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How to Plan a Trip to Europe with Kids: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Plan a Trip to Europe with Kids: Step-by-Step Guide

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Dreaming of your first trip to Europe? Let me show you exactly how to plan a trip to Europe like a pro!
This post about how to plan a trip to Europe for the first time was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Want to book a vacation to Europe with your kids in tow?

No matter how old your children are, traveling overseas with your family can be a fun and rewarding (yet exhausting) experience. We’ve done it many, many times.

Your toddlers will force you to slow down and enjoy the moment. Your pre-teens and teens will see the history they learned about at school in front of their eyes and get a chance to leave their comfort zone.

But figuring out how to plan a trip to Europe with kids is very different from planning a trip as a couple or solo traveler. Your kids have different needs, wants, and interests you need to consider too.

Don’t sweat! This is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide that covers everything you need to do to plan a European vacation with your kids that the whole family will remember forever.

15-Step Guide on How To Plan a Trip to Europe With Kids

Step 1: Check Passport Validity for the Whole Family

Can you say with 100% confidence that you know where everyone’s passport is and that they haven’t expired without checking?

That’s what I thought! 

How to Apply for a US Passport for a Baby or Child, tips featured by top US travel blogger, Marcie in Mommyland: Learn how to get a passport for a child (or baby) with these 8 easy steps. You’ll even find some secret, expert tips to help expedite the application process

If this is your first trip to Europe, you might not have even needed to get passports for your youngest kids if they’ve only traveled in your home country.

Plus, you need at least six months’ validity left on passports. for North Americans to travel to Europe. Get my tips for getting a passport for a child.

Avoid the unnecessary stress of expediting passport applications or turning the house upside down looking for them later.

Join our Traveling Europe with Kids Facebook group to get real-time planning advice! JOIN NOW

Step 2: Choose Your Vacation Dates 

The next step to working out how to plan a trip to Europe with kids is to figure out when you can go on this vacation.

Parents of babies and toddlers have more flexibility. But if you have school-age kids then you need to know when they’re on break.

Early summer is much less hot than August! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Weigh up the pros and cons of when to travel.

You have more time in summer break, but the weather in Europe can be too hot for little kids, and it’s generally more expensive. However, your time will be more limited during spring break.

Step 3: Get Permission From School/Co-Parents

Planning travel to Europe as a single parent or want to take your kids out of school? Make sure you get permission before you do anything else.

Depending on your situation, you may need written consent from your child’s other parent before you can take them overseas.

Also, consider taking a copy of your children’s birth certificates if you have a different last name to them.

Apply for permission to take your kids out of school as early as possible. Don’t forget to stress the educational advantages of a trip to Europe, because there are many!

Step 4: Create a Budget Before Planning a Europe Trip

According to Wealth Meta, the average cost of a trip to Europe for two weeks as a family of four is $12,830. Approximately one-third of this estimate is airfare.

Travel budget concept. Travel money savings in a glass jar with compass, passport and aircraft toy on world map
Make sure to add in all the “extras” because they add up for family travel.

In reality, how much you need to budget depends on the length of your trip, your destinations (Iceland is way more expensive than Portugal!), and your style of travel.

Use these tips if you want to figure out how to plan a trip to Europe on a budget: travel to less popular destinations, in the shoulder seasons, and cook meals instead of eating out.

Step 5: Pick Your European Vacation Destination(s)

Budgeting goes hand-in-hand with picking your destination(s)! 

The best way to plan a Europe trip is to choose a city/region and then do your research. Check if it’s possible to find flights there from your local airport and if it works with your budget. Some popular places to compare include Paris vs London and Italy vs Spain.

Here are some ideas for European vacation destinations with kids depending on the length of your trip:

5-day trip to Europe – Stay in one big city e.g. London and take day trips

8-day trip to Europe – Visit two cities or regions close together e.g. Madrid and Andalucia

10-day trip to Europe – Take a road trip through one country e.g. Ireland or Scotland

2-week trip to Europe – Travel through connecting countries e.g. Slovenia, Croatia, to Montenegro

Step 6: Book Flights and Pay Extra for Seats Together

Once you know your dates and where you want to travel, the next step in how to plan a European vacation with kids is to book your flights!

