Cultural travel with children is something most parents try to avoid. Word has it, that children don’t like museums, neither visit churches or get in touch with architecture. Let me show you some of the most successful strategies for epic and relaxing cultural travels. No crying, moody children anymore complaining about this stupid church and that ugly castle.
We are on the road since more than 4 years. Our first daughter was 4 weeks old when we packed our campervan to travel from Germany to Italy, Greece and Croatia. She has seen more than 10 countries in her first year. After 2 years our second daughter joined our travel family. Her passport was made when she was 10 days old to be able to leave for Eastern Europe. They’ve been to countries like Australia, Mauritius, South Africa and New Zealand.
Be assured that we learned by experience – it sometimes hurt a lot to cope with sleep deprivation, heat, culture shocks and potty training. As a result we’ve created some strategies to make cultural travel with children successful.
1. Freedom of choice
If one forces children to eat, they will stop eating with relish. If we want them to stop using swearwords what happens? Right, they use them more often. It’s a scientific proofed strategy to not forbid less desirable behaviour. Either ignore less desirable behaviour or act with positive sanctions whenever the desirable behaviour has been shown.
While cultural travelling with children it’s contra-productive to force them into museums. Promising strategies could be to give them your travelguide and let them decide which museum will be visited the next day. Include them in your planning. Some parents have the habit of rotating mornings. Therefore every morning another person of the family is on duty. He’s responsible for navigating through the city with metro, tram or taxi. It’s up to him to calculate times and book tickets in advance. He acts like a tourguide, is well informed about attractions and honoured by all others who absorb knowledge. Important: this person is the boss of the morning. Usual family hierarchy doesn’t count in this case.
2. Clear purpose
A main part in motivation plays the purpose behind. Why do we visit the opera in Sydney? Is it that we’ve made a jigsaw several years ago and want to see it in real now? Or maybe you’ve introduced your kids already to theatre and take the opportunity to watch a play there. It could be as well that you’ve all heard of different architecture styles. After having visited a church built in the Renaissance it’s time to change the architectural style and have a look at something modern.
It could happen that your children have a different purpose than you. That’s totally fine. Be honest and clear about your purpose. Accept and tolerate, even appreciate their purpose. With mutual understanding both sides are prepared to compromise. And if not it won’t harm to visit some attractions split up. Have a yummy ice cream afterwards and talk about your experiences.
3. Balanced blend
When we travelled to Thailand with our 2 and 4 year old daughters we had already learned that our children have the same rights in terms of time like we do. Our trip to New Zealand made us experience in a hard way that if we are 4 persons and we have 10 hours time per day to visit Auckland it’s 2.5h for me, 2.5h for my husband and 2.5h per child. On total the kids have 5h and we have 5h to spend doing something we like. Never ever it’s going to be a wonderful, relaxing holiday if you drag your child behind you. But with balanced activities like visiting the zoo in the afternoon and go shopping and in a museum in the morning it becomes a lot easier.
To plan relaxation times into the daily schedule can calm down the whole journey. Just to avoid the midday sun let them play lego inside or draw beautiful pictures. We use this time to read or work a bit. After one or two hours everybody is ready for new adventures. New energy has been regained.
4. Good planning
I recommend to choose accommodations that fit to you and your requirements. If your children are picky eaters or young and need self-cooked food an apartment or villa is a good choice. Hotel rooms are often very small and one can easily get the feeling of being cramped. Being right in the centre makes it easier to come back for only an hour to relax. It’s worth to spend a good amount of time in finding the suitable accommodation and spend a bit more money. You’ll safe on transport costs, restaurant expenses and nerves.
One small suitcase is always for toys. We take high quality toys with us that can be used for different types of games. Lego is one of our favourites, as one can build castles, farms, towers and other impressive buildings we’ve seen during the day. Board games and handicraft materials are as well part of their suitcase. I even have two scissors, two colouring books and glue in my handbag to bridge waiting times in restaurants or museums. The colouring books can even fit to your travel mode: buildings, transportation, animals or cities. It’s not necessary to buy them new, but give them out only while you travel. This rises their attraction immense.
Those 4 rules are recommendations. We made very good experience with every single one. Would you like to add one? What are your experiences while culture travels with children?