Family Holidays: 6 experiences to engage kids during travel

I have been travelling with my daughter ever since she was 3-month old. The planning and challenges of family holidays when she was an infant or a toddler were quite different. Focus was on figuring an easy itinerary, mode of travel, food, accommodation, packing lists and what not.

Do read – Travelling the world with your Toddler

I asked fellow travellers and moms on activities that have been super-fun to do as a family. Here are some experiences that might inspire fun-filled and active Family Holidays for you!

Live the Hapsburgs’ life at the Schonbrunn Palace | Museum in Vienna

Vienna is a good place to introduce children to the history and culture of Europe as long as you are willing to give up on the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’. We travelled to Vienna in summer with a set of precocious 5-year-old girls and an 8-year-old boy.

Schonbrunn or the Summer Palace is a short 30-minute U-Bahn ride from the city centre. We found this Palace complex offered the most for both kids and adults alike. Apart from the historical collections, it has sprawling gardens and the Schonbrunn zoo. The whole complex will take at least 2 days to cover – our focus was on the children’s museum and the maze and labyrinth.

The Children’s museum is interactive and engaging. At the entrance, kids and accompanying adults can play dress up, donning the finery and elaborate headgears of the courtiers and maid of honours. With suitable backdrops and props, it makes for perfect clicks. Another section allows kids to live the life of the Hapsburg princes and princesses – how they studied, played, dressed and slept. What I found interesting was that for every blurb on the royal youngsters, there was information on how the common kids lived.

A short walk from the palace is the Labyrinth and the Maze. The former is an interesting playground with both physical and mental challenges. The Maze has a separate admission ticket and is suited for kids above 8 years of age. It is actually a set of mazes with the Baroque Maze puzzling the most adept of adults.

Schonbrunn also has a reasonably priced café, right at the entrance – Café Restaurant Residenz and Court Bakery – that has a lovely outdoor seating and a mean apple strudel.

Contributed by Shweta Markandeya 

Do read – Two-week itinerary for Croatia

Enjoy a scenic drive down CA-1, California | Road Trip in the USA

The California Highway-1 drive is iconic, spectacular scenery and the brilliantly blue Pacific Ocean. We drove down this route – all the way from Los Angels to San Francisco – last summer with my brother and my two kids, son aged 10 years and daughter 5 years.

The car seat rules are complex and strict in the US – do check before you ride especially on highways and ensure that your car rental provides the correct car seat. Safety is of utmost importance, so beyond car seats, make sure essentials are within reach and the kids are occupied – noisy passengers are more of an accident hazard than cell phones. Also, check the routes beforehand – we found that part of CA-1 in Big Sur was closed due to landslides and took a detour through Santa Barbara to US-101.

My son was entrusted with the navigation and he followed the google maps instructions as well as watching out for exit and amenities signs along the highway (from the rear seat, of course!). We listened to a lot of radio with the latest pop hits including Chainsmokers’ “Closer”, which incidentally was shot in the Point Mugu  – part of the drive. We looked out for any odd and unusual vehicles on the way and played games like Atlas.

Family Holiday Activities
Ocean views close to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Pit-stops included strip malls with the usual Safeway and Starbucks for toilet breaks, coffee and loading up on food. We stopped at a couple of beaches to soak up the sun and have meals – they have picnic tables.  Do keep the swimsuits and a change of clothes handy – most public beaches have basic showering and changing facilities. The water is really chilly though. The kids enjoyed watching the elephant seals and otters at various viewpoints along the way.

There are a number of quaint towns along the way – Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Carmel and Monterrey – do stop and enjoy the local flavours.

Contributed by Kiran Mittal

Do read – 4 days in San Francisco: You can’t have a better introduction to the US west coast!

Wander through the largest zoo in Europe | Berlin Zoo in Germany

With more than 15,000 animals representing some 1,400 species, expect to spend the best part of a day in Berlin Zoo. This is Germany’s oldest zoological garden and definitely one of the top things to do in Berlin with a kid.

There are several options to get to Zoologischer Garten – S-Bahn, U-Bahn, several buses and intercity trains all stop at this station. My daughter and I took the S-Bahn on a sunny morning to explore this 33-hectare land. We visited during fall and the park couldn’t have been more beautiful.

Berlin Zoo: Great for kids
My daughter was delighted with the antics of sea lions.

My daughter loved seeing the rhinos, sea lions, gorillas, zebras and many other animals. But I must admit that some of the not-so-common-animals-to-sight – polar bear, orangutan, okapi, penguins to name a few – delighted even me.

The Aquarium within the Zoo houses the largest collection of marine and amphibian species in Europe and is worth a visit as well. There are 3 levels, marine animals on the first floor, reptiles and insects on the second and finally snakes and amphibians on the third floor.

Berlin Zoo is equipped with all facilities – toilets, restaurants and small cafes, handcart (to put in bags and even small kids) and children bike rental, ice-cream carts in several areas. An easy-to-follow-map is given when you purchase the tickets at the entrance. There are several feedings and shows involving animals, that would be of interest to both kids and adults.