Of course, you’re at the mercy of what flights are on offer but try to book flights that will help your kids with jetlag. 

Traveling on a Budget: 25 Cheap Travel Tips Every Family Should Know About featured by top US family travel blogger, Marcie in Mommyland
We try to book direct flights whenever possible.

Choose redeye flights going out to Europe from North America. For your return journey, pick flights where your kids can go to bed as soon as they get home.

Many airlines charge a fee for travelers who want to sit next to other people on their booking. This often doesn’t apply to kids under 13, but for peace of mind, choose your seats when you book. 

Step 7: Book Family-Friendly Accommodation

When in the accommodation-booking part of your European trip planning, choose family-friendly places.

Image of a boy with suitcases in front of the Hotel Bisanzio in Venice Italy
We loved staying at the Hotel Bisanzio in Venice! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

My family prefers staying in hotels. Here are my favorite kid-friendly hotels in Paris, London, Barcelona, Madrid, Amsterdam, Rome, Florence, and Venice.

However, some families wish they had booked a multi-room apartment when they’re sitting in the dark trying not to wake up their two-year-old after they go to bed.

Look into short-term rentals with kitchens in neighborhoods just outside of the city center. You don’t want nightlife to keep you and your kids awake, but you don’t want to have to walk 30 minutes to find civilization either.

Family-friendly resorts are also a great option in beach destinations.

Step 8: Apply for Visas or Waivers for the Whole Family

You often need to know the address of your accommodation before you can apply for any visas or visa waivers.

That might not be something you’re aware of if you have never needed to know how to travel Europe before.

There are 27 European countries in the Schengen Area. If you are a citizen of a North American country, you only need to apply for one Schengen visa waiver per family member if you are traveling to any of these countries.

Most other European countries that aren’t in the Schengen Area, like the UK and Ireland, have simple and easy visa waiver systems too.

Step 9: Plan a Kid-Friendly Itinerary With Variety

The next step is the biggest step: to plan the best Europe trip itinerary possible for you and your family!

One of the most common pitfalls when creating an itinerary, especially if this is your first time to Europe itinerary, is to over-plan.

One of the best Paris tours for families is this scavenger hunt at the Musee d'Orsay. Image of a woman helping two kids paint in front of a painting
We love doing kid-friendly museum tours! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Have some bonus activities in your back pocket in case of a rainy day or if something doesn’t work out, but leave room to relax.

Consider injecting day trips into your itinerary instead of constantly checking in and out of new accommodations too. 

Book any major popular attractions, like the Colosseum in Rome, in advance. You don’t want your kids to get super cranky waiting in 45-minute-long lines in the baking sun.

Mix in lots of child-friendly activities with things that you want to see. Your kids will find ancient ruins much more interesting if they know you’re going to a waterpark the next day.

Here are my personal kid-friendly itineraries for Paris, London, Amsterdam, Rome, Florence, and Venice!

Step 10: Consider the Best Transportation for Kids

When planning a trip around Europe, the transportation you choose can totally change your trip.

Many say that the best way to see Europe is by train. I usually agree with that!

Image of a dad and son on a train to Cinque Terre Italy
Our family loves traveling Europe by train. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

While trains can be an affordable way to travel, you will need to pack light. Luggage racks on trains in Europe are scarce.

Europe also has tons of budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet which are great options if you want to maximize your time.

If you’re planning a 10-day or two-week trip to Europe, consider renting a car. You will have plenty of room for your luggage and will be able to keep snacks handy too.

Taking a cruise trip to Europe isn’t a bad idea with kids either. You can see new places without checking in and out of accommodations and there are kids’ clubs and swimming pools for sea days!

