European Family Travel on a Budget
When you usually spend your holidays within the home state with infrequent trips to the coast that might cause a strong desire for novelty. Even though pediatricians generally do not recommend taking children overseas until they are at least one year old, many parents nowadays are traveling with even younger infants. So if you are planning a trip with kids to a foreign country, you should plan everything and gather information in order to create a budget and itinerary. It is important to remember that traveling with non-walking infants is much easier as you don’t have to run through the aircraft cabin entertaining your kid. Infants up to six months are nice hitchers as they usually quickly fall asleep and need a lot of sleep. Preschool children also often do not care where you’re taking them, so the only thing they usually need is you. Well, their toys are also welcome. But how to arrange a vacation if your kid is old enough and wishes to see Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower?
Any trip to Europe (as well as to any other country) would leave a lasting impression on children. And that is not only because of an opportunity to see historic sites such as Notre Dame or Louvre, but because of this unique look at another culture and its everyday life, as well as discover the lifestyle of foreigners.
Sounds great, but parents are those who will pay for all. So money matters play a key role here. The most expensive part of a trip to Europe is flight across the ocean (well, usually flight is the most expensive part of any trip). So there is no way to avoid it. But you can reduce it as well as you can reduce accommodation, food, sightseeing and transportation expenses. Surely every member of your family (even a baby) needs to have his own passport to travel to Europe. Submission and review of applications may take from four to six weeks to process and set you back $110 USD for adult book and $95 USD for children under 16 years. See here for more info.
PICKING YOUR EUROPEAN DESTINATION
Sometimes it is not we who are picking our destination. If your kid wants to see any particular sight there is little option but to visit a European city where this sight is located. But what is nice about Europe is that you will always find appropriate entertainment or family accommodation at competitive prices. On the other hand, if your kid do not persevere with picking a destination, then you have more freedom to pick one according to your taste and what is even more important to save as much as possible. Tours across cities like London, Paris or Rome might be exhausting for little fidgets, while prices during peak season might reach for the sky in case you didn’t do some research in advance. Normally, kids easily get carried away with any new place and thereby you get a holiday in a place where you want it to be. Perhaps, summertime isn’t the best time for spending it in an urban environment, so it might be convenient to try out beautiful countrysides of Umbria, Cote d’Azur or Costa Brava. Besides, countryside accommodation usually helps to cut the expenses.
BOOKING A FLIGHT TO EUROPE
Even if you do not accumulate bonus miles or set aside money each month, there is still a chance to get sweet ticket prices, which will slightly differ from the ticket price within the United States. In addition to tracking services like Expedia, Orbitz and Kayak, try to book tickets during shoulder season. I can hardly imagine anyone wanting to endure the wind in Berlin or freeze in Brussels. So it is good to remember that spring and autumn months in Europe please not only with weather conditions but with lower prices as well. The summer is the time of holidays in Europe especially in August, so it quite difficult to get sweet prices, besides the best accommodation options might not be available. If you are flexible with your dates, than prefer midweek departures as weekend departures are usually more expensive.
Many airlines offer discounts if you travel with kids. Discount usually depends on infant’s age and the destination, varying between 10% and 25% for kids aged from 2 to 11. Infants up to 2 years are not required to have their own seat on domestic flights and are allowed to travel on parents’ lap. For international flights an infant tickets costs 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 such as Lufthansa provide additional services and offer toys, colouring books, puzzles and books during the flight.
Ticket prices are constantly changing so it is hard to predict the exact figures tomorrow. But in general, if you fly from San Francisco to Paris prices start from $650 USD (December 2015) while if you depart from New York be ready to pay $410 USD. Also keep in mind that the earlier you book, the more likely you will get a sweet ticket price.
Ticket sale is a smart way to get cheap tickets. Sales are usually carried out in advance, so you have enough time to find a discount hotel or get a visa if necessary. Subscribe to major airlines in order not to miss the start of ticket sales. I would recommend to subscribe to not only well-known airlines, but also to airlines of the countries you would like to visit. Another way is charter flights. But it is fraught with flight delays. So when traveling with kids this way can only be approved in case of emergency. While planning a route through the country, start not from the capital city, but from the smaller towns to which direct flights are also available. For example, if you have decided to introduce Italy to your kid, there is no need to purchase a regular flight ticket to Rome or Milan. Do some research to determine the available destinations and start your trip from visiting these cities. On numerous occasions ticket price would be much lower.
