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September 2016

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The idea was conceived last October on a flight from Rome to Los Angeles.  My wife, Lisa, and I were discussing what to get our kids for the upcoming Christmas, when it suddenly occurred to us to give them the gift of travel.  Instead of giving them material gifts, we would give them the travel experience of a lifetime.

Over the next 8 months, we planned an epic tour of Italy. The trip began in Rome with additional stays in Florence, Monterosso Al Mare, Naples and Salerno.  We used these locations as a base camp for additional day trips to Venice, Vernazza, Manorolla, Sorrento, Positano and Pompeii.

As it turns out, most Italian hotel rooms are designed for a maximum of 4 occupants.  Finding rooms  for a family of 5 was quite difficult.  Our goal was to find suites or apartments that could accommodate all 5 of us.  We didn’t want to separate into 2 rooms if possible. The difficulty of our search was compounded by the fact that all 3 of our kids are teenagers.  Our 2 boys are both 6 feet tall, so the use of rollaway beds was out of the question.

With a lot of research and planning, we were finally able to find accommodations that met our goals.  Following are the 5 hotels that we visited during our tour of Italy:

  • Trevi Rome Suites, Rome: (www.TreviRomeSuite.com)

The Trevi Rome Suites are situated about 200 yards (meters) south of the world famous Trevi Fountain on Via De Luccesi.  It is centrally located within close proximity to many of Rome’s historic attractions.  It is a 10-minute walk to the Spanish steps and the Pantheon.  The Colosseum  is only about 1 mile away.  There are a few other locations, such as the  Vatican or train station that will require a taxi.  However, it is possible to walk to those locations like we did, if you are fit and adventurous.

The hotel sits on the third third floor in one of Rome’s many historic buildings.  We stayed in the hotel’s apartment which easily accommodated our family of 5.  The Family Apartment is basically one large room with pony walls separating the various sleeping areas.  The sleeping accommodations consisted of 1 king bed, 2 queen beds, and a sofa bed. The apartment only has 1 bathroom, but it is large and has two showers.

One of our favorite things about the hotel was the room service.  For no additional fee, they allowed each guest to order 5 things from the menu.  For our family, that consisted of a whopping 25 items.  Our breakfast table usually consisted of bacon, eggs, croissants, fruit, smoothies and cappuccino. Our boys usually ordered cheese cake as well.  Be sure to make your room service reservation early the night before.  They are only equipped to prepare one breakfast every 15 minutes, so it’s important to reserve your time early.

The Trevi Rome Suites was one of our favorite hotels of the trip.  The room was spacious and clean.  The bathroom was huge and the staff was extremely nice.   It has a wonderful courtyard that is complete with trees and sculptures.  It is a nice place to enjoy a glass of wine or proseco, which can be purchased at the front desk for about 6 euros per bottle.  The amazing pictures they provide on their website are exactly what you get.   It was the perfect option for our family of 5.

  • Tourist House Ricci, Florence: (www.TouristHouseRicci.com)

We stayed in the Tourist House Ricci Apartments, which are in a different location than the hotel.  The apartments are located about 200 yards (meters) south of Piazza Del Duomo, which is in the heart of Florence’s historic district.  Nearby landmarks include the Ponte Vecchio and Galleria dell’Academia, which are within a 10-minute walk.

The apartment is located on the 3rd floor of a building that also includes permanent residents.  Be prepared to use the stairs, because the elevator is only big enough to accommodate one passenger at a time.  The apartment opens up into a large living room that is complete with a dining room table and futon.  The futon converts into a small bed that sleeps 1 person.  There are also two large bedrooms.  Each of them is furnished with a queen bed, which will accommodate 4 more occupants.  If you plan on cooking, the apartment includes a small kitchen that is complete with a stove, oven and refrigerator.

On the advice of the management, we booked the apartment directly with them instead of through a third party such as Expedia or Booking.com.  They told us that it would guarantee that our room wouldn’t be overbooked and given to someone else.  They sent us pictures, which showed a luxury apartment that included a balcony.  We were excited and made plans to take a family picture on the balcony.

When we arrived, the manager took us to our apartment.  Much to our surprise, it looked nothing like the pictures that were emailed to us.  While the furnishings were adequate, they certainly were not what we had been promised.  Instead of a balcony, we had a view of an alley that was covered in graffiti.  We questioned the manager immediately about the apartments appearance and lack of balcony.  His response was “I don’t know.”  We later found out that the pictures were of Apartment 1, which was given to someone else.  We were given Apartment 2, which seemed to be the leftover apartment that was thrown together.

Unfortunately, things only got worse from there.  The next morning, we found out that there was no hot water and we were only given 4 towels for a family of 5.  We also discovered that we only had 1 roll of toilet paper.  We ended up going to the store to purchase more supplies.  Keep in mind that this was an apartment, so the rooms aren’t cleaned daily like a hotel room.

We were disappointed that we didn’t get the room we expected, especially when it was reserved 4 months in advance.  We have sent several emails to the management since we left to find out why our room was given away.  It is now 8 weeks later and we have still not received a reply.

Until this hotel makes drastic changes to their customer service, we cannot recommend staying at the Tourist House Richie Apartments.

  • Bellambra 5 Terre Apartments, Monterroso Al Mare:  (www.Bellambra5Terre.com)

The Bellambra Apartments are located about a half mile (800 meters) east of the train station in the old town section of Monterroso al Mare.  If you arrive with lots of luggage, we suggest that you take a cab.  However, the walk is not difficult. Some of the best shopping and restaurants in town are right outside your door.  It is also a short walk to the beach and the foot path Monterosso.

The apartment we stayed in was located on the second floor of a building that was constructed in the 15th century.  It had been completely modernized with the exception of the ceiling, which was left natural, for aesthetic purposes.  The sleeping arrangements consisted one king bed, a bunk bed and a separate room with 2 twin beds.  The living room had a sofa bed that could sleep two more guests.  The apartment easily accommodated our family of 5.  The living room was furnished with 2 large couches and a large flat screen TV. The apartment also included a large kitchen with professional fixtures for those who like to cook.

The owner, Hedda, met us when we arrived and gave us a tour of the apartment.  She sat down with us and marked the location of her favorite restaurants on a map.  She also gave us up-to-date information about the Cinque Terre hiking trails.

Our only disappointment about the apartment was that we only got to stay for 2 nights.  Next time, we hope to stay for a week.

  • Municipio Prestige Apartments, Naples: (www.MunicipioPrestige.it)

We stayed at the Municipio Prestige Apartment for only one night.  We used this location as a starting point for a tour of the Amalfi Coast.   The apartment is adjacent to the Port of Napoli and is one block north of the Castel Nuovo (new castle).  It is very hard to find, due to the fact that the building is unmarked.  The door to the hotel is situated between a snack bar and a currency exchange and is not marked with any signage.

The hotel management arranged for a shuttle to pick us up at the train station and take us to their location.  Unfortunately, they didn’t give the driver the correct address and he didn’t speak any English, so we were dropped off at the wrong address.  After wandering the city for an hour and a dozen calls to the apartment manager (who spoke very little English), we finally arrived at our destination.

We stayed in the hotel’s master suite, which was quite spacious.  It was decorated with modern furniture and was very clean.  The sleeping arrangements consisted of a master bedroom with king bed and the living room included a twin sofa bed and a queen sofa bed.   It included a hot tub and sauna.  There was also a small kitchen complete with stove, refrigerator and cappuccino machine.

Municipio  Prestige was visually impressive, but there was only one problem:  No hot water!  It’s nice to stay in a luxury suite, but having to start your day with a cold shower is difficult.  The Wi-Fi is horrible, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, but we were trying to confirm airline information due to a strike, so it was imperative at this time for us.

If you decide to stay at these apartments, be sure to get a guarantee from the management that hot water will be provided.  Also, make sure to get a shuttle that takes you directly to the hotel, so you don’t have to wander the City searching for it.  Naples wasn’t the most comfortably safe place to be walking around in.

  • Plaza Hotel, Salerno: (www.PlazaSalerno.it)

The Plaza Hotel is located at the east end of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which is the city’s main shopping area.  It is conveniently located about 100 yards south of the train station, which makes it an ideal location when travelling with lots of luggage.