Do read – Berlin attractions with kids: A Travel Guide for families

Contributed by Shweta | Zest In A Tote

Take a day trip to the Boseong green tea fields | Tea Plantation in South Korea

Boseong is a 4-hour drive from Seoul by car. It is also easily accessible by public transport. Boseong is known for its green tea farms where many Korean movies were shot. And rightly so, as it was selected by CNN as one of the “31 amazing sites from our incredible earth” in 2013.

Boseong is lush green throughout the year, even in winter. A lot of people like to visit in the autumn season, though I think April and May is the best season to travel with kids.

Family Holiday Activities
Not like a field or a farm, it was more like an endless green mountain.

I went with my 2 kids in April when new leaves were sprouting and the trees were flowering. We walked through the giant cedar way in order to enter the fields where a marvellous scenery spread open before us.

We bought delicious green tea ice cream for kids and then hiked up along a winding road, to the top where we had panoramic views right up to the sea. The hike can easily take more than an hour. The road is quite steep, but my kids enjoyed the climb. The fresh air and the soothing greenery more than made up for any tiredness felt.

There is a souvenir shop – you can pick up some of the finest Korean tea here. After sightseeing, we hungrily tucked into a meal of mixed rice with green tea and mountain sprouts. It was excellent!

A trip to Boseong is off the beaten track, but a must do if you are visiting South Korea.

Contributed by Jenny An

Do read – Luxury resorts near Bangalore: Perfect for a family weekend getaway

Visit Disneyland in Orlando | Theme Park in the USA

We did Disney, Orlando, over Christmas when my son was 6-year-old and his cousins were 5 and 2 each.

Family Holiday Activities
What adventures and meltdowns we had at Disney, and now, amazing memories!

To start with, we bought our tickets months in advance from for good deals and purchased the “Magic Your Way” ticket with the park hopper option. This means that you can hop between all 4 Disney parks, any of the given 4 days. So we ended up doing 2 days at the Magic Kingdom and spent half a day each at Epcot and Hollywood Studios and a day at the Animal Kingdom.

Another tip I found very useful is the Fastpass option, and I cannot stress the importance of availing this free service that lets you pre-book time slots for the popular rides (and rebook once you have availed your allotted 3). As a result, we breezed past hour-long wait lines on Buzz Lightyear, tower of terror, Dumbo and so many others! Disney has a dedicated app that allows you to navigate the parks, rides and restaurants with remarkable ease.

My advice? Research it like you’re planning to invade a country. Have a plan of attack, these parks are huge. I mean full on Rambo-mom mode. Bring comfy shoes, empty water bottles for refills, change of clothes and don’t be shy to rent a stroller because the parks are so huge that even the adults get bushed!

And at the end of it all, don’t be stressed if you can’t cover it all. Have some ice cream and just enjoy the moment!

Contributed by Priyanka Chaudhery |Princess SmartyPants

If you are headed to Disneyland, California with kids, you will find this useful: Disneyland Hacks: Planning a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth

Take a short trek at the Vintgar Gorge | Easy hike in Slovenia

This summer – when my daughter had turned 6 – was the first time that we explored a short trek with her. She loved it!

Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia is a 1.6 km hike – a satisfying and easy half-day trip from Bled. The trail goes over wooden bridges and ends with a bridge overlooking the impressive 13 m high Šum waterfall.

Family Holiday Activities
The Little Adventurer!

The walk is suitable for everyone, although putting on sensible shoes is a must. My daughter could do the hike easily, she did a get bit tired while coming back. There are several places where we went down to the river bank to take a photo. My daughter enjoyed putting her hands in the deliciously cold water.

There is a small cafe inside the gorge just before the Sum waterfall.  We enjoyed an ice-cream here and rested a bit before heading back. The mushroom soup in a sourdough bowl at the Restaurant Vintgar, right outside the park, hit the spot after the walk.

To add to your wanderlust, do read – Photo Essay: Take a scenic walk in the Vintgar Gorge

Contributed by Shweta | Zest In A Tote

All you Parents, do share activities and tips that worked on engaging kids in your Family holidays in the comments below.

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Author: Shweta Singhal

Hi! I am Shweta, the zest behind this blog . I play several roles – parent to a 6-year old, adventure enthusiast, travel blogger, generally open to trying out new things in life. Besides travel, I love books and theatre and art. I would love to hear from you; do drop a comment. Join me on Instagram / Twitter @zestinatote.

6 thoughts

  1. Great to read your take on the Schönbrunn Palace. With no children in tow, all the things you visited weren’t on our radar at all!
    I do like the look of your Slovenia hike – that’s just the kind of thing I’m keen on, following our hiking around Austria.

    1. That was a fellow traveller and mum who contributed the story on Summer palace in Vienna. Its amazing how activities and perspectives changes for travel with kids 🙂 I have read some of your posts on hiking in Austria. Slovenia is right up your alley Trish!

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