When we travel, we usually like slow traveling. That usually means not filling our days with too many activities or attractions. But sometimes we like to do touristy things, like taking a bus tour such as a hop on hop off Rome tour. They help make our travels fun and interesting.
Italy was my daughter’s pick for countries to visit during our around the world trip. But it’s also a country of significance to my husband, as it’s the first country he ever visited outside of the United States and Canada.
As for me, visiting Italy has always interested me, and I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit a country that is steeped with so much historical and cultural significance to Americans. Our country was influenced by the Republican ideals of Rome, for goodness sake!
We kicked off our Italy trip with a visit to Rome with kids. There are just so many things to do in Rome with kids, and our two days in the city just wasn’t enough! Taking an open bus tour in Rome gave us just a taste of what the city has to offer.
This post was updated on December 27, 2021.
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Exploring with a hop on hop off Rome tour
While Rome isn’t always an easy place to get around with kids, we were able to experience a lot of things while we were there. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of things to do in Rome with kids.
Take a flip through Rick Steve’s Rome guide book for some ideas.
Of course there are the usual tourist spots to visit. While we were in Rome with kids, we visited the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican City.
We wished we could have had time to visit other ancient sites like the Roman Forum, Palatine Hills, Circus Maximus, the Pantheon or Trajan’s Wall, but we didn’t have time. And a visit to the iconic Spanish Steps also eluded us. Additionally, taking some day trips from Rome would have made our visit even more interesting.
However, sometimes you only have a few days to spend in a city. And for our family, taking the sightseeing tour by bus was a great way to get ideas for what to see and do while we were in Rome with kids.
These hop on hop off bus tours are popular all around the world. We’ve seen them in cities like New York City, Mexico City, London, and Seville. They give families a good introduction to cities.
First time traveling overseas with kids? Check out my tips on combatting jet lag.
What is the best hop on hop off Rome tour?
There are several companies that offer hop off hop on Rome tours. While each of them are unique, they all offer roughly the same experience, so it’s hard to say which one is the best.
City Sightseeing and Big Bus are they most popular, and they often partner with each other to offer integrated tickets. We did a City Sightseeing bus tour while we were in Paris, so we are familiar with that company. And for our trip in Rome, we chose Big Bus because we liked their hop-on hop-off Rome route the best. Big Bus also offers free digital walking tours of Rome and free on board WiFi (though it wasn’t working when we did the tour).
Essentially, it’s up to you to decide which bus tours of Rome you want to purchase. Book one of these Rome hop on hop off open top bus tours for your trip:
Big Bus Rome Hop On Hop Off Tour
Hop On Hop Off City Sightseeing Rome Tour
I Love Rome Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour
Greenline Tour Rome Hop On Hop Off Bus
Getting around Rome
Rome is a relatively easy city to get around. The hop on hop off tour takes families to many of the tourist spots throughout Rome. Taxis are also available for families who want easier ways of getting around Rome. However, unless you’re in a popular commercial area, it’s sometimes hard to catch one. Uber exists in Rome, but we found the price per ride was much higher than taxis.
For Romans, though, public transportation is the best way to deal with getting around Rome. The metro goes all over the city, and the maps at the stations are fairly easy to read. The buses also go traverse the city, and there bus stops throughout Rome.
You can buy bus tickets and passes at a tabaccheria (smoke shop) or at some bars. There are also ticket vending machines at a few of the main bus stops. A 100 minute ride costs 1.50 euros. You can also purchase 24 hour passes and 7 passes. Rome Toolkit has a great resource for getting around Rome using public transportation.
Tips for the hop on hop off Rome tour with kids
For our family, taking a hop on hop off Rome open bus tour really helped us with getting around the city. It was one of the first things we did when we arrived in Rome with kids. The hop on hop off Rome tour helped us get a lay of the land, and introduce us to the main attractions of Rome.
You can purchase your tickets ahead of time online, or you can purchase them at designated ticket counters in the city. There are vendors that sell the bus tickets throughout the city, but some of them are not authorized. I recommend purchasing your tickets at the official ticket booths in Termini station, depending on the company you are using.
A hop on hop off Rome tour is actually perfect for families visiting Rome with kids. Here are a few of my tips for doing bus tours in Rome with your kids.
