Five Tips for Taking Urban Vacations with Kids

When others head out of Houston to find refuge by mountains, waterfalls, and stuff like that, we like to head to some other bustling city. Nature is nice and all, but so are good restaurants and adventures on urban vacations.

Five Tips for Taking Urban Vacations with Kids | Houston Moms Blog

My husband and I spent many happy years enjoying city life before we had kids. So when we get a chance to travel, we still tend to lean towards urban vacations, even with young children. Granted, it’s not always easy keeping track of kids on buses and subways, but we have done enough of it to have a pretty good idea of what it takes to make our urban adventures enjoyable with young kids.

1) Bring a stroller. If the kids can still reasonably fit into one, you’ll be glad you did. At some point on our recent Vancouver trip, I found myself pushing my 9-year old in his little brother’s umbrella stroller through Stanley Park. Kids get tired. You’ll also need a place to stash water bottles, jackets and bags, especially if you do not have the luxury of dumping everything into a car. 

I like how the stroller keeps our unit together when we’re out, like a home-base of sorts. It can hold all the things and the kids automatically gather around it when we walk. I can say things like “keep your hand on the stroller” in order to make sure they’re glued to a spot if I need to turn away from them for a moment.

Five Tips for Taking Urban Vacations with Kids | Houston Moms Blog

2) Pick up physical maps of the city. Check your destination’s tourism website and contact them for a free city map. It can be weeks before it arrives so the sooner you request it, the better. I find it very helpful to look at an actual map to familiarize myself with a place. It’s also fun for the kids to locate where you are staying and map the places you plan to visit.

Use the functions on something like Google Maps and the local city’s transit apps to find walking times or public transportation options. On our recent trip to Seattle, we purchased everyone a CityPass for the best deals on some of the most popular sights. I used Google Maps to map out all the attractions on the pass so that I can see which ones are close enough to each other to do on the same day. The less travel in between destinations, the better. It worked out perfectly.

3) Stay where breakfast is served. This is a must for urban vacations. If you’re staying at a hotel, opt for one that serves breakfast. This is possibly one of the most important lessons I have learned traveling with kids. Nothing is as demoralizing as starting the day having to send your husband out to find breakfast in an unfamiliar place, order an exorbitantly expensive plate of eggs from room service, or hack together a breakfast from granola bars and the smooshed banana from your backpack.

We love staying at places like the Residence Inn by Marriott or the Hampton Inn and Suites not only because we need the extra space with three kids, but because the rate includes a hot breakfast with plenty of choices to please everyone. If you don’t have time to sit and eat, you’re allowed to make a “to-go” bag. Everyone is happy to start the day right, including me.

4) Find the playgrounds. In every city we have visited in recent years, we have used  maps or asked around to find the local playgrounds. It’s so fun to experience another city’s playgrounds while on urban vacations!

A couple of years ago in New York City my kids played with actress Lucy Liu’s little one in the Union Square playground. They didn’t know or care about their playmate’s famous mommy. I, however, kept trying to maneuver them to *juuust* the right place where I can take *juuust* the right photo. {We don’t come across a lot of famous folks in Houston, OK?} In Seattle, my kids played in the shadow of the Space Needle  where they climbed up a shockingly high rope structure and slid down these super long slides about a thousand times each. In Vancouver they swung from a kiddie zip line and chased Canada Geese at a playground by the Science World right next to the scenic harbor.

Five Tips for Taking Urban Vacations with Kids | Houston Moms Blog

5) Sit down and eat. You have to pace yourself with little kids, so try and eat at a sit-down restaurant for a late lunch. We typically start our day after the city’s morning rush hour is over so it means we don’t get hungry until after the lunch crowd has come and gone. {Note: Always pack snacks and water just in case.}

You’ll find emptier restaurants and less pressure to vacate your table quickly. The hour or more sitting comfortably gives everyone a little break to use the restroom, check the map and itinerary, and of course, try out some good eats. My youngest once fell asleep stretched out in a restaurant booth in Vancouver. The place was pretty empty so not only did we get to eat and rest, he got his nap in too. 

Bonus Tip: You MUST use packing cubes for any trip you take, urban vacations or otherwise. I absolutely insist. Check out this video review with Houston Mom Blog contributor Cindy T. and KHOU’s Tiffany Craig. These make packing easy, keeps your clothing/luggage/hotel room super organized, and makes repacking a breeze.

Now get those walking shoes and transit passes ready! The concrete jungles await.

Five Tips for Taking Urban Vacations with Kids | Houston Moms Blog

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