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Traveling with children

My husband and I would like to travel to Europe with our children aged 5-11. What age would you recommend as appropriate for a first trip abroad considering safety issues and money?

Posted by
95 posts

Our first trip with the kids were ages 7 and 9 and they had a ball. They weren't much for the museum or ANY tours, but they loved castle ruins, zoos, self-guided museums, playgrounds full of other kids, etc. It was definitely worth the money, but we didn't invest in things we knew they wouldn't enjoy. No expensive restaurants at the end of long days, no tours of elegant homes, etc.

Posted by
277 posts

It depends upon the child. My childrens first adventure to Europe, a three week back pack rail journey to five countries and many nore cities,was when they were 5 and 7. We slept on night trains, stayed a tourist class hotels, ate our meals where the locals of the city eat, and walked and walked. I am proud to write that they were real troopers. Never a problem or complaint. However, the only thing that my 5 year old remembers from that trip, now 24, was the walking tour of the sewers of Paris. Safety then and now is not a concern. Money, well, I still use tourist class hotels and eat where the locals eat.

Posted by
800 posts

Tinisha - When my youngest was 5 we had what I would consider our first real vacation. He was old enough to go to museums, ate well in restaurants that did not have children's menus, wasn't napping and could go to sleep in the same room as the rest of us. I think money is well spent when you spend in on family vacations - regardless of whether they "remember" it or not. They are getting exposure so that the next time they are even better equipped to handle the rigors of the trip. The only thing that was iffy about my son - when we went to Disney World (at age 5), we rented a stroller for the evening becuase he really was very tired after walking around all day. When we did our city/museum vacation, we were in the hotel very early for some reading/TV and then bed.

Posted by
11503 posts

Well, I am not sure why you mention " safety issues or money" as I think Europe is safer then most large American cities, and as for money, going now, or going 5 yrs from now, well, it would be MORE expensive when kids are older. They eat more, LOL>

I am taking my 12 yr old girl next year, and we took both our boys, seperately, at 14 . The boys were ( are) a little more immature and restless, so long flights and tours seemed daunting when they were younger) . My daughters personality is more easy going, so she will go younger. I guess my point is , you know your own kids best. Personally I would not have bothered at 5 , it is a lot of money to fly overseas, and my kids were just as happy to go to the States( we are Canadain) or Caribbean.
Travel overseas, time changes, jet lag, seemed a bit much at 5 to US, but, others don't find it a problem.
I went at ten to France, stayed for a couple of months , though going to " the city" ( Paris) was a bit boring, just liked playing with

Posted by
11503 posts

kids, and going to parks etc. The Eiffel tower was fun, and going on trains, but really it just wasn't that memorable. I went again at 13 and enjoyed it alot more, by then I knew a bit of history, and I just apprieciated it more. Just my opinion, do as you feel works for you and YOUR kids. You know best.

Posted by
87 posts

A Book you may find helpful - Cynthia Harriman's Take Your Kids to Europe. I came across it in our library. I can't remember how young her yougest was, but she has updated it and puts in feedback from other people. I used some of her ideas on our trip.

Posted by
98 posts

Tinsha - Your kids are a great age to start exploring the rest of the world. I took my nephews to England when they were 11 and 4 1/2 over this past summer. I then returned to London for several days just a couple weeks ago with the now 5 yo. They are both great travelers having been on lots of planes already here in the US. I do agree it can be less money if they are younger. Most countries have free or almost free transportation for under 17's. Museums and sites are much less as well (all the big museums in London are free for everyone). Get a few travel guides on places that interest you and have the kids be involved. Have fun planning.

Posted by
12154 posts

We travel with our children. You will seem less like an American tourist and connect more with the locals.

A good general guide is would you take the child to a day at Disneyland? Is the child trooper enough to handle lots of walking combined with patiently sitting in a plane, car or train? Have you gone camping? Will the child eat and sleep, or will they insist on known food and their own bed?

We decided our oldest was ready at six, then our others followed at five (maybe because they had an older sibling to set the example).

Our kids are troopers. We have had comments from "Bella Bambina!" in Italy, to "What stout children!" climbing a glacier in Canada.

Our youngest celebrated her 8th birthday in Cinque Terra. She spoke no Italian but had an hour long conversation with a group of Italian women who spoke no English. We watched and chuckled from a distance. Before she left they had given her small birthday presents.

Posted by
157 posts

Those are great ages to start in my opinion. My kids were about the same ages when we started going beyond "Disney" type trips. We started earlier than most with trips to Alaska and Europe with them. They loved it and still remember it and look forward to going back in 08. I was 11 the first time I went to Europe and remember it like it was yesterday. Just make sure to leave time for the them to be "kids" - run around in a park or play a little while. Playing in a park is free - so it helps with the money question. Also remember they may not be interested in everything you are and there may be some modifications to standard sites - like a half day in the Louvre. But it is absolutely well worth it. It is an expereince they will remember and you will too. Take lots of pictures of them with famous sites and let them take pictures too. My oldest(now a teen)loves to look at the pictures of himself at age 1 in Paris!

