5 essential rules for city breaks with (very) young children
Travelling with kids does NOT mean waving goodbye to city breaks!
Whether you’ve only just become a parent and are thinking about your first family trip, or you’re a seasoned parenting pro who’s avoided city breaks at all costs, following these 5 rules will allow you to put city breaks back on your travel menu.
There is just something innately enticing about brief escapes to foreign urban centres and experiencing some of the quirks they have to offer. In fact my wife and I have become unrepentant city break addicts, and children haven’t stopped us. Having travelled extensively with our now seven year-old daughter, and continuing also with our second-born (who’s four months), we’ve learned how best to approach short city breaks the hard way. The benefit of the many trials and tribulations we’ve experienced is that I can now share these essential rules for doing city breaks with (very) young children.
RULE ONE – BOOK A CHILD-FRIENDLY HOTEL
This doesn’t just mean booking a hotel that offers a cot. It means making sure the hotel is located close to where the bulk of your activities are going to take place – normally close to the centre. It means making sure it is close to pram-friendly transport (see RULE FOUR below), and not at the top of a hill/steps, or otherwise difficult to access.
NUSTAY offers a simple to use filter which ranks hotel results according to the proximity to the city centre, on top of which there is a super convenient map where you can see how close hotels are to public transport, or if there are any unwanted obstacles.
RULE TWO – RESEARCH (AND PRE-BOOK) TOURIST SIGHTS
The simple fact is that not all tourist attractions are child-friendly, especially if you’re travelling with a pram (that’s a ‘stroller’ for American readers). So the very first step is to acquaint yourself with the idea that you most likely won’t see all the landmarks. Once you understand this, you need to have a good pre-trip browse of which landmarks are pram-friendly, and indeed which of these can be booked online beforehand. For the attractions that are pram-friendly, waiting times are something to concern yourself with too. Lines at attractions can be excruciatingly long, so a top tip is to (where possible) try asking staff at the attraction if one parent can stand in line, even if some of the time, while the other finds a more comfortable place to wait – this will go a long way in avoiding stress.
RULE THREE – PACK SMART, PACK LIGHT
We’ve tried both ways, we’ve travelled like mules carrying every accessory imaginable and as light as a feather with little more than the baby sling. As with everything in life, the key lies somewhere in the middle. You don’t want to carry half a house worth of stuff, but with an infant or child, you do not want to be left underprepared either.
It sounds obvious, but be conscious of the weather in the season you’re travelling in. All too often we rely on our own pre-existing assumptions of the weather in certain destinations. Second, combine weather knowledge with the nature of the activities you’re going to be doing – don’t pack loads of jumpers and coats if you’re going to spend all day indoors, or similarly, pack a bag of toys if you’re going to be on the trot all day.
RULE FOUR – PUBLIC TRANSPORT IS NORMALLY THE BEST OPTION
Taxi, rent-a-car, metro, bus, walking, the options for getting around a city are many. Yet public transport, and buses in particular, have proven to be the best option for getting around with a pram. Taxi’s are seldom big enough to accommodate a pram – especially if it’s a 4×4 style Scandinavian one like ours – nor are they likely to have a car seat. Besides, they’re expensive. Rent-a-cars in theory offer some convenience, but in cities (especially foreign ones) finding parking, and driving in general, is a high stress process – which is well worth avoiding. Metros are a simple and easy mode of transport in cities, but caution, not all cities have lifts (‘elevators’) in all stations, London and New York being good examples of this.
So we are left with the humble bus. In nearly all major cities buses have allocated pram areas, making hopping on and off effortless. Buses are also very frequent, have stops in every corner, and give you the benefit of taking in the scenery – children love the experience too!
RULE FIVE – TAKE IT EASY
It is crucial you take it easy. Pre-book sights, but don’t over do the commitments. That is, you must remember to give yourselves plenty of time for feed breaks and tantrums between activities.
I hope this has convinced you to keep city breaks in mind, no matter the extra baggage you’re now carrying. How about some inspiration for beach hotels in one of Europe’s most popular cities, Barcelona?
Have a look at NUSTAY’s city hotels here!
Words: Jeremy Sacramento