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10 Week Trip (Netherlands/Belgium/West Germany/France) with kids...am I crazy?

Hello,
I'm wondering if anyone has gone on an extended European trip with kids and how it went? My wife and i are paying into a deferred salary through work and i'm planning a huge trip for summer 2024 for ourselves and our kids who will be 12 and 8 by then.

My tentative planning aims to avoid travel fatigue and plan on staying in a home base for a week or more at a time, and we're trying to limit the areas covered - for instance, France is going to be limited to Paris and the French Alps, and we're only going through the Rhine Valley and some Bavaria in Germany. Also trying to mix things up with having a day of kid friendly adventures (theme parks, mountain coasters, hiking etc.) for every day of art galleries, museums, brewery tours. I realize for that period of time you can't be constantly site-seeing and "castle fatigue" can set in, so there will definitely be some quiet days or times where the kids just want to go to a movie theater and relax. I already have a huge list of things to do which is larger than can be completed, with the hope of doing what we want on any given day and being able to tailor our trip to what we're enjoying the most, and not worry about being completists.

Any tips for keeping things fresh? Are we going to get halfway through and all want to go home? We're a tightknit family and the kids get along extremely well, but i'm hoping 2.5 months of living out of suitcases isn't pushing our luck.

Thanks for the help!

Posted by
18897 posts

I have no experience whatsoever traveling with children, and my family didn't travel when I was a child, but I regularly take summer-long vacations now that I'm retired. I think your approach sounds solid. It's not possible to push hard through a long trip, but you don't plan to attempt that. A combination of longer stays at most stops and working from a list of potential, rather than mandatory, activities should work well. Your geographical choices will prevent your running into the nearly-constant hot weather you might encounter during a trip of similar length to places like Italy and Spain.

I do have a practical suggestion for you: It's not too early to start a to-do list for things you don't want to forget during the lead-up period to your trip. Getting a family ready for such a long trip will be hectic; you don't want to overlook something critical.

  • Be sure you have at least two bank accounts you can tap via ATM cards, ideally both with no fees for use of foreign ATMs.
  • Be sure you have at least two credit cards with no fees for foreign use. (I take three cards myself, because I tend to be careless with them.)
  • Set up automatic payments for any monthly bills that will continue while you're traveling. My monthly utilities are automatically paid by credit card, and I have my credit cards paid by automatic debit from my credit union account.
  • Make sure you're OK on property tax and insurance payments.
  • Research your medical-insurance situation. Will your regular policy cover you in Europe? Consider evacuation insurance.
  • If anyone in your family needs prescription medication, check with your insurance company well ahead of time on procedures for getting a 90-day supply spanning the length of your trip.
  • If you'll need a car for an extended period during the trip, investigate leasing as opposed to renting; it will probably be cheaper. (Public transportation may be less expensive for you; Germany in particular has some great deals for multiple people traveling together.)
  • Figure out what you'll do about your mail.
Posted by
2080 posts

I think you have the right idea, I would just plan to definitely stay in most places longer than a week. Perhaps at that midpoint you were asking about, you plan a much longer stay somewhere near a beach or hiking, or whatever soothes your souls (even a city where the kids can be more independent and just hang around). I don't think it is all the fun stuff or even the museums that is exhausting, it is the packing up and moving.

Posted by
1000 posts

Maybe look into apartment rentals. More space, laundry availability and cooking some meals to cut the cost down. Public transportation deals (multi-day or weekly passes) with extended time in a city or country.

Sounds like fun.

Posted by
1604 posts

In Germany stay in ferienwohnung ( vacation apartments ) - much cheaper than hotels. Children may be only and extra 10E each. You can cook if you want. Best if you stay 3 days or more, but you can stay even fewer in many.

