No doubt about it, traveling with kids is not the same as traveling as a couple. Their interests are not necessarily the same as those of adults. They have different attention spans and different levels of energy. So planning and taking a trip with them is bound to require a few adjustments.
One of these is to relax a little. Just because it’s their first time in Paris or Rome doesn’t mean they have to check off every sight on that city’s Top 10 list. Remember that just seeing something may not be as satisfying to a child as it is to an adult, so look for things to do as well as things to see.
Take Your Time
Luca was 10 when she first went to Paris with her aunt, and she had her heart set on seeing the Eiffel Tower. But seeing it wasn’t enough. Could they go to the top? The line was unending, so why not climb it? They did, all 704 steps. She saw the boats on the Seine, and asked what the big white church on the hill was. That, of course, led her to want to visit Sacré Cœur on Montmartre (more climbing), and cruise along the Seine in a Bateau Mouche. The Eiffel Tower took an entire afternoon, but it made Paris hers, and seven years later she still talks about it.
Take an ice cream break in a café — yes, it costs more than buying a cone from a sidewalk window, but look at it as 12-year-old Lura did when we sat beside a canal in Strasbourg. “This may be the most expensive ice cream you’ve ever eaten,” I laughed as the waiter brought beautifully arranged sundaes. “Think of it as renting a room with a good view,” she replied. She was right, of course, and I remember that every time I sink into a chair in a sidewalk café.
Ask the Kids
While you’re resting your feet in that café, ask your kids what they liked best and encourage them to talk about what they just did. This not only gives them a chance to think about what they saw, but gives you a clue about what else to see and do. You may be surprised at what caught their attention and piqued their interest, and it may lead to other ideas on where to go.
Know When to Leave and When to Stay
Be careful of rushing kids out of something they are engaged in so you can get in one more attraction that day. Take a clue from them on how long to stay — take a book if you’re bored watching them make bubbles in the children’s museum. Kids’ attention spans vary with what they’re doing, and they can often surprise us.
You Don’t Need to See it All
Going fewer places and spending more time experiencing them gives kids a chance to absorb what they see, and you may discover you’re enjoying it more yourself. Your kids may see things you’ve missed, or delight in something you take for granted. And that makes everybody’s trip more fun.
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