Kids

How to Travel to Europe with Children

by Amy Jacobson

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Why take children to Europe? Why wouldn’t you? From the awe of the Eiffel Tower to the French countryside and Mont St. Michel.  The art of Florence, and the coliseum of Rome, to the beaches of Greece and Croatia – there is a destination for every type of family. You can expose your children to multiple cultures, languages, and cuisines. 

That said, the thought of traveling to Europe with children can be intimidating. Where to even begin?

Left: A girl in a blue skirt is running in a cobbled street. Right: A hot air balloon is flying over a castle, a river, and a forest.
Top: 2 kids enjoying their pastries at Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris
Above: A happy girl running – @holliecagney_ / Hot air balloon above Château de Chenonceau@frenchsidetravel

Start with the Children

One of my favorite places to start is with my children themselves. Talk to them about different places, explore online together, ask what they have been learning at school. Something of interest to your child can be found in any European destination. Relating the interests of your children to trip planning is one of the best ways to ensure a successful trip for everyone.

Left: A symmetrical French formal garden with a round pool. Right: 2 kids flattening some yellow pasta with a wooden rolling pin.
Versailles gardens – @dessinateurs / Pasta-making class for kids – @europe4kidstours

Books

Before you leave, expose your children to the places and sights you’ll be seeing with age appropriate children’s travel books.  Engage your children with treasure hunts, fun sightseeing suggestions, and tailored activities. For younger children, coloring books of where you will be going are a wonderful resource (not to mention great in-flight entertainment). Look for books or movies that take place at your destination to bring the place to life and build excitement. 

Left: A blonde toddler boy is painting a canvas inside an art museum full of paintings. Right: A toddler boy in a red shirt is running across an art museum with abstract paintings.
Kids at Tate Modern@milkatthemuseum

Language Apps

Make use of free language apps. My kids love Duolingo. Learn some words and phrases in the languages you will be exposed to on your trip. Have everyone learn how to say hello, goodbye, excuse me, thank you, yes, and no. Learning a bit of the language will help kids feel more comfortable and at home abroad.

Left: People in line outside a Parisian bookstore with pink cherry blossom trees. Right: A young girl in a pink dress tosses a coin in a fountain full of green water lilies.
Paris’ Shakespeare & Co – @herve_in_paris_ / Making a wish – @parisbeautyweek

Setting Expectations

Setting expectations can go a long way. Talk to your kids about how you will travel and where. If this is their first time on a long flight or being away from home they may be nervous. Children enjoy photos of where they will visit and the accommodations they will stay at. 

Left: 2 young boys in a red toy car pushed by a young girl. Right: A girl in striped top and red skirt holds a painting of a rooster.
Sibling playtime / A little girl and her rooster painting – @emilykornya

Flying

Flying can be one of the most daunting parts of a European vacation with children. Let them know how they can keep busy during their time in the sky. Being prepared is the key to success on a plane. Fill their backpack with things that interest them. Keep them busy, and comfort them —whatever that may be. New downloads and games are always a good idea. Never rely on plane food, no matter what class you are traveling in. Be sure to have protein rich, low sugar snacks on hand. Additionally, bring a small bag with medical essentials—Children’s Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Dramamine, bandaids, and sanitizer. If your child has a history of motion sickness bring a Relief Band

Left: A girl in pink bathers and purple hat is in tiptoe at the beach. Right: A young girl eats her breakfast in bed.
Fun at the beach / Breakfast in bed – @parisbeautyweek

Plan, But Not Too Much

Organize your days, but not too much. Many families try to fit everything in. This leads to burnout. Be sure to leave time for cafe stops, playing in parks, or just being spontaneous. Pay attention to the cues your child is giving you. You may need to make a stop at the hotel for downtime or cancel a dinner. If your heart is set on an elaborate meal out, that may be the time to plan for the hotels babysitting service or contact a local nanny agency. 

It is, however, a good idea to plan popular tourist sites in advance. Look into child friendly tours.  Experienced tour guides always lead to a richer, less stressful, experience. Guides bring not only their deep local knowledge, they save valuable time waiting in lines and get you to your destination efficiently.

Left: A bird's eye view of Parisian apartments, their zinc rooftops, and brown chimneys. Right: A girl in a gray dress and her brown cake and orange juice.
Paris rooftops – @mllemarissa / Snack time – @parisbeautyweek

Eat Like a Local

You didn’t travel all the way to Europe to eat comfort food.  Exposing your child to the local food of an area is one of the most important aspects of travel. Be positive. Many kids will dine on foreign foods with enthusiasm if they see you doing so. If you have a member of the “picky eater club” prepare them by cooking at home or trying cuisine before you leave. Kids love researching foods. A bit of preparation may inspire your kids to be more adventurous eaters abroad.

As with any travel, always expect the unexpected. When things don’t go as planned, make it part of the adventure. Problem solving, patience, and resilience are among the valuable skills learned through travel. From historical exposure to cultural awareness, children will begin to understand that the world is a large and diverse place. Most of all, you are creating memories and spending time together as a family, offering perhaps the best reason of all to say bon voyage.

Left: Paris tourists walk towards a beige building with a gray dome. Right: A young girl plays by the stairs of a church in Paris.
Palais de l’Institut de France – @journeyintolavillelumiere / Playtime at the Sacre Coeur – @emilykornya

Family favorites for travel

Searching the city for the perfect family hotel can be a challenge, especially while trying to accommodate your smallest family members. These hotels are proven family favorites for location and amenities, with access to green spaces to run in, pools to splash in, child friendly menus, and connecting rooms.  

Paris

Hotel de Crillon – 10, place de la Concorde; 75008 Paris, France

London 

The Waldorf Hilton Aldwych – London WC2B 4DD, United Kingdom

Rome

Rome Cavalieri – Via Alberto Cadlolo, 101, 00136 Roma RM, Italy

Home Rentals 

For families looking for more space and the ease of your own kitchen check out these vacation rentals!

Left: A cobbled street in Paris lined with beige buildings and green trees. Right: A girl in red walks in a street decorated with rainbow umbrellas.
A Parisian street – @frammentidiparigi / Exploring the city – @parisbeautyweek

Related Links:

Written by Amy Jacobson for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out marketplace shop and experiences.

Written By

Amy Jacobson

Originally from New York, Amy spends her time dreaming of croissants la vie Parisienne. Passionate about culture, history, and new experiences, Amy fulfills her Wanderlust dreams by globe trotting with her husband and 2 home schooled children, while documenting it along the way. Amy adores the ballet, books, hunting in the brocantes of Paris, and all things skincare. When staying closer to home Amy loves cuddling her 3 cocker spaniels and 2 ponies. View Amy Jacobson's Website

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