Family travel is about re-connecting, having fun, exploring, relaxing and memory building. It’s also about logistics, planning, excitement and challenges. Each family member brings their individual interests, energy levels, appetite for the new, change in routine and taste for different foods. It is an interesting marriage of all these things. How do you all travel together so everyone enjoys the experience and creates memories they like to recall?
Let’s be honest, for most of us a family tour of Europe conjures up images of sitting on a coach in among couples and older people, wondering if our children are going to disturb others with their loud curiosity and occasional moods. But it’s not that way at all.
Taking your family on a tour is an ideal option for exploring Europe. Experienced tour operators have designed and tested a plethora of tour styles especially for families. Itineraries offer activities that are family friendly, with a balance for both children and their parents. The real benefit lies in having everything planned and organised before you leave home. It makes life much easier than planning on the ground. For the organising parent, it’s your holiday too, so sit back, focus on your family time and let the tour operator and guides lead you to the destinations and attractions you have chosen to visit.
There are tour operators who have really thought about family travel and offer tours specifically curated for families. Tours are run at a more family friendly pace, with more than one night in a location. Time to relax, rest and play is factored into the itinerary. Accommodation choices are made with facilities for families in mind. Tour leaders are experienced in working with children and families.
The Tauck Bridges series of family tours offers itineraries especially for families, with tour directors selected for their experience in working with children. Encouraging intergenerational travel for families, the Tauck Bridges tours offer options for the whole family and the grandparents to travel together. Unlike their other itineraries, the activities and experiences included in the itinerary are designed with extended families in mind.
The 8 day Castle and Kings tour takes you on a journey from London to Paris. Spending four nights in London you will explore the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, the London Museum, a west end show and a spy walk. In Paris, experience a family fun scavenger hunt at the Louvre, explore the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame and further afield, visit the Château de Versailles. Children age 3 and older at the time of travel are welcome on Tauck Bridges itineraries.
Tauck also offer families a range of European River Cruises. Tour through 4 different countries on an 8 day family river cruise with Tauck, beginning your journey in Vilshofen and travelling through to Budapest on the Danube. Alternatively, cruise the Sienne from Paris to Normandy or across four countries from Basal to Amsterdam.
On an Intrepid Travel family tour you can join a small number of families on a guided tour. Tours take you on buses and trains, some take you in your own vehicle in a convoy style travel with other families. With Intrepid the maximum group size is 16, and minimum age 5 years. Intrepid offer tours for families with young children as well as tours that are created with teenage children in mind.
Tour Italy from Venice to Rome via Cinque Terre and Pisa on an Intrepid family tour. With two days in the key destinations, explore with the sights while you also take part in family fun such as mask making in Venice. Learn to make pesto with a local family in Cinque Terre, have a flavourful family meal in a classic Tuscan Trattoria in Pisa. Don Roman armour and learn about ancient weaponry, take part in a fun filled art safari as you explore the Villa Borghese.
Families with teenagers and children over 10 years of age, can enjoy an adventure on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. Starting in the coastal city of Fethiye, where the seafood and the lemonade are renowned, you can roam ruins and markets selling Turkish textiles. Take the walkway through the narrow and steep Saklikent Gorge and swim in the cool waters. Dive into family fun at the Oludeniz Water World Aquapark. Explore the impressive ruins at Xanthos and cool off at Turkey’s best beach at Patara. Spend two nights relaxing and dipping in and out of the water as you sail the Turquoise Coast on a traditional gullet. Sail into the stunning beach and canyon at Butterfly Valley, before you return to Fethiye for a special family Turkish spa experience to end the tour.
You can also choose tours with teenagers to other European destinations such as Iceland, Morocco, Croatia, Malta, Slovenia and Andorra. Most tours run for eight days and are packed with unforgettable adventures for your family.
One aspect of family travel that Intrepid cater for beyond the other operators is family tours for solo parents. Intrepid have initially designed six tours that cater specifically for single parent families. Take the 8 day Moroccan solo parent holiday , catering for children aged 5 and over in a group of a maximum 16 guests, all solo parent families. Explore Marrakesh, adventure into the Atlas Mountains, visit the port of Essaouira, take a camel ride and enjoy beach time in the North Atlantic Coast. Travelling on these tours alleviates solo supplements and puts families together with other families in similar life circumstances.
