Ten hour layover in Venice with a four year old?
April 23, 2019 4:49 PM   Subscribe

In the process of booking a flight from O'Hare to London, and we potentially have the option to have a ten hour layover in Venice on the way over. We (two adults and a four year old) would arrive mid-morning after an eight hour flight.

Cons: We will be traveling with a four year old, who may be crabby after an 8 hour flight. We are on a low budget and I assume doing anything in Venice will be expensive in June.

Pros: I've always wanted to go there, and it's very unlikely we'll have another opportunity in the future. We will be two adults managing the kid.

Is this a completely mad idea? Should we go for it? If we do it, what tips do you have for packing our hand luggage, or what we can do that isn't too expensive?
posted by EllaEm to Travel & Transportation around Venice, Italy (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you done a red-eye with the kids before? I have multiple times and I wouldn't do this.

That said Venice airport is pretty small and close to town.
posted by JPD at 5:44 PM on April 23, 2019

The main problem with doing this is that the Venice airport isn't in the city that you think of as Venice. It is a boat ride away (maybe 40 minutes?). So you'll need to get from your flight to the boat; wait for the boat; pay for the boat (maybe 40 Euros each?); ride the boat to Venice proper, then you'd have three or four hours to walk around before you reverse the procedure to get back to the airport for your flight out.

You should check all my numbers -- I could be off by a factor of two on the times and the costs. But, all that said if you can afford it I think it's worth the risk. Once you're in Venice you don't have to spend a lot of money. You just walk around and ask yourself how this place ever possibly came to exist. It's beautiful and amazing. Your kid will probably be toast. You'll probably have to carry them. It may be a total fail. But I'd risk it.

(I say this all as someone who took a red eye from Boston to Rome last summer with a spouse and two kids, got off the plane, recovered in the air BNB for a couple hours, and then dragged the kids to the Vatican Museum. That was miserable; the kids were miserable; we didn't have a great time. But for a glimpse of Venice I'd risk it.)
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:58 PM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

It depends. My kid reliably sleeps on flights and would be ecstatic to get out and run around and take a boat (!). I'd plan on major crankiness heading back to the airport - I'd have a wrap or backpack to carry him, make sure he's well fed, treats on hand, maybe a t.o.y. I'd have low expectations for Venice - walk around, lunch, playground or children's museum (something hands on).

I flew from Sydney to Los Angeles on Christmas day, 3 hr drive from LA to my hometown. He did great, but largely because his excitement about Christmas was greater than his jetlag.

I'd do it with my kid, ymmv.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:26 PM on April 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh and it depends on how easy going you are. I would do this and have a good enough time, even with a tantrum. My husband would hate it, even if the kids was great, because he hates all the luggage schlepping, security, immigration lines, etc. These things don't bother me nearly as much.
posted by jrobin276 at 6:30 PM on April 23, 2019

It is true that it is a boat ride away - private or shared = expensive, but about 30 minutes each way, dropped right to where you want to go.

Bus boat ride = less expensive, but not cheap, about an hour each way, runs about every 30 minutes

Bus, like actual regular bus = cheapest option, runs every 20 minutes, takes about 20 minutes, downside, you are at the bus station. This is the only option I have no knowledge of, and so I hate to recommend, but it looks like it could be great option for you, especially if you are storing luggage at airport. *Again* this is not something I have done (stored luggage at airport), but seems like the best option.

If you go to bus station, Piazzale Roma, you will then need a way to get elsewhere in the city, and there will again be private and public water taxis available. Oh, and gondolas, maybe? Gondolas would likely be the priciest option, but could be lovely and very "Venice."

One good thing about being tired in Venice is that you could throw money at the problem and float along some of the sites instead of walking everywhere, so I guess it depends just how low your budget needs to be.

I feel for you as I both want to say NO, don't do this with a potentially exhausted four-year-old and YES, you should totally do this because it's potentially a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Last thought, it's not Venice per se, but... I did see both water taxi tours or shuttles that were much cheaper to Murano, etc. Would that be enough of a back-up if everything goes wrong and you all arrive tired and cranky? I would definitely have back-up thoughts. I mean what if flight is 2 hours late arriving? Our flight was at least 2 hours late from O'Hare. What happens if you can't do anything but wander around the Venice airport, will you be crushed? Ruin the day?
posted by dawg-proud at 6:53 PM on April 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did a whirlwind visit to Venice once, and it was worth it. Took the bus to Venice, rode the vaporetto (water bus) down the canal to Piazza San Marco, checked out the square and the palace, walked back up to the train station heading out towards Rome. If you’re arriving and departing by air definitely store your luggage. Venice is not that large, depending how things go on the day you could take boats everywhere or do more walking—even if you don’t explore far you can still get the feel of the city, have a nice lunch or some gelato, then head back to the airport.
posted by impishoptimist at 7:10 PM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

I assume doing anything in Venice will be expensive in June.

