Europe with Teens

Parent Q&A

  • Europe with teens

    (8 replies)

    Archives are several years old...  We're considering taking our kids to Europe for the first time next summer.  They'll be 17, 15 and 12.  Main interests are Spain, Italy and England.  Is it possible to hit a few highlights in all these countries on a 2-week trip?  Is it best to fly between countries, or take trains?  Rent a car?  (Sorry, not interested in camping.)  What are some "can't-miss" spots in Spain?   Any advice greatly appreciated.

    RE: Europe with teens ()

    Two weeks, three non-boarding countries you are not going to have much time in each country.  On the last two week trip we took to Europe we didn't take any suitcases or check any baggage we just used back-backs.  Not only did we not have to pay the luggage fees we didn't have to wait of checked luggage.  It was so much easier and was a huge time saver.  Everyone carried their own back-back.  Anything we forgot/didn't bring can be bought there.  It forced all of us to pack light and you are less likely to have any luggage stolen. 

    You are going to want to fly between countries, take a look at EasyJet or Ryanair.  Bring an International smartphone (or buy a burners phone) and get a pre-paid SIM card for data and maps when you land.  (Don't use US plans they are expensive.)

    For Spain we've only been to Barcelona and San Sebastian.  There's a lot to see and do in both, but the beaches in San Sebastian are incredible.  Barcelona is in the Catalonia region and San Sabastian is Basque.  (Vastly different.)  In Barcelona visit Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas, The Dalí Museum, Maritime Museum, and Museum d' Història de Catalunya.

    In San Sebastian/Basque region old town/ Parte Vieja, La Concha Beach, Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Monte Urgull, and maybe Iglesia de Santa Maria del Coro.

    Word of Caution - Barcelona has a fair amount tourist crime.  (Scams from fake nuns to teams of pickpockets and luggage thieves) They are professionals and are incredibly good at what they do.  It's easy to get around in Barcelona and San Sebastian using public transpiration.

    There is so much to do in the UK and London.  The tube/taxis are wonderful and it’s easy get around on foot.   I would not drive in the UK as they drive on the other side or the road, lots of traffic, and the streets are a maze.  If you can, catch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and visit Harrods food court.

    We’ve taken the TGV from London to Paris and the train from Paris to Spain.  You will wind up in Irun.  From Basque region you can take the bus to Barcelona.  And from Barcelona a ferry to Italy.

    Hope you have a wonderful time.

    RE: Europe with teens ()

    I haven't been to Spain but I've been to Italy and England and other European countries a few times with teens. Last summer we spent 2 weeks in Italy with teens.  Two years before that we were 2 weeks in England and Wales.  I've also been to Germany and Amsterdam with teens (teens love Amsterdam).   

    I would advise you to pick only one of the countries on your list. Pick the main city you want to visit, and either use it as a base, or divide your time between it and a second city, and take the train or rent a car in between.  You don't want to spend your precious time transporting yourselves and your luggage from England to Italy or from Italy to Spain. That wipes out pretty much an entire day.  Say you've stayed in one city 2 or 3 days and then everybody has to pack up again, get to the airport, spend time waiting at the airport which can be unpredictable, time on the flight, get off the plane and find transport to your new place, unpack again, try to get your bearings in a new place, and then do the same thing 3 days later. I've done this, and it's no fun, especially for kids.  Plus if you are only in a city like Rome or London or Barcelona for 2 or 3 days, you will feel pressure to spend ALL your time there hitting the major attractions, which all the other tourists will also be hitting.  At the most famous places, you will be standing in line with hoards of tourists while locals try to sell you selfie sticks and sun hats and bottled water, and then a quick in and out to see the sights.  You know the anchovy tank at Monterey Bay Aquarium where they swim round and round in a big clump?  It feels like that.