I traveled in the US for 2 months when the kids were 12 and 14. Rarely more than 2 nights in any place. No real problems

Posted by
1041 posts

Hi Chris, how does your wife and children feel about taking this journey? Although the younger one most likely doesn’t understand the length of ten weeks, kids do tend to adapt as long as they’re with mom and dad.
I’ve read articles on couples who have taken their kids to foreign nations for as long as a year who moved around a lot, and the children are definitely touched by the experience. What they fight about in the beginning of the trip gets smoothed out along the way.
If you’re planning on staying at a place for a week at a time, you won’t be living out of a suitcase. Still, pack light and stay in places that have a washer and dryer. Having clean clothes makes a difference.
What I like about your itinerary is that you’re not trying to cover too much too soon. I recommend flying into Amsterdam and out of Frankfurt or vice vs. I would also limit on what to do and see as a family to the top sights. There’s always plenty to see and do, but it’s no fun if you’re dragging people along who could care less. This doesn’t mean you have to miss it though. Your wife and kids can hang out at the pool some days while you go off on your own.
In Amsterdam, visit the Rijksmuseum with the family. In Belgium, I would sleep in Bruges that requires a train connection in Brussels. If you’re in Brussels in Aug, it’s possible that you’ll be able to see the flower carpet that covers the square Grand Place.
I would not drive a car in one country and drop it off in another because it’ll cost hundreds of dollars more. If you rent a car, do it in places that you’re staying, but not in the big cities. Take trains or planes to get from one country to the next.
You can take a train to Paris from Bruges that requires a connection in Brussels. In Paris focus on Notre-Dame, Orsay Museum, Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysées to Arc de Triomphe when you’re with the kids. There’s a McDonalds that sits on Champs-Elysées that makes a good bathroom break and offers a good view of the street. I wouldn’t bother going to see the Louvre because it’s way too crowded and hard to see the art if you’re short. Maybe you can do that on your own. There’s also Disneyland, Aquaboulevard and the Luxembourg Gardens that are fun places for families. These places will take up a full day,
To get to Chamonix from Paris, you’ll need to make multiple train connections taking approximately 7h. It will take 3h to get from Chamonix to Geneva that requires two train connections and then you can fly to Munich nonstop for $143.
I would rent a car to see the Bavarian Alps and then drive to Bacharach (4h 45m) and sleep there to explore the Rhine Valley. You may be able to drop off the car in Bacharach and explore the area by train. You can then take a direct train to the Frankfurt airport (1h) and fly home.

Posted by
7480 posts

We're a tight knit family and the kids get along extremely well, but I'm hoping 2.5 months of living out of suitcases isn't pushing our luck.

What sort of traveling have you done with the kids?

Not sure I would 'assume' that an 8 and 12 year old will interact the same as a 5 and 9 yr old.

Are we going to get halfway through and all want to go home?

No way to answer that until week 5 of the trip

Not sure going to a movie theater is a good 'day off' for the kids. I suspect the movie will be screened in the local language, so unless your kids are multilingual.....

Do not mean to be negative; just hoping to make your planning go smoother and to reduce the 'unforeseen' situations.

Happy travels!

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for the practical advice.

The whole family is very excited and onboard. We originally thought of staying somewhere for longer on our leave, but figured that might be a lot for the kids, so this plan was the best of both worlds, and doesn't require my kids missing in class school with their friends.

Also, for a first trip out of north america for the kids, the countries we chose seemed like great starters. My wife and kids all speak french as well, which should definitely help. My kids have already been helping research theme parks and things we'll see. We do plan on starting in Amsterdam as suggested, and then ending in Paris. The fact that the olympics are in paris that year made us change from starting in Paris. Ending it all with Disneyland Paris before coming home should be great incentive for the kids. The very rough itinerary, with a week or 10 days in each home base includes:
-Amsterdam
-Utrecht or Rotterdam (rent a car for day trips from here)
-Brussels
-Bruges (rent a car for day trips)
Road trip through Germany with shorter stops and likely more hotels instead of apartments:
- Cologne area
-Bacharach/Rhine/mosol valleys
-Mini-Vacation at EuropaPark
- Chamonix, French Alps
- Paris

Marypat, you raise some good points on car rentals. I may need to think of the most efficient way of doing it. We plan on being car-free in major cities (Amsteram/Brussels/Paris), but then renting a car when our base city is a smaller center. Luckily I'm way ahead on the planning, with 3 years still to go...a far way off, but what else do we have to look forward to these days!? Nothing is for sure, but i feel like this should be enough time for the world to go back to some kind of normal.

