Travel with Kids: 2009
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?
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Traveling with four kids!
Took all four kids to Europe, 16, 13, 10 and 5! Had a fabulous time, thanks to Ricks books. Every day was a wonderful adventure, my only word of advice is plan ahead, reserve all hostels/hotels ahead. We left three nights open in Vernazza and there was no room at the inn, the villagers all got together however and help us through our situation, we made new friends and had a blast. But I would still make sure I had reservations for all. Thanks Europe through the Back Door.
Auburn, WA USA Tue 10/13/2009
Kids will love this in Rome
Our family booked a trip in an electric car with www.ecocitytours.com in Rome last week. I booked the tour because it covered a wide area without too much walking. (I think its the walking which makes the kids feel bored on tours) We arrived at the meeting point to find a really friendly young lady from Ireland called Kate. She was our guide for the day, the tour cost 300 euro in total but was worth every cent. We drove around the city for 6 hours, walking sometimes but never too much, in fact it was nice to walk when we got the chance. For sure we got to see things that tourists dont usually get to see because we had the car, and it is allowed to drive and park any place.
Kate was brilliant, more like a friend, very casual and factual although her Irish wit did give the tour the freshness that guides often lack.
Bottom line, our tour of Rome, the Colosseum and the Vatican (no lines at all) with these guys made us feel more local than visitors if you know what I mean.
Kids will love the Electric eco tour, the car is so funny and practical. The guides also are part of the fun.
Its so important to do something your kids will enjoy otherwise you feel like you wasted so much money on your vacation.
NYC, NY USA Fri 10/09/2009
Kids in cathedrals
We have just returned from a 3 month motorhome trip around western Europe with our 3 kids aged 10, 10 and 14. We all had a lot of fun, especially when we hit upon the Ice Cream Policy. Immediately after every cathedral, there would be a round of ice cream. Soon they were begging to tour old churches. Everyone was happy.
St. Paul, AB Canada Fri 09/11/2009
Vacation Rental Apartments/Houses
We have four children, and when traveling all together, we always find it's easier to rent an apartment or house than to stay in a hotel. Not only is it cheaper, but we get to spend time together cooking, watching movies, and just hanging out. You lose that experience when you stay in a hotel. This summer, we rented from www.haveninparis.com and were very happy with our experience.
Sarasota, FL USA Thu 09/03/2009
Travel tips for kids of all ages
I've traveled with my 5 children from the time they were babies through teens. A few great tips...A backpack/ frontpack for children up to 3 is much easier than a stroller on all those cobbled stone roads and loads of stairs, plus they can hold diapers and other necessities. Young kids will do better in museums if you let them buy postcards in the gift shop of art in the museum first and then have a scavenger hunt to find the artwork on their postcards...don't forget to buy some yourself or your child won't understand why you want to stop to see the Mona Lisa when he doesn't have that picture! Find good books or movies about the people, places and history you will see on your trip. Your older kids/teens are more likely to get involved if the areas, people and history come to life for them in a less text book way. www.adventurousfamilyvacations.com
Superior, CO USA Wed 09/02/2009
Kids in France and Italy
Took the kids 7 and 10 to Paris, Pisa, Florence and Rome. They loved: playing and crawling on the cannons over by Napoleon's tomb, feeding the pigeons in front of Notre Dame, and climbing to the top. The Garden of Luxembourg in Paris was great for them too. In Italy, a day trip out to Tuscany to make ravioli was great. Climbing the Leaning Tower was fun too, but the 7 yr old was not allowed- with good reason, the railing at the top has huge gaps in it. Make sure they have a rain slicker and let them run around whenever they can. It was really cool watching my 11 yr old and another French boy communicate with hand signals, polite of course :) and such at the park! Also, as far as safety, watch kids around stairwells and stuff, sometimes there is no hand railings, or there are big gaps in railings (like Pisa) It is different from the U.S. in that regard, where we have so many caution signs and handrails and ramps etc. But climbing Notre Dame: fine, the Arch de Triumph: fine. They are ready for the masses and must keep it perfect. Just be wary of some of the apartments and restaurants, tiny elevators, etc. They don't have quite the same requirements.
Phoenix, AZ USA Sat 08/15/2009
Germany with Kids
I've taken our 18 month old to the Mosel Valley in Germany twice. Last month we toured Burg Eltz. They had English tour guides and ours was wonderful. Our son is usually a great traveler, but it was his nap time during our tour. The tour guide was very kind and accommodating, even letting my boy touch the "do not touch" items. It would be a beautiful place to spend a warm day as there is great hiking all around it, and cheap parking. And for adults the history is really interesting.
