Europe is a destination on many people’s bucket list. With French chateau’s, Spanish culture and Italian cuisine, it’s a very attractive and exciting destination. If you’ve got children, you may think that you’ve missed your opportunity to visit this wonderful part of the world. There are much more amusement parks and playgrounds during a family vacation, rather than visiting historical sights and exploring authentic towns. But, if you are willing to make some compromises and plan in advance, then there is no real reason you cannot enjoy Europe with the whole family.
Children will allow you to live more like a local, and less like a visitor. You will have to make a mini home for yourself, and experience the local area a lot more thoroughly than if you were just passing through. While you will need to take their needs and interests into account, there are still many things that you will enjoy together, and both learn from.
When To Go?
Europe enjoys it’s warmest months during June to August. Temperatures will vary across the different countries, but during this time you can mostly expect warm and sunny days, with balmy evenings. This is, however, also the most popular time to visit Europe. It will be very busy in July and August due to summer holidays, with most major landmarks and tourist destinations highly populated. Prices can soar during these months as well, with holiday companies making the most of the surge of interest.
Spring and Autumn are ideal times to visit, with the slightly cooler weather and fewer crowds. There will be shorter queues for the attractions, and you’ll be able to see a lot more.
What Is The Best Age?
Some parents choose to not take their children abroad until they really appreciate it. But this may mean either you losing out on holidays as well, or leaving the kids behind. To travel round Europe and really make the most of the sights, you may be better to wait until they are a bit older, though. By the time they are at school, they should be able to walk around for most of the day, carry their own bag, and have some understanding of where they are.
Europe is an ideal location for older children and teenagers, as there is so much to educate and interest them on. Allow them to join in with the planning stages, as they will be much more enthusiastic if they have had a say in it. Try to cover everyone’s interests, and make compromises when it comes to the distance you’ll need to cover. Look through travel guides and books together, and discuss what everyone wants to see and experience. Remember, it is their holiday as well!
Booking a villa or house can work out much more cost-effective and practical, rather than individual hotel rooms. They will give you a proper living space for everyone to relax, a kitchen to cook meals and a good base to spend quality time together. Cooking in the evenings can save money by not eating out, and you’ll have plenty of space on a down day.
Camping is also a great way of experiencing Europe, and there are many beautiful campsites across the whole continent. Consider transport when you get there as you may need to hire a car, but many are close to cities and towns. If you don’t want to stay in a tent, most offer bungalows and chalets, offering a good quality accommodation while keeping costs down. The wide open spaces and other children to play with will keep the kids happy in the evening, and give you the opportunity to socialise with other parents and travellers.
Check the temperature and climate of the country you’re visiting, and try to pack as lightly s possible. Make room for extra changes for clothes for children, in case of emergency, and stock up on laundry liquid. Check here for the best suitcases and luggage, but you’re going to want strong and sturdy options to survive the distance.
Like when visiting any foreign country, safety should be a top priority when visiting Europe. Make sure you keep an eye on your kids at all times and don’t let them stray too far. Give them a business card of the hotel or villa where you are staying in case they get lost and agree on a meetup point when visiting attractions. You can even purchase identity bands for younger children in case they do wander off, which will allow strangers to locate you and return them safely. Make sure everyone is aware of the risks and importance of sticking together.
Pick-pocketing is an issue in Europe, so keep an eye on your belongings at all time. Busy attractions and public transport are danger areas for this, so secure your bags and don’t put valuable things in your pockets.
Children are notoriously fussy eaters, and will often balk at the thought of foreign food and new experiences. Most restaurants will show their menu on the outside, and offer a children’s menu, so check these before choosing where to eat. Make mealtimes into a game, choosing some safe options and some creative options. Consider packing some home comforts as well in case you get desperate, but encourage everyone to try new experiences.
After the trip
When you’ve home, make the most of the residual excitement by looking back and appreciating the holiday you’ve had. Discuss which part everyone enjoyed the most, and talk about where you would like to go next. Encourage them to read and research more into things they’ve seen, and writing a journal of what they’ve experienced can be a great way of teaching them new skills. Make sure you take plenty of photos to look back on and create new memories that you will cherish forever. The world is seen very differently through a child’s eyes, so they may have had a very different experience from you!
This is a contributed post, written by Laura Scott.