Visiting Europe with kids is like taking them back through time. Depending on where you travel, they could see many of the sites and landmarks they’ll discuss in school, and all while on a vacation where learning is more fun.
However, planning a trip to Europe with kids that’s both educational and fun isn’t cheap.
Not only do you have to fork over the big bucks for trans-Atlantic flights, but you have to pay for entry into attractions you deem worthy, plus food, transportation and lodging.
If you’re aiming for a family trip to Europe and want to save on the many expenses you’ll face, here are six tips that can help:
SKIP THE HOTEL AND AVOID DUAL HOTEL ROOMS
Many traditional hotels in Europe create quite the conundrum for families with more than two members. Since fire codes limit many properties to just two people per room, families often need to book two rooms or a larger (expensive) family suite if that’s even available.
That’s why rental condos are a must for families in Europe. You can always try Airbnb, but there are plenty of localized rental agencies that can set you up as well. With a website such as ParisPerfect.com, for example, you can book a Paris condo from a reputable rental agency (and not an individual owner) while scoring a place with multiple bedrooms for the kids and a large living area where everyone can relax.
EAT OUT FOR JUST ONE MEAL PER DAY
Dining out is easily one of the most expensive components of any trip, near or far. But when you have your family along, the expense can easily double or triple.
To save money on food, try dining out for one meal per day and eating the rest at “home.” Obviously, this is a much easier feat if you have a rental condo with a kitchen instead of a hotel room.
TRAVEL BY TRAIN
While train travel isn’t common or even feasible in much of the U.S., you can zip across Europe easily and cheaply due to their network of high-speed trains.
With the kids in tow, train travel is especially convenient. It costs a fraction of airfare, and you don’t have to deal with airport security drama, either.
DON’T OVER PLAN
While you might feel tempted to pack your days and nights with all the sightseeing you can fit in, having the kids along offers the perfect excuse to slow things down.
Instead of packing your trip with tours and attractions, plan one big “thing” to do each day and go with the flow the rest of the time.
Not only will this help your kids avoid sightseeing burnout, but it will save you money, too. The last thing you want to do is pay (or overpay) for attractions and events your kids are too crabby or overtired to enjoy.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE ACTIVITIES
Especially in Europe’s big cities, you’ll find plenty of free and cheap things to do. Look for city parks and little touristy attractions that will keep your kids entertained for hours for very little expense.
A small city carnival, a city parade or even a busy waterfront can give kids a place to play and be kids while the parents relax and take in the view.
CONSIDER CITY PASSES
If you’re planning a big sightseeing trip in some of Europe’s biggest cities (Paris, London, Rome, etc.), a city pass can help you pack in more while helping you save. These passes bundle entry into several different attractions for a single price, which makes it easy to save if you plan to take advantage.
For example, the Rome Pass (Roma Pass) offers admission to two of six important historical sites along with fast track entry when applicable. You also get a discounted rate into 30 other important sites in Rome. Most people use their Roma Pass to see the Colosseum and Roman Forum (counts as one entry if you go the same day) and one of the popular included museums such as the Borghese Gallery.
The card also comes with free bus and train travel around the city while it’s active.
(TravelPulse is a leading travel authority on the web, providing consumer travel news and insider tips and advice for an ever-changing travel world. Read more stories at travelpulse.com.)