We started out our journey flying from LAX to Zurich, Switzerland. From Zurich airport we rented a car and drove about 50 mins to the story book town of Lucerne, Switzerland that has the oldest, still standing wooden bridge in Europe. We spent our first day adjusting to the jet lag and taking it slow, exploring Lucerne and napping in the middle of the day at our hotel. We chose to rent a car over taking the trains (which are very efficient + provide gorgeous scenery) for the flexibility a car offers and also being able to strap our kids in and allow them to nap. If I were going just myself and my husband I think I would have done trains.
The next day we drove to the Alps! About a 50 min drive to Interlaken, exploring other idyllic villages along the way. We took a gondola up the mountain, spotted billy goats, little villages, and miles and miles of green mountains. Switzerland was an amazing country to visit with children, so many outdoor activities, plenty of space to run free (and skip to the sound of music soundtrack :)). The massive green covered mountains felt majestic as we snacked on Swiss chocolate. At the end of the day, we headed back to our hotel in Lucerne. Our next stop was Lake Como, Italy! We had to drive back through Lucerne to get to Lake Como so we decided to stay in Lucerne for 3 nights instead of move to a hotel in the Alps to forgo changing hotels.
We started out on our adventure into Italia! Pizza, gelato and homemade pastas await! Crossing the border from Switzerland into Italy, we were giddy with excitement to also feel the Italian sun. On Lake Como, we stayed at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. We were very impressed with all the kid friendly touches and the hotel is so tastefully done. From mini robes and slippers to children's bath products waiting in the room, to mini teddy bears on their bed at turn down service, to a complimentary candy bar in the lobby, "baby menus" at all restaurants on site, a kid -friendly hike on property, 3 pools, tennis, and boating - they had it all! And to top it all off, the Italian staff dying over our bambinos! It was the perfect spot for a family - where everyone enjoyed themselves :) We highly recommend it! Next door to the hotel is the Villa Carlotta - which is a villa filled with lush gardens for the kids to run around as well.
On day 5 we took a public ferry boat from our hotel over to the town of Bellagio (the hotel did provide private boat tours as well), to explore the town, snag Italian souvenirs and of course load up on gelato! Visiting the last week in April/first week of May felt more relaxing with kids and less packed and chaotic as the high tourism season hadn't fully kicked in yet (so luckily lower hotel rates as well). We risked it on weather and got lucky with 75 degrees! The lake water, of course, isn't warm yet. If going in July or August, you do get to experience more boating activities (like tubing,etc). I would say Lake Como was my favorite stop of the trip, and the hotel enhanced the experience for us!
After 2 days at Lake Como, we made our way down to the beach! It's always been a dream of mine to visit Cinque Terre. I first learned about the charming seaside towns when I was studying abroad in London (almost 13 years ago, ah!) Naturally, the beach to me is always an easy spot for kids. They can run and play, and the coastal breeze just feels good for everyone. We stayed in the town of Monterosso Al Mare. The tiny village had a playground across the street from the beach. The kids were in heaven running back and forth after a pizza stop. It felt low stress for my husband and I. We weren't able to hike the 5 towns like so many do, but we did take a local train that runs through the towns to check them out.
The way I travel with my kids is allowing our itinerary to be flexible, but also have some activities in my back pocket. It allows a new level of creativity, exploring the city in a different way than you would without. Sure, we skipped out on museum lines, and late romantic dinners, but we visited gardens and parks, explored beaches, and enjoyed meals on the go. You soak it up in a different way, instead of climb Cinque Terre you might sit on a bench, sip a cappuccino and watch your kids play at an Italian park. Things move slower, and that's ok. The culture can still be experienced and the beauty is still taken in.
Our last stop before flying home was Florence. The dreamiest city! Every building so beautiful, so rich with history. We didn't even need to do anything to enjoy. We walked/strollered the town, the kids rode the carousel, and we went to Boboli Gardens which was gorgeous and the kid's were obsessed with running around in there - fountains, garden hide outs, palaces! so much for them (and us) to enjoy. And every activity ends with gelato ....when in Italy!
We did eat at a lovely restaurant called Coquinius - I told Joel once about this dish I had when I studied abroad "caramelized pear raviolis" one of the most memorable meals and so he insisted we go! We got the kids ready with coloring books + crayons (we brought) and enjoyed a magical fancy-ish meal in Florence.
My husband and I looked at each other at the end of the 12 hour flight with a layover, and although exhausted said - that was a great trip. We kept our expectations low (another tip! ;) and we were happily surprised how much we enjoyed it with our kids and encouraged us to keep traveling! My final thought on travel with minis is that, yes it is more challenging going with kids then without, BUT it's definitely better than not going at all! We love that it's beginning to create our family culture and a strong bond together. It doesn't need to be foreign, it could be camping down the street, just that time together away from your obligations and routine is so special. If you're having the urge, or you've got some wanderlust - just book it! Those experiences and memories can never be taken from you!
- Bugaboo Bee Stroller (Light weight, one piece, easy fold, turns on a dime) - We gate check this, it helps transport everything from children, to carry on bags around the airport.
Flight/ Carry-On Packing List:
- Ipads for the plane with head phones (although I think all international flights have TVs with kid entertainment). We try and limit iPad time on the trip, so they are really excited about it when they do get it on the flight, car ride, etc...
- Portable Chargers, Converter
- Wipes, Hand sanitizer
- Change of clothes, socks (2 outfits each, jammies/comfy clothes)
- Their blankets (if you don't have to do this, don't! Ha!)
- New coloring books, stickers, lego set, play doh (they get excited + more engaged over newness, plus just something different than normal so it's special for a trip).
Side Note: when my kids were between ages of 12 months to 24 months and shows didn't hold their attention yet, I use to bring those little pill boxes on a flight with the days of the week, and fill it with different things: grapes, fruit snacks, play doh, and they would play with it for 30 minutes, which is a long time for a 15 month old ;)
Travel Activity Ideas: