Europe Travel Tips
Why go to Europe? Why not! From the ruins of Greece to the flamenco in Spain to the Christmas markets of Germany, there’s something for every type of traveler and for every taste on the continent. In just a short visit, you can experience multiple cultures, languages, and cuisines.
Don’t be intimidated at the thought of traveling in Europe with kids. It’s definitely a different experience than seeing the sights on an adults-only excursion — but in some ways it’s better. With children in tow, you have to slow down. You’ll spend less time snapping photos at the tourist destinations and more time living like the people who call your destination country home. And your children? Will make memories that will last a lifetime.
One of the loveliest things about traveling to Europe is that it’s so easy to get around. For your first trip, you may want to choose one city — maybe London or Paris — and spend your whole vacation there. But on your next one, consider taking advantage of the inexpensive short haul flights or the European rail system so you can hop from city to city, enjoying the scenery along the way.
The hardest part of going to Europe might just be deciding which cities to add to your itinerary. I hope our own experiences traveling in Europe with kids will inspire you to see more of the continent.
Tips for Traveling in Europe With Kids
When you look for Europe travel tips, you’ll probably encounter a lot of advice that’s geared toward solo travelers and couples. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that you have to wait to take your kids to the European countries you’ve been dreaming of visiting. Is there a chance you’ll encounter a few hiccups on your travels? Sure, but with a little bit of preparation and a lot of patience, you can enjoy a European vacation that helps your children learn to love travel as much as you do.
Here are some of my tips for traveling in Europe with kids:
Tell children exactly what to expect. You are excited to see Europe because you know what to expect (including how you’ll be getting there). Chances are your kids have no idea what they’ll be seeing or doing once you arrive. They may also feel nervous about the flights or be wondering where they’ll sleep when they’re not at home. Explain what the plane ride will be like, show them photos of the hotel you’ll be staying at, and talk about what each day of your trip will look like.
Get your kids pumped for the trip. Before you leave, help your kids learn more about the cities and the sights you’ll be seeing. Older kids can read about the countries you’ll visit on Wikipedia, while younger ones can pick up age-appropriate books about them at the library. Look for fiction books or movies that take place at your destination, as these will make faraway places come alive.
Take language lessons. You can learn some words and phrases in the languages you’ll encounter people speaking on your trip using a free app like Duolingo. Ask your kids what phrases they think will be most useful — their answers may surprise you! Try to have everyone learn how to say hello, thank you, goodbye, excuse me, I’m sorry, yes, no, how much does it cost, and the numbers 1 through 20.
Try some traditional foods. Fast food is everywhere but do you really want to spend your European vacation looking for the nearest McDonald’s? Many kids will dine on foreign foods with enthusiasm if they see you happily digging in. Trying some traditional cuisine before you leave, cooking some at home, or even just reading descriptions of local foods before your trip may inspire your kids to be more adventurous eaters abroad.
Let them help with the planning. Are there attractions or cities in the countries you’re interested in visiting that have some association with what your kids are learning at school or the hobbies they’re most passionate about? Adding them to your itinerary can get your kids excited for the trip. Note: This is a great idea no matter where you’re headed.
Don’t overdo it. Your desire to get the most out of your trip can lead to family-wide burnout if you’re not careful. As tempted as you may be to see as many museums and attractions as you can in a single day, keep in mind that kids get overwhelmed much more easily than adults. Slow down and make sure your itinerary includes plenty of time for relaxation.
Check out some of my favorite European destinations:
Barcelona (along with Spain in general) is wonderfully child-friendly, and there’s usually some form of children’s entertainment like a festival or other event happening somewhere in the city. There are also theme parks and museums geared toward families. The people of Spain are famously indulgent toward children and kids are welcome just about anywhere, so no one will bat an eye when you walk into a restaurant or even a bar with your little ones.
Germany’s Christmas Markets (known in the country as the Weihnachtsmarkt or Christkindlesmarkt) are a magical experience for children and something every family should see at least once. There are markets all over Germany starting at the end of November, and they typically are open until Christmas Eve. Far from being your average outdoor market, the Christmas Markets have candle makers, glassblowers, handmade wooden crafts and ornaments, and so much lovely food that you may need more than one visit to take it all in.
London has a lot to offer families. There are fabulous museums (most of which are free all day, every day) and lots of history (quite a bit of which will be familiar to Americans), along with beautiful strollable neighborhoods and attractions geared toward kids. Is London expensive? It can be, though there’s plenty to do here that won’t cost much at all. (We used to live in London.)
Paris in person is as gorgeous as it is in photos, which is one of the reasons it’s one of the most visited cities in the world. That said, the most popular museums and monuments typically have long lines that can make even the most patient child go a bit crazy. If you’re visiting Paris with younger children, think less about seeing the sights and more about experiencing the city like a local. Explore neighborhoods, let your kids make new friends in the parks, enjoy leisurely treats in the cafes (which are just as good as you’d imagine), and immerse yourself in the ambiance.
Are you taking your children to Europe? Check out my tips for flying with kids to find out how to prevent air sickness, beat jet lag, and help every member of your family enjoy the trip.
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