How you can travel with children and visit cities of art trying to reconcile the desire for cultural visits of adults and the leisure needs of children? We asked a friend, cultural guide and mother, Camilla
“The world is not within a child’s reach but, whether we like it or not, children are there and they live in it, so we parents must find the way to integrate them into the world of the “grown-ups”.
Dear parents (or future parents), these are some little tips for all those parents who do not want to spend their holidays in family hotels or amusement parks, but want to try “grown-up” trips with children, making sure that it is an enjoyable and memorable experience for all.
Traveling with children is possible, just be organized and, above all, aware of the limits it entails.
Let’s start from an assumption: it is not possible to visit everything, you can do almost everything by making the right choices and filing a little here and there.
Traveling with children: before, during and after
If the children are old enough to be involved the “before, during and after” rule must be your guide.
First: create expectation, start telling the children what you are about to visit, look at some pictures together, ask them what they would like to see.
During: give them a map to orient themselves, a camera to capture what they like best, let them live the experience and collect memories.
After: always buy souvenirs, they will allow them to remember what they saw. The best souvenir would be a book, but the classic pencil or glass ball with snow is also fine. Build a logbook together in which you will attach photos of the trip.
1. The period of the year and the climatic conditions
Personally I think that if you think about traveling with children, any destination is within their reach.
A special person once said that “wherever children are born and raised, you can travel with children”. So consequently I feel like suggesting: where no children are born and raised, do not go. Needless to say, the choice of the period is essential, you can buy all the equipment you want, but we can’t go and when it’s too cold or too hot. I am the first to visit Prague in January and Florence in August, but this happened when Pietro was not yet born.
Remember, if children are too cold or too hot they complain, or worse, cry, and you want the experience to be pleasant, right?
2. The itinerary
Whether it is a city of art or a traveling trip, one thing is essential: the daily itinerary must be planned in advance.
Think about it, while you stand still with the guide in hand discussing what to do, will your children stand still and calmly wait for you to make a decision?
Organizing an itinerary first will allow you not to waste time trying to figure out where to park, which road is best to take, which is the best activity to do. Always keep more possibilities open in case something unexpected arises.
Traveling with children continues
Unless you are traveling in a motorhome or towing a caravan, you will need to book accommodation to sleep. For a road trip I recommend you to book a farmhouse in the countryside (perhaps with a swimming pool), it will allow you to relax away from crowded places, children will be free to run and maybe make friends with some farm animals.
If you will stay several nights in a city of art, a good choice may be to book an apartment. In both cases you will not be forced to get dressed and go to dinner at the restaurant every night, but you can dine quietly in your pajamas.
“There is no bad weather there are only wrong clothes”
In my opinion, the same rule applies to the stroller: the right stroller for every type of trip. You cannot expect to carry a super bulky mega stroller if you plan to frequent narrow places and above all use public transport.
The stroller must be compact, light, easily foldable, but at the same time comfortable for the child (remember that the stroller must also take naps), therefore comfortable and breathable.
But be careful if you are planning to visit villas or castles surrounded by parks or monumental gardens, you will not be able to go with a stroller with mini wheels that would be planted in the gravel, in this case, consider a stroller more suitable for dirt roads.
5. Squares and pedestrian areas
As comfortable as it may be, babies cannot sit in a stroller all day. When building your itinerary, enter as many places as they can walk freely.
The narrow streets of medieval villages are perfect for walking safely and the pedestrian areas of the cities of art are great for stretching your legs, the squares and especially the gardens of historic villas are the perfect places for a nice run surrounded by so much beauty.
6. Exhibitions and Museums
We come to the hottest topic: how to visit an exhibition or a museum?
First of all, book the entrance. You cannot waste time queuing, the children would already enter tired and bored.
Second, remember the assumption “it is not possible to do everything”: if your desire is to enter a very large gallery or museum, you must select in advance what you want to see and, when the child wants to go out, you will have to resign yourself to the idea of not see some treasures.
Third, always try to involve children, of course we have to distinguish children who may be involved from those who are too young. For the older ones, the “before, during, after” rule applies, for the little ones, I advise you to book at a time when you are sure they will take a long nap (after lunch for example) and, if for if they are awake, do not force them to be tied to the stroller if they do not want to, rather let them walk free during the visit, making sure they do not touch anything.
Look for a park or a garden (where camping is allowed) and organize a nice picnic, perhaps buying typical dishes in a local shop, it will be fun and cheap!
If you prefer to go to a restaurant, look for a typical family friendly restaurant in advance. Bring board games and books to entertain the children while they wait.
In my opinion, traveling with children thinking about visiting a city of art must also be a way for you to enjoy every moment together; even when you are tired, even when your baby will poop in the most inappropriate place and you will have to change the diaper in an even more inappropriate place.
Enjoy that race in the square, take a run too.
Watch them marvel at the beauty, become curious about particular things that you hadn’t even noticed. Do you think that if you had done this trip without your children it would have been certainly less tiring, but also less fun.
With Camilla’s suggestions and ours, we wish you good kilometers.