I know it’s October but never too early to start planning a family trip to Europe. We had an amazing (and too short of a) trip to London and Paris this year. It was a great privilege to travel there with our children and see these cities through their eyes. Sharing my experience, tips and tricks with you all here to plan a family trip to Europe!
Our children are six and eight years old. For the first timers thinking of planning a family trip to Europe, you can cover a lot even in a week like we did. If you have more time, even better!
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Everyone will have their own goals and tastes around which to plan their trip. Our splurges were accommodations at great hotels in the heart of the cities.
Below is a brief itinerary broken down by day to day. Further down I describe our trip in detail:
Day 1 LONDON: Flight from Los Angeles to Heathrow Airport. Checked into County Hall Marriott hotel. Took the Big Bus city tour. Dined in with delicious local takeout.
Day 2 LONDON: Went to Hamley’s for toy shopping. Had lunch in Carnaby. Took the Underground. Got on the Eye of London. Had dinner at Bombay Bustle. Took a night walk at Westminster back to hotel.
Day 3 LONDON: Had a professional photo session at Eye of London and Westminster Abbey. Walked around Buckingham Palace and observed the guards. Enjoyed tea time at The English Rose. Took the Tower of London audio tour, and saw lots including the crown jewels. Visited the Tower Bridge, Harrod’s and Picadilly Circus.
Day 4 PARIS: Took the Eurostar to Paris. Checked in at our hotel: Marriott’s Hotel De Berri off Champs de Elysee. Walked along Champs de Elysee. Took the Big Bus city tour. Had dinner at a local italian cafe. Took the Metro back to the hotel.
Day 5 PARIS: Went to the Eiffel Tower. Had lunch at a charming brasserie near the tower. Took the Versailles garden tour and walked the grounds. Had dinner at an open market across from Eiffel Tower while watching the first sparkle of the night. Took a walk on the Trocadéro.
Day 6 PARIS: Took a private tour of the Beaubourg Marais neighborhood. Took a break to play at a fountain park in Marais. Had lunch on the go at “Paul.” Went to the Lourve and did some street shopping. Had dinner at an Italian restaurant.
Day 7 PARIS to LONDON: Had a professional photo session at Eiffel Tower. Took the Eurostar train back to London. Stayed at a hotel near Heathrow.
Day 8 LONDON to LA: Did some souvenir shopping at the airport and took the fllight back to LA.
Details of our Family Trip to Europe:
We did a spring trip in April and flew Virgin Airlines. The plane was equipped with touchpad interactive monitors for every seat and of course movies and features to make the time go by easier. Texting from seat to seat was fun too! The staff was friendly and the food was decent.
We took a taxi to our hotel in London. The ride itself was a blast for the kids (and adults!) to see Londoners carry about their day. We observed the architecture, the tight busy streets and parents picking children up from schools.
The Big Bus tour company was great in London because a live tour guide spoke while new disposable headphones were provided to each rider. In Paris, we used the same company but they mainly had an audio recording. Much better, and very easy for the kids to get used to, was the subway in both places. I cannot tell you how easy it was (and fun!). Just seeing the different decor at each stop with its own historic or artistic layout was an experience we’ll never forget, right down to the archway stone carvings to the wall displays.
Traveling to Paris, the Eurostar train experience was extremely relaxing and serene. We enjoyed a nice meal and there were family-sized tables along with each seat having USB ports and individual lighting. It is truly traveler friendly and very quiet!
County Hall (CH) is a historic building and past home of the British Parliament. The CH Marriott is modern yet historic Highly recommend this hotel for its location, quality, and kid-friendly aspects.
Our room had a view of the Thames and we could see the Eye of London observation wheel right outside. There’s a back direct entry onto the pier and buying tickets was easy. We went for the VIP experience which includes a short interactive movie along with a quick shortcut to the wheel without waiting in line. We also loved having ice cream there every day. A lovely park with clean modern play structures was a short walk away.
In Paris, we stayed at the lovely Hotel de Berri right off the Champs De Elysee.
Our children were not feeling too adventurous with food so we kept them happy with McDonald’s and Subway in both cities. My husband and I would then try to get a taste of the local cuisine after the kids were fed.
There was delicious food everywhere. On the first night, while the kids relaxed with my husband in the hotel room, I couldn’t help but take a quick city walk and saw plenty of options and ended up getting Italian take out for the family from a local restaurant. Starbucks was barely a three-minute walk and Gail’s Bakery was right there offering great breakfast options. My personal favorite was getting an omelette-paratha wrap with chai at Zabarzast behind the hotel about a five-minute walk away.
Shopping was a big theme of our trip. The kids loved Hamley’s, which is a 285-years “young” toy store with over four floors, each with not only toys on the shelf but plenty of staff to demonstrate the toys. Thanks to the recent Peter Rabbit movie, the children knew all about Harrod’s. So we went there and had a great time just seeing the astonishingly big store with its Egyptian decor.
Activities and Site-Seeing:
The Buckingham Palace grounds are beautiful and serene. The kids got a taste of how royalty lives. The crowds were not bad the day we went and we enjoyed seeing the guards both very still and also marching to change positions. We didn’t see the formal ‘Changing of the Guards’. The official gift shop is right around the corner with several quaint and pretty souvenirs. Close to the palace is a cute tea room called The English rose which was a lovely way for the children to experience proper English tea. It did not disappoint.
For a taste of British history, the whole family loved the Tower of London audio tour we rented from the shop right by the entry. We were laughing and following along with the funny raven who was narrating all the good and horrible history that occurred throughout the centuries past. The grounds are well kept and there’s a modern tourist center right outside as well. Once you exit, you have a spacious unblocked view of the Tower Bridge. We did not go to the bridge but did get some great photos from afar.
THERE ARE NO BAD DAYS IN PARIS. ever. Don’t bother with strict itineraries with kids. See the big things on your list and enjoy EVERYTHING along the way.
We got Eiffel Tower tickets online and skipped the lines to enter.
We ate at a nearby brasserie and then took the Réseau Express Régional (RER) train to Versailles. Versailles was charming and you are greeted by a Starbucks and McDonald’s right off the train station. The palace is just a short walk away.
The next day we did a private tour of the Marais neighborhood with an art historian who tailored the tour to the kids. We learned about the French desire to master nature, resulting in the exact and controlled garden layouts.
We bought tickets for the Louvre the night before on our phones. After our private tour at Marais, we took the Metro and got off the exit away from the Pyramid side of the Louvre. This led to an uncrowded back entrance where we were let in by security after showing our tickets on our phone. The Louvre was of course amazing. We went to see the Mona Lisa after which the rest was just soaking in as much as we could before heading out. It was crowded. It was warm. But still a great experience. Walking along the Seine afterward on a gorgeous sunny afternoon eating gelato, seeing the ducks, looking at all the love locks lovers had clicked onto the fences (everywhere in the city) was perfect!
Overall the trip was fantastic. We cannot wait to go back!
Hope you enjoyed all these tips for a family trip to Europe. Let me know if you have any questions!