Travel with Kids: 2008
How do you keep Junior happy on the long flight over? What are your favorite child-friendly attractions? How did you manage in hotels and with finding baby supplies on the road?
- Please don't post questions here. Use our Travelers Helpline.
London with small child
We took our 5.5-year-old to London in October and had a lovely time. Stayed at the Premier Inn County Hall, which (as other posters have mentioned) was very conveniently located, clean, comfortable, and reasonably priced by London standards. Made a point out of incorporating kid-friendly activities into each day, including Coram's Fields, Princess Diana Mem'l Playground, London Eye, and playgrounds near our hotel and in Greenwich. Didn't eat anywhere fancy, but had a couple of good hearty pub meals. Found bakery a few blocks from hotel and had chocolate croissants and fruit from fruit vendor for many breakfasts - cheap and tasty. Anyone who is thinking of taking a trip to London with a young child and wants to ask me anything about our recent experience, feel free to contact me.
Ithaca, NY USA Wed 12/17/2008
Safety with kids
We just returned from a 3 week trip to Europe and one thing we did for safety's sake with our 3.75 yr old everyday was take a digital photo of him in the morning and put a card in his pocket with the address and phone number of where we wre staying. Luckily we never lost him, but I think these measures would help if we ever did get separated.
Bellignham, WA USA Mon 10/27/2008
I would still recommend trying to pack light even when traveling with a child. My husband and I brought our 3.75 yr old on a 3 week trip to Europe and managed just fine with 2 rolling carry-on size suitcases and one backpack for us and one small one for our son. We could get around way easier with less stuff and I think if we do it again we'll bring even less.
Bellingham, WA USA Mon 10/27/2008
If you have a child that is still light enough to carry, I really recommend bringing a cloth baby carrier. I use one called an Ergo and it packs very small and light. We travel quite a bit in Europe and we never leave home without it. It has helped us in situations where our stroller gets taken away for whatever reason! And it comes in handy when taking metros, public transit, etc. We have been travelling in Europe with our now 22 month old for about a year, and we always have our Ergo and our Maclaren umbrella stroller. Between the 2, we have always been prepared for anything!
Paris, France Fri 08/15/2008
Sailing with Kids
For the second time in four years we hired a wonderful captain and sailboat (a Hanse 400) and sailed around the Mediterranean. I cannot tell you what a great experience this is for kids. We have two and they love it and want to go again. The particular service we use was recommended to us by family in France who are big sailors. The two owners looked after us really well, picked us up from the airport, arranged all transportation, then shopped and cooked for us on board, collaborated on where we would sail, what ports to visit, how long to stay and so forth. There was internet access on board, we met other sailing families -- all for much less than a nice hotel. Our six days and five nights on board ship cost E2900, including everything. A percentage is donated to a favorite charity in India (which is where our tip went!). Last time we did the Ligurian Coast - Cinque Terre -- this year it was Sardinia with some of the most beautiful beaches we've ever seen. And both captains speak English though they are Itaian. You can get a bigger boat and they will meet you at whatever port works best. We have a home in Orvieto where we come to stay so like to have a break where we do something different. Especially in summer, you really enjoy being on the water and away from the busy towns. This is a terrific find!
Redwood City,, CAlifo USA Thu 08/14/2008
Toddler in France
We took our 21-month-old son to Paris and Dijon with us in May. Because he was under 2, we couldn't get a seat for him on Air France, which meant he'd have to sit on our laps for the flight, but they were SO accommodating. Each way, they sat us in a row that had a couple of empty seats so we could spread out. I would definitely choose Air France again over any domestic US airline. We elected to rent a Paris apt. (thru A La Carte Paris) instead of stay in a hotel so we'd have privacy, a place to do laundry, and our own kitchen - nice amenities with a small child. Flexibility is key. We didn't plan too many museum tours. We brought along a lightweight stroller that could easily fold up and go into the Metro with us -- that was a MUST. To make life easier, find the nearest grocery store ASAP so you can buy necessities or comfort foods. Kids don't always eat what's offered in restaurants and cafés. Our little guy survived mostly on bread, fruit and juice, although, he is a really picky eater at home anyway. I wouldn't have gone to France without him and have no regrets about bringing him along. It was a great experience for us.
