Travel with children in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is generally a breeze: the food’s varied and tasty, the distances are short, there are child-friendly activities at every turn, and the locals absolutely love children. The only thing is getting the children through the flight to and from Israel. I think that a vacation in Israel with the children is the best you can get.
Why? Look at the photo, that’s why.
Top Activities for Kids
Underwater Red Sea Observatory Take in scuba-quality reef views without getting wet; there’s also a petting pool.
Rosh HaNikra Kids will love the cliff side cable car and the deep blues of the sea-battered grottoes.
Desert Cycling Tweens and teens will enjoy mountain biking through the desert along a dry wadi bed.
Ya’ar HaAyalim This animal park is in Odem, on the Golan.
Gangaroo Pet kangaroos and feed lorikeets in the Jezreel Valley.
Mini Israel Midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, this park shrinks 350 of Israel’s best-known attractions to scale-model size.
Play Areas in Malls Most shopping malls have a meeschakiya (play area) for babies and toddlers – a great place to meet local kids (and on occasion their colds), especially on rainy days.
For more then 380 kids-friendly sights, events and activities, click here.
Israeli society is very family-oriented, so children are welcome pretty much everywhere. At every turn, your children will encounter local children out and about with their parents, especially on Saturday and Jewish holidays and in July and August.
Israel’s beaches are usually clean and well equipped with cafes and even playgrounds. Make sure you slather on the sunblock, especially in summer, and stay out of the midday sun. (The Dead Sea, because it’s so far below sea level, poses a lesser risk of sunburn, but kids have to be extra careful to keep the water out of their eyes.)
Most of Israel’s nature reserves are fantastic for kids, and older children will enjoy the hikes – some gentle, some more challenging – on offer throughout the country. As park wheelchair access has improved in recent years, so has the ease of getting around with a stroller.
Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Mitzpeh Ramon and Eilat offer a wide variety of things kids will love, though the alleys of Jerusalem’s Old City are tough for strollers. Most shopping malls have a meeschakiya (play area) for babies and toddlers – a great place to meet local kids (and on occasion their colds), especially on rainy days.
Planning your trip with the kids
Disposable nappies (diapers; chitulim), wet wipes (magavonim), baby formula (formoola), baby bottles (bakbukim l’tinok) and pacifiers (dummies; motzetzim) are available in supermarkets and pharmacies, but prices are higher than in most Western countries.
If your baby is picky, it pays to bring familiar powdered milk from home. Jars of baby food are also available, though in fewer flavours than in the UK or USA; organic baby food is available in some places. Medicines for children are easily obtained; almost all pharmacists speak English and are happy to assist.
A lightweight, collapsible (ie umbrella-style) stroller is convenient for traveling, but for the narrow cobblestone alleys and staircases in places such as Jerusalem’s Old City, Akko, Safed and Bethlehem it’s a good idea to bring a wearable kid-carrier.
With the exception of a few B&Bs (tzimmerim) that cater exclusively to couples (eg in Rosh Pina), children are welcome to stay almost everywhere. In the vast majority of hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs, babies and toddlers can sleep in their parents’ room for free (let management know if you’ll need a cot); older children sometimes incur an extra charge. Most rooms in hostels and SPNI field schools have at least four beds, making them ideal for families.
Virtually all restaurants welcome children, with both the servers and other diners taking the disruptions of kiddie mealtime in stride. Almost all have high chairs, and some also offer special kids’ portions for child-sized prices. Most eateries, except the most upscale, are open all day long, so meal times can be flexible. Israeli breakfasts are famously copious and usually include at least a couple of breakfast cereals.
Many children take an instant liking to felafel, hummus, sabich (aubergine, boiled egg and potato, and salads in a pita) and shwarma, but as these fast foods (including their sauces and salads) are more likely than most meals to play host to microbes unknown back home, you might want to go easy, at least at first.
Traveling by Car
A Babies up to one year old (recommended through age two) or who weigh less than 9kg must sit in a back-facing child seat (moshav b’tichut). A portable baby seat that can attach to both a car seat and a stroller is known in Hebrew as a salkal.
- For toddlers aged two and three (recommended through age four), a child seat (back or forward facing) is required.
- Children through age eight must sit on a booster seat.
- Car seats are not required for children who are riding in a taxi.
- A child seat must not be placed in any passenger seat equipped with an airbag.
The Palestinian Territories for Kids
Children receive a warm welcome in the West Bank and will often be whisked away to meet local children or treated to cakes and cookies. But traveling in the area has its own special challenges. Pushing a stroller around West Bank cities such as Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem can be laborious, and then there’s the matter of getting through checkpoints. If you’re traveling from Jerusalem to Ramallah, you might want to give the intimidating, prison-style turnstiles at Qalandia a miss, preferring instead a guided tour with a car and driver. In any case, remember to bring your kids’ passports as well as your own.