My possible to-do list is getting very long. Beyond all the great must-see's recommended by Rick Steve's I've sorted through a lot of travel blogs and hidden gem suggestions. I was worried at first of not having enough to do in each location for as long as we plan on staying, but that quickly became a non-issue. If we get through 2/3 or even half i'll be happy. A single museum then picnicking in a nice park or a bike ride is plenty of activity for us on most days.

Thanks again. New to the forum here. Rick Steve's book single-handedly was the best resource for our 3 week honeymoon in Provence years ago...the only time anything went wrong is when we went off-book. I look forward to getting more info on each specific country on here.

Cheers,

Posted by
4 posts

Reply to Joe32F

We've done a lot of extended road trips through north america with the kids (longest around 3 weeks at a time). We hope to do a smaller foreign trip somewhere before 2024 as well.

"Not sure I would 'assume' that an 8 and 12 year old will interact the same as a 5 and 9 yr old."

Very true. and a risk, but in general they get along much better than i see other kids at a similar age difference, so hoping they're at least more likely to remain good friends than if they were already at each other's throats.

Me:"Are we going to get halfway through and all want to go home?"

Joe32FNo way to answer that until week 5 of the trip

My question was a little rhetorical, and I realize we'll all have our ups and downs during the trip, but I am genuinely interested in hearing what others' experiences were. I do think we have enough time to plan and limit the risk of pratfalls. I do not think there's any chance of us not having a great time, but still have a lingering thought that 10 weeks is quite a bit to be nomads in a foreign land.

Thanks again,

Posted by
3789 posts

I have no direct experience of similar but I think about my in-laws on sabbatical in England spending the summer of 1970 with 5 kids ranging from 7-15 in a Winnebago traveling Europe. All I know is the 15 year old (my hubby) never wanted to see another museum again and that lasted into his 50's....but he was astounded and mesmerized by David's hand and had to be dragged away from the sculpture by the rest of the family.
Thankfully there is Disney and waterparks in Europe. Be sure you add in familiar things when travel fatigue and constant change becomes an issue.
Hunt up Sarah Murdoch's blog and find her advice traveling with kids. She does Italy, often one kid at a time, but I expect reading the posts will give some suggestions.

Posted by
25760 posts

Welcome Aboard, Chris H

Just a quick one about renting a car for day trips from Brugge/Bruges. Parking in Brugge is a genuine real bear. What day trips did you envision from there? The same bus day ticket which is valid in Brugge/Bruges is valid in Gent/Ghent/Gand and in Antwerpen/Antwerp/Anvers and also will get you a ride on the coast tram which goes all along the coast next to the beaches....

Posted by
2591 posts

Nah, you're not crazy.

This family made it through a one-year trip around the world with kids similar in age to what yours will be in 2024: https://www.earthtrekkers.com/one-year-around-the-world/

You will easily make it through 10 weeks in Europe, and those 10 weeks will be treasured by you and your family for the rest of your lives.

Posted by
1540 posts

As already said most of the time in the Netherlands and Belgium public transport is the best way to move around.

For Bruges you can look for a holiday rental house along the Belgian or just a bit north the Dutch coast, in that case a car can be convenient. Next to Bruges railway station is a car park, easy to reach and with a maximum of €5/24h very cheap. A car is anyway necessary if you want to visit places in the countryside, for instance the Delta region in the Netherlands north of Bruges. Worth to visit are Middelburg, Veere, Zierikzee and the Deltaworks / Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier.

