Traveling with kids

Planning a successful multi-generation family trip to Italy and beyond.

From ASE writer and photographer, Carol Santora

This summer we traveled with our entire family for a birthday celebration in Tuscany. Family time is so special but how do you organize entertainment for a span of ages 15 months and up?

There are several ways you can plan ahead to ensure success.

If you are renting a villa, make sure you get one with a pool!! No matter the activity, children always want to swim before or after, especially when it is 95 degrees like it has been this summer in Italy (and most of Europe).

Location, location, location. It is nice if there are activities within close driving distance that appeal to the entire group: beach, cities like Pisa and Siena (only major sites and always with a gelato to follow-up), golf, horseback riding and amusement parks.

We discovered a park called Cavallino Matto that had rides for toddlers and even for adults with giant roller coasters. It was small and clean, and pasta was the featured “snack”. This was a big hit! If possible, one day on a boat trip along the coast works wonders as a change of pace and environment where the air is cool and swimming and tubing are included.

It is always helpful to explore a nearby medieval hill town, in this case Massa Marittima, that offers an unusual escape. It featured several fabulous restaurants, some more child-friendly food-wise than others but still wonderful. There were children everywhere dancing in the square, musicians and European tourists (not many Americans that we discerned). The Italians love little ones, and they are accepted everywhere!

At a villa or in a city, think about organizing cooking classes or language classes. Kids are like sponges with language, and they all like to cook and use their hands, be it pasta or cannoli. A short daily activity for the kids breaks things up, is cultural and allows adults to “time-share.”

Driving can be an adventure in Italy. The road stops are called “Autogrill” and the food is incredible; no McDonalds here. Each stop is like a small department store with a multitude of foods, treats and toys to peruse and to buy. Candy in foreign counties is often different and enticing. My grandkids love “Kindereggs” (chocolate eggs with toys inside). This item makes a great bribe or reward and is unique, possibly a gift for friends at home. The anticipation of visiting an Autogrill made driving more palatable!

The most satisfying activity we preplanned was using “Rome Tours with Kids”. We took our 11 year old granddaughter to Rome for two days before the entire group gathered. We scheduled two tours on separate days, first the Coliseum and Roman Forum, second the Vatican City. Our granddaughter was mesmerized for 2.5 hours each time. The guides, Francesca and then Francesco, played games while teaching with score sheets and prizes (t-shirt, snow globe of the Coliseum, etc.) and focused totally on her. We all learned so much with new fascinating details. I recommend this type of service in any city and hope I can recreate this on other trips.

Lastly, as the photographer of the group, I needed to remember a most important accessory —a tripod. I had to be in a few pictures, and what better opportunity for holiday card photos!

Did I say that we had gelato everyday?

Note: All photographs are by Carol Santora

Find more suggestions for traveling with children with this ASE article.

Comfortable Long Distance Travel with Children