Why we won’t be taking any more winter city breaks with our kids

I’m all about travelling with kids, you guys know that. I don’t think parents should put their lives on hold for 10 years while their children grow up. We shouldn’t stop travelling and taking holidays because 10 years is a long time to stop doing all the fun stuff we love! Some people say that’s selfish but I’m a firm believer that you can’t be a good parent if you aren’t happy, and if I didn’t go on holiday for 10 years then I definitely wouldn’t be happy!

But at the same time, some holidays just aren’t worth the effort. SOME. Note the word ‘some’ there!

A few weeks ago I travelled to the beautiful city of Warsaw (see more from our weekend in Warsaw here). I was there with Sam and our two boys, George (2) and Joseph (1) and we had a lovely time but jeeze, it was tough!

A festive weekend in Warsaw, Poland

A festive weekend in Warsaw, Poland

Sam and George admiring the Christmas markets in Warsaw

Warsaw is a lovely city – well the Old Town is anyway – and we enjoyed strolling around the cobbled streets, seeing the Christmas lights and the festive markets, sipping steaming cups of boozy mulled wine (that’s me and Sam) and munching endless bags of sweet treats picked up from market stalls. It was fun and I don’t regret going, but I wouldn’t go again with a baby and a toddler.

For us, city breaks are all about the evenings. A city break is for wining and dining, eating out, finding those tiny and authentic little bars and strolling around busy streets with no aim or purpose. It’s for taking pictures, wandering through galleries and museums, peeking inside churches and getting lost around narrow little side streets.

And at Christmas time, city breaks are even better because they’re about Christmas markets, busy streets, shopping in tiny boutiques and evening adventures fuelled by hot wine.

But, unfortunately, these are all things that don’t sit well with a toddler and a baby. They want to be toddling and crawling around, exploring, touching and chasing everything they see – all things that are difficult in a cold city.

The boys got cold and tired quickly – despite me being super prepared and wrapping them up like they were sitting in a freezer for the day. We took an extra pushchair for George so he wouldn’t need to walk far but then both of the boys got fed up of being strapped in a seat. The cobbles, the steps and the public transport was also a bit of a nuisance with two pushchairs! The crowds meant we couldn’t let George wander freely and the tiny restaurants – which we’d usually find romantic – are too cramped when you have two little kids.

Our boys were (mostly!) very well behaved but this wasn’t exactly an idyllic weekend away for them. I was expecting them to be mesmerised by the markets and the lights – and they were….for about 3 minutes and then they wanted to go somewhere warm for indoor soft play. We had a low moment on Friday afternoon where we even considered taking them to McDonald’s soft play!

So I’m going to hold my hands up and admit defeat on this one – weekend city breaks with a baby and a toddler are not worth the effort. Particularly winter city breaks!

Maybe if you’re going away for a week it might be better as you don’t feel rushed to see everything but a weekend was not long enough. We were back at our apartment by 7.30pm each evening and nothing seemed to open until midday so we really didn’t have a lot of time to explore.

This realisation also comes after our holiday to Tenerife the previous week, so the contrast between the two holidays was even more obvious.

Tenerife was SO easy. So, so easy. And so much fun.

We stayed in a fabulous hotel that was set up for children in ways we hadn’t even thought of. An amazing kids club, children’s pools, child-friendly areas and kid’s menus everywhere we went made it so easy. And everything is so much easier when it’s hot and sunny! We had our own car too so didn’t need to rely on public transport and felt freer to go whenever we wanted.

I’m not saying the only type of holiday you can take with children is an all-inclusive beach holiday – and I’m going to be doing my very best to explore as many options as possible over the next few years – but winter city breaks with kids definitely won’t be happening for us again!

What are your thoughts on winter city breaks with kids?

 

TheTravelHack

Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a professional blogger and has travelled around the world in search of stylish adventure travel.Monica has recently had her second baby and is determined to prove that travelling with a baby is possible!

SHOWHIDE Comments (19)
  1. Honestly, I think if I had 2 little’uns I might well feel the same, but with just the one, I’ve always enjoyed city breaks so far. I’ve found that what works for us is booking a hotel that does decent family rooms, or an aparthotel that still has hotel facilities. Preferably a pool which is handy for a back up activity/tiring out strategy and a restaurant for easy dining out (hotel restaurants always seem pretty quiet). We’re off to Berlin in 3 weeks with our now 3 year old. I shall report back! Our last city break was Stockholm and I loved it!

  2. Great to read such an honest post! I can’t imagine small children enjoying a city break in the winter. I think my brother was 9 when we went to Dusseldorf Christmas market but at that age he could appreciate it and was old enough to try ice skating.

    1. That’s the main thing – I don’t think the kids enjoyed it! Or they did have a nice time but they’d have just as nice time if we went to Manchester Christmas markets or something. They’d probably have an even better time if they stayed with their grandparents for a weekend while we went away!