Salerno was the only city where we were unable to secure a suite or apartment.  Instead, the Plaza Hotel was able to provide 2 rooms that were connected by a common door.  We were able to get one room with a double bed and one room with 3 twin beds, which comfortably accommodated our family.  Each of the rooms had a separate bathroom with a shower which had plenty of towels and hot water.  They also had a stocked mini refrigerator with affordable drinks.  The rooms were perfectly adequate for our needs at the time.  The furniture and decorations were dated, but the room was very clean and the beds were very comfortable.

The hotel provided a continental breakfast which was available from 6am to 10am every morning.  It was stocked with fresh pastries, cereal and fruit.  American style coffee was also provided as well as a good selection of fruit juices.  It was very convenient to grab a quick bite to eat before we headed out for a day of sight-seeing.

If your main priority is a clean room with comfortable beds, then the Plaza Hotel will work for you.  It certainly isn’t a luxury hotel, but it filled our family’s needs at the time.  We would definitely stay there again.

We hope that these reviews will help you plan an Italian adventure for your family.  Keep in mind that all of the opinions in this article are our own.  Unfortunately, none of the hotels listed compensated us in any way for our reviews.

Ciao!

Robert Kelsoe

Cruising with kids can be an amazing family experience, but it can also be an absolute nightmare. A moody teenager or an uncooperative infant can be hard to handle; but if the person that’s stressed is you, then everybody is affected!

 

Tips for Cruising with Kids for the First Time

Tips for Cruising with Kids for the First Time

 

Don’t let the fire-breathing stress dragon inside of you come out to play, follow these simple tips and you’ll be ready for a great vacation!

Make Cruise Planning a Family Activity

A great way to build excitement for a cruise is by letting your kids have a say in how it goes. Show them brochures, pictures, activity lists, destination photos, the lot! Once they’ve picked which destinations and activities they like best you can begin compromising to work the trip around everyone else’s desires.

Let go of your Precious Schedules

Yes, that’s right. I’m telling you to forget about the bedtime routines that you’ve worked so hard to get your kids into. Work bedtimes around the activities that you plan on attending, not the other way around. Don’t make your kids miss out on a great excursion because it cuts into nap time and don’t force your teenager to get out of bed early just for the sake of it. This way everybody is doing what they prefer, creating a much ‘cruisier’ trip.

Research as Much as You Can

Some cruises aren’t child-friendly. Typically these are the ones at the very high-end of the market. Some don’t have enough babysitting hours, some require a certain age, some have limited activity options for kids. To get the best out of this experience you’ll need to cater for your family’s needs and be prepared for these things. Carnival Cruises is a family friendly cruise line that has a great water park that kids will love. P&O Cruises is another cruise line that has a range of wide range of activities appropriate for children, with cruise prices also affordable for most family budgets. The last thing you want is for your super excited child to be restricted from doing any of the things that they’ve been looking forward to. We all know what happens when a little one doesn’t get what they want!

Pack Accordingly

Okay, okay, this should go without saying. Depending on their age you may need to pack nappies, food, formula, or floaties. But you already know this, it’s all part and parcel of the parenting gig, right? What you might not know is that these items should be packed with your day gear. Sometimes baggage can take a while to be delivered, so be sure to pack everything you need for your first day.

Enrol your Children for the Kids Club ASAP

Get your kids enrolled into the Kids Club as soon as possible—not just so that you can run off and grab a piña colada any sooner, but to ensure that they find friends before social circles are already made. It’s not easy to make new friends when people have already settled into their cliques—not even for a 6-year-old!

Consider Night Lighting

Waking up at midnight in a bed that isn’t your own can be scary for anybody, especially for your kids! On the odd chance that someone needs to go for a toilet run at some point through the night, you should be prepared by keeping a dim light on somewhere in the room. Teddies that light up when squeezed, digital watches, and even mobile phone apps can be a great portable alternative for a night light.

Arrive a Day Early

Being uncertain about if you’ll make it to the cruise on time is a great way to send stress levels through the roof. It certainly doesn’t help that kids seem to need the toilet more frequently the later you become! Thankfully, all of this stress can be easily avoided by arriving at your destination a day early.

