Our traveling adventures started almost 11 years ago. It’s hard for me to believe that this much time had passed since our first city break in Amsterdam, visiting Rembrandt’s house, and Anna Frank’s house, where she and her family were hiding during the World War II, buying colourful wooden clogs and tulips – the top Dutch souvenirs. Then it was Milan in December and Nutcracker in La Scala as my birthday treat, and admiring Last Supper on the wall of Santa Maria della Grazie. We had all the time in the world and the luxury of being able to do whatever we wanted with it, whether it meant hiking in the Pyrenees or staring at paintings in Louvre or Vatican Museum for hours. We could do crazy things, get knackered, knowing that in the evening we can just hit the bed and sleep the whole night undisturbed and get a good rest for the next ultra active day. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Since we had Lily everything changed of course, and also our traveling style has also evolved for those 8 years since we became parents. First time we traveled as family of 3 when Lily was 9 months old, in the last days of December we went to Spain, staying for a couple of days in Malaga, Cordoba and Granada. When I think about it now, it seems that traveling with a baby is in some ways easier than with 2, 3 or 4 year old. Ok, changing nappies in public places with no facilities, or attempts of feeding screaming baby in a kilometre long que to Alhambra can prove a hard test for even most relaxed parents. But once these obstacles are overcome, and naps and feeds are taken into account, we can risk a statement that it’s still us, parents who rule and decide about plan of the trip. Just put the baby in a carrier or pushchair and we can set off wherever we want. And how does it look with a child a bit older? Rather correctly assuming that he won’t be fascinated by Bosch’s or Caravaggio’s paintings strongly enough to spend more than 3 seconds in front of it (in front of just one that is, by no means not in front of every on of them in 40 rooms that you were hoping to see 🙂 , it’s time to admit that times of parent’s absolute monarchy are over. Now it’s compromising time, so that smaller participants are reasonably happy too, otherwise they’ll do everything thay can for you to question your own sanity and asking yourself what the hell were you thinking going further than 1 km away from favourite toys and Cbeebies, and for more than couple of hours!!! I’ll give you couple of hints that will make your life easier during city break but not only 🙂
1. Sightseeing with kids is all about compromise and if your kids are old enough, ask them about their expectations and let them plan the route with you
As we’ve already established, times, when you managed to visit 5 museums in one day, and pop in to a famous cathedral on your way back, and also stopping for a contemplative latte in a near cafe are long gone. Now you need to consider the needs of all travellers and if you don’t want those with shorter legs to make a hell out of your holiday, you stop at every playground and street stall with rubbish plastic stuff that no one ever needed. Set the rules first and explain to your child, that you’ll go to places and do things he wants, if he tries his best and goes where you want first. This way you’ll probably see less than you’d have before, but at least it will be reasonably pleasant and there is a chance your nervous system will be intact. If despite all your effort and encouragement your little one stomps his feet and refuses to go one step further, there is nothing else left but turn to final resort, very effective and tested by generations of parents child disciplining method, that is bribe. We’ll go for an ice cream after we visit this castle, and we’ll buy sparkly Elsa necklace tomorrow evening, after a whole day of fascinating city walks. Win – win situation 🙂
2. The itinerary for the day can’t be too packed
You need to be realistic and spread the activities evenly in time, setting aside breaks for meals, play, rest. It’s the quality, not quantity that counts, so even if you don’t get to see all the top sights, at least you won’t be running from one to one like a headless chicken in a fumes of madness, remembering completely nothing from them – waste of time, nerves and lots of new grey hair.
3. Be flexible and ready to change your plan on the spot
The best thing about kids is their ability to see wonders in ordinary things, so just chill and spare a moment to chase pigeons, watch man making giant bubbles, stare at changing colours lights in shopping centre, listen to the accordeonist playning on the sidewalk, pop in to playground and chocolate shop you accidentally ran into. Don’t feel you’re wasting time – these will be some of the most precious moments of the trip, and memories to treasure for years.
4. Find out what are the best local attractions for children
In every big European city there are museums for children, or those with some exhibitions that they will find interesting. Natural history museums are always a good choice, kids will stare with their jaws dropped at giant dinosaur’s skeleton, crocodile or mamooth. When we were in Vienna, we signed up for clay modelling class in museum for children Zoom, and it was great fun, especially that Lily has never done it before, and there were tons of clay in the room and you had to wear special suits. Check if there is any waterpark or theme park near by and spend the day there. Kids will be thrilled and after such fun day, they will be more willing to go where you want next (hopefully 🙂
5. Book a hotel with swimming pool
There is nothing better after long day of walking and sightseeing than an evening dip in a dim lighted swimming pool, or even better – relaxing your aching muscles in sauna and jacuzzi. Kids will have something to look forward to and it will make sightseeing more bearable 🙂
6. Take pushchair, carrier, sling, scooter, or any other thing that your child likes to move around in with you
Car hire is a comfortable option, but there are places you can’t drive into, and you need to think what’s best to take to make your life on the trip easier. On our city break to Santorini, Vienna and Bratislava we had Lily’s beloved scooter Micro. For younger children you need equipment appropriate for their age obviously. I always take stroller with me, when buying, because of our travelling I was specifically looking for a big and comfortable, but also compact one, fully reclinable and with a wide canopy giving a good shade. I used to take little pillow, blanket, raincover and sun umbrella as well, and with this I felt safe going away for a whole day, because when Lily got tired, she just napped in her stroller and we could carry on walking. We even had pushchair in the Maldives, which seems quite funny when I think about it now, but believe me, it came handy there as well, because in the evenings we could go for a walk on the beach around the island, when our then 3 year old was fast asleep and cosy in her buggy. Besides, the Maldives was the last stop on our trip, we visited couple of cities before, so we had to take pushchair with us anyway.
Here are my photo illustrations of some of the ways of traveling / sightseeing with kiddos, of which undoubtedly the most popular is piggybacking or carrying, and it’s as certain as day coming after night, that sooner rather than later your tired bundle of joy will end up either on your neck, back or in your arms 🙂
7. Taking turns in sightseeing
Holiday is the time we want to spend together with family, but sometimes there are places you really want to see, but your kids not so much, especially, when he is little and prone to making scenes from hell. Our well tested model of exploring in those tricky circumstances is just splitting. One person is going to the museum (or wherever) enjoying peace and quiet, while other stays in a hotel with baby, or somewhere else where the baby want to be, and then swap. Believe me, it’s a win – win, and it works perfect for us. I know there are people, who don’t like to go to new places on their own, but I don’t mind in the slightest, quite the opposite, I often dream about being alone for a moment or two 🙂
8. Be spontaneous and just chill
How about putting plans and schedules in the bin, so they don’t pressurise and stress you out on your holiday, and just go wherever your legs take you? Hmm I need to try this option next time ( I don’t know if I can function without a plan !)
Here is couple more of our photos from cities: