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Europe road trip with young kids - are we mad??

(29 Posts)
StickyToffeeFingers Mon 08-Jul-19 11:47:28

My SIL is planning to get married in Italy next year and we are thinking of making an adventure of it by driving from England to France, across to Germany then Switzerland and northern Italy. We would be aiming for 4/5 days travel each way, with a break of about 4 days for the wedding. Our two DC, who will by then be 2 and 5, would be coming with us.

Although I love the idea of it, I'm rather less optimistic about the reality of all the driving with the kids than my OH is, and can just picture it being a stressful nightmare of bored children, constant toilet trips, getting lost, bickering and playing endless games of I Spy/singing Wheels on the Bus. So, are we bonkers to even be considering this? And does anyone have any experience/advice to offer?

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StickyToffeeFingers Mon 08-Jul-19 22:32:40


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KatharinaRosalie Mon 08-Jul-19 22:36:45

How long would you want to drive each day? 5 should be fine, but 2 can be challenging to amuse. I'd rather fly and stay longer in Italy (or drive/take the train to another country and fly back from a different airport).

MinnieMountain Tue 09-Jul-19 07:21:09

I'd say you're mad. Children need to run around. We find the car journey to the airport bad enough.

itsboiledeggsagain Tue 09-Jul-19 07:23:34

We do this sort of thing every year and love it.

I would plan some longer days driving with free days with no or little driving.

We just sing songs and chat. Never done dvds. Now we do some audio books.

We camp, and would never camp anywhere without a swimming pool

Loveislandaddict Tue 09-Jul-19 07:26:34

Are your kids good travelers in cars? Mine have always been quite good, so could do it and a lot of holidays have been driving in France. Lots of people routinely drive to south of France. How long would the journey be in total?

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 09-Jul-19 09:33:57

This is going to be your two week holiday?.

Work out actual distances properly and from your hometown before you further commit yourselves. (And Switzerland is hideously expensive as a country to visit).

It could well become memorable for all the wrong reasons. I would fly to Italy instead with your children particularly if SILs wedding is taking place in the summer.

reluctantbrit Tue 09-Jul-19 12:47:11

We drove from North Kent to Hamburg several times when DD was small (18 - 36 months) and I hated it so much we didn't do it again until she was 10.

That was a 1 1/2 day trip each way.

No way I would do a trip to Northern Italy as a holiday but then I wouldn't do a road trip for a holiday as an adult.

Think about what the longest trip (time wise) was you did so far and how the children coped. If you can't do more than 2-3 hours i would forget about it. Yes, there are options to amuse them but I doubt a 2 year old will enjoy watching DVDs and hearing songs all the time.

PenguinsRabbits Tue 09-Jul-19 12:48:06

That sounds like a nightmare trip to me tbh apart from 4 days for the wedding. Sorry.

I would fly to Italy - you can drive round Italy a bit. I would go to places with pools.

Greenvalleymama Tue 09-Jul-19 12:53:30

I might do it with older children but think your younger one might be a problem. Easyjet etc fly to parts of Italy really quite cheaply, would your budget stretch to flights and a hire car?

StickyToffeeFingers Tue 09-Jul-19 19:39:48

Thanks all. I'm trying to persuade OH that flying and hiring a car would be a better option. We've always wanted to do a road trip around Europe but I think we'll better waiting until the kids are older. We've driven up to the north of Scotland (10 hours with stops) before but most of the driving was at night. Think that strategy would be harder to manage for this trip as it's unlikely we'd have much time to catch up on rest.

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Curlyshabtree Tue 09-Jul-19 19:45:04

Frequent stops, travel pillows, lots of chatting about what’s outside. We drove to North Africa with 10 year olds, a real adventure! Yours are maybe a bit too young? Good luck!

RomaineCalm Tue 09-Jul-19 20:11:15

Just looking at a map it's probably 20 hours of driving if you went non-stop.

I'm not sure that I would do it with DC but if I did I think I'd plan a couple of long driving days rather than 4x days of 4-5 hours each day.

So, leave home at 6am and plan to get as far as the outskirts of Paris (or further if you live 'down South'). Have a couple of days in France and then do another long day of driving to Switzerland/Italy. It gives you chance to stop, rest and actually do something on the way rather than constantly packing, driving for 4 hours, getting to your next stop at 2pm, finding something to do for an afternoon and then repeating the next day.

Aroundtheworldin80moves Wed 10-Jul-19 06:47:16

We've done (from where we live in North West Germany) trips to Paris, London, Yorkshire, Denmark and Austria.

