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First trip with adult children to Europe

Hoping to get some advice on destination options. I have been to Europe 3 times, once in my 20's doing the typical Eurail pass trip, a second trip to Bavaria/Switzerland, and a 3rd trip to Krakow. We are finally able to afford a family trip to take our 3 young adult sons to Europe for their first time. I would rather stay in one location and take day trips if we like. Probably will rely on rail travel rather than rental car. They are very active, outdoorsy types who don't care much for big city activities. Any favorites for first-timers? I want them to fall in love with visiting Europe and see how do-able it is. Trip will probably be in late spring/early summer as soon as college lets out of the spring semester. Thanks for any ideas!

Posted by
3707 posts

How long trip are you planning? What languages do you speak?

Posted by
3364 posts

At that time of the year and with their love of the outdoors I’d look at a combination of Switzerland, Austria and northern Italian lakes. Also it would be good to ask each of them where and why they’d like to go. You may find some hidden desires (beyond I’d like to see the Eiffel Tower) to plan a trip around.

Posted by
108 posts

I am going to suggest Italy. The culture is welcoming to first timers. Who doesn't already love pizza, pasta, etc. You could do a mix of mountains, ocean, a fast car museum, Roman ruins, etc. Plenty there even without seeing a big city.

Posted by
6814 posts

Even though not big city types I’ll recommend London.

They can bike, hike, horse back ride, climb the O2 dome, watch football ( soccer ) in many of the numerous parks, tour Wimbledon, maybe see some rugby….

Numerous free museums, food choices galore, street markets, and they can sit in pubs and enjoy a meal. To experience a proper pub look at the Ship and Shovel, The Grenadier, The Old Bell Tavern, The Prospect of Whitby, The Dove or Lamb and Flag.

Countless theatre options. Have they ever seen a stage play? Look at WhatsOnStage.

Were they Harry Potter movie watchers? If yes have them find the opening to the Leaky Cauldron in Leadenhall Market.

Any interest in WW2? Such as the codebreakers. If so a day out by train to Bletchley Park is worth it. So are the Churchill War Rooms.

Visit the Tower of London.

Jack the Ripper? Sherlock Holmes?

Wall murals? Shoreditch is full of them.

Talk a ( or more than one ) London walk.

If you want, after London take the EuroStar train to Paris. That way 2 different countries.


Posted by
1940 posts

We first took our young adult children to Greece, visiting Santorini, Naxos, Nafplio, and Athens. They absolutely loved it, including my older son who had previously spent two months in Europe after college. Now that same son did ditch us after one day in Athens to visit Meteora which might appeal more to your outdoorsy group.

Posted by
13376 posts

If you plan on including the UK, then I would also suggest London, to be sure, as well as Paris (absolutely), Vienna and Berlin. What is the geographic extent of the trip? My first trip at 21 included London, Munich, Berlin and Vienna, two years later It was Paris.

Quite right....a trip is very do-able and early summer is a very good time indeed to be over there as to weather .

Posted by
376 posts

I think young active men would fall in love with Europe with a visit to either Provence or the French Riviera. In Provence I would stay in either Avignon or Aix en Provence. Public transportation is easy from either place to many destinations and you could rent a car for a day or two and go out to the Luberon.
The train runs along the coast of the French Riviera and depending on where you chose to stay (Antibes? Nice? Menton? Villa Franche?) you could even do a day trip to Italy which would be exciting for them I’m sure!

Posted by
209 posts

I do love the idea of London. I studied abroad there and it was my first time in Europe and it has turned into one of my very favorite places to visit across the pond. Or maybe Edinburgh if they don’t want such a huge city. They can hike up to Arthur’s seat, take a day trip to Glasgow, and/or explore a bit of the highlands. And even though you’ve been there before, Krakow is such a great city for young adults. Take a day trip (or even overnight) to Zakopane and explore the Tatra mountains, day trips to the salt mines, Auschwitz, Zalipie, are all options. The food is amazing, I found the locals really nice, and your dollar goes pretty far over there. Wrocław was my favorite city in Poland if you want to explore somewhere different. The city has a little something for everyone and a great youthful vibe your kids would likely enjoy. There are options for day trip activities from there as well. Croatia has a ton to offer but it’s more of a place you travel around instead of being set in one place and taking day trips. Nevertheless if you find a sailing trip, that’s a great way to explore the country while still being about to go back to the same room every night and only having to unpack once.