Step 11: Announce Your Big Travel Plans for Europe

Once you’ve dotted most of the i’s and crossed the t’s and there is little chance of your plans falling through, the next phase of planning a European trip is to tell your kids!

You could keep it a surprise, but half of the fun of travel is the anticipation. 

Image of two boys dressed as gladiators
My kids begged to do Gladiator School and it was a highlight of our time in Rome. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We always let our kids have a say in our Europe itinerary. Usually, I narrow down some kid-friendly activities and they can pick the ones that interest them the most.

Step 12: Read Children’s Travel Books to Get Excited

With the bulk of your Europe vacation planning ticked off, you can help your kids learn more about the countries and cities you’re visiting.

We LOVE reading travel books with our kids! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

If you Google ‘children’s books about X country’ you will be surprised at the number of results. Almost every country has unique myths and fables and they’ve all been turned into picture books for little ones.

I also have a curated list of some of our favorite travel books for kids!

Step 13: Shop for Essential Vacation Gear and Clothes

It’s impossible to plan a vacation to Europe without someone needing a new swimsuit or rugged sandals because the ones you packed last year no longer fit.

Chester Luggage set reviewed by top US family travel blogger, Marcie in Mommyland
We like to start packing about a week before our trip. Photo credit: Britnae Nicole Photography

Make a list and plan a shopping trip so you have all the gear you need. Or better yet, buy it all online!

I highly recommend that every member of your family going on the trip tries on every single item they plan on packing. Kids grow quickly and you’ll be amazed at what they have outgrown.

Step 14: Pack Light and Prepare Flight Activities and Snacks

Figuring out how to plan a Europe trip with kids is one thing, but working out how to park everything you need to take into your luggage allowance is another.

Stick to the essentials that are difficult to buy abroad like technical clothing, medications, and beloved soft toys. They will 100% sell sunblock and diapers in Greece too.

Pay closer attention to what you will bring for your kids on the flight.

Tablets are such a blessing on long-haul flights but bring activity books, stickers, and colored pens if you want to limit screen time. Bring new ones as the novelty factor will make them more appealing.

Step 15: Keep Expectations Low and Enjoy Your Vacation

It can be tough when you’ve spent weeks planning a vacation in Europe with your kids for things to not work out. But that’s the nature of travel and definitely the nature of traveling with kids!

Image of a boy holding gelato in front of an oversized ice cream cone in Rome
We always make time for treats! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Keep an open mind and your expectations as low as possible. As long as your kids are having fun and you are having fun, that’s all that matters. You’re on vacation, after all!

Planning a European Vacation FAQs

Is it worth traveling to Europe with kids?

Yes, it is worth traveling to Europe with kids. While planning a trip to Europe with a family is not the same as planning a trip as a couple or solo traveler, it’s doable and worth it.

Traveling to Europe with kids can be a learning and growing experience as well as a fun one. Plus, even if they don’t remember it, you will!

How much does a trip to Europe cost with family?

According to Wealth Meta, the average cost of a trip to Europe for two weeks as a family of four from North America is $12,830.

There are many factors in your Europe travel planning that will determine your budget. For example, Norway is a far more expensive place to travel to than Croatia, and three kids are clearly more expensive than one!

What is the best way to get around Europe with kids?

There are so many transportation options when you plan a Europe trip e.g. renting a car, taking the bus or train, or flying short-haul across the continent. 

High-speed trains are a great alternative to flying with kids as you can avoid security and hanging around airports. Renting a car is also one of the best ways to get around Europe with kids.

How To Plan a Trip to Europe With Kids Wrap Up

Figuring out how to plan a trip to Europe with kids isn’t too different from planning a trip as a couple or solo traveler.

All it takes is some extra research, a larger budget, and a lot of patience!

Seeing your children experience new cultures and hearing them talk about the fun they had will make all the planning worth it.

Looking for more Europe Travel Resources? Get my top planning tips for Paris, London, Barcelona, Madrid, Mallorca, Venice, Florence, Rome, Germany, Amsterdam, Portugal, Santorini, and Athens!

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