It is not fun. We have been stuck for several hours at borders, had to deal with closed mountain roads, diversions making her hotel reservations useless, cleaning up a travel sick child in a layby toilet queues a mile long and filthy when you make it to the front, bored kids, crap food at service stations...

My preference is flying or train if you want an adventure.

Myfoolishboatisleaning Wed 10-Jul-19 06:53:00

I love road trips. But what is the point if you are only driving? If you took longer and stayed in each place it could be an amazing experience.

HeronLanyon Wed 10-Jul-19 07:00:28

I’ve done this as the child and as the adult. Great fun. You need to manage your own expectations. Slow down and give it plenty of time so you can annoy the journey. Lots of car games/stops etc needed. Tunnels through alps can be livened up with songs or games. We used to be given sweet and the test was who would still be sucking it at the end of the Mont Blanc tunnel or similar. Top family memories. You could leave it till your current 2 year old is a little older ?

HeronLanyon Wed 10-Jul-19 07:00:49

Enjoy not annoy !

anothernotherone Wed 10-Jul-19 07:03:44

My kids were actually better long car trip travellers when younger tbh - we live in the very south of Germany (four hours to Italy, 7.5 hours to Hamburg) and have driven to England a few times.

We always took an overnight ferry from Rotterdam to Hull - only practical if you live in the north of England obviously, but the kids really loved the overnight ferry when little - it's s lot like a floating Butlins grin

Brexit may have buggered up ferry crossings next year though - I'm sure they'll still be running but wait times and so on might have tipped the balance between pleasant and unpleasant.

I definitely would not take the tunnel in a car - there's nothing in that for kids unless they're very hard core train fans as obviously you can't see anything or move around much.

How big is your car? Are you talking VW bus or Corsa? It makes a difference.

Have you thought about travelling by train, as you're happy to take several days? I think that might be an option especially with a 1:1 adult to child ratio.

Blue5238 Wed 10-Jul-19 07:06:51

Sounds like a nightmare to me!
If you want to take your time and see the scenery on the way, look into trains. Interrail tickets might make it worth it... You can pay for 3, 5, 7 etc days within one month and in some countries kids are free (sorry can't remember which). I travelled to Northern Italy by train last year, via Amsterdam and Germany in one direction, and via Paris in the other. It was awesome.

Fishlegs Wed 10-Jul-19 07:07:18

This sounds like my idea of hell, OP, sorry. Why don’t you take the train for the adventure?

It’s 6 hours from Paris to Milan on the train, and ime trains on mainland Europe are much more child friendly and spacious than UK ones are.

Then you could hire a car in Milan and visit places and go to the wedding?

Beechview Wed 10-Jul-19 07:08:35

We did this! Though the youngest was 4 so was a bit more manageable.
We planned it do we didn’t drive for more than 4 .5 hrs a day so planned stop offs and then stayed somewhere overnight and checked out some stunning places.
How does your 2 yr old handle long drives?

anothernotherone Wed 10-Jul-19 07:10:30

Where in the UK do you live? It's definitely not a 20 hour non stop drive if you're in the South East and driving to Südtirol - more like 14, which would be just a few hours per day I've 5 days - practically nothing!

Midlands or Wales means a few extra hours of UK driving unavoidably.

If you're coming from northern England I'd recommend the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam and skip France.

I assume that you're not in Scotland because you say you've driven to Scotland.

FogCutter Wed 10-Jul-19 07:30:21

It sounds like you're going to be spending a huge amount of time in the car (apart from the time at the wedding destination). With little time to get out and experience anywhere en- route.

I'd fly to Italy and enjoy the full 2 weeks there, maybe do a mix of city break and beach/ countryside if you don't want to be in 1 place all the time?

Apolloanddaphne Wed 10-Jul-19 07:42:01

Sounds like a nightmare to me. Me and DH did a Europe road trip last summer but we took three weeks so that long drives were interspersed with a few days at each stopover. Even then it was quite tiring. I can't imagine how awful it would have been to have small children with us.

We have done fly drive to Italy before when our children were small. It worked out very well.

Beechview Wed 10-Jul-19 07:57:33

The route we took was to Dover, then ferry, drive to Brussels to Cologne, Black Forest, Austria, then Italy.
On the way back we drove through Switzerland and France.
If you do this, go via the fairytale castle in Germany and definitely see a bit of Austria. It was our favourite stop off. Some of the mountain driving was amazing.

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