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Trip Report with Kids: Germany/Austria/Benelux

Trip Report with Kids: Germany/Austria/Benelux

Old Jul 26th, 2016, 05:18 AM
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Trip Report with Kids: Germany/Austria/Benelux

I just returned from a 4 week trip with 2 boys, 6 and 8. We arrived in Brussels, spent some time in the Netherlands, and then focused most of our time in Germany and Austria before driving back to fly out of Brussels.

My well planned itinerary was thrown out the window a few times due to last minute decisions, so this is certainly not an itinerary one would choose normally, but we saw a few off-the-beaten-path places that I hadn't previously found much information on. We also spent most of our time at kid-friendly venues, so if you are looking for feedback on good restaurants, fancy hotels, or the best art exhibits you won't find it here!

We did however have an amazing time and would revisit all of these places again! The trip started off bumpy as you will see in the first reply! I am really going to make this brief, so if you have any questions on any places we saw, please let me know and I will provide more details!
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Old Jul 26th, 2016, 05:32 AM
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We departed LAX for Heathrow. We arrived 20 minutes late and ultimately missed our connection to Brussels. An hour and 20 minutes between arriving and departing was too tight....at least for someone dragging two jet lagged boys through LHR. We got to security just in time to find they had rebooked us on a flight. But first, we had to wait in the British Airways line....for an hour. Finally at the counter I learned that due to the air traffic controller strike in Paris, our next flight was cancelled and the next flight delayed.

This continued for 9 hours until we finally arrived in Brussels at midnight. I knew that my rental car was not going to be available, but I felt confident that I could take a taxi to a hotel and crash there. Boy, was I wrong! We arrived at midnight, there were lightning strikes on the tarmac, and as a result, no planes were being unloaded. I believe there were 20 plus planes waiting patiently with luggage still on them.

There I was til 2am with two boys in the Brussels airport. There were ZERO airport personnel, hundreds of people milling around, and a very large police and military presence. We left the airport and found ourselves with the news that there were no hotels available in the city and there was a line of about 200 people waiting for taxis.

They loaded each taxi ONE person at a time. I was getting a little worried.....no place to go, no GSM sim card in my phone, two exhausted boys. Finally, a woman in line near me leaned over and said that we could go to her apartment for the night. She was a Londoner recently moved to Brussels.

So that is how the first part of our trip started off....in a stranger's bed at 3am. She gave us breakfast the next day, got us in a taxi, and we were off!!!

Got the rental car from Hertz via AutoEurope. That was a smooth pick up and we were upgraded to a diesel station wagon. Picked up a SIM card next to the Hertz counter and departed for our first stop!

We drove an easy hour to Retie, Belgium, on the border of Belgium and Netherlands to our LOVELY apartment, Vakantieverblijf Beestenboel. Roza was a phenomenal host. She offers a lovely apartment above her home with a zoo. No, seriously, it is a zoo. Her back yard is a large enclosed, beautiful array of ostriches, peacocks, reindeer, donkeys, wallabys, goats, etc.....my kids were in heaven!

Roza speaks basic English and enjoys showing her guests the animals.

We were a stone's throw from Eindhoven, which came in handy, as the weather was chilly and rainy those first few days!

We spent one day at the Eindhoven Museum, a lovely, small outdoor museum in Genneper Park. It is very much worth the visit of about a half a day. Very kid friendly and very charming.

We followed that visit by a swim in the indoor pool of De Tongelreep. We spent a nice afternoon there eating french fries and swimming.

The next day I made a split decision to drive to Efteling, a WONDERFUL amusement park. While this was one of our priciest visits of the trip, we spent the entire day at this lovely place. It was a rainy day and very busy, but we were able to enjoy every ride and every inch of the place. I am not a Disneyland fan, but this is just a lovely place to spend the day, very down to earth and full of fairy tale charm.

The next day, I decided, despite the almost 2 hour drive, that we would head to Zaanse Schans. The boys and I really enjoyed ourselves. We purchased the all inclusive ticket which included the museum and a number of the windmills. It was our first sunny day, so we spent the entire day at Zaanse Schans just enjoying the windmills, the views, and the lazy day.
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Old Jul 26th, 2016, 05:42 AM
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Our next stop was supposed to be Freiburg to visit a friend, but due to commitments, that friend was not going to be as available as we'd hoped. I looked at the 7 hour drive from Retie, Belgium to Freiburg and decided that I was just not going to do that.

