Monthly Archives: December 2016

Survive A City Trip With Kids

Sure, city trips with kids may involve fewer cocktails, leisurely meals and lazy mornings than they might do otherwise, but that’s not to say they can’t be wonderfully fun and stress-free. Urban environments offer plenty of activities to suit travellers of all ages and it’s rewarding to see your children getting as much joy out of a city as you do.

However, as parents who’ve tried it know, negotiating busy streets with a demanding entourage – be they toddlers or teens – can be a challenge. Curb the chaos with these tried-and-tested tips.

Get to know the city

Before you go, capture your kids’ imaginations with films and books about your chosen city. Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral will look a lot more interesting to youngsters if they’re on the lookout for its resident hunchback, and the Spider-man series will have them yearning to see New York’s skyscrapers for real.
Once you’re there, look for local guided walks aimed specifically at kids – tourist offices may offer special family trails. If your kids can ride (or fit in a child seat) they may prefer to whizz through the streets on a bike tour. Either way, getting your bearings on arrival makes navigating your destination during the rest of your stay a lot simpler.

Choose the right place to stay

Renting an apartment is often the easiest way to go; you can self-cater when it suits you, keeping mealtimes simple – and you don’t have to worry about disturbing other guests. You also have a bit more space to spread out and relax when you need to take a breather.
That said, staying in a hotel is often fun too; you can take a break from chores and children will relish it as a novelty – just watch their eyes light up when you order room service. If there’s a pool, even better.
Whichever lodgings you choose, location is key. Long commutes into the city eat into precious sightseeing time, so choose somewhere central or find a nearby bolthole with decent transport links.

Go with the flow

Don’t be too ambitious when it comes to itinerary planning. With kids in tow you may not be able to walk as far or as fast as you would on your own – slowing down and staying flexible should minimise moaning and prevent burn out.
Keep kids engaged at museums and galleries with audio guides – many attractions provide narration specifically aimed at younger visitors. If your little ones are prone to museum fatigue, you may find that castles, palaces and monuments hold their attention for longer.
Kids also love squares with fountains, sculptures, street stalls and entertainers. Head to these pedestrianised areas to relax, browse stalls and people watch when you feel the need to slow down.
Have a bad-weather backup plan

Think about the weather when timing your visit. Cold temperatures are manageable with the right clothing but being out all day in the rain can be miserable, and getting stuck indoors away from home may not be much fun.
Luckily, many cities are virtually weatherproof, with a positively splendid wealth of kid-friendly indoor entertainment such as interactive museums, play centres, ice-rinks, bookshops and theatres. When planning your trip, keep a few rainy day options up your sleeve to lift dampened spirits.
Try out quirky transport

Taking unusual local transport is all part of the adventure in a city. Hopping on a boat, cable car, funicular, rickshaw or tram can be a real highlight of your trip and provide a different perspective on a city.
If you’re bringing a buggy, make it a small, light, foldaway one, rather than a monster – it’ll be easier on narrow pavements and for getting on and off your chosen means of transport.
Avoid mealtime mayhem

Time often flies when you’re exploring a city – but you don’t want to wait until hunger hits to start thinking about food.
Weather permitting, picnics are an ideal lunch solution for those who like to be prepared; you don’t have to stress about disturbing other diners, taking too long to get served, or finding something the children like to eat. If you find a local supermarket it’s often cheaper too.
From German sausage stands to jalebi (syrup-soaked batter spirals) in Delhi, good local street food is another quick and easy way to eat. A tactically-timed waffle stop can halt tantrums in their tracks, and it’s always a good idea to keep some emergency snacks in your bag for on-the-go pick-me-ups.
Indulge your inner tourist

Agree on a small budget for your sprogs to each spend on a souvenir, then let them select whatever they like – however questionable their choice. Children usually love browsing street stalls and outdoor markets and will get a kick out of selecting something to remind them of their trip.
Letting the kids get snap happy with an old phone or a disposable camera can help keep them entertained and give you more of a chance to linger in places that would get rushed through otherwise.

Travel Is The Best Teacher

Travel is a force for good: it broadens our mind, develops cultural empathy and gives us a better understanding of the world. We travel with our children because we believe these experiences not only improve their social skills but are key to helping them become decent global citizens.

