Travel to Europe On a Family Budget
Last Updated: March 19, 2018
I have a lot of friends outside Europe. And while some of them aren’t single anymore, I started receiving questions on how to save money when traveling in Europe with family. Indeed, any family trip to Europe is twice as expensive as an ordinary solo trip. Sometimes it might be even more expensive. With this thought in mind, I decided to put together a post on how to travel to Europe on a family budget.
But how is that possible you might say? How could I give you advice on how to travel in Europe on budget with a family while being single? Traveling with a family is not like traveling alone. But since I traveled a lot across Europe, I have encountered fellow travelers with kids and even infants who spent weeks on the road. During one of such trips, I decided to team up with Marcello and Maya. Originally from Spain, they were making their way through 6 countries with adorable Mia. Having spent two weeks backpacking across Europe with them, I have learned tips that I hope will come in handy when traveling in Europe on a family budget.
If you’re traveling solo or in a group here are my general tips on how to save money while traveling in Europe.
Careful planning is the cornerstone of any family trip to Europe. I still remember Marcello telling me that the first step to planning a family trip is by letting kids know when and how far they would be traveling (when your kids are grown enough). Being prepared for traveling with kids means not just creating a travel itinerary. But also letting your kids know that traveling is very rewarding and fun.
Depending on your travel style, you can consider renting a campervan if you’re planning a road trip around Europe. That is a great way to see several countries without breaking the bank. That is why Marcello recommends having plenty of snacks, audiobooks and music. A lot of parents hate video games that is why you can play “Mark the Miles” or “Scavenger Hunt” to keep kids busy.
Top Tips For Flying with Family
When traveling outside of Europe, airfare is by far the biggest cost for families. Even if you do not save money each month, there is a chance to catch a cheap flight deal (or even find airline mistake fares).
In addition to using flight search engines like Kayak, Skyscanner, and Momondo, try to check out the airline’s official website. That is what I usually do when I need to compare prices. At the same time, I’m not only comparing but also look for any promotions. Don’t skip checking airline’s official website if you need extra luggage or other ‘optional extras’. Since flight search engines often don’t account for that.
Booking tickets during shoulder season (which is April through early June, September, and October, depending on location) is also a great way to save money. It is no secret that spring and autumn in Europe please families not only with lovely sunny days but also with lower prices.
August is the time when people in Europe typically take their summer holiday. That is why finding amazing flight deals can be a challenging task. If you can be flexible with your flight dates, chances are you might encounter an option that will get you into one city and then get you to your final destination via another mode of transportation. Midweek travel is less expensive than weekend departures. That makes Tuesday and Wednesday the cheapest days to fly.
Sometimes carriers offer discounts for travelers with kids. Child discount usually depends on the kids’ age and the destination, varying between 10% and 25% for kids aged from 2 to 11. Infants that are under 2 y/o are not required to have their own seat on domestic flights and are allowed to travel on parents’ lap.
For international flights, infant tickets cost 10% of the regular fare plus some taxes and fees. But in most cases, you will not be required to pay the fuel surcharge. Furthermore, companies like Lufthansa provide additional services and offer toys, colouring books, puzzles, and books during the flight.
When it comes to a family trip to Europe take a closer look at WOW Air, Norwegian Air, and Primera Air. They frequently run a special of $99 round trip from the United States to Europe. Getting such a reduced fare can be a great bargain. Setting an airfare alert for specific trips is a great way to save on airfare. Most flight search engines not only compare cheapest fares but can tell you whether to buy or wait for a better deal. Also, check Hopper app if you want to know when you should book your flight.
Once you arrive in Europe, you can take advantage of using numerous low-cost airlines, such as Ryan Air, Vueling, Eurowings, and easyJet. These can get you almost anywhere in Europe. Flying with discount air carriers can save you a lot of money if you pack lightly. Most discount air carriers will charge passengers for every piece of checked in luggage. If you travel on a tight budget consider taking small carry-on bags to avoid extra luggage charges. Know that low-cost airlines in Europe often have different luggage requirements than in the United States. So you will want to check it in advance.
While planning your family travel itinerary, you also may want to fly into the secondary airport. Many cities in Europe have multiple airports that are often hubs for low-cost carriers. Why not taking advantage of using secondary airports to save extra money. Do some research to determine the distance between your hotel and the airport, so you can know exactly how long the drive will take.
What European Country Should I Visit
When you plan to visit Europe with family, it can be tempting to do everything. But sometimes it isn’t just we who are choosing the next destination. Marcello and Maya told me that when Mia turned 5 she was eager to visit Paris. There is no need to say that their next city to visit was Paris.
