I’ve read elsewhere that the true challenge in traveling with children starts when they’re toddlers. Particularly, 18 months to 3 years are supposed to be pretty hard. Fortunately I hadn’t read that until after we returned from Italy, or we might have been discouraged from taking the trip and missing out on a great experience! This past February, we packed up and took our then-18 month old daughter to Florence for 9 days and had an incredible time. We hope to inspire the same sense of adventure in all of you parents of toddlers out there!Introduction
Getting to Florence on Points and Miles
We took an 18 month old to Italy and not only was it a smooth experience, we all had a great time. With some planning and a few trial runs, it’s entirely possible to introduce a little one to the fun that you were having prior to her arrival. I certainly intend to detail our days in Florence, which happens to be a wonderful city for children, but its first worth writing about how we made it happen.
There is a certain truth that toddlers are more difficult to travel with, since they are curious but also lack the maturity to follow the rules for extended periods of time. I think there’s a lot of truth there, but there are also some clear advantages with toddler travel over infants and school-aged children. In my series on first trips and other infant tip articles, I covered everything from packing lists to getting infant formula through security. At this age, the formula is probably gone and the packing list has mostly shifted from “required” to “nice to have” items. A toddler can probably handle a CARES harness rather than being strapped into an infant seat. Plus, you are not yet tied to school vacations for travel, so off-peak trips like ours mean that you’re not trading local traffic jams for herds of tourists in foreign places. There’s more work involved in distracting toddlers, but for east coast flights to western Europe, the flight lengths are very manageable.
When we announced our intentions to friends and family, the mildest response we received was a hesitant, “You’re… very brave.” Others laughed it off as a practical impossibility that would soon blow over. The truth is, though, we were no strangers to travel at this point – our daughter included. There are certainly some major drawbacks to living far from our friends and family, but a major benefit was that we had to introduce air travel early out of necessity. Going across the Atlantic was therefore not totally crazy. Just a little bit crazy.
In choosing Florence as our destination, I tried something new and took my own advice. We chose a familiar destination with easy access from our home, and to the extent possible, with flight schedules that we thought would work. Florence is a one stop flight from Boston, has a small, easy airport and is situated very close to the historic center – landing to pillow can be done in under an hour with a little kid if you wanted to. Florence is also a city that is family familiar to us, having been there previously in that blurry pre-kids phase. Most importantly, Florence is compact in terms of the historic center, and therefore extremely walkable – we could be ambitious in our plans, but stop and return back to rest at any point in the day. For this trip, we also brought along my sister, since she had never been to Italy before and not at all because we thought it would be helpful to have extra hands. Not at all.
It doesn’t hurt one bit that I grew up speaking Italian and would like to pass the language on to my wife and daughter, either. Florence is home to the Tuscan dialect, which formed the basis of Standard Italian due in part to the important literary works of the region by Dante Alighieri – sometimes credited as the father of the Italian language. I grew up with parents speaking two different dialects, but my grandmother insisted that my sister and I learn Standard Italian first, so going to Florence and hearing an accent similar (but not exactly the same) as mine is always a nice experience.
We also like to eat, and the regional specialties in Tuscany rank pretty high according to my own tastes. So there’s that.
We got there on points and miles, but we opted for non-chain accommodations and a more local experience. The next installment will be about the points and miles aspect of the trip, but that will be the end of mileage, elite status and talk of that nature as it pertains to Florence for us. I hope that makes this report a little bit different, as a travel piece rather than a points, miles and credit cards pitch.
Finally, just as a note, I’m going to try something a little different and go for shorter, more frequent posts for this series. My posts tend to run long because there is a lot of information that I’m excited to get across, but I’d like to break up this trip report and sprinkle in a few informational posts that might be of more general help in traveling to Italy. My goal on this blog and this series isn’t to maximize exposure to credit card links. Rather, I want to tell you a story about our trip to Florence in a way that is hopefully entertaining, but also at a pace and structure that makes it useful to bookmark as a guide for your own future trip planning. So with that said, please let me know if this seems to move too slowly. If you happen to be planning your own trip, I’d love for you to ask questions and allow me to help!Next: Getting to Florence on Points and Miles