Posted by
3428 posts

We started our children traveling to Europe around age 9. They both (1 boy, 1 girl) loved it! The UK is an easy place to start, though ours also loved Austria as we are all Sound of Music fans. England and Scotland are great for kids. The history can be take in small doses and the armor/knights/etc. are the sugar the makes the "medicine" go down easy. A cruise down the Thames, Greenwich, Inverness and Loch Ness, all are great places for kids. Our espeically loved the markets!!!!

Posted by
69 posts

I don't see anything wrong with bringing kids at any age. I think you have to ask yourself how important travel is apart off your lives regardless of the kids. My husband and I have a 9-mth old baby and we took his first trip to Europe just over the holidays to Paris. It was definitely not as carefree and spontaneous as our past trips as a couple, but as long as you manage your expectations prior to the trip you'll have a wonderful time. It was such a success, plane ride and all, we're already thinking of where to go next. I'd love to be at your stage where the kids can be engaged in what you're seeing/doing/experiencing. I'd definitely venture out if I were you. I think you'll notice that Europe is really kid/baby friendly. There's lots for them to do there. Exposing them to other cultures while they're growing up can be nothing but good in teaching them to appreciate what they have and where they live.

Posted by
203 posts

We traveled to Europe 14 years ago when my youngest was 10. I thought that was a good age. Traveling with 5 year olds is a challenge but better than traveling with toddlers. 11 is the perfect age; that's before they become teenagers and rather be at home with friends than with their boring parents. My advice would depend on how much money you have. As I'm sure you know, Europe is unbelievably expensive for Americans these days. If this is a "once in a lifetime" thing, I'd wait 2-3 years when it would be a little easier kid-wise. If money isn't a problem, go now and whenever you want.

Posted by
15 posts

I did short trips with my 3 boys when they were able to carry their own backpack. Started in Hawaii, San Francisco, LA, Yosemite, New York, Washington DC...etc. Every trip was educational yet fun. In between those times, my husband and I took trips to Europe by oursevles. When the boys got older and wanted to see the museums, historical sites etc, then we took them to Europe...they were 11,13,15 and they appreciated everything. They planned the trip from what they learned in school. We went to Ireland to see the Book of Kells and Blarney Castle, France to see Paris and Omaha Beach, and visited Sagrada Familia(and Barcelona Stadium~they play soccer). I believe my husband and I were able to thoroughly enjoy our European trip because we didn't have to chase after them, wipe their noses, attend to their cries or anything like that cause they're older! Only you would know what would be right for your children and your sanity! Happy Travels!

Posted by
23 posts

Hi Tinisha,

It's never to early to enjoy travel-my 2 boys adore exploring new places & have always traveled well tips...
1)Read book about destinations with kids prior to trip.
2)let them pack their own backpack w/what they think will entertain&comfort them while away
3) teach them simple phrases in the language of the country we plan to visit -hello, please, thank you, bathroom, and help. Europeans appreciate effort +frequently know some basic English.
4)Each place you visit, designate a safe meeting place in case you get separated somehow ie- meet@ museum info desk if lost
5)rent phones abroad
6)Bring along comfort snacks and ration throughout trip
7)Many airlines offer lower priced overseas tickets for kids
8)Hotels in Europe charge per person in hotel room so you will need a quad or family room-B&Bs CHEAPEST
9)Kids love audio tours(english) -worth doing & educational
10)kids love cruises!(free,fun&safe kid camps)This allows some adult time-Consider doing a combination cruise/land

Posted by
190 posts

I think one of the key things for any child is to prepare them for the trip, not just what will be seen, but also the adventure of exploring new and different cultures. And talk to each child individually to see what impressions they are forming about what the trip will be like. I did that with mine almost by accident and was so glad I did. Some of their preconcieved ideas would have set them up for disappointment and even boredom. I changed some things because of their ideas and explained other things, and we had great trips.

As far as safety issues, use the same common sense there as here.

Posted by
31 posts

We spent over 3 months in Vienna with our 3 kids (ages 6, 12 and 16). We were with a group of students on a study abroad experience. My 6 yr. old did everything (I mean everything) the college students did - museums, concentration camps, tours of historical sites, churches, etc. If a museum has an audio tour, he could stay interested much longer. We tried to find parks when we could, always made sure he was holding a hand, found many gelato places and ate lots of pizza. He carried all his clothes in his backpack on his back when we left Vienna for 10 days of free travel. He's nine now and still remembers so much. We are going back this summer and he's so excited.