We’ve all heard it said; family vacations can be a lot more fun — and less nerve-racking — when kids are involved in the planning process. Of course, we didn’t say the planning would be easy, especially given the various interests and ages of your family group. Here are eight tips on how to make the most of your vacation with your children, from planning to execution, courtesy of El Palauet Living Barcelona, a luxury, all-suite, family-friendly boutique hotel in one of Spain’s most popular cities.
- Prepare in-flight & in-room entertainmen Consider buying a few easy-to-pack, inexpensive gifts, like new books, colored pencils, crayons and paper, and tuck them away to be presented to the kids periodically as need be. Some hotels provide welcome gifts for children at check-in; for example, El Palauet Living Barcelona provides young guests with a surprise in their welcome bag with a Kids’ Passport, a brochure of top, hand-picked family attractions your personal concierge will stamp after each visit. The hotel also offers Netflix Kids and PlayStations in the room. While you’re at it, don’t forget to keep a stash of goodies for the trip home.
- Plan ahead for childcare. Some families like to bring along a niece or an older cousin who otherwise might not have the opportunity to travel in exchange for childcare. Children looked after by someone familiar are more likely to be happy and relaxed when parents want adults-only time. Or look for a hotel that offers reliable care on site. At El Palauet, multilingual babysitters are available on request, and suites can offer additional space for the family to spread out.
- Build excitement for the trip through books and films. Use holidays, birthdays and other family celebrations as a time to focus attention on the upcoming trip and generate engagement and excitement. Encourage everyone to read a book or see a movie about your vacation destination and invite them to come up with at least one thing they would really like to do during the vacation.
- Download the app. European museums have done an excellent job joining the digital age. The free Barcelona App, for example, will help organize your trip by providing a map of every local museum, as well as lists including the “Top 10 Sights,” “Best Gaudi Sights” and “Skip the Line,” which lets families skip long lines for easier museum access. While you’re at the museum, remember the gift shops offer a great way to support the arts while offering fun souvenirs for the journey home.
- Don’t overdo it. One of the charms of a Mediterranean vacation is the laid-back rhythm, so consider planning just one activity each morning and one in the afternoon. And be prepared to enjoy leisurely meals, especially lunch, which, in Spain, can go on for hours.
- Make time for churros.Once your kids have tried traditional, chocolate-dipped churros, they will likely clamor for more. Be reassured European portion sizes tend to be small, so a few churro stops aren’t likely to spoil anyone’s dinner.
- Gear — what to pack and what to rent or borrow. Increasingly, European hotels offer loaner and rental baby gear, but think through what you’ll want to bring on the flight to make everyone more comfortable. Remember a stroller is a great carry-all, not only for the kids but for lugging toys and equipment through a large airport. El Palauet offers complimentary amenities, including cribs, baby bathtubs and tiny towels.
- Hit the beach. Remind kids Europe isn’t just about big buildings and museums. Sometimes it’s fun just to spend a day of sand and sun. There are plenty of public beaches in Barcelona, or have the concierge book you a day at a private beach club, which typically offer cabanas, changing rooms and other facilities.
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