Themeparks to recommend in Belgium are Pairi Daiza and open-air museum Bokrijk. In the Netherlands not to miss for the whole family is themepark the Efteling and you can consider the Open-air museum near Arnhem too. Never visited it but Phantasialand south of Cologne seems good and very popular.

Posted by
1023 posts

Not crazy at all. Fun. Ive btdt, and the ages your kids will be are just right, or the start of just right, which ends around 15-16 when they start to complain about missing their friends (in my and friends experiences). You have the pace just right and the balance of kid/bribery activities to coerce them into the more adult cultural activities (which of course they will also enjoy). IME, water helps with that balance. We have made a point of locating water/swimming sources in most of the places we go, just in case the kids need a few hours to decompress after a morning in a museum, for example. Loire Valley = mornings wandering castles, + afternoon swim in the river. Anyway, it all looks good and you should have a great time.

Posted by
835 posts

We did 7 weeks in Europe when our girls were 13 and 16. They were not great friends at that age but we still had a very good time with lots of interesting and unexpected experiences. With lots of planning, I managed to string together 4 separate home exchanges (Italy near Venice; France near Paris; northern and southern Germany). That was so much fun as all the houses were very different and truly wonderful.

Some great memories: In France, we were in a beautiful town with many canals, parks and a lovely garden. Cooked rabbit one night and pretended it was chicken until the girls ate it and then we 'fessed up. In northern Germany, the spectacular house was a flat bike ride from town. We came home with skewers of bacon and sausage that we cooked over a wood fire. We were up at the top of the Arc de Triomphe until it closed one night, watching the lights of Paris after a peaceful evening visit to the Louvre. In Italy, we had a penthouse apartment with outdoor terrace in the center of an old town, with a great gelateria just outside the building door. Ate a fabulous meal canal-side on a lazy Sunday afternoon and let the girls go wandering while we lingered over limoncello.

3 years later, we did another five weeks, this time to Switzerland and Turin. Slow travel is the best and the planning is a joy. I hope you have loads of fun dreaming and preparing.

Posted by
1604 posts

check out the Youtube videos of WOLTERS WORLD. They travel with two kids. They have some videos specifically on traveling with kids

Posted by
3533 posts

This is old advice, but worth repeating. You seem to be doing all the planning. Ask for help.

Your kids quite probably, these days, have budding computer skills. Put them to use. Give them topics to research, ideas to explore. Ask them for choices, and listen to their results. They will be making it THEIR trip as well as yours. Apart from awakening their interests, they could become more confident when they encounter all the new ways of life ahead. For one example, help them explore the Paris Metro underground, and work out a strategy for if-or-when you and they get separated. And learning about what could be on the menu now should smooth out dining then.

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello Chris H.
You are a family wishing to travel in Europe for ten weeks. I did many vacation trips to Europe. Generally speaking, for most people, I suggest do not do a very long trip in Europe. Traveling in Europe, independently, is a learning experience. I recommend being at Europe for two or three weeks, and return to your home. And think about what will be the destinations and travel style in your next trip to Europe. And, traveling at Europe many weeks, a person's physical and emotional needs might not be satisfied. Thus a person would likely feel unhappy.

Posted by
18897 posts

My first trip to Europe (independent except for a 2-week student tour of the Soviet Union) was about 3 months long; I was 20. My five most recent trips have been 3 to 4-1/2 months long; I'm now 69, and most of my trips have been solo. I think if you're adventurous and excited at the prospect, long trips are great. In Chris's case, the whole family will be going along, creating a built-in support group if wrinkles pop up.

Posted by
11798 posts

Sounds great to me. We started a six-week trip in Amsterdam, leased a car, and ended in Rome (via Germany and Austria). If anything, the complaints were about the fast pace (including my own complaints).

Each kid is going to have varied interests. Make them do some planning and pick a sight (or a few sights) and plan - hours, cost, directions, etc. It's easy with Google Maps and everything is better if everyone has input into the vacation.