Heidelberg, Germany Fri 08/07/2009
Ireland, London & Paris with a 23 month old....
We went all around Ireland, London and Paris with our 23 month old son in the spring. Rick is definatley right, it's not great travel, but it was a lot more fun to change diapers at Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower than at home. We couldn't believe how accomodating our son was - everywhere we went he was completely mesmorized and we just made sure he never got hunger or thirsty and kept him really comfortable. I'm sure people were thinking that we were crazy to bring a toddler to europe, but it was great and I would definatley do it again. Thankfully we read all of Rick's suggestions and also Cynthia Harriman's book so we were well prepared. We also invested in the Peg Pliko stroller - sturdy enough for cobblestone streets yet very compact when folded for an umbrella stroller. Consumer Reports rated this stroller as the best umbrella stroller and they were right. The other thing we did was rent apartments along the way. We started looked at B&B's as we have always stayed in Rick's recommendations, but started to realize it would make more sense to have at least one bedroom. This way, we would put him to bed at around 7pm and could stay up in the family room and enjoy ourselves while he happily slept.
Toronto, ON Canada Fri 08/07/2009
pompeii tour guide
We toured Pompeii with Gaetano Manfredi as recommended by Rick Steves. He is passionate about Pompeii and very knowledgeable. But, he is NOT good with kids. I have two extremely well behaved boys. The were excited about Pompeii and interested in history. But he seemed to have profiled them before they even arrived. Sort of an "anti-american kid" attitude. He was constantly snapping at them both. LIterally snapping his fingers in their faces. He even told us not to give his name to anyone with kids because "his patience has its limits." Weird because my kids were absolutely attentive and keen the entire two hours. He was a disappointment in that regard.
Marin County , CA USA Sun 07/26/2009
Barcelona Magic Fountains
We recently went to Barcelona, our second time with our two small children. In the Rick Steves guidebook the Magic Fountains recieved only one diamond as sights to see. We did not go to the fountains on our first trips with kids but went on this trip, somewhat as an afterthought. Based on the rating, we thought the fountains were small water fountains pretty much only enjoyable to kids. We were pleasantly suprised to find out that the Magic Fountains were like a large fireworks show set to music. It was wonderful and everyone in our family enjoyed it. I would recommend these fountains to everyone and maybe Rick could give a higher recommendation, especially for kids.
San Francisco, ca USA Wed 07/08/2009
Dog Tags- a great ID for kids
We are going to be in Europe for 45 days this summer with our two boys, 12 and 15. I knew I didn't want them carrying their passports everywhere, and I knew they would not be eager to wear an ID type bracelet. I found a web site that had dog tags for about $7.00. They come as a pair, but you can put different info on each one. I put their names, birthdates, passport numbers, and blood type on one. On the other I put US contact numbers for my sister and brother. When they got them for Christmas they both put them on right away. They just tuck under their clothes and give me piece of mind that I can let them have some freedom. The site I used is http://www.dogtagsonline.com/
Royersford, PA USA Thu 06/18/2009
Czech Rep, Germany & Austria with 7 & 12 year olds
We just returned from a two week trip to Europe with our kids and my father. While our kids are seasoned travellers, they had never been to Europe. We set 8:00 as the time on the flight when we would "close our eyes and rest" and they both slept the remainder of the flight. They never had jetlag! Their highlights were Berlin - "Ampelmann", boat cruise and climbing to the top of the Reichtag; Prague - changing of the guard, walking the Charles Bridge, going up in the Astronaumical Clk tower and the terrace @U Prince; Vienna - horse carriage tour; Salzburg- singing through the Mirabell Gardens (my 7 yr old);Berchtesgaden- Hitler's Eagles Nest and mountains; Munich -Hofbrauhaus; Rothenburg- Krimminalmuseum and Nightwatchman Tour (12 yr old);Dresden-pool @hotel;Gorlitz -walking into Poland. They kids surprised us by only complaining twice the whole trip about walking too much, but I think that is because we tried to stop at cafes every couple hours for a snack and drink. I was amazed that they enjoyed sitting in cafes with us watching people, although they hated the smokers!! The kids kept journals each night, which for my son (12) shocked me because he hates to write, but he loved writing about all the different things he saw. We also bought lots of ice cream while walking around to keep them in good spirits, but I have to say that for all my concerns about taking them on such a long trip, it was one of the best family vacations ever! It did help that grandpa was there, so my son stayed in a room with him and my daughter was with us, so they got a break from eachother at night.
