City Break with Kids: 5 Tips to Save Money and Have Fun

Do your summer vacation plans include a visit to a big city? Cities like New York, San Francisco, London, and Paris are wonderful for kids of all ages. From incredible playgrounds to fascinating museums, there’s so much to do. Here are five ways to make the most of your experience!

#1: Stay like a Local

Rent a family friendly-flat in a cool neighborhood! When we travel to a big city with our kids, we prefer to rent a home through Airbnb or Kid and Coe. Don’t get me wrong – I love a nice hotel – but luxury is lost on little kids who get the most joy out of simple things. Staying in a flat instead of a hotel makes sleep so much easier. When the kids have their own bedroom, mom and dad can relax during nap time and after bedtime. And having a kitchen makes it easy to cook a few meals at home.

One of our favorite things to do with our kids in a city is to visit the local market to find fruit and vegetables, cheese and yogurt, bread and pastries (and a little wine) – and then head home to make a simple meal. Not only does this give our kids an authentic experience, it’s more relaxing and less expensive than eating out.

#2: Skip the Car

 If you have a just a few days in a city, don’t waste time in traffic! Walking is one of the best ways to discover a city. Our City Walks with Kids and City Scratch-Off Maps make it easy to plan a walk that’s the right amount of adventure! If you want to cover a little more ground, consider renting bikes for a day. To help little kids keep up, there’s nothing better than a Mini Micro Scooter.

Remember that when kids walk all day, they will get hungry. It’s a good idea to bring along lots of snacks, as well as antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen.

Before you go, learn how public transportation works in your destination. How do tickets work? Do kids ride for free? Can you bring a stroller? Are there elevators or escalators? Taking a train or a trolley is fun. And remember, you can always get a taxi back to your hotel in case of a meltdown!

#3: Don’t get Stuck Indoors

Big cities like London, Paris, San Francisco, and New York offer incredible outdoor spaces! From parks and playgrounds to zoos and fountains, there’s so much to do outside. When we lived in London, our favorite thing to do on a sunny day was to picnic at one of the city’s incredible parks.

Traveling in the cooler months? Pack warm, waterproof layers so you can have fun outside even in the rain or snow. Even in the summer, it’s a good idea to bring a lightweight rain jacket or umbrella!

#4 Have a Rainy Day Plan

While kids love playing outdoors, it’s not fun to be cold and wet all day! And in the summer, it’s nice to do something inside to get a break from the sun.

Most big cities have incredible kid’s museums but don’t stop there. Science, natural history, and art museums can all be fascinating to little people. The trick is to let your kids take the lead. Go at their pace. Look for hands-on exhibits. Ask your kids what they want to see – and skip the rest.

Before you go, find out what’s involved. How much does it cost to visit? Are kids free? Can you bring a stroller or backpack? 

#5 Eat (Almost) All The Time

Maybe it’s all the delicious, interesting food – or maybe it’s all the walking! Either way, it seems like our kids are always hungry when we’re exploring a new city. Keeping little tummies full is essential to avoiding meltdowns. Make sure your kids eat something every two or three hours. And remember to drink lots of water!

Discovering new foods is fun – but it can be expensive. Start the day with a healthy breakfast at your hotel or apartment. Visit a neighborhood market to stock up on kid-friendly snacks like yogurt, crackers, and fruit. Food trucks and farmers’ markets are an easy, inexpensive way to sample new foods!

Want to try that innovative, upscale restaurant you read about in AFAR? Go for breakfast or lunch when the restaurant is less crowded and your kids are in a better mood.

Looking for more city break inspiration? Shop our travel guides!