Destination Airport: Milan, Italy
Points of Interest: Lugano, Andeer, and Bellinzona, Switzerland; Bellinzona Castles (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Ages of the kids: Andrew was 2.5 years (32 months) and Clara was 19 months
Time Change/Redeye Fun
The trouble with Europe is that it’s too close. The redeye flights from the east coast leave too early for the kids to be tired, and by the time they are ready to sleep, there are only 3 hours left in the flight.
Actually, Andrew didn’t even want to sleep that long. We sort of made the mistake of assuming that he’d fall asleep while watching movies. He didn’t. He stayed awake to keep watching. Since then, we have instituted a “one movie” rule on redeye flights. And also since then, Andrew has learned that if he feels tired, he should ask to go to sleep. But that’s not what happened on this trip…
What happened on this trip was that he stayed awake for the entire flight, dozed off for about 15 minutes on landing, had to be awoken to disembark, and then through the Mother of All Tantrums as we proceeded through immigration. We’re talking the full monty – flailing limbs, throwing the body on the floor, screaming with a demon-child voice “Get away from me, mama!” It was certainly not very fun.
The plus side was that messing his sleep up this bad meant that he was very malleable for the rest of the trip. He adjusted pretty well to the time change after that.
Miss Clara? She just slept when she was tired.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Lugano, Switzerland, on a really crazy cheap room rate sale. We were fortunate enough to have a bachelor friend along with us, who agreed to share his room with Andrew. So we ended up with a little (large, by European standards) family suite. Andrew agreed to sleep in the bed next to J, and Clara was in the pack-n-play in our room. Lugano was a great home base from which to access the Southern Alps.
It rained a lot, and snowed, but that’s what you get when you go to the mountains in January.
Kid-Friendly Stuff We Did
We spent one day visiting a friend from my online moms group up in a quinessential Alpine village on the German/Romanisch side of the pass. She has a two year old as well, so they had toys at their flat and we walked to the playground in the snow.
Driving up over the pass was quite the experience in our little Italian rental car. There was 4 feet of snow on the roof in places. We had to stop and put snow chains on the tires. Though we live in the Rockies ourselves, we have 4 wheel drive vehicles, so putting on chains was a new experience. I’m proud to say that the boys ended up stumped and I was the one who figured out how to do it!
I’m starting to get serious about my quest to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites. So we spent the better part of a day exploring the castles at Bellinzona. All but one of the museums were closed, and we had the one that was open to ourselves. This suited us fine with two toddlers. The kids had fun running around the castle grounds in the snow. I carried Clara in the Ergo on my back for a good portion of it, and she actually napped there, all bundled up in her winter coat, while we explored the second castle.
We taught Andrew how to defend a castle with snowballs:
It’s living history, folks!
Despite the rocky beginning, this was an immensely satisfying trip. It was wonderful to have J and his extra set of hands along to help out and just have some nice adult company. Getting to hang out with locals for a day was a real treat, and of course it was wonderful to finally meet K and her family in person. And I love it when a site that I really want to see turns out to be a site that my kids love to explore – everyone wins!
Off season travel has it’s challenges, but the good deals and low crowds are totally worth it.