10 Jun Five Tips for Traveling to Italy with Kids Under Six
This is a guest post contributed by Guiomar Ochoa. If you’d like to blog for NOIAW, e-mail email@example.com with your ideas!
My parents met at a bar, in Rome, in the 1960’s. My mother lived in Washington, D.C. and was visiting family that had moved to Italy. My father was from a tiny town near Viterbo called Grotte di Castro. Little did they know, while sipping wine one warm Roman evening that their two worlds would collide and they would become one. After they married, he convinced her to move to Grotte. She was a cosmopolitan working woman and felt confined. The compromise…live in D.C. but spend carefree summers in Grotte on the Lago di Bolsena. This is how my love affair with Italy began.
My New Year’s resolution in 2001 was to move to Italy and so I did in February. I left a great job and friends in Washington behind for a mysterious adventure that helped me grow in unimaginable ways. When I returned to the States and married my equally daring husband, we vowed to raise thrill-seeking and exploratory children. Last summer, we took Anna-Cecilia (age 5) and Luca (age 2) to Italy for the first time and these are the things I learned about traveling with kids to the homeland:
1) DON’T FREAK OUT!
I must admit, the anxiety of traveling so far away plagued me for months! Any parent that has ever traveled with a small child knows the feeling. People glare at you in the airport hoping you won’t be on their flight or, worse, sitting next to them. But I’ve learned that children are much more resilient than we give them credit for. If parents exude stress and fear, children will pick up on that and project similar emotions. Keep calm and go with the flow.
Photos by Guiomar Ochoa
2) PACK A SECRET BAG
A good friend, who travels to New Zealand frequently, suggested taking a surprise bag for each child. I filled the fun bags with new tchotchkes they hadn’t seen and it worked brilliantly. When they weren’t eating, sleeping or watching movies, they were playing with their new found treasures.
3) EXPLORE YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Upon landing in Italy, our main strategy was to keep everyone awake. We checked into our hotel and hit the ground running by exploring our surroundings. Whether it was Rome or Milan, we realized how important it was throughout the trip for our kids to become acquainted with their environment. Familiarity and creating a sense of home, however brief, is essential.
Photos by Guiomar Ochoa
4) BREAK THE RULES
Allow pizza and gelato at any and all times! Honestly, this is not the time to be keeping to bedtimes or monitoring sugar intake. The highlight for our kids was probably walking the streets, at all hours. Especially during the warmer months, piazzas are chock-full of street entertainers, pedestrians, food vendors and music, so the kids were never bored and always felt like part of the party. They’re on vacation, and so are you. Have fun!
5) BE FLEXIBLE AND SPONTANEOUS
Especially with a country steeped in history like Italy, people can become fixated on seeing absolutely everything. You simply won’t be able to do that with children. Our goal was to visit a few major sites per day and then indulge them in something they liked. We spent an entire afternoon at Villa Borghese and they loved it. But our favorite memories are those with no strings attached, those spontaneous moments we had just walking around. It was amazing to see our children’s reactions when we’d turn a street corner and they’d see the Coliseum or Trevi Fountain right in front of them.
Traveling abroad with children can be intimidating and daunting but once you start, you’ll never stop. Just think about all the memories and experiences you’ll be creating for your kids. If you’re hesitant about traveling abroad with your family but are ready to take the plunge, jump into Italy. You won’t regret it!
Guiomar Barbi Ochoa is a freelance writer who currently works in International Affairs. She is passionate about the arts, wine, food and Italy. She contributes regularly to Walking On Travels so as to spread her infectious love of travel to other parents. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two young children.