The following article was written by Ryan Messer. Read other articles from Messer here.
Some wine-loving parents think they have to give up wine touring when they have children or at least have to leave the kids at home. You don’t. Wine touring with children can be done, and with a little pre-planning, it can even be enjoyable for all. Below are seven steps to help think about wine touring when you have children in tow.
Step 1 - Have a Designated Driver
This is obviously good to have any time you're out tasting, assuming you’re not spitting, but it's imperative when traveling with the little ones for all of the obvious reasons.
Step 2 - Sell it to the kids
There are multiple ways to tackle any of the objections your children may throw in your direction. The first is to invite other friends with children, as misery loves company. I'm also a fan of bribery. I can't count how many times I have uttered the words, "If you're good boys while we are out today, I'll buy you (insert necessary item here)". I know that may not be the best parenting habit, but it is a tool in the toolbox if needed.
Step 3 - Bring lots of entertainment options
The age of your children will dictate what to bring. I have a three and a half year old son and another that is nearly eight. Their interests are quite different. My recommendation is to overpack for the occasion for each child. Books, coloring books, Legos, action figures or dolls would be a good start. Electronics like a Nintendo DS or an iPad with a couple movies will definitely help. Additionally, if the property is large enough to accommodate, a Frisbee, football or soccer ball are great choices for outdoor enjoyment.
Step 4 – Make sure you have enough food and beverages with you
Pack an ice chest with sandwiches, snacks, bottled water, juice boxes, etc. Make sure to stay away from too much sugar as a child bouncing off the walls of a car will try everyone's patience. If you have multiple children, bring identical snack items so the kids won't fight over who gets what.
Step 5 – Identify kid-friendly tasting rooms in advance
Aside from securing your driver, the most important piece of the puzzle is to find appropriate tasting rooms to travel to with children. Not all will allow underage guests on the premises, but I have found very few of those actually. Additionally, some tasting rooms are far better equipped for children than others. In Washington, Prosser is probably the best overall tasting area to visit with children we have found over the years. There are numerous wineries within walking distance to each other, separated by huge lawns that are great for playing. Other areas can vary greatly, so you’ll need to do your homework and explore the surroundings.
Check out their websites in advance for wineries you are interested in visiting. Many will include photos of the facility which can help you make your determination about how suitable it is. When in doubt, give the tasting room a call and find out if they have a policy or preference.
Step 6 - Keep an eye on the kids!
My children do not always wish to join us in the tasting room, so what becomes a key factor to me is the parking and surrounding area to keep a watchful eye on them. Occasionally, if we are close enough and within direct line of sight, we allow our children to sit in the car if they so desire. That's a decision you have to make when you arrive at your destination. Just be very cognizant of the weather outside, as there are times it can obviously be too hot or too cold to even consider this option. And, of course, under no circumstances keep the car running with your children in it unattended.
If your children do accompany you into the tasting room, the two main concerns are breakable items and other guests. A busy tasting day will includes dozens, if not hundreds of wine glasses nearby to tip over and break. No one wants that. And as you are intending to enjoy your day, so are the other guests, some of whom have inevitably left children behind for a little escape. Be mindful of allowing them to enjoy their day to the same level as you. Don’t let your children become their problem!
Step 7 – Relax and enjoy yourself
You’re out in wine country so make sure to relax and have a good time. Trust me, you won't be a bad parent for taking your children tasting with you. With a little planning, it can be fun for all. Just make sure to leave room in the car for your wine purchases!
Leave comments below with what you have found has worked/hasn’t when you’ve been out wine touring with your children. Also feel free to mention specific Northwest wineries you have found that are kid-friendly.