For me, planning out our sightseeing adventure at our next destination is the best part about travel planning, but can possibly be the most difficult part too. Every destination we have traveled to always has so many amazing things to see and do that it is impossible to fit everything in. So then, how do we pick and choose between all the many options? Keep reading to learn from some expert travel writers our 15 tips for sightseeing with kids.
Make Sightseeing an Adventure
Sarah at Dandelion Seeds says “make the journey part of your sightseeing adventure!” Getting there is part of the fun when you travel, right? Sarah advises us “to incorporate some memorable, fun, and unusual-for-you modes of transportation into your sightseeing activities. Preview the area you’re visiting online, including mapping distances, then decide who in your family can walk, light rail, bike, or tuk-tuk to whatever sights you’re prioritizing. If your kiddos are little, they might get a thrill from an open-air bus tour, and you’ll see places where you want to return and spend more time.”
Check for Free Stuff
Being that we are very budget conscious travelers, we try to participate in family-friendly, inexpensive activities that we all will enjoy. This often includes hiking and playgrounds, but can also be visiting museums and historical sites too. Having an ASTC membership has saved us tons of money and allowed us to visit some incredible museums across the country, for free! If you don’t have one of these ASTC memberships, but you enjoy visiting museums when you travel, I highly recommend getting one.
Prioritize Sightseeing Destinations
“When you’re traveling, you want to see and experience everything,” says Melissa at Disabled Disney. “This can end up wearing you out. So, we make a list of priorities that are important for us to experience. Everyone gets to pick one thing that they absolutely have to do. This way, everyone gets a say in how the vacation goes.” Melissa is the lead writer for Disabled Disney.
Be Prepared for the Location
Deb at World Wise Kid is a California-based environmental educator, polyglot and mother of two adventurous kids. “Being prepared,” is important says Deb. “We try to do background research as a family before getting to our destination to know about the history, culture, wildlife, language and people. A story helps the kids connect to sights. Maps are fantastic visuals.” Debs family travel blog www.worldwisekid.com inspires educational discussions around the globe.
“Be prepared in case you’re out longer than you plan,” says Regina at Full Time Field Trip. “For us, this means snacks and refillable water bottles. It might be extra diapers or cash for the next family. When you’re in the moment or the commute takes twice as long as planned, be prepared,” great advice Regina because you really just never know what might happen.
Take a Break
“Try to not be tempted to overachieve,” says Yamy at Gofamgo. “Enjoy and relax. Don’t drive yourself nuts as I did when we went to Walt Disney World for the first time. Have time for rest and cool spots. Otherwise, it will just feel like you are running from appointment to appointment.” Yamy says that “doing nothing should be in your itinerary. Take this time to re-hydrate, rest your aching feet from walking, or talk to your family and reflect on what you just saw and experienced.” We want sightseeing to be fun not exhausting.
Check Out Family Travel Blogs
What better way to get some sightseeing ideas than from other families that have been there, done that. Shannon at Grab My Passport shares “we’ll do a good old fashioned Google search for “things to do in [+ city]”. We’ll comb through family travel blogs for the best family-focused activities and tips, as well as “travel hacks” for traveling with younger kiddos.” Shannon Elizabeth is the creator and author behind the family travel blog, GrabMyPassport.com.
Get Your Sightseeing Plan Organized
“You have to be incredibly organized when planning your itinerary, especially when you are on a short trip, and you have a bunch of kids of different ages!” Kris at Gadsventure shares her recent experience in Tokyo. “We had to consider the weather, it was freezing cold. We were really there for snowboarding in the alps which made Tokyo around 5ºC during the day. Unfortunately, Tokyo Disney was not an option for us thanks to the cold weather. We didn’t fancy queuing for ages in a light Siberian breeze. But we made sure that every person had something that really appealed to them.”
Kris made sure that everyone got to do something they enjoyed. “Miss 5 got to go to a Hedgehog Cafe, Mr. 7 loved the robots at the Miraikan Museum and the giant Gundam Statue, while Mr. 9 especially loved all the gadgets at Akihabara Electric Town. Then there was Karaoke Kan, Segaworld VR, a Maid Cafe, Kiddyland Toystore, Takeshita Street, and so much more!” You can fit in plenty if you organize your sightseeing before you arrive at your destination.
Grab Some Coffee
Shannan at Captivating Compass shares her perfect sightseeing formula “Excitement = Museums X Coffee 2- That was our travel formula before we had teenagers. It was perfect for our little crew. It’s my number one sightseeing and activity planning tip.” She shares what works for best for her. “We’d take in a museum in the morning when we were fresh, stop for a spot of lunch near somewhere that had a place to let the kids get rid of some energy while the parents grabbed a coffee (double shot, of course). Then, it was onto the next exciting activity.”
