Camping in Europe with kids

Jun 7th, 2011, 05:06 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 5
Camping in Europe with kids

We are planning to take our little ones age 2,4,6 and 8 years to Portugal, Spain, France and Italy for a few weeks. We assume hiring a car is the best option for transport and camping / backpacking mixed in with other options for accommodation would be do-able.

Are we totally silly for this? What is camping like in Europe? What should we be aware of? Has anyone here done this? We are not novice campers as we camp fairly regularly. Kids love it. But never done it in europe with kids.

Also advice about cars and driving. How much is gas?

What is a reasonable daily budget for accommodation if not camping? How many Euros per day?

Any advice / warning / encouragement appreciated!!
Mirl is offline  
Jun 7th, 2011, 05:44 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 356
Personally, with that many small children, I would rent apartments for a week at a time. Camping in Europe is generally outside the cities and not near "tourist attractions". If you are flying to Europe, how do you plan on getting your camping gear for 6 people there?

You can rent a car, but don't plan on driving in any large cities with it. A short google search, said gas is about $8-9 right now, but maybe somebody there right now can give you a more accurate figure. I personally, prefer trains if seeing medium to large cities in Europe. If you want to see the countryside only, a car and camping might be an okay option.
lindy27 is offline  
Jun 7th, 2011, 06:54 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,404
Actually, there are quite a few campgrounds in Italy close to major attractions. Many have bungalows/cabins (some with AC) to rent very cheap. Many have very nice pools.

Within walking distance of Pompeii is Camping Spartacus.

There is another campground in nearby Sorrento with bungalows, but you will have to do a search as I don't recall the name.

Just outside of Florence is Michelangelo. You can search this board for a report by soultraveler3 on this campground. I don't think this is their official site so you may have to search around for it.

For other locations in Italy take a look at this site.
kybourbon is offline  
Jun 7th, 2011, 06:56 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,404
>>>Also advice about cars and driving. How much is gas? <<<

There are expensive drop off fees if you pick up a car in one country and return it in another.
kybourbon is offline  
Jun 7th, 2011, 08:39 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 5
Lyndy and Kybourbon
Thank you for your post.
Well we will be travelling light as we can. Planning on one tent, foam rollups, and sleeping bags. The reasons we thought a car would be best were:
1. We would not have to worry about catching trains early and allowing kids to sleep
2. We actually thought it would be the best since we are going to several countries.
3. We hope very much to go off the beaten track a bit.

We were aware that we would have to pay for the privilege of picking up in one country and dropping of in another, but are unsure about how MUCH more.

Mind you, I actually like the idea of trains because of all the people you get to meet on them and the ease of just enjoying without worrying about getting lost, or right / left hand drive etc.
Mirl is offline  
Jun 7th, 2011, 08:40 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 5
why don't plan on drivng a car in a large city??
Mirl is offline  
Jun 7th, 2011, 08:47 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,404
In Italy you aren't allowed to drive in the center of many cities as it's restricted (ZTL) to citizens/people with permits. It's monitored be cameras and fines are mailed (after they track you through your rental company which charges a fee for providing your info also). You can read a bit about it here.
kybourbon is offline  
Jun 7th, 2011, 10:02 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 219
In my experience, camping is one thing (among others) that the French do very well. One of my favourite parts of France is the South West, amazing beaches which aren't as crowded as the Mediterranean, and some gorgeous cycle paths through pine forest - without cars! I would look into hiring bikes (there are plenty of places where you can get them) and cycle part of the coastline. There are loads of campsites, often very close to the beach - and very reasonable prices. Have a look at: for more information.
Hope you have a great trip!
JeremyinFrance is offline  
Jun 8th, 2011, 01:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,298
Drop off fees are what I would consider VERY expensive when picking up in one country and dropping in another (think hundreds of euros more).

We just got back from France and it cost us €50 - 60 for a tank of gas for our Renault Clio (economy car). We filled up 3 times in 2 weeks.

You dont want to drive in cities because:
1. Traffic can be VERY busy
2. Most cities have scotters and motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic in a way that is completely unacceptable in a N. American city (just assuming you are N. American)
3. Traffic patterns can be very different than you are used to
4. Restricted zones can garner large tickets if breached and with so many other things taking your attn many tourists miss the signs or dont know them and breach the zones
5. Parking is very expensive and very hard to find (even hotels charge by the night to park)

As for camping, it is nothing like I did as a child in Canada - pitch a tent in the wilderness and roast weiners over a fire. I have found (not that I have actually camped) that they are more like fields where people pitch a tent with little to now wilderness or trees around or cabins. Most are a distance from cities (not all) and are not easily accessible via trains or public transit so I would imagine you would need a car.

In saying all this I have never done it in Europe and have no interest in doing so. I think given the logistics it would be easier to rent apartments and be within walking distance of sites, public transit and grocery stores etc with a family.

