Is it possible to have a stress free holiday with the kids? Probably not. It doesn't have to be hell though. Planning ahead will help and you never know... you may actually get to enjoy your well earned break too.
Start with setting off early to the airport. Children don't understand the word hurry. It doesn't come into their vocabulary. However, lucky for you they do know the word sleep. So, take a night flight where you can. Kids more often than not will sleep through leaving you in peace.
Just in case sleeping doesn't work ensure you take a few things they like and that will keep them busy on the flight. Books, games, card, pens, papers etc. It's also a good idea to take something new too. Kids love surprises. If that fails to keep their attention make sure you have some snacks up your sleeve. Works every time.
Choosing the accommodation
When you choose your accommodation think about the children first and what they need. See our article "defining your needs and wishes". The more there is to do for them the more they will leave you alone. Give yourself a break. Holidays are probably the most time you will spend together as a family.
Israel offers a fabulous variety of accommodation modes. Take 2 or 3 nights in a Kibbutz, or in a Galilee Israel style country lodging, where there is plenty of space for the kids to run around and most probably some interesting "spots" to visit at walking distance. Choosing accommodation in a city, can be a hotel on the beach or a vacation apartment where you have more space of your own, and a chance for some Israeli connections. Ask the apartment owner if there are kids on the block, it might be a bit noisier but... your kids may find friends.
What to do ? Where to go ?
For children everything can turn into an adventure, if planned and presented properly.
One rock...one challenge
Water is great joy for all
Avdat guide in action
Sports & fun
Visiting Archaeological & Historical sites with children
Israel is blessed with archaeological and historical sites, you will probably wish to see some of them. What about the kids? You will be surprised... but with a good preparation and / or a "child friendly" tour guide these sites can come to live at your feet. Choose sites that offer a "juicy" story, tell the story of the place the way children like to hear it... in short - make believe you are a stage director and the site is a movie set, add in the characters one by one as you tell the story. Best is to focus on two or three sites and turn them into a family project. Yes! It does require some homework, but its fun and you as parents will enjoy this! (probably more than the kids!) See the photo of how one guide chose to present the story of Avdat (Nabatean ruins in the Negev). Most of these sites will have a movie or an audiovisual presentation - this could be very helpful to get the kids into the story.
Do plan the day so that you are visiting the archaeological site in the morning. 1) Temperatures are more bearable 2) mind is still fresh ! Don't plan to visit more than one such site in one day !
Fun stuff and the outdoors
Getting the children into the great outdoors is easy, fun, educational and healthy. Israel has even more of these sort of activities to offer. Being the small country that it is, distances are bearable and the variation is tremendous. Lush green and fresh water nature parks in the north to colorful sandstone mountains in the south. Take lots of rests on the way, point out weeds, flowers and animals along the way. Go slow, accept your children's limitations. For longer walks there are piggy back rides and rides on the shoulders that your kids will love.
Incorporate in your tour fun activities such as cycling, horseback riding (what a great way to explore the Galilee), camel riding, maybe a jeep tour in the Negev etc etc.
There is no sense in going over the list of places & activities here, but do keep in mind the abilities of your children when planning fun outdoor activities.
Traveling in Israel
That too is something to think about! Traveling can be part of the experience. Use different means of transportation when possible. Even if you are on a private tour with a guide & car, you can always ask the guide/driver to pick you up from this or that station. For example :Take a train ride, enjoy the lovely views (most of time) with your children (plus its a great way to meet people). Read our page about taking the train in Israel. (Note : Thursday and Sundays trains are packed with soldiers!! Do not use any sort of public transportation on those days. Plan accordingly.)
Whatever the plans are make it age appropriate. Keep it simple for the younger ones and more challenging for the older child. Remember, your enthusiasm will rub off on your kids. If you don't want to be there, don't expect them to want to either. If your children enjoy the trip you will enjoy it tens times more!
I probably missed a few things here and there, but... basically that is it in a nutshell. Have FUN!
Written by: Eytana Ben Shimon