Family Vacations in Europe

Edinburgh Festival Celebrated On The Royal Mile
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Trips to Europe with kids can be terrific fun and make memories that last a life-time. And trips in Europe don't need to cost the earth. After all, regular families in Europe take trips too, and there are certainly affordable options.

See below for a number of less-usual ideas for Europe trips with kids. (You may also like to consider some top Europe destinations for family vacations.)

Europe Trip Ideas
For something a little different, consider these suggestions.

Pilot your own barge, or cruise along in catered luxury. Often, bikes are provided along with the barge, so families can explore beyond their river or canal.

Have a look at some high-end family bike holidays on which all details are handled. A lower-budget option is suggested, too.

Castle Stays
Pack the plastic swords and crowns, and take the family to stay stay overnight in a castle. Some are surprisingly affordable.

Horse-Drawn Caravans in Ireland
Definitely a vacation your neighbors haven't done yet. And what a wonderful way to see the famed Irish countryside: in your own comfy gypsy-style caravan, drawn by a patient horse. Picture a tiny version of a covered wagon like you see in old Westerns. These "caravans" have beds and a kitchenette.

Family Adventures
These escorted tours provide hassle-free vacations with all details handled and exceptional itineraries. (See a review of Adventures By Disney - Viva Italia!

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Highlights for Kids
The famous Edinburgh Fringe, held in August ever year, is a festival for the whole family, with children's theatre, puppetry, kids comedy, dance workshops and more, for ages tots to teens.

Scotland: Stay on the Queen's Balmoral Estate
Rent a (surprisingly affordable) cottage on Balmoral Estate, and the Queen will be your landlady.
Take a guided walk, or enjoy great hiking and cycling in the area.

Germany: Christmas Markets
Picture quaint wooden stalls filled with marionettes and wood carvings and Christmas toys, then add the smells of toasted chestnuts and gingerbread... Christmas Markets are a centuries-old German tradition. The market in Dresden dates back to 1434. Many towns vie to have the best market, or the biggest candle or biggest Christmas Tree.

Stay Somewhere Fun

The places below provide fun for the family right on the property. Enjoy them as destinations or as a home base for exploring the environs.

  • Eurocamp: Forget your usual ideas about camping. Guests can stay in bungalows or deluxe three-room tents equipped with beds, and enjoy resort-like facilities and kids' programs.
  • Center Parcs Family Resorts: here's where European families go for getaways. Stay in a large cottage and a huge recreational property, with kids' programs and an indoor tropical pool complex.
  • Familotel Holiday Hotels for Families
    A great idea for families with young kids, these family holiday hotels in Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland offer kids activities, childcare and babycare, play zones, baby gear and even strollers. Choose from ski holidays or summer holidays with pools, slides, and outdoors fun.
    • Hay Hotels: Stay in a barn in the German countryside. At "heuhotels", guests sleep on a bed of dried grass, perhaps in a loft, or in feed stalls fitted out with wooden platforms; bring your own sleeping bag and towels. (Though a few hay hotels are offering more amenities.)
    An even more unique place to stay -- though you'll probably only want to stay a night or two -- is Lapland, Sweden's Ice Hotel. Sleep in special sleeping bags on beds made of ice and covered with reindeer skins; warm outdoor clothing is provided. A tour company sells a package that arranges all.

    Other Ideas About Places to Stay

    Vacation Home Rentals
    Renting a multi-room abode with a kitchen has many advantages for families. A variation on the typical type of vacation home rental is offered by Untours, a company that offers hand-picked vacation rentals in apartments, farmhouses or cottages, plus insider tips for the area and a local contact.

    Hostels With Family Rooms
    Budget travel is perfectly respectable in Europe, and here's a way for families to save big-time. "Hostels" have changed much in recent years, and former "youth hostels" now welcome people of all ages including families who, in many places, can stay in "family rooms." Spartan but clean, these rooms typically have bunk beds, and sometimes a private bathroom; otherwise, a toilet and shower will be just a few steps away (--and extremely clean, in our experience.) Some hostels are housed in architectural treasures: castles in Scotland, a centuries-old villa in Verona, former monasteries... places that are low in cost and high in character.
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