Canton, GA USA Thu 06/04/2009
Czech Rep, Germany & Austria with 7 & 12 year olds
I forgot to add to my previous posting that we gave each of the kids their own digital camera so that they could take pictures from their perspective. This along with their journals should help them remember a lot more of the trip. The other thing we did was visit Mauthausen Concentration camp in Austria. My son saw everything and seemed to process it ok, but we just brought my daughter (7) through the yard and barracks and gave her a very basic explanation of what happened. She never mentioned it again, but my son mentioned it first thing to his teachers upon returning to school.
Canton, GA USA Thu 06/04/2009
Rhine River Castles w/children
If you are considering looking at castles on the Rhine in Germany, Rheinfels is large, but it is truly in ruins. We liked that, as we were traveling with children who never could have been interested in a true tour of a castle. The walls are literally made of stone and are half standing. It is perfect for 6 years and older as the children can run around and use their imaginations, sword fights, looking for enemies, etc. I would NOT take any child who is mobile but who lacks the ability to recognize danger (if any child has it?). I would take a 4 year old if he/she was the type of child who would stay close to you or if he/she would hold your hand, but other than that I would be careful...some of Rheinfels, could be dangerous to someone who is running headlong into....a steep stone stairway. A 6 year old, on the other hand, has the coordination to make a quick stop and the imagination to look down that stairway and think of all sorts of exciting things. Even I, as an adult, enjoyed doing so. :)
Another thing to consider is that the floors of most of the castle are bumpy stone, making cobblestones seem smooth by comparison. I saw a few people trying to maneuver strollers on the rocks and it was not a pretty sight or experience for either the parent or the child being bumped around.
If you are looking for a rustic experience, then Reinfels Castle is it. If you are looking to be "in" a castle, you might want to take Rheinfels off your list and choose another Rhine castle. You also want to make sure that there is an English tour at the castle of your choice, if that is important to you. There is no tour at Rheinfels, although there is a very rudimentary piece of paper and Rick does describe it thoroughly in his book.
San Diego, CA USA Sat 05/30/2009
What to bring for toddlers
Last May we took our daughters (then 3 1/2 and 1) to Italy for 10 days traveling entirely by train and staying in a combination of B&Bs, hostels and pensions. The best investment we made was in a Phil & Ted's jogger with double attachement. The stroller was narrow enough to navigate the crowds and narrow sidewalks and when it rained (at least half an hour every day) the stroller fit perfectly under a cheap plastic poncho.
Houston, TX USA Wed 05/27/2009
Car rental/booster seats
Re: car rental with children.
If you need a car seat, make sure you tell the rental company when booking your reservation ----and tell them the age of your children. You do not want to arrive with a 7 year old and find that your car is equipped with an infant seat!
San Diego, Ca USA Sun 05/10/2009
Avoiding paying for water at restaurants
This is a very mundane topic, but it is something I wish I knew before I went on my trip to Germany last month. We are a family of 4. At every meal, we would each have one bottle of water (without "gas" ie without carbonation). Each bottle was approx 2 Euros, x 4 people = 8 euros per meal x 2 meals = 16 Euros per day (approx $24/day on water). Spending $24 a day on water, particularly on 1 measly bottle per person per meal, was not ideal. We FINALLY figured out we could order what is basically tap water, at no charge. I've been told not every place will do so, but upon learning of the option, we had no trouble. Needless to say, in Europe you should have no trouble with traveler's disease from drinking tap water.
In France you can ask for a carafe of water, which is basically tap water and free, "Je voudrais un carafe de l'eau."
If you don't ask in either country, you will be charged for your water. If you are on a budget, skip the bottled water and ask for the tap water.
San Diego, CA USA Sun 05/10/2009
Holland with Kids
Best country for kids: Holland, hands-down. We love to travel but took a break of several years while we had two kids and let them grow up a little. They are 5 and 7 and we decided to go to Holland as our first trip. What a fantastic place for kids! The Dutch really love kids and everywhere are kid-friendly parks, etc. The food is not too weird and there are plenty of french fries, chocolate, and cheese, not to mention Beglium waffles and other fun stuff. I resisted renting a car because the trains are so good, but my husband insisted and it was a good thing. Amsterdam itself was not the highlight, although they did better than expected at museums. We hit the beach at Scheveningen and splurged at the famous and fancy Kurhaus Hotel, built in 1885 right on the North Sea beach. Rocky and cold, by the way. Delft is absolutely charming and Gouda is yucky. We went to a local theme park that was truly amazing called "Efteling" on the advice of a local friend. It is like a huge and classy Disneyland. Tons of walking. What a find! The "Madurodam" park near The Hague is a top spot. It is a tiny and perfect replica of nearly every important spot in Holland. It is absolutely amazing and surprisingly interesting for everyone. We have a friend who went to Holland once, about twenty years ago, and he said his one vivid memory is of going to Madurodam. Did we coin the term "Dutch taxi" for attempting to squeeze three people on one bike and hoping to get there in one piece? Biking was cool but should have pulled the kids; they each had their own and it took forever to get anywhere. We regret not making it to one of the open-air culture museums where you can watch craftsmen make cheese, etc. Holland with kids is for those who are slightly more adventurous than starting with an English-speaking country.
