Travelling Europe with a Family of Five: An Unforgettable Adventure on a Budget

family travel around europe

If the idea of taking a train trip around Europe with young kids fills you with trepidation, you’re not alone. But fear not! I’m here to share my family’s incredible journey across Europe, where we explored different countries, created precious memories, and did it all on a budget. Intrigued? Read on to find out how we managed to travel Europe for a whole month with a family of five for just €645.

What is Interrailing and what is included in the passes?

First things first, let’s get acquainted with what an Interrail pass entails. We were fortunate enough to snag half-price Interrail passes in a flash sale, which allowed us to travel across 33 countries for 30 days. However, there are various options available, including passes for single countries and different lengths of time, so it’s essential to do your research and find what works best for you.

One significant advantage we discovered was that children between the ages of four and 11 can travel for free with an adult pass. Additionally, children under four don’t require a pass at all. Furthermore, there’s a discounted youth pass for those under 28 years old. Keep in mind that not all train companies are included in the pass, and for some, like Eurostar, additional fees or reservations may be necessary. Despite this, Interrailing offers unparalleled flexibility. If you miss a train covered by the pass, you can simply hop on the next one without any hassle or extra charges.

How to keep kids happy on trains

Travelling by train with young children has its perks, making it a preferred mode of transportation for families. Trains offer ample space to move around, along with easily accessible toilets, which are essential when travelling with kids. Some trains in Switzerland even have dedicated family zones equipped with small playgrounds to keep children entertained.

Unlike flights, there is no need to arrive at the station hours in advance to check-in. Plus, train stations are usually conveniently located in the heart of cities and towns, allowing you to easily explore your desired destinations.

Keeping kids entertained during long train journeys can be a challenge, but we discovered a few strategies that worked wonders for us.

Keep travel times to a minimum

We found that limiting our daily travel time to a few hours was the best approach. Our longest daytime journey was a seven and a half-hour trip from Basel to Berlin. To keep everyone content, we relied on audiobooks, crafts, Lego, and plenty of snacks.

Choose sleeper trains for longer distances

When faced with the need to cover extensive distances in one go, we opted for sleeper trains. These overnight trains allowed us to rest while traversing long distances. We booked couchettes on a Nightjet train from den Bosch in the Netherlands to Innsbruck in Austria. Despite the tight squeeze in our cabin with all our bags, the boys loved the triple bunk beds. The cramped conditions were easily forgotten when we woke up to breathtaking views of the Alps and were served a warm drink and a bread roll for breakfast. Another advantage of travelling overnight was gaining an extra day to explore our destination.

Table seats aren’t always the best choice

Before embarking on our Interrail adventure, I assumed that choosing table seats would be ideal, allowing us to sit together as a family. Surprisingly, we found that being split up across the aisles worked better for us. It made it easier to interact with fellow travellers, and most adults were delighted to engage in conversations with the boys about our trip.

Where is great to travel by train with children?

Our Interrail passes came with unexpected benefits, making numerous places more accessible and affordable. By selecting accommodation a short train ride away from popular tourist spots, we discovered that we could enjoy more space without breaking the bank. This became a game changer during our journey.

During our first week, we stayed at a Center Parcs resort on the coast just outside Amsterdam. Not only was it cheaper than city center accommodation, but it also provided us with a beach, a pool, and various activities to keep the kids entertained on the days we stayed in. We also explored nearby Haarlem, a charming city with tranquil canals and the soothing sound of bells chiming from the church tower, offering a peaceful contrast to the hustle and bustle of the Dutch capital.

In Berlin, we opted for Ostkreuz Youth Hostel, which catered to families. From there, we could easily reach all the famous landmarks by train. The hostel itself had a spacious enclosed playground overlooking a nearby railway station, allowing the boys to burn off some energy while we enjoyed a drink on the patio, basking in the sunshine.

Throughout our journey, we experienced various types of accommodation, including hostels, hotels, apartments, holiday parks, theme parks, and even a Scout center nestled in the Swiss Alps. This combination of coastal, urban, and rural stays, coupled with diverse styles of accommodation, kept everyone in the family happy and excited.

Is Interrailing right for your family?

Embarking on a long trip around Europe requires careful planning and preparation. While it certainly was an enjoyable adventure, it wasn’t always restful or relaxing. So, if you’re after a laid-back holiday, Interrailing might not be the ideal choice. However, if you are open to new experiences and have a thirst for exploration, this could be the trip of a lifetime.

Having one ticket that grants you access to various destinations across the continent is undoubtedly appealing. However, the abundance of choices might initially feel overwhelming. But fear not, once you start narrowing down your options, using the Railplanner app to check train times and journey lengths, everything falls into place.

Traditionally associated with backpackers in their teens and twenties, Interrailing has now become accessible to everyone. While as a family, you may not spontaneously jump on a train and see where it takes you, the adventure that awaits is unparalleled. So, why not embark on a memorable Interrail journey with your loved ones, creating lasting memories and exploring the wonders of Europe?

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