Vacationing with kids always presents a unique challenge, no matter where you’re going or how many you’re bringing along. They require more "stuff," have problems being off of their routine, and may need to adhere to regular nap times and bedtimes.
Traveling in Europe with children, however, doesn't have to be a nightmare—in fact, it can be a rewarding experience that leaves your child with memories that will last for a lifetime.
1. Take your child's interests into account.
Look for family-friendly locations that will fascinate your child and leave them eager to learn and experience more. While you may love wandering around old castles or checking out historical locations, your child may be more interested in modern attractions—and that's okay!
Tailor your trip to your young child's preferences instead of expecting them to tailor their needs to your trip, and you'll be surprised by just how enjoyable the trip can be for everyone in the family.
2. Get your child excited before you go.
This is especially useful when you'll be visiting locations like the Anne Frank House, the Louvre, or even the British Museum: locations that might not ordinarily appeal to children.
Read books about these places before you visit. Check out their websites online and help your child find things they'll look forward to seeing. You'll be amazed by how much more interesting all these locations are when your child has a personal investment in seeing them.
3. Come prepared.
High chairs, for example, are in short supply in many areas of Europe. If your child will require one, make sure that you bring one with you! A cloth high chair that folds up into your diaper bag and turns a regular chair into a high chair is a great option that you can take anywhere.
When you choose your hotel, look for kid-friendly accommodations. Think about your sleeping arrangements: do you need separate sleeping areas for a child who doesn't typically fall asleep with you in the room? Be prepared, too, with activities for your child to complete during plane rides or long drives to see new attractions or locations. Bored kids are unhappy kids, but children who are entertained and engaged are a lot more peaceful.
4. Try to settle in as much as possible.
A "quick trip to Europe" with kids isn't going to be enjoyable for anyone. They need at least a semblance of a schedule, and adjusting to the different time zone will throw that to the wind for at least a few days.
To give your child time to adjust, arrange for a few days that are slower-paced, where you'll spend more time at your hotel. If possible, set up a home base: a hotel room where you'll stay for the duration of your trip.
Constantly changing to new locations is more stressful with children anyway (all that gear has to be packed up every time you move to a new room!), but it's doubly stressful when they feel as though they're unable to settle in and call one place "home."
5. Develop a procedure for what to do if they're lost or separated.
Knowing that your child is lost is terrifying. Knowing that your child is lost in a foreign city is enough to make any parent have nightmares for weeks. Prepare your child in advance for what they should do if they're separated from you.
Make sure that they have a card with your hotel or other contact information written in English and the native language of your destination. Discuss how your child should handle getting back to you. If you're traveling with an older child, make sure that they have the money for transportation back to the hotel if necessary.
You don't want to imagine that it's that easy to be separated, but it happens in the blink of an eye. Better to be prepared than to regret it later.
Of course, the added stress of public transportation can exasperate any young family traveling across Europe, so you may want to consider a short-term car lease that will allow you to make your own schedule and schlep all of your belongings with ease.
Planning to rent a car when you're in Europe? If so, contact us for more information! We'll help find a car that's the perfect size for you and your family, car seats and all.
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