16 Tips When Traveling to Europe with Kids

One of the great things regarding traveling is learning about other cultures, customs, foods, and traditions. However, before you get to your destination it’s helpful to know what to anticipate so you aren’t caught in an awkward situation. Here are some tips when traveling to Europe with kids so you aren’t blindsided when you get there.

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Related: How to Plan a Vacation with Kids, Tips for a Multigenerational Family Vacation, Tips for Flying with Kids, and Tips for Traveling with Kids.

1. Passport

You will need a passport to travel to Europe. It needs to be valid for up to 6 months past your return flight. You can now renew passports online, however, child passports cannot. You’ll have to make an appointment and do it in person and both parents need to be present or submit evidence that one of the parents can’t appear in person.

2. Credit Cards and Cash

Does your credit card charge foreign transaction fees? If it does, consider getting one that doesn’t or you’ll be charged a percentage of each transaction. Also, U.S. credit cards don’t always work at kiosks. I’ve run into this when trying to purchase train tickets. You’ll need either cash or pay a teller for the tickets.

It’s not necessary to exchange money ahead of time. When you arrive, take out what you’ll need for the next few days. Make sure you use all your coins before you leave, you won’t be able to exchange them.

3. Clock

Some countries use the 24-hour clock, so I would verify ahead of time so you aren’t confused when you arrive. For times over 1200, just add or substract 12 to figure out the time. For example, 1900 is 7:00pm.

4. Electricity

Europe uses 220 volts, whereas the U.S. and Canada use 110 volts and the plugs are different, so you’ll need an adapter and possibly a converter to be able to use the outlets to charge your devices and plug in small appliances. The adapter makes your device fit in the holes in the outlet. Converters transform the voltage or electrical power going into the outlet. Many appliances are dual voltage, but if you have one that isn’t, you should either leave it at home or purchase one that is dual. This is mostly the case with hair dryers, flat irons, and curling irons.

5. Restaurants

Most Mediterranean countries eat late, lunch around 1 or 2pm and dinner after 8pm (9pm in Portugal and Spain). The northern European countries eat early, lunch as early as 11am in Norway and dinner around 6pm. This will help you plan when restaurants will be open, as some do close between lunch and dinner. Meals are meant to be enjoyed and restaurants don’t worry about turning over tables, so they are long, close to 2 hours sometimes, therefore either make a reservation, arrive early, or be prepared to wait.

Restaurants will serve bottled water; tap water isn’t commonly consumed. Make sure you specify whether or not you want sparkling or flat.

6. Siesta

Spain still recognizes “siesta” or “nap time.” But, even though people aren’t necessarily napping, many places close around 2pm and don’t reopen until about 4pm. Just keep this in mind when you are in Spain so you aren’t surprised when shops are closed.

7. Tipping

Tipping in Europe is treated differently than in the United States. Waiters, taxi drivers, tour guides, and bellhops aren’t usually tipped, but you’ll want to give a little something extra in appreciation of good service.

8. Baby Food

Baby food is different from what you’ll find at home, so pack formula and baby food. You may want to try options from the local grocery store early on, so if their food runs out you already know what they like.

9. Hotel Rooms

In Europe you’ll rarely find a hotel room that fits 4 or more people. You may need to get 2 rooms and split up. Consider renting an apartment. Booking.com has great options and are very thorough with their descriptions.

10. Elevators

There aren’t always elevators. You may need to walk up the stairs, as well as your bags and stroller. If there is an elevator, it will likely only fit about 2 people. When you are checking in, someone can go to your floor with some luggage and then get out. The person on the “ground floor” can put more luggage inside and send it up.

11. Transportation

tips when traveling to Europe with kids

Public transportation is typically very good in Europe. There are lots of train and bus routes. It’s a great way to get around. There are also ride sharing companies and taxis.

12. Bathrooms

There are public bathrooms, referred to as toilets or WC (water closet) throughout most major cities, but you’ll have to pay a small fee, usually the coin equivalent of $1.

13. Not Always Stroller Friendly

Some streets only have stairs and some sidewalks are very narrow. You may want to consider a lightweight stroller you can easily carry or a wrap or carrier to carry your baby or toddler.

14. Lack of Changing Tables

The bathrooms can be on the small side and not many have changing tables. I’ve taken a changing mat and put it on the floor to change diapers.

15. Language

Learn a few words in the local language, like “hi, “thank you,” “please,” “do you speak English?” and teach the kids. The residents will appreciate it and will be more inclined to help you.

16. Parks and Plazas

There are lots of great small parks and plazas throughout major cities where kids can play and let out their energy.

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