Hockessin, DE USA Thu 08/07/2008
travelling with a preschooler
We just spent nine weeks traveling in Europe with our two children – ages three and six. A little more than half of the time was spent in one place, doing "slow travel" in one community in Germany and getting to know that place really well. At the end of our journey we did a more traditional tour by train through Scandinavia, ending with some time in Bavaria and Switzerland.
Before we left, we noticed that most guides for travel with children focus either on school-aged children, or on babies. There's not a lot out there for how to travel with a preschooler – and for good reason. It is stressful on everyone, parents and kids alike, to leave those all-important routines of home and sleep in strange beds. Rick Steves' basic advice that you'll get more out of your time by leaving the kids with grandma is certainly correct -- if your goals are traditional sightseeing. But if, like us, you either have no choice or have different goals for your time, it can be rewarding all the same.
A few things we learned along the way.
1. Loooooove those comfort objects. Our trip nearly derailed when our son's beloved "blankie" was left in the taxi on the way to the airport. At three-and-a-half, he usually never sleeps without it, and we'd only once had a long night of doing without before. As it turned out, he adapted all right for the first week while we tracked it down and had it shipped to us in Germany. The thought crossed my mind that maybe we should wean him from it now, while all this excitement is going on. But in retrospect that piece of smelly crocheted cotton made our final, faster weeks of the trip much more bearable. With blankie in hand, he fell asleep whenever he was tired, which was often.
2. This is not the United States of Litigation. Europeans love children, but their sense of child-proofing public spaces is vastly different from ours. In Iceland, they have chosen not to fence off some of their natural wonders. If you're walking around the old volcano crater, you do so at your own risk, and your child's too. In Switzerland on the Via Mala, the footbridge across a raging canyon river had gaps between the railings that were exactly child-sized. Windows in 4th floor hotel rooms are easy to open and unscreened. The hot water will scald you in about 30 seconds. There is a lot of vigilance involved if your child is in that mobile-but-lacking-in-common-sense range. Don't judge. But do pay attention.
3. A chocolate croissant covers many sins. At home, we're not much into bribes, but the promise of a treat can make a huge difference to everyone's cooperation when you're out and about without most of the structures of home. Since there weren't many privileges we could revoke in our changing living conditions, or things we could guarantee about any given day, we got in the habit of taking a few things from the bakery with us each morning, to be pulled out whenever the going got tough.
4. Ask, ask, ask about charges. At three and six, our kids were right at the threshold of a lot of child pricing. Many things – most importantly train rides – were free to him. We never paid for public transit for him. Our daughter, most often, fell into the reduced fare territory, but often she was free too. When it came to those reduced rate "city passes" for museums and transit, we usually found that the child version was not worth it, because so much was free to her anyway. We also often got breakfast for free for them at hotels, which is worth a whole lot of money when you're in Norway and Denmark.
5. A little language learning goes a long way. We stayed in Germany because we all speak some amount of German, but when we took off for Scandinavia, we made a point of teaching the children "thank you," "hello" and "good-bye" in the home country's language. Since we were often only there for two or three days at a time, that got confusing, but it was a great way for the kids to connect in small ways with the people we encountered. Nearly everyone spoke English, it seemed, but the small phrases were very much appreciated.
6. Go ahead, try a guided tour. We were leery of group tours because we figured our kids would be the youngest, and most disruptive, members of the group. It turned out, however, that often they were more agreeable to walking around a city with another adult guiding than with their parents. We learned a lot that we wouldn't have had time to read while herding them through a city, and the kids got to experience other people besides their geeky parents taking an interest in the history of salt cod trade in Norway or the sculptures in a Danish church. This may not work for everyone, but believe me, our kids are not angels and our three year old can be a very wild one – but the group experience usually toned him down.
Minneapolis, MN USA Tue 07/08/2008
London/Paris/Rome w/ Kids
Just returned from a 14 day trip to London/Paris/Rome with three kids (15, 9, 6) and had a fantastic time. Rented apartments in Paris and Rome, which worked well. Apt let us save money on breakfasts and gave us a place to relax when the kids needed a break.
Hotel in London worked fine too, just a bit more crowded, and you feel like a tourist instead of a "local". Food was not a problem, as every country has something the kids will like.