    I'm not recommending you skip the major sites or the big cities. They are a blast as long as you are not ONLY at tourist sites. The real fun comes on the days when you have the time to wander around randomly, soaking it all in, visiting some quirky hidden place, trying out cafes that you happen upon and then go back to a second time - you're a regular now! You can get to know a city so much better if you can spend at least 5 days there. So focus on one main city for 5 days at least, or stay there the whole time and take day trips out to other places. Once in a city, get the major attractions out of the way your first day or two there, and then spend the rest of your time enjoying the city.  Walking tours, cafes and delis, flea markets and farmers markets, water taxis in London or Venice -  all fun ways to mingle with the locals and get a feel for a city.

    I don't know how easy it is to get around between cities in Spain, but in Italy you can drive from Venice to Florence, or from Florence to Rome, in just a few short hours and the countryside in between is beautiful.  Apartment rentals are much cheaper if you stay for 4+ days, or better, a week. We rented a house outside Florence for a week and it was heaven.  In England it's so easy to visit the small cities and rural England by train from London, and you can get to Wales in 2 hours from London by car. A high point was a B&B/sheep farm in Wales where we could take a footpath into Cardiff or to the local castle. The kids loved that.  Have a fun trip!

    RE: Europe with teens ()

    Hi. The main thing I'd recommend is that you not try to do too much. If you could stay in one place for a week, and another place for a week, and then do day trips, that would be much better. Then those who want to go on trips can go, those who want to just stay put can have down time. Unless all your kids are very easygoing and adventurous and it's not hard to make lots of transitions...But when I took my kids to Europe when they were teenagers, I wish we had just gotten to know a few places well, rather than try to see too much.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Europe on the cheap with teens?

Sept 2008

Is it still possible for middle class america to visit Europe? My husband and I are hoping to take our 13 year old daughter and 15 year old son on a 2 week trip to Florence, Venice, and Paris (maybe Rome, too) in late June '09. Any suggestions on how to eat, sleep and travel without it costing a fortune? leslee

One way to travel around Europe relatively cheaply is by camping! That how the European middle class does it. Europe is full of wonderful relatively inexpensive camp grounds that most Americans never visit. My wife, then 14-year old daughter, and me brought our camping stuff, rented a car and spent 3 weeks driving around France 4 years ago. We were always the only Americans but the campgrounds were full of European families with kids. At one place my daughter made friends with a bunch of Irish kids and we hardly saw her because she was having so much fun with them. Another piece of advice is to stay away from the big cities if you can't camp there. Jon

Yes, home exchange! We're big fans. We've stayed in two different houses in Europe now with home exchanges. It's a great experience and so much cheaper than any other option. We even exchanged cars, so our only expenses were airfare, food, gas and entertainment. You could take a look at for an idea of what's available. Home Exchange Fan

Peruse the Travel section at Barnes and Noble and buy a few books on Europe. I always found the Frommer's Europe From $__ a Day to provide all the information you are asking about. The last version I saw was Europe from $85 A Day. I don't know if they've continued with updates in this series, but the books are great--they give very specific details about how to save money. There are other ''cheap travel'' books--see what appeals to you. Anonymous

Your desire to visit the famous capitals with your kids is admirable and understandable, but those places are most expensive, of course. One good option is to go to, a listing service for vacation rental by owners, so that you can kick back, make your own meals, etc. But though cheaper than hotels, the places within the cities themselves will be very expensive. You could try the suburbs; there was a listing in St. Ouen just outside Paris for a little over $125 per night that would house all of you:

Or one just outside of Rome for $825/week:

Or one near Florence:

But it might be fun to try a different kind of vacation. You could choose a base out in the provinces (for instance, there was a listing for an entire medieval stone house in Tuscany for 500 euros/week), rent a car (which I just did with my son for not too much money in Britain), and use the provinces as your base of operations. This introduces you and your kids to village life and allows you to get to the big city fairly easily (the car can be parked at a nearby rail station for city trips -- the national rail companies have great deals for families, railpasses are too expensive now). On such a short time frame this would probably mean that you would need to select one country, but the experience could well be deeper and richer (and not so exhausting) and cheaper.

