How To Plan a Family Tour of Italy
PLANNING A FAMILY TRIP TO ITALY CAN BE DAUNTING.
Not only do you have to take care of things at home like school, running around, a career and organizing your families life and now you have to plan a family trip to Italy and make it go smoothly?
Its hard to imagine that most of us would be able to stay on top of everything at home AND plan a great family trip to Italy. Planning such a trip involves research, research and more research, because you may know some places well but there is no way to know all the important information about every nook and cranny you will be going.
Booking all the hotels, airfare, ground transportation, entrance tickets, airport transfers and sightseeing options everyone will like can seem like trying to take the family up Mt. Everest.
Using these tips can make planning your next family trip to Italy a breeze.
A FEW THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE PLANNING A FAMILY TOUR TO ITALY
1. Plan ahead
Giving yourself enough time to plan a family tour to Italy is very important. Why? Selection, location and availability. It is best to plan your trip to Italy at least 6-8 months in advance for the best options.
Selection – People who live in Europe are much closer to their vacation destination than those of us who live in The United States which means that they feel more comfortable booking things quickly when they find them and not waiting to talk it over with the family which you would do for a much longer and more involved trip. Because of this the selection of hotels, agriturismos, villas and other types of accommodations in Italy will be booked early in the season leaving less of a selection.
Location – You want to be within walking distance of the sites when you stay in a city and you want a lovely setting when staying outside the city. If you wait to begin planning; you will be offered more hotels outside the historic city centers, in the suburbs which will require taxi or public transportation to reach the sightseeing areas. Booking early gives you the best choice of location.
2. Study Up on which towns are best to visit with familes
WHAT TYPE OF CITY IS BEST FOR FAMILIES VACATIONING IN ITALY?
The one that has the most interesting and fun things to see and do. That may sound obvious but experts know that for example Tuscany has some very famous towns like Montepulciano; the medieval wine town. Well anyone over 21 who has ever had a glass of wine will want to make this a must do stop; but for kids this could be a trip to Boring Town.
Trying to drag your kids to another tasting room will be a drag for them and you; so you must think outside of the box and look at towns like Rimini on the sea with lovely white sand beaches and lots of fun family things to do or Venice which is a very interesting town visually but nearby is Gardaland which is Italy’s answer to the amusement park. This large amusement park is located near Lake Garda, not far from Venice and this always makes for a big surprise for the kids to be able to visit a “mouse” like park on their trip. If you have pre-teens who may be bored by even the most interesting town; places like Gardaland will give them a well needed break to enjoy something that may feel more like home away from home.
Think medium sized cities over countryside locations if your family is they on-the-go type. When planning your trip to Italy; make sure you focus on the Big 3; Venice, Florence and Rome for first timers and then medium sized cities as base locations so you have a decent selection of things to do with the kids.
If you go for the countryside town or villa; it will be wonderful for the adults but in the evening when there is nothing around to do; you will be forced to go somewhere to entertain the kids, so pick somewhere that is easy.
3. When is the best time to go to Italy with a family?
Many of us with children know that we must organize our lives and our vacations around our kids school or activities schedules. This means that many families must plan their trip to Italy during the summer’s hottest months or during short breaks like Christmas when they are out of school. This may not be the most ideal time to travel but because you must do it around your child’s life; doesn’t mean you have to lessen your choices.
August is typically the hottest month and this can be truly difficult trying to explore in extreme heat; so if you have some choice to travel earlier in the summer when the kids first get out of school; you can avoid the worst of the heat.
Typically spring and fall are the best times to plan a family tour of Italy because the crowds are lower and the weather is mild which means having to deal with grumpy, hot, tired kids less of a stress than it would be in the peak of the summer heat.
Northern Italy = Cooler
Southern Italy = Warmer
If you live in a mild climate and don’t like the heat then you would want to plan your trip to Italy to focus more on the Northern area of the country. The North tends to be cooler because of the series of mountains funneling cooled, snow covered air down through the North.
Southern Italy, such as Sicily are very far South and offer the hottest locations during the summer, but also offer many shoreline and beach locations so that may be a nice trade for the heat.
4. Figure out a spending budget
When you are planning your family trip to Italy most of us think about the obvious basics like hotel, sightseeing, how you are going to get around and eating out but one of the most difficult to nail down and one of the biggest is spending money; especially if you are traveling with children.
