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Why I’m Not Taking My Kids to Europe Anytime Soon

This post was written by Nancy, who is a regular contributor. She also runs a blog Savingforadream

My family loves Europe! My husband traveled to London and Paris to study during college. I spent a month in Spain, two weeks in London and two weeks in Italy in my younger years. We had the most wonderful 10-day honeymoon in Paris and the French countryside 12 years ago. Our trip included most of the usual Paris tourist attractions plus Disneyland.

We climbed stairs and walked the streets until our feet were covered with blisters, and we even rented a car to drive through small towns in the Loire Valley to visit castles. I’m amazed we found our way back to our B&B because none of the country roads were labeled, and when I asked for directions (in French) the response I got was way beyond my limited language comprehension.

It was such a great adventure. I love the history, the food, the culture and getting out of my comfort zone.

nancy in Europe

Dining in a café on Champs-Elysees

We are itching to go back to Europe and in fact, we regret not going on another longer overseas trip before we started building our family. (If you are reading this and you don’t have kids yet—go on a long trip overseas–NOW!)

I see summer trip photos starting to be posted and discussed on Facebook and travel blogs, and it seems like we are one of the few families who are not using miles and points (or cash) to take our kids to Europe. For the past two years I’ve been stalking award flights  and  almost pulled the trigger once. But there have been some things holding me back, and I really cannot bring myself to make plans for a European vacation anytime soon.

Why not?

It’s not because of security issues. Terrorism is hard to predict, but I wouldn’t let that prevent us from going to London or Paris.

It’s not because I think my kids are too young to remember it or enjoy it. Heck, if I thought that, we would never go anywhere! My children have seen London and Paris in movies and have asked to go. One of my kids is a big fan of the Eiffel Tower. We have some paintings of Paris in our house, and they ask questions about our honeymoon trip.

Just yesterday, we were watching the movie “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London” and we were all drooling over the scenery. While not every attraction would be interesting to my kids, every city has some attractions that are appropriate for their ages.

It’s not because it’s too expensive. We could fly during off-peak times on American Airlines for 22,500 miles each way or use British Airways Avios for cheaper award tickets between the East Coast and Europe. While it would be difficult to get at least two hotel rooms each night on points to fit our family of five, we could instead rent an apartment through VRBO or Airbnb for a very reasonable price (many are around $100/night—not that I’ve been looking).

So why then?

It’s because we have limited resources, and we don’t feel like we’re quite in the right season of our lives to take our kids on a trip to Europe.

My husband has limited vacation time from his job. He started a new job earlier this year, and because of the way his time off is structured it means we have to plan our trips very carefully. If we traveled all the way to Europe, we would want to spend at least a week there, if not more time.

We have limited miles and points. While it’s true that we can always earn more miles and points, it is getting more difficult. Many credit cards have a once-per-lifetime signup bonus or once every 24 months. Chase credit cards are getting hard to get if you have had more than 5 credit cards opened in the past 24 months. As a family of five, our miles and points don’t stretch as much as they do for solo travelers or smaller families. If we are going to spend a few hundred thousand miles and points, we need to make sure it’s on the right trip.

We have limited money to spend. While we could probably cover flights to Europe with miles and points, international tickets have much higher taxes than domestic award tickets. Lodging, while cheaper with an apartment rental, is not free. We would need to spend money on other transportation, food and tourist attractions that would use up money we could spend on domestic trips or household expenses.

We are not in the right season of our lives right now. This is the biggie. Perhaps it’s because we still have PTSD about a couple of trips with our oldest kids to/from Russia and Korea several years ago. Or maybe it’s because we’re older than the average set of parents. To be completely honest, our kids are still a handful.

I have two that are very picky eaters and at least one that still swears she doesn’t need to go to the bathroom until it’s an absolute emergency. Two out of three still have meltdowns when they don’t get enough sleep, and all three argue with each other incessantly.

We don’t have frequent free babysitting from extended family members, so we don’t get any breaks from our kids unless we hire a babysitter at home or go on a vacation that includes a kids’ club. Last year, my husband and I decided that if we’re going to spend a lot of time and money on a vacation, it needs to include a break for us as well.

If we use all of our resources for a trip to Europe, we won’t have much left for a vacation that fits our needs during this season. While I think a trip to Europe with our kids would be awesome, I predict it would leave us drained and exhausted with no more resources for a more relaxing trip and visiting our families.

We’ve actually thought about hiring or bringing a babysitter on a trip to Europe or going on a Mediterranean cruise to make things a little easier on all of us. In the meantime, we have a few domestic trips planned for the next two years as well as a trip to Mexico at an all-inclusive resort.

Bottom line

I hope that our situation will change in the near future and that we can plan a longer overseas trip with our kids. I’m not waiting for our kids to be perfect because I know that’s not possible. However, I think some maturity and time will help change many of the things that are holding us back from pulling the trigger on a European trip.  

Europe isn’t going anywhere. My kids will still love it when they are a little older, and I have no doubt it will be an awesome trip. Someday, just not now.

