There’s travelling solo or as a couple, and then there’s travelling with kids. The latter is a different ball game altogether – think football vs juggling – but there are so many benefits to travelling that it’s a pity to steer away just because of perceived stress.
With some strategic planning, a trip with the kids can also be fun. We chose to travel by sea with Virtu Ferries as the idea of airport crowds and being cooped up with a plane-load of people didn’t sit too nicely – plus if there’s anything kids need when travelling, it’s room to roam in a space wider than a plane seat. It’s worth nothing that they will give you on the spot refunds in case of last-minute changes or cancellations
Most of us have been island-bound for months and for a lot of younger kids, travelling is still an alien concept (hello pandemic). As a family, we were itching for a holiday, and couldn’t wait to show our kids there’s a big world waiting to be explored. With some careful planning, and strategic scheduling we actually managed to relax. And that says a lot when a holiday with kids usually requires another holiday to recover.
Here are our tried and tested tips for travelling to Sicily with kids, we hope they work for you too!
Sea, rather than air
There are so many benefits to going to Sicily by sea rather than flying:
– You can pack everything in the car, and only unload it once you arrive at your destination. There’s no worrying about placing the stroller in the hold or missing luggage.
– You can use your own car seats or booster seats. We do have some horror stories to tell when it comes to rented car seats! So you can put your mind at ease knowing that your kids are safe and it’s all hygienic.
– The ferries are spotless and spacious, plus the kids are not confined to their seats throughout the trip.
– You can take your pets with you so they don’t miss out on the fun.
– There’s no worrying over the weight of your luggage. This means you can shop till you drop at the Sicilia Outlet village, or for deco or home items at Ikea or the gorgeous Maison du Monde!
– Virtu Ferries offer on the spot refunds in case of last-minute changes or cancellations.
– They offer multiple crossings every day so you can choose a time that is convenient for you.
Talk about your upcoming holiday and involve your child in all the preparations, of course to their ability and based on their age. As you plan out your days, talk about what you will be doing, and what you will be seeing, but also that there will be driving time, for example, or that you’ll need to wake up earlier than usual some days. This is harder to do with younger children, but even toddlers would love having a say in what’s coming up.
Pack a busy bag
Busy bags are lifesavers, both for travelling and during the holiday itself. It needn’t be sophisticated. In our case, a new colouring book, some crayons (parent tip: don’t add markers), a little tub of playdough, a pop it, and little play figurines worked wonders. All it takes is a quick trip to a Tal-Lira store or one of the many random-item stores strewn across Malta, a zipper bag and voila, you’ve got your child’s entertainment sorted!
Extra Tip: Store the busy bag away from little hands and eyes, and give the bags to your kids only once the trip starts.
Prepare a catamaran bag
It helps to have a small bag with basic necessities close to you, including a jumper or blanket for the kids as it can get cool on the way. For younger babies, a sling or baby carrier comes in super handy. Add a change of clothes in case of accidents, and we always keep scented diaper bags on hand, even if our kids are potty trained. If your child tends to get car sick or sea sick, like ours do, scented diaper bags are lifesavers. We also always carry our trusty potette with us, and this also applies to long car drives.
And a car bag
Having necessities handy while you’re on the road saves on travel time as there’s no need to stop too often just to grab something from the boot. Our car bag includes water and plenty of snacks. These are the ones we know have the least chance of upsetting stomachs or sending our kids into a sugar-induced energy high. We also include scented diaper bags (of course), and their busy bags. Apart from this, we also prepared music from their favourite movies for some sing along fun, and audio books.
Consider an agriturismo
One of the reasons why we absolutely love Sicily is because of the many gorgeous agriturismos to choose from. We found that a relaxed agriturismo is better than a hotel when travelling with kids. It’s a good balance between having everything ready (unlike in self-catering apartments) and not having a lot of staff and people around. We usually go for agriturismos with a pool and some swings for the kids. If there are small animals on the grounds, then even better! We’ve met some amazing hosts over the years and have beautiful memories of our stays.
Time your drives
Our kids aren’t used to long drives. We do live on a tiny island after all. Therefore, hours seated in the car can quickly dampen the mood. We try to map out the things we’d like to see and explore, keeping to a driving limit that we know our kids can get through. When the drive is long, we try to stop every 90 minutes or so, even if it’s just to buy a snack or coffee from an area servizio. If you’re closer to the catamaran, a coffee from Noto is a must! Then, if we’re driving close to lunch time, we love buying some local bread and cold cuts and make a picnic out of it. We’re used to an arid landscape so a patch of grass on which to sit on goes a long way!
Apart from this, scheduling car rides to coincide with nap time is a win on two fronts:
1. You can enjoy a quiet car ride and
2. There won’t be whining while you sightsee because of missed naps.
Have reasonable expectations
You’d love to see and experience everything while you’re travelling – that wine tasting day, or a late 8-course dinner – but let’s face it, there are some things that are simply not ideal for kids. If you’re not travelling with someone else who can babysit for a night, it helps to have reasonable expectations about what you can and cannot do. It’s also important that you’re also aware of how much you can get done in a single day. Once we came to terms with that, all the family could enjoy our holiday, and we made some amazing memories to last a lifetime, and all in a short break, 90 minutes away from home.
Have passports at the ready
Kids’ passports only last two years and you don’t want to get caught out without a valid one. It’s best you get them renewed, even if you don’t have any travel plans. That way, when an offer is posted, you can just book and leave!
To sum it up, a Sicily trip is what our family needed after long months of juggling it all without a break. Getting there and back was a breeze. The Virtu crew are great with kids, and they even let us set up a small play area for them. The trip was over before we knew it without a hint of travel-related exhaustion. Mapping it out, packing wisely, and prioritising relaxation made it a highly memorable holiday. We hope you also find these tips for travelling to Sicily with kids helpful as you plan out your own stay!
Check out the Virtu Ferries site for special offers including their Yearly September Offer for your last minute family getaway.
For more tips, tricks and relatable stories from mums and dads across the island, check out our Island Parents section on site.