Rome is full of so many amazing places to see, but not all are of interest to our three little ones. For our own enjoyment and sanity we have tried hard to do and see things that they will enjoy, or at least make those that are not more bearable for them.
Even though our kids are frequent travelers, they are not interested in an action packed holiday we enjoyed as TWOKs (Travellers WithOut Kids – we just made that up!). We have also been to Europe previously, so have already seen many of the major sights. So we are challenged with getting the right balance between keeping the kids happy and engaged, and keeping the adults interested with new things as well.
We have spent a busy week in Rome, and think we have found some entertaining things for the kids to do, and minimised what the kids may consider ‘mundane’ attractions (let’s call them churches), which may appeal to us.
Stay In An Apartment
It all starts with the accommodation booking. We booked an apartment so we have a kitchen and plenty of room inside to play and relax. Self-catering not only saves money, but we are able to cook meals they will enjoy. After a day of touring, the thought of finding a (child friendly) restaurant is not always easy with tired and cranky kids, and just delays the evening routine.
We found a great place on Airbnb, only metres from a metro station, which in turn was a few stops from the city centre. That saves their legs for walking about the city.
There are at least three supermarkets nearby, plenty of places to eat, and a park and playground, all within a block. We can’t always just visit playgrounds, even though Casper would like that.
Reduce waiting times
The number one tourist site of Rome is the Colosseum. The kids have been keen to visit this since watching it feature on an episode of ‘Go Jetters’.
The lines to get in are notoriously long. We didn’t prebook jump-the-line tickets which would have been the most sensible thing to do – we like to keep our plans flexible plus we balk at paying extra to skip the queue. We had an alternative plan to reduce waiting time for tickets though… the nearby Roman Forum had a much shorter line and you get a combo ticket to get into the Colosseum too. So while the kids rested in the shade, explored and took photos from the outside of the Colosseum, Rob did the lining up for our tickets.
After seeing a few ruins in Greece, the Roman forum was not particularly interesting to them. Once inside, we found a place to rest, gave them some snacks, while the adults took turns wandering around. We then were able to take them straight to a couple of things that were interesting for kids.
Use Half Days
Spending a whole day out exploring a city is too much for some adults, let alone kids. We tend to plan a half day outing, which often drags out to a longer but less rushed time.
At The Vatican there is a lot to see, but we chose to limit our visit to St Peter’s Basilica and climbing its dome, which they loved. We decided not to go to the Vatican museum which has the Sistine chapel, as it would have been too long a day. We have been to this on our previous visit here, so we weren’t missing out. We also realised that you can get enough art just on the walls of churches, rather than visiting actual galleries. And there are plenty of churches in Rome!!
We arrived early at the Vatican City to avoid the long queues. The good thing about travelling with kids is that you don’t tend to sleep in and you can start early. We took the elevator for the first part of the accent of the dome, and the final steps were not to challenging when they were focused on reaching to the top. We were rewarded with fantastic views from inside and outside of the dome, and we were able to relax and refuel at the welcome cafe at the top.
Travelling with kids, it is most important to stay flexible. We do a lot of planning for our trips, but we avoid locking in too much of the day to day things, allowing for last-minute changes if needed.
We tend to avoid joining tours, as you get dragged around at their pace, not allowing for kid rest or toilet stops. The kids did enjoy following a tour guide around on Athens, but self-guiding has the advantage that we can do it at our own pace and being able to skip the less interesting bits. Audioguides can be great, and we have downloaded a few by Rick Steve’s (we are not the only ones doing this) to play on a smart phone.
Keep them occupied
Some of the things in Rome the kids loved were: tossing a coin into the Trevi fountain (we are all coming back to Rome), climbing of dome with amazing views, and finding the secret key hole with an amazing view. They did get a bit freaked out at the Capuchin crypt that is decorated with thousands of bones of long dead monks! It’s not for the faint hearted. We also wanted to test out the mouth of truth (Bucca Della Veritas) but the line was too long.
Have Rest Days
We aim to have a complete rest day every three or four days. We fill this with drawing, journal writing, playing games and reading. This gives one adult at a time the opportunity to go exploring nearby, so we don’t miss out on all the fun!
Just Do It
Travelling can be hard work with kids, but if you pre-plan, be well organised but flexible, and remember to pack some patience, it makes it a whole lot easier.
Despite all this, no doubt at the end of some days we will have some tired and bored kids ready to go home. In that case, you can always bribe them with gelato!