EDITED Jan 2023- Taking the family to Europe is the dream of many parents. Of course, when you’re talking about a family vacation, budget is always a top consideration.
Parents googling this question are trying to plan and budget. You’re looking for a “ball park” to see if a trip to Europe is affordable for your family.First, let me start by saying this seemingly simply question is a massive ask.
Because there are millions of different variables that can affect the answer.
The price tag for a single mom from Dallas taking her 8 year-old daughter headed to Paris in February will be completely different than the parents from Baltimore heading to the Amalfi Coast with their 4 teenage sons over Christmas. This is because travel prices are influenced by so many different factors:
- Travel dates (are you traveling in off season or during high demand peak travel times)
- Children’s ages
- Advanced purchase dates
- Flight departure & arrival cities
- Accommodations and their location
- Levels of service
- Guided or independent trip
An experienced travel agent can provide you with pricing and advice specific to your family’s unique needs and wishes. In addition, your agent can offer suggestions that you may not know about or even considered. A good travel agent doesn’t want to just sell you a trip. They want to become a trusted partner and resource that you'll rely on for years to come. A 20 minute phone conversation with an experienced agent can save you hours of frustration, give you peace of mind and prevent costly mistakes.
So let's get back to the question. Of course Europe is a big place and every family is going to come at this with their own needs, wish lists and agenda. So here is a ball park "starting-point" to help with your travel plans....
How much does it cost to travel with your family to Europe:
1. Airfares – Use points otherwise $600 to $2000+
This is usually the most expensive component of any European family vacation. If you have airline miles or credit card points, this is the time to use them. Generally, families will find the least expensive flight prices to Europe from January to March. The most expensive time to fly is during summer vacation. Flight prices from the US can range from $600 per person to $2000 per person depending upon specific city pairs and the amount of advanced purchase. Flight schedules and prices are published about 9 months in advance so give yourself plenty of time to plan despite what the internet flight tracker apps may say. Also, be aware of “cheap airline seats”. Multiple connections with short connections times may not end up to be best bargain when you and the kids are stuck sleeping on the floor of the airport. Your travel agent can help you calculate the travel math when it comes to luggage fees and seat selection to insure you get the best value. Often, the cheapest prices on airline tickets end up costing travelers more in the long run.
2. Accommodations – $400 per night for 4-star hotel
Once again, tons of variables here. Families staying in Europe have plenty of options from hostels, farm stays, B&B's and chain hotels. There will be a huge price difference between a hotel in downtown Paris compared to Istanbul. It’s also important to realize many accommodations for families in Europe can be small compared to American standards. It can be a challenge to find rooms that sleeps 3 or more people. Larger family rooms often come with an upgraded price tag. This is why many of our families opt for AirBnB style or one of our apartment stays offering more space and cooking facilities. While an apartment stay is a great option, there are two important points to remember here. First, it's best to work with an agent who deals with "managed apartment rentals". There are numerous risks involved dealing via owner direct rentals. Managed apartments offer the same great accommodations with standardized, professional business practices. The second important point to consider is location, location, location. Again, do your travel math. Sure you might save a few dollars staying an hour outside the city, but how much does that commute really cost you as far as transportation, parking and time when you could upgrade your hotel and walk to attractions?
3. Food & Beverage – $50 to $100 per person/per day
Parents figure they need to feed their kids whether they are on vacation or not. Often food costs aren’t calculated into family travel budgets. The reality is, it’s still money out of pocket. According to the government figures, the average American spends between $150 to $175 per week on groceries. If you plan to cook during your vacation, then you can use your weekly food bill as a guideline. Bear in mind the question, if you’re still cooking and cleaning up is it really a vacation? On the flip side, Walt Disney World is a leader in hospitality and has all the scientific data of millions of visitors annually. They charge $75 per adult per day for their most popular theme park dining plan. Depending on your family’s preferences and lifestyle, this will give you some means of predicting your travel food and beverage budget if you plan to eat out every day while traveling. If you are concerned about food budgets, perhaps consider an ocean or river cruise. This is a great option for seeing many different cities and ports in Europe, and your family's food is included in the price.
4. Sightseeing & Local Transportation -$100 per person per day
We highly recommend airport transportation. Having someone who is knowledgeable waiting for you in the airport arrivals lounge holding a sign with your name on it is a welcomed sight after a long flight.
When it comes to sightseeing, you can visit the must-see sights on your own and tour them independently, but an experienced guide can elevate your experience to a much higher level of enjoyment. With some iconic spots like the Tower of London, the Colosseum in Rome or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it’s important to splurge on “skip the line” tickets. If not, your family will spend hours waiting in long ticket lines, wasting precious vacation time.
When it comes to guided tours, there are three options
- Seat in bus tours - large motor coach tours are standard tours and usually the least expensive
- Small group tours - guided tour with minivan. A bit more expensive but a more intimate option
- Private guide - Your family and a private driver/guide. Most expensive, but your tour can be tailored to your interests and needs.
Public transportation is much better in Europe compared to the U.S. especially when visiting larger cities. If you’re looking to rent a car and visit some of the more “off the beaten path” areas of Europe, this can often be the most expensive sightseeing option of all. At the time this article was written, the average cost of gasoline in the U.S. was around $3.50 per gallon, compared to @ $6 per gallon in Europe. When you consider the cost of fuel, insurance and parking, it's often cheaper to hire a private driver.
Total: Approx. $400-$500 per person, per night
Remember, this is doing Europe independently. You must also consider your personal travel style. Are you the type of person who will feel stressed and anxious navigating their way through a foreign city? if this is the case, they you and your family may be better suited to joining a tour group. Guided tour groups works best for families with school age or older tweens and teens. (Many guided tours have age limits and do not accept kids under school age). It’s also a great way to meet other families and make friends. The trick here is to confirm your tour a year in advance. Space on guided tours is limited and sells out quickly during school vacation weeks.
For about the same price or less, a European cruise lets families see a great deal of Europe without packing and unpacking. The hassle of travel happens while everyone is asleep. Not only does this price include delicious meals, but a cruise is a great option for families with younger children or family groups traveling together. Cruise ships offer kids camps that offer child care on port days. This means mom and dad can enjoy a day of grown up sightseeing with the peace of mind knowing their little ones are having fun and well cared for. It’s the best of both worlds.
Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of the many options and prices when it comes to planning your family’s next big adventure in Europe. Remember, this is something that an experienced travel agent does for hundreds of different families and this is certainly one of those situations where this sort of expertise is worth it’s weight in gold.