I've been twice as a tourist and haven't really paid for "attractions". For me, the charm of the city is wandering the streets getting lost in the (totally safe) back alleys and taking the vaporetto to wherever you fancy or nowhere in particular. Obviously, there are also amazing galleries with glass art, but I doubt you'll be after that with small kids. It looks like a boat ticket from Marco Polo to venice + 24 hour vaporetto pass would be 32 euros each, and I remember finding plenty of cheap-ish eats if you don't need a proper restaurant.
posted by Metasyntactic at 7:53 PM on April 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've done short layover city visits a couple of times. I recommend checking the bulk of your luggage, even if there is a fee, that way you can wander unencumbered - and you would have paid the fee to store the luggage at the
Venice airport anyway.

But also go in with limited expectation - I'm finishing up a trip that started with a Frankfurt layover. In theory, we had enough time to explore the city a little, but airline screw-ups meant we only had the time to go in and eat a schnitzel and come back to the airport. Which was okay for us, but we weren't heart set on a wonderful Frankfurt visit.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:06 PM on April 23, 2019

Can your luggage just go ahead? I'm not certain there is storage at the airport, which is a little provincial airport.

My ex once told me we couldn't go to Venice on a day trip because it is too much. He was wrong. You should take this chance. I'd take the public boat in and out, the bus is cheaper, but the boat is part of the Venetian experience.

Venice is very toddler friendly - I lived there alone with my 4-year-old for 6 weeks. It was great.

The boat will take you near s. Marco. From there, you should head towards the fish market, but don't follow the tourist track. Head for the traghetto at s. Toma. Traghetti are a cheap way of experiencing the gondola. (Gondolas are crazy expensive. Traghetti just cross the grand canal. Walking from s. Toma, pass the s. Polo square, where you will meet the little bit of normalcy that is left in Venice. Kids are out playing, moms gossiping, old men enjoying a coffee or a drink. Go to the market before it closes, then find a good lunch spot in that area. I've eaten at this one, and it's fine. At the Campo Beccarie there are outdoor terrasses that are completely fine, and well, outdoors. Just avoid the Stellina bar, which is owned by Chinese, and on your one day in Venice you should try Venetian food and drink -- ask for traditional or local dishes at any restaurant. Another Campo with fine outdoor terrasses is the Santa Margherita, where students hang out. You won't get gourmet stuff there, but cheap and authentic if you ask for it. Venice is on the sea and in the North, obviously, so look for seafood if you like it, and for rice and polenta. But it is also a university town, so pizza is big.
Now, you can visit one sight. You can go over the Rialto Bridge with thousands of people back to s. Marco, and see the cathedral. It's free and it's amazing.
You can go and see where they make and repair the gondolas . I don't remember if they take an entrance fee. Opposite of them there is a famous bar for cicchetti, little snacks you have with a glass of wine or an Aperol Spritz. Or with a soda. It's cheap and a lovely way to end your day in Venice.
Or you can visit one of the scuole. The Schools of Venice are local cultural centers that are richly decorated by world famous artists. The entrance fee is often low. The Scuola Grande di San Rocco is amazing.
If you want to splurge in a way that perfects your day, take a water-taxi back to the airport. Maybe look for someone to share with. It will give you more time in Venice and you will feel like moviestars.
posted by mumimor at 3:26 AM on April 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

These answers are great -- thanks everyone! Alas, I ran this idea and your arguments past my other half and his response was: uh, hell to the no? Followed by: Nope. No. Not a snowball in hell's chance. Not gonna happen.

So, alas, we will not see Venice. If it were just me I would be persuaded, but the fact we have just got home after a four-day, four state, 20+ hours of driving road trip may play a part in dampening his enthusiasm...

Next time!
posted by EllaEm at 4:26 AM on April 24, 2019

Hold on. You could book this flight, husband and kid could check in to a nearby airport hotel (quick google says there's one a mile away), they could relax after long flight from Chicago and you could set out and explore your heart out. Win-win.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:10 AM on April 24, 2019 [8 favorites]

Would your spouse be okay flying alone with the kid? If you took separate flights you could have the layover and he could skip it.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:57 AM on April 24, 2019

I see you're not going to do it, which I certainly appreciate. On the other hand, one of the important aspects of adjusting to a new time zone is to be outside a lot. The easy thing is to sit inside the airport, but that's doubly wasted time if you're not outside. You know your travel style and typical energy level better than we do.
posted by wnissen at 10:42 AM on April 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

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