Is anything holding you back from taking your kids to Europe? Have you already been, or are you planning a trip soon? Or am I crazy for not taking advantage of award flights to travel to Europe?

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

13 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Taking My Kids to Europe Anytime Soon

  1. I think this is a totally reasonable approach. Kids clubs rule!!! We take my children to Europe on a regular basis, but not because I really want to. My family lives there, so it’s more of an obligation. Of course, we do take advantage of stopovers and try to do some sightseeing, but it’s darn hard. And we even have family there to help us for part of the trip.
    The time change really messes with kids, plus, all the unfamiliar surroundings. Travel with small kids is hard, period. But when you add really long flights, it’s a pain in the behind. I think you are smart to wait. It’s funny, just like some moms look longingly at photos of family trips in Europe, I’m jealous of those of you who get to go to Hawaii! I can’t convince my husband to do it due to all the hops we make across the Pond.

    • If we had family over in Europe, we would bite the bullet and go for sure. Hawaii was challenging for my family because we had an 8-hour flight and 4-hour time change. What helped us get through that trip was spending a lot of downtime at the pool and beach, and of course the kids’ club. 🙂

    • Anonymous, actually, many families are interested in this topic. Taking kids to Europe is often seen through rose-colored glasses because that’s the photos you usually see on most family travel blogs. I think it’s important to present a contrarian view now and again. It’s expensive and hard. Anyway, I enjoyed her post. Sorry you feel differently.

  2. I totally relate. My kids are 4 and 7, and no plans for Europe any time soon. We are focusing on beach getaways and hopefully a trip out West next year.

  3. My kids are 6 and 8. They’ve been to Europe several times already, mostly due to miles/points/mistake fares/amazing deals. Long flights are not a big deal as long as they have their iPads or good IFE. We would have probably gone to Scotland this year had I not gotten greedy trying to find alternative destinations with the BA business class deal last year (to recap, you could stack some deals resulting in $500-ish business class fares. I found flights to Edinburgh at that price in mid-July, but then I tried to see if other destinations popped up. After about an hour I had determined there were no better alternatives, but unfortunately the original fare had disappeared. 🙁 ).

    I get what you’re saying that kids will fight, become opinionated about things, whatever… but the fact is, they will do that no matter where you go. Kids being kids. We are also older parents and traveled quite a bit before they were born. Now we try to structure a trip around things that will interest them while balancing our own interests. When constructing an itinerary we probably do 50% of the sightseeing that we might have done as a couple. For example, most kids are not going to tolerate hitting 2-3 museums in a day. We make art museums fun by turning the visit into a “find the picture/object” game. Before the trip, we build interest by getting books from the library that have stories based in the destination. And when I say itinerary, it’s not a hard plan, but mostly a list of things we’d like to see, not necessarily on specific days (although you do need to be mindful of the days that some attractions are closed). We might see all of our priorities, or only some of them, maybe even some new things not on the list, but that’s OK. If you try to push too hard, that’s just a recipe for disaster. Go with the flow and mood of the day. Take a day or afternoon off and chill out at the local park or playground – often these will result in their own cool experiences (example: before kids, I never knew there was a playground near the Eiffel tower on the southwest side of the Champ-de-Mars. Bonus: it has a carousel that is human-powered.). As you say, Europe will always be there. You can go back. I’ve never understood the blitz trips that some people take – you know, where they do like 6 big European cities within a week, cramming each day chock full of sightseeing. Sure, they might get some great Facebook photos, but that’s really not a good way to experience the essence of Europe.

    The kids have had some great European experiences that they still talk about. Going to London during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, seeing the apes of Gibraltar, being fascinated by the story of Sisi in Vienna (and going to the Christmas markets each night), sprinting towards the Eiffel tower when they saw it for the first time, etc. Sure, there were probably some bad experiences when they were misbehaving, but you’ll forget all the negative stuff as the years go by. I firmly believe that traveling in Europe as a family, even with small children, can be fun if you plan and set your expectations appropriately. For sure, it’s a different experience than traveling as a couple. It doesn’t have to be expensive if you catch the right deals or use miles/points. I know many people who have spent more money for a week’s vacation in Orlando or Hawaii than I have on a 2-3 week trip in Europe.

    • Wow, you have had some amazing trips with your kids! They sound awesome. And you are right…my kids will whine and argue with each other wherever we go. 🙂 I just think it would be amplified on an overseas trip.

  4. We have been a few times. My kids adapt pretty well. They are very well traveled compared to the real world, but miles and points community maybe much less so… Now that they are getting older, they don’t want to travel, but don’t want to be left behind either. Lol We are going to Australia this year. My youngest is terrified of a wild creature getting her there and they just want to go to grandma’s house. I tell them not to share their travel “problems” with their friends. I think with kids anyway, you make it happen and you take it slow. We picnic at parks on our trips and I love it. Restaurants are never in the budget.

    • Australia sounds like quite the adventure! I’m not even sure I could handle the long flight, but it looks like an amazing place. Have a great trip!

  5. Pingback: We Almost Traveled to the Olympics in Rio (But Why We Didn’t) | Miles For Family

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