By Jennifer McMillen, Kid Friendly Europe 101
We are a US military family living in BEAUTIFUL Europe!! Since we moved here in April 2013, my family and I have traveled to 13 countries and counting. Most of the traveling is due to my spouse being TDY and get this… I do LOTS of travel WITHOUT him! Gasp!
Oh and did I mention we have three children (ages 10, 6 and 4)?
We’ve stayed in a Polynesian hut on holiday in Croatia, a hostel in Zadar, Croatia, and took a cross-country train trip in Germany; it was just me and the kids.
Now we are finally doing something with my husband for spring break! We are staying two nights in castle! Yay! My daughter finally gets her princess dream or maybe it is mine? Is your dream to travel in Europe? If so…
Here are my 5 MUST VISIT places for military families stationed in Europe
I am always asked… where should I go that is awesome? To be honest, you can make anywhere awesome! Now put aside all of those “famous” destinations to go to in Europe like Paris, Rome, Venice, and London. Don’t get me wrong… those destinations are a must, but here is a list of 5 Places that NEED to also be on Your European Travel Dream Sheet.
1. Zadar, Croatia
Croatia is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL country with lots of history (just like any European country right?). But the question remains: Why do my children keep constantly bugging me to go back?
My 6 year old son says to “swim.” Wait what? Swimming. Yes. Swimming.
Why swimming? The beach at our resort in Croatia was a beautiful, SANDY beach. Just to let you know, most of Croatia has rock-covered beaches. The water was crystal clear and my children were able to reach and see the bottom. The beach resort we stayed at was the Pine Beach Resort in Pakostane, which is about 30 minutes away from Zadar.
Now Zadar, wow. Imagine white stone surfaces everywhere: white stone buildings, white stone walkways etc. It was phenomenal! If you do go there check out the Sea Organ and the Salute to the Sun (they are right next to each other)!
Tip: Croatia is NOT on the euro, but they do accept euro. I highly recommend making purchases with their currency, which is about 6/7 ths of theirs to one $1.00. So you get plenty with the dollar!
2. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, known as “Paris of the East,” is breathtakingly beautiful. My family and I have visited Prague twice this past year. My children really enjoyed walking around the city and of course you cannot leave Prague until you visit Tiger. Tiger is like a dollar store that sells all sorts of quirky “gems.” My kids’ favorite items that they HAD to have were the mustaches (which we rocked while walking around Prague).
There are some really nice playgrounds there as well! There is one on the castle side of the Charles Bridge and then there is another one next to the cable car station at the bottom of the hill which goes up to the observatory tower. My kids also really enjoyed the mirror mazes in Prague. There is one near the Palladium Mall and another by the observatory tower on the hill.
Tip: The Czech Republic is NOT on the euro, but they do accept euro. Like Croatia, I highly recommend purchasing with their currency as you will have a better exchange rate. Prague is one of our favorite cities in Europe and we will continue to visit.
3. Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg is nestled in the Alsace region of France and is a Franco-German city which has roots in both countries. The main part of the city is actually an island and has 27 bridges connecting to the island. We visited Strasbourg during the winter season (January 2016) and many of the touristy places that we did want to go to (i.e. Monkey Mountain) were unfortunately closed (which is a good excuse for us to go back).
Strasbourg is an international city and is considered the center of Europe. Even though Strasbourg is in France, the city boasts a strong German influence. I highly recommend a visit to Petite France and also a visit near the Eglise du Temple Neuf. My children had a great time looking for the tiny doors all over Strasbourg.
Petite France has adorable half-timbered houses of all sorts of colors and sizes! Also, in Petite France there are two playgrounds on both sides of the canal. I highly recommend taking the river cruise too. They offer the commentary in 14 languages including channels for children. I listened to the children’s channel … it was pretty entertaining.
Tip: Strasbourg is a very expensive city, but it is definitely recommended.
4. Saarburg, Germany
Now Saarburg is not a city that boasts many things to do, as it is more of a relaxing location. It is a small city, but my kids absolutely loved it. I wanted us to just “go somewhere” for our long weekend in October. So I booked a mobile home via Canvas Holidays for three nights for a mere $75.00 total! Score!
I really love the campsites here in Europe since they have so many activities for families such as swimming (even sometimes indoor), putt putt golf, walking trails, access to beaches and rivers and much more. Saarburg also had a cable car from the city to the city’s sommerrodelbahn (which is a mini roller coaster!) on top of the mountain. Saarburg is also surrounded by numerous of vineyards and it is within about 45 minutes to Luxembourg City and within minutes to Trier. My kids and I made friends with the hosts and we still talk now!
Now instead of another location, there is something that you should put on your list of destinations that you should absolutely do and that is taking a cruise. Why? During a 7-day cruise you can see up to 6 different cities in several countries and plus it is all-inclusive (with some conditions of course).
On our cruise in April of 2015, we sailed to three countries (Malta, Spain & Italy) within in 7 days! The awesome thing is that there is childcare (for potty-trained children 3+) AND you can leave them ON the ship with specialized childcare providers while you are on an excursion. I was able to get some much needed alone time with my husband! The cruise has been one of the best experiences that we have ever had, which is why I recommend putting one on your bucket list!
Jennifer McMillen is a US-expat stationed overseas with her United States military husband and three children. She is a travel blogger specializing in kid friendly travel in Europe.
Visit Jennifer’s website for more information on traveling in Europe with kids!