So, I scoured the internet the night before departing and decided that we'd find a farm to visit and hang our hats for a few days. After a few phone calls, we found Ferienhof Dingeldey in Reichelsheim im Odenwald. Now, I have been in Germany over 10 times and I had never heard of the Odenwald. We arrived to a working dairy farm in a tiny village. We had a lovely apartment with a kitchen. My boys speak German, so we spent three nights there doing very little besides riding on the tractor with the farmer and playing with the barn cats. They helped bring the cows in every night, watched them being milked, and rode on the Fjord ponies that were available.

We did one outing to Michelstadt, a LOVELY town to visit, if only for its beautiful Rathaus. We wandered the streets, bought a few gifts for family, and enjoyed ice cream sundaes. Another day, we spent the morning at the Bergtierpark Fuerth-Erlenbach, a small animal reserve and petting zoo.

We then loaded up the car and started the drive to Augsburg where we would sleep at a friend's apartment and wait for my husband's arrival. We arrived in Augsburg, got our apartment key, and drove to the City-Gallerie to catch the latest Ice Age movie. After the movie, the kids spent some time playing on the two story slide that they have inside of the movie theater.

My husband arrived that night and the next day we headed to our timeshare at Alpenland Sporthotel in Maria Alm.
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Old Jul 26th, 2016, 06:12 AM
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I had been a little worried about our timeshare in Maria Alm. There seemed to be very little information for that area and the hotel itself appeared to be a little dated.

Boy, were we in for a surprise! The hotel was excellent! We upgraded our room to include a "kitchen". The room itself was decent. A double bed, desk, breakfast nook, and a lovely terrace looking out to the village and mountains. There was a small room also attached that included two single beds and small side tables and chairs. The bathroom was quite large. The "kitchen" was a small fridge, sink, microwave, two burners, and coffee maker.....all put into a small space about 2 feet wide, 2 feet deep and 6 feet tall. But, it was enough to have breakfast, make sandwiches for lunches, and cook up pasta for dinner.

The personnel at the hotel were so nice. We did not eat at the restaurant but other guests advised that the food was good and reasonably priced. There was a small gym, dated equipment, but enough for a work out, a sauna, and a lovely indoor pool. My boys spent every morning and every evening in that pool.

Reviews of Maria Alm made it sound like a village not worth visiting. That is surely not the case. It is a lovely little village, perfect for exploring in the afternoons. There are ample hiking paths throughout the areas, small cafes, lovely hotels, and plenty of restaurants to eat at. The village itself is charming.

One day, we took the cable car up to the top of the mountain, Erlebnisberg Natrun. Once up there, we were treated to miles of hiking, a lovely climbing park and playground for kids, and gigantic slides that helped make the descent a lot of fun!

We enjoyed one full day on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. After paying the almost 50 Euro toll, we were treated to a lovely day with multiple stops, each more beautiful and more interesting than the last. The boys played in snow, skipped rocks, in small lakes, and we marveled at the view. This was one of the highlights of our trip especially that final stop at the Grossglockner. Without kids, we most certainly would have done more hiking, but as it were, we spent hours that day, just walking, and enjoying the sunshine, the marmots playing everywhere, and the wild flowers.

We spent one lovely afternoon at Zell Am See. This is a charming lake resort town, but full, full, full of tourists. We took a pedal boat out on the lake for an hour, enjoyed an ice cream, and found a lovely playground for the boys to burn off steam.

I decided that I wanted to do more hiking and that we had to spend at least some time investigating the beautiful gorges in the area, Salzburger Saalachtal. We planned to do one gorge, Vorderkaserklamm, but once there found that they had a ticket offer that included Vorderkaserklamm (a gorge), Lamprechtshoehle (a cave), and Seisenbergklamm (another gorge). We ended up visiting all three over the course of a couple of days. The hiking is reasonable, the views beautiful, and many of the orchids were still in bloom. These are easy outings, but have a lot of stairs, so while you don't have to be in the best of shape, you must be able to navigate stairs.

