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Little Flea founder Anna Cascarina on how parents can survive a trip with tweens and early teens...

I’m Anna, mum of Ruby (13) and Pippa (10) and wife of Jim. We recently spent a few awesome days in Slovenia staying in an Airbnb and learnt a few lessons along the way about connecting with the family…

The selection of properties in Ljubljana on Airbnb were amazing - it took us days to decide as they all looked so gorgeous. In the end the kids chose the 'Market View' appartment as it looked lovely and bright, was right across the road from the famous 'Dragon Bridge' and their room looked really cosy and had (in their words) cool shelves!

As the kids get older, holidays go in a completely different direction from the usual family getaways. It’s no longer possible to go somewhere quiet with just a pool or a beach and a few toys to keep the kids entertained. No... teens and tweens abroad are a completely different state of affairs - they have to be handled delicately!

Mobile phones cannot be removed from older children - believe me it’s not even worth trying!

Firstly, as you probably know if you have them, older children are surgically attached to their phones. It’s a fact. They cannot be removed - believe me it’s not even worth trying! But there are a few ways in which you can distract them, thus giving you the opportunity to connect with your child again. Giving them the chance to make decisions around where you go, what you eat etc will help to keep them engaged. For example, Ruby decided on pizza one night, so we found a pretty little pizzeria on the river near to our Airbnb apartment where we had what she said was the best pizza she had ever eaten. Win!

Planning ahead is vital to a successful trip with older kids. They are easily bored and then the moodiness kicks in, so having a plan - which they are involved in - is essential. Before we left the UK, we bought a guide book, searched the internet for ideas on Slovenia’s must-sees and must-dos near to our Airbnb apartment, and booked ahead for a paddle boarding adventure, a trip into underground caves, and a visit to a fairytale castle built into the rockface of a mountain.

It also helped that the host, Šarka was a little gem. She was really thorough with instructions and got back to us straight away if we had any questions. She sorted out a taxi to collect us from the airport, left tasty supplies including fresh rolls, ham and milk and provided us with loads of maps, leaflets and guides of the town. She also recommended lots of good restaurants ranging from traditional Slovenian to international food. Plus, much to the kids delight, she told us the place to go for the best crepes in town! Šarka also sent an email prior to our arrival giving us lots of information about what to do in and around Ljubljana as well as further afield. She really was amazing and we would definitely return.

The appartment itself is over 200 years old with high ceilings and beautiful big windows overlooking the market. It's so close to everything you need but is still lovely and quiet so perfect for families. (Please note though that the appartment is on the first floor with no lift, so may not be suitable if travelling with buggies). Situated at the foot of Ljubljana castle, everything is right on your doorstep. The beds were comfortable and the whole property was spotless. Plus the kitchen was kitted out with everything we needed and more.

Having only a few days meant we had to be savvy in our choices and we wanted to make the most of our stay while keeping the kids happy and entertained. However, although we wanted to see as much of Slovenia as we could, we also needed to get the balance right between culture and fun. Therefore our days were planned a bit like this…

Day             Morning                    Afternoon

Sunday       Paddle Boarding      Llubljana Castle

Monday      Postojna Caves        Predjama Castle

Then the evenings were left for family dinners and exploring the local shops - one thing older children do enjoy doing!

The togetherness has to happen naturally, it can’t be forced

One of the hardest things to adjust to as the kids get older, is the disconnection that is inevitable from you - the parents, but also between siblings. A family holiday gives you the chance to find that togetherness again, but it has to happen naturally, it can’t be forced.

The connection within our family occurred during funny moments at dinner, playing cards at a cafe by the river and exploring the city. There were moments where not only was there a sense of family togetherness that isn’t always present in our busy lives, but the girls also found each other again. And this was a joy to see.

However, that connection doesn’t last forever, so it’s important to give them the time and space to just be. Staying in a home from home (with wifi) like our Airbnb, allowed the girls a bit of their own space to plug into their phones, connect with friends back home or listen to music. They needed a bit of a breather for a while until they were ready for the next adventure.

It was in the unlikeliest places that we came together the most. We took a train from Ljubljana to Postojna which took us across Slovenia, around mountains and past pretty towns. Just sitting on the train for a few hours with nothing to do but chat and giggle was a real treat. No phones, no distractions. Just us, our little family of four. It is moments like these that you remember the most.

And this is what I’m going to take from our Slovenian adventure. As well as the breath-taking scenery, wonderful and helpful Airbnb host, fun adventures and gorgeous food, I want to remember to be present. To take time away and to enjoy each day. As the years fly by and the children grow into young ladies, I’m realising how important it is to slow down and take it all in. Spending as much time as possible together as a family is crucial because before we know it, our little birds will be flying the nest and these moments will be just memories.

:: Anna is the founder of Little Flea, a kids’ fashion + interiors directory and magazine. Follow all the other Airbnb x TantrumXYZ family trips on social media under the #TripsXYZ hashtag.


Lisa Tantrum
This looks like such a lovely trip, and hopefully an experience your girls won't forget in a hurry.