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Trip Report Croatia in 10 days with Kids. Amazing!

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My family and I just returned last night from a 10-day trip to Croatia last night, and we had a wonderful, smooth and remarkable time.

We went to Zagreb, Plitvice National Park, Zadar, Krka National Park, Split, Hvar and Dubrovnik. We are a family of 4 including 10 and 12 year old boys, and traveled in July. While busy summer traffic was a concern for me pre-trip, I'm happy to report we still had a great time. Our interests are history, sightseeing, and being outdoors. We got a great taste of Croatia in 10 days.

FYI, we arranged our local guides and hotels using an agency 14YouTravel. Andrea Vucinic is a Croatian who now lives in Chicago. She was very helpful.

Here's what was special about each place. And below are alternatives to consider.

1) Zagreb - Small, European capital with great cafe culture. Nice to get a taste of "real life" because Dalmatian coastal towns will feel very touristy. So Zagreb is good contrast to that. Hotel Esplande was very elegant and amazing history from having served Orient Express. Easy walking distance of town.
(2 nights)

2) Plitvice Nat'l Park - Remarkable for the boardwalks that cover beautiful green/blue lakes. They arrange hikes/tours which vary from 2 to 8 hours of time -- depending on how much time you have. We spent 5 hours doing the "C" hike, which covered 5 miles of hiking (and had a boat ride) and allowed for lunch time and plenty of photos.

3) Zadar - pretty coastal town, (and was less crowded than Split and Dubrovnik). Great evening atmosphere. Hotel Bastion - great location in Old town, next to Sea Organ. (1 night)

4) Krka - While similar in feel to Plitvice, you get to go into water here, right next to the Falls. This was fun for our kids, and we used this as a "down time" day to relax, and to have contrast with all the city touring for Split/Dubrovnik.

5) Hvar - Andrea arranged a driver to do a wine tasting tour, and to go to dinner in this amazing restaurant in an abandoned town. The restaurant is fantastic (great grilled meats, very friendly) and cozy. Perhaps 8 tables, which were also taken up. Very special. The wines were good too. We went to 2 small wineries (tasting rooms) and got to see more of Hvar island. Hotel Pharos -- completely remodeled in 2014 -- has a great setting, pool, breakfast. 10 minutes from town and quiet too. (2 nights)

6) Split and Dubrovnik - Clearly you must expect and brace yourself for tons of visitors during the summer. Like visiting Florence. We hired local guides for both towns (as well as Zagreb) and they were both knowledgeable, friendly and hardworking. Our Dubrovnik guide gave us great tips on how to spend our time there, showed us quieter streets and made great restaurant recommendations as well. I also just enjoyed sitting down for a coffee break with one of the guides and talking to him about his life in Croatia.

Dubrovnik - We went to island Lokrum (just 15 minutes away by boat) and even in the height of July, when the Old Town was crowded, Lokrum was very relaxing (not too busy) and delightful. Highly recommend. Kids could play on rocky coasts endlessly. Restaurant options (or picnic).

Split - Hotel Luxe. This was the only hotel I was slightly skeptical of based on the hotel's website (all that purple!). However, the location was perfect, being right outside of old town and next to harbor (to catch the ferry). And the interior space was great. So, I'm now a fan.

Dubrovnik - Hotel Dubrovnik Palace. The views from rooms, pool and lobby simply stunning. Hotel itself completely remodeled in 2014, and rooms were very modern, sleek.

Would I do anything differently? Visiting Istria would have a more European feel to it (less American tourists), and be just as pretty. However, my family really wanted to see Dubrovnik and Split, and despite the crowds, we still had a great time. I think the key is to adopt a mindset of enjoying wherever you are, vs. "fear of missing out". We could easily visit Croatia a 2nd time.

Transportation notes: We opted to arrange for drivers to reduce stress in navigation, parking etc. And because we simply didn't need a car other than getting from one town to the next. Very few hours spent in cars. Croatia is small. We bought ferry tickets ahead of time.

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