Are you taking your family on the trip of a lifetime?
Europe offers all sorts of fantastic fun for your family’s upcoming vacation – from gorgeous beaches to historic monuments to ancient cities and more, you’ll have fun while making great memories at the same time.
If you’re searching for information on how to make your family’s trip a success, you’re in the right place. Here’s your guide to summer travel in Europe!
Tips for Traveling with a Family to Europe
There are several ways to have an enjoyable family vacation to Europe. Follow these easy tips when you’re planning your trip and on your adventure.
1) Don’t Try to Cover Everything
Unless you’re on sabbatical, you most likely won’t have the time to cover every amazing thing Europe has to offer – but that’s ok! You can still get in many of the major sites and a few of the hidden gems. You should pinpoint various spots to serve as home bases and then venture out to the surrounding areas on day trips. This will cut down on your overall travel time, which can be very exhausting, and may even end up ruining your trip with delays, cancellations and extended plane, train or bus rides.
2) Take Advantage of Free Activities
Traveling with three or more people can really rack up the costs of entertainment. If you’re trying to cut back on costs, but still want something the whole family can enjoy, there are plenty of free or discounted activities to take advantage of. For instance, the majority of European museums waive entry fees for children. If museums don’t quite pique the interest of your youngsters, there are festivals, spectacles and celebrations throughout the summer that are free to attend. Additionally, parks and playgrounds are always a fun and free way to spend your time.
3) Head to Family-Friendly Locations
Finding the best family-friendly location in Europe isn’t too hard – you will just need to conduct a little research on which locales have amenities specifically for families. London, for example, offers a dedicated kid-friendly section on their website; likewise, France also calls out family-friendly content front and center on their home page.
4) Make Sure Your Family Understands the Language & Culture
Cultural norms and languages vary from country to country, and can even differ from town to town throughout Europe. To ensure that your family is prepared, teach them some of the common phrases, manners and norms of the area you’re visiting. If one of your children gets split up from the group, how will he know how to ask for directions and navigate streets?
5) Save on Data
It’s no doubt your smartphone has become a main tool of navigation and communication for the members of your party. Just so you don’t have to take out a second mortgage on your house to pay for international data costs, encourage your kids to use wi-fi when available, as well as Skype, Google Hangouts or FaceTime as a cost-friendly way to stay in touch with each other. Maybe the most effective tactic would be to limit phone time to emergency-only use. Visiting Europe is a once-in-a-lifetime experience after all – you and your family should actually experience it in real life. If those options don’t work, there are also international data plans that will help you save on roaming charges.
6) Connect & Reflect
Kids have a tendency to forget things. To ensure the significance of a trip to Europe doesn’t go over their heads, have them keep a journal or diary of their day-to-day activities. Encourage them to record everything they’re experiencing, from the sights that they see, to the people that they interact with and the words that they learn. They may not be keen on the idea in the moment, but they will thank you later when they have a journal full of travel memories.
Best Family-Friendly Places in Europe
Now that you’re armed with some traveling tips, you’re probably itching to choose a family-friendly location for your upcoming vacation. Here are some of our favorite places for families to travel in Europe.
Paris is a spectacular city with plenty of affordable family activities. Simply wandering around the streets, avenues and town squares will offer plenty of exposure to the local culture, including street vendors, performers and painters, historic monuments, and gorgeous scenery.
The summer is an especially nice time to visit Paris, when the city gets a beach. Paris-Plages (Paris Beaches) is a plan run by the office of the mayor of Paris that creates temporary artificial beaches each summer along the river Seine in the center of Paris, and along the Bassin de la Villette in the northeast of Paris. These are the perfect place to layout in the sun and take a dip in the nearby pools during the hot months.
Another added benefit to visiting the City of Lights with your family is seeing the famous museums; the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay and many other museums in the city are free for kids up to 18 years old, with many also offering student deals to those a little older. It’s also free to tour the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. There is a small fee to climb the tower stairs at Notre Dame, but perched among the stone gargoyles, you’ll have an incredible view of the city.
If you’re traveling to Paris with small children, you may be delighted to know that there is a Disneyland located in the city. In many ways, Euro Disney has been adapted to suit European families and their cultural sensibilities, giving a delightful twist on an American classic that can be well worth the day trip.
