Are you planning your family’s next vacation in a European destination, but simply can’t decide the best way to get there? Does figuring out a rail route or classic road trip confuse you? Here are some things to think about when considering your different modes of transport you travel with kids.
Planes are fast and ideal for group travel. Really, from the US there’s not many other options to get to Europe besides a transatlantic cruise. There’s no need to tack on an extra day or week to your family’s vacation when you fly because most destinations will only be a few hours away when you travel through the clouds. Furthermore, when you get your children on an airplane while they are still young, you can guide their experience along and insure that it is a positive one. They’ll adapt, and flying will be a breeze in the future.
Plane tickets can be very expensive, so be sure to plan ahead and scope out fares in advance. If you fly fairly often, enroll in a frequent flyer program; after time your flights will pay for themselves! For instance, Jetblue has a family pooling program. Although plane tickets can be a bit pricey, flying is probably one of the most convenient ways to travel, and it is widely understood to be the safest.
Chug along train
So now you’ve arrived in Germany, France, or even Romania with your family: congrats! You’ll want to have your modes of transport sorted out before you’re there, though. A great place to start is 12Go, which can help you organize and book any rail, flights, ferries, and even taxis you might need.
As adults, we tend to underestimate what a unique experience a train ride is for a young child. Kids see things like Chuggington and Thomas the Train all over their televisions screens, but until they actually get the opportunity to see a big metal beast up close and personal, it is impossible for them to grasp how large and powerful they are. A train ride is more than just transportation, it is an experience and a trip in itself! Europe is ideal for trains too, with lots of multi-country deals and route options to see a bit of everything.
When traveling by train, kids aren’t strapped down to a seat and can enjoy some freedom of movement while they spy cities and landscapes rush past the windows. Trains aren’t typically a super fast way to get from point A to point B because of frequent stops to pick up passengers, and tickets can be expensive depending on how far you plan to travel. Train rides are perfect for day trips when you don’t want to drive yourself or pay for parking and longer trips where the final destination isn’t more than a few hours away from home. Bigger operations, such as Amtrak, have snack bars so the little ones can indulge in more than just a bag of pretzels during the ride—and you can get an adult beverage if you so choose.
Don’t miss the bus
Taking a bus is one of the most inexpensive travel options available; however, bus rides tend to be cramped and move pretty slow. Bathrooms may or may not be readily available, and gasp! regardless of how it is advertised, you might not get internet access. However, some buses in Europe (and worldwide) have made great strides over the decades to be more comfortable and accommodating. Buses are a good option for families who are working on a strict budget, but want to go far away. Teenagers will probably fare well on bus trips, but don’t expect great tolerance from your young children.
Buses, however, are nothing if not convenient. They also can be a good option for a city tour so you can get a lay of the land, as opposed to underground public transport.
Old fashioned automobile
When choosing how to travel, a rental car is a fantastic option. Your family can travel at their own pace, and you can largely control what your children are being exposed to—from dirty or clean bathrooms to healthy snacks or fast food—options you may not have if you choose other means of travel. If you are planning on going farther away for your trip, but would still like the freedom to move about at your leisure during your time away, consider a plane or a train to get there and then a car rental during your stay.
Maybe an RV?
Recreational vehicles are gaining popularity as a way to see the world with road warriors and inexperienced travelers alike. They are still quite rare in parts of Europe due to older, narrow roads. But there are camping opportunities in certain countries, if you plan to stick to the countryside. In addition to moving at your own pace, this travel option also doubles as frugal accommodation and you can also plan on saving a few bucks by doing your own cooking. This is a great way to travel for families who are all about the journey—not simply the destination. You never know what gems you will find on the road! Gas in these giants can be a trip killer, so see if another family wants to come along for the ride and split travel costs while you double your fun.