This summer we’re taking the kids to Italy for a few weeks.
Italy is my favorite European county. In my thirties I traveled to Italy several times with a group of girlfriends from work. My mom and I took a special trip to Italy 10 years ago. When my college sorority sisters and I turned 40, we traveled to Italy. And, Jeff and I got engaged in Florence. Needless to say, Italy has a special place in my heart.
But as we’ve been preparing and planning for our trip with the kids, we will be doing some things differently.
In previous European trips, I’ve always stayed in hotels or B&Bs. This time, we are staying in homes and apartments. Several good friends have recommended rental companies that they used. In fact, we are staying in the same apartment in Florence that our friends the Grambos rented last fall.
With a family of four, we would have needed two hotel rooms — and you can’t always get them next to each other. The apartment and home rentals provide a lot more space for a much better price. And, some of the places we’re staying have Wi-Fi in the homes. We can also stay in some fun neighborhoods and really get a feel for living with the locals (e.g., Travestere in Rome).
The only downside is that some of the rentals require the final payment in cash (Euros) on check-in. That can require you to carry quite a bit of cash early in your trip (depending on your length of stay). You can only take out 300 Euros per day at the ATM.
Here are some sites we used:
My big tip … look very closely at the pictures of the bathrooms. European bathrooms tend to be very small — especially the showers. Look for showers with enclosures, preferably with doors of some kind. If we as adults flood European bathrooms due to their showers … image what kids would do! And, when you find a few places you are considering, check out what TripAdvisor has to say about the places. The rental agents are also very helpful in answering questions about the various rentals and converse well and timely via email.
Museums and Tourist Sites
Many of the larger museums and key tourist sites have programs designed for children. Some of them have scavenger hunts designed for children to locate the “really good stuff”. If the museums don’t have specific activities for children, study ahead of time and choose what things are most important to see with your children. Most museums are closed on Mondays, so be sure to check schedules. And Sundays are often free to the public.
We plan to alternate our museum/church days with more active days or day trips. For instance, when in Rome, we plan to go to the Borghese Museum one day (reservations required in advance) and take a day trip to Pompei the next. And, we’ve already promised the kids that we’ll stop for gelato at least once every day.
We found some good ideas on http://www.travelforkids.com. You can select the city and see what fun activities are recommended. For instance, you can tour the sewers or visit the catacombs in Paris. FUN!
What to Pack
Depending on the ages of your children, lists will differ. My girlfriend Stacey (who traveled with twin toddlers last year) provided the list below as things you might not think of packing, but you really should.
- Soft-sided travel cooler (small) for water & snacks on the trains
- Hard-sided ice packs (most rentals have small fridge/freezers)
- Sponges (clean and toss)
- Ziplock bags (for snacks and possibly wet clothes)
- Snacks for your kids (you don’t have much of a selection in Europe and they are expensive)
- Cereal, breakfast bars and/or granola bars
- Multiple Adapters (if traveling with teens, you’ll need them for iPods/ITouchs)
I’ll be sure to post pictures after the trip and the valuable tips we learned while traveling.