There’s more to it than that, though. Have you ever stopped to think about the practical skills they learn while exploring the world? Here are eight ways travel really is the best teacher for kids.
Lesson one: prioritise and pack like a pro

Sometimes it’s hard to judge what is a necessity and what is a luxury. Taking responsibility for your own luggage early in life teaches you what you can survive without, and how this varies for different trips. Brilliantly, once this skill is mastered it can be applied to school bags, sleepover kits and backpacks for day trips – freeing up time for the adults too.
Tip for teacher’s pets: avoid essentials dropping off the list by sitting with your kids while they create (write or draw) their packing list and then give the whole family plenty of time to assemble said items.

Lesson two: get from A to B, technology free

With sat navs and busy lives, often we don’t have the time or need to teach our children how to read maps. A trip can be a great opportunity to develop this key skill which involves carefully tuning in to your surroundings (‘what does that road sign say? Is that a park over there?’) as well as deciphering keys (‘this path is yellow!’).
Back home their improved sense of direction and finely honed route-finding skills might even mean your battered old road atlas gets a second lease of life while the electronics get mothballed.
Tip for teacher’s pets: start small by asking children to get you to somewhere only a few hundred yards away, and remember that taking a wrong turn is the best lesson in map-reading.
Lesson three: master the haggle

Understanding why people bargain, that it happens in some places and not others, and knowing how to do it both successfully and respectfully is a pretty tall order. Let’s face it, we all know adults who haven’t mastered this one. So it’s worth discussing haggling before you travel.
This kind of negotiation is important as it hones diplomacy and cultural empathy as well as creating an awareness of basic economics. Let’s not forget, being able to get what you want without leaving everyone feeling cheated is a useful skill to have.
Tip for teacher’s pets: turn ‘haggle practice’ into a fun game with role-play, poker faces and a bit of dressing up – then get the kids to try it for real at a market. You never know, their youthful charm might work in your favour.
Images

Lesson four: money matters

What better way to demonstrate the real-life importance of classroom maths than being able to understand and use a foreign currency? Exchanging money builds knowledge of how things are valued and tests your times tables. And using coins and notes which are different from the familiar helps master handling money at home.
Tip for teacher’s pets: keep up with pocket money while away, but convert it into your local currency. Let bigger children figure out themselves what they can buy; smaller children can have fun playing with different coins.
Lesson five: learn the lingo

Another way to show children the benefit of a skill acquired at school is to take them somewhere with a different native tongue. Within minutes of arriving, children learn that being able to communicate in someone else’s language makes life much easier. It can be as simple as being able to say ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
If languages aren’t your forte, the kids will also see what happens when verbal communication isn’t working… and learn how signing and body language can be used to overcome these barriers.
Lesson six: taste the difference

Most people would agree that an appreciation of food and an enjoyment of mealtimes creates a healthy and balanced approach to life. When we travel we explore new tastes, see different cooking techniques and learn how other cultures eat together. Then we come home and resolve to spend more time around the dining room table recreating what we experienced.
Children learn not only to push their own boundaries by trying new things but also that old habits can be easily changed and travel is great inspiration to do so.
Tip for teacher’s pets: prepare your picky eater by explaining what will be different and what will be the same, and agree a rule of ‘try one new thing every day’.
Child holds up a giant crab on a rainy beach ©

Lesson seven: have no regrets

Decision-making and the ability to accept you made the right decision at the time (even if it turns out with hindsight to be wrong) are key skills. Travelling is one long exercise in executing a plan: you get advice, read recommendations, talk it through, make a decision, go do it.
Children learn by example and seeing the adults in their life approach decisions by both assessing the risk and being prepared to push themselves out of their comfort zones is a great lesson. Watch as everyday issues such as who to play with or when to do their homework become carefully thought through.
Tip for teacher’s pets: give the children a specific area of the trip to research and ask them to give you their recommendation along with the pros and cons.
Lesson eight: how to live with boredom

Exploring new places generally tends to come hand in hand with long periods of time spent waiting or travelling. The more they travel the more kids learn how to deal with boredom in a public space. You can teach them through role-modelling (how do you personally handle a long journey?) and engaging them in games or conversations which often take on a life on their own. Before you know it, you have self-reliant children repeating back to you the mantra ‘boring is only in your head’.

