Why 2018 is a Stellar Year for a Family Vacation in Europe

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••• Rail Europe

If you've been contemplating a family vacation to Europe, 2018 is shaping up to be a stellar year to bite the bullet and do it.

Europe's third-largest budget airline, Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, announced that it would sell one-way tickets to Europe for $69 in 2017 by flying from smaller U.S. airports that have low fees and little to no international service today, such as New York's Westchester County Airport and Connecticut's Bradley International Airport.

 Routes will also be limited to a few select destinations, such as Edinburgh and Bergen, Norway.

In addition, the U.S. dollar is strong against the euro, and that favorable exchange rate means you'll get more bang for your buck at European hotels, restaurants and attractions compared to a few years ago. (You'll save even more if you go late spring or early fall instead of during the summer high season.)

Since 2015, families have had a wonderful opportunity to explore Europe for less. Rail Europe is promoting a slew of rail passes with family discounts, including many that offer free travel to children on a Eurail Pass, Swiss Travel Pass, German Rail Pass or BritRail Pass.

  • Eurail now invites up to two kids ages 4-11 to travel for free with an accompanying adult on the Eurail Global, Eurail Select, Regional Eurail and One-Country Eurail passes. Eurail is offering over 25 different pass options and unlimited rail travel in up to 28 countries.
  • With the Swiss Family Card, kids under age 16 travel free when accompanied by an adult.
  • The German Rail Pass lets up to two children ages 6-11 travel free with an accompanying adult.
  • With a BritRail Family Pass, one child age 5-15 can travel free with an accompanying adult and additional kids receive a reduced rate. This offer can be applied to a standard BritRail Pass, a BritRail England Pass or a BritRail South West Pass.

    Planning timetable:

    It generally takes four to six weeks to get a U.S. Passport.

    As for airfare, a recent study by CheapAir.com determined that you should book flights to Europe 276 days in advance in order to snag the best prices. That's nine months ahead of your travel dates, so chop-chop.