We stumbled across Burg Hohenwerfen while looking at Google maps one day and we are so glad we did. This is a phenomenal fortress about 1 hour from Zell am See. I expect it would be an easy day trip from Salzburg as well. We did not do the actual fortress tour, as we were mostly there for their STUNNING falconry show. Imagine 2 eagles, 2 hawks, a condor, and a vulture all flying around your heads at one time while diving for meat that was being thrown in the air. My boys came within inches of the vulture walking by them and the bald eagle was practically in my lap. The falconry show is a once in a lifetime chance to get up close and personal to these amazing creatures.

The area in general of Zell am See, etc is absolutely worth the visit. I speak German, so had no problems getting information etc, but I do feel that a non-German speaker might miss out on some of the hole in the wall places, as they aren't well advertised and don't have English as an option.

But the breathtaking scenery every time we turned around will bring us back to that area again and again.

We left the timeshare a day early to catch some friends at the Chiemsee. On the way we decided to visit Salzbergwerk Hallein, a salt time just outside of Salzburg (kinda). The ticket was a bit pricey, about 50 Euros for a family ticket, but included the salt mine tour (very well done in English) and a visit to the Celtic village nearby, as well as the Celtic museum. That was a solid day, but absolutely kid friendly and fun.

We arrive at the Chiemsee and checked into our hotel, Gasthof zur Post Oberwirt in Chieming. This was our second stay in this hotel and it's lovely! Clean and friendly, with an excellent breakfast, as well as a good restaurant. Our arrival there always involves a walk to the Chiemsee for ice cream and a stroll at sunset. The Chiemsee never disappoints.

Well, the next day, we decided that a partially rainy day might better be served at Ferienpark Ruhpolding, a small amusement park/fairy tale park not too far from the Chiemsee. The park is a blast! Small rides for younger kids, one larger roller coaster, and multiple playgrounds that can accommodate all ages.

We had one full day at the Chiemsee, but it was so hot and crowded that we decided the spend the day instead at a Naturbad nearby. Freibad Bergen is a gem! A huge grassy area, minimal admission, chaise lounges and umbrellas to borrow, great food, a natural pool with slide and climbing toys, a shallow kids pool, as well as a standard pool. We spent an entire day there just reading and letting the kids play and swim. The place is immaculate and the view of the hills is so relaxing.

After the Chiemsee, we headed back to Augsburg for one day before my husband departed for Munich and home.
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Old Jul 26th, 2016, 06:16 AM
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Not such a great start but it sounds like a great trip, once you were able to begin.
Waiting for more please!
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Old Jul 26th, 2016, 06:42 AM
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We had one full day in Augsburg and it was a scorcher! Almost too to enjoy anything. We spent a number of hours in the Altstadt just walking and snacking and wandering in stores. We had a good lunch, we wanted a Doner Kebab, at Arkadas Doner. It's worth a stop. Good food and reasonable.

That evening we went with our friends to a biergarten, Waldgaststaette Parkhaeusl. (Sorry, can't figure out the umlauts on this Chromebook.) You walk through the little forest, Siebentischwald, and into a clearing and there it is! A lovely biergarten with great food. They even had vegetarian currywurst! Score one for the vegetarians! The boys ran around the forest, waded through the nearby brook, and the adults ate and drank and enjoyed the cooler evening. This is lovely place to stop if you are in Augsburg.

The next morning we said goodbye to my husband and we drove to visit our friends in Fluorn Winzeln. We've stayed here before, two years ago, and it was stormy and we didn't do too much, so I wasn't really sure we'd be able to keep too busy. But I was wrong. Due to a family emergency at our next stop, we ended up staying in Fluorn Winzeln for about 8 days.

One day we made the trek to Stuttgart, about an hour north, to visit the Wilhelma, Stuttgart's zoo and botanical garden. We are from San Diego and have a wonderful zoo, but Wilhelma is so worth the visit. It is a breathtaking place to visit. Their plant collection is quite impressive and the grounds and animal exhibits are also visit worthy. They have an insect house that was a lot of fun for the boys, as well as a couple of playgrounds. We ate lunch there....three full meals for just over 9 Euros, so quite the deal.

