25 Tips for an Amazing First Trip to Europe with Kids

Traveling to Europe with kids for the first time can be both exciting and overwhelming. As an experienced traveler and a parent who has taken my daughter to various European countries, I have learned valuable lessons that can help make your family’s trip to Europe run smoothly. In this article, I will share 25 practical tips that will enhance your travel experience and ensure a memorable adventure with your children.

Before you go…

1. Check passport expiration dates

Ensure that everyone’s passport will be valid for at least six months from your departure date. If passport renewal is required, allow ample time (8-12 weeks) to avoid any last-minute complications. Trust me, I have learned this lesson the hard way.

2. Make a plan

While spontaneity may have worked in the past, traveling with kids requires careful planning. Create a daily itinerary and make sure to book tickets for attractions or events that require advance reservations. Familiarize yourself with opening and closing times, as well as any specific entrance rules. If time is a constraint, consult an experienced travel advisor for assistance.

3. Don’t overbook

Resist the temptation to include every attraction in your itinerary. Remember, kids need downtime, and teenagers especially require more flexibility. Tailor your schedule to accommodate their preferences and energy levels. Consider structured morning activities and leave the afternoons free for relaxation and spontaneous exploration.

4. Opt for private or small group tours

Large group tours can be overwhelming for kids. Look for family-friendly guides who know how to engage children. Private tours or small group tours with fewer than 10 participants are ideal. These intimate experiences will allow your children to interact with the guide and make the most of their learning opportunities.

5. Prepare together

Get your children excited about the trip by involving them in the preparations. Watch shows about the destination, read books together, study maps, and even learn a few basic phrases using apps like Duolingo or podcasts. Building anticipation and knowledge beforehand will make the trip more meaningful for the entire family.

6. Get their input

Empower your children by allowing them to participate in the planning process. Let them research attractions or activities that interest them, or give them choices to decide on a few key experiences. Involving them in decision-making will make them more invested in the trip.

7. Take it easy on the first day

Arriving after an overnight flight can be exhausting for everyone. Plan a light itinerary for the first day, allowing time to settle in, relax, and explore the local surroundings. Give your family the chance to recover and adjust to the new time zone.

Getting Ready to Fly

8. Book connecting flights strategically

Whenever possible, opt for connecting flights to minimize the risk of missed connections or lost luggage. Be aware that certain European airports, such as Paris CDG, London Heathrow, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt, often have long lines at passport control. Allow at least a two-hour layover to ensure a smooth transition between flights.

9. Avoid the last flight of the day

Late flights are more prone to delays and cancellations, especially during the winter season. If you do choose a late flight, consider arriving at the airport earlier and request to be wait-listed. This will provide some buffer time in case of unforeseen circumstances.

10. Secure seats together

Invest in seat assignments to ensure your family sits together during the flight. Airlines often charge extra for seat selection, but it is worth avoiding the stress of rearranging seats on the plane. Securing seats in advance is especially important for families with young children.

11. Consider early boarding

If your children are no longer eligible for family boarding and you have carry-on bags or multiple pieces of luggage, it is worth paying extra for early boarding. This allows you to settle in comfortably and have easy access to your belongings throughout the flight.

12. Think twice about bulkhead seats

Bulkhead seats may offer extra legroom, but they come with some drawbacks for families. During take-off and landing, you cannot have any personal items by your feet. This means no easy access to snacks, entertainment, or essential items. Additionally, flight attendants often store their bags near the bulkhead, which can limit storage space for your own belongings.

13. Confirm seats before check-in

If you book your flights well in advance and there are any changes to the schedule or aircraft, contact the airline to confirm that your seat assignments remain intact. This is especially important for families traveling together as airlines sometimes reassign seats without considering the needs of families with young children.

14. Pack strategically for the plane

Prepare a well-thought-out carry-on bag with essentials for the flight. Consider packing a change of clothes, plenty of snacks, chargers for electronic devices, sleep masks, travel pillows, headphones, moisturizer/lip balm, wipes, and various activities to keep your children entertained. It is also wise to pack a set of toiletries and a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your checked-in luggage is delayed or lost. Distribute outfits among family members’ bags to mitigate the impact of lost luggage.

Money Matters

15. Create a budget

Plan your budget ahead of time to avoid any financial surprises during your trip. Research the cost of accommodations, attractions, meals, and transportation in the cities you plan to visit. By having a clear budget in mind, you can allocate your funds wisely and enjoy a stress-free vacation.

16. Notify your bank and credit card company

Inform your bank and credit card company about your travel plans in advance. This helps prevent any unnecessary declined transactions due to fraud prevention measures. Make sure you have a credit card that does not charge international transaction fees, as these fees can quickly add up.

17. Avoid currency exchange places

Currency exchange places often charge high commissions. Instead, order the currency you need from your local bank before your departure. This way, you can secure the best exchange rates. It is advisable to do this at least a week in advance and keep in mind the fluctuations in the exchange rate.

18. Use local currency via ATMs

Once in Europe, use ATMs to withdraw local currency. Make sure to have some cash on hand before leaving the airport or the international terminal. ATMs offer competitive exchange rates and ensure that you have the local currency for small expenses or places that do not accept cards.

19. Carry chip and pin cards

Verify that your credit card or ATM card has a chip and pin feature. Most European ATMs and credit card terminals require this type of card. While many U.S. credit card providers now issue chip and pin cards, it is essential to set up your PIN number beforehand to avoid any inconvenience during your trip.

20. Purchase travel insurance

Invest in comprehensive travel insurance that covers cancellations, interruptions, lost luggage, theft, and medical expenses. While it is an additional expense, travel insurance provides peace of mind and can potentially save you thousands of dollars in unforeseen circumstances.

Phone & Internet

21. Communicate with your mobile phone carrier

Contact your mobile phone carrier to explore international roaming plans or consider disabling international data and voice roaming and rely solely on WiFi connections. For your children’s phones, ensure they remain in airplane mode throughout the trip, with WiFi activated if necessary.

22. Purchase a local SIM card

If your carrier’s international plan is not cost-effective, you can buy a SIM card upon arrival in Europe. This allows you to have a local phone number and access to local services at more affordable rates.

23. Download essential offline apps and maps

Before your trip, download offline maps and useful apps such as WhatsApp, local public transit apps, and popular travel tools like TripAdvisor and Google Translate. These apps will come in handy when you are offline or have limited access to the internet.

24. Keep copies of important documents

Make copies of your tickets, itineraries, passports, and other critical documents. Leave one copy with a trusted friend or family member and keep others safely stored in a secure digital location. This helps in case of loss or theft during your journey.

These 25 tips will undoubtedly enhance your first trip to Europe with your children. By being well-prepared, considering their needs and preferences, and embracing the adventure together, you will create lasting memories and an unforgettable experience. Bon voyage!

Looking for more travel advice for your family? Check out our collection of the best family travel tips.

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