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Family Travel with Kids

Would love some advice on the best way to explore Europe with kids (12 and 10) this summer. We have about six weeks and are debating on cruise or not in Greece. Other places we are planning to see are Paris, Spain (Barcelona) and Alps (debating on Swiss, French, Italy). Any advice on the best things for kids would be helpful.

Posted by
507 posts

As a "once 12- yr old" (1963) who went to England with her Mum, I can say just about any choice would be a memorable one for your children. I would have been bored to death with {clarifification: art} museums at that age.

{Add: Before I went to England I read The Bobsie Twins go to London & Marry Poppins had been released within the previous year. I was excited to see the places mentioned in the book as well as the places shown in the movie. The main reason for the trip was to meet Mum's relatives whom she had not seen since 1946.

I can say I enjoyed a wonderful 6 weeks living with the locals while visiting some of the many sights of London. :-) }

Posted by
693 posts

If you and your children have never been to London then I would consider ditching Barcelona and going there. In my experience, both as a child and as the parent of children, it is hard to beat for kids.

Changinging of the Guard, Tower of London, Hampton Court, London Eye, markets like those on Portobello Road, Windsor Castle, Trip on the Thames to Greenwich, riding the Tube etc.

And with due respect to Colleen, museums have changed a bit since she was a girl. Find me a ten year old boy who does not enjoy Churchills War Rooms or the Imperial War Museum and I will be amazed. My daughter loved the V and A museum and both my kids loved the Science and Natural History Museums. You just need to be realistic and not overdo the time in them. I also see travel as an opportunity to educate my kids. The only way they learn to enjoy and appreciate things is through exposure.

Posted by
774 posts

The "best things for kids" is quite broad. My kids, when that age and now (when they are 19 and 16 yo) really liked art; on our first trip to Italy with our daughter, I ended up adding museums! What interests you and your kids? For example, at 10, my son was very interested in real-life spies (Kim Philby, etc.) and pretend spies (James Bond), so our visit to London included a "Spies and Spymasters" walking tour with LondonWalks.

We like to combine urban and rural destinations. So, especially if you have 6 weeks, you might want to schedule a week in the countryside. The Dordogne, in southwest France, has many attractions for adults and kids, including old castles and incomparable prehistoric cave paintings. Barcelona was a hit, especially because our son really likes modern art; our visit there included the Dali museum, in Figueres, and the Miro museum (and of course the Picasso museum). Remember that the Spanish tend to eat dinner very late, so build that into your plans.

Of course, your rural destinations probably also will be your time in the Alps. We do a lot of hiking on the weekends during our "real life," so we tend not to hike much on vacations. We did hike, though, before we moved to the mountains, and enjoyed our time in the Swiss and Austrian alps. If you all like to hike, any of those places would be great, and good destinations for kids.

In Paris, I planned it so that each of our kids' first view of the Eiffel Tower was at night, on a tour boat going down the Seine. It was brilliant! We prefer the vedettes du Pont Neuf, which are smaller boats that leave from a docking point on the Pont Neuf. Also good for Paris: visit a patisserie to pick up a pastry to share (ask for a bag of choquettes, they are wonderful); conduct taste tests of macarons that difference patisseries have, to see which you like the best. Go to the Arc de Triomph to watch the cars whizz in and out of the 12 intersecting roads. We read the Hunchback of Notre Dame before our visit, which made climbing the towers of Notre Dame even more meaningful.

Enjoy your adventure!

Posted by
774 posts

The "best things for kids" is quite broad. My kids, when that age and now (when they are 19 and 16 yo) really liked art; on our first trip to Italy with our daughter, I ended up adding museums! What interests you and your kids? For example, at 10, my son was very interested in real-life spies (Kim Philby, etc.) and pretend spies (James Bond), so our visit to London included a "Spies and Spymasters" walking tour with LondonWalks.

We like to combine urban and rural destinations. So, especially if you have 6 weeks, you might want to schedule a week in the countryside. The Dordogne, in southwest France, has many attractions for adults and kids, including old castles and incomparable prehistoric cave paintings. Barcelona was a hit, especially because our son really likes modern art; our visit there included the Dali museum, in Figueres, and the Miro museum (and of course the Picasso museum). Remember that the Spanish tend to eat dinner very late, so build that into your plans.

Of course, your rural destinations probably also will be your time in the Alps. We do a lot of hiking on the weekends during our "real life," so we tend not to hike much on vacations. We did hike, though, before we moved to the mountains, and enjoyed our time in the Swiss and Austrian alps. If you all like to hike, any of those places would be great, and good destinations for kids.

In Paris, I planned it so that each of our kids' first view of the Eiffel Tower was at night, on a tour boat going down the Seine. It was brilliant! We prefer the vedettes du Pont Neuf, which are smaller boats that leave from a docking point on the Pont Neuf. Also good for Paris: visit a patisserie to pick up a pastry to share (ask for a bag of choquettes, they are wonderful); conduct taste tests of macarons that difference patisseries have, to see which you like the best. Go to the Arc de Triomph to watch the cars whizz in and out of the 12 intersecting roads. We read the Hunchback of Notre Dame before our visit, which made climbing the towers of Notre Dame even more meaningful.

Enjoy your adventure!

Posted by
21 posts

Wow, your plans are very similar to our own - 13 & 10 yr olds, 8 week trip. Difference is we start & end in Italy, but in between will be in Barcelona, Paris, the Alps, etc. One thing we plan to do, a couple of days after arriving, is stay at a "campground" near Venice. It's not really camping, we'll stay in a bungalow, but there is a beach and a fantastic waterpark, along with restaurants, grocery, internet - all the comforts. As my kids have only ever been to Mexico, I think this will be a good way to ease into the whole experience. Start it off as a fun vacation, while being able to pop into Venice. Yes it's not a very authentic way to begin, but I think they'll have a very positive attitude about the rest of the adventure if the trip starts off fun for them, esp. since there will be other kids their age. I only mention this because you'll have the time to fit something like this in - if you were only going for a week, it wouldn't make any sense.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks tcnaty. Very interesting. Would love the name of the campground. Maybe our paths will cross. My son will be 13 in April and daughter 11 in August. I have also been tossing around the idea of Spanish day camp in Barcelona. Starts June 28th and its two weeks mandatory. Same with my kids. They have been to Mexico 4 or 5 times but nowhere else outside of the states.

http://www.studyabroadinternational.com/Summer_Camps_in_Spain/Spain_Barcelona_Junior_Summer_Camp_enrollment

Posted by
21 posts

Quite a coincidence - we arrive in Barcelona on June 29th, for 4 weeks. I'll certainly look into that camp - maybe we will cross paths! The place near Venice where we plan to stay is Camping Marina di Venezia (http://www.marinadivenezia.it), but there are other ones nearby, such as Camping Ca' Savio (http://www.casavio.com). That first one requires a minimum of a week, whereas the others may be more flexible. They have campgrounds like these all over Europe, just understand that they tend to cater to Europeans, so English definitely won't be the first language. But that's part of the experience, I say!