City Tour – Top Pick for Family Travel

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A bus tour was not included on our London agenda years ago because they are expensive, at least for our tight budget. But we splurged last summer, taking a live-guide bus tour of Munich, and a few days later, a recorded-audio bus tour of Berlin. Now that we’ve experienced those tours in Germany, we will definitely include one on any future travel agenda.

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Kids Stay Entertained
A tour provides a great overview of a city’s history, and identifies landmarks, which helps to establish a sense of direction. Kids can follow along with a map, and our kids took turns snapping pictures with hubby’s old digital camera. The combination of a moving vehicle and a guide’s voice kept our 3 boys interested.

Live Guide is Best
Our youngest were not quite 10 (twin boys) when we visited Germany, and a 2-hour tour was perfect. The live tour was best because the guide was fun to watch. Perhaps we were lucky that she positioned herself on the double-decker’s upper deck where we sat — it would not have been as entertaining had we been on a different level. We were all amazed at how she described the history in 4 languages! She also made sure all passengers were polite, asking those who stood too much to sit so others could see, and asking those who were talking loudly to be quiet so others could hear her. The recorded tour we took days later kept the kids’ attention, too, and the headphones and language selection buttons were fun for them, but we noted there were lulls in the script and it lacked personality. (Photo is of hubby and twins in Berlin on a recorded-audio tour bus.)

Plan Ahead for Stops & Best Seats
We planned ahead where we wanted to hop-off to see a store or museum or eat lunch. The interruption was good for the kids: they never had a chance to get too tired of sitting and listening. And after walking for a bit, or visiting an attraction, they were glad to hop-on the bus, relieved to sit down again. The kids thought it was most fun to sit up top on the double-decker, but we were careful to sit at the back, under the folded roof so we didn’t get too hot or sunburned. That may not be possible during crowded times.

Big City Choices
The 2-hour tours we took cost 50-60 Euros for our family of 5, and in London tours start at 54 to 69 Pounds for a family. There are usually tours of varying lengths available, offered by competing tour operators. A more expensive, but also more personalized option is a private tour. Some websites provide character descriptions and reviews of private tour guides — a good way to select one that is comfortable and talented with kids. You can arrange walking tours or have a guide join you on public transportation or in a private car, and you can specify which sights interest your family. In London, a web search revealed that a 1/2-day private tour for a family ranged from 140 to 400 Pounds.

Kids’ Ages
Our family recommends a city tour highly, and we all agree that any kid 7 and up would enjoy one, too. We saw parents with babies and younger children on board, but our kids are certain that under-7s would be bored and fidgety and whiny if stuck on a bus and expected to listen quietly for a half hour or more. It might work for younger kids if plans were made to hop-off and hop-on again more frequently, or if a private tour guide was particularly engaging and willing to accommodate a child’s interests.

 

Sandy Nielsen

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