KIDS, TRAVEL AND YOU PART 3:
BASIC ACTIVITIES IN EUROPE
|Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy|
What do you do with children in Europe? In this 3rd part of our series, we explore basic activities to do.
Plan in advance
As we stated in the first part, a successful family vacation depends on your already established family dynamics and how much prep you put into the process. Before you leave, plan local activities that will introduce your child to the culture they will see: restaurants, museums, US cities that resemble European cities and maybe some apps that introduce the language.
|Parc Guell, Barcelona, Spain|
Is it right for everyone?
It is difficult to travel with children, but even more so with children under 3. Also, consider those with disabilities. There are stairs, canals, cobblestone alleys, steep streets and hotels and train stations without no elevators. Wheel chairs, strollers, canes and crutches were often not accommodated.
|Amalfi Coast, Italy|
Will it be the right time of year?
Take into account the time of year. Remember, the seasons are reversed past the equator (it's summer in Australia in February). Summer in Europe is hot and the down time is August. Some attractions have reduced hours or are closed altogether. Beach areas are crowded and beach hotel rates are high. Spring Break is a good time. It can still be crowded, but many attractions are open. The weather can be a gamble, but that's what museums are for.
|Window display in pizza restaurant, Notting Hill, London|
What to do?
Basic: play on-going games. Challenge your child to say hello, please, thank you, good-bye and their menu choice in the target language. Take a look at the details (an faces) on the old churches. The many piazzas (plazas) may street fairs, vendors, musicians, performers and carousels.
|St. James Park, London|
Gardens: Springtime brings flowers and butterflies and rolling hills. Any place that encourages touching and participation is a guaranteed hit. Some museums are also gardens: your kids will want to pose by each sculpture at the Musee Rodin. At Versailles, rather than touring each palace, opt for only Marie Antoinette's Estate and pay extra for the musical fountain show in the gardens in the evening.
|Musee Rodin, Paris|
Ferris Wheels ("Eyes"): They seem to be all the rage: London, Paris, Niagara Falls (Canada), a few places in Japan. We're even building one in NYC. These are outside of the theme parks and there are often attractions surrounding them as add-ons.
Wax museums: Keep your children's ages in mind for these. Some have horror themes. For the others, it can be spooky standing next to a life size statue that looks like it may come alive at any moment. But, wax museums can be good history lessons and certainly a lot of fun.
|Museu de la Xocolata (Chocolate), Barcelona, Spain|
Children's Museums: they are popping up more and more in Europe. The USA seems to be the place that is child-centered and places around the world are on the band wagon. The Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence (there's one in Milan, too) is hands on.
|Canals and steps and bridges, in Venice, oh, my!|
Boat Rides: Venice, Capri, Versailles. If you have ever taken a ferry, your kids can handle this!
|Montjuic, Barcelona, Spain|
Forts, castles and palaces: These are always a hit with kids: castles and cannons and towers and tales of pirates and adventures, oh my! They can be dusty, so don't wear your best clothing.
|Olympic and Sports Museum, Barcelona|
Sports arenas and museums: Many Olympic sites have been converted for public use, one can visit the four famous tennis open stadiums, or it could be high season for the local favorite. Check your local listings, as they say.
Shopping: Set down some ground rules before you go. Compare prices of their favorite sneakers and make them do the conversion, look at the language of the foods in a market and note the lack of huge supermarkets. Check out the many neighborhood marts and how people still shop daily for dinner. Finally, you may run into one of the farmer's markets.