I'd say be realistic about what is doable with public transportation. Use it where it works but a whole day lost to connections and waiting will bring out the worst in your kids and your spouse will blame you. Also be realistic about what you can fit in a European car. We leased a seven passenger car. It was barely big enough for Two adults and three kids (16, 12, 8) with one carry-on bag each. If the kids were bigger, or we had more luggage, we would've needed something much bigger.

I tried to enforce journaling, I still have the journals - about a half sentence in each. Homework wasn't much different.

I'd do it again. The biggest things I'd change is giving ourselves more overall time and more stays longer than three nights.

Posted by
656 posts

I am a single man. I went to Lithuania for a summer class I got college credit for, in 2007. Since the. I took solo trips to England, Italy, Greece, and The Netherlands and Belgium. I have learned that I get tired of a city after about 6 nights or 5 whole days there. Maybe I could accept spending 6 or 7 nights in a city if I was taking day trip(s) from a city. How many nights and/or days can you, your wife, and your kids spend in a city before you get tired of the place?

I am happy to see that you philosophically think of traveling to specific countries instead of taking a "trip to Europe", and you are going to see some sites or museums that are meant for or appeal to kids about 8 to 12.

Others are right to have your kids help pick a few places that appeal to them. Are you going to teach your kids how to (figure out how to) navigate you guys from your hotel to sites, from one town to another town?

My mom doesn't ride in planes; my parents did take me on some road trips to cities in neighboring states. We ate every meal in restaurants. Traveling on my own, I figured out that it is physically possible to buy food from grocery stores and eat it in my hotel room, on benches, outside museums, in city parks or other out of the way places. I am not sure whether that would be appealing or possible or tolerable for you guys.

Would it help to turn your itinerary into a supposed approximate day-by-day itinerary, writing activities to do for each day, or would that be too much planning?

I don't rent cars in Europe. Whether I would rent a car if I was traveling with a woman and/or with kids, is unknowable.

Posted by
491 posts

Our longest trip so far has been a 3 week road trip with our boys (13 and 15) through Germany, Austria, Slovenia & Italy. This is what I learned:

Must-do sites should happen in the morning, or they may not happen. We made a game of having lunch with a great view every day. Sometimes it was at a restaurant in a castle with a great view. Other times it was a picnic by the river. We took a break in the afternoon and went back to our apartment. (We had a car and prefer apartments to hotels). An hour or two of napping/vegging makes it easier to go back out in the evening. And we could throw in a load of laundry during that time. With a family, tiny washing machines and questionable (if existent) dryers, do not underestimate how much laundry you will have and how long it will take. We pretty much did a load of laundry every day. And it took 2 days to dry on the drying rack. (Another reason for apartments and longer stays). Best case scenario is we had a washer/dryer combo that took 5 hours per load. I kid you not, but I digress!

In the evening, we went back out to check out the local scene. Gelato/ ice cream was a must. We stopped to check out street performers. Went to beer halls. Even went bowling. But foreign foods get tedious sometimes. We went to McDonalds. Sometimes we ordered pizza and just ate on our patio. Sometimes we went to the grocery store and let the kids pick random things for dinner (like hamburger flavored potato chips, and what seemed like deli ham but didn’t TASTE like ham!). All part of the adventure!

My biggest recommendation is to scale back “expectations” and focus on experiences. Three weeks of going-going-going every day would have been awful for us. Ten weeks of that and one of us may not have survived!

We spent 2-5 nights at each stop. There were a couple days when we slept in until 11. Before kids We would be out by 8 am. One rainy day we vegged in the apartment and watched movies. The struggle I have (on every trip) is wanting to do EVERYTHING! And feeling like if we skip something we’re not doing the trip justice. But experiencing FEWER things POSITIVELY (instead of ushering a cranky crew through museum after museum, church after church) will result in better memories.

