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Family Travel Question:

Q | How should I organize a summer family vacation to multiple destinations in Europe with young kids?

I am planning a family vacation with a 5-year-old next summer which includes Ireland, Scotland, Spain, or the South of France for my surfing husband, as well as Prague and Croatia. Any thoughts on how to organize this? -Alethea, Washington

A | Planning a family vacation to multiple destinations in Europe with young kids

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What fabulous countries you have chosen to visit in Europe! All are high on my list of places when I was planning our round-the-world adventure. You haven’t indicated how much time you have, but when you say ‘next summer’ I am assuming you have 2-3 months in which to cover all these places.  From my experience, you will certainly need this amount of time if you wish to get the most out of every destination.

Where do you start? As you are coming from the west coast you have to factor in that extra travel time to get to Europe.  You may even want to have a stopover in London to recover and then maybe get a budget airline flight to start your travels in Eastern Europe; next head south to Croatia and then west to France, Spain and finish in Ireland and Scotland.

If you only wish to see Prague, and not the rest of the Czech Republic, then you could easily fly here from anywhere and spend a few days exploring Prague before flying to Croatia.  You could then fly into Zagreb and head to the coast to travel from Spilt to Dubrovnik. Don’t forget to go past the amazing Plitvice National Park and no visit to Croatia would be complete with visiting Croatia’s islands.  Hvar Island  is the most popular and the best known, along with Korcula; although there are  numerous less crowded options. When you know your dates I would strongly  recommend booking ahead for the best accommodation on one of the islands.

Spain and France are two of the largest countries in  Europe.  If you only want to see the  south of France for surfing then perhaps fly here from Croatia and tick off surfing. I’ve read that the best place in France for hitting the waves is Biarritz on the Atlantic Coast.  There are many other areas that offer surfing as well.  I have a friend in Luxembourg who recently spent their holiday in Devon, England to go surfing!  Consider Newquay, Cornwall which is reportedly the surf capital of  England. Check out www.britsurf.co.uk.

Consider hiring a car to travel around France and Spain or  depending on how much time you have, look at staying in one area of each country to explore it more in depth.  We  are in Spain in September for one month.  We are basing ourselves in Marbella for 3 weeks and then spending 11 days travelling to Cordoba and then along the east coast to Granada, Alicante, Valencia and Barcelona.  What we don’t see I will add to the list for next time.

To travel from France to England you could consider driving to Calais for the ferry across to Dover; a great adventure for a five year old! Depending on hire car rules you may need to leave the French car in France and travel as foot passengers on the ferry e.g. P and O Ferries.  When you arrive in Dover you could hire an English car and continue on your journey. Alternatively you could fly again into London and hire a car to drive across to Cornwall for some surfing; up to Wales and catch another ferry to Ireland to commence your Irish road trip. You can then catch another ferry to Scotland to tour around before heading home. Ireland and Scotland are small places in comparison, although driving distances and times can be deceiving.

In August we are about to spend 4 weeks driving all around Britain, Wales, Ireland and Scotland — follow our blog, Four Dots on the Map, to keep up with what we liked with a six-year-old and a nine-year old.

So far with our driving around UK and Europe, we’ve found a hire car is a must for flexibility and convenience with kids; plus if you have access to the Internet whilst travelling you can be flexible  on where you go and when.  We only just this morning decided to drive from Belgium to Paris for four nights and booked a hostel online.

When you have completed your driving around Ireland and Scotland, then there are a number of options for flying home.  I am not sure of where you need to return to  in the USA, but you may be able to fly out of Edinburgh. London is most likely the easiest place to fly out of with the greatest number of flights to the greatest number of destinations. Many airlines fly in and out of London to USA so consider budget airlines as well to cross the Atlantic.

Good luck with your travel plans and I hope you are able to fit in all the things you would like to see and do.

2 Responses

  1. Ashley Steel says:

    I’d start in Spain and enjoy the nightlife – with jetlag, you can enjoy the late dinners and lazy mornings. (Sure, England is on the way but Heathrow is crowded and London is expensive). Barcelona has Gaudi – his park is pretty awesome and even little kids can appreciate it. You can bus up to Girona for a few nights (castle, walls, tapas, tiny streets) for something more autentic and smaller. The dali museum in Figures (just past Girona) is an amazing art experience for kids! Ryan Air flys out of Girona!

    I’d absolutely take an overnight train at least once. It’s pricey but a thrill for kids (and saves cost of a hotel room). You can book train travel cheaper from the USA so reserve the train and a sleeping cabin (spring for a private or semi-private cabin) before you go.

    The popular spots are obvious but my favorite less popular spots for kids include the Munich Museum of Science and Technology, the Devin Castle ruins outside of Bratislava (and Ryan Air flys there from Girona), a river trip on the Danube (overnight?) and a visit to Krems, and Frilandsmuseet outside of Copenhagen (outstanding!). Have fun. Obviously, I’m jealous! http://www.familyontheloose.com

  2. Don Nadeau says:

    Although I’ve only seen its train station, the classic surfing film “Endless Summer II” confirms Biarritz as a super surfing spot.

Got your own family travel tips to share? Please leave a comment.