As one of the oldest and largest cities in Europe, London offers endless amounts of activities for every family. A trip to London could last a few days or an entire year – and you still couldn’t fit in all of fun things to do. From fashion and music to finance and politics, London is a gorgeous city, so you want to try to experience all of the best things while you’re there.
If you’re travelling to London during the summer, something you must do with your family is the London eye, an iconic riverside ferris wheel located on the South Bank of the River Thames. You’ll witness stunning views from high above the city, and when you’re done, enjoy food from one of the many local vendors. Tickets can be purchased at a discount online, starting at £18.95 for children and £23.45 for adults for a 30-minute rotation.
Another great family-friendly activity is the London Zoo, the world’s oldest scientific zoo. Major attractions include the Lion Lodge, where you can sleep over at the park, the aquarium hallways, which makes you feel like you’re underwater, or let your kids feed the giraffes, monkeys and birds and watch their faces glow with wonder.
Try traveling the Chunnel of taking a EuroStar train to travel between Paris and London. With the ease and accessibility, you can see both stunning cities in the same day!
And what would a trip to London be without learning a little bit of history? Visit iconic buildings like Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the Tower Bridge to marvel at some of the most famous architectural structures in the world. Wherever you go within the city, you’ll always find something amazing.
The French Alps
When you think of the French Alps, winter villages, intimidating ski runs and hot cocoa probably come to mind. However, the area can be even more fun during the summer, with unmatched outdoor activities like alpine hiking, swimming and biking.
If you’re travelling with young children, consider heading to Chamonix, France. It’s an adequately-sized town that has plenty of activities for visiting families. If the heat is getting to you and want to take a dip, head to Lac de Passy which reaches the perfect temperature during the summer, and it’s only a 30-minute drive from the town.
If your children are a bit older, you may score some brownie points by taking them to Tignes, which recently opened a mountain biking park and cross-country ski tracks with difficulty levels from green to double black. There’s even a resort right on the grounds for easy access to and from the park.
Of course, among all the things a trip to the French Alps offers, hiking remains one of the most popular activities – and for good reason. Surrounded by picturesque views, you will see the unique features and faces that make this mountainous region so famous. And you don’t have to be Bear Grylls to see it, either. There are a number of gondolas, chairlifts and cable cars that transport sightseers up and down the mountainsides so they can view the jagged peaks. Additionally, there are fantastic day walks that can be done from many main resorts, and guided tours available in most places.
As the birthplace of the Renaissance and once kingdom of the Medici family, Florence is home to some of the world’s most significant art and architecture. The city contains dozens of museums and art galleries that have influenced the fields of art, culture and politics alike. If you want to inspire a lifetime of memories for the entire family, take them to one of the most artistically-important cities in the world.
During summer, a peak tourist time, try the Oltrarno district, located across the river from the Ponte Vecchio. It’s normally less crowded, which is great for families with children. The area offers vendors serving up local cuisine, picnicking spots in the Boboli Gardens and musical performances in the Palazzo Pitti courtyard.
And, of course, you can’t visit Florence without visiting the Duomo. This is the city’s most prized architectural treasure, a grand cathedral toured by thousands of tourists every day. Your family will marvel at the breathtaking size, gorgeous dome and detailed design; something they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Zakynthos Island, Greece
This island tucked away on the southwest side of Greece in the Ionian Sea is a popular summer vacation destination. With several popular beaches featuring white sand, crystal-clear blue water and sheer limestone cliffs, many families head to this island getaway for much-needed rest and relaxation.
Navagio Beach, otherwise known as Shipwreck Beach, is an exposed cove on the coast of the island, and is the location of a famous shipwreck of the freightliner the MV Panagiotis. The ship was left there and still rests partially buried on the edge of the beach. Tourists can access the island by boat to explore the area and take photographs.
Another thing tourist families love to do while they’re visiting Zakynthos is to visit the town of Kalamaki, which is a nesting place for the endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle. The turtles are most active during the summer and can be seen from both boats and the shore – they may even come up to you and say hello!
Best of Luck Traveling with Your Family in Europe!
Now that you know the best travel tips and family-friendly locations, you’re ready to plan your trip. Whether you choose to visit the famous museums of Paris, the sleepy summer mountain towns of the Alps or the warm sandy beaches of Zakynthos Island, Europe has something that every family member will enjoy.
Cheers to your upcoming trip!