Sunday, March 27, 2016

Destinations for traveling with children

Whether it's weekend getaway, city break or longer vacation, sometimes we're not really sure which kind of place are good enough for a family trip. We keep questioning ourselves if the kids will enjoy the environment of the next destination we've picked for the upcoming vacation, if the hotel we booked is child friendly enough, if the local food will be appealing for them. Our baby girl is, luckily, not too picky. She enjoys almost everything so we don't really think about picking a destination to match her needs and interests. But if you don't know where you should go, these are my tips based on our family's experience:

Playing in the water

Little kids love bathing! Our toddler loves being in the water. We'd normally prefer salt water but she really doesn't care. She'd bathed in the ocean, in the sea, in the swimming pools, in a volcanic lake, in the public fountains, everywhere. And she enjoyed it every time. Go take your toddler somewhere he can play a lot with the water like beach holidays and island hopping. Pick a quite lagoon with calm water that is not too steep for children to be safe. A boat or ferry ride is a bonus, our baby girl loves all kind of boat ride. If your destination happens to be nowhere near the sea, you could try to at least find a hotel with a pool, or a waterpark near to the city of your destination. Just remember, if your child still wears diapers, while they can be butt naked in the sea, they should wear swim diaper in the public pools to avoid accidents. We use reusable swim diaper (they're more expensive, but are good investments), but you can also buy disposable swim diapers if you want. Not only children enjoy water, water exhausts them, too. That means longer naps of early bed times so you can enjoy some glass of wine with your partner while chilling on the balcony of your hotel.

Baby girl at a beach on Rab island, Croatia, June 2015

Getting close with the animals

Which toddler doesn't love animals? Pick a safari destination, probably see some wild cats in the nature or dolphins watching off shore. If going to places with safaris is not yet possible for your family, pick some destination with a well maintained zoo or aquarium. We took baby girl to the safari park in Malang when we were in Indonesia and she was really loving it. She still talks about how a bear was blocking our road until today. My husband prefers not to go to the zoo for ethical reasons, but I personally think that zoo, if well maintained, is a great source of knowledge and information for children. We all probably get to visit safari destinations once or twice in our life, so cities with great zoos could be weekend getaway destinations that are as interesting and educative for the children.

Grizzly bear on our road, Safari Park in East Java, Indonesia, February 2016

Themed park of favorite character/toy

Once a toddler has a favorite TV or cartoon character (Mickey Mouse, Ariel the mermaid, or Elsa from Frozen who's booming recently) they would be super excited to see them in "real-life". That means that if your next destination happens to be Paris or California, you need to spend one day in Disneyland. Our baby girl doesn't really watch anything yet, but she loves her Lego (duplo) bricks so Legoland is in our bucket list. Although it sounds childish, theme-parks are actually cool for adults, too. I've been in Disneyland in Anaheim once and I could tell you I enjoyed most of the rides, and the firework show at the end of the day was lovely too. The entrance to these theme-parks are usually expensive, so try to spend a whole day in it to enjoy as many things as you could. Check if you can get some discount (and save some queuing time) by buying tickets online.

The chocolate factory tours

People of all ages love chocolate, white, dark, milk, flavored.. If you travel with bigger child or  toddlers, chocolate factory should be one of your checkpoints. We were visiting dear friends in Heiligenkreuz on the border of Austria with Hungary when they took us to visit the Zotter chocolate factory. Baby girl was around a year and a half then, and it was around the time she started to eat chocolate and candies. All the three of us ate way more (organic) chocolate than we're probably supposed to eat in a whole month, but then again, it's not a thing you do everyday, is it? Although probably not all are organic and fair-traded like Zotter, these days many chocolate makers open their doors for visitors around the world. There's actually a lot of things to learn about the process of transforming cocoa beans into chocolate bars (or drinks) that many of us never knew before.

Open space, with lots of grass and walking paths

Many parents stopped hiking the moment they got a baby. It's an activity seen impossible to be done with a baby. I myself was never a hiking-person, but I do enjoy occasional relaxing hikes on beautiful hills (and usually ended up eating strudel in the restaurant up hill). Whether we go hiking for no reason, or go to look for and pick mushrooms (an activity my husband enjoys so much), we kept doing it after the arrival of baby girl. The key of doing it is, well, baby-wearing. Please don't try to hike while pushing a stroller. Get a carrier, a structured carrier like mine (I have the classic Ergo) or soft carrier like meitai, wrap or sling. When baby girl feels like walking, we let her walk and run as much as she wants, then when she gets tired, my husband or I put her in the carrier (sometimes on the back, sometimes tummy-to-tummy) and we could keep walking while she naps. Hiking trip is always a great family choice, the child gets closer to nature, explores a lot of things they don't get to see where they live (especially if you live in an apartment in a big city like we do), has enough space to run around and great fresh air to breathe in.

Hiking up a small hill close from Lipik, in Slavonija, Croatia, May 2015

Last but not least, Italy!!

Why Italy? Because babies are absolutely adored there! No matter what, Italians love babies and toddlers! I think they're the most welcoming nation as far as traveling babies are concerned. Baby girl only had the chance to visit Trieste and Gorizia so far, but she'll get to experience Venice in a couple of months now. Shortly, spring is here, the days have gotten sunnier and nicer. I truly hope you're already planning your next family vacation!

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