City Breaks – top tips from a realist parent

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This blog is all about city breaks which, to quote a certain bespectacled boar, I’m a bit of an expert at (even if I do say so myself).

Accommodation

Location

  • The more central the better. Failing that, think quiet residential with good transport links. Contrary to popular thinking, two rooms in a quiet residential area is better than a single room in the centre – because sleep
  • The proximity of your accommodation to the centre can impact on the dynamic of the holiday. For example, you may be more likely to stay out into the evening, and/or dine out for dinner, if you stay further out

Room type and size

  • Two beds minimum, preferably two separate rooms – because sleep
  • Hotel or airbnb – it’s personal choice, but be thorough when researching airbnb; reviews only give so much of the picture.  Whilst airbnbs aren’t necessarily cheaper per night, you do get more bang for your buck (but no cleaner)

Parking and transportation

  • Easy access to the main tourist draws is crucial. City breaks aren’t especially car friendly so parking should be free/cheap – else you may as well roll up those twenties and smoke them

Some random booking tips

  • Check hotwire, travelzoo, tripadvisor, groupon etc etc and use the filters on booking websites to narrow down your searches. Google Map searches will occasionally bring up a broader range of accommodation but it doesn’t have any of the functionality of booking websites
  • Use incognito mode
  • Research major events in the locale first
  • Check hotels around convention centers.  Yes, I know.  Wilshire Beverly Hills on Rodeo Drive or a Holiday Inn by the convention centre. What’s your dream? Painful as it is to accept, these hotels are more likely to offer free/cheap parking and breakfast, a reliable standard of quality and are usually close to excellent transport links
  • Speaking of breakfast, no matter where you stay, try to have it in-house (and keep it cheap)
  • Local Mom bloggers know where, when and how to get discounts, which activities are best for certain age groups, how to get from A to B with a big stroller. Yadda yadda
  • City breaks can be pretty crappy in bad weather, pick your month of travel wisely

Getting around – public transport and strollers/carriers

  • If it’s a big city, it’ll have a good public transport network. Get this, readers: there are people in this world who don’t own cars.  Like, people who aren’t even that poor, who choose not to own a car.  Insane. In the membrane
  • The public transport feature on Google Maps is pretty useful, it’ll map your route, provide bus/train details and directions to the nearest stop.  If you don’t have a phone with data, then get thee to tourist information.  It’ll be a hassle and will require planning
  • Most bus drivers insist on correct change. Others will literally want to stab you in the head if you try to buy a ticket with a $20
  • Public transport can be pretty skanktastic. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry
  • As someone who didn’t learn to drive until she was 36, let me fill you in on a fun fact on public transport: the nicest people in the world use it. Obviously I include myself in that haha. For some odd reason, there are more nice people on buses than on trains.  Strange but true
  • Use buses over the subway purely because of sightseeing, Uber and taxis are a good shout but more expensive
  • Strollers are a bitch on public transport: buses often make you collapse them, not all train stations have elevators. As for rush hour with a stroller. It’s hell
  • Generally, you’ll walk between 5 – 9 miles per day on a city break depending on how active you are, so getting the stroller right is crucial.  Don’t expect your kids to do what you want, though – it’ll be the barely mobile 18 month old who wants to ‘walk’ and the 4 year old who wants to be pushed around like Lady Muck
  • My ideal stroller is a lightweight in-line double umbrella-fold stroller.  That’s a long list of adjectives – are they in the right order? Who knows
    • Lightweight – you’ll need to carry it up and down stairs. Fact
    • In-line – because small doorways. Restaurants in particular do not have double doors
    • Double – for obvious reasons
    • Umbrella-fold – these are generally lighter and easier to carry
  • Cobblestones fuck you up
  • I don’t see the point in taking a baby carrier if you have a double stroller, but if you’re going to take one, make sure it has a choice of different carry positions (see daily mileage estimates above)

Things to do

  • Here’s a novel idea: do things that everybody enjoys, all day, every day.  If you hate children’s museums and your kids hate galleries, don’t do them, find something else to do. Cities are great places for variety and diversity
  • Whilst you’re at it, always try to do stuff you can’t do anywhere else
  • Be outside as much as you can, weather permitting
  • Take a form of transportation you don’t normally use ie subway or boat
  • Pick museums etc based on cost and queue times
  • Check for disability access. Always
  • Hop on hop off buses come into their own with kids
  • A couple of activities a day will probably suffice
  • Children can find fun in literally nothing. They can also find frustration in literally nothing too. Best laid plans. Go with the flow and don’t get het up
  • Go full tilt with your tipple of choice as soon as the kids nap and whilst you have the opportunity.  Do NOT wait to find the perfect spot, you don’t know how long you’ve got.

Eating out

  • For lunch, think bakeries or picnics.  Places that like to call it brunch instead of lunch are normally obstreperous enough to drown out a complaining toddler  
  • For dinner, go on local forums to search for kid friendly restaurants and take note of restaurants that you happen to pass by. Eat shit fast food as necessary 

What to pack

  • AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE.  They have shops!  
  • For each day out, pack as if you were going to the local park – nappies, wipes, a drink, a couple of snacks.  That’ll do.  Band aids

A note on safety

  • It’s worth finding out from your hotel where the no-go areas are, especially in the US.  Unsavoury areas can often be found in surprisingly central locations

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11 thoughts on “City Breaks – top tips from a realist parent

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