I like them. And so do my kids.
Let’s get this out of the way now. This is not the kind of place where we look for sanitized kid friendly things to do while the adults sip ice water and descend into boredom. Kids don’t need you to reduce your trip in order to bring them along. Let’s face it – the more varied your travels, the more you’ll travel. And seeing more of the world is just plain good for kids. Better with you than not at all.
So here’s an insight – if you are doing it right, travel will expose your kids to some dirt and chaos and questionable behavior. You will be ok. Your kids will be ok.
And another – maybe some of what you consider questionable is just normal to other people. You don’t have to approve, I don’t always. But you don’t have to worry too much.
I’ve got nothing against parks and playgrounds and toys and all of that. We’ll get there too. But sometimes I just need an ice cold brew. Sometimes my kids need a snack too.
So. Germany. April and the sun is starting to emerge victorious more often than not. We’re in Munich and locals clearly have spring fever. We’re along for the ride.
The first day of the trip is a good day to soak up local color and not be too ambitious. We go to the Chinese Beer Garden in a lovely big park. Our travel companions have been here before and show us the ropes. Our oldest son is almost two (this particular trip was specifically scheduled to enjoy lap child privileges one last time.) If I remember my chronology correctly, our friends were expecting their first and my wife was not yet expecting our second. So we had one designated walker.
We spent most of a longish afternoon in the beer garden. Our son amused himself with our company, probably some napkins, and probably some drawing. He was part of the gang. We enjoyed a beer or two, along with some of the local beer hall food. What kid doesn’t love wurst and pretzels? The crowd was varied and we were by no means the only parents in the bunch. We all had fun and it was no big deal.
That night – and several others on the trip – we found ourselves at the Haufbrauhaus. A little touristy, but historically important and in possession of great brew and pretzels with this mustard I can’t seem to find anywhere else. Did you know – this is a family place! Less so as the night goes on, but you can totally bring kids of all ages here. Our boy enjoyed the pretzels, but not so much the spicy mustard. He tasted the beer. Of all people, we got a lecture from a tourist! The locals were nonplussed.
When we were in Madrid, we went into a smokey tapas bar with our not-yet-one year old. It was pre-dinner tapas and beverages. We looked for the least tourist-friendly looking place amongst a group of bars in an attempt to get authentic food. Inside, I immediately felt awkward and out-of-place. This was our first family trip abroad, after all. But no one gave us a weird look. And guess what? Ten minutes later, a whole family of locals showed up with their young boys, taking a couple tables by the window. Our son enjoyed the Patatas Bravas.
In our travels before and since, our boys have been to all manner of fancy restaurants, bars, beer halls, pubs, and the like. Some places have rules. Some are more comfortable than others. None have been bad experiences – even when we have been kicked out, which is a story for another day.
The point is simple. There are a lot of things you can do with your kids that you might think are off limits. Things that seem really scary will seem really silly over time. I’ll write about some of them. I’d like to hear about the successes and failures of others. From these stories we can open a whole new world of family-friendly travel experiences.