Before you get to roam this spectacular city, you will have to first arrive intact. When bringing children along on any journey, intact is more easily said than done. You will be doing as the Romans do in no time, but first you must adhere to the following traveling tips for families with young children:
If you are not European or do not live close to Italy, it is likely you will be arriving by airplane. It is stressful enough to pack and get through security without thinking about handling the kids. So, to start, be sure to give yourself plenty of time, arriving at the airport early. Since security is likely to ask all boarding passengers to remove shoes, which always seems a bit easier for adults. Have children wear shoes that easily slip on and off. However, very young children are often pardoned from the security ritual.
You will have your hands full, so a stroller, which can be brought through security and gate-checked, may come in handy. Children are partial to their belongings, especially a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or blanket. Thus, to avoid any whining or awkward scenarios, explain that security will want to run items through x-ray.
If you are planning on renting a vehicle once you get to Rome, call the airline and inquire as to whether a car safety seat may be waived as an extra carry-on item or can be pardoned as an added luggage expense. On an airplane, a child is safest when placed in a safety seat unless they are older (and exceed 40 pounds) and fit into a normal seat with belt fastened. The FAA allows children under the age of 2 to sit on an adult’s lap, but the AAP urges parents to find other means, such as booking a child their own seat, for optimal safety.
Luckily, the age of technology offers more choices for entertainment, which helps to ensure the child will not be a nuisance to you (or others on the plane), especially if it will be a long flight. Consider purchasing in-flight Wi-Fi, as well as downloading a number of child apps on an iPad or laptop device.
Inform your family doctor of your vacation and ask about vaccinations. Moreover, adults adjust to jet lag much easier than children; so, to help your kids acclimate, change their sleep schedule a few days before departure. Hipmunk suggests a number of great hotels in Rome, but do not assume a particular place is safe for children. That means making children aware of potential dangers such as exposed wires, pest poisons, paint chips, and dangerous stairwells. Children love to explore new places, but if they are welcome to roam free within the hotel, talk with them about staying safe and out of trouble.
Laws and norms in other countries vary, so if you are taking a taxi in Rome, and the cabbie has a smartphone glued to their ear, politely ask them to be safer due to the presence of children in the vehicle; letting them know they will be compensated for abiding your wishes will likely help! Regarding safety seats, infants and kids younger than 2 should be in a rear-facing seat. If you are unsure about appropriate child seating, consult the AAP’s guide. Alternatively, make arrangements with your car rental company regarding available child safety seats.
Rome is filled with beautiful canals and children gravitate toward water. However, kids must be aware that it is not appropriate to swim in the canals, as well as go near them when adults are not around. If you decide to take a tour on one of the canals, be familiar with water safety and rescue information, and instruct children to keep their hands, feet, and faces in the boat at all times.
When in Rome, you will want to do as the Romans do, but to ensure natives are not offended or thrown off by poor behavior, talk with your children about showing proper respect, which means realizing norms, clothing, and speech is different in foreign places versus what they are used to at home. Children do not have the ‘social filter’ of adults, and quickly point out people, places, and things that are “different.” In most situations, natives dismiss gestures from children, however to be sure your time spent in Rome and amongst Romans is pleasant, talk to your children about obvious cultural differences.
Lynn Sanchez is a flight attendant. She likes writing about her worldwide travels. Her articles appear on many vacation and travel websites.