Long Term Trip With Kids

Ever dream of quitting work, renting out the family home and taking off to explore the world long-term? It’s a step that plenty of parents would love to take but the thought of planning such a mammoth trip can be daunting – especially when it takes all your energy just to get the kids out the door.

It’s easier than you think. Determined to make your family travel dream a reality? Here’s our guide to the basics.

Make the decision and stick to it

There are positives and negatives to a round-the-world trip with kids at any age: travelling with babies or toddlers is cheaper – and there’s no school to worry about – but they’re unlikely to remember much about the trip; older children will form longer-lasting memories but you’ll need to keep up with their studies; and while teenagers can handle more intrepid undertakings, close friendships and looming exams may mean they’ll take more convincing.
Worry too much about the ‘right’ time to go and you might never take the plunge. Just choose a date and get planning. You won’t regret it.
Family watching elephants
Choose a travel style to suit your family

While travelling with babies and toddlers needn’t preclude adventurous travel, some destinations – Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, for example – are more tot-friendly than others. With older children and teenagers you could explore more challenging options such as a camping safari in the African bush or hiking in the Himalayas.
Don’t forget: a round-the-world adventure needn’t involve a multi-stop plane ticket and a backpack; travelling overland in a campervan is a fun and flexible way to travel, or you could even try cycling across a continent or navigating the oceans in a sailboat…
Stay healthy on the road

Looking after your family’s health is of course a top priority. Before you go, arrange the requisite vaccinations and antimalarials in plenty of time, and remember that some jabs (eg typhoid) can’t be given before a certain age. Carry a good first aid kit and discuss in advance what to do in an emergency; comprehensive travel insurance is a must.
While it pays to be prepared, with all the fresh air and exercise you’ll likely be getting on the road, plus new, varied foods and plenty of mood-boosting family time, chances are you’ll all be healthier than ever while you’re away.
Pack light and stock up on the go

Will you be lugging around baby paraphernalia, or are you travelling with older kids who can carry their own stuff? Will you be backpacking or driving? Do you need to worry about seasons or will you stick to warm climates?
Whatever your plans, pack as little as possible. You can buy nappies, baby food and even clothes as you go along – and you may well need to anyway, given the rate at which most children grow.
Must-haves include a comfort object or two for small children, a lightweight sling for babies and toddlers, and a tablet or laptop loaded with games and movies for when the inevitable cries of boredom strike. A small backpack that young children can pack and carry themselves is a great way of involving them in the preparations.
Budget, budget, budget

Running out of cash halfway across the world is best avoided, so work out a maximum weekly budget and stick to it – with money put aside for emergencies and occasional splurges. If you’re on a tight budget, spend the bulk of your time in cheaper countries. You’ll blow through money faster in North America and Western Europe than you would in Southeast Asia or India.
To save cash, try camping or staying in hostels (many of which are family-friendly these days), and cooking your own food rather than eating out for every meal. Couchsurfing (couchsurfing.org) or housesitting will save you money while allowing your family to experience life as the locals live it.
Get the kids involved

Letting the kids take part in the day-to-day decision making is all part of the fun. Ask them for their ideas of what to do and where to visit; encourage them to write or draw in a journal daily; or give them their own child-friendly camera to capture the world from their own perspective.
You may need to move slower than you did in your pre-children days. Most kids won’t take kindly to rushing around ticking off high-profile sites; it’s more relaxing for all involved to spend several days, weeks, or even months in each destination.
Arrange time apart

For everyone’s sanity, it’s a good idea to spend some time away from your kids once in a while. Take it in turns to watch them while one of you gets some alone time, hire a babysitter and have a grown-up night out, or treat yourself to a stay in a hotel with a kids’ club. Allowing your kids a break from each other can also save everyone some headaches.
Let travel be their teacher

Travel with school-age children and you’ll have to educate along the way. As well as setting time aside for formal study, draw inspiration from the world around you. Learn about art and history by visiting museums and ancient sites; use a trip to the market as a simple maths lesson; study maps to understand the geography of the countries you’re visiting; or encourage your kids to interact in the local language.