Thursday, June 2, 2011

There's No Time Like Free Time

Even though I'm an überplanner when it comes to traveling, you have to be careful not to over-schedule when the kids are especially little.  Children can become quickly fatigued by cathedrals, ruins, museums, and restaurants.  They need down time and ordinary play time.  And it really helps mom and dad not to feel anxious about down time ("We don't have time for this!"  "We have so many more sights to see!") if it's actually planned for in the schedule.  At least that's the way it works for me.

The first time we took our kids to Europe my son was 6 years old, and he was fascinated by the different coins and money.  He wanted to collect every one of the different pounds sterling in England.  Each time he got a new one he would immediately make a coin rubbing in his little travel journal.  It was so cute!  And now, at age 12, he still remembers that about that trip.

Hubby and I really wanted to tour the inside of Parliament in London, but spent the afternoon watching my daughter do cartwheels on the lawn out front of the gorgeous building instead.  That's okay.  We still haven't seen the inside, but it's really okay.

We've let the kids play for hours making a big soapy mess in the hotel bathtub (particularly fun for them since we wouldn't allow that at home), we've sat and watched drawbridges go up and down, locks and sluices open and close, fed birds, and even still stop to play on playground equipment.

Drawbridge in Delft, the Netherlands.
Feeding swans in Halstatt, Austria.

Playground in Antwerp.
Simple things like exploring a toy store in Germany, or an outdoor market in Italy, can be entertaining.  Even supermarkets can be interesting in a foreign country - make a game out of finding the Nutella in a store you've never been in.  Studying city maps and metro maps is not only educational but lots of fun for kids.  And the best thing about down time, is that all these activities are free!


  1. Great advice - I don't have kids yet but find this works well with my husband, too ;)

  2. Ah yes, the cartwheels and feeding pigeons. All part of traveling with the kids. Enjoy the journey, right?

  3. Love this. I found your blog after posting my first Tips for Traveling with Tots post today. In one post coming up in my series, I'll write about this "down time" factor that is a must!

    We took our then-20-month-old daughter to London this past Fall and I think we stopped in every single park in the city. It was a very new way for us to travel, but it was so fun to explore a city that both my husband and I know well in such a new way!

    I'd love it if you'd check out my blog post if you're interested. I'm sure you can add to the tips I've written!

  4. Love that down time! And sometimes they remember that more than the museum!


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