Maybe someone that has done this can comment...
jamikins is offline  
Jun 8th, 2011, 01:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 8,351
Camping is a great way to meet people, whether you bring your own tent or rent ones already erected. Also great for the kids as they get a lot more freedom camping than staying in apartments. Language never seems to be a problem to making friends for the kids. There are camp sites near major cities in Europe, many have a municipal site on the edge of the city.

It really depends on whether you intend to visit the main tourist attractions/cities, or whether you just want to experience European countryside and relax. If the former look for apartments, if the latter go with camping. There are different levels of campsite - from extremely basic to all singing all dancing ones throughout Europe. You can get an app of European campsites I believe. There are certainly plenty of books available listing sites, and of course doing a search on the web will provide lots of information.

You will need a child seat for your youngest child, a booster for the 4 year old and maybe one for the 6 year old, depending on how tall they are. You may be able to rent those with the car.

Maybe the best option is to combine apartment rental with tent rental on sites such as kybourbon suggests.

If you do a search I am sure you will find lots of information on such sites. for instance offer them - but on seriously large, all singing, all dancing campsites. Which may suit you as they provide entertainment for the kids too.
hetismij is offline  
Jun 8th, 2011, 10:03 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Not sure what type of vehicle you would get - but counties in europe have similar rules to the US in terms of infant seats and booster seats - so you will have to rent a large vehicle to have room for them, your luggage and camping gear and 6 people. so I think you would need a 9 passenger van.

For larger vehicles drop-off in other countries may be restricted and will probably have a fee of several hundred $. Driving in city centers is not really practical since 1)many areas are pedestrian only and closed to traffic - or have large fines for being in the wrong place, 2)parking can be difficult, 3)and is usually expensive since you have to park in lots or garages.
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 8th, 2011, 10:13 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 8,351
You can however usually park on teh outskirts of a city and take public transport into the centre .

If you decide you want to use a tent and decide on your own camp sites, rather than the option I mentioned before, then consider buying one in Europe. They are not hugely expensive and it may be cheaper than the excess baggage you'd pay for a tent, mats, sleeping bags, utensils, crockery, pans etc etc. Be very careful about bringing a cooker - you can't take the canisters on the plane and may not find suitable ones in Europe.
hetismij is offline  
Jun 8th, 2011, 10:22 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 3,087
I did this several times when my 4 children were young, and more than once as a single parent! It was a brilliant way for the children to have fun, and a chance for me to relax. You meet so many nice people too.

I admit I didn't do the tent thing. But all the places we stayed had sites for tents to be pitched, or you could actually rent the fully fitted out tent.

Look at... (.com?)

i never stayed using either of the above companies but they were present on most of the campsites I did stay at.

I did stay in a caravan/mobile home/trailer rented from...

and another time in a log cabin by a lake in Brittany from a company whose website now direct you to flights to Thailand!! But I found the campsite's website here...

So even if you have your own tents and such, the links above will guide you to many campsites all over Europe where you can pitch your tent independently.
julia_t is offline  
Jun 8th, 2011, 02:22 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 168
I agree with others to spend at least a week in each place. Camping is the best way to go with small kids. I took my family to the Ville degli Ulivi campsite on the island of Elba in Italy four times and my kids had unforgettable experiences. We were the only Americans. There were plenty of activities for the kids. We especially enjoyed Babydance every night where the counselors would sing songs with the kids and dance. Make sure that your campsite has animation - counselors who keep the kids occupied with activities. We are not experienced campers and had a caravan or apt with bathroom & kitchen. We ate outside on the deck every day. Now that my kids are older teenagers, I am really glad we were able to take that opportunity before they got to highs chool and were too busy or lost interest.
palatino82 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2011, 12:29 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 5
O wow! Thank you everyone. Looks like camping is in (tent / apt) and car is out. So we will bus and train it I guess. I did not know about no cars allowed in the italian cities except for citizens or pass holders. And did not know it was hundreds of Euros for drop off in another country.

Now I have all these recommended sites to look at and I will. Thank you thank you . no doubt I will be posting another thread when I have done all that research!

Mirl is offline  
Jun 11th, 2011, 05:53 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 506
Sounds like an utter disaster to me. How about doing agriturismos or some such thing. You can also do the bungalows.