Apartments are really the way to go. That way you have a kitchen, everybody has some space, laundry. People can go to sleep at different times. More than one bathroom really helps getting everyone out the door. The list goes on and on. They are hard to find in some cities (like Munich). In these cases you will need a hotel, just know that you’ll need two rooms. European hotels RARELY sleep 4, and if they do, it’s likely a full size bed and a sofa bed. Ick.

Posted by
8232 posts

Travel4fun’s comment about European hotels made me think of something you may not have considered. In the U.S. hotels don’t think twice about a couple and their 2 children occupying a room. You don’t even have to alert them before you arrive how many people you have in your party. It’s different in Europe. With 4 people you would need to book a “family” room in a hotel to officially accommodate 4 people. If you show up with more people than they are expecting they will likely turn you away. We prefer apartments most of the time anyway. As previously mentioned, having a washer can be a real time saver. I like having a kitchen as well, to have breakfast before setting out for a day of sightseeing. My husband appreciates being able to have as much coffee as he wants in the mornings. Are you aware that at restaurants you don’t get free refills on drinks? Coffee is typically served in very small cups. I also get tired of eating out all the time and like the option of eating at “home” occasionally. If you book 2 bedroom places everyone will have space and the kids can go to bed earlier without affecting the parents.

Posted by
4874 posts

Chris,
Taking your kids will enrich their understanding of Europe, History and Art. We lived overseas for several years. I lived in the Middle East for five and Germany for four years. We took the kids with us everywhere.

We didn't try to do a lot of kid stuff, like theme parks. What I tried to do was find books for my kids to read about the places we were visiting and some basic history. It helps them to understand the significance of what you plan to see.

Kids, especially under 10 will tire at lengthy museum visits, but some are still a must see. Going to Amsterdam, you have to do the Rijksmuseum, the Rembrandts are amazing. Also, the Lourve in Paris is loaded with great art and history. Try explaining some of the history to your kids. For example, if you did the Lourve and visited the Ancient Egyptian section, try to explain some of the history and the mummification, getting into the ancient religious practices.

Staying in a place for a base is a great idea, we have done that in the past. If you are in Paris, you can spend 5-6 days seeing Paris and then another 5-6 days going to the Loire Valley or Normandy (that still might qualify for spending a night at those places.

One thing, you will need to find places to do your own laundry, so use the internet to search for coin operated laundries. They are called Launderettes in the UK. You can spend a fortune taking your clothes to the dry cleaners.

My kids loved the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River cruise in Paris. Also, climbing to the top of the tower in Brugges is good.
Out of Amsterdam, do a tour of the Zyder Zee with its quaint little villages. The Anne Frank house is a great place to visit and learn the evil side of history, but I would caution you about taking young kids to a concentration camp like Dachau or Auschwitz.

For Bavaria, consider doing The Romantic Road https://www.romanticroadgermany.com
There are several medieval towns or small cities that your kids will like. Of course, they will like Neuswanstein (SP) Castle in Fussen and going up to the Zugspitze Mountain on the cable car as well.

During the Summer, Bavaria has fests all over the place. Try going to a fest or two, many have carnival rides the kids will enjoy. Just don't drink a mass of beer and try riding yourself.

As for the French Alps, not sure why you picked that area, since you will see similar stuff in southern Bavaria. Consider visiting Provence (SE France along the Rhone River). The French riviera has some great places like Monaco, Nice, Cannes.

If you do Amsterdam and head from there to the Rhine River area of W. Germany, stop in Cologne and see the famous cathedral. Also, consider visiting Trier, an ancient Roman city near Luxembourg. Heidelberg is a good place to visit as well.

Posted by
920 posts

Sounds great! Three years is a long way off and your travel interests today may have changed by then. Make sure and give the kids a chance to have input. I would sketch out a basic outline of the trip and revisit it periodically leading up to the time you begin to make air and lodging reservations. Because you're going to be there so long maybe you should have a firm plan for the first 10 days or so as well as the last week of the trip and then plan as you go for the remainder of the time. Flying into one destination and out of another will give you the benefit of not having to double back. I've traveled with children in Europe 3 times and each trip was fabulous.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you everyone. Lots of great advice.