We split our days into morning and afternoon sightseeing sessions, with a break in the middle of the day to give the kids time to recharge. We did the "major" museums, but limited the visit to the "important" works to stay under 3-4 hours. Active sights like Tower of London, climbing Notre Dame Towers or Eiffel Tower, and Coliseum were the favorites.
Denver, CO USA Sat 07/05/2008
UK travel with kids, 10, 13
I just returned from a 3 week trip to Scotland and England with my daughters, aged 10 and 13. Here are my recommendations for some things that worked for us.
Attend Ceremony of the Keys* I wrote 2 months ahead for tickets to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. In fact, that was the only firm event we had scheduled on our whole trip! It was a fun activity, as we were let into the tower at night after it closed to the public, and got to see the 700-year old ceremony with commentary by a humorous Beefeater. The tickets are free, but must be requested far in advance for a specific day.
Give your teenager a job* My 13-year old was my designated navigator and enjoyed using maps to help me negotiate through the Scottish countryside and many English roundabouts. Also, she was the keeper of the Tube map and planned our transporation routes through London. She kept our Rick Steves London 2008 Guidebook and led our self-guided museum tours.
Don't let bloodsugar drop to dangerous tantrum levels!* We always carried granola bars, clementine oranges, and water in our daypacks. Duck into grocery stores or ice cream shops as needed to moderate moods or redirect attention from tired feet.
Find cheap food (good luck!)* On the road in Scotland we usually picnicked for breakfast (juice, fruit, cheese, granola bars) and lunch (cheese, crackers, fruit, trail mix) so we could treat ourselves to dinner. (We were on a tight budget)
In cities, we became fans of Pret a Manger for lunch. They have fresh sandwiches and reasonable prices and can be found all over the UK.
Stay in hosels* We stayed in Scottish Youth Hostels and the girls enjoyed the bunkbeds (we lucked out most times with no roommates, even though we were in bunk rooms) and cooking in the communal kitchens. It's not for everyone, but I think it was a unique experience, and fun. Also, when we ate out at night, we saved leftovers in the frig and ate for breakfast!
Buy Historic Scotland Explorer Passes I bought the passes when I bought my tickets on Expedia and it was the best thing I did. So we focused our sightseeing on Historic Scotland sites, which included Edinburgh Castle (expensive), Stirling Castle, Iona Abbey, Urquhart Castle, and many, many others. The girls each got a Explorer's Passport, and each site would stamp the passport. So that is their souvenir from all the places we visited. The people stamping their passports often made comments such as "Wow, you've been to more places than I have!" or "You've been busy!" The passes paid for themselves several times over.
Finally, even though we took only carry-on luggage, we filled one bag with 3 travel blankets and 3 travel pillows. I think it made a world of difference to be comfortable on the flights, especially the overnight flight to Glasgow.
Charlottesville, VA USA Thu 07/03/2008
If I am able to travel again with our grands, I am going to get them each (no matter how old they are) a 'dog tag' with their name, our cell phone #, etc. on them. They are available at several places online and don't cost much at all.
USA Fri 06/27/2008
Traveling with kids 9, 10, 11
We just came back from a trip to Rome, Florence, and London traveling with extended family and three kids 9, 10, and 11 years old. Highly recommend the apartment type accomodations as you can buy some cereal and other snacks that your kids like and feed them there before you leave. This really worked for us. They also enjoyed using the guidebooks, and we gave them their own maps so they could navigate where we were going. It seemed to us that everywhere in Italy was child friendly, even though we did not see too many families with children traveling. Food is very expensive, but thanks to pizza we got by really well. My kids looked forward to their daily gelato at the end of the day. That was offerred as a reward for good behavior.
Fresno, CA USA Tue 06/17/2008
kids in Europe
I want to thank all those who suggested different ideas for traveling with children. I just returned from a 3 week whirlwind trip to Germany, Austria & Switzerland with my husband, 4 yr old son, 1 yr old daughter and parents. We saw numerous sights and stayed in a different city almost every night. We kept our son busy with a video iPod as we toured castles, concetration camps, etc. That was a must! We used the Chicco Capri stroller which was perfect for the plane and the cobbled streets. I also used a sling & Beco Butterfly carrier for my 1 yr old. We always looked at menus before we ate so we would know if there was something the children would eat. We traveled at a fast pace but kept our expections real.