Feel free to write to me directly to chat about European travel if you like. It can be done! Bon voyage/Buon viaggio Linda

We went to Paris in August and it is expensive to eat. Add maybe 30% to restaurant prices here. No problem to find a $40 nothing special hamburger. We took the time to find restuarants that students would typically eat at and were pleased with both the cost and the quality. We were able to keep costs down by shopping at markets and bakeries every day. I would do it again. Donna

In answer to your first question, no it isn't really possible. We recently spent two weeks in France--2 adults and 1 teen, and it cost $12,000, including airfare. We didn't scrimp while we were there, but we didn't indulge either. So you may want to go elsewhere. To make it cheaper, try a home exchange--we did for one week, and definitely rent ap'ts if you can't--more comfortable, about the same price as hotel, and you can eat one or two meals a day in the apt, which saves money. It was fun, but we won't be going back soon!

Travel to Europe with 13 and 15 year olds

Jan 2006

Hi. I am travelling to Europe for the first time in my life this summer - hopefully for 3 weeks - with my two teens, a boy 13 and a girl 15. I'm a single parent so I am looking for any creative ideas to do this trip on a tight budget. We're thinking of Paris, train to Avignon and see the Pont du Gard, Provence, over to Cinque Terre, amble through parts of Italy (still to be determined) and fly out of ?? to take advantage of ''open jaw'' airfares. Any advice? Anyone know of flats, hotels, that are reasonable and clean that you can recommend? I'm willing to do a home exchange if anyone knows of friends in Europe who want to come to the Bay Area. Any places appealing to teens? Any advice appreciated! Barbara

I took my 14 year old son to Europe a few years ago (just two of us). I wanted to keep it simple so we went to Paris, Normandy and London. They were all great spots for us. He especially liked taking the train on day trips in France(which was easy and economical - I found we could just buy the tickets at the train station). In Paris we stayed at Hotel Leveque on Rue Cler which is a pedestrian only street with a great produce market plus bread, cheese, wine. My son was able to go out by himself and get crepes at a stand on Rue Cler. Web-site says 125 Europs for a room with 3 beds. In Normandy we stayed in Bayeux at le Lion dCbOr, took the train, walked to the hotel, then rented a car there. Lion d'Or is beautiful and reasonable and a good central spot for the Caen Memorial, WWII beaches, cemetary and other more rural site seeing (eg Calvados, dairy cooperatives). In general my son liked taking the subways, trains, eating, climbing all monuments with steps (e.g., Eiffel Tower, Arc de triomphe) street performers, not museums. I found one sight-seeing event a day was all he was usually willing to do. PS - the sewer tour in Paris is great and only takes an hour or so, English speaking guide. Can't seem to talk anyone into doing it but it was very interesting, only a slight odor! Mary in Oakland

In Paris, your teens will probably like many of the regular attractions -- the Eiffel Tower, touring Notre Dame, climbing the old, old stairs leading to the top of Sacre Couer. I would also recommend La Samaritaine (wonderful view if you go all the way up to the roof). Thursday food markets and Sunday morning flea markets are really fun. I'll bet your teens will like touring the Catacombs and seeing what was done with the bones when Paris cemeteries were moved as Paris grew + they'll get to learn a bit about the resistance movement during the war. Maybe get a book about Paris art & museums and let them each choose one or two works that they really want to see in person -- the Mona Lisa or Venus de Milo in the Louvre, Van Goghs or Seurats in the D'orsay, really old tapestries in the Cluny. The three of you will have a terrific time. Paris lover

Check out and go to the talk section, Europe forum. It is an incredible website, very active and detailed. Look at other posts, do some searches and then you can post yourself and get some great advice. Have fun. Travelling Mom

We did Europe last spring break & it was fabulous. We got tix on travelocity for $310 roundtrip (could have been $255 if we were flexible on dates). We rented a gorgeous 2 bdrm apt in downtown Paris, 4eme quartier for about $60/night. We had our own kitchen, bath, etc and were able to eat-in most meals since the restaurants weren't appealing (and cost $50-60 for a ''cheap'' meal). The grocery food was plenty adventurous for my picky eaters!

