It’s always an adventure traveling with young kids, but if it’s the first time you’re planning a trip overseas, it may be a little daunting. Not to worry — you can put together a plan that will ensure that your European family vacation goes smoothly and that the whole family makes amazing memories on your first trip to Europe with kids. From how to plan ahead and pack, to ways to beat jet lag and choose places to stay, we’ve compiled some of our top tips for traveling to Europe with kids and making your family vacation a success.
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30 Top Tips for Traveling to Europe with Kids for the First Time
We have traveled to Europe with children for the last 20 years and I promise it gets easier as time goes on! If you haven’t been or just want to brush up on some new ideas, this is the post for you.
1. Plan Ahead And Stay Flexible
As with any trip, the planning process is the foundation of a Europe trip with kids. Search online, join Facebook groups, or ask friends to find the best places to stay and eat. It’s important to research the availability of activities that your entire family can enjoy.
Since children can be unpredictable, create a list of multiple activities family members can choose from rather than forming a rigid itinerary. And, rather than pack your schedule full of non-stop activities, leave time to veer off course and be spontaneous.
Also, when planning, be sure to use all of your resources. Look at train station maps and map routes ahead of time. Plan your itineraries and join Facebook groups to get help with any questions you might have.
2. Choose Family-Friendly Accommodations
Most destinations have family-friendly hotels or other types of accommodations. Look for spots that have child-friendly rooms and food offerings that young children will enjoy, whether at a restaurant, through in-room dining, or grab-and-go options.
Also, look for hotel rooms and suites that offer space to spread out and have solo time. Some hotels may even offer babysitting services so that adults can have some downtime.
Another consideration when choosing where to stay is the location. Be sure to choose a spot that is central so that you can easily see the local sites but have the ability to quickly travel to other nearby towns or attractions.
TIP: If you are traveling with more than 3 people, you may need to book two separate hotel rooms. Fire code laws are different in Europe, and family rooms are few and far between. In many destinations, we prefer to rent a local apartment through companies like VRBO or Plum Guide.
3. Pack Light
While it may be a challenge to pack light for a long stay, it’s well worth it to avoid hauling around lots of luggage. Also, depending on your destinations, you may encounter narrow, cobblestone streets that can be a challenge to navigate with large strollers and roller bags. In fact, when traveling with little kids, opt for a light, foldable travel stroller.
Always be sure to keep an eye on your luggage and bags. Scammers and others looking to take advantage of travelers are known to target families who can be easily distracted.
4. Purchase Travel Insurance
Ease your mind by investing in travel insurance. Hopefully, you will not need it, but it can be a huge help with health emergencies or in the event your luggage is lost. It’s also useful for covering costs associated with cancellations.
5. Have the Right Documentation
Well before your visit, be sure that all passports are up to date (most countries require they have at least 6 months of validity) and check visa requirements.
Starting in 2025 you may need to have additional documentation. Check out etias.com to see if the European countries you’re visiting require this new documentation from travelers for entry to the country. Without it, you will not be able to board a plane or ship to reach your destination.
Consider getting a lanyard or another easy-to-wear way to store your children’s documentation and keep it accessible. You can also include your own business card as well as information about the hotel in which you are staying.
Finally, make copies of everyone’s passports and other documentation (we usually copy our driver’s licenses and credit cards as well and leave them with a family member).
6. Vaccinations and Health Precautions
Ensure that all family members are up to date on vaccinations required by the destinations you’re visiting. If necessary, ask your family doctor for any advice or precautions regarding health care for the countries you are visiting.
Bring a first aid kit that has everything from family members’ medications to band-aids, pain relievers, and motion sickness medication, if needed. Pack this in your carry-on.
If anyone in your family suffers from motion sickness, consider these tips on how to deal with motion sickness.
7. Bring Entertainment For Traveling
Flights and train rides can be long, so you’ll need plenty of options to keep kids occupied. Bring books, games, coloring books, tablets, and other activities to ensure that they are entertained.
8. Bring Snacks
No one likes to be “hangry” while traveling! It’s a good idea to bring plenty of non-perishable snacks along for adults and kids.
Consider nuts, dried fruit, energy bars, or any other healthy snacks that will keep hunger at bay. It’s not a bad idea to have everyone bring their own water bottles to save on expenses.
Snacks are also important once you arrive at your destination. Look for a local grocery store to stock up on treats to keep on hand while you explore the major attractions. Our kids love going to the stores and grabbing new local foods to sample.
The best thing about traveling often is having the opportunity to try new food. Help your child learn to explore local cuisine by trying it yourself and educating them about it.