MI USA Thu 06/12/2008
Overbooking on cheap airlines - a warning!
Last weekend I flew to Austria with my wife and three small children on one of the many cheap airlines operating out of the UK.
When it came to our return trip we were delayed getting to the airport, but were there before the close of check in. I was told there was not enough seats for the five of us - one short!
Although I admit to being at fault for checking in late the airline did not seem to care about our plight. I asked if other passengers could be asked to stand down for us to be told there was no time for that.
I'd seen a woman checking in at the other desk with only hand luggage and went after her to see if she would help us. She refused saying she needed to get home - one of the check in staff then offered her 250 euros to stand down. I was told that as she had already been given a boarding pass she could not be bumped involuntarily as she had checked in before us. What made me angry was the check in staff did not seem to give a S***!. We have three year old twin girls and a nine month old baby.
The obvious solution would be for one of us to stay behind and come home later. A terrible hassle with small children as we live a long way from the airport - and my wife can't drive. She was by this time getting distraught and I again appealed to the lone traveller asking her to help us.
She said 250 euros was not adequate compensation because she still would have to find a hotel for the night and get home. The cabin crew finally said that they would get her on another flight with a different airline and still give her the money. She finally relented and agreed - just as I was thinking I'd have to offer to get her another ticket myself.
I'm not blaming the other passenger she needed to get home as much as we did, and apologised for being so tough - this was an inconveinience for her too. In the end she did a very kind thing for us.
I am angry that the airline overbooked and did not seem to be prepared to try and find other passengers to stand down for us. I thought they were supposed to do this before anyone got bumped.
All I can is if you have small kids then pay to go on a reputable airline. This isn't worth the hassle. If you must go abroad on the cheap make sure you are at the front of the queue.
London/Vienna, UK and Austria Sun 05/18/2008
Italy with a preteen
I recently took a 12 day trip to Italy with my 12 year old daughter and we both had a fabulous time. The things I learned from this trip were: 1. Make sure the trip is built around what your teenager wants to see and where they want to go. 2. Have them take charge of reading the guide book and explaining what you are seeing. They learn a lot more and earn their gelato that way 3. Have them help with the navigating, they learn their way around 4. Siesta is a great time for them to rest a little and recuperate 5. Her favorite places
Piazza de Argentino, Rome
Severna Park, MD USA Sun 05/11/2008
Paris with Pre-Teens
My son and I just returned from a week's visit to Paris with my 3 granddaughters ages 11,8 and 6. The highpoints of the trip involving kids were the Jardin D'Acclimation with a children's art museum(Musee des Herb), carnival rides, shows and play area complete with horses, ponies and mountain goats.
We also visited France Miniature which I highly recommend.It was a whole day's excursion--the miniatures are superb--the entire park is in the shape of France--the kids spent most of their time on the self-operated rides and the 64 ft. slides.
We existed mainly on crepes and water from our back-pack. We rode the metro/RER extensively with an orange card zones 1-3. Our hotel, a Marriott Courtyard near La Defense provided a great breakfast--we were glad we brought a computer so that we could send pictures home. Skype also worked very well so that we could call the U.S.each night. Since kids don't like museums, we skipped most, going only to the Carnavalet (now free and open on Tuesdays) with French friends.
Windham, NH USA Tue 05/06/2008
Recall on kids travel journal
Just wanted to alert everyone that there has been a recall on a cute travel journal/activity kit sold for kids. There are apparently unsafe levels of lead in the paint used on the spiral binding. The book is called "My Travel Journal: A World of Activities." Here is the website with more information: http://www.galison.com/My-Travel-Journal-R-P2286C532.aspx
Seattle, WA USA Thu 04/17/2008
Spring break in Paris
We just returned from a week in Paris which we planned mainly with the Rick Steves Paris guidebook. The advice on hotels, restaurants, and touring itinerary was spot on. I even had the cultural experience of removing a young woman's hand from my pocket on the Metro which was merely entertaining as I followed the money belt advice too. We stayed near Rue Cler and the Eiffel Tower in the 7th. My family really enjoyed the France audioguide podcasts. My 14 year old son, not a big fan of art museums and previously a time limiting factor, specifically commented about Rick's entertaining commentary while surrounded by a room of Van Goghs at the Orsay. These are highly recommended. Restaurants are expensive at the current exchange rates but shopping at markets for picnic food, and booking a hotel with breakfast included were good tactics, and there were no budget surprises. I decided to lug along a laptop as the hotel had free wifi, and was glad I did both for viewing the daily photos as well as convenient web access. "60 million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong" was a good book to read also explaining cultural differences in manners, attitudes, etc. Thanks for a good product.
