How to take your children to Europe

Hi Frugalistas!  It is possible to take your kids to Europe and live to tell the tale.  Here’s how I do it.

If your kids are going to play in the snow (and they should) make sure you have fabrics that have some waterproofing or will dry quickly

If your kids are going to play in the snow (and they should) make sure you have fabrics that have some waterproofing or will dry quickly

If your children are old enough, get them involved in the planning of your trip early.

Get them reading brochures, websites etc to identify the activities they may be interested in doing. Buying or borrowing books or DVDs set in the place or places you are visiting can help set the mood and whet your children’s appetite.  They will love “finding” the places featured in their favorite films and stories.

Put your children into training for their trip

Practice eating in restaurants (waiting, good manners), going on long trips, being quiet when it is time to, eating different food, walking long distances, going on public transport if they aren’t used to it.  Make sure your children have excellent manners – this is so important in restaurants in Europe and on long plane trips – no kicking the seat in front, no running in the aisles etc

It’s a long time on a plane for children going to Europe for most of us (and sometimes even longer for those around them).
One way to overcome this is to book a stop over if possible.  If possible, try and book a flight that will get you to your stopover destination late afternoon or early evening and stay at the airport hotel.

Book a bassinet if a very young child

It is a long way on your lap.  Don’t assume you will be allocated a bulkhead seat with a bassinet if you are traveling with a baby.  Check if the bulkhead seats are available to be purchased for a surcharge, and if so, buy one so you don’t risk getting “bounced” by adult travellers who paid for the extra leg room.

Take some food on the plane that you know your kids will eat if they are fussy eaters.

While most airlines will offer a child’s meal (remember to book this in advance) they don’t usually offer a choice of children’s meals.

Assume your children will get jet lag on the way over regardless of how well they sleep on the plane.

We have found that it really doesn’t matter how well our daughter sleeps on the plane, and what time our flight arrives into Europe.  You just need to go with this for the first couple of days and plan for it.  Get an early start out for the day, eat dinner (very) early, or bring a picnic back to your hotel.  We find eating our main meal at lunchtime and then just having a light snack for dinner and heading back to the hotel, together with a bit of patience, works best for our family in those first few days.

Tackle your sightseeing in small chunks

Don’t try and do the whole Louvre for example – it’s a hard ask to expect most adults to do the same, let alone a child.   Do your research and identify the key pieces or areas of interest and focus on those then leave.  Do your museums, galleries etc early in the day when everyone is fresh and the queues are shorter then leave the afternoons for a rest and some other activities like playing in the park, going on a boat trip, carriage ride, or some other more “child friendly” activity.

We went to the Louvre, but went early, saw what we wanted to see then left

We went to the Louvre, but went early, saw what we wanted to see then left

Find a park with play equipment and encourage play with other kids.

Even in another country on a big trip your children need to be allowed to be kids, and that means letting them play.  We take the time to find a park and let our daughter play everywhere we can and it is a great sanity saver for all of us.  On a freezing cold, snowy day in Germany we took our daughter to a park to play on the equipment.  She ended up playing with some bilingual children she met and they shared a toboggan together until they froze.  It was the first time she had ever tobogganed and it is one of her most precious memories of that trip.

MissG doing what kids do best in France

MissG doing what kids do best in France

Encourage your children to do a journal of their trip. 

It is good for filling in time on longer train or car trips and is easily portable. Smaller children can draw rather than write, and will enjoy cutting and sticking their treasures into their journals.  A stick of glue and small scissors, some pencils and a cheap exercise book are all that are needed to give your children a great time filler and a momento of their trip that everyone will treasure for years to come.

In addition to the handheld games etc think about a camera for your child

The holiday from your child’s eye view can be an exciting momento for your whole family.

Prepare well, take your children to Europe and love the memories you will create.

Related post: 

Should you take your children to every tourist site?


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5 Comments on “How to take your children to Europe”

  1. Emme Rogers @ Roamancing 10/04/2012 at 3:32 am #

    I’ll have to pass this post along to Brie, my partner in crime, as this is always a question on the adventures she joins us on.

  2. Mari Sanchez Cayuso 18/04/2012 at 3:42 pm #

    Oh this is great, loving your site.
    Must learn a few, a whole lot of things about saving : )

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 18/04/2012 at 3:51 pm #

      Thank you for your kind thoughts! As you can see I haven’t been at it for long so I love getting positive feedback.

      Thanks for following. I’m currently in France and have some great posts planned for the next few weeks!

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