Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Traveling to Europe with kids (

darcey Sep 6th, 2004 11:53 PM

Traveling to Europe with kids
My husband and I are contemplating taking our four daughters to Europe for 3 or 4 weeks in June/July. Their ages will be 4,6,10,12. Are we crazy? The two of us have done some traveling in Europe, but without the kids. Any suggestions on where to go, and what to do that kids would enjoy? Any great beaches that we could enjoy to break up the sightseeing?

Thanks for any input,


GSteed Sep 7th, 2004 01:18 AM

You have posed a problem probably without a satisfactory answer. I find it hard to believe that a four or six year old will be much interested in sightseeing. I doubt that they and the other youngsters will enjoy the air travel. Enough said. My advice, based on some experience, is: Rent a van and hire a driver. Plan a trip out of the cities. Visit rural areas. Alternative..leave the youngest with grandparents. Send the other two to a camp that features activities they enjoy. Comments?

SloJan Sep 7th, 2004 01:32 AM

Hi Darcey,
It is very doable. The 6, 10 and 12 year old will enjoy it and the 4 year old will be happy to hang with the family. I do have some suggestions however.
1) Pick a family friendly country. The two that come immediately to mind are Italy and Portugal. The people are gracious and friendly with children and the food is generally loved by the children as well.
2) Rent villas. This is a biggie. Don't hop from hotel to hotel...that will drive the family crazy! I would rent two villas in central locations (maybe even 3!) and make sure that they have pools. One suggestion would be Tuscany where there is a huge selection of villas and many day trips to choose from. That could keep you busy for 2 weeks and then, head to a different part of Italy and explore in the same manner. Sardinia has beautiful beaches as well as many things that the older daughters may find interesting, ie ruins, hiking, mountain biking. In Portugal, you could rent a villa in Sintra and explore Lisbon and surrounding areas and then, head south to the Algarve which is a mecca for beaches but also hiking and biking. We usually rent two villas for a 2 week holiday and find it very relaxing...for us and for the kids.
3) Rent a car (van). The trains are going to be too difficult and too expensive for a family of 4. With a villa, you will want the freedom of a car. You may also want to consider clusters of villas or apartments. There is a bit less privacy but your girls may find friends which they will adore!
4) Don't overschedule. we usually explore a town in the morning, have lunch out and then, head to the pool or the beach in the afternoon.
5) Finally, relax and if something isn't working, don't force it. Museums aren't working? Save it for another time and go do something else. With a family, you have to be flexible.

Good luck with the planning! I think it is great.

TopMan Sep 7th, 2004 03:34 AM

This question has bee, as I am certain you know, asked before.

My only suggestion would be to consult WITH your children as to what they might enjoy doing/seeing. All too often we seem to have people asking this question who apparently are going to rely soley on the adult-level answers they receive to decide what their children will "enjoy."

I hope you do not make that same mistake. If your older children are unable to provide at least some constructive input then perhaps you shouldn't travel with them yet.

ira Sep 7th, 2004 03:38 AM

Hi darcey,

Good advice above.

Pick a country and then get the kids to do some research on what interests them.

Southern France, Spain, Portugal and Italy woould all be appropriate.

mindylt1 Sep 7th, 2004 03:41 AM

We have 3 daughters, ages 6,10, and 12, and have travelled quite a bit since we moved to Germany in Jan 04. I don't think you're crazy at all! Our situation is a bit different, but we have really enjoyed sharing our travels with our girls.

After realizing that our kids' appreciation for castles, churches and museums has its limits, we started to make a real effort to squeeze in kid friendly activities. In Garmisch, for instance, we visited an old church and shopped in Oberammergau, and then we went up the Zugspitz, took them to the Rodelbahn (little cars that the kids ride on a track down the mountain), and let them swim in a pool fed by the icy mountain streams. Also, the older 2 might enjoy learning some of the history relating to the sites you all visit so that they understand why those sites are important. We have also visited EuropaPark, which we enjoyed.

Unfortunately, I can't give you any info on beaches. We visited the grandparents in the States this summer and didn't make it to any European beaches. We are so looking forward to doing that next summer.

