I always have grand designs on how our city break will look. Jetlag & Mayhem will wander from museum to attraction, drawing in their journals and uttering no complaints. We’ll marvel at the city, walk for hours and sample the local food. But as we all know, the reality of a city break with kids is different. An adult city break (or perhaps one with a young baby in a sling), may sound like this. Throw in some kids and perhaps this may sounds familiar, ‘Ugh, this museum is boring’. ‘I’m not eating THAT’. ‘My shoes hurt, I don’t want to walk anymore’. ‘I want to go back to the pool’.
That’s not to say you can’t have a fantastic time with your kids on a city break. I’ve always been a city girls and I love these short breaks so we can cram it all in and then go back to the comfort and routine of home. The trick is in how you approach the trip and hopefully these tips should help you out!
- Give some thought into where you want to be based. Do you want to be in the heart of the city so you can stroll to the local attractions? Or perhaps save some money and stay in a larger hotel room/airbnb that’s a bit out of the city but also quieter? We recently stayed at an amazing airbnb in Nashville that was in a quieter suburb but still only 20 mins drive to the city centre. We all appreciated having the extra space to chill out, for the same price as a hotel room in downtown!
- Get your kids to help you with the planning. Have them read through a guidebook (possibly unlikely) or show them the top listed attractions on Tripadvisor and have them choose something they’d like to do. It’s also worth checking out the relevant city pass to save money on combined attractions.
- If your kids are of stroller age, try to bring an appropriate one, the smaller the better. If you’re planning to bring hand-luggage only, you may want to choose one that folds up and can be stored in an overhead locker. Check out my full review of what’s available.
- Choose an interesting way to see the city. We love open-top bus tours, the Singapore version had a special audio channel just for kids.
- Buy a fun and engaging guidebook. Leap & Hop have a gorgeous series of travel books for kids to discover and understand different cultures while playing, drawing, scrapbooking, doodling, collecting and observing. We tested out the Sri Lanka version a few years back and can’t wait to use the Singapore one!
- I always love to add a fun surprise to our city break itinerary. When we were in Vietnam, this meant a foodie tour by motorbike of Ho Chi Minh! An experience we’ll never forget.
- Organise your airport pick up in advance to make things easy. Or if you are planning to catch a taxi on arrival, make sure you have your accommodation details printed in the local language.
- Plan for down time, especially if you’re in a busy city. If it’s in our budget, I do like to stay somewhere with a pool.
- Channel the late, great Anthony Bourdain and make trying new food fun. I was very proud of Jetlag & Mayhem on our trip to Vietnam where they tried frog, goat and duck embryo! Rewarding is always a good tactic, especially ice-cream!
- Pack several pairs of comfortable shoes for you all. On a recent city break, my daughter’s sandals broke but luckily I had remembered to pack a spare pair, as it’s not always easy to run out and buy.
- As per shoes above, pack a blister kit and carry this with you.
- Give your kids a camera, whether that’s an old school digital one or perhaps a go on your smart phone. Mine love taking photos in markets and also out the taxi window (in fact Miss Jetlag has far better photography skills than I).
- Download a relevant language app. We’ve found this particularly useful when traveling through mainland China.
- Read local family travel blogs to gain insider knowledge. They’ll often have a roundup of the best parks and free play spaces for kids.
- Carry hand sanitiser, tissues and wet wipes. It’s helpful to get to know the local custom, for example in Singapore, the hawker stands do not just dole it tissues with the food, you have to buy a packet from a separate vendor. Rather handily though, you can use this pack of tissues (or ‘choping’ as it’s known), to reserve yourself a seat while you queue for food!
- If you don’t fancy creating your own itinerary, opt for a private tour. There are so many different companies, offering a huge range of tailored outings suitable for kids. We loved our half day adventure in Phnom Penh with Mango Cambodia and I didn’t even have to ‘think and plan’, I just went with the flow.