Salem, OR USA Fri 04/11/2008
LATCH Car Seat System in Europe
We are travelling to Germany and France this summer for two weeks with a 15-month old and a 4-year old. I've reserved a car from Hertz. Our 4-year old's car seat can only be installed using a LATCH system. I understand the European equivalent of LATCH is called ISOFIX. Does anyone know if all European cars made after a cerain point are required to have ISOFIX, like here in the US with LATCH? If my car seat uses LATCH, is it safe to assume it will connect without any problem using ISOFIX?
Of course I could ask Hertz directly, but I am afraid I won't get an accurate answer from someone not familiar with carseats.
San Diego, CA USA Sat 04/05/2008
France with Kids
I took my three boys (11, 9 and 6) to France and London last summer and had a great experience with them. Key tips: don't worry about the food, we ate on the run and saw lots of sites. Also, stayed in the Arr. 7 right by Eiffel Tower and went there every day to burn off steam/play soccer before touring. I had to let go of my wants and just do what worked for the boys. Talked with a Steves guide to work through the itinerary-definitely worth it!!
San Francisco, CA USA Fri 03/28/2008
We Survived Italy with 2 Kids
We just got back from 8 days in Sorrento and Rome with our 4 and 7 year old kids. While I have been to Europe many times before, this was my first time with kids. Before we went, we splurged and bought an 80GB iPod and loaded it with movies and TV shows. We got the splitter so both kids could watch. Because it is so compact, it worked beautifully and kept the kids entertained on the plane and on trains. We stayed in an apartment in Rome, which I highly recommend. Make sure you take a some time out of your schedule for your kids. We took the kids to the zoo in Rome and they loved it, and there is a nice park near downtown Sorrento that the kids enjoyed as well. It made them feel like it was their vactation, too. If you have picky eaters, take your own ketchup. Pack a few packets from a US fast food restaurant. My kids didn't like the ketchup there. Also, make sure you pack some favorite snacks from home for when you're in the middle of the Roman Forum or not ready for a restaurant. Goldfish crackers got us by nicely in between meals.
Fort Worth, TX USA Fri 03/21/2008
rtw family travel starting in europe
we are a family of 4 (kids are 11 and 14) and we are beginning our open ended rtw life this fall in the UK. we are very excited about our adventure and have started a blog about our preparations for our new life. come by and give us a shout!! www.perrysinwonderland.com
NYC, NY USA Thu 02/28/2008
Traveling to Italy with 1 year old
We are planning on traveling to Italy this summer with our 1 year old daughter. We would love any recommendations that you have to offer. We have read through many of the suggestions offered on this website already but would love any and all advice we can get! One major question I have - we just have a cheap umbrella stroller - should we invest in something more durable but still on the smaller side before going? Will these cheaper strollers work on the cobblestone and around town? I would love to receive emails with your advice! Thanks in advance!
Pleasant Grove, Ut USA Sun 02/24/2008
Ireland with a 21 month old....where to stay?
We are planning a trip to Ireland and maybe England with our son who will be 21 months when we leave. I've read lots of advice so far (thanks everyone) that suggests to stay put in one place (if possible) and to stay in larger hotels so he will not disturb other guests My question is: Where to stay? We definately want to see Ireland and specifically Dublin and then maybe take a side trip to England. Any suggestions? We have been to europe a few times before but this will be our first time with our son.
Toronto, ON Canada Sun 02/24/2008
RTW travel as a family
We are 18 months into our multi year, open ended trip around the world as a family and we have found it the best experience of our lives.
My daughter was 5 when we started & yet we have found it all easier than we expected. She was reading well and could walk forever, so those things are a big help.
We have stayed in rentals, hotels and pensions, but we travel mostly by RV which is a perfect way for a family. I could not recommend it more highly. We love it so much we are planning on shipping it to Africa and then South America for our continued journey.
Books... before, after and during the trip are really important. Giving them a camera and there own journal is great too. We usually buy a little blank book at major museums which are also great keep sakes.