I did do a very tentative day by day itinerary, just to see if it was too much time in each place, or not enough. I feel that we will have no end of things to do, but definitely won't do every single thing on the list, which isn't a bad thing. We plan on having an exhaustive list of possibilities, but then tailoring each day to what we feel most like doing, and see what kinds of things the kids are enjoying the most.

And afternoon breaks with the major activities typically in the morning is a great idea. That being said, if we had a late night and sleep in, i feel like we're in each location long enough to not feel like we have to rush rush rush every day.

Good advice on laundry and apartments as well. With this much advance planning we plan on knowing the best options well beforehand and booking them way ahead of time, with laundry being on the want list. It will be tough to balance packing light but also not running out of clean clothes, but i'm sure we'll figure it out.

My 9 year old daughter has already been doing her own research of each country and it was her that insisted that Paris be included. My younger son will get his chance to help out with planning as well, and with out a locked in itinerary, we plan on making family decisions on what we pick from the list to do each day.

A new development is that our best friends who also have kids the same ages that are best friends with our kids are planning on joining us for the Belgium and germany legs of the trip for a couple weeks. We've travelled with this family before and get along great. Both families won't be tied at the hip for every activity, but knowing they are going to see their friends at the halfway point will mean alot to our kids.

We know there will be some days better than others, and based on previous long trips without kids, I know that even if it's the best trip ever we'll all be anxious for the comforts of home by the end. But making the most of the opportunity for an extended period of time off of work will not be something we regret. Thanks again...this has been a very positive and helpful forum experience (which isn't always the case).

Posted by
897 posts

Take the trip. You won't regret it. Eight and 12 are the perfect ages for Europe for the first time. I don't think anyone has mentioned, but as they get older (upper middle and high school), they start to have summer commitments like band camp, sports practices, jobs, etc. where 10 weeks off is really, really hard to get. Take the time now, while you can.

I took my two in 2018, ages 8 and 11 at the time, and they loved it. We had an amazing two-week trip planned for last year which we are all still sad about canceling. If corona has taught us nothing at all, at least it has taught us that you don't regret going on the trips, but you sure regret the ones you don't go on.

My advice for traveling with kids is as follows.

  • Divide your sightseeing goals into Tier I (must-dos), Tier II (like to do), and Tier III (will do if time/energy but you won't be devastated if you have to miss)
  • Plan only one Tier I item per day. Period. Reserve/purchase these ahead of time so you will have the incentive to go, no matter how tired you are. ("Mommy has already paid for these tickets and we all said we really wanted to see the Empire State Building, so we're going!" ~me in 2019 - and yes, we all loved the ESB despite being dead tired lol) Advance purchases also ensure entry to the big attractions, something crucial in times of limited ticket sales.
  • Add Tier II and III items on the fly for days when you're bored, it's raining, too much screen time, people still have lots of energy, etc. Without advance tickets, these attractions are more flexible. If you don't get to these items, take the Rick approach of assuming you'll see them next time.
  • Do not book museums two days in a row. Kids get museumed-out, fast.
  • Have a completely free/unplanned day every 4th or 5th day. Divide and conquer with kids and parents on these days. Those who want to do something active, can; those who don't can flob around the hotel.
  • Pick hotels with pools to have something to do on free days.
  • Do NOT overschedule when traveling with kids. Do NOT plan lengthy drives multiple days in a row.
  • Because you're planning so far in advance, consider collecting points for hotels and flights to make parts of your trip free. Especially if you have a home business, using a points-based credit card will add up quick; many have huge intro bonuses. My husband owns a small business and with his business credit card, we amassed enough points for two free weeks in Marriotts and Hiltons in Europe, two rooms/night (as someone mentioned earlier, most European hotels won't sleep 4 people, and with 10 weeks, you don't want to be "that close for that long," anyway). Apartments are a great ideas as others have said, but hotels are useful, too, depending on the location.

