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5 month sabbatical in Europe with 2.5 & 5 year olds

My family is considering a 5 month sabbatical in Fall 2010, and we're currently debating where to go. One idea is to rent an apartment in a large European city (Paris?) and organize occasional trips from there. We have two kids who will be 2.5 and 5 years old next fall -- not ideal ages for travel but minimal school conflict.

Our goals are to have a lot of family time in an interesting place that is safe and has some conveniences for families (parks, children's museums, family-friendly restaurants, etc). Our only languages are English and some Spanish, but we're not intimidated to learn (although it would be helpful if a little English now and then would be okay).

Any suggestions? Where would you go if you had five months with your young kids? Where would a good base be? We love Italy and France. We haven't traveled much in Eastern Europe or Scandanavia. We're also considering Australia/New Zealand, Costa Rica, Buenos Aires, or South East Asia. (Do you see why we need help??)

Any suggestions or sources of info will be much appreciated!

Thank you!

Posted by
6411 posts

My first suggestion would be to consider that most non-EU citizens are limited to a maximum of 90 days in the Schengen zone, so unless you have some special status that allows you to stay longer, you might start thinking about making that a 3-month sabbatical in Europe. Search on "schengen" and you'll find many prior discussions of this issue.

Posted by
14164 posts

Schengen covers just about all of western Europe except for the UK.

The rule is a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period.

Posted by
815 posts

maybe a smaller city? We really enjoyed visiting Haarlem - 15 minutes outside Amsterdam. From there you be able to catch a train to Paris or Brussels or Germany. Any I just love The Netherlands - very livable county.

Love Eastern Europe but I think you may be a bit isolated and it may not be as easy to visit other countries - but if you do go in that direction check out Krakow.

Posted by
689 posts

Sarah, if you haven't read Adam Gopnik's "Paris to the Moon," you might want to check it out. He moves his family to Paris because it's the place he decides he wants his young son to grow up in, and a lot of the essays are about kids in Paris. He was a NY Times correspondent, though, so he could get around the visa restrictions...

Posted by
9363 posts

I can speak to one of your non-Europe possibilities - Costa Rica. I was there last December and loved it! It is a very family-friendly place with very affordable health care, wonderful beaches within two hours of anywhere in the country, volcanoes, rainforests, lots of national parks full of wildlife, great food. You wouldn't be as able to travel to other places from there, however. I believe their standard tourist visa is 90 days, though they do allow "border runs" - go to Panama for a couple of days and your time starts over when you get back, no special visa needed.

One other little bonus is that your American appliances and plugs work just fine there, no adapters needed. They use the same AC power and plugs as we do.

Posted by
1357 posts

I'd go out right now and get a copy of Cynthia Harriman's "Take Your Kids to Europe." She has lots of information on slow travel, plus tons of info in websites, plus she covers kid-friendly things to do in different countries that you won't find in the regular guidebooks.

For kids that age, it's got to be a place with tons of playgrounds. We were in Ireland this summer and had a hard time finding them, only ran across a couple of 'em. We've traveled in Germany and Austria with our kids, and they have them in every town we've gone to.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks everyone -- I really appreciate your advice!


Posted by
1 posts

Rent 5 houses/apartments in different cities/areas for a month each. Mix it up between cities and countryside. My suggestions would be: Paris, South of France, Barcelona, Swiss countryside, Rome or Florence. Do European delivery on a car and get it shipped back to the states after the sabbatical is over.