We also skipped taking taxis. We walked all over Paris. It takes only a few hours to walk the entire length of downtown Paris. (The taxi drivers are beyond rude.) You can take other public transportation if you want to get out to the Loire Valley, etc. but our two weesk were plenty full with Paris alone.

We got our appt through They spoiled us & made it all so easy. I can't believe it's the cheaper option to go through them (or a similar company). Even the scummy hotels cost more than they do. Actually, the youth hostel was the same price as our apt. (Hostel price is per head so if you have three people, which I did, it added up to $60/night.) Incredible what you can find when you shop a bit.

Specifically for teens: The internet cafes cost a fortune, about $10/hr per terminal, so let them know ahead of time that they won't be online much. Also, there is an amazing rollerblading night (every Monday??) where they shut down a big chunk of paris & let bikers & rollerbladers take over. We didn't do it, but saw it. Amazing. We also got headphones for all of the museums (rental about $5) and it deepened his experience. There's probably more. check out a guidebook or email me if you have questions. Cathy

Traveling with a 14 year-old in Europe

May 2003

I am taking my 14 year old son to Paris and London. I have 4 days in the middle. Any suggestions? Normandy? Amsterdam? Other parts of France? mary in oakland

This is not a recommendation of another place to stay, but I thought since you'll be in Paris, you should know about Parc Asterix, located 30 km north of Paris. It's an amusement park with a European flavor, vastly different from Disneyland. The rides are not nearly as wild as what kids are used to here, but if your son is open to new experiences, he surely will enjoy it. You can learn more at their imaginative web site: Nancy

Traveling with a 14 yo in Europe can be delightful as long as they have a voice in what you do. Bruges, Belgium, is a wonderful, medieval city. Also, Beaune, in the Burgundy region, is delightful and very manageable. If you are interested in a place to stay in Paris, contact me. I can tell you about a reasonably priced centrally located apartment. miriam

We took our 14-going-on-15 year old son to London & Paris last summer, and had a great trip.

The best thing I did when planning the trip was ask him what he wanted to see. His answer: Castles. That led to some of the choices we made.

We had two additional excursions - 3 days in Bath at the beginning of the trip, and an adventure in the middle of the Paris stint, out toward Dijon, to a wonderful town called Chateauneuf. It was small, with an old castle right in the middle - the town (and the castle) was not all restored and fixed up for tourists yet, still off the beaten path but had several places to stay & eat. We rented a car to go there, and were just 2 days out in the country (Paris--Chateauneuf--Dijon--Paris), but that was quite delightful.

I just asked my son what he would recommend, and he said he liked both Bath and Chateauneuf, but his first reaction was make sure things aren't too rushed, so that they are not just spending a little bit of time in each place.

In London, he loved the trip to Greenwich, he loved going to the top of St. Paul's, he loved the huge expanses of parks in the middle (we did a lot of walking.)

In our Bath visit, we spent a day on the Mad Max tour, which took us out to Stonehenge and other areas. The guide books say Stonehenge overrated. I kind of thought so too (plus it was POURING rain), but he loved going there (to say he'd been, as much as anything, I think.) We also spent a day going to Avalon, which we all enjoyed. Took local buses to get there from Bath, wandered out to the Tor, relaxed in the Chalice Well garden. Our son has always loved the Arthurian legends, so that was a hit. Also in Bath took an evening walking tour, which was great.

Have a great time! Linda

Re 16 year old son and I visited Paris and London last summer. We took the train from Paris to Amsterdam and really enjoyed the contrast of a smaller, easier to navigate but very interesting city. We had the luxury of staying with a friend so I don't have a hotel to recommend. But definitely visit the Resistance Museum in additon to Anne Frank's home (go at 6 p.m., open until 8 and much less crowded). Ronnie

Europe with a 12 year old

January 2001

I'm thinking of taking my 12 year old son to Europe in August, probably Paris and London. I've only been to these cities in the spring or fall. Is August an OK time in terms of weather and crowds to go to these cities? Any specific recommendations for kids beyond the obvious tourist sites? Mary

