Visiting Europe is a lifetime dream of many; from history to culture, there's a country in Europe that will appeal to everyone. Planning a trip overseas for one person can be tough, but trying to organize a family European vacation is even harder. If you've decided to head across the pond with your pack in tow, here are four ways to go about planning an unforgettable European getaway that the whole family will love.
Decide on a Tour of One Country or Multiple
It's crucial to know exactly where you're headed and how long you'll be in each location before you can even think about any other part of your itinerary. One of the biggest dilemmas travelers headed to Europe face is choosing which countries to visit. Financially speaking, especially when voyaging with a family, it might be more affordable to tour one country extensively instead of trying to cram multiple in a small time period and limited budget. Let's say you're going on a standard two-week vacation. If that's the case, then you'll have to divvy up your time among countries and have to take travel into account. If a multi-country European tour is what you have in mind, then try to pick countries that are relatively close to one another, like Italy and France. If you decide to stay in just one country, then have each family member choose a city and dedicated at least one day for each one. The best part about this route is you can save money on accommodations since you can visit many cities can be toured on day-trips.
Consider Interests and Map Hotspots Accordingly
Ask each family member why they want to go to Europe. What are they most excited to see? If it's famous monuments, then your travels will be focused in capital cities like Paris, Rome and London. If you're more interested in cuisine and culture, then you'll want to hit the biggest attractions before branching off into smaller cities and towns for the most authentic experience. After all, if it's a plate of true Italian pasta you seek, you aren't going to find it in Milan's tourist district. Search for travel blogs written by those who live in your travel destination. usually typing “An American in…” and your desired country will bring forth a slew of blogs that feature firsthand accounts of where to find the best food, shopping and entertainment. You can also try Yelp and other review sites to hear about fellow travelers' experiences and make a list of places to visit accordingly.
Talk to a Travel Agent
If you know where you want to go but aren't sure how to go about actually getting the full experience, visit a local travel agency. It doesn't cost anything to look over European vacation packages, and most have brochures you can take home for free that include overviews of each country as well as hotspots and hotel names. One of the greatest advantages of a travel agency are the discounts. When you book through a travel agent, you can often save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The exclusive family packages offer perks that you won't get on your own, including guided tours across Europe with other travelers, food, accommodations and transport at a flat rate.
Find Accommodations in Advance
At least two months before your departure, make sure you have accommodations squared away. Hotels are nice, but even if you manage to score a good deal, you'll still be dishing out over $100 a night, which adds up fast. Bed and breakfasts are a nice alternative, though they tend to lack the major amenities and comfort of a large hotel. Consider booking an apartment online through a site like Airbnb. These sites allow you to rent directly from owners and get a firsthand experience living in the city. Whether it's a swanky London vacation rental or a charming Italian villa, there are plenty of options to choose from. These rentals offer much more space, privacy, and comfort than a hotel for the same price or less.
Getting Your Trip Underway
Use the planning stage as an opportunity to spend time with your family. Even if you're the head of the household, there's no reason why the whole gang can't pitch in. Listening to everyone's ideas and hearing them gush about all the fun things they want to do is a great way to bond and get excited for the trip ahead.
Make sure that you start planning in advance and make sure you get your documents in order, budget set and itinerary written down ahead of time. Don't be surprised if things change on a whim though; Europe has a way of sweeping people off their feet and taking them on adventures they never could have imagined.
Rachelle Wilber is a freelance writer living in the San Diego, California area. She graduated from San Diego State University with her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. She tries to find an interest in all topics and themes, which prompts her writing. When she isn't on her porch writing in the sun, you can find her shopping, at the beach, or at the gym. Follow her on Twitter @RachelleWilber.