You’re going to do it at some point in Venice, so let’s look at the various ways to travel by boat in Venice.
The vaporetto is the main people mover boat that goes up and down the grand canal and out to the islands of the lagoon at a snail’s pace. If you’re not a resident, it’s not cheap – 6.50 € per person, per ride. If your stay in Venice is more than 4 or 5 days, you should consider purchasing a Venice Card for 40 €, which will then allow you to purchase vaporetto tickets at the local rate of 1.20 €. Even without the Venice Card, multi-day passes are available, and if you know you want to head out to Murano, Burano or the Lido, or if you’re traveling with a stroller or with little ones who will tire of walking easily, you may want to get one. However, if your kids are mobile, you may find that once you’re situated in Venice, you will want to move a bit faster around town by foot.
A gondola ride is pretty much essential while you’re in Venice, and since you can have up to 6 passengers, the experience need not be prohibitively expensive for a family, and the kids will remember it forever. The maximum rate (per boat, not per person) for a gondola ride is set by the city, currently 80€ for a 40 minute ride during the day (100 € at night). If you want to take a gondola at sunset from Piazza San Marco in the middle of summer, you will pay the maximum, but if you venture a bit off the beaten path and are willing to take a daytime trip, you might pay half of that. On a recent Thursday in January, we had a lovely 45-minute ride after lunch for about 40 €, with a friendly gondolier who took us by Casanova’s house, showed us the effects of erosion on Venice, and told us all about the regatta that he and his wife had won the prior year.
The water taxi is a rather luxe experience in Venice, with a price to match. However, since the 100 € or so fare from the airport is divided among all the passengers, it can make sense for a family. It will be much quicker door to door (or dock to dock), and not much more expensive than coordinating and paying for the bus and vaporetto. And you won’t have to lug all the luggage on and off multiple times.
For bang for the buck (or Euro) in Venice, you can’t beat a trip on a traghetto across the Grand Canal. These gondolas are for quick trips across the water where there is no bridge. There are currently seven places where traghetti cross the Grand Canal, and you can find the locations on a good Venice map or look for the yellow signs pointing the way. Give the gondolier your .50 each (exact change, please!) and step on board. If you want the full experience, stand up like the Venetians do, and see how your sea legs hold up. This was one of our very favorite things to do, especially after dark, when Venice really seems like an opera set. The traghetti run continuously from early morning until 7 or 8 at night, and because of their sometimes precarious boarding and disembarking, are probably not the best option if you have strollers or other special needs.by Paige Conner Totaro