Tuesday, September 24, 2019

My favorite tip for traveling with kids in Europe

Angus napping in our Toddler Tula.
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We all know "Are we there yet?" as the classic road-trip backseat question, but you're just as likely to hear it when your vacation plans are more urban. I'm not a beach vacation kind of person. I love cities, and in particular I love European cities. I love how walkable they are and how much more you can discover while on foot.

But what about when your city walks involve tiny feet?

I spent the summer traveling around Europe with my 6-year-old and 3-year-old. We did not bring a stroller because we traveled light. The 3-year-old still napped, so a stroller could have been useful. Instead we brought a toddler tula, easy enough to wear like a belt until needed. As you can see from the dreamy photo to the right, Angus just loved smuggling up and snoozing on Daddy while we strolled through Bordeaux. Le sigh!

Our favorite purchase was the kids' pedometer we bought for our 6-year-old. He's competitive and responds well to rewards, so the minute he asked to be carried or to stop walking, we'd ask him how many steps he had. Then we'd tell him we were gonna win if we carried him, and the complaints ceased.

We (and by we I mean David) did a lot of research about what device to buy, and we settled on the VivoFit Jr. 2. It's a Garmin device, and it links to an app on my phone. It's waterproof, and it's also a sleep tracker ... so I can check how he's sleeping and what time he generally wakes up (early. very early).

My favorite part is the rewards and chores you can create.

In Europe we had a scavenger hunt and he could earn "coins" if he, for example, saw a Swiss flag or a street musician, or whatever else I decided to add to the list.

Now that we are home, I keep a list of chores. Some are daily (brush teeth, practice piano) and he gets little alerts on the watch to go do them. Others are just on his own. If he wants to save 100 gold coins, he can do things like ... dust the baseboards, read for an hour, rake leaves, scratch David's back for 5 minutes, or basically anything you want to invent as a parent. Graham is very rewards-based, so he'll save up his gold coins for the various rewards we've listed: buy a new game/app, trip to the ice cream store, go to the movies, solo dinner date with Mom, etc.

I have to say, I thought the newness would wear off after our trip, but it's been 4 months of the device and he's still really into it. The best part for me is that he's become a surprisingly good piano player -- purely because at 6:37 every night, his watch buzzes and reminds him to practice piano.

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