A few weeks ago we took our first vacation since sweet Libby joined our family, and since Covid came into our lives, uninvited. We took advantage of the summer vacation from daycare to get out of town for a few days and treated ourselves to a change of vibe and scenery.
Our son Robin is almost three years old and was at the time processing all of the changes in his life - going in and out of lockdowns and a new baby sister, which meant that his behavior and mood were extremely unpredictable. With that in mind, we decided to keep things low-key, in order to allow lots of flexibility without too many negative vibes if things didn't go as planned.
Our main goal was a slight change in atmosphere after spending so many months indoors and avoiding travel. We wanted a bit of nature, greenery, lakeside views and a relaxing vibe. Slow travel, if you will. So we decided on a relatively cheap staycation, meaning staying close to Berlin.
I searched through different Facebook groups for nice recommendations for farm or lake houses but hadn't found anything nice that was available. All I came up with were a few family-friendly resort hotels, but the really nice ones were too expensive and didn't meet our initial criteria on budget.
So I went about it a little bit differently and just started exploring Airbnb. I looked at the small towns around Berlin, looking for something not too remote but also close to nature, without a specific location in mind. After a few exploring sessions I narrowed down the list to a few houses and with the help of my better half chose this one at Königs Wusterhausen, around 35 minutes by car from our house.
The apartment was perfect for us - nice, clean and cozy with a fully equipped kitchen, a few games in the living room storage and plenty of space. There were two bedrooms, one of them with two separate beds for the kids, but we wound up co-sleeping in the master bedroom, which is pretty much what we do at home anyway. It was conveniently located on a main road, which meant that the supermarket was very close by, in addition to a few nice restaurants.
Upon arrival, we had an "official" tour with our lovely hostess, and then we had plenty of time to explore the space. Robin had a wonderful time opening and closing every piece of furniture and running around between the rooms.
If you are planning a trip to the Königs Wusterhausen area, check out the list I made on Google maps with all of the recommendations listed below.
Tierpark - Our first stop before checking in to our Airbnb. Despite the confusing name, which means zoo in german, this isn't a zoo at all. In fact, we didn't see any animals of any kind whatsoever, besides a few birds maybe. However, this is a nice and stroller-friendly circular path in the woods and along the river bank. Our toddler wasn't too enthusiastic and stayed in the stroller, but we enjoyed the lovely views and the relaxed vibe.
Strandbad Neue Mühle - The weather was really nice but not warm enough to get in the cold lake water. But we did enjoy this beach, which includes a playground, a water slide and plenty of shaded benches to choose from. Admission is 3 euros for adults, 1.50 euros for kids, and children 3 years old and younger can go in for free. luckily for us, it wasn't busy at all and pretty quiet.
Königs Wusterhausen town center - actually, the morning we went exploring the town started out completely different. We planned to go on a children-friendly hike in the woods, but 10 minutes into the path we were defeated by the hundreds of mosquitoes and the not-so-stroller-friendly path. So we circled back and decided to drive back to town.
The town center is small but very charming. After the drive to and from the planned trail, it was already midday, so we started with a wonderful Italian lunch. Then we walked to the Schloßpark and visited its lovely playground, which includes a few small water streams, canals, pumps and dams, on top of the usual swings and slides. The park itself is not too big and is located near the Königs Wusterhausen palace. We didn't go in, but if you are interested in antique decor and history you could check it out. After some well-deserved ice cream, we went back to our apartment, not before Robin blew off some steam on the pedestrian bridge that connects the main streets and the park.
Vogelpark und Streichelzoo Teltow - This was our last stop before going back home and it is actually fairly accessible from Berlin (around 40 minutes from the city center by S-Bahn). It is a sweet animal park with birds, donkeys, ponies, goats and more. There are many different buggies available for the little ones to ride along the park paths and also various seating areas and a playground. Adult tickets are 3.50 euros, kids pay 2.50 euros and there are feeding bags available for a small extra cost to feed the animals.
After months of Corona regulations, it has been a while since we took our kids out to restaurants. But because we remembered that it isn't always such a treat, we decided we were better off having breakfast and dinner at our apartment and to rely on restaurants only for lunches.
Upon arrival at Königs Wusterhausen we went to the nearest supermarket and stocked up on snacks and groceries, such as bread, cereal, milk, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, cheese, juice, coffee, etc.
As I wrote above, our Airbnb was perfectly located on a street with a few restaurants, which enabled us to comfortably walk to lunch and back. A great find was a Greek restaurant, with yummy food and super nice and kid-friendly service.
We are no experts, but here are some things that helped us to make the most out of this experience:
Recreate the nighttime routine and vibe from home - we brought all the equipment we needed in order to recreate as much as possible the nighttime routine that our toddler is used to, away from home. That made the evenings and nights easier for all of us and helped reduce anxiety and stress.
Pack games and books for the hotel and for the road - we were lucky to find an apartment with a selection of books, puzzles and games, but that is a luxury that isn't always available. We packed a few new games to excite our son and a few of his favorite books. A reusable sticker book was perfect for the road, we took it out every time we sat down to eat at a restaurant and had to wait for the food.
Make plans but be prepared to change them - the weather in Germany isn't always predictable, and don't even get me started on the lack of predictability of children... To best prepare for every situation, I created a Google maps list with different attractions, trails and options in the area. That allowed us to decide what works best according to the situation, mood and weather conditions.
Make sure the hotel is nice and comfortable - before having kids, we didn't spend much time in our room while traveling. We would usually wake up, get ready, go exploring and be back only in the evening. Traveling with young kids is different. We spent most afternoons in the apartment, so we really got to enjoy the cozy decor, the huge sofa and all the small details that the hosts so carefully laid out.
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