… City Breaks with Kids
A half term overseas city break with 2 small kids. Madness or bravery?
A bit of both I think in the end. Pre-kids I travelled quite a lot and so I was one of those expectant parents who vowed that the pitter patter wouldn’t put a stop to my journeying days. In reality whilst it hasn’t put a stop to them entirely it has curbed them – partly because of the faff and the reluctance to add to the tiredness and then also, more recently, the escalating cost with 2 people who must now have their own seats on the aeroplane and the restrictions of only being able to travel in the school holidays.
Nevertheless undeterred we decided to pay a visit to Berlin, a city that I’ve wanted to see for many years but never quite got round to. The reaction of most people was, “Oh Berlin, lovely. Oh with the kids? Not so much.” Visions of Oktoberfest dashed before their very eyes.
Not being a big beer drinker anyway (spirits are more my thing) I was pretty sure we could have a good time without hitting the Bierkellers and we certainly did, but we learnt a few things along the way so here’s my tip for surviving city breaks with little ones.
Public transport in moderation
Having had a reasonably good experience making it around Dubrovnik and surroundings areas without a car this Summer we felt pretty confident about the whole prospect of public transport. I actually did my homework for once and figured out how the whole system worked and so getting a train from the airport to a station close to our apartment didn’t feel like too big an issue. Wrong. We may have been very unlucky but the combination of it taking an age to locate our buggy and then a cancelled or badly labelled train (still don’t know which) meant that we were still at Berlin airport, about 18km outside of the city at 11pm at night with no mode of transport. With 2 kids. *Shudders* With hindsight we should have bitten the bullet and immediately opted for the pricier but stress-free taxi or transfer option which, in fact, is exactly what we did on the way back, arriving home happy and with our minds in tact. Whilst in Berlin however, during the sorts of hours that kids are happy to be awake we merrily made use of all of the different types of public transport on offer and made them part of the fun.
Mix it up
We had 3 full days to explore the city and there were lots of things I wanted to see (more on Berlin in a blog post to come) but I decided pretty early on that it was probably best to sacrifice some of it for the preservation of my sanity. As a compromise we decided to do some of the things the adults wanted to do on the first day, have a mutually acceptable day of mooching on the middle day and focus on the kids on the last day. In practice I think we all got plenty out of all of the days we were there. The kids were amazed by the brilliant Holocaust Memorial and enjoyed running across the parks on Museum Island whilst I was completely blown away by the Zoo, hippos inches away from your nose! That’s not to say there was no moaning (that’s a lot to ask with a 5 year old and a 2 year old in tow) but I think we minimised it as much as possible.
A place that fits
Whilst a nice hotel would probably be my first preference they just don’t really work with a couple of kids who go to bed relatively early. So once again we opted for Airbnb and did our research to pick an area which was kid friendly – there were 2 ace playgrounds on our street and the massive Mauerpark just behind us. We also went for an apartment which was owned by a couple with 2 kids of the same age as ours – cue lots of age appropriate toys without the need for lugging theirs 900 miles across Europe. I think on my review I’ll say that the bath toys in particular were sublime.
Reduce your expectations
I think one of things that I learned early on about travelling with kids is to lower your expectations of what you can achieve and how easy it will feel to be on the trip. I resolved on this trip to see whatever felt like it was possible to without pushing any of us to the brink, to eat whatever people fancied and whenever they fancied it and to accept that your children aren’t going to be a barrel of laughs for the whole break just because they’re lucky enough to be being treated to something I wouldn’t have dreamt of at their age. They get tired, they get hungry and you get frustrated just as you do at home, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth the effort and expense, that’s just life with kids.
Go for it
We got back on Tuesday, exhausted and entirely unprepared to go back to work the next day (although actually that has felt like a nice little break in comparison) but would I do it all again? Definitely. It was far from perfect, there were tears (theirs and mine), there were tantrums (mostly not mine) but I got to see things that I’ve wanted to for a long time – I touched the Berlin Wall, I walked through the Brandenburg Gate, I waved at a gorilla. And all with the 3 people that I love most in the world at my side/in my arms/on my shoulders.