European Trip for 12 Year Old: Make certain to check whether anyone will be home in France in August. I remember someone telling me that August is the official vacation month there, when most of the country takes vacation and many (shopkeepers, restaurant owners, etc.) leave for their vacations outside of France. I'm not sure it's true, but it might have an effect on your trip. anonymous

As a native of London I would recommend anyone to travel there. However, the school year for the UK tends to end at the beginning of August so if you want to find less crowded kids attractions, I would try to go in July, or at least avoid the last long weekend in August which is a national holiday. As to kids attractions, there are two websites which have sections for kids: or Good luck and hope you have a lovely holiday. If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me directly (clairet [at] Claire

We were in London and Paris this past August 2001 with our 13 and 8 year old boys. It was a fantastic trip and great weather (60s and 70s in London) 70 - 80s in Paris - intermittent but warm sprinkles - Favorite activities included: London - Cultural: Westminster Abbey (really - my son had read the David McCauley book Cathedral and was able to relate to the architecture - (flying buttresses have now become a family joke) and had fun trying to decipher the latin on all the crypts. The Bishop of the Abbey give a 2 minute secular welcome during the midday - and then walks around talking with the visitors. He was delightful and told my sons great stories of kings and battles and politics of Church and state. The Old Tate \\ Gallery Turner paintings are action filled and also a great beginning to European galleries. My 13 year old like the action of Leicester Square and Picadilly stores, and also liked the boat trip to Greenwich and the Royal Maritime Museum ( a must!!) and Royal Observatory - as well as the steet flea and book markets. In Paris we especially enjoyed the climb to the top of Norte Dame, playing tennis in the Luxenbourg gardens, biking at Versailles, and watching the finnish of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysee. The Louvre and D'Orsay were great and my sons got into it - just have to take it in small chunks and balance the day between cultural and physical activities..

In reply to what to do with a 12 year old in Paris -- there is a book called Around Paris with Kids - 68 great things to do together published by Fodor's. We are living in Paris for a year with our 12 and 4 year old and this book has been a great resource. Some of my kids' favorites -- Invalides (and the Musee de l'Armee with Napoleon's tomb), the Natural History Museum, Cite des Sciences et Industrie, and, in the summer, all of the parks are great -- both the Boulogne and Vincennes are huge. Also, if you rollerblade, there is a group that organizes roller blading around Paris on Friday night and Sundays (probably more low key) -- we have not done this yet (because of the weather) but have seen them and it looks really fun. There are also groups that organize bike tours of Paris -- one meets on the Ile de la Cite (behind Notre Dame) -- this also seems like it would be fun (although again we haven't done it!). Both of these (and contact information) are listed in the Fodors book. Both my kids loved Notre Dame -- not the inside, but the climb to the top. Finally, (and maybe as a special treat) Parc Asterix, while maybe not exactly what you are envisioning as a Paris vacation, is right outside of Paris, and is a lot of fun, especially for a 12 year old who might be tiring of museums. Kerry

The main thing I found in taking my kids (aged 10 and 12) to London last summer, was that they like to be consulted before you go - I'd drawn up a plan of what I wanted them to do, but I'd failed to do what I usually do, which is go through it and discuss it with them, read stuff about it, show them pictures and so forth. Because I didn't discuss it, I didn't realise that they would prefer to go to the Test Cricket match at Lord's than go to any cathedral whatever, they loved going up the Monument, hated the boat cruise on the river - just ask and at least he'll have some sort of investment in enjoying it. Get a good guidebook and go through it together looking for ideas - 12 year olds really are a pain when they decide what you want is boring. NB coming from the US in summer is really useful, because the jetlag means you're ready to get going early in the morning, before the rest of the (endless) crowds. fiona

Europe at twelve sounds great! You may want to check to be sure attractions you want to see are open. Most of France goes on vacation in August -- which means some things will be open, but some things will be closed. I assume most museums and tourist attractions would be open. The weather should be fine. Warm, occasionally with rain (like the real world as opposed to the Bay Area!). Be sure to allow lots of time for people watching. Heather