When I’m alone, I am a fast and furious traveler. The first day of my trip to Sydney, Australia in 2017 included over 6 miles of walking. I walked the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney CBD, the Royal Botanical Garden, and a number of other areas. Sightseeing by foot is my *favorite* way to experience a city. It’s cheap and simple and gives you a great taste of a place.
But not everyone shares my sentiment. My kids, for example. I’ve had to learn to adjust to “kid pace”. Here are a few takeaways several trips with older two in the past year and a half:
Kids Have Different Priorities
Having gone on several trips with our two older kids, it’s obvious what they prefer: watching movies, splashing in the pool, and eating Mexican food. When I’d rather be out and about, they’d rather be hanging at the hotel. Not necessarily in the room. Just in the pool. This isn’t to say that they don’t enjoy our excursions or activities. It’s just that they default to certain things. Thus, I must balance what I enjoy with what they enjoy.
Yet, I think it is perfectly fine at times to step in and “force” an experience upon them (such as climbing the Eiffel Tower by foot using the stairs), it’s a give and take. The Eiffel Tower was the place they wanted to see most in Paris. I tweaked the plan a bit to fit my priorities. And as indignant as they still are at times that I made them walk it (lots of “I’m gonna die” drama), I know they will never forget it!
I’m not saying that we should go the other way and cater to every single of the kids’ whims (we certainly do not do this). But considering their priorities and setting their expectations is important. I try to plan in at least a few things they really want to do (even if it is as simple as playing in the pool for an hour) and then meeting those expectations. This goes a long way.
Plain Ol’ Fun Is Important
Obviously, we’d come a long way to visit Paris, so spending all our time at a park, in a pool, or *gasp* binge-watching TV in the hotel room (something I’m loathe to do when traveling) wasn’t gonna fly. But that isn’t to say we didn’t do any of this.
The kids need fun between all the walking and sightseeing. And we were presented with numerous great opportunities while in Paris and Luxembourg on this past trip. Our first day included playing at Luxembourg Gardens (located in Paris…yes, I know it’s confusing). The iconic toy boats were a hit with both of the kids. Running back and forth around the pond kept their minds off of how tired they were (SEE: 3 Days in Paris: Day 1 – Surviving the Jetlag).
Later, we moved on to the hands-down-best kids playground I’ve ever seen. It was the perfect diversion. The playground was so great that we came back on our last day, just to fit in some more fun. There was even an entrance fee. Totally worth it.
We also enjoyed a carousel ride during our last evening, definitely a way to cap off our visit to the French capital. Moments before, the kids had been playing with bubbles just steps from the Eiffel tower.
The balance between fun fun and sightseeing fun is critical. Sometimes something fun comes up, and the best thing to do is to just roll with it and let them enjoy the moment. For example, on our Southwest road trip I’d planned to rush us to the pool for an hour so we could make it to Sedona to have enough time to hike. I didn’t expect to burn 30 minutes playing Connect 4 and bean bag toss, but it’s what they wanted to do. Actually, our whole stay at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort was for their enjoyment (SEE: Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort Review).
Running thirty minutes “late” wouldn’t (and didn’t) change anything. I was glad I didn’t rush them.
Switch up active versus stationary activities
The past two trips have revealed to me that my kids aren’t big into walking. They complained about hiking short distances in the desert (SEE: 3 Tips for Hiking with Kids in the Desert). And they complained on this trip when we walked from the Louvre all the way through Tuileries Gardens, and again when we walked the length of the Champs de Mars all the way to Trocadero.
On the other hand, I could walk all day. Doing 5-10 miles in Paris wouldn’t have phased me, even being fairly out of shape. Like I mentioned before, my first day in Sydney, Australia included over 6 miles of sightseeing by foot. Sure, I had tired feet, but it is the best way to see the city.
This trip I did my best to switch up the walking with other activities. I tried to even make sure every day wasn’t jam-packed. Our first full sightseeing day in Paris was very busy (SEE: 3 Days in Paris: Day 2 – Hitting the Highlights). Our second…not-so-much (SEE: 3 Days in Paris: Day 3 – Savoring the City).
Calibrating for the future
Our trips have been fun adventures, and it’s been good for me to determine the pace they can handle. On one hand, it is nice to plan a full day with plenty for them to do and see. The one afternoon and evening that was poorly planned during our Europe trip was a bit rough. The kids didn’t know what to do with themselves when we ended up just killing some time in the hotel room, and the fighting started. Putting together a full day that keeps them busy is important.
But you can’t make it too full, and the mix of activities is just as important. Find a balance between more active and more passive activities, plan some “down time” (typically pool time), and keep them in the loop regarding the plans, and everything will work great.