Memphis, TN USA Thu 04/23/2009
Sweden, Germany & Czech Republic with 18 month old
Last June, we purchased a new Volvo via Volvo Overseas Delivery.
We flew over on SAS Airlines, and they were more than very accommodating. Our seat was against a bulkhead which had a bassinet attachment. Not that Daniel slept a whole lot. We had lots of toys, his pacifier (to suck on for altitude), and great neighbors on both legs of the 10 hour flight.
We had an utterly fantastic time! How did we do it? Our trip was designed to be completely about Daniel. Instead of museums, fine food and the arts; we toured playgrounds, parks and zoos.
The brochures in the hotels, asking the concierges and talking to people in the street yielded a never ending list of things to do. Alot of the key was flexibility. Even though we had reservations, we left plenty of travel time so that if we found something interesting, we could delay a day or two.
We spent an extra first day in Goteburg to get acclimated to the time shift. Riding the tram and visiting an indoor playground occupied our time.
After picking up our Volvo, we traveled down the west coast of Sweden to stay at a bed and breakfast on the coast. The ocean proved a wonderful playmate for our previously landlocked son.
Arriving in Germany on the island of Rugen, we found thatour first hotel, which was only supposed to be for a night, was close to a petting zoo. Our first delay of a day so we could visit that zoo. We also played in the neighborhood park by the hotel.
Into the Czech Republic, we visited with a friend about 2 hours east of Prague. While visiting, we went to a zoo close to her house.
From there it was on to Plzen for a few days. Most adults visit the brewery, but we visited the Dinosaur Park and the zoo. These dinosaurs were big, really honking big! From there, it was onto Nurmberg, Germany where we stayed on a farm/bed and breakfast. We visited the zoo, Play Mobil Park (amazing, amazing, amazing!) where we pretended we were kings, pirates and many other fantasy characters. This park is meant for children a bit older than Daniel, but he had a really good time and there were lots of age appropriate activities for him.
While walking in the street, Daniel asked if we could say hello to a woman's dog. That opened the door for a conversation where she told us about an amusement park called Schloss Thurn. A converted estate, this is a one price admission ride all you want park. They had numerous rides that were age appropriate for Daniel, and he still talks about them.
After we turned our car in for shipment home, we spent the day playing in the city park. There was a water wheel and a spigot that water came out of, plus some riding toys. Perfect for a toddler.
Tips: We always anticipated where we would be be when nap time came around.
We had zillions of toys and music he was familiar with. Workers in stores, hotels and restaurants were a great asset - they gave us lots of gifts, candy, toys and advice. We are co-sleepers, so we usually did not ask for separate bedding.
You can see some pictures of us on this trip on his web page: my.inbox.com/photos/danielsvillage AND you can see a video of Daniel helping us read Rick Steve's German book on Youtube (search for "DanielsVillage"
For us, it opened a whole new vista of travel, and we look forward to being able to do it again.
Steve, Sharon and Daniel
Eugene, OR USA Wed 02/18/2009
Safety with a Toddler in Europe
While traveling with our 18 month old son in Europe (see descriptive story below) for safety, we purchased wristbands for Daniel that he wore around his ankle.
While on the plane and airports, we included flight information. Each time we checked into a hotel, he got a new ankleband with the name of the hotel and phone number.
Inside each of his shoes was a permanent label with his name and passport number. We also ironed labels to some of his clothing with his name and passport number.
Steve, Sharon and Daniel
Eugene, OR USA Wed 02/18/2009
CAR SEATS AND STROLLER
we are planning a trip to london nov. 09 with our 23 month old girl and our 7 month boy. our main concerns are the car seats. how do we take taxis. would they provide them if booked in advance? how about a stroller. we have the side by side stroller. would this be to wide for european standards? please help! thank you.
MIAMI, FL USA Mon 01/12/2009