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Conquer the Concrete Jungle: How to Plan a City Break with Kids

Are you looking for an affordable and child-friendly holiday that is not another beach break or camping trip in the countryside? Why not take the kids on a city break? Don’t think for one minute that city breaks and children don’t go together! Exploring the world through its vibrant cities is as exciting an adventure for your kids as it is for you. From the cobblestoned streets of Bruges to the concrete jungle of New York – there is so much beauty and so many thrilling attractions to be seen, that your children will be buzzing with excitement. So, without further ado, here are our top tips to planning a city break with kids.

Is a City Break with Kids a Good Idea?

Yes, is the short answer! Not only are city breaks educational for children, teaching them about history, culture, and diversity amongst many other things, Europe is literally one big adventure playground, with tons of free and cheap things to do for kids of all ages.

In addition, when you go on a city break with kids, you are never far from public toilets, pharmacies, shops, cafés, and a range of transportation links, including a multitude of city centre car parks. So, if you are a single parent and worried about the kids throwing tantrums, feeling hungry every five minutes, or needing the toilet, a city break might be the answer.

Not keen on public transport? You could drive instead and if your kids are good on their feet, plan a walking free tour, complete with a fun trail full of clues. Most cities have trail maps for kids with riddles and fun sights to spot. If that gets too much, get on a a sightseeing tour by boat or  open top bus to give those tired feet a rest.

Best of all, many cities in Europe are only a short train or car journey away – or a short flight depending on where you live.café in Stockholm

How to Plan The Perfect Family Urban Escape

1. Choose Your City Wisely

When it comes to selecting the perfect city escape, you need to consider if you want to travel locally or internationally. If you have a strong preference regarding your mode of transport, then you already have your first answer. This will be very specific to your and your children’s needs and decide how far you can travel.

If you do want to stay in the UK for your first city break with kids, because driving is more convenient – no dragging the kids around airports or train stations, no luggage restrictions, etc., remember to book your accommodation as well as your car parking spot well in advance. Just because you are not going further afield, does not mean you don’t need to book ahead of time. Then there is the daily parking to consider. Whether you go with Hyde Park Parking in London or Piccadilly Parking in Manchester, these are things you won’t have to leave to chance.

If you want to stay in the UK, London, York, Bristol, and Bath should be top of your list of child-friendly city break destinations. If you are looking for fun cities in Europe to visit with kids, check out Copenhagen, Reykjavik, Stockholm, Berlin, Munich, and Paris. These cities offer a great range of things to do with children and are only a short distance away.Copenhagen, Denmark

2. Look for Affordable Accommodation

If money is tight and you want to keep costs down, consider affordable accommodation, leaving you more money to spend on outings. Entry tickets for attractions are often costly in large cities, so try to save on accommodation instead. Utilise online platforms to shop around and find the most favourable deals to suit your budget. Apps such as Airbnb offer comfortable, easily accessible, and homely rooms that offer a lot more space compared to hotel rooms at a lower price. Also consider compromising on location and booking directly rather than going through a platform that charges accommodation providers a hefty commission. There are some services now that allow you to barter with the homeowner for the price per night. As the saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

3. Decide When to Travel

Consider travelling off peak. This does not mean taking the kids out of school. More often than not, other countries have different school holidays and bank holidays, so it’s worth doing your research on your desired destination. Aside from that, city breaks with kids can be done over a weekend. Leave Friday afternoon, come back Sunday night or Monday morning, or even better – take advantage of a British bank holiday or school inset day.

Travelling off peak also has other benefits. Quieter cities will mean less queuing for attractions and more opportunities to be spontaneous and simply going with the flow. Removing the crowds also means removing a stress factor that single parents simply don’t need.London city break with kids

4. Find Free Things to Do

Sightseeing can be incredibly expensive. A single parent weekend away in London can cost a bomb if you visit all the classic sights and pay on the door. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Check what’s free in your chosen destination. Here are some ideas of free things to do on a city break with kids:

In the UK, all national museums are free, and that includes fabulous child-friendly places, such as the National History Museum and the Science Museum in London. Public parks, many with amazing adventure playgrounds, are another great place to visit entirely for free. Take the historic Vondelpark in Amsterdam which has an open-air theatre and one of the city’s best playgrounds, or the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna which boasts (fake) Roman ruins, a rose garden, and a botanic garden. You could also go for a guided tour of virtually any European city for free. Just google “free city walking tours” and meet your guide at the designated time and place. At the end, you have the option to leave a tip if you were happy. If you have teenagers, they will love visiting Berlin, where sights, such as the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, the Berlin Wall Memorial ,and the East Side Gallery are completely free.

Beware that some activities might have to be booked even if free. So, plan wisely, do a little research and book some fun activities for you to enjoy as a family ahead of your visit.boy reading city trail map

5. Pack Like a Pro

Packing efficiency is so important for single parents for reasons. After all, you will be doing the carrying both on your journey there and during the days you are walking the city. In addition, you will want to avoid luggage fees for such a short trip, so we have some tips for travelling with kids using hand luggage only:

  • Many kids’ suitcases double up as chairs for children to sit on and can be checked in as hand luggage saving you on luggage fees – a win-win.
  • When it comes to clothing and footwear, we would suggest that you plan everyone’s outfit to make sure you aren’t packing stuff you don’t need.
  • Pack only clothes that can be coordinated with more than one item or used for more than one purpose.
  • Fold your clothes efficiently to save space and wrinkles.
  • Avoid packing footwear. Wear it instead and if your only pair of trainers falls apart on your city break with kids, you can just buy a new pair.
  • Travelling with hand luggage means you are forced to save on liquids. That aside, check if your accommodation already provides the basics, such as soap, shower gel, or shampoo.

A good tip is that when booking accommodation, maybe consider going somewhere with a washing machine. This way, you can bring a small amount of clothes and don’t have to worry about the kids getting things dirty.single mum and child packing suitcase

Final Thoughts

Booking a city break with kids may seem like a bold move, especially as a single parent with only one pair of hands and one back to carry provisions, but with the right preparation, it can become one of your most fun and inspirational holidays you and the kids have ever taken.

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