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There is something fun and exciting about a road trip. The feeling of packing the car and cozying up in the early hours of the morning, knowing that you will have ever-changing scenery for the hours ahead. When you think about heading on this journey in Europe, then the excitement and opportunities really open up. Road Tripping around Europe means visiting multiple countries and with so many itineraries and possibilities.
Check out my tips for how to enjoy a great road trip around Europe with children.
When you plan anything with children, the key to success is being prepared. Of course, you will plan the route and book accommodation, but it comes down to the finer details of planning that will make.
Make sure the children have something to do in the car. While as adults we appreciate the small villages, landscapes and history, after a while the children can become bored. You cannot look past an iPad loaded with movies and games to be entertaining. Even without the use of technology, there are some great ways to entertain children on a road trip. My kid’s favorite is Lonely Planet Kids Games on the Go, with so many different road trips, themed games, it is something different every time.
A long journey requires food. Being prepared keeps costs down and makes the journey smoother as you don’t have any unplanned stops. I personally love having a large bag of breakfast foods prepared so we can leave on our road trip super early.
While it is rare in Europe, don’t rely on your phone and emails for accommodation details. Screenshot those details and maps or I even still go the old-fashioned way and write them down.
Considerations for your Europe Roadtrip
At all the major airports and capital cities, you will find familiar rental companies. And the great news is that no matter where you start your road trip journey you can return the car to another country. Check with the company prior to the hiring of course as well as the requirements for renting a car using an international driver’s license. Each company will also be able to assist you with what you can and cannot take into each country, especially as the United Kingdom is no longer a part of the EU.
So where should you go?
Spend time before your trip to think about everyone’s interests and balance big sightseeing days with wandering the streets, people watching, and absorbing the vibe.
Check out this suggested itinerary that covers something for everyone.
London, United Kingdom – for History and Harry Potter
London is a great place to start your road trip around Europe with the kids. It won’t be necessary for you to hire your car immediately as all the great sites in London are well connected by the city’s great underground network. Check out the recognizable Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Tower of London from the bright red City Sightseeing Hop of and off Bus; found in most capital cities around Europe. These buses are great to get you to all the landmarks especially the museums which have something for all members of the family. Harry Potter fans, both young and old, will love checking out all the famous locations that appear in the film franchise. Why not take part in a walking tour so you don’t miss a single thing.
Heading to mainland Europe
Even though you need to cross the water, road-tripping from the UK to Belgium is easy, and an adventure. Choose to board the ferry from Dover to Calais, France, or via the Eurotunnel; a 38-kilometer undersea tunnel; the longest in the world. Cost is dependent on the type of vehicle and how many passengers and you can book your ticket online before you start that leg of your road trip.
Paris, France – Iconic landmarks and Disneyland
You cannot head to Europe without seeing the Eiffel Tower. The kids (and you) will love the view from the top, so make sure you book a tour to the top floor. Consider doing this in the evening as the tower lights up, on the hour, every hour after sunset. Wander the streets around the Seine River and be sure to grab a Pain au Chocolat (chocolate pastry) from one of the many Boulangeries you will see along the way. We found a fabulous family-friendly hostel in the Montmartre area (18th), which was close to the train and had great restaurants and cafes.
An hour out of Paris is Disneyland Paris, a great place to visit for young and old. There are some great Disney hotels only a 5-minute walk away that offer some great packages. Guests can also choose to stay slightly further from the park and utilize the Disney Shuttle. We loved staying at B & B Disneyland.
Bruges, Belgium – Amazing food and drink
On arrival in Calais, head to Brugge, Belgium, which is only an hour and a half away via Dunkirk; a significant site during World War 2. Brugge is a great city to explore on foot so choosing accommodation that has free parking is always a great option. Our family’s favorite thing to do in cities is wandering the streets and explore with the local food in hand. Make sure you get some fries, followed down by a delicious waffle with Belgian chocolate. For Mum and Dad, get yourself into a Belgian Beer Cafe. Our favorite is De Garre; with over 140 beers to choose from and drinks and snacks for the kids too.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Have fun learning at museums
Not only does The Netherlands have gorgeous scenery everywhere you drive, but it is also a country full of museums and art. Depending on how long you choose to stay here, you may want to purchase a Museum Card, giving you access to 450 museums and galleries countrywide. The kids will love heading to Amsterdam for a day of fun learning. Check out Nemo Science Museum for hands-on fun for the whole family. From there head to The National Maritime Museum and explore a real pirate ship. These museums are close to the canal tours; a ‘must do’ to explore the Dutch canals and buildings and learn about the history of Amsterdam. If art is more your thing, stay near Museumplein and check out the works of Van Gogh or wander the eras at the Rijksmuseum. No matter where you spend your time in Amsterdam, there are XO Hotels; which are my personal favorite to stay in.
Of course, this is just a taste of Europe and your European road trip with kids can be as long and as short as you want. With so many choices, it can become overwhelming but the main thing is to make it fun and enjoy spending time as a family.