Q: Hey there! We want to plan a European trip next summer for my husband and I and our two kids, 16 and 10. Thinking ideally of some combination of Ireland, England, France, Italy, or Spain. Maybe start in England and end in Madrid or Barcelona? The only trick is that I will only have a maximum of 2 weeks, so I’m wondering what itineraries make the most sense. I don’t want to bite off too much or spend all of our time traveling; and of course we want it to feel like a vacation, not just an endless tour for the kids. Any ideas are appreciated! Mary L.
A: Hi Mary, Wow! What an amazing European adventure you’re planning. And with almost a year to plan, you have plenty of time to research and find fabulous options.
My first piece of advice is that a list of that many countries is a lot for two weeks; it doesn’t give you enough time to relax. If you’re looking for easy combinations, I’d say Ireland/England; England/France (taking the Eurostar train from London to Paris); or France/Italy or France/Spain as combos.
However, to squeeze in as much bang as you can in your two weeks, I’d recommend taking the train around Europe and you should be able to add a third stop to most of those options. (I would skip Ireland this trip and stick to the continent this time to make it work). I’m a big fan of the trains in Europe: they’re spacious, stress-free, fast, efficient, and fun for kids. My family traveled through Italy on ItaliaRail(booking through super easy Rail Europe, a one-stop shop for all things European train travel) the last two spring breaks and everyone got off the train with a big smile — never a sure thing when we fly or drive.
I’d plan my air segments so you arrive in one destination and depart from another. For example: fly into London, and then take the Eurostar under the Chunnel (your tween and teen will love it) from London to Paris — just a 2 hr and 20min ride! Enjoy the City of Light, then take the French High Speed Train (TGV) to go the South of France (I’ve taken both the Eurostar and the French trains and they were amazing — think Hogwarts Express, not Acela). You can get from Paris to Marseilles in about 3 hours. Rent a car and explore the beautiful coast for a few days. Then take the France/Spain train to Barcelona from Marseille, about a 4 hour trip. Plan to fly home from Barcelona. That should give you plenty of variety and a taste of several different, countries and cultures without leaving you all needing a vacation from your vacation.