Driving in cities is not a big deal as long as you have patience and don´t get easily frazzled. Cars are absolutely allowed in the city centers. Of course, there are pedestrian areas which are wonderful, but every single city I have driven in in Italy was navigable. It is only the tiny ones that you park on the outside and walk in (ie walled cities in Tuscany etc).
SloJan2 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2011, 06:12 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,380
Here's the official site for the organisation of holiday cottages in France.

they rent week to week and are found all over France. for your first trip you could just aim to a couple of weeks on the coast, or perhaps split it between the coast [brittany is very popular with families, or any of the other areas mentioned] and an inland area like the Dordogne where there are lots of family-friendly activities.

a car would be useful for getting around.

for some variety, and if you have the time, you could then get the train to, say, an italian lake and again renting an apartment [or camping, they have lots of camp sites by the lakes] base yourselves there - where you would not need a car as there are loads of buses and you can use the lake boats to get about. From Garda on Lake Garda for instance, you could get to Verona and even Venice for day trips, as well as the places all round the lake, which include a mountain with a cable car. there is also a water park and a theme park if your kids like those sorts of things.

Unless you have unlimited time, I would strongly suggest limiting yourselves to one or at the most two countries for your first trip. your kids are young so you'll have plenty of time to come back!
annhig is offline  
Jun 11th, 2011, 11:10 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
It's not that you can't drive to cities - or into cities at all. It;s that the larger cities have pedestrian areas in the center where NO ONE is allowed to drive. There are streets but they are only for services, official vehicles and residents in that specific area. It is very easy to stray into these areas if not familiar with the cities and the fines for doing so (they have cameras taking pics of license plates) are in the hundreds of dollars.

We do many road trips in Europe and have stayed in hotels in these areas. When you do that the hotel gives you very specific instructions on how to get into the areas and in which garage to put your car - and gives you a pass as a temporary resident of the area. Someone just driving into the city can;t get this - and will end up either leaving the car on the outskirts or paying large traffic tickets.

Agree with so many young kids the only thing that makes sense is spending a week or so in each place (whether in apartment or camping site with services and activities) or you will have a whole lot of very cranky kids to deal with.
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 12th, 2011, 06:28 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,404
>>>>Cars are absolutely allowed in the city centers. Of course, there are pedestrian areas which are wonderful, but every single city I have driven in in Italy was navigable. It is only the tiny ones that you park on the outside and walk in (ie walled cities in Tuscany etc).<<<<

That's not accurate for Italy and it's not just the pedestrian areas where cars aren't allowed. You can't drive in most of the center of Rome, Florence, etc. Yes, there are cars there, but they are citizens of the city and are allowed to drive there. As a visitor, you are not. Here's the ZTL map for Rome (night version and day version). The yellow area is where you aren't allowed to drive and the light bulbs are where the cameras are.

Florence has ZTL and ZCS. There is a map for the ZTL on this link and info about it. The ZCS is a restricted parking area outside the ZTL.

It's not just the tiny hill towns that don't allow cars either. Siena, Pisa, Perugia, etc. all have ZTL's. It doesn't mean you shouldn't rent and drive, it just means you need to know you will get big fines if you cross into the areas so plan to park outside them and public transport in.

To see ZTL's of many of the larger cities in Italy (not all), this blog has links on the right.
kybourbon is offline  
Jun 12th, 2011, 08:31 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 7,665
I camped with my family many years ago for six months all throughout Europe. My parents bought a VW Camper that came equipped with a tent. We brought sleeping bags with us, bought a stove and utensils once in Europe and off the seven of us went. My mom had a book that listed campsites (I don't remember what it was called) but it listed many locations all throughout Europe. Some campsites have small cabins also for rent.

Camping for us was more about an inexpensive place to sleep while we saw major sights, cities large and small and the countryside. Some campsites were quite nice with restaurants, laundry facilities, beaches, playgrounds, etc. Others were pretty bare bones -- a place to pitch the tent and bathroom facilities. We met very friendly people at most campsites and exchanged information about where to camp at various places and how to see the local sights. We kids enjoyed having places to run and play after being pretty well behaved in museums, churches, restaurants, etc. We usually had our big meal of the day in a restaurant and a light dinner and breakfast at the campground (my mother was not about to spend much of the trip hovering over a camp stove!)

We tended to drive to the big cities but once there used public transportation (buses, metro, etc.) as driving in the big cities can be quite a challenge.

I would think that you could rent a small camper or find campsites that have cabins for rent. There must be websites dedicated to camping in Europe -- try a google search.

Some people thought my parents were crazy to attempt such a trip. My father was on a sabbatical and worked on a project while we were there. Since my parents were teachers, our schools allowed us to bring our textbooks and we did schoolwork while we were there (mailing our assignments back.) We were however, older than your kids (ages 7-14.)

Your little ones are pretty young for the kind of trip we did. You mention being in Europe for a few weeks. Four countries in only a few weeks is a pretty ambitious trip for adults let alone a young family. With such a young family, I don't think you would want to be moving from location to location very often. You might want to instead consider renting an apartment for a week or so in a few different locations which would free you from dealing with camping equipment and could place you near public transportation or within walking distance of many sights. Frankly, I would probably pick one or two locations at the most that offer lots of sights that interest you as well as parks for the children to play and places for you to unwind.
KTtravel is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:07 AM.