However, this is another reason that it’s a great idea to have a few snacks on hand. If children are not ready to be adventurous when it comes to trying street food or dining in a restaurant, having familiar food handy means you have another good option for filling hungry bellies.
TIP: In many countries, regular dining times differ from the U.S., so having snacks on hand will help everyone adjust.
9. Prepare Your Kids for New Cultures
Before your trip, talk with your kids about the culture, history, and language of the countries you will visit.
Watch movies or documentaries, read books, explore online, or share photos if you’ve taken a previous trip to the destination. Engaging with new cultures can be overwhelming, but giving children an introduction before the trip is a great idea.
Once you’ve already prepared your kids at home to experience a different culture, you can also help them explore and immerse themselves in the country’s history. Seek out museums, historical sites, and even street performers.
You can also look for festivals and other activities to enjoy that will help children learn about and understand traditions and customs in the country.
10. Learn Basic Phrases
As a family, work together to learn some of the most common phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting.
Some simple ones to work on are “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” and “thank you.” We like using the Duolingo app to help our family learn some basic language skills.
11. Research Transportation
Figure out the best ways to visit the attractions you have on your itinerary. You may want to invest in a car rental if you plan to stray far from a city center, but in major cities, where train travel and buses can be prevalent, using public transportation may be a good choice.
If you are traveling with small children and need to bring a car seat, be sure to check airline restrictions. We traveled with Bubble Bum booster seats when our kids were older and found they were very easy to travel with.
Look into where to access buses and trains, the times that they run, and their cost. Many train stations are well-signed and it’s fairly easy to purchase train tickets on-site and make your way to the platform. Be mindful of connection times if you need to change trains to reach your destination.
TIP: If a country has a system for purchasing train tickets online, it is cheaper to buy them as far in advance as possible. Tickets get pricier the closer it gets to the travel date. Keep your eye out for discounts for families and whether or not you need to purchase and validate cards to use public transit.
12. Wear Comfortable Shoes
Exploring Europe means lots of walking, so be sure that everyone has comfortable shoes that fit well. You can also pack inserts to make shoes more comfortable.
Be sure to pack moleskin padding, in case there are any blisters.
13. Consider Priority Access and Tours
Check ahead of time to see if there are ways to skip the long lines at tourist attractions. This way, kids don’t have to wait in lines which can spoil some of the fun of your travel.
We like the passes from Go City that will provide discounts if you’re visiting multiple attractions as well as some skip-the-line privileges.
When booking tours, consider opting for private tours over group tours. This way, your family will have more leeway on things like bathroom breaks and the pace of the tour. We use Viator, Get Your Guide, Context Travel, and Liv Tours for family-friendly tours in Europe.
14. Schedule downtime
When traveling, it’s easy to get swept up in sightseeing and exploring. However, traveling with little ones can be tiring, and they’ll need breaks, too.
Take time to check out a park where little ones can run around, stop into a cafe where everyone can relax, or just hang out for a bit in the hotel room. Having a bit of downtime will help everyone to be rejuvenated for more exploration.
15. Bring a Baby Carrier
Using a front baby carrier can help you keep your hands free while traveling with your baby. It also prevents you from having to lug around a heavier carrier option or even carrying your child.
16. Know the Public Restroom Situation
As adults, it is important to know where to find public restrooms, but it’s even more important to have that knowledge on hand for younger kids who may need to go at the last minute.
In many European destinations, parks and public squares are good places to look. It’s also a good idea to keep coins on hand since some countries have coin-access facilities.
Restaurants like McDonald’s and Starbucks are also a good option. Be sure to assess the situation before you or the kids need it.
17. Make Economical Choices About Your Stay
If you have a large group traveling together, choose a vacation rental over multiple hotel rooms. Plus, you’ll likely have an added bonus of a washer and dryer which means less packing.
18. Rely on Locals for Great Tips
If you’re staying in a rental, ask the hosts for their best tips. From parking and transportation to the best eats, they’ll be able to guide you better than any site or travel guide.
When staying at a hotel, be sure to make use of the concierge. They typically know all of the ins and outs of a city, and it’s a great way to find some lesser-known spots.
19. Pack Weather-Appropriate Clothing
Check the expected weather ahead of time and pack the best clothing for those temperatures. If the weather is unpredictable, waterproof jackets and layers are ideal for traveling.
Also, travel-sized umbrellas are easy to stash in bookbags or purses.
20. Child Identification
Safety should always be a priority when traveling, but it’s especially important when traveling with children.