Good luck! Mindy

firstson Sep 7th, 2004 04:01 AM

You have gotten some good suggestions. May I offer one more? Cut the length of your trip in half.

Even at what most people would consider a leisurely pace, 3 to 4 weeks is a long time to a four year old...a six year old, too, for that matter.

Unless, of course, you've vacationed for that much time before and found that they tolerate it well.

Tulips Sep 7th, 2004 04:36 AM

I think 3 to 4 weeks would be fine if you don't pack it with activities and sightseeing. My children, at that age, were quite happy to spend a week on a beach, not doing anything at all.
The villa idea is good; one of you can always stay by the pool (essential!) with the youngest two, while the other does some sightseeing nearby with the eldest two.
Italy would be good; very friendly for children, lots to see, good food that children like too.

Anonymous Sep 7th, 2004 04:48 AM

"Any great beaches that we could enjoy to break up the sightseeing?"

IMHO, a long trip would be better-used to experience local culture rather than "sightseeing." The younger the child, the smaller the radius of things aroud them that they'll be interested in. If you take them to London they will remember the ducks in the park more than the historic buildings.

So I would recommend that you pick 2 or 3 locations, perhaps one urban and one rural, where you settle down for a week and spend a bit of time sightseeing but spend more time just living amongst the locals, seeing local parks, buying local groceries, getting to know the neighbors. Be visitors rather than tourists.

mebanese Sep 7th, 2004 04:53 AM

We have four sons, and enjoy traveling with them very much. We always spend quite a bit of time before we travel learning about the art, architecture, and history about the places we will visit. In addition to books, there are lots of movies and television shows that help get the kids oriented, informed, or just 'in the mood'.

I second the idea about the apartment/flat. It really does help to have a home base with a kitchen.

4totravel Sep 7th, 2004 05:23 AM

We travel all the time with our children (now ages 7.5 and 6). We've taken them to Switzerland, Italy, France, England, Spain (albeit a day trip). Each trip is so different than when we were without kids but all of our trips have been great.
Our last trip to the Catalan region of France (Barcelona for a day) Provence and Paris was a hit with the kids and they grumbled a bit before we left about not wanting to go back - once we were there they had a fantastic time. There is so much to do and see!
These regions of France is great for kids - they enoyed the castles, the markets, the beaches, hiking(short, the new food, Barcelona's Ramblas was so much fun for them...they enjoyed the occasional museum. Breaking up your trip - a week at the beach, a week in the country, a week in the city may be one way to plan it. We usually rent someplace with a pool which makes for a nice break throughout the day. We always try to fit in some beach time - take your pick along the Midi. We took the kids to a mini bullfight, had them use their limited French and stopped for a lot of ice cream breaks.
Fun is where you find it and making it enjoyable for the kids will make for a great family vacation.

melissa19 Sep 7th, 2004 05:51 AM


my husband and i have been wondering the same thing as we plan to take our 9 y.o. daughter to paris for a week next spring. whew!

we've rented an apt. and plan to do a combo of "hanging out," a few kid friendly day trips, and hopefully some general walking around and seeing the usual sites. to that end, i plan to take her to a short "history of paris" film at the beginning of the trip.

good luck! my theory is: i don't want to wait to travel, so she's coming with me.


p.s. i LUV the whole italy/ portugal idea above. we'll do that in '06!

lexluther Sep 7th, 2004 06:59 AM


You will have a great time travelling with the kids. Read my thread "barcelona to venice with kids" although mine are younger. Definitely rent a van. Get a portable dvd player with a cigarette adapter charger and just "go with the flow".

Amee Sep 7th, 2004 07:27 AM

Traveling with children at a young age it a good thing to do. They will be bored and unappreciative, but they will thank you for it when they get older.

