Planning a Family European Road Trip
It’s never easy coming up with the next amazing holiday but a Family European Road Trip is one of my favourites. Travelling from the UK is a breeze and having the car makes life so much easier with the kids. I also think that Independent travel is much cheaper and less stressful than an organised tour. However, you need to be organised!
Where to go?
So firstly… Europe is pretty big and if you are reading this you’ve had the same thought… Where do I start?? Ideally need to hone in on just a few places to make an enjoyable, but not stressful, holiday! You need to decide on the type of holiday you are looking for. For example:
Do you have an adventurous streak?
If so the areas of Annecy in France and beyond to Tignes for the more extreme, Tyrol in Austrian Alps or Germany’s Black Forest area. All these provide good hiking, cycling or other outdoor family activities.
Do you enjoy the wilderness?
For some spectacular lakes check out the areas of Lake Garda in Italy, Lake Bled or Bohinj in Slovenia or Plitvice lakes in Croatia.
Maybe you just need to soak up the sun?
Try researching the west coast of France (southern France is gorgeous, but much more expensive), which is dotted with caravan parks aimed at keeping the whole family entertained. Both the Algarve in Portugal and Spanish beaches offer a similar experience. For the more budget savvy you might want to venture towards the amazing Croatian coastline (see picture).
It would be so easy to try and squeeze everything you possibly can into one European road trip but this could lead to you missing out on so much more. Plus who wants to be constantly driving… with kids!
Once you have established a rough idea of your favourite destinations, go to google maps and realistically calculate if you can achieve the driving within your time frame. The longest we have driven in a day is 7 hours and it was tough going as you need to add on toilet & snack stops along the route, making it more like 8 1/2 hours.
If it does seem doable, then for a more detailed plan (and a way to avoid expensive tolls) go to www.viamichelin.com and map out alternative routes – again checking your time frame. The joys of non-toll roads is definitely reduced cost, but if you are on a strict time frame you may want to pay the extra.
Things to do
There was a time when the Lonely Planet books were the bible of all travel information. However, now you can access a range of information via the web. Albeit, I tend to use the lonely planet online for inspiration.
You can also look for advice from others with experience of travelling in these areas – if you are following family travel blogs they offer detailed hands on experiences.
Trip advisor has forums that you can read through to get some inspiration. Just select the country you are travelling to and region https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ListForums-g4-i11-Europe.html
Once you have places in mind, a great way to find out what there is to do within the area is to visit their tourist information pages. This will usually provide you with a “what’s on guide” so that you can enjoy local events, markets, festivals etc… within the area. The best place to find these is Facebook.
Knowing how much you have to spend will also impact your route. Eastern Europe is known for being cheaper than its western European counterparts, although travel is a little more difficult as the roads are not as well maintained. Plus that mileage, as well as petrol costs, will clock up if you plan to travel great distances.
It can also be easy to get lost in information so I would recommend creating a spreadsheet of your itinerary with places to visit and associated costs. That way you can make a note of places that appeal to you without worrying where you read about it.
I love using ‘Evernote’ as a way of saving articles or recommendations that I have read.
But don’t forget if you are self-catering you need to add the costs of food, as well as petrol.
I have used a range of websites to search for information on European Road Trips:
Google maps is my first point of call, as it offers more than just the destinations. You can locate points of interest, accommodation and much, much more. www.google.co.uk/maps
However, when planning the actual route I would suggest using www.viamichelin.com You can select the option to ‘avoid tolls’ which helps to decrease costs.
We always use www.tripit.com app to collate all our bookings and create a holiday schedule which can be shared easily.
If you decide to fly and then hire a car I would recommend either Google Flights or skyscanner. These will include the budget airlines.
If hiring a car, don’t always pick the cheapest, make sure you read reviews. But look into booked excess insurance with a separate company BEFORE you go. We use www.icarhireinsurance.com which can hugely reduce your costs and stress regarding excess costs in case of an accident!
Our 2018 Motorhome Route
As this is our Round the World tour we have 7-8 weeks pencilled in for our Family European Road Trip in the motorhome.
We had a few places in mind such as Argentona (to visit friends), Freiburg (Black forest in Germany), Austrian Alps (downhill mountain biking & hiking), Pisa & Venice (Jasper has just finished a school topic on Italy), Lake bled, Slovenia (outdoor activities and wilderness), Pag & Trogir (beautiful Croatian islands) and Montenegro (beauty & remoteness). The rest we just slotted in along the route.
Our current European road trip is taking us from the UK (via the Eurotunnel) to Calais, France and from there we will pass through central France into Northern Spain, then return north into Southern Germany to cross towards Munich & Salzburg.
After which we are planning to take in the scenery of the Austrian Alps (as well as a little downhill riding!) leading us through to Italy and towards the gorgeous Lake Garda & onto Pisa and Venice. We then venture along the beautiful Croatian coastline into Montenegro before doubling back to arrive in Slovenia for the last part of our journey.
We are having more than the usual 2 week holiday and so our adventure is extended and at times feels a little rushed so some areas may be brief stopovers, but with time on our hands we are going to sit back (with cruise control on) and soak up the views.
Hope my tips help with your European Road Trip planning!