ACCOMMODATION IN EUROPE
Accommodation expenses take the second place after ticket prices in the sense of high costs. Europe provides accommodation options for any budget. There are large hotel chains in Europe, but one of the great things about alternative housing is to rent BnB or self-catering cottages so they give you the flavor of local life. Cheap and clean, no frills hotels can be found everywhere, prices for family hotels in most European cities range from $100 to $180 USD per double room per night. If you are looking for just that option search here. In order to save even greater BnB might provide family rooms with beds for kids. However, this option should be specified during the booking process. Some BnBs will charge per person. In Paris, prices start from $60 or $70 USD per person. To the pick right location and price that meets your requirements as well as to know parents’ reviews from all over Europe look here.
In addition, you can try out options of farm accommodation. If you go to France than you find these rural accommodation known as gites, schlaf im stroh (sleep and straw) in Switzerland and agriturismos in Italy. The prices quite heavily depend on the number of family members, the room quantity and extra services, but in general you can find nice options for $100 USD per day.
Hostels Despite the conventional wisdom that hostels are only suitable for students or solo travelers willing to save, about 75% of the world’s hostels offer accommodation services for families. Search for one you need here.
Eurocamps allow you to rent a small house or a bungalow with several bedrooms and a kitchen for the entire family. If you are visiting France, Portugal, Spain, Italy or Croatia with kids it is a good option as they offer an extensive entertainment program for kids. Prices vary depending on destination and number of people. You can find appropriate accommodation options for 4 people on the Adriatic coast of Italy for 10 days for $400 USD. See here.
Another option for families is a private house for rent. It is a great option for those who are planning to accommodate starting from a weeks’ time, and allows to save around 20-40% of the amount you would pay for a hotel room. By renting a private house you get kitchen, living and dining room, as well as the courtyard where children can play.
Home Exchange with European family is an option that has positive moments such as free accommodation and the likelihood that you will get the owner’s car, but it also has many uncertainties. Will you trust to strangers? Will you let them accommodate your house while you are away? Can you adjust your schedule with their vacation? If you are able to overcome all these barriers it is likely a year later you come back to the idea that home exchange is not such a bad idea after all, and by that time you will have a time-tested option. In order to try out this venture check this website.
European Cruises are good because of an opportunity to see any corner of Europe from the sea. If you start your voyage off-season be ready to get prices a bit lower than average hotel prices. August is the time of nice weather conditions and higher prices along with overcrowded decks. Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, AmaWaterways are the main companies involved in cruise traffic in Europe.
By rejecting the traditional hotel accommodation you will be able to save quite a substantial amount. Say, a week accommodation with kids in Southern Europe, in France or Italy would cost less than $800 USD.
REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT EUROPE WITH KIDS
The main reason why you shouldn’t leave your kids with grandparents is that unique chance to see different cultures and different people. Even teenagers will be interested in seeing kids living on the other side of the planet. So I mean children’s self-development. Moreover, if you have never been to Europe, then studying it together with your kid will surely bring a lot of joy. Thus, even everyday moments that you carry out without thinking at home would be felt quite differently while far away from home. This is an excellent opportunity to become closer to your kid. Imagine how much fun and comical moments await you there. What is also important, these moments are free (or cost just few dollars). It really doesn’t matter what you prefer to do in Europe – would it be a double-decker bus ride in London or enjoying a smoked sausage in Germany, the best things while traveling generally are not very expensive. Let’s say you know the sights you would like to visit and even created a route, but still unsure about kid’s entertainment. Here are ideas for a family holiday in a major European cities:
Visit a museum There are a lot of museums in Europe, while many of them offer kids a variety of programs. 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 ok! Europe is also rich with museums for kids. Walk a labyrinth, explore how the nose works or meet Pippi Longstocking. All these moments can be enjoyed in children’s museums.
Go to the park On weekends, many parks in Europe conduct programs for children with clowns or puppets. In any case, your kid will be happy to take a ride on a small pony.
Visit main square cafes Usually such places are kept separate from the road traffic so you can enjoy this pedestrian zone. This is a great opportunity to introduce your kid to the essence of European life, play with other kids or just give him a chance to chase pigeons.
Visit the castle The Old World is rich in historical buildings. Almost everywhere you can find castle ruins or even the remains of Roman roads. Perhaps, such entertainment appeals primarily to boys, but the castle is the place where colorful shows and performances are held from time to time, so they will impress girls as well.