Be Aware of Your Room’s Facilities

Your cabin’s bathroom is unlikely to have a bath, so if your child is still quite young this could be a problem. You could use folded towels for a soft bathing area, but then you may also need to organise more towels. Also, check if a refrigerator is a part of your room’s facilities—it might not be wise to carry milk or juice on board.

Check Cruise Message Boards

Becoming acquainted with other families prior to departure can make keeping your children occupied a much easier task, but it’s not all about them, is it? You’re likely to make some great friendships too, so get onto an online cruise forum and start a thread (or find a relevant one) to organise a meet-up with your future bestie!

Give Your Kid a Camera

There’s something truly joyful about a child’s point of view. Giving your kid a cheap camera will not only provide you with great memories, but it’s also an awesome way to see the world through your kid’s eyes. There’s bound to be tonnes of amusing snaps to look back on, and it will certainly keep him or her busy!

Discuss Safety

Cruise lines are required to be safe for the general public, but they can’t save your child from falling overboard if they choose to climb the rails. These cruise ships are usually massive, so it could be wise to also discuss rendezvous times, places, etc.

Talk to a Cruise Expert

Although you might think you have it all down, it’s best to consult a cruise agency about your trip. They know every detail of each cruise on offer, so they can be sure to suit your needs accordingly. With free consultations and possibly access to discounted offers, be sure to see one!

Consider Motion Sickness

Don’t come unprepared for a little motion sickness. You’re going to be at sea for a long time, so discuss which medication you should bring with your GP before arrival. If you can, book a cabin closer to the middle of the ship as it moves less.

Check Minimum Age Requirements

While some cruise lines accept children of any age, others only allow kids that are 12 years or older. Getting on board isn’t the only thing you need to check when it comes to minimum age requirements, though; there might not be many programs or on-shore activities available for your child’s age group, so you need to be mindful of this too… Well, you don’t need to be, but it’s certainly a great way to keep the dreaded words of “I’m bored” at bay. I think that’s a pretty big priority.

Take Advantage of the Babysitting Options

Let’s be honest here, you want a fun family experience, but you also want to get away from the kids for a while. Whether it’s group or private in-cabin babysitting, there are usually plenty of options available for you to make use of.

Keep Your Kids in the Loop

If you’ve planned the trip together, then your kids will already have an understanding of what’s happening. Regardless, go through your day’s game plan every morning and talk about any trip changes you’d like to make. If they’re a bit older you could even just leave notes to each other as you pass in and out of the cabin.

There we have it, your 16 tips to make cruising with kids for the first time as relaxing as possible. Follow these tips and you’re bound to have a great time. Enjoy your vacation!

Travelling with children is always an adventure. It can be especially challenging if you decide to go on a road trip, and have to spend a lot of time in the car. Children are restless, curious and require constant attention, so you have to know how to provide them with a 24-hour entertainment. Various gadgets and games including tablets, cameras, and smartphones can be a great way to amuse them. However, they’ll often ask for parent’s attention, and want them to answer numerous questions about nature, geography, or a certain landmark; so prepare to be a living encyclopaedia as well.

 

Tips for Mastering a UK Family Road Trip With Young Kids

Tips for Mastering a UK Family Road Trip With Young Kids

Sing Along

If you’re a fan of group activities, engage in some with your kids during the trip. The little ones love to sing, listen to silly jokes, and enjoy storytelling.  Therefore, if you’ve stated the road trip in the evening, and you are going to travel all night, start the ride by telling the kids an interesting story. Not only will this make them sit still, but it will also put them to sleep and provide you with some quiet time with your spouse.

 

Tips for Mastering a UK Family Road Trip With Young Kids

Tips for Mastering a UK Family Road Trip With Young Kids

Bring Toys and Games

It’s essential that you pack numerous age appropriate toys and games when you set out to a road trip. This kind of entertainment will keep them tranquil for some time, and help you enjoy the ride. The time will go by much faster if the children are not constantly babbling, or picking on each other. Picture books, sticker books, and colouring books, will keep the children entertained and help them express their creativity.