StCirq Sep 7th, 2004 08:11 AM

My kids, who are 17 and 14 now, spent pretty much every summer of their lives in Europe on 4- to 6-week trips. It's very do-able and very worthwhile. I don't agree they'll be bored - what's boring about castles, foreign languages, new foods, beautiful scenery, and totally new surroundings?
Do rent a place or two - it's true that moving from hotel to hotel will become old very quickly. Settle down and get to know a European community or two - shop at the markets, have meals at home at least some of the time, and enjoy rleaxing in different surroundings. You can combine that with sightseeing in tolerable quantities.
Actively involve your older kids in planning the trip - they're plenty old enough to read about wherever you choose to go and decide what might be of interest to them. The more they have ownership of the trip, the happier they'll be when there. At the same time, encourage them to be open to at least a few museums, cultural events, architecture, etc. And if possible, see if you can arrange some social interaction with European kids their ages - playgrounds, fairs, etc., are good ways to make that happen.
Don't have a rigid schedule. Have in mind certain things you'd like to see and do, and let the rest of the time "plan itself" as things pan out - just being in Europe doing ordinary things like grocery shopping and walking around will be plenty stimulating.
I agree that Italy and southern France are good places to focus on. The food alone will make the kids happy.

padams421 Sep 7th, 2004 09:38 AM

We took our 6 and 8 year olds to Europe for 2 weeks this summer. We went to Germany, Switzerland, and France, and had a great time. I did a lot of pre-planning so that our activities were child friendly. Our boys loved the castles, riding the trains and gondolas, hiking in the mountains.... We spent our 1st full day at Legoland in Germany. The boys loved it, and they immediately thought Europe was a fun place to be.

You know your girls best. What do they like to do? I think the key is to plan a variety of activities, and not to spend too much time doing any particular one. We did something each morning, took a leisurely break for lunch, did something else in the mid-afternoon, rested before dinner, dinner, then bed. If we drove, we tried not to be in the car for more than a half day. We changed locations every 2-3 days. If we were going for 3-4 weeks, I would change locations each week.

My 6yo had to bring in 10 items about himself (a big show and tell) for the 1st week of school. Every item he chose to take to school was something related to our trip.

melissa19 Sep 7th, 2004 03:00 PM

topping, in case there are more good ideas . . .

darcey Sep 8th, 2004 12:27 AM

Thanks to everyone who replied. Great suggestions. I defininatley have the desire to do it after reading your replies. I think getting the kids involved in the planning of the trip is excellent. Villas vs. hotels sounds like a must. A key seems to be relaxing and letting it be what it is...a family vacation, not a "hurry up I have to see everything".

One of you mentioned "Barcelona to Venice with kids". Is there already an itinerary for this geared towards kids or do I need to write it when we return?

Give me your vote: what combination of countries? England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain, or Portugal?


SloJan Sep 8th, 2004 12:55 AM

I would stay south this trip, mainly because of the ages of the 2 youngest. I love the idea of Barcelona to Venice...what a great concept for a month long trip. Spain (Andalusia) may be too hot for the summer, but Portugal would be doable also. All of Italy would be wonderful. I think the only combination I would vote for is the Barcelona-Venice theme, b/c you can just follow the Mediterranean around and it is very coherent. Otherwise, I would explore one country in depth.

Sounds like a great time!


SloJan Sep 8th, 2004 12:56 AM

The plus if you do one country is that you and the children may have fun learning the language during the year.

danielef Sep 8th, 2004 07:53 AM


I've travelled with my parents and 2 brothers ever since I was a baby. And we camped!!! So my belief now as a mother of 2 kids is that travelling with kids is great for bonding, as long as you relax. I think that you could suggest that each kid takes a notebook to make a journal. They really like that and it's a great thing to remind them of this trip later in life. They can clip some pictures from brochures, even pictures of their own during the trip. Even your 4-year-old can take one (not to feel left out, at least) and make drawings. My 6-year-old daughter is taking one to our upcoming trip. She plans to use that even during museum trips (she loves to draw her own versions of some paintings).

I don't know about you, but staying without my kids for almost a month is unconceivable. I'd spend half of the time just thinking of them anyway. Might as well take them with you and have find memories to fond together!


melissa19 Sep 12th, 2004 01:34 PM

topping for coulter

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:22 AM.