City trips can be hard going with kids. The bright lights, buzzing crowds and innovative restaurants so enticing for adults and couples can be overwhelming for kids. So much so that some parents decide city breaks should be avoided for most of the childhood years.
We respectfully disagree! Indeed, city trips require planning and some work but they can be great fun with kids and a fantastic way to have a holiday together that is fun for all ages, varied and even educational!
Here you’ll find our tips for planning a perfect city trip for kids: Our do’s and don’ts of city travel with children.
Pick accommodation wisely
Your choice of accommodation can make or break a city break. Pick the right hotel or apartment and you visit the city like a local, with all the comfort and amenities your family needs. Pick the wrong one and you find yourself far from everything and stuck on public transport for ages, wishing you could have a holiday to recover from your family holiday.
We have all been there but don’t worry, help is at hand! All you need to do to find the perfect accommodation is to ask people you trust: you can start with this site (we have an amazing selection of hotels), scout trustworthy family travel blogs and you can check prices straight away on sites such as Booking.Com and HotelsCombined.
Avoid rush hour
Especially on weekdays, remember normal folk live in busy cities, going about their daily business. Your need for a double stroller to be traipsed up the Metro steps, or stopping for the 17th time to photograph your kid in that beautiful but bustling location is probably a bit of nuisance, to be honest.
If you’re nearing dinner time and want to avoid the late afternoon meltdowns, plan ahead to beat the crush with an early dinner or snack stop. Likewise, you might not want to start your day’s excursions until the business day is already underway and traffic has eased.
Gone are the days when museums were the realm of adults, places where kids had to be dragged to screaming and kicking. Nowadays, many museums around the world offer tours and areas specific for families rethinking the way they present themselves to a younger audience with interactive displays, even live shows and activity rooms.
Science museums and discovery centres are usually a hit with younger kids but many traditional spaces can be hugely appealing for little explorers.
Do not try to do it all
Only got a day to see the highlights of a city? Please remember when kids are in tow, you have nowhere near the leg speed, attention span or stamina that you had travelling solo. Don’t try to be a superhero and squeeze it all in, there’s no medal for completing everything on the “10 things to do in” list.
Remember, you’re visiting a city not conducting an audit. You will all get far more from the city break experience by choosing only a few key places and events per day.
What kids doesn’t love animals! Of any shape and size. Zoos are absolutely perfect, be it big world-class zoos, or small local community petting zoos (often found inside large city parks). Indoor aquariums also make great rainy day activities to keep little ones amused. Famous ones include the Oceanarium in Lisbon, L’Aquarium de Barcelona and a world renown Taronga Zoo Sydney, in a fantastic location too.
Don’t miscalculate distances
It’s so easy to look on a map and assume you can easily get from A to B – and as grown adults you probably can. When tired little legs are involved though, don’t expect them to be so keen on the idea of walking everywhere. Some cities offer fabulous tuk-tuk or taxi services that are cheap and easy for short hops, otherwise look at how easy it is to jump on and off public transport just to preserve some leg power.
Bring a city stroller
When visiting a city it is tempting to leave the stroller at home. The idea of dragging a stroller down the stairs of a metro station or museum is sufficient to turn many parents off the idea of travelling with wheels but here at little city trips we believe a stroller can be a life saver!
You know the moment when your child is tired and needs to sleep, while all you want to do is to sit in café and people watch? At that moment, a stroller is your best friend. All you need to do is to pick the right one for city travel, one that is light enough to move easily around busy streets but comfortable enough for your child to nap. If you are unsure about what the best stroller for city travel is, you can see our top pick here.
Seek out heights
Tall buildings and sweeping views are often a hit with kids. Whether it’s taking a trip up an observation tower, a cable car up a hill or even a Ferris Wheel, getting up above a city is a great idea to keep kids engaged with their travels.
We love to point out where we’re staying, where we’ve walked or going to next – you may even find something new and exciting places to go and explore.
Don’t skip downtime
Making time for a rest and a trip to the park may sound like a waste of time: after all, you are in the city for sightseeing, right? However, planning quiet moments and playground stops is invaluable to lift the spirit of a bored child and can also turn into a cultural experience.
Encourage your kids to play with local children, hang around where the locals go and simply allow yourself to rest: is half an hour in the hotel such a waste, if it leaves you all energized for a fun evening activity or a meal out?
Look for things that go
We have taken trams to tuk-tuks, buses and boats – not just to get from A to B, but it’s a great opportunity for tired little legs to catch up on themselves. Different modes of transport also provide you with a new way of seeing your city. Things like talking buses can also be the best way to cover a lot of ground quickly, as well as getting some great commentary on your city.
But most of all, don’t let a big city intimidate you! If you love city life and all the wonders big cities have to offer, don’t believe those who say you should leave the kids home. Plan your days accepting you will probably see less than you would on your own but don’t assume less means less exciting or less fulfilling.
Some of our most beautiful family memories were made in big cities, we hope our tips will help you create your own!