Two of the days, we were lazy, and spent our time swimming at the Freibad Oberndorf. A few Euros gets you access to lovely pools, a kiosk, a large grassy area, and well, that's it. The perfect place for kids to just be. My boys made lots of friends and so had a lot of time to practice their German.

We visited Schiefererlebnis Dormettingen, which is a small area where the kids (and adults) can rummage through shale and look for fossils. The minimal admission fee allows you to get fossils and also have two fossils per person treated to take home. There is a lovely restaurant, a small walk around a lake, and a great playground.

Another day we went to a barefoot park in the area. These are plentiful all over Germany and worth the visit. Often free or for a donation, they provide lots of outdoor fun for the kids and some relaxation for the adults.

The boys and I made an outing one day to the Vogtsbauernhof, the Black Forest Outdoor Museum, and had a great experience. Lots to see for the adults, but of course very kid friendly.

After 8 days in Fluorn-Winzeln, we made our way back to Brussels. We actually made it in the 6 and a half hours that it was supposed to take. We stopped briefly in Metz, France for lunch and a look at their cathedral and then continued on.

We overnighted at the Novotel Brussels Airport Hotel and were pleased with our stay. It is very kid friendly, minus the lack of kid channels on TV. Our stay was booked at a discount, but I had opted for the breakfast which was lavish. Kids eat free. There are video games in the lobby and a large park area and small playground on the grounds. There is a restaurant, a bit pricey, but with good food. We ate one night at a Thai restaurant in Zaventem village as well.

Our last full day in Brussels was spent about an hour away at the Han Sur Lesse Naturpark and Caves. This was the perfect end to our trip. We walked the entire nature park ( you can also opt for a bus part way) and saw a number of animals and of course, ate ice cream. The cave visit was very impressive and quite a treat being in the cool cave on such a hot day. The guides did not speak English, but one spoke German, so we were able to get on her tour.

Our flight home the next day was uneventful and we landed in LAX exhausted.

We were VERY happy with all of our accommodations and would stay at all of them again, as well as recommend them. Our experience with AutoEurope was excellent. We did opt to get their GPS for $50 and it never failed me, even on some of the tinier roads.

I can't think of what I would do differently, other than allow for more time at Heathrow for transfer. Adults might easily make a shorter connection, but with kids, an hour was tight to get between terminals and through security.

I feel like we drove a lot, but I knew that going in.

Now off to plan the next trip!
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Old Jul 26th, 2016, 07:12 AM
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What a great trip for the boys and you! Thanks for writing about it.
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Old Jul 26th, 2016, 09:07 AM
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Wow. A great report. We have had a couple of hiccups on some of our travels, as well, and it sounds like everyone made the best of it all. Just think of the memories...
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Old Jul 26th, 2016, 11:31 AM
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Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventure with us!
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Old Jul 26th, 2016, 02:53 PM
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yes, great report about your adventures and thanks for taking the trouble to write it all at one go!
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Old Jul 27th, 2016, 08:04 AM
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A lovely read. You obviously did a lot of research to incorporate age appropriate fun outings and adapting as you went according to crowds/ weather.
I love how there are biergartens just when you need one
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Old Jul 27th, 2016, 09:07 AM
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Wow, I hope you dropped the Londoner some chocolate, great trip. Zell-am-Zee is a nice area, I've xross country skiied round it.
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Old Jul 27th, 2016, 04:39 PM
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bilboburgler, I am searching as we speak for a gift for the Londoner.....sent her a quick thank you note, but trying to decide what she would like. Maybe a fabulously fun tea diffuser? a
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Old Jul 27th, 2016, 11:25 PM
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If a Londoner does not have her whole "tea regime" sorted by the time she is old enough to leave the UK then she ain't a Londoner (though you've met her and she may love the thing as well as the thought). The nice thing about a tea "thing" is if she uses it every day she'll remember her act of kindness every day which is wonderful.

I only thought of chocolates, 'cause there will be local shops for delivery.

In conclusion, your idea is probably better.
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