Q: Dear Playground: What’s the best age to take your kids to Europe? Is under 10 even worth it? — Davina C.
A: Hi Davina,
I could quote Audrey Hepburn here and say, “Paris is always a good idea,” but the reality is you are the best judge of how your kids will handle an international flight, time change, and break from routine. Are they flexible? Like to walk? Able to sleep away from home? Enjoy trying new foods or meeting new people? If the answer is yes to most of these, then my answer is go for it! For kids 7 and under, the trip is mostly for you and your spouse; so if you’re enthusiastic, then the kids will get a lot out of the trip, seeing new things, exploring new cultures, tasting new cuisine. But lower your sightseeing expectations a bit and plan to spend time relaxing at places such as the carousels in Paris and the parks of London. The kids will appreciate a bit of their normal routines, and you’ll probably meet some locals as well.
Looking ahead, ages 8 and up are when kids start retaining more of what they’ve experienced and can start helping in the planning process. They’ll have more stamina and might even come up with some adventures you might not have tried without them.
At 10 and up, you’re starting to hit the sweet spot where they’re still happy to travel with you and will remember most of what they see and do. Once they hit the teens, they may be less enthusiastic to spend all day with you, but extended dinners (maybe even with a Michelin star or two) are a possibility as are museums with more sophisticated art and programs..
For any age group, I suggest buying books with lots of photos and kid friendly suggestions. My family enjoyed the Kids Go Europe: Venice Treasure Hunt pocket guide (there are several more in the series as well); Fodor’s has some fun Around Europe with Kids guides; and Frommer’s is always a good bet for European background info (I’m partial to Frommer’s Easy Guide Rome, Florence, Venice book for which I’m the editor).
For anyone traveling oversees with kids under 12, be sure to ask about children’s airline discounts (no, really, they exist –it’s not enough to upgrade you to business class, but it will be a little extra change in your pocket for souvenirs).
And don’t forget, EVERYONE needs a passport to travel internationally.
Have a family travel question?
Email Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org