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European Travel with Kids – Take ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?

kid_travelWe’ve been debating whether to take our kids on a European vacation this fall. We’d like to travel somewhere culturally interesting but stimulating enough for our toddler. Travel time can’t be too long from the East Coast (one or two planes max), or hard to get around once we’re there (good public transportation is a must). A walkable city (Lisbon? Copenhagen? Barcelona?) or walkable neighborhood in a larger city (somewhere in London?) seem ideal. No rental cars (that rules out Tuscany) or big resorts.

Marguerite will be 3 and JJ 6 months. I’m imagining myself sipping an Aperol Spritz at a cafe in some neighborhood square in Venice with local kids playing soccer and Marguerite running around with them. Am I nuts?

We’ve gone through every scenario in our heads:

  • Bring a babysitter (but expensive to pay for their flight, meals, hotel)
  • Stay somewhere with babysitting, maybe a cruise? (but would we trust the stranger?)
  • Bring our parents (they might not want to go)
  • Leave the kids home with a sitter (would we miss them? would it be just as expensive as the sitter’s flight?)

Some days when there are tantrums and no naps I’d like to take off and not look back for eight days, but other days, like today, when Marguerite is filled with wonder about her latest discovery (monkey’s swinging from ropes at the zoo!) and JJ is all smiles, I can’t imagine the experience without them.

What do you think? Take ’em or leave ’em? And any suggestions on great kid-friendly European cities, towns or hotels?

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  1. B

    Well, I think take em, but I might be biased 😉 .

    No, I think it really depends on what you want out of the holiday. Kids will definitely change the vibe but it can be a real joy to show them the world and you will have interactions and experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have (good ones I mean).

    If you want everything to be a certain, child-unfriendly way you might want to go alone (late nights on the town, fine dining three times a day, etc). If you’re willing to compromise and perhaps split up you can satisfy everyone well enough.

    Ask your folks along if you get on with them for sure! Or just go the four of you. Three years and six months is a good combo – I would get out there ASAP before the younger one gets less sleepy and more mobile.

  2. My attitude is that you can take kids anywhere in the world that kids live, which is pretty much anywhere, though of course there are tradeoffs. Venice is hard if you have a stroller, as is Lisbon, because of all the ups and downs. Italians in general are known for loving children, so, rome, florence, naples, sorrento, capri might all be possibilities. Munich is very family friendly with lots of parks, museums, beer gardens where kids are very welcome (many have playground inside them or nearby). It’s walkable and has a good metro. Saltzburg and Vienna are probably doable and prague, too. Paris and London will have tons to offer kids and good transportation, but you will have to bring a stroller you can fold easily.

    Accept that it will be a different trip with kids than without and this has its pros and cons. You’ll spend 30 minutes in the city’s most famous museum instead of 2 hours. You’ll also spent more time in parks and local neighborhoods, which will give you more opportunities to talk to local people and see local life. You’ll probably skip the famous 5-star restaurant but you’ll shop and eat in more markets and choose more casual, and maybe also more authentic restaurants.

  3. culturefix

    Great insight, Eileen. Thanks! London is high on our list. And you’re right, interacting with locals in a park would be a great way to experience the true culture of a place. I hadn’t thought of that.

  4. culturefix

    Agreed, B. I wanted to travel with our son while he will still take naps in a stroller so the clock is ticking. Thanks for your thoughts!

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