How To: Engage Children on a Week-Long Trip to a Foreign City+ Tips for Rome!
You may have followed along and seen that our Dekel Crew recently spent the most incredible week abroad in Rome, Italy. It was our first family trip to Europe (we’ve traveled internationally with the children several times, but never before to any city on that continent) and it was truly memorable – both for us, as parents, and for our three kids.
Before heading off to travel, Noam and I spoke at length about how important (and potentially, very challenging) it would be to keep our kids, all of different ages, interested and engaged on a week-long trip to a new country, where the language, culture and food is vastly different than that of America. Well, maybe not the food entirely – we are a pizza/pasta/gelato-loving bunch. While we, as adults, can appreciate looking at architecture and walking around endlessly, it can be hard to keep youngsters entertained continuously in the same way. And, although it was Noam’s and my second time to Rome, the last time we were there it was only for 24 hours. We knew we wanted to explore and experience the city to its fullest, and hoped to create an itinerary and environment for Yuli, Ori, and Romi that would allow them to do the same.
Upon arriving in Rome, we first headed to our hotel – the Palazzo Naiadi – to drop off our belongings and refresh ourselves. If you didn’t catch my Insta-story tour of our hotel room, the only thing I have to say about it is: amazing. The whole family stayed in the [HUGE] Beauty Suite (it had it's own turkish bath, in case you missed that!), which overlooked the ancient Piazza Della Repubblica, one of the main city squares.
The staff was extremely attentive, even preparing game and toy items for the kids’ arrival, and the breakfast was very satisfying and filling for a whole day of exploring. We then headed off to what became our favorite lunch spot (where we ate several times throughout the week) – Emma – a delicious pizza restaurant that served the most divine burrata, too, and an impeccable house wine for Noam and me.
If you know anything about our family, each day was filled to the brim with activities, just the way we like it! With three kids in tow, walking around for hours can be tough, as they get tired and subsequently, cranky. Since Taxis and Ubers were not viable regular options (the prices were astronomic!), we did most of our touring on city busses for longer distances and by feet for shorter ones. This not only saved money and time (oh, and tiredness of little legs and feet walking for miles!), but the kids loved looking out the windows and asking questions about the sites we passed along the way between tourist stops. We easily got out and walked around at various points in the bus route and seamlessly got back on and kept going, to get a taste of as much of the city as we could.
Speaking of tastes…We booked a gelato-making day on our trip, too! Our kids loved this, since they got to see how Italian ice-cream is made, and of course got to eat it right up after. This was one of our favorite, culturally-filled, activities. We also discovered an Italian toy store along the way that my boys especially loved. Again, another aspect of culture that our kids could relate to. All children love toys, right?! We actually did not visit any children’s museums during our travels- we didn’t feel it was quite necessary since the kids were able to enjoy the activities we had planned and certainly got something out of them. Also, you’ve likely noticed a theme in all of my travel posts – from Israel and Mexico, to Miami and California, and everywhere in between – it’s very important to us that our kids have the opportunity to experience and appreciate cultures around the world, to the fullest extent. As foodie-loving parents, this is especially important to us regarding cuisine – we have our children eat the same ‘adult food’ we eat when traveling, for example. This same thinking goes for many tourist spots, too. We felt it was great to expose them to the same historical spots that we wanted to visit in Italy, in the hopes that they will develop an appreciation for the beauty and history of these sites in the same way we have.
I also must mention, another cuisine favorite for us was Osteria Der Belli, which became a much-frequented dinner spot during our trip. If you like fresh fish, this restaurant is the place to go. Our oldest, Yuli, absolutely loves fish and is still talking about Osteria Der Belli to this day! The tiramisu and vanilla ice cream with tiny strawberries made for a delectable dessert, and I must also acknowledge how amazing the service was. We will definitely go back if we are fortunate enough to visit Rome again
We’re now traveling in Israel, and I can’t wait to share more about that. But, I wanted to leave you with a few thoughts that worked for us during our trip to Rome, that may be helpful for any other families traveling that way (or anywhere else) sometime soon!
Be sure to look up the prices of Ubers and Taxis in a new city! We noticed that they were not super budget-friendly for us in Rome, and found other high-quality and convenient means of transportation to utilize instead.
Don’t forget to take the extra kick board for the stroller! It can be more feasible to travel around by foot if you have this extra convenience at-hand. Our middle son, Ori, used it a lot during this trip and I’m very glad that we had it with us.
Bus rides can be your best friends! Price and entertainment-wise, bus travel proved to be a great option for us and a way for our children to continue to learn about this new city while in transit. It also created the perfect environment to meet fellow travelers and Italians, alike.
Games! Remember how we used to play games in the car during long road trips? Make up a few kid-friendly ones along your travels too. We had one called ‘Count the Fountains’ which we made up to keep the kids engaged and alert in transit. One day, we counted a total of 40 fountains– it was the combined efforts of our entire Dekel crew, even Romi! Another one we made up was ‘Ice Cream Reviewer,’ and every time we stopped for gelato (pretty much, every day), each of our kids got to review the flavors and share it with our family. The best was Pizza Navona, as per the reviews of all three of our children…err, I mean, Ice Cream Reviewers’!
I would love to hear what tips and tricks you use to keep your youngsters engaged and happy during travel, especially to a foreign city. And, if you have any upcoming trips in the works, please share- we’re always looking for ideas!