Modern day Entertainment

Modern age brings various advantages, and cell phones, tablets and laptops, are just some of the fantastic devices we’re forever grateful for. These electronics can be the best amusement for the children if they’ve gotten tired of colouring and listening to the stories. If your transportation vehicle has a portable movie player, a road trip will be much more fun once you play your kids their favourite cartoon or show. For those who lack a player, tablets, and smartphones are the best alternative, because you can load numerous shows, cartoons and movies on them. Add a set of headphones for the little ones, and you can enjoy the quiet ride. Most importantly, don’t forget to fully charge the gadgets before the trip, so that kids can enjoy the show without worrying about the battery.

 

UK Family Road Trip With Young Kids

UK Family Road Trip With Young Kids

Educational Fun

A road trip should not only be adventurous, but educational as well. Every time you travel with your kids, try to teach them different things. Bring a map of UK with you, and have the passenger tell them which way you’re going. Teach them how to read a map, and know how to orientate in space. Children’s geography books are filled with interesting and useful information your kids will enjoy learning about.

Once you’re in nature, and decide to have a break from the ride, go on a little expedition. Take your kids to see different plants, trees and birds, if you get the chance to come across any sceneries like that. You will not have to deal with the infamous, “Are we there yet?” sentence, and you will be able to teach your children many valuable lesions.

Get Active

Since travelling by car or a minivan allows you to bring almost anything you think is necessary, without worrying about weight limitations, it would be a great idea to bring along a scooter, a bike, or a skateboard. Children like to be active, especially if they have a large space where they can run, ride a bike or a scooter. Therefore, when you decide to stretch your legs, find an appropriate location where they can run, play with the ball or ride a bike. What’s more, a road trip can be a great opportunity for camping as well. If you don’t want to spend the night travelling, find a suitable location where you can set up a tent, light a campfire, and enjoy the night spent in nature. This will be a unique experience for the children, because they like to explore different places and they’ll definitely find many interesting things to do before they go to sleep.

 

Family Road Trip With Young Kids in UK

Family Road Trip With Young Kids in UK

Visit Sherwood Forests

One of the advantages of the road trip is that you can decide at any moment where you want to go next. Nottingham would be one of the exciting places to visit during your trip. This city would especially be interesting for the kids, because of all the gorgeous sights they would enjoy seeing. Take them to the home of one of their favourite cartoon characters – Robin Hood – and show them the wonders of Sherwood Forest. You could also find an accommodation here and stay for a day or two and enjoy all of it’s wonders. If you’re travelling on a budget look for flatmates that will be more than happy to provide you with a nice accommodation. You don’t have to spend a fortune on the hotel if you can find a great flatmate.

Stop by London

If London is one of your stops, make sure you take your kids to the Harry Potter walking tour. Provide them with an unforgettable, spectacular world of wizardry and make them feel as if they’re one of the wizards themselves. Diagon Alley, the Leaky Cauldron, Platform 9¾ are just some of the famous locations you can visit, and the children will be absolutely amazed.

The History of Castles

Furthermore, tell the children all you know about famous castles in the UK, such as Warwick Castle, the Tower of London, and Windsor Castle, and try to include them in your road trip to visit some castles in Ireland. Learn something about their history, and entertain the children with the introductory story before you get to the desired destination. They’ll certainly be excited and astonished once they see how beautiful and big the castles are.

 

Family Road Trip With Young Kids

Family Road Trip With Young Kids

Final Thoughts

Going on a road trip with your children can be frustrating and exhausting but also thrilling and fulfilling. Nevertheless, spending time with your kids is essential for their development, so you should try to travel together as much as possible. Therefore, plan a fabulous road trip, have these suggestions in mind and enjoy one of the best adventures of your life.

Merken

Merken

Perhaps you did a lot of camping when you were younger or before you had kids and enjoyed it, however since becoming a parent you have had a hard time getting motivated to take your kids camping. It is easy to feel overwhelmed at the idea of setting up and maintaining camp with kids in tow. Camping takes work and energy and can feel daunting for parents of young children. There are a number of benefits to taking your kids camping and these make the effort well worth it.