Ignore the naysayers on this one, and do it. If I had the time/money to take a 10-week trip to Europe, I WOULD DO IT IN A HEARTBEAT.

Posted by
4546 posts

Not sure going to a movie theater is a good 'day off' for the kids. I suspect the movie will be screened in the local language, so unless your kids are multilingual.....

I’ve gone to see English language movies while on vacation in a number of countries. It can be an interesting experience.

You will need to check to see if the film is offered in the original language with subtitles or dubbed. In France look for ”V.O.” (version originale). In Germany, look for ”OmU” or ”OV”. In Sweden, films are nearly always shown in the original language. The first time I went to the cinema in Germany, they sold ice cream half way through. Another time, there was beer on tap (probably not for the kids). In U.K., you get a choice of salt or sugar on the popcorn.

Posted by
46 posts

What a wonderful opportunity! We have traveled extensively with our boys since they were in diapers - they are close in age, 19 months apart. While we have never had the opportunity for such an extended trip, we have learned a few things from our annual 2-3 week trips over the past 10 years:
We much prefer to stay outside of cities in apartments or cabins, often on working farms where the family has one or more vacation apartments. While that's not always possible, it's much nicer to be in a relaxed and cozy village south of Amsterdam and day-trip into the city than walk through the red light district everyday.
We prefer to stay in one "home base" for a week when possible. I think one week is probably the minimum for us as it allows time to settle in and get to know a place. Another benefit is often the ability to do laundry before moving on to the next location.
We prefer to travel by car than train as it provides much more flexibility in rural areas, particularly in France and Germany.
I look forward to reading your final itinerary and your trip report.
Our boys will be 13 and 14 on our next trip. Traveling with teenagers will be adjustment, to be sure. For now, they are both looking forward to planning our trip next summer.
Good luck!

Posted by
4874 posts

I won't repeat much of what has already been posted, but focus on a few items.

1) Traveling with kids overseas. I moved to the Middle East when my kids were 5 and 11, then after two years in the USA went back to Germany for four more years. Had my kids in Germany and step-kids that were teens.
Traveling with teens is not much different than traveling with adults, they can take in history, art and more, it will be great for them.

My son was the youngest starting at age 5 and doesn't remember much that he visited prior to 10 years of age. However, for the 12 year old, that will not be the case. I remember taking a trip from Georgia to Washington, DC and New York City in 1956 when I was 8 years old. I have great memories of visiting the Smithsonian Red Castle Museum in DC, climbing the Statue of Liberty going up the Empire State Building in NYC. It was amazing.

Sorry, I am not a fan of going to amusement parks like Disney Land Paris when visiting Europe. They can be enchanted by real history not made up. My kids loved things like going up in the Eiffel Tower, taking a short cruise on the Seine, a gondola ride in Venice, going up the tower across from St. Mark's Square. They were so amazed by the Sistine Chapel that they didn't want to leave. My son wanted to know all about the figures on the frescoes. They loved the Alpine scenery in Garmisch, Germany, Switzerland at the Jungfrau, etc. I did a two day hike with a guide up to the top of the Zugspitze (Garmisch) that was memorable in July.

2) Don't worry about travel fatigue, we have taken lengthy trips, as long as 7 1/2 weeks and no problem, we didn't want it to end. You probably will need to plan to take a break from sightseeing for a day every couple of weeks.

3) Consider using some cities as bases to see nearby towns or countryside, etc. Example, London you can take in may great places like Bath, Oxford, Salisbury, Winchester, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge. Another would be Florence, Italy to see more of Tuscany or Umbria.

4) Going to Germany, don't miss seeing the Romantic Road that runs from Wurzberg to Fussen/Garmisch. Spend about three days on the road. https://www.romanticroadgermany.com
It is filled with medieval walled towns and small cities. My kids loved it. So did I.
In the Rhine River valley don't miss Cologne and its cathedral, Trier (a little off the river), Heidelberg and down to the Black Forest area and Strasbourg, France.