The thing I really love about traveling in Europe is that the continent is filled with family-friendly cities. Whether it Barcelona or Copenhagen, you can be sure to find plenty of places to go with kids. Normally, kids easily get carried away with new places and most European cities have zoos, aquariums, castles and a culture where children and adults are treated as equals.
Family-Friendly Accommodation in Europe
Europe is a vast continent to explore. While countries like Italy, France, and Germany tend to be the most popular places to visit, cost of traveling would be generally higher there. If you’re planning a family trip to Europe and want a bargain, you should go off the beaten path.
Last year I took several trips to Eastern Europe. Countries like Hungary, Czech Republic, and Poland have plenty of family-friendly apartments. And not only Eastern Europe is less expensive, but the locals are super friendly and any given country is a wealth of history and scenic beauty.
Staying at hotels isn’t just an expensive option for families, it can also be complicated to find hotels with rooms that will accommodate more than three travelers. If you travel in a group (or with family) and would like to stay in the same place for more than a few days, renting an apartment or house could save you tons of money.
During my two-week long trip with Marcello and Maya, we used Airbnb to find accommodation in lovely neighborhoods. While you can also use major vacation rental websites like HomeAway, FlipKey, and VRBO, we have noticed that some smaller cities have quite unknown companies offering rental housing.
If you are not into renting a house or apartment, but like the idea of staying close to nature then a bungalow with several bedrooms and a kitchen can offer cost savings in comparison to a traditional hotel. When you plan on visiting France, Portugal, Spain, Italy or Croatia with family, check out Eurocamps. They also organize a variety of entertainment programs for kids. Prices depend on the destination and the number of people. You can find decent options for 4 people on the Adriatic coast of Italy for as low as $400 USD for 10 days.
When it comes to using campgrounds in Europe in the low and shoulder seasons I would recommend purchasing an ACSI camping card. ACSI discount program covers over 3300 campsites across Europe and you can you buy your card prior to your visit.
Conventional wisdom has it that hostels are only suitable for students or solo travelers on a tight budget. But about 75% of the world’s hostels offer accommodation services for families. Visit HostelWorld to make up a list of family-friendly hostels.
Home exchange with a family from Europe is an option that can offer a lot of advantages. Not only you get a free place to live, save money on transportation (if your hosts have a car) and food, you also have to be flexible with your dates. When you swap your house you often have to work around their schedule. If you can cope with uncertainty in terms of dates, you will be able to cut travel expenses drastically.
Why You Should Visit Europe With Kids
The reason why you shouldn’t leave your kids with grandparents is that holidays can advance brain development in kids. Enriched environments and experiencing new things with parents improve child’s attention and concentration levels. Taking your kids to Europe will surely bring a lot of fun too. Things are always looking a bit different when far away from home. You can learn about different cultures and show your kids how people live on the other side of the globe.
It really doesn’t matter where you go in Europe. Whether it a double-decker bus ride in London or camping in Spain, you don’t have to break the bank to show your kid how big and beautiful this world is. Ok, let’s say it’s all set, you have created your perfect itinerary but still looking for fun activities in Europe for kids. Here are some ideas for a family trip in Europe:
Visit a museum
There are a lot of museums in Europe. Many of them offer a variety of programs and guided tours for families. Visiting museums is usually free for kids under 12 years. But you may say: What should I do if my kid wouldn’t like a classical museum? That is fine. Europe is also rich with museums for kids. Walk a labyrinth, find out how the body and senses work or step into Pippi Longstocking’s mismatched shoes. With a number of free museums in Europe, some of them have free admission on certain days. Do a research ahead to determine whether the museum you would lie to visit offer such perks.
Go To a Park
On weekends, many parks in Europe offer programs for kids with clowns or puppets. If you find yourself in Amsterdam don’t skip visiting Amsterdamse Bos and Vondelpark. These great parks could keep the kids busy for hours. When in Copenhagen I can’t recommend highly enough going to Tivoli Gardens. If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing, check out sightseeing passes that often offer considerable savings.
Visit Cafes Near Main Square
Main square and the eateries around it are usually located in the pedestrian zone. This is a great chance to introduce your kid to the essence of Europe, let them play with other kids or just allow them to chase pigeons.
Visit a Castle
The Old World is rich in historical buildings. The Medieval architecture and cobblestoned streets, along with castle ruins or even the remains of Roman roads are almost everywhere. Perhaps, such entertainment appeals primarily to boys. But there are castles that have a number of engaging performance throughout a year that would definitely impress girls as well. Check Warwick Castle website for upcoming events.