Reason #1: Your kids will be active during a camping trip

When camping, there is no laying around in front of the television or sitting in front of a computer screen. Even the most sedentary of kids will have to be somewhat active while on a camping trip. There is a walk to the bathroom, a walk to the sink to wash dishes, a walk to get water. Kids will help set up the campsite which will keep them moving as well. They may make friends at the campground which will keep them even more active.And of course while you are camping you have likely planned activities away from the campsite like hiking, bike riding and swimming.


Reason #2: Your kids will experience new things

Each camping trip offers the opportunity to introduce your kids to new experiences. From sleeping outdoors in a tent, to cooking on a camp stove and building a fire, kids will have experiences camping that they likely would not have at home. You may eat different foods when camping and have the chance to explore different surroundings.


Reason #3: Your kids will develop new skills from camping

There are all sorts of skills that kids can learn from their camping trips, from basic survival skills and beyond. When they are younger they can start with helping you set up the tent and arrange all of the bedding. As they get older, children can learn how to start a campfire or cook on a camp stove. With experience, they can learn to do these things on their own. Sit with your kids and review tips for camping and then work with them on different skills as they get older.


Reason #4: Camping helps kids overcome fears and build confidence

Camping offers the opportunity to overcome a fear of the dark, among others. Also, as your kids develop and master new skills, their confidence will grow. This will benefit them in all areas of their life.

Reason #5: Kids will be away from the screens

It seems like there is always something new to watch or play on a screen, from video games to the latest series available on Netflix. As a parent, it can be easy to quit the battle to limit screen time. Typically when camping you will find that you have no internet access and often no phone service.Should you have internet and phone access where you are camping, make a no-screens rule. Your kids will likely complain initially but they will eventually stop asking. And without the option for nonstop entertainment you will find it is easier to engage them in the outdoor activities.

Reason #6: Camping helps develop imagination

Time outdoors is a great opportunity for kids to use their imagination. When not distracted by television and video games, kids will come up with all sorts of neat ideas. Large rocks and tree stumps become forts or play houses; sticks become swords, etc. You will enjoy a creative side to your children that may be unexpected.

Reason #7: Camping will help your children develop a love of the outdoors and respect nature

Without the experience of spending time outdoors, it will be hard for your kids to appreciate it. Camping with your kids will give you the opportunity to introduce them to the outdoors and show them all of its wonders. As their appreciation grows, they will become even more receptive to your efforts to encourage them to respect nature; from not littering, to scooping dog poop.

Reason #8: Build lifetime family memories

The experiences your kids have on these camping trips will be in their memory (and yours) for years to come. They will be sharing these stories when they are adults and as a family you will reminisce over these adventures. You don’t have to do anything special; just the act of being together in the outdoors will be memorable enough.


Reason #9: Your kids will see cool things and you will get to share the experience

When spending a few days outdoors you are bound to come across some really cool things. From unique and interesting bugs to rivers and lakes and mountain peaks, to gorgeous sunsets, your kids will surely experience new things and you will have the opportunity to experience these things with them.

Reason #10: Your kids learn exactly how little is needed to live well

Nowadays many of us have good sized houses filled with stuff. Kids may think this is all necessary to survive. Camping shows them exactly how little one actually needs not just to survive but to live an active and fulfilling life.

Reason #11: Camping offers the opportunity to make new friends

Camping provides the opportunity for your kids to meet new people from different places. Your children will make new friends, which will be great for going off to explore, playing games and generally avoiding boredom.

Reason #12: Enjoy One Another with Fewer Distractions

When camping there are fewer distractions. Not only is it a time for no television or computer, often even your phone won’t work. It seems many jobs now come with an expectation that employees will work even when they are not in the office. Being outdoors makes this difficult if not impossible, giving you a real break and allowing you to focus on your children. For their part, without the option of television, movies or video games, kids will be more open to other activities and to spending time with their family.

While it may seem like a huge effort to take your kids camping, it is well worth it. Camping offers many benefits both short term and long term, for your kids and your family as a whole.

Please share your experiences taking your kids camping. What reasons have you found that make the effort to camp with your children well worth it?