|While There: First and foremost, don't make the mistake of
underestimating your child by down playing museums, cathedrals,
etc. Casey's first cathedral--in Toledo--did not inspire him and all
he could think of was the ice cream stand outside. But--as time went
on, he actually asked to go in cathdrals and museums--amazing! In
most cases, we did not do the in-depth visit that we normally would
have done; however, there were a couple where he was as fascinated
as we were. At one point he compared one he saw with one we had
been in on a previous day. So--little minds have gigantic capabilities.
He can now tell you about mosaics and frescoes--what they are and
|What We Learned/Did:
Adapted our traveling style to his needs. This meant we saw less and needed to cut down on our
wanderings browsing and shopping times--consequently, saved lots of money when compared with other
trips--no sets of new kitchen dishes, artistic Venetian glass, etc. Guess he did us a favor!
Discovered that Spain and Italy have parks everywhere and that kids spot them all. These are child friendly
countries. Parks are along the road, in village centers, in the middle of busy urban city blocks. Many of them
have unique, creative swings, slides, teeter-totters, etc. They are fun. Always stop if even for just 3 pushes on
the swing. This does wonders in letting your child know that this is his vacation, too.
Stop for helado and gelado frequently--pretend it is for the child's pleasure. He had boards in both
countries memorized and taste-tested each and every variety of popsicle and many flavors of gelato--vanilla
and limone were his favorites.
|Kids are great ambassadors--don't be afraid to let your child be
outgoing and friendly--just watch him, making certain he is
appropriate and the situation is safe. It is a difficult road figuring
out how much inquisitiveness and natural interaction to
allow--where is the dividing line between teaching caution with
strangers and squelching wholesome gregariousness? We struggled
with that sometimes and, I must admit, we were reluctant to
discourage his outgoing personality. He made friends so easily and
became so comfortable in the foreign environment that we felt that
was the more important factor. We did watch and observe his
safety closely and monitored to be sure he wasn't intruding
inappropriately. He made friends with waiters, other
children--language barriers do not exist for children, shop keepers,
just about anyone he saw on a beach--actually, everyone, wherever
we went, knew Casey. Often his opening gambit was "What
language do you speak? I speak English--a lot." Or "My name is
Casey Ryan Parker--C-A-S-E-Y. What's yours?" Or "I'm from
San Diego. That's a long way away. Where are you from?" Advice:
Give your child freedom to explore people as well as things--and
find yourself benefiting from people's natural inclination to
respond to children.
| Don't worry about meal time. Children adjust to the
8:30-9:00 dinner hour quite easily--but when you get
back home, it seems to be difficult to return to a
"normal" time. Of course, the afternoon gelado or
pastry helps a lot. We would do that, return to the
apartment or hotel, relax, let him watch a DVD or TV
cartoon (they are so visual that language is irrelevant)
or just play, while we read, wrote postcards or caught
up on journals and downloaded the day's photos. We
usually were at the restaurant (if we weren't eating in)
around 8:45--and even then were often among the first
|there. We had thought the dinner time would be a problem--but "no problemo!" And--one of the real joys
was that I don't think there is a waiter in Italy or Spain that does not love children--if not, they sure put on a
good act. Of course, it does help if you have taught your child how to have "restaurant" behavior.
|Be sure to treat yourself to some nights out without your
child. Adult only conversation is a glorious treat after days
of togetherness with a five-year-old. Can't begin to tell you
how nice it is to eat with little feet not kicking you as the
legs swing. Baby sitters are expensive-very-but, you really
need to budget in the expense and then forget about it. We
paid 8-12 euro an hour which is a lot when the dollar is
weak. We were fortunate in that each of the three we used
was excellent--they played with Casey, gave good care and
followed our directions. Twice we had the sitter for several
hours during the day so that we could go out on our own.
That was good for us and for Casey as he was able to
escape a day of "interesting" things to see. One of his
classic comments was "Let's not do anything interesting
Negotiate with your child and things seem to go smoother since he/she has been a part of an agreement.
We had a deal with Casey--mornings were ours; afternoons were his. Frequently morning went until 3 pm
(15:00) but he was OK with that as long as he had some special time--and sometimes bribing him with
another gelado worked wonders.
Any restaurant is willing to prepare something simple for a child. Even in restaurants which were "fine"
cuisine, they had no problem in fixing simple pasta with butter or olive oil and garlic or tomato sauce for
Casey (those were his staples.) I will say that we saved the top restaurants for nights we had a babysitter.
Do McDonalds even if everything in you fights such a travesty.
Nothing satisfies a child like a Kid's meal with a treasured toy!
When the grumpies set in, mention gelado-helado--the transform-
ation is magical!
Understand a child's fascination with bidets. So what if the floor
Laugh a lot. Don't stress. Know that you can ruin your child's
trip and yours with anger, frustration, not allowing for the idiosyncrasies of a child and not adjusting your
travel expectations and style.
Keep a journal so that your child can read it when he gets older and as an adult. It will be meaningful.
This is really easy to do if you travel with computer. I often just record key words and places and fill in the
Buy "tacky" souvenirs for the dresser--plaster Leaning Towers, plastic gondolas, furry little black bulls in
Spain and lots of t-shirts.
Occasionally buy a new toy. Children love toy stores and ones in another country are fun--often they are
just a shelf or two in a small shop devoted to something else. It is fun to have something new and there is
mystic to it being from Italy or Spain (even though it is really from China.)
Do carriage rides and, if you see a little amusement park or traveling carnival, be sure to stop. Casey loved
his carriage ride in Seville and Antonio, the driver, even let him sit up with him and hold the reins. Casey
thought he was hot stuff.
When you return home, talk about what you did on a regular basis so that experiences imprint themselves
in your child's memories. Even almost 5 year olds will remember if you keep the memories alive with words
I hope you have found this section useful. The next page has suggestions that other travelers have shared
with me. If you have a neat idea, please e-mail me and it will be added to what I hope becomes a true travel
|Traveling With Casey