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7 Tips for Traveling with Kids (and Living to Smil...

7 Tips for Traveling with Kids (and Living to Smile about it)

Stay in a private residence when traveling with kids.

Hotel living can be simple. There is an ease to knowing that hotel management is available 24 hours a day. However, staying in a private residence is my favorite form of accommodation when traveling with kids. When you rent an apartment or home, you generally have more space than is available in hotel rooms (a big deal in large cities like Paris and London!), you can cook for yourself and you can choose a location that is either touristy or residential. My kids loved exploring the strange (to them) layouts and door operations. Some apartment buildings have old, rickety lifts and some have narrow, winding staircases. There really isn’t a better way to get a taste of what it’s really like to live in a city, than by renting an apartment through a site like airbnb or vrbo.

Don’t over-plan your day.

It can be tempting to do and see it all, when you’re traveling. But if you have kids along you’ll burn your traveling companions out in no time by packing too much into a day. Read the guidebooks, choose the top 3 or 4 sites that are must sees, and make sure that you get to them. Beyond that, anything else should be a bonus. Besides, wandering the city without a specific purpose in mind is one of the best ways to experience a new location, even when traveling with kids.

Be sure to schedule both an adult and a kid focused event each day.

I’ve found that I have much more eager travelers when I set up at least one activity that is geared specifically towards my kids, per day of travel, and introduce them to those plans ahead of time. My kids adore museums, riding trains, and visiting gelaterias. I choose one site that I know they will thoroughly enjoy each day and balance that with one of the less kid friendly locations that the adults will appreciate. Everyone should have something to look forward to!

Be aware of city conditions with regards to strollers, backpacks and other gear.

You really don’t want a stroller when traveling by metro in Paris (stairs! stations without any stroller friendly turnstiles!), or if you’re doing a lot of walking in Florence (cobblestone streets.) Some museums and other sites won’t allow backpacks. Do your research before you go and make sure that you won’t be left carting around burdensome gear or find yourself turned away from a much anticipated site due to your backpack full of sippies and snacks.

Teach your verbal child to say hello, thank you and goodbye in the language of the area you are visiting, and expect them to use their knowledge.

My boys find it so fun to be able to say hello to people in another language. They’re normally slightly shy when speaking to service providers in English, but give them a lesson on ciao! or bonjour! and they’ll eagerly test it out on everyone. We’ve also found that trying, even if we predominately fail, to speak a few words in the local language ingratiates us to the people we come across, much more than our smiles and attempts at communicating by gesture. Bonus points seem to be awarded for kids that try, too!

Read books (both fiction and non-fiction) that relate to your travel destination before you leave. 

When we visit a place that I have read, or studied, about, the sense of connection I feel and the enjoyment I find is much greater than if we travel to a location that is beautiful and interesting, but I know nothing about. The same seems to hold true for my kids. When we visited London, they connected immediately to Big Ben and the London Eye due to the move, Cars 2. Before other travel experiences, I’ve located books that either explain short bits of history or weave a story that contains fact and fiction about the location that we are about to visit. I adore watching their eyes light up in recognition as they see pages of books come to life before their eyes.

Use travel modes that are out of the ordinary for your family.

We’re very much a car travel family, having lived in the suburbs most of our lives. So, metro trains, buses, rail trains, ferries and even taxis are highly entertaining to my children. Sometimes, I feel that the transportation is actually the high point of the trip for the kids. Even if your travel will largely be accomplished via car, consider adding in the use of an alternative form of travel in order to allow your kids to experience something new.

What is your top tip for traveling with kids? Let me know in the comments!

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