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Ten ways to make a city break with kids less stressful

Discovering a new city with your children is a wonderful experience, but it doesn’t always make for the most relaxing of family holidays. We’ve come up with a few practical tips to make city sightseeing with young ’uns – from toddlers to teens – an altogether less stressful affair


The Eiffel Tower: worth the climb? (Adobe Stock)

Think about your child’s age when choosing a city

Before deciding on a city break, you need to consider your children’s age. For toddlers and babies, compact, walkable cities that don’t get too hot, such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, are great options. Older children might prefer somewhere like New York for the shopping and nightlife, while Barcelona is great for the beach and Rome for its history.

Hands around the world (Adobe Stock)

Include them in the planning

Whatever their age, get kids excited about the trip by involving them in the planning. If you’re taking younger children, talk about what they might like to see and show them photos of the sights. Plan a loose itinerary of what you definitely want to do and look online for reviews of child-friendly attractions.

Taking a view in New York (Adobe Stock)

Research your accommodation carefully

When travelling with youngsters, chances are that you don’t want to be walking any more than you need to, so either stay near the sights you plan to visit or near a good transport link. Make sure your accommodation is family friendly. Avoid a self-catering apartment with cream sofas and expensive ornaments or a hotel that doesn’t offer adjoining or family rooms. 

Everyone loves pizza! (Adobe Stock)

Investigate child-friendly restaurants

While it’s good to extend your child’s palate and explore new dishes, eating strange food in a foreign city can be a scary experience for some. If you have a temperamental eater, it’s worth researching child-friendly restaurants before you go – that way you know where you can always get pasta/pizza/cheese sandwiches, should you need to!

When in Amsterdam, take a bike (Adobe Stock)

Remember kids love transport

One of the most exciting things about a city for kids is getting around on a different mode of transport. Whether it’s a train, tram, underground, bus, bike or monorail, it becomes adventure in itself. Many cities also offer bus or boat tourist tours of the main attractions and, while they can be pricey, they’re an easy way to explore a city without worrying about tired little legs.

Just checking in (Adobe Stock)

Give them a GPS watch

If you’re worried about kids running off and getting lost, invest in a GPS watch tracker for children. This will give you some peace of mind and make it easier to find them, should you temporarily become separated.

The Louvre, Paris, at leisure (Getty Images)

Skip queues by buying online

Many of the most popular tourist attractions in cities such as Paris, London, Venice and Florence provide the option of buying tickets online beforehand to avoid queues. This is always a good idea, as younger children aren’t known for their patience. What they are known for, though, is waking up early, and you should take advantage of this by getting to attractions before they get too busy or too hot.

Back to nature (Getty Images)

Carry snacks and water

Make sure the day’s schedule includes water and snack breaks and that you have plenty of both with you. With so much to take in, it’s likely that children will need more breathers and refreshments than usual, so don’t restrict these. It’s also important to think about loo breaks and make sure that they go (even if they claim they don’t need to!), especially if they haven’t been potty trained for long.

Snap happy (Getty Images)

Give older children a job

A city break is a great opportunity to give pre-teens and teenagers some responsibility – after all, it won’t be long before they’re setting off on their own adventures. Perhaps they could research where to have lunch, be in charge of taking photos or be responsible for the budget that day.

Fun at the Tuileries Garden, Paris (Getty Images)

Don’t pack too much in

City breaks can be gruelling for little ones, so don’t try and fit too much in. Doing a few, select attractions properly is better than trying to do everything with an overtired child who’s moaning (or screaming). While you might want to look around the museums and galleries for the duration of your trip, try and plan at least one activity a day that is just for the children, be it a playground, park or boat ride.