Being a mom of two awesome kids is one of my biggest accomplishments (they are alive and functioning after all!) and a constant push for self-improvement. It is incredible to see them grow and become partners in our family's decisions like where to go on vacation and what to do when we get there.
Traveling with kids doesn't have to be a burden and decisions like what to eat and where to visit can be fun to make as a family, specially when done sustainably!
This summer we decided to go to Barcelona, Tarragona and Valencia, three places with lots of cultural site seeing and amazing food. When picking our destination and planning our trip, there are a few considerations that helped us decide where to go, other than never having been there:
1. Pack light. For the first time in our family history, every one in our family brought only a carry on bag and a backpack. Well, I actually packed a few other bags that don't take up much room, weigh very little and help keeping my style on point!
But giving kids the responsibility of bringing what they need, pack it and take care of it gives them a sense of control and much less worry to us. We even asked them to bring their own money (dudes have so much cash from birthdays and christmas alone!) so they could buy whatever they like. I can't even tell you how freeing this is!! "Oh, you would like to purchase your 23rd hat that you will wear about two times? go right ahead! it is your money after all".
2. Great public transportation. Being able to move around efficiently can make or break a trip. Public transport is fun and sustainable!
It is definitively good to be flexible when it comes to moving around but a little planning goes a long way. By mapping out a cluster of activities within an area accessible by public transport you can optimize your time, see more while spending less time moving around, sitting on a cab or simply deciding where to go next. Add to that, kids get tired quickly and if you are past the stroller stages, nobody wants to be carrying a kid on a 85 degrees weather! Oh, and good luck trying to understand why Gaudí designed a fire place like a mushroom at the Casa Batlló when you have a tired kid telling you repeatedly how "tired they are"!!
3. Great food. So, picky eaters... It is great to have tons of options so you don't miss out on what the local cuisine has to offer while keeping the little ones happy. When planning your trip, there are very exotic destinations, with food worth trying but maybe too out there for the whole fam; that doesn't mean that you are destined to a diet of chicken nuggets and fries everywhere you go!
One great rule of thumb, have them try everything once; if they don't like it, they don't have to eat it! My kids aren't that picky but my daughter still tried sushi for the first time on this trip (and liked it) and my son discovered that he loves spicy octopus with olive oil. And of course...
4. Kid's accessible activities. The whole trip doesn't have to be "kid friendly only" but I find that many activities deemed appropriate or entertaining for kids are actually pretty awesome for everyone in the family. We come from Chicago so we took a pass on the aquarium and amusement parks that we can find at home (I know, not the same but still!) and chose to go to places that are unique to Spain, with hearing and visual aids if possible when admiring art and architecture. Kids loved to be in control of their interactive experiences, learned a lot without even thinking about it and we all had tons of fun!
Emilia at the Wax Museum in Barcelona
5. Down time spots. It is possible to have "too much of a good thing", specially when on vacation. Sprinkling slow days into the vacation schedule can recharge batteries and set you on a path of success when wanting to see and experience as much as possible. We as a family love the beach and made sure to have a beach day on each town in between a couple of days of cultural experiencing. After a few questionably made sand castles we were all relaxed and ready for more!
Side note: on this trip, my husband got severe sun poisoning, my son got a rash and my daughter got a huge spider bite that kept getting bigger. Happily, each crisis was successfully averted; most Spanish metropolitan cities have a pharmacy in almost every corner and pharmacists are very knowledgeable and helpful. We would wake up every day and I would give the three of them allergy medicine, cool mask for my husband's eyes as well as diuretic pills to lose water retention, hats and sunblock for everyone and let's go!! I also bought the biggest beach umbrella I could find...
In conclusion, knowing your family likes is key to plan an amazing vacation but doesn't have to limit you in what you could experience, take a few risks, have an opportunity for growth, take care of the environment and have an amazing time!!
Now, back to work!