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1. Choose the tour that provides the most value to you
Tickets for a hop on hop off Rome tour range from 24 euros for an one day hop on hop off ticket, to 36 euros for a 72 hour ticket. Children over five are half price. You can get on the buses any time of day between the hours of 9am-7pm. In the spring and summer months, the tours run every day. But during the winter months, the tours only run Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
My suggestion is to book either an all day ticket or a 24 hour ticket (29 euros), so that you get used to where things are laid out in the city. Then use public transportation for getting around Rome during the remainder of your trip. You can save up to 14.50 euros per person by doing this.
2. Bundle your hop on hop off in Rome tour with a Skip The Line ticket
Most hop on hop off Rome bus tours also give you the option of bundling your ticket with Skip The Line fast track attraction tickets. This can get you into the Vatican museums or other museums around Rome.
Do a bit of research ahead of time to find out what the tickets costs if you just book it directly with the attraction. You might end up saving more money on your Rome city sightseeing experiences that way.
For us, we chose to bundle our bus tour with a Skip The Line ticket to the Vatican City. That really helped us avoid the long line to enter the city. But when we visited the Colosseum, we bought tickets at the gate, and didn’t have to wait too long in line. It ended up saving us 6 euros per person.
3. Give yourself time to do the hop on hop off Rome tour
While the hop on hop off tours offer recorded commentary of each of the stops (in multiple languages including English), you’ll have a much fuller experience if you spend time exploring the stops in person.
However, when you’re traveling with kids, things take exponentially longer to do. So I suggest giving yourself a lot of extra time, especially if you’re going to be doing the hop on hop off Rome tour on your trip to Rome with kids.
Plan about two hours to explore a stop. A place like the Vatican City is huge. It will take some time to cover a lot of ground if you’re exploring with little feet. Even the Colosseum takes about an hour to explore. Giving yourself time helps avoid crankiness and frustration, both for your kids and you.
4. Limit the number of stops you take
Since you’re giving yourself extra time to explore places, you will definitely need to limit the number of stops you take on the bus tour. Try and limit the stops to two or three at the maximum.
For our tour, we picked Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and the Vatican City. And even then, that was more than enough for us. Our kids were exhausted by the end of the tour.
If your little ones are young, think about their energy levels. Also, if you are just coming from a different continent, like we were, you may also need to consider jet lag. Our kids had a hard time adjusting to the time zone (and still are having trouble to some extent), so doing a lot of attractions on the hop on hop off Rome tour would have been just too much for them.
5. Use the ride for nap time
One of the more difficult things to do in Rome with kids, especially little kids, is to find suitable places for naps. If your little one still needs nap time or quiet time, the hop on hop off Rome tour is actually a good place for them to take a nap!
Since there’s no limit to how long you stay on the bus during the daily hours, you can do multiple loops throughout the city at a time. For example, a loop on the Big Bus red route takes about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the traffic. That’s more than enough time for your little one to rest, if he or she needs it.
So while your little one naps, you’ll get to pass by amazing sights like the Santa Maria Maggiore, the Castel Sant Angelo, the Colosseum, and a countless number of basilicas. It’s a win-win!
6. Pair your hop on hop off Rome tour with a walking tour
The hop on hop off Rome tour buses don’t run all day. So in the off hours, why not book a walking tour of the city?
Walking tours are a great way to get to know a city. And with historical city such as Rome, there is so much you can learn! Rome Free Walking Tours offers daily tours of the city for a 1 euro booking fee (plus a tip for your guide).
If you’re more of a do-it-yourself kind of traveler, a digital walking tour of Rome might be more of your speed. Get Your Guide offers digital walking tours of Rome starting at 5 euros using their mobile app.
Alternatively, you can book one of these English language walking tours of Rome:
Testaccio Neighborhood Food and Market Tour
Jewish Ghetto Synagogues and Museum Tour
Lonely Planet Experiences: Rome Highlights
See what other places in Italy you can visit with kids.
Having fun in Rome with kids
We loved visiting Rome with kids. And we wish we could have had more time to explore the city. I’m sure you could be in Rome for months and still not get too all the things to do in Rome with kids!
The hop on hop off Rome is the perfect introduction to Rome. And for new visitors to Rome, it’s a great first option for getting around Rome.
Have you done a hop on hop off Rome tour with your kids? Share your experience with me in the comments!
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