It hit us in Rome. My wife and I were at the Colosseum - a 2000 year-old gladiator arena… with our three kids...and the kids were bored. Their take on our first big trip in Europe was captured by their commentary here: “This place is falling apart! I’ve seen way better stadiums. Look at that cat! Can we have more gelato?” We were disappointed to realize that we were spending lots of money to bring our kids to a place that we thought should be a great experience for them - only to have them make it painfully clear that they’d rather be home playing Legos or watching TV.
My family and I had the good fortune to spend two years living in London. It was a fantastic experience for all of us to live in a place that was different (although, in many ways not so different) from the environment in which our kids had started growing up, and in which we had grown comfortable. It stretched our horizons, and helped open the kids’ minds to the idea that there’s a big world out there.
One of the best things about London is that it makes all of Europe so accessible. Destinations like Paris, Rome, Prague, Dublin, Barcelona, Berlin and even Reykjavik are all a short flight, or even better, a train journey, away. To an American, those destinations seem very exotic. The thought of traveling to all of them in a year or two seems like an adventure that most would eagerly anticipate. But for our kids? They don’t know Barcelona from Birmingham, or Rome from Rochester (no offense to Birmingham or Rochester). What makes any urban destination appealing to adults? Culture, music, food, wine, beer, art, museums, architecture, history… For the most part, kids don’t tend to care much about those things.. Kids like adventures. And playgrounds. And great stories. And ice cream. And they’d just as soon enjoy those things within a couple mile radius of their home - rather than in a new, different, and sometimes scary place. They value the familiar. They love to have something to teach their parents.
So how can you make a new place more fun and accessible for kids? Or even get them excited to go somewhere where they’ve never been? One way is to give them the opportunity to explore the the new place in their minds - through movies, books, videos and games that introduce them to the destination in a way that is entertaining and relevant for them. The best content isn’t of the “travel guide” variety (have you ever caught a kid curled up with a travel guide?) - but instead introduces them to an authentic, kid-centered adventure that is set in a specific place. Offering kids a chance to explore books, movies and games in which the setting is a character in the story builds familiarity and sparks imagination. It’s always more fun to experience a place that you’ve already started exploring in your mind - and this is especially true for kids.
After our Rome experience, we realized pretty quickly that future trips would be a lot more fun if we could expose the kids to destination-based content first. It seemed like content set in the world’s major cities - New York, London, Paris, Rome, etc - should be plentiful. But when we went looking for it, it was a lot harder to find than we expected it to be. So we started this blog, to highlight some content that we think will make family travel to these amazing places better for kids and adults alike. It's called WithKids.world. We hope that you like it!