My buddy Ang, from there and back again a Mother’s tale, is the bomb when it comes to travelling with toddlers; she and Joss are never in the house! And what makes it all the more amazing is that she does it without a car. I don’t know what I’d do without my car, I’m ashamed to say…
Actually I do know because we went to Brighton a few weeks ago and it involved a lot of sweating. So, after reading Ang’s fantastic post with tips for the no-car family, I asked her if she would rework the post slightly to come at it from my angle…Travelling with toddlers: taking a no-car city break!
If you’re taking a city break with the kids this summer – this is essential reading!!
Travelling with Toddlers – 7 Tips for a no-car city break!
I used to see city breaks as the preserve of the no-kid couple, strolling along taking in the architecture, romantic dinners, museums…sounds lovely doesn’t it? Now why would you want to introduce travelling with toddlers into that mix? Well, I want to experience lots of new places with Joss and wouldn’t be put off unless it wasn’t going to be right for her.
Taking a short break to Holland last year has made me feel a lot more relaxed about getting away as a family, you can make it work but you need to relax and soak up that holiday atmosphere to take the stress out of travelling with toddlers. Hannah asked me to put together some top tips for taking a no-car city break; as car-free living is kinda our ‘thing’ and applies to city breaks too. So here’s my rundown of 6 tips for travelling with toddlers to the city…
1. Take a kids eye view
Yes there’s so much to see and so much you want to do, but slow down Mum and Dad, is your toddler really going to be interested in that art gallery? Is your five year old going to be up for that really long walk to a monument?
If you turn your plans for your break around how do you think your kids might like to enjoy the city? I know that Joss would really enjoy parks and green spaces, and interactive museums so we might plan to do some of those activities amongst some of the more ‘grown up’ ones, taking it at their pace helps them feel comfortable with new places and if you’re relaxed you’ll soak up the atmosphere of the city too, people watching and enjoying the sights.
Lonely Planet and other travel experts often have sections of their website for family breaks so you’re sure to get the lowdown on places to visit when you’re there. Maybe you could show your kids some photos before you go so that they can get involved in planning and get familiar with the idea that you’re going to be away from home and doing some exciting new things?
2. Think about why you rely on your car!
This is a good exercise in planning, at home do you rely on your car for naptimes? Is it about having somewhere to store stuff on the move? Is it about keeping dry whatever the weather? All of these issues are solveable without a car, you just need to plan for them! Which takes us to…
3. Planning for getting around
Without your car to store things and transport your ‘stuff’ you’ll need to pack light and plan ahead, easier when they’re passed the newborn stage and need less ‘stuff’ but still possible with careful packing; also consider what you can buy when you’re there so you reduce your load.
We worked out ahead of our trip that we could take a train from the airport into the city, so we didn’t need to bring a car seat. Joss was little so we took just a sling with us so that we could leave the buggy at home, now she’s older a toddler sized carrier compliments her wanting to walk more.
Are you going somewhere with lots of cobbles and narrow winding streets? If so you might find it more of a burden to have a pushchair with you; it felt a bit scary leaving all of these things behind, but travelling light in the city can be easier without them. Subways and Metros are better navigated without a pram as they don’t all have step-free access for example. Their little legs might get tired easily but again taking life at their pace can really help.
4. Test out public transport at home
We take public transport everywhere but I remember a friend taking a trip to Paris with her family and her boys had never travelled by bus or metro before; it was a headache for her as she was travelling in a strange place and the boys found it really stressful. If you’re a family that really relies on your car it might help to take a few bus trips around your own town/city to get used to the idea!
Since you’re not driving you’ll get to enjoy the trip too and without being strapped into a car seat the chances are your kids will love the freedom of sitting in the ‘big person seats’. People talk and interact more on public transport too; without a car you soak up so much more of the local atmosphere, people travelling to their jobs, with their shopping etc, you really see so much more of what local life is like! Also, try to chat to the locals about getting about without a car as they might have more local tips or know quicker routes about the place.
5. Be prepared in your packing
Kids can walk reallllly slowly! Consequently the whole family really needs decent coats and shoes, you can’t dash about with a toddler and with no car to shield you be well prepared for the weather! My toddler loves the rain, me, not so much, so I need a good raincoat to keep me dry so I don’t get as bothered by the downpour!
A back pack is also a great idea for the whole family, get older kids to carry their own bits and bobs for the day in smaller packs and leave your family/changing bag at home, they’re really cumbersome and a back pack gives you free hands for navigating the city!
And finally consider finding a local supermarket to stock up on some snacks and drinks, I get crabby when I don’t eat little and often as does Joss so it’s easier to get around with something we can pick at!
6. Take frequent breaks
In keeping with the pace of the little ones make sure to take time out from sightseeing. I only learned this recently at home, yes you want to get the 2pm bus home and you’re tired, but don’t rush about, chill.
I have learned to take the time to stop for a break before we head back. This applies to holidays too, you won’t know the bus schedule like at home and the kids might well get frazzled if you’re dashing about, so stop to enjoy a drink or a sit down on a bench somewhere to just catch your breath before you head off again!
7. Take Stock
Most importantly make sure you take stock when you’re there and check that you’re all happy with how the break is going, and try where possible to accommodate your children’s routines; try to bear in mind that it will be different for them to be car-free too!
happy hols folks!
Thanks Ang, these are great tips – I only wish I’d read them before we flew to Brighton!
Are travelling with toddlers to a city this summer? What are you nervous about? Or perhaps your a seasoned city breaker! Do you have any tips to add?!