I love to travel, and I especially love to take my kids. From the time that they were young, we've taken them wherever we go and they adjust. They've learned to enjoy different cuisines, appreciate being surrounded but different cultures and easily manage various time changes.
I decided to include this section because I've had so many friends ask for recommendations of things to do, especially with kids. Here's a list of my travel DOs and DON'Ts. They apply whether we're traveling with our without our kids.
- DON'T take on too many touristy things in 1 day!/You do not have to go to every single attraction your guide book mentions!
- DON'T wake up at the crack of dawn unless you and your family are naturally early risers. Pay attention to the time change. If you're going west, everyone might be up a earlier and ready to start the day. The opposite is true if you're traveling east. There are advantages to both an early start and a late start, for example, you might be able to see some tourist attractions at less crowded times if you're up early. If you're on a later schedule, you can eat later and avoid crowds at restaurants.
- DO get a credit card that gives you points for travel. We've had an Amex Starwood Preferred Guest card for years. We charge absolutely everything we can, and we have enjoyed so many free hotel stays. Starwood and Marriott just merged so now there are even more options!
- DO spend sufficient time in each place you visit. This DO can be broken sometimes. If there's a place you're dying to visit but you can really only squeeze out 1 night, go for it. But try not to make it a habit of doing too many short 1 or 2 day stops in a row.
- DO make frequent stops to try the local cuisine.
- DO make sure there is at least 1 activity per day that your kids will love - whether it's stopping for gelato, watching street performers or going to an amusement park or beach, all these are perfectly acceptable activities in my book. They're still seeing how another culture does things. Even at the beach, there are nuances between how an American spends a day at the beach vs. how an Italian spends a day at the beach.
- DO make sure you know which things you must get tickets in advance for and PURCHASE TICKETS! Research, make a list of the things that are "must sees", and check to see whether or not you need tickets. I have made the mistake of not doing this a few times and I was sad to miss things.
- DO remember, YOU'RE ON VACATION!! Make sure it feels like vacation!
One issue we've had lately is that my 15 1/2 year old daughter is not interested in some of the museums and other cultural attractions we visit. Now, assuming we feel it's safe, we'll leave her at a near-by coffee shop. I know if we force her to come, it can ruin the experience for the rest of us. I can't force her to enjoy the things I enjoy. It bugs me a bit that she's missing out on things I want her to see, but truth be told I was like her. I know when she's interested, she'll go back to seen what she missed.
I hope you find these tips valuable. As we visit different places, I'll continue to populate this section.