By Simon‘s wife, Charlotte
Simon and I have travelled with our two daughters since they were very young. Our first trip with a baby was a long weekend to Lille on Eurostar; what an easy and joyous first foreign trip to take if you are new parents!
When the children were small they were relatively easy to travel with, although we’d always have more luggage than we liked. But, from the age of four, when they started to have opinions about what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go, travelling with the children has become increasingly interesting and increasingly valuable as a lesson to us all about compromise.
Our children are now young teenagers and we have undertaken a wide range of research trips with them, at different ages. Of course, some were more successful than others and on this page we wanted to look at those which really worked or were a highlight, in case you’re after any school holiday inspiration. We also thought we’d post some pictures from any recent trip we’ve done with the children and let you know if we’d recommend it for families.
So, looking back, CITY BREAKS that have been particularly successful with the children include: Porto with its beautiful Douro river and fascinating metal, double-decker Dom Louis I Bridge; Granada and its tasty chocolate & churros in Plaza Nueva followed by the Alhambra which is great for families to explore (though some of the walls are quite low so take precautions with young ones); Vancouver, where we hired bikes and cycled along the seawall in Stanley Park; Washington, which has great museums and delicious cupcakes in Georgetown; Seattle where the Space Needle doesn’t disappoint and kayaking in Union Lake alongside the seaplanes is not your everyday experience; Los Angeles, where an ideal day starts with the early Warner Bros studio tour (Friends and Big Bang Theory), breakfast over the road at Bob’s Big Boy restaurant and a hike up to the Hollywood sign; Luxor, where, as much as we hate to say it, the best view of Luxor Temple comes from eating at the McDonald’s; Aswan, a delightfully low-key city where it’s easy to get on the river, visit the islands and see the Unfinished Obelisk; Shanghai, which is fascinating for older children who love to shop, watch in awe at the Chinese acrobats and soak their toes in the Jacuzzi at the best rooftop bar in the world (Vue Bar, Hyatt on the Bund); Vienna, where young children love the Imperial Butterfly House and dropping into morning exercise class at the Spanish Riding School; Dubrovnik, where the car-free old town is a delight; Lille, which has a great Christmas Market with a huge Ferris Wheel; Funchal, where children will delight in its renowned New Year’s Eve firework display; Singapore (including Sentosa Island), where you can experience the rainforest on high walkways, visit the zoo at night and go zip-wiring, trampolining or luging on nearby Sentosa Island, also home to Universal Studios; and Edinburgh, which has the Museum on the Mound where you can ogle at the £1million in £20 notes and can then wonder at the camera obscura and trickery of The World of Illusions.
RESORTS that we like include: Lyme Regis in Dorset, where no-one in our family ever tires of trying to find fossils on the beach; Naples, the home of fabulous pizza and the Cloisters of Santa Chiara lined by trees laden with oranges; San Sebastian which, in our opinion, is one of the finest resorts in Europe for young children as it has everything (an aquarium, a small working harbour, fabulous beach, playgrounds everywhere, a long promenade perfect for buggy-pushing and a quaint Old Town with no cars); and Split, home to the marbled alleyways of Diocletian’s Palace and world-class ice cream. You may regard the latter two as more like city breaks but they both have credible beaches and a resort atmosphere.
Thoughts on our recent family trip to…
NEW YORK: Scream it loud, my main big tip is that if you wish to visit the Statue of Liberty Crown you need to book at least three months in advance. We didn’t do this and could only get access to the Pedestal, which was still a wonderful experience, but who wouldn’t want to get access to the Crown if you could?
Six days in New York over October half-term with two teenagers was fabulous. We stayed in Greenwich Village, close to Union Square, which was a very convenient location as you’re at the mid-point of sights to the north and the south.
Some of the least obvious things we did which worked really well with youngsters were: getting the subway to Brooklyn and walking back over Brooklyn Bridge (particularly for those studying A View from the Bridge); eating at the Food Mall below Grand Central Station; browsing the vast array of teenage fiction in Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue; checking out how the jewels sparkle at Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue; indulging in a manicure in Greenwich Village (there are lots of cheap places there); visiting the New York National Library on 5th Avenue where the Rose Main Reading Room recently re-opened after several years of renovation (ever since Harry Potter libraries are cool); descending into the underground Apple store below its transparent shop-front cube opposite the Plaza Hotel (Bride Wars) near Central Park; and, of course, visiting all the Friends and Gossip Girl film locations.
The least successful were: 102nd Floor of the Empire State Building – you pay extra to get up there but it’s small and enclosed and nothing can beat the 86th floor where you can walk around outside – we went up at sunset and so saw the city in the late afternoon glow and then in the dark; the One World Observatory at the World Trade Center – this was expensive and disappointing because there are lots of high views in New York and here your photos are full of reflections from the glass; we also didn’t go to a Broadway show as the prices seemed high in comparison with theatre in the UK.
The most touching experience was, of course, the 9/11 Memorial. The girls and I didn’t know that every day white roses are placed beside the names of those who should have celebrated a birthday. It’s incredibly moving.