By Rachel Turner
Remember what holidays were like in the years BC – before children? When you actively avoided the tourist trail so you could eat like the locals. When you strolled leisurely around museums listening intently to your audio guide. When you wandered happily through galleries, admiring the modern art…
Well, that’s how travel was for me and my other half, anyway. Not for us those all-inclusive holidays, with their rowdy pools, kids’ clubs and (shudder) night-time ‘entertainment’.
Fast forward a few years and holidays have taken on an entirely different form. My kids won’t touch the local food, find museums about as appealing as a trip to the dentist and we haven’t set foot inside an art gallery since that unfortunate incident with the expensive print and the Petit Filous. Suddenly an all-inclusive holiday with a pool and kids’ club seems like a really, really good idea.
We’re not the only culture-starved family in the UK, either. According to a survey reported in the Daily Mail, around 40% of primary-age children have never been to an art gallery, and 17% have never been taken to a museum by their parents.
But last year, we decided things were going to be different. OK, so we only went on a family holiday to Cornwall, but in among the sandcastle building and ice cream eating, we squeezed in a few things the grown-ups really wanted to do too, like going out for a nice lunch and checking out the art in the Tate.
So how did we do it? Check out our whine-free tips for mixing culture, travel and kids.
1) Do your research
The best way to get kids into museums is to tailor your visit around the things they’re into. Some museums may have exhibits on things like dinosaurs or robots, others may have whole areas dedicated to children. If they don’t, browse the museum’s website with your child before you go and ask them what they want to see. Chances are they’ll have a much better time if they feel their ideas have been taken into account, rather than they’re just being dragged around somewhere.
Look out for the times of special kids’ events and activities, too. When we went to the Tate St Ives, they had daily drop-in activities for toddlers and special guided tours just for families.
2) Gift shops are your friend
Once you’re at the gallery or museum, make a game of it! A friend of mine says that her first stop on any museum visit is the gift shop where she lets her kids choose one postcard each. They then have to go round to find the work of art depicted on their postcard, and the first one to find it gets a small prize.
Failing that, getting your kids to strike the same pose as the person in the painting, or asking them fun questions like, “who has the biggest nose in this picture?” will soon have them giggling, all while engaging with the art.
3) Take them to the beach first
If you’re going somewhere where they need to be quiet, whether that’s an art gallery or a posh restaurant, let them burn off some energy by running around a beach or playground.
4) Don’t try to do it all
Don’t do what we did and feel you have to see all the exhibitions on offer. Kids have little legs and short attention spans and, if yours are anything like mine, find it hard to absorb everything in one go. Stick to just one exhibition at a time – and dangle the carrot of eating in the nice museum cafe for lunch.
We hope that’s given you some food for thought. Mixing kids, culture and travel may take a bit of planning but with a bit of research you can all have fun – even the grown-ups!
While you’re online doing your research, remember to shop around in advance for your foreign currency, too – search online before you go to find the best exchange rates.