When we guide our escorted tours to Italy; we always notice one thing. Every passenger’s luggage grows! They show up with one suitcase and they depart with two; the extra one being filled with shopping, food items and knickknacks that are found along the way.
One of the things that really gets people off guard is the little knickknacks and shopping items that you find along the way when exploring a new town. The magnet that would look great on the refrigerator, the lace napkin set or the Murano stained glassware that you think would look so great on your living room shelf. Or how about the bottle of wine that you find at the little shop in Montepulciano or the handmade piece of pottery you just can’t say no to? These things will tempt you and blow your budget out of the water.
If you’re one of the types that doesn’t necessarily need to travel on a budget, then you’ll want to definitely think about space.
One strategy is to bring only one suitcase and during your trip and buy one from one of the many suitcase vendors you’ll find in Venice, Florence, Rome and even smaller towns, usually located around the train station. There you can find a suitcase that will get your belongings and purchases home for about 15 euro.
When you sit down and start working on your overall trip budget make sure to put in more than you think on the shopping and spending lines.
5. Italy Loves Kids
Italians love children!
Everybody knows Italians are all about family, no matter whether it’s Italians from Italy or Italians from New York. Family is number one. When you bring your children to Italy everyone is going to love them. Kids are welcome in restaurants, public spaces, public transportation and more.
Unlike many restaurants in America where small children can sometimes be unwanted, Italy will open their arms to you and your family, even in the finest restaurants.
As a matter of fact, you will probably find local restaurants with more children in them than you are used to. Family life in Italy evolves around food, and families from the big cities to the small towns bring everyone out to the local restaurants, plazas and squares each day.
When going out and about during your trip don’t feel bad about bringing the kids into shops, museums, restaurants and bars* (*“Bars” are coffee bars in Italy.)
6. Know Your Distances
We all know it’s like to be in the car too long when the kids are tired.
When you plan your family trip to Italy make sure you understand the distances involved between the cities and locations that you want to visit. It will be very frustrating to your family if you plan to go between point A and point B and you didn’t estimate how long would take, and then next thing you know you’re stuck on a train for 5 hours and everybody’s wiped out.
Traveling by train is a good idea because you don’t have to worry about parking or navigating around small towns. Italy’s train network is extensive between the major towns like Venice, Florence and Rome and also the smaller towns like Sienna or Perugia. Travel times by train can be reasonable. For example, between Florence and Rome is 3 hours. When you plan your longer distances make sure you give your family light travel days so they can enjoy the trip and not feel rushed or wiped out.
7. Prepare for local food choices
Do you have a finicky eater in your family? A toddler or teen who may not like tomatoes, olive oil or some other interesting spices? How about a child who only likes to eat one thing, like chicken nuggets? Well one thing that families traveling to Italy typically find is a very limited number of food choices when going out compared to restaurants in America. Menus in Italy are straightforward but mostly contain much of the same type of items. Pastas, salads, meets, desserts.
You won’t find your Panera Bread or you’re healthy wrap shop, you actually will not even find many of the fast food places that you are accustomed to. If you think you’re going to have a problem with your child not wanting to eat much of what’s available, we suggest acclimating your child to the types of flavors they might experience when they travel to Italy.
Slowly introduce your children to flavors like tomatoes, tomato sauce, olive oil and vinegar on bread, oil and vinegar as salad dressing as there’s no such thing as ranch, 1000 island or any of the other flavors that we are all used to. Have your children try artichokes or different types of pasta that they are not used to so that when you are faced with a typical Italian restaurant menu they will not be surprised.
Have fun getting ready for your big trip by fixing different Italian dishes that you might find at the places you will be traveling. Also get ready for a lot of seafood, because of there are so many beautiful coastlines in Italy you will find a wide selection of seafood. If your kids aren’t seafood eaters you may want to start introducing them to something simple like breaded fish cutlets, clams or muscles which will be found almost everywhere in Italy.
By introducing your family to flavors that they might not be used to before they travel will give them the opportunity to broaden their horizons and try something new during their trip instead of having to fight scrunchie no-no face of children that do not want to eat something.
When planning your trip to Italy make sure to take your time planning and making sure you know where you want to go and what you want to see. Start by Creating your own trip online.