Kids need to take some time to recharge too. Shannan says “we found that our kids regularly needed a time to just play- at a park, in the water, along a hiking path, or out in a grassy field. Museums are fantastic! Art, history, and science are all incredibly inspiring, but don’t forget to sprinkle in a bit of free play to let their little brains organize and process all that information.” She says that even with teenagers “we still follow this sightseeing and activity formula. It’s worked for so many years, it’s now a comforting routine for all of us.”
Being Flexible Is Important
“Traveling with young children means that you have to be creative in your strategy for sightseeing,” says Tiffany at Mommy And Me Travels. Being flexible, especially when you have kids, makes a vacation more enjoyable for all. “Traveling with a baby/toddler means a lot of unplanned activities and stops. It’s nice to sit and enjoy the scenery, smell the roses, or chase a bird ;). Welcome these breaks instead of worrying about staying on a schedule.” So true Tiffany, you can’t possibly plan for every stop or bathroom break when sightseeing with kids.
“Just pick your top three to five absolute must see sightseeing locations and let the rest fall into place,” Tiffany tells us. “You will not believe everything there is to discover when actually at your destination. Remember you are on a family vacation, and ensuring it is enjoyable for everyone will help to build the true memories that you and your kids will remember.” This is so true Tiffany.
Go Where the Locals Go
Annette at Tips From A Typical Mom says “I start by finding the website for the destination we are going to and seeing what the locals recommend.” Then you can “plan your itinerary around these activities starting with the most active activity, since the kids have been sitting in a car or airplane for so long,” recommends Annette. “We love to be outdoors so we look for a place with a lot of hiking, camping, swimming or historical sites to see.” We love these activities too Annette and find the locals always have great recommendations.
Take a Sightseeing Vote
“If you are looking to make the most out of sightseeing then what we do is make a list of all the things we want to do at a particular destination. Then we each vote on our favorites until we have a shortlist,” says Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders. “Then we either do all the things, if time allows, or we choose the top three or five attractions that got the most votes and do them. If you’re visiting a city like London, also take into consideration how close attractions are to each other and plan your route ahead of time.” Nikki writes a family travel blog over at www.yorkshirewonders.co.uk.
Kirsty is a British family travel blogger currently living in sunny Malaysia. She recommends “making sure that the children get plenty of time to run around, be wild and have fun.” She says that “traveling with babies, toddlers and young children means very slow travel for us. Sight-seeing is spread out and copious amounts of time are spent in play parks and soft plays around the world. We try to factor in outdoor activities every day, whether it’s beach time or a short hike.” Kristy’s family travel blog “World for a Girl” takes a unique look at traveling the world whilst uncovering women’s history and global feminist issues.
Avoid the Busy Times
Regina at Full Time Field Trip says you should “workaround the busy times.” By this she means “don’t plan to use public transportation during rush hour. Do take advantage of evening or extended hours for sights. Don’t visit at the busiest time of the year. Do go to things early at the opening time when you’re more apt to see the things most important to you. Always look for crowd calendar type apps and sites to stay informed.”
Divide and Conquer
Not all family members are created equal. So, sometimes splitting up might be the best way to get the most out of an experience. Regina at Full Time Field trip has some great advice on this point. “Break up into two groups. One parent with the older kids, the other with the younger kids. Or some other way to divide that suits your family. This works great at theme parks.” Doing this might mean covering more ground and experiencing things in a way that is best for the whole family.
Look for Deals
“We look for deals online from websites like Groupon. There is even sometimes a “City Pass” type of card that you can purchase for each family member that gets you into the most popular places. Take your time and I’m sure you can find some great deals to maximize your time spent at your destination,” shares Annette. Annette is a wife and mother to five kids. She writes the blog, Tips From A Typical mom, where she shares family friendly recipes, parenting tips, and product reviews.
Shannon at Grab My Passport also recommends looking for deals on sightseeing. She says “we’re always checking sites like Groupon or Living Social for deals in the local area. You can find everything on these sites, from discounted shows, activities, restaurants, hotels, and more!” Our family is always on the lookout for a great value. For me this translates to, are we getting a good amount of entertainment, education, or fun, for the price? By waiting until October to visit San Diego for instance, we were able to save a ton of money because kids go free the whole month. So instead of just being able to buy tickets to Legoland, we were able to visit several attractions.
Get the Most out of Sightseeing With these 15 Tips
We hope these tips help you get the most when you are sightseeing with kids. It can be a challenge to fit everything in. Just relax and enjoy your trip, if you don’t fit it all in, it’s a great excuse to return. Read the other articles in our vacation planning series: selecting a destination, finding accommodations, and saving on transportation. Please share your favorite sightseeing tips or destinations with us in the comments.