A lot of people I know avoid taking their kids on City breaks as they think that those types of holidays and kids don’t mix. Personally whilst I think full on family holidays are wonderful I also love exploring new cities and think that regular short breaks are a lot easier to do, quicker to organise and cheaper. Not to mention its much more enjoyable to split holidays across the year rather than having to work all year limping towards one big holiday.
Our Lady of Tyn, Prague Old Town
Of course a city break is the perfect getaway for a couple – seeing the sights, soaking up the atmosphere, shopping (not to mention sampling local booze) and whiling away an evening testing out new foods. A city break with kids isn’t going to be the same, for instance our daughter isn’t up for shopping regardless of location and you probably won’t be whiling away an entire evening in a restaurant, but it can definitely be just as fun in a different way.
Getting outside and enjoying the sunshine
We recently took Lily to Prague and it was a great experience for all of us; we were quite lucky in a way that we had a whole week in the city so didn’t need to rush about to see everything, we also stayed with friends so Lily was kept entertained and didn’t have to always traipse about checking off the sights with us. Most cities have their ‘must do’ attractions, and it’s worth taking time to check their websites before you go to see how family friendly they are – and that doesn’t mean you need to spend your whole holiday in a soft play centre or theme park!
These are a few things I would suggest if you are planning a city break with your kids:
- Do your research; a quick google search will leave you with a list of places that children will enjoy in the city, there are plenty of blogs run by parents who travel with their kids and these are a font of knowledge for any place you are thinking of visiting
An air bnb apartment with a child-friendly bedroom
- Select your accommodation carefully, if you can use a site like Air bnb to find a private place for your family to stay in – having a space to call ‘home’ makes such a difference to your down time compared to being cooped up in a hotel room
- Check tourist board websites for family-friendly festivals and other special events taking place during your visit
- Many national museums have free entry, and there are plenty over the World that are designed with kids in mind (think of the Science Museum in London or the Toy Museums in London or Istanbul that make perfect destinations for rainy afternoons. Where museums are paid entry you can often find vouchers or discount codes online or locally
Enjoying some creative downtime
- Don’t try and squeeze too much in one day – if your kids are used to having downtime at home they will just become overtired and irritable on holiday without it
- Pack picnic lunches – not only will you save money but you’ll also be able to find things that your kids like in local supermarkets, making mealtimes a lot less stressful
- If your children are young think about packing a lightweight stroller so they don’t have to walk too much, particularly in cities with lots of uphill climbs!
The Prague tram
- Research local transport – some cities have good value family tickets and often public transport is a lot more efficient and timely than trying to drive, plus it gives little legs a break between walking and can be entertaining – Lily loves getting on the subway or tram
Why are you calling me a barbarian?
- For older kids you can buy children’s books about most cities – both factual and fictional which they can read before or on their trip – books can be a great way to introduce kids to new places and get them excited for an upcoming trip – some suggestions would be ‘Madeline’ by Ludwig Bemelmans for a trip to Paris, ‘Why are you calling me a barbarian?’ by Birgitta Petren for Rome, and Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kästner for Berlin
- Spend some time outdoors – most cities have a few nice parks; a space for the kids to run around and explore without the constrictions placed on them in museums or galleries. Many have great play parks and cafes too.
- I’m a history buff and love checking out architecture, churches and castles and the like. However they aren’t always overly child-friendly so i’d suggest taking it in turns with your other half to ‘escape’ for an hour or so to see a particular place of interest OR involve the kids by creating a scavenger hunt, getting them to find out facts or create a project book
Vauxhall City Farm in London
- Zoos are a great starting point for child-friendly attractions but they can be quite expensive so pre-book your tickets if you want to visit one. Prague zoo was relatively inexpensive and the best one we’ve ever been to (you can see our post about that here) Many cities also have City Farms that are free or cheap to visit and make a relaxing way to spend a few hours
- Pack properly – again this comes down to research and planning. Make sure you know what the climate will be like, choose practical clothing that can be layered up, comfortable shoes and a decent rain-jacket and sun hat. Kids will flag a lot sooner if they are too cold/ wet/ hot, and don’t forget sunscreen! Also if your child has a comfort or a special toy that they sleep with, don’t forget them – you’ll have a hard time at bedtime if you do…
- Encourage them to meet other children – you’ll be surprised at how easily children overcome any language or culture barrier; they really don’t care about differences and its a real pleasure to see them playing together
An artistic shot taken by Lily
- Get them involved in photography – you can pick up digital cameras pretty cheaply nowadays and you can get some great shots taken from their viewpoint that you wouldn’t have got yourself
- Bring snacks – things that are easy to eat like rice crackers or pretzels are the best options, don’t forget to pack wipes or antibacterial gel too
Needing to cool off!
- And if all else fails? Ice cream or stickers can bring a smile to the most stubborn of faces!
Do you have any tips for enjoying city breaks with kids?