Posted by
191 posts

I took all 3 kids to Italy for their 21st birthday, the girls loved seeing the art, the son (and his wife) perfered Sorrento and the coast. What I'm trying to say is: what your sons like to do at home they will like to do in Europe. If they like to hike go to Switzerland, if they like to ride bikes go to the Lorie Valley in France (did that will my grandson), if they like once in a life time experences go to Spain for Holy Week and spend another week on the coast of Spain. I find it lovely that your taking your kids with you, they will remember the trip long after your gone. J

Posted by
5692 posts

"Probably will rely on rail travel rather than rental car. They are very active, outdoorsy types who don't care much for big city activities. Any favorites for first-timers? I want them to fall in love with visiting Europe and see how do-able it is."

The Rhine Castle Trail connects dozens of towns and castles for 120 miles along the west bank of the Rhine River Gorge between Bingen in the south and Koblenz in the north. The landscapes vary and so does the intensity - some parts are challenging, others easy walking. The towns are all connected by train as well... so it's quite easy to head out for the day on foot and return by train, or vice versa. Biking is also very popular along the Rhine and in neighboring river valleys.

Boppard has a good number of vacation rentals and is a good town to base in for a week or so; with Boppard's Guest Ticket program you'll have free train access not only to nearby towns on the trail but also to Rhine towns on the east bank of the Rhine, in the Mosel River Valley (like the Rhine, a wine-producing region) and also in the Lahn River Valley, places like Bacharach, Rüdesheim, Cochem, Limburg an der Lahn, and others. Of the many castles in the area, 4 offer tours and are very popular with visitors - Marksburg in Braubach, Rheinfels in St. Goar, Burg Eltz near Moselkern, and Reichsburg in Cochem.

Besides trails and trains, day cruise boats and ferry crossings serve as alternatives for getting around.

Koblenz is the city hub for this area for whatever services/entertainment needs you might not find in the smaller towns.

Links for you...

Posted by
1954 posts

If your boys like to hike and be outdoors, I would suggest spending time in the Dolomites. You would probably want a car there. I would add Lake Como to that mix.

Posted by
1198 posts

Austria. You could easily spend a week in the Salzburg area:

Check out the fortress, paragliding & ice caves in Werfen.

Go to Konigsee and Berchtesgaden for a sommerrodelbahn and salt mine.

Go to Hallstatt for the picturesque village. Also a salt mine and ice cave nearby.

In Salzburg, check out the beer halls and super charming old town. The Red Bull museum is pretty cool, too. Salzburg doesn’t feel like a big city.

Posted by
1940 posts

I just wanted to add that you shouldn’t be afraid to plan things different than what they usually enjoy for part of the trip. My youngest son was 20 when we went to Greece and it was life changing. It really opened up his eyes to the world. He has since been to Portugal and Italy and has enjoyed a much broader spectrum of sites than I would have ever expected based solely on his preferences at home. I saw the same when we took our nephew with us on the Italy trip (after his initial culture shock about Italian pizza!)

Posted by
246 posts

Don’t get too hung up on the outdoors. We are outdoors people also. We incorporate hikes, etc into out travels. But, we can do all that at home in Colorado. If focus on outdoors you lose some of what Europe is all about. The big city stuff like museums, art, etc. In essence you miss the history and culture of Europe.
I know people who have gone to Europe for various sports. And you know what, that is all they do there. The same as at home. Maybe a event or race, but not any “tourist” stuff. We have gone for same reason, but after the event we go traveling.
Why not note what your kids actually want to do. In a specific sense. Or is this whole trip up to you to plan?

Posted by
3414 posts

Assuming they will be home for Thanksgiving, you need to make the 3 of them sit down with you for one hour to talk about what they would like to do. Do not let them put all the responsibility for planning on you-their future wives will thank you for this!

Posted by
1440 posts

If you are making a trip for your sons, where do they want to go? I know I'd have probably a different idea of a European vacation then my parents.

First step is to sit down as a family and decide where to go. I've even found that if they help to plan what to do, it lessens the complaints if an activity isn't to their liking. Most people here are in their 40s and over, let your sons decide. My parents told me that they would go with me and pay for my trip to Europe but I had to plan where to stay and what to see. I thought it was hard at first but it really helped me in my own travel planning.

Any event it will be a memorable time, both good and bad. I still remember that trip with Mom, our arguments but also the fun we had and my mom's natural ability to talk to almost anyone. Enjoy!

Posted by
7199 posts

I first went to Europe when in college--back when we were a little wild and crazy.. I don't know what interests your children have at their age.

Young bohemians need to go to cities like Munich, Salzburg and Vienna. Or, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. They often do best when they move around a little from city to city to take in the full experience. These are all easily visited by train and adjacent to each other.