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If you have been thinking about traveling to Europe with kids, I have the perfect post to share with you today! This is a guest post, written by my best friend and fellow travel addict, Emily B. I’m so excited to be able to share her experiences traveling with kids in Europe. She has EVEN done Europe with toddlers, which to me is an impressive feat! According to her, flying to Europe with a toddler is an easy feat, and the rewards are well worth the trip. Hope you enjoy her post on why you should most definitely travel to Europe with kids!
If you haven’t quite decided which type of trip is best with young kids, be sure to check out my post with the list of pros and cons.
6 Reasons Why I LOVE Traveling To Europe With Kids(And You Should Too!)
I love to travel. When we had our first child my husband and I decided that this didn’t mean we couldn’t travel. We have lots of places on our “bucket list” and many of these I’ve been told are “not kid friendly”. I hate that term. Really, what does kid friendly mean anyway? At just 22 months old we took our eldest daughter, V, to Europe. It was her first plane ride. We were nervous about how she would do-and let’s be honest- how WE would do. She proved to be a great traveler and all my planning (and worrying) paid off! This was, and still is, one of our most favorite trips. Sure she peed through her diaper and soaked my jeans on the second (short) flight but she slept, and I learned to pack spare clothes for everyone in carry-on luggage. Last year, with two children ages 20 months and 4 in tow, we set off after Christmas for Portugal and Spain.
When I tell people I’m taking my kids their eyes grow wide and I watch as they quickly try to rearrange their faces to a polite expression and push out “Oh really?” through pursed lips. Then usually they say something to the effect of “You’re brave!” which I know translates to “You’re insane!”. The truth is Europe is a great place to take your kids. And in my eyes, it is way better than going to an all-inclusive. So, here is my list of why I travel with my kids to Europe – and why you should too!
1. Everyone travels with their kids in Europe
In Europe, everyone takes their kids everywhere. There are no “family friendly” restaurants. Just restaurants. Now, some pubs don’t allow children but those are few and far between. We even parked the stroller next to us but technically off the patio once. Europeans take their kids out to eat at all times of the day and night. Many Europeans get way more holiday time than us and they use it. European holidays with kids are common. No one is surprised to see your kid with you. There are accessible spots everywhere. The airports often have priority lines as do many attractions. The cost to fly within the EU is also very reasonable. Also, most tourist places have priority lines for families with young children. Once in Portugal, we were in a long line. Security saw us and we got to skip the line and go right in. Airport lines? Nope. There are family lines you go right on through.
2. Castles – The best places to take kids in Europe!
Europe is a diverse geographical place rich with culture and history. There is no shortage of things to do. Among my favorites are some of the castles. It is a great place to take kids because these structures were designed for lots of people. There are spaces for kids to run and stairs to climb but it also ignites the imagination. If you aren’t in castles there are churches, museums, playgrounds, aquariums, parks, open-air museums, and beaches.
3. You can travel Europe on a budget!
I know. You think Europe is expensive. And we are crazy for wasting our dollars on our kids who won’t remember it anyway. Actually, Europe is very affordable. Many galleries, museums, and churches are free. Yes. Free. You can walk in and walk out at your leisure. If it starts to rain? No problem! Go to a church and explore the architecture and art. Kids can get involved by playing eye spy or just simply enjoying. My kids ask a lot of questions in the church. They marvel at the windows and sculptures. Plus, if a church isn’t family friendly what is?
There are also a lot of tour operators and local guides that offer free tours of the city on certain days. Here is a list of Free tours in Paris. We have also used Lonely Planet and taken ourselves on walking tours. They have them for 1 day or a week. You can find these online or in the book. Our best strategy is to appoint 1 adult the tour guide for the day. We spend a bit of time the night before reading it over and planning out where we might stop and explore. Also, kids under 5 are FREE at most places and on most tours. We love Viatour because they offer semi-private tours. We pay a bit of a premium for this but we only pay for 2 adults. Kids are free. They even come with car seats in the van for the tour.
4. Live like a local in Europe with Kids
Skip the pricey hotel. Choose an Air BnB with a separate living & sleeping space. Make sure there is a kitchen. I love these tips for a relaxing vacation with little kids. Walk to the market and pick up food. Most days we ate something at “home”. It works well to have breakfast stuff and snacks at home. When kids get up they can eat while you get ready. We put one or two movies on the iPad so they can watch TV and we get to get dressed in (relative) peace. Don’t be afraid to go back to the apartment for an afternoon nap and some play. You can then get away with having a later bedtime. We’ve also been sure to rent places with laundry which helped with packing. To that point, I always packed enough diapers for a few days (spread them throughout the luggage, don’t put them all in 1). Then I buy diapers when I get there. Often we choose a place where we can sit outside on our own patio once the kids are in bed.
5. Personalize your European Vacation with Kids
We all have different preferences. In Europe, you can customize a trip to fit you and your needs. You can do it with a lot of tour groups. We love Viator because they do semi-private tours and pick you up from your apartment. You can also just go at your own pace. You can choose how much or how little you feel up to. For us, we try to plan a few “must see” things ahead of time and when traveling, once the kids are in bed, we tend to make final choices about the next day with a glass of wine in hand. It often has to do with how everyone is feeling.
Some days you might do a lot of sightseeing. The next day you can go to the beach. Our kids like the playgrounds and town squares. We enjoy sitting on the patio in some of the squares and letting our kids play. When our eldest was 20 months she would chase the pigeons. We took turns going with her and chasing them around. There was also a small electric train in one city. Our whole family, adult cousins included, took this silly train as my daughter’s request. It was one of our favorite moments and something we would never have done. We also hiked Arthur Set by putting her in the hiking backpack (a great investment – we bought one second-hand).
6. Teach Your Kids Abroad
I’m an educator by profession. I see teachable moments everywhere. Europe, with its history & culture, is perfect. Teach about art, music, food. But mostly, teach your children to be global citizens who value the diversity of our world. Teach them that there is more beyond. My goal is to expose them to new things. I know a lot about art and architecture and get pleasure in sharing it. But my children also remind me to look with fresh eyes. They make me slow down. We no longer try to pack too many things into one day. Instead, they have taught us the importance of a siesta or stopping to have a snack to enjoy the view because they need it. They’ve shown us the beauty of sitting in the town square in the early light with coffee and pastry while they play.
So the next time you feel that travel bug maybe try something different than the tried and true all-inclusive. Get on the plane. Go a bit further. Have the adventure. You don’t need to wait. And I promise, your kids will love it.
Well, there you have it! As if anyone ever needed a reason to travel to Europe, this post has been a great guide. Huge thank you to my friend Emily B for contributing her journey to the blog and inspiring ‘tear free travel’ with a little adventure. Do you have Europe on your bucket list? We haven’t been to Europe with kids yet, but it is definitely an adventure we are looking forward to. With all of the great places to visit, this biggest problem is going to be choosing the best cities and countries to explore.
Where have you traveled in Europe? Let me know in the comments below what your favorite European vacation with kids has been!