City breaks with kids

Not long after our son was born, a friend told me to kiss goodbye to those long weekend city breaks. Cities are no places for kids apparently. Too polluted, too busy, too much temptation to stay out late and not enough hanging around pools.

And now my little boy isn’t so little anymore, were they right? I’m going to sit on the fence and say yes and no.

Summary tips in case you don’t want to read the whole thing 

  • Structure your day with things for you and things for your kids
  • Use as many different, and exciting, forms of transport as you can
  • Make sure you choose a city that’s got enough things to entertain kids and adults
  • Don’t be put off by trips that haven’t gone well

The long bit in case you do want to read the whole thing

We’ve taken a number of city breaks with the little one in tow and with varying degrees of success. The major thing we’ve learned, which might sound obvious to some, is that you simply can’t approach a city break like you did without kids.

Gone are the leisurely days spent strolling around, taking in the sights, stopping off at places that interest you, or for a drink and something to eat. Kids thrive with structure and your city break is going to require just that.

Give and take

After a number of failed city break attempts (I’m currently cringing at our Paris trip and laughing at one incident in Hong Kong) we found a structure that works for us.

We take the approach of alternating between doing something for our son and then something for us, making sure that we use as many different forms of transport as the city offers us.

A recent trip to London is a great example of how this plays out.

We spent three days in the city, spending part of it with our friends (boring for our boy) and interspersing it with trips to the London Transport Museum, The Children’s Story Centre  and  Buckingham Palace (great for our boy!).

Being the massive, modern metropolis that it is, we travelled from place to place in a variety of transport, including: a river boat, a cable car, a train, a tube and of course, a big red London bus. He ended up loving the getting around city bit as much as the seeing city bit.

Are city breaks a good idea with kids?

When it didn’t go to plan

I hinted earlier at a couple of trips that didn’t go to plan. So what went wrong?

Paris was an example of doing too much and doing too much walking. Packing in the Louvre and Eiffel Tower and up to Montmartre on the same day, largely by foot (and buggy, he was nine months old at the time) was pretty naive. It tired us all out and we didn’t consider enough rest time for the boy.

We learned from this and scaled back the daily ambitions by creating more balance to the day.

Hong Kong was a question of poor timing. We flew in late from Vietnam, a journey that took most of the day, and we were all tired and a little bit jet lagged. Our first day there we were out and about, and although it was scaled down, we should have taken it easy. Result was a tired and emotional four year old boy.

Another experience that didn’t quite go to plan was Bath. A beautiful Somerset Spa town that’s a synch to take in on foot. Except that means it’s a bit too small for a weekend away with a small boy. There wasn’t quite enough to keep him entertained. Please let me know if I’m wrong here!

What we’ll do next

No doubt we’ll continue to make mistakes as he gets older and we explore new and old places. What we will make sure is to plan ahead and ensure the cities we visit have enough entertainment for us and the boy.


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