Enjoy, Carpe diem and take lots of pictures & video!
SF, CA USA Wed 02/20/2008
Entertaining Kids in Europe
We have travelled extensively with our kids in Europe and North America. The one thing that was sure to keep them entertained and engaged from age 4 to 18, boys and girls, was public transit. They love subway maps, train schedules and plotting routes. The Paris Metro was especially fun, as many stations have boards that light up the route when you press your destination. Even the automated ticket kiosks are entertaining. We learned to allow time for all of this, rather than just rushing onto the train or bus. One more thing to do: "I Spy Rats" on the tracks.
Vancouver, BC Canada Thu 02/14/2008
Travel With Kids
We took our two kids to Paris and had the best time. They are 5 & 7. Kids love to travel, and spending time with their parents without the daily routien of home. There is a new travel guide DVD series available for families called "travel with kids" - Kids like watching where they are going (it shows other kids doing the things they will be doing) and its great for parents to plan and get prepared. travel with kids dvd is available at amazon. They have a title for Paris, Mexico, Hawaii and others places. There is never a "right time" to take the kids, so go now. Remeber, they might not think what you see (the Louvre) is important, but the hundreds of other exciting things they will experience mean the world to them, even if we - adults - dont understand what a 5 year old is excited about. The Eiffel Tower will have a much greater impact on them than sittng on the couch watching another episode of Sponge Bob or Dora.
AZ USA Thu 02/07/2008
@ NANCY DFW
Re: Flat Stanley; just a cut out card stock body with a picture of your child or perhaps a class mascot that you take pictures of wherever you go, a la the gnome in Amelie, or the monkey in that new cell phone commercial. They are like a way of taking her class along for the ride. Have fun!
Bay View, WI USA Thu 01/31/2008
Travel Europe with Baby/young child
We are planning a trip to Italy and Spain with our babe. she will be just under 1 yr old. Our concern was rental of a car seat. Came across this website for Stoller/Car seat combo. Looks good.
Calgary, AB USA Mon 01/21/2008
A Few Tips for Traveling with Young Kids in Europe
We've traveled quite a bit in Europe with our 2 year old daughter and 4 year old son, and it's been a lot of fun and great experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
For strollers for the younger kids and babies, I recommend the Kelty KIDS Convertible Stroller/Backpack. You can use it as a stroller while sightseeing in a museum or shopping. When on rough terrain, on the move across city streets, or going up and down stairs in metro station, you can put it and your child on your back so that you can get about easily. They are light and fairly compact. It even makes for a nice high chair at restaurants. We've used ours extensively, and it works well for taking your kids hiking if you're adventurous. Several vendors on Amazon carry them if you need a look.
Video Ipods work well for keeping your kids entertained on planes, trains, or automobiles. Load it up with their favorite episodes of Scooby, Little Einsteins, or Sponge Bob, and it can save you some headaches when they get restless from sitting for some time.
With all of the good food Europe, I still really hate to recommend this one, but it works…..McDonalds or Burger King can save you a lot of stress when eating out with young kids. You'll get your food relatively quickly, and the kids will almost always eat hamburgers, French fries, or a chicken McNugget. As much as I love eating at European restaurants, the kids will get restless waiting on the staff to take your order, bring your drinks in glasses or glass bottles, at some point in time finally bring out the food, and eventually get the check out to you. This isn't a big deal if you're alone with just adults, but it can be very stressful with kids. This will also probably save you money as well.
Another food alternative is to get take away food from one of the many food stands in big cities. I can almost always find someplace to sit to enjoy an impromptu picnic with my family of fresh hot French fries, bratwurst or curry wurst, or a sandwich. We've done this a bunch, and it still enables us to try some local food. It's also usually relatively cheap.
And every 1 to 2 hours, find a playground or quiet square somewhere to let the kids wander about, play a little, get some photos of them having fun, and give them a break from a busy itinerary. This helps out a lot also.
Okie in Europe, USA Wed 01/09/2008
travel to Italy (use of car seats)
We will be going to Rome, Venice, Florence and Pisa this summer. We may need a car seat from time to time but are planning on public transportation, ie. train, bus does anyone have any recommendations on car seats for toddlers? Thanks.
Houston , tx USA Wed 01/09/2008