where small children live and cots, high chairs and some toys might be included, and you can find them in very distinct parts of the city.
Some other things to consider when deciding on where to stay: another reason we prefer renting property is that you get more space – not only does Daniel have his own room, which makes everything easier, but there is also more room to run around. In Portugal we rented a flat with a hallway that Daniel enjoyed running back and forth in. There are kitchen facilities for breakfast and dinners (it’s still not worth going out to eat these meals with Daniel – we tried again on our last trip to Portugal. It’s not that we can’t – we’re just not sure it’s worth the effort). Washing facilities drastically reduce the amount of clothes that need to be packed – this is especially true when travelling with a newborn that can plow through 3 outfits in one nappy change – poonami/puke/weeing.
We started our family travels by bringing as much luggage for a weekend with Daniel as we do now for two weeks with the four of us.
Top tip: you probably don’t need it as much as you thought you did – which you inevitably discover when you’ve left it at home. But some general advice, pick a few favorite toys, add balloons and straws (the way you use these change, but most kids enjoy air in their face) practice up on your singing and other distraction techniques, and don’t forget a few books for transit and bedtime. Unless you’re really going remote, you can usually buy whatever you forgot at your destination.
REMEMBER: to have one change of clothes for each of you (parents included) in your carry-on luggage. I have heard so many puking stories from children of all ages. Nothing is worse than being drenched in vomit, while stuck in a seat, inside a cylindrical tube flying through the air.
5. Travelling: go armed knowing that the little things will add up to a great trip
Every now and then watch your family having a good time and let that soak in. It’s sounds cheesy, yes, but it’s what you’re there for.
Also, making the most of the dreaded times can really make the overall trip better. Stuck in line – sing a song. Screaming toddler – slow things down and see if you can find a new way to calm him or her down (getting more upset won’t help) get to a quieter area, point out a distraction, grab a hug… if all of it fails, try to find the humour in it all, when was the last time a balloon was so important?
And remember sometimes it’s better for everyone if you regroup – getting your money’s worth, while everyone is miserable, isn’t worth it.
Do you have good advice for parents with children travelling to your city? Share your tips with us! We need activities for children of all ages 🙂