  3. Oh no that’s such a shame! We took Evie to the Christmas markets in Prague in December and we had a really lovely time. Obviously with a toddler as well of course it’s going to be more difficult but maybe Warsaw just isn’t set up for little ones. Prague is super baby and kiddy friendly with lots of cafes and restaurants with play corners and even babysitters in the restaurants at the weekends! I’ll be writing a post about baby friendly Prague soon so maybe that will tempt you into changing your mind!

  4. Tips (from the been-there-done-that department):
    Find cities that have indoor options. In Paris, for example, there’s a big empty space in the basement of the Louvre (before you pay–free!) where you can see the excavated foundations. Perfect spot for little ones to run and scream like maniacs before being bundled back into their strollers while you have dinner.
    Another option: eat your “fancy” meals at noon–the portions are slightly smaller and the prices usually are much smaller. Plus, you won’t get the nasty looks that come from small children entering fancy restaurants in the evening. If the kids will sleep in their strollers, then you can do (adult) walking kinds of activities until they awake from their afternoon naps, and then you find a place where they can blow off steam. Buy a bottle of wine and some nice takeout and have a candelight dinner in an AirBnB apartment while your kiddies sleep. BTW please oh please make sure you do legal AirBnBs. We have one in France, in Carcassonne, and pay all our taxes, but far too many listings don’t.
    Yet another option: Go to places with better weather. It does rain in Carcassonne in winter, but not nearly the way it rains in Paris. Or Warsaw.
    You are doing your kids a huge favor by traveling with them. You have no idea how this will shape their view of the world. I wrote today about my kid’s preschool teacher, who did a “tour of the world” with the class. We need more people interacting. Good job!

    1. I think the ‘go to places with better weather’ is our main feeling after this trip! Thanks so much for sharing your tips and I love your tip about having the fancier meals at lunch time.

  5. Its so nice to hear that not every trip with kids is smooth sailing, I’d much prefer to hear the truth and learn from your experiences! So thank you! I’d also love to see a post on other places that you WOUDN’T recommend doing with kids & why. Love reading your stuff!

  6. Oh my goodness, I couldn’t agree MORE! As you know, I HATE travelling to cities with my baby…..it’s such a ballache, but I always feel that I should do it. Thanks for being so honest! x

  7. Oh gosh! That sounds so stressful! Besides a few places in the States, we really didn’t start traveling with Lex until she was 5. Even then she’d get frustrated if she couldn’t run around. I can imagine how difficult it must be with two who don’t like to stay still. Good for you for still giving it a go, though. And at least you know what works best for your family now!

  8. I’ve had similar feelings lately, but I’m not going to give up just yet. Of course, we only have one kid, which probably makes things a lot easier. Having to be “home” by 7 p.m. is REALLY hard, but I agree with the comment above about going out for nice lunches. If you don’t mind that doing so really cuts into your sightseeing time, it’s a good option. (And as you point out, kids don’t want to spend tons of time sightseeing anyway.) That and not making your city break too short–we need two full days in order for it to be worth it, which means traveling Thursday/Sunday or Friday/Monday. Oh, and we always go to the zoo and/or a playground in every city we go to.

  9. I absolutely agree! I now have three little ones and the stress and anxiety which comes with taking them on city breaks just isn’t worth it. Best to save them for when the children are a bit older or can be left at home to have fun with the grandparents ??

  10. This sounds like my ‘haha’ moment when we took our first holiday with my step-kids. We picked a lovely, luxurious villa a short drive (not short enough apparently as it was longer than 3 minutes,) from Disney but the weather was not kind. They did not appreciate luxury, hated long haul flights, wanted more people to play with…..every year after that we went to Eurocamp. Much as I hate those tin cans, we had so much more fun there when there was tons for the kids to do, lots of friends for them to play with and even pretty cool bars to keep us amused. No swank restaurants though

    1. We’ve been to a Eurocamp style place before too and absolutely LOVED it! It’s so true though, kids don’t care about luxury, they just want lots to do and people to play with. I don’t think I’d turn my nose up at Disney though!

  11. I don’t know how parents with young kids do it. We were on a bus travelling between Split and Dubrovnik when we met 2 British tourists with their toddlers. The kids were sitting on their laps. With them they had a whole bag of play things, some snacks and drinks, and a pee bottle (most of those Balkan buses have no toilets). The kids were well-behaved and the parents seemed to take it well – but gee, I was thinking that this is no way to travel.
    My personal experience (my son is grown up now) is that all-inclusives usually the best with kids. Maybe boring for parents but you won’t tear your hair out…

    1. This is often what I think. We’ll be sat there going, ‘We’re having an alright time but this is NOT a holiday’. I agree, all inclusives are best. I know I’m lucky in that I get to travel a lot without my kids so I’m happy to have a chilled family holiday because I get more exciting holidays without them. I love my kids being little but I also can’t wait for them to be a bit older so we can get stuck in with the exciting holidays!

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