Spring is a good time to start planning your summer Europe trip. So, I thought I would help with some tips for planning that Europe itinerary for families.
While I’ve given some tips on using books for trips, these tips are more logistical matters that can be used for
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1. Involve the whole family
Once you know where you’re going, consider your who family’s interests throughout the planning process.
You can figure out what they like by looking at books set in the places you’ll visit.
Europe itinerary for families – Tips for involving kids:
We have children’s books set in Europe organized by country, and a curated collection of books for a trip to London, Paris, Amsterdam and more coming soon.
2. Build variety into the plan
There are three keys to keeping the variety in the plan. They are:
- Include everyone’s interests (that will naturally lead to variety)
- Don’t do repetitive things (three days of Athens historical sites won’t be fun for anyone)
- Plan for
downtime(everyone needs a recharge – even on vacation)
3. Stay a while
A natural inclination may be to see everything, everywhere – and that means all the major cities with a day or two in each city.
Don’t do that. It’s exhausting. Try to stay in a central spot that will allow you to easily see a variety of things.
The best is to stay in one region and soak it all in. I know that’s not always possible, though. If you must stay in multiple regions, plan at least 4 – 7 nights in each region.
4. Build that variety in longer itineraries
Yes, I know I already said that. But, if you are staying in more than two regions during your stay, make sure you have additional variety and down time built in.
What this means is don’t stay in three European capitals in a row. There is so much more to Europe than just it’s amazing capitals. Instead, try to shake it up with a stay in a village, or the mountains, or the beach.
5. Consider transportation
There are so many ways you can maximize European transportation options. Here are a few to consider for various parts of the journey:
- Fly into one city and out of another, it’s called an open jaw and the easiest way to do it is to use one carrier for the whole trip
- Use trains and other forms of local transportation to get between major cities that are within a 5 hour train ride. Trains in Europe tend to drop off in a central location with easy accommodation access
- Consider flights for farther destinations if it makes sense. Sometimes the fees and threat of long delays may not be worth it
- Rent cars as needed, keeping in mind that there may be a fee involved to drop the car off at a station other than the one it was picked up from
- Start trips within a new region by doing an overview of what the area has to offer in the form of a bus tour – most places will have a
double decker, hop-on/hop-off option or a simple 3-hour guided highlights tour
- Use public transportation to get around locally after mapping out what you liked from the tours
Europe itinerary for Families – Transportation Tips:
Some of my favorite transportation sites to use for planning include:
Rome2Rio: Put in your starting and ending city and Rome2Rio will give you a ton of ways to get between the two places.
RailEurope: Whether it’s buying a rail pass or specific point-to-point tickets, RailEurope makes it easier if you’re traveling between multiple countries. For trips within one country, you can also look at the specific country’s rail providers.
AutoEurope: For families renting a car, traveling through multiple countries, considering dropping off the car in another location, or with questions about car seat laws, AutoEurope makes it easy. They’re U.S. based and know the ins and outs to help you find a great rental deal.
Viator: Viator uses local tour vendors for things like hop-on/hop-off our day trips. Order in advance and have it ready for your trip. You can read reviews to find exactly what you’re looking for.
My favorite? You guessed it – a variety of all of the above!
6. Dive a little deeper into accommodations
Now that you know the regions you’ll stay in, think about what type of trip you want to have within each region. Interests, budget, and logistics should help narrow down the choices of where to lay your head at night.
I like to find hotels or
I also like to alternate city stays with day trips outside of the city, with countryside stays and day trips into a city.
Europe itinerary for families – Accommodation tips:
Experience has told me, over and over again, that booking a hotel with breakfast is the way to go. My favorite brands for Europe include Hilton, Marriott, and Best Western International.
Apartment rentals give visitors a more insider, local feel and open up the options in less visited areas. Popular companies include Booking, Airbnb, VRBO/HomeAway. Kid and Coe
There are many hostel organizations, but Hostel International is one of the biggest. Some family hostels are hard to find, so you’ll need to do the research.
Another option not mentioned above are European holiday villages. Think Jellystone, but more activities, lower prices, and not just
7. Get an idea of what you want to do in each region
You don’t want to have everything planned. Definitely not. But, it’s so helpful to have an idea of must-sees, and maybe-dos.
For the must-sees, you will want to make sure the price and timing work with your overall plan. For example, if you want to experience Bastille Day, then your trip to Paris better be during Bastille Day. If you want to see the Mona Lisa, make sure you aren’t planning to visit the Louvre on Tuesday.
Things like that.
Again, books are a great tool to research must-sees, and the internet is a great tool to research logistics.
8. Make reservations as needed
For some parts of a European trip, reservations make life easier. I like to book my accommodations in advance. And if I have my accommodations booked in advance, I like to book my transportation between larger chunks of my itinerary booked in advance.
Any car rentals I think I’ll need, I might as well do it. I’ve been on the “sorry no more cars are available” side of the story too many times in Europe to take the chance.
Day tours are fun. Popular options include boat tours, bus tours, and walking tours.
If my must-see list included a popular tourist destination, I would consider purchasing tickets or skip the line access in advance.
And, when I’m really feeling it, I might even make restaurant reservations in advance.
9. Organize all the details
I like to keep all my info in two spots. A copy of reservations in a folder in my email (along with copies of our passports and other information I might want). Sending reservations to my email also automatically downloads it to the Tripit app. Which is nice.
I also create a real folder with a page dedicated to each day of our trip with notes we might need for the day. I created a free download that you can access at the bottom of this post. The prompts I like to consider daily and information helps me know that I have everything I need.
Free download – Europe Itinerary for Families Organization Worksheet
Over the summer our family traveled for three weeks in Germany, one week in Italy, and one week in Greece. We took four flights, three long-haul train trips, rented four cars, and arranged for one round-trip transfer service. We stayed at four hotels, and three AirBnBs. On top of this, my husband worked in Madrid, Poland, and other areas of Germany and Greece.
We had a lot of logistics to work out.
To make things a little easier for myself, I organized my schedule in a folder. Each page of the folder was dedicated to one day of the trip.
The beginning of each section in the folder included an overview of things that we wanted to do in each general region. Since our days weren’t planned down to the last detail, that overview was nice to have.
Here’s an example of our Italy overview:
As you can see, nothing too serious.
Daily Schedule Example
For each day of my trip
As you can see, I gave a general idea of what was going on that day. I had notes like “travel to…” or “time change in Athens” or “relax day”.
Details were things I might look up repeatedly if I didn’t jot it down
I had info about where we were staying and our car rental company. Under luggage details, our complicated schedule meant a strange suitcase schedule that I kept organized like this. But, on other days I noted when clothes should be washed or what to pack for the next leg of our journey.
I also had printouts or tickets attached to the pages as needed.
I could easily make changes to this with a pen, look up information even when wi-fi was slow, or take notes to use in a travel scrapbook at the end of the trip.
While our Europe itinerary was very logistically complicated, I’m using this same thing with my upcoming and straightforward trip to Iceland.
And, I figured if it helps me it might help someone out there so I’ve attached the printable below. Just click on the image.