Trafalgar also offer family tours. Choose from eight tours specifically designed for families travelling together, exploring Europe by coach with family friendly experiences. Take your family on the 11 Day European Wonderland from Rome to London. This family road trip is played out on a coach with a maximum of 51 other passengers. Lots of new friends for all. With two nights in Rome, Florence, Venice, Engelberg and Paris, you and your family will explore famous sites and enjoy local experiences such as pizza making and a Tuscan dinner with a local family. In Engelberg you will delight with the alpine sports resort and the local chocolate tastings. See the sights of Paris guided by a local specialist. Travel through the north of France to London where your tour ends.
Alternatively take your family through the beauty of the Aegean Sea with a 10 day island hopping tour of the Greek Islands. Spend two nights exploring Athens and visiting the Parthenon on the Acropolis and other renowned sites. Spend three nights exploring Mykonos, the most cosmopolitan of the Greek Islands before you head to Santorini for a further three nights. Spend time with your family exploring the beaches, wineries and eateries of each island, or simply relax by the pool in your accommodation. Return to Athens for your final night before the tour ends.Uniworld offer a family programme of river cruises. The Generations collection offers a series of all inclusive family departures throughout the European summer and to the Winter Christmas markets. With reduced prices for children aged between 4 to 17 years, Uniworld have designed a family friendly onboard experience with children's meals and tables as well as cooking classes and entertainment activities run by Family Hosts. Activities are run for junior cruisers, aged 4 to 12 years and teen cruisers aged 13 to 17 years. Your children enjoy their own on board gamesroom, giving you time to relax as you cruise. Uniworld have thought of everything from complimentary bicycles for onshore exploring to surprise pillow gifts each night. And you only have to unpack once! Shore excursions are tailor made for families.
Take in the European summer on board the 8 day Castles Along the Rhine. Be met in Amsterdam and taken to embark your cruise in Cologne. Explore the Cologne cathedral and be escorted through the old town with a local guide. Uncover the quaint, picturesque and history laden towns of Koblenz, Boppard, Rudesheim, Speyer, Kehl and Beisach as you cruise the Rhine. No other river valley on earth boasts more castles than the Rhine. Alternatively if a white Christmas is something you are keen for your family to experience consider a winter cruise that takes in the vibrant festive season and Christmas markets.
The 8 day Classic Christmas Markets river cruise takes in the renowned festive markets from Nuremberg to Frankfurt. Rekindle your festive spirit as you breath in the scents of cinnamon and roasting nuts, warm your hands with a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate and snack on baked Christmas treats. Delight as your children discover hand-carved wooden toys, and traditional decorations. Sail from town to town trying the specialties of each from Nuremberg's gingerbread to Frankfurt's apple cider on shore excursions.
The benefit of booking a guided family tour for your holiday to Europe is that you will all get a holiday. Your tour operator takes care of all the logistics. All tour operators try to work rooming arrangements so that families are accommodated together, and where possible adjoining rooms are booked, upon request. Rates for children are also generally offered. Taking a tour also means that your major costs are covered in the tour price and paid for before you depart. Your tour itinerary indicates the included meals and excursions to help you budget for any remaining costs.
Once everything is arranged, you get to go along for the ride, play with your children and join in the activities with them. You remain responsible for your children and look after their wellbeing as normal. It’s a good idea to set the scene at home for the family tour to be to be successful. Include your children in the planning and preparation. They can research the destinations, look at maps, learn the basic niceties of the languages they might encounter. Start trying the different cuisines and get them excited about making a scrapbook of their travels. Show them how to fold their clothes and pack their own bags. Let them choose travel games and the toys they can take.
You’ll hear from parents who have beaten the path to Europe before you, the battle is more about getting there than journey once you have arrived. We all remember those long haul flights we took in our child free travelling days, sitting near the family with young children. You are now that family! If you are travelling with small children and not pushed for time it is worth considering breaking the journey to Europe. Stopovers in Singapore or Hong Kong break the journey into more manageable travel time for all.
When you plan your travel to join your tour in Europe, it makes sense to arrive a few days before the tour starts. This gives everyone the time to regroup after long haul travel before you start your tour, especially you! Give your children time to unwind and play after being limited to an airline seat. Let them adjust to the different climate, environment and sleeping in different beds. This is particularly useful with younger children, some of whom take longer to adjust to change over than others. If your child generally goes with the flow and dives right into new experiences you are lucky. But after a long haul flight you never know! With a couple of days rest and play up your sleeve, by the time you join your tour you will all be reasonably refreshed and ready to roll with the adventure ahead.
With a diverse range of family tours on offer, sit yourself down with your children and start the exciting first stage of your planning. Where are you going to go? Let the adventure begin!