Enjoying Europe with Kids
One of the biggest reasons for going to Europe on vacation is to see just how different everything is. "Your kids will experience new places and cultures firsthand," says Aime O'Shaughnessy, editor of ciaobambino.com. "Even a toddler will understand that people live differently all over the world."
You and your kids will also discover that doing just the ordinary things in a new place is fun and exotic (and mostly free), whether it's using foreign currency to buy a loaf of bread, riding a double-decker bus, or just strolling through unfamiliar neighborhoods. In fact, you can have a relaxing time with the family and see the important sites without spending a lot of money. Some ideas:
HANG OUT IN PIAZZAS In these large open spaces with no cars, kids can run around, meet other children, watch street performers, and chase pigeons. Europeans have mastered the art of loitering, and you'll do well to bring a little of that dolce fare niente (pleasant idleness) mind-set back home.
PICNIC AT PLAYGROUNDS Nearly every European city has amazing outdoor areas. The jardins in Paris, for example, have ponies and puppet shows.
EXPLORE REAL CASTLES From Ireland to Italy, practically everywhere has a medieval history, and you'll find massive imagination-stoking castles and ruins.
VISIT MUSEUMS Europe is known for art, and many of the northern cities have museums with great programs for kids. In most of Europe, children 12 and under get into churches and museums for free.
BOTTOM LINE Lots of sightseeing is free, but you may still want to do some touristy things-a boat ride down the Seine, a visit to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels. Figure on an average cost of about $20 per site per adult and about $10 per child.
The more I researched traveling to Europe, the more excited I got. And I do think it's an affordable option for our family. What I hope to bring back besides a mini Eiffel Tower is one happy kid who has also learned a little something about another culture.
Originally published in the May 2010 issue of Parents magazine.
This piece was accurate at publication time, but all prices, offerings and availabilities are subject to change. Please contact each hotel and attraction for up-to-date rates and information before taking your trip.