Travel in Europe is a logistical relief for time-starved visitors (such as parents with kids.)
It is relatively compact, easy to visit highlights in several countries in a short period of time, and the countries are all very different from each other. Families can enjoy distinctive travel experiences in each nation, although if you hurry and pack in too much, especially with kids, it will seem like that old movie “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.”
Easy to navigate
Thanks to the European Union and various free trade agreements, borders are very easy to cross, with an absolute minimum of hassle and paperwork (often, none at all.) There is a robust train and bus travel infrastructure connecting European nations, and don’t forget, Ireland-based Ryanair kicked off a phenomenon of super-cheap, no frills European air travel, closely followed by easyJet, airberlin, germanwings, etc.
The Euro currency also makes it simple to keep track of one’s bills and coinage across borders, and since each coin has distinctive national markings on the reverse, children often enjoy collecting all the different ones during a trip.
Have I been here before? It seems familiar….
The history of Europe is the history of much of Western civilization, so the surroundings are new and exciting for visitors, yet eerily familiar. When you’ve grown up seeing Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa on every cardboard pizza delivery box, it’s fun but certainly not scarily exotic to stand in front of the actual building.
Kids see their school history and geography books come alive before their eyes.
The Eiffel Tower. The Brandenburg Gate. Tivoli Gardens. Barcelona. The Parthenon. The Alps. Venice. St. Paul’s Cathedral (a big winner with young fans of the “Mary Poppins” movie who like the song “Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag,” set on the steps of St. Paul’s.)
For English-speaking visitors, language barriers rarely present any problems in multilingual Europe; in fact it is embarrassing for many mono-lingual Americans to realize that in most nations of the world, people seem to be able to speak more than one language.
Middle and Eastern Europe offer delights as well
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the central and eastern parts of Europe have blossomed as popular tourist destinations in their own right, but sometimes that increased popularity has prices to match.
Don’t assume that every destination is automatically less expensive than, say, Paris, because that has changed as those countries move to adopt the Euro. That certainly doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth the trip, however.
Don’t try to see it all in one trip
If you have never been to Europe, try to limit that first trip to your top three or four must-see destinations; any more than that is too overwhelming. On subsequent visits, try to stay in just one or two places, to explore them in depth.
If the point of such a trip is to give your kids good memories, then don’t overload their memory banks. Returning to Europe is always an option!
(Family Travel Guide posts in the Travel in Europe category.)