Travel to Europe on a Family Budget

Got big vacation dreams but a small bankroll? We'll show you how to go abroad without spending a bundle.
Child taking photo of Eiffel Tower

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Over the last few years, our vacations have fallen into what my husband recently described as "a rut." We have explored our native state of New Jersey inside and out (the most recent excursion: an underground mine in winter, brrrr!) and bunked with relatives up and down the East Coast. Basically, we've stuck close to home by taking staycations-keeping in mind both budget and what we believed were the preferences of our 6-year-old son. So when Aidan recently asked, "Can we go to Paris?" I was a little taken aback. He wanted, he said, to see the Eiffel Tower -- perhaps a reaction to watching Ratatouille a few too many times. When pressed for more reasons, he offered: "There are kids there! And they eat crepes, and fries, and croissants.?... I like all of those!"

He had a point. A great one, actually.

Traveling to a different country would truly be a wow experience. And not just because we could visit the Eiffel Tower (and the Louvre and ?...?well, all that Parisian good stuff), but because we'd experience a different take on day-to-day life -- the food! The playgrounds! The shopping!

Still, I wondered, how much would it cost to spend a week overseas if we finally cashed in our frequent-flier miles? And were we crazy for considering taking a kindergartner to another continent? Pauline Frommer, creator of the Pauline Frommer Budget Guidebooks, eased my fears. "Europe is great for kids. They're at a magical stage in life where they absorb everything around them. Plus, even with the price of airfare and the weak dollar, savvy parents can find ways to stretch their vacation budget." Okay, that settles it -- sign us up!

A NOTE: Every member of your family (even a baby) needs to have his own passport to travel to Europe. Applications can take anywhere from four to six weeks to process and cost $100 for adults and $85 for kids under 16 (rendewals are slightly cheaper). For more info, go to travel.state.gov.

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