Find bracelets and necklaces that your child can wear that have your contact information.
For children who are old enough to have a phone, be sure that the contact information for all adults in the group is stored in the phone.
It’s also not a bad idea to ensure they have the address and phone number for your accommodation. Have a plan in place should your children become separated from you.
21. Make Note of Local Safety Phone Numbers
Be familiar with emergency numbers and local safety regulations. While no one wants to experience an emergency while traveling, it’s helpful to know these things to help keep your family safe.
22. Use Packing Cubes
Color-coded packing cubes are a handy way to keep everyone’s belongings separate and organized. Using this handy storage solution will eliminate a lot of headaches when traveling.
23. Implement a Digital Detox
From phones to tablets, it’s easy to get sucked into spending time on devices. However, take the time to talk with kids about the importance of enjoying the trip together as a family and exploring all that your destination has to offer.
Limit screen time for kids, and model the same behavior so that you can all make memories together.
24. Use Local Transportation Cards
Cities like London, Paris, and Barcelona have transportation cards that can help make the use of public transportation smooth and easy. Using the cards is an easy and often cost-effective way to get around the cities you’re visiting. They are great if you are exploring Europe on a budget.
25. Plan Child-Friendly Itineraries
Keep in mind that while there are lots of sights to see that adults will appreciate, it’s important to incorporate activities that children will enjoy to capture their attention and make the most of the trip.
Consider including amusement parks, zoos, and interactive activities in your itinerary, and let your children get involved in the planning!
If you do intend to visit some sights that are more geared toward adults, plan ahead for ways to engage children. Check out these tips for surviving a museum visit with children.
26. Make a Souvenir Budget
Traveling can already be an expensive undertaking, and it’s easy to wind up overspending on trinkets in city shops and at attractions. Create a budget for each child so that they can better prioritize the mementos they want to spend on and bring home.
You can also look for other ways to save money when you’re traveling with kids.
27. Stay Connected
I know we encourage a digital detox on a family vacation, but digital devices can be helpful when traveling. Be sure to contact your service provider to ensure your phone and other devices will work overseas and see if there will be any additional charges.
For example, T-Mobile has an international plan that includes calls and data, and Verizon and AT&T charge a day rate.
Another option is to purchase a local SIM card. E-sim cards are an option — we recommend Airalo. A portable Wi-Fi device might also be a good investment for your trip.
Additionally, consider travel apps and digital tools that can help you along the way. Google Translate, a map app, transportation apps, TripIt, TripAdvisor, and Yelp are all incredible tools that can ease and elevate your trip.
28. Check Your Currency
If you’re going to allow children to spend physical money while traveling, help them to become familiar with it ahead of time. Once there, encourage them to use the currency responsibly and help them to count it out if needed.
If you’re planning to use a credit card or debit card on your trip, it can be a good idea to call your bank ahead of time to let them know that you’ll be traveling.
It can also be helpful to withdraw a small amount of local currency from your local bank before traveling. Keep in mind that you may need to make your request several weeks ahead of your planned departure.
Finally, be sure to avoid using ATMs that say Euronet or Travelex — their exchange fees tend to be extremely expensive.
29. Capture the Memories
Be sure that everyone has access to a device or camera to take pictures along the way. This will allow all family members to creatively document their trip.
Additionally, for school-age children, consider encouraging them to journal at the end of each day. They can then share the journal with their friends or classmates when they return.
30. Beat Jet Lag
Adults don’t particularly enjoy jet lag, and it can make children cranky, too. However, there are lots of ways to prevent or minimize the effects of jet lag when traveling with kids on long-haul flights.
One solid strategy is to choose a direct flight so that you can avoid interruptions during travel. If you do have a connecting flight, expect at least an hour and a half between the flights. Be sure to allow plenty of time to make your next flight.
The best way to help children adjust to a different time zone is to ensure that they sleep while traveling to your destination. Consider booking flights that are at night so children can sleep on the plane and make sure they are wearing comfortable clothes.
Also, bring earplugs, blankets, and any other sources of comfort that might help them to fall, and stay, asleep.
Once you are in the new time zone, be sure to immediately reset watches to the local time. We also recommend keeping sightseeing to a minimum so everyone can get good sleep on the first night.
These tips for traveling to Europe with kids should help you to prepare yourself and your little ones so that everyone can make the most of their European vacation.
Now, if you’re ready to put together your itinerary for your international trip, take a look at our Spain travel guide, the best things to do in Paris, the not-to-miss day trips you can take in London, or a comprehensive 3-week European travel itinerary.