Europe family vacations guide

Ditch the overpriced, overstuffed theme parks, abandon cruise ships, and give kids clubs the kiss goodbye. Instead of all inclusive resorts which do zilch to benefit the local economy, think properties in tranquil countryside where you’re treated less as a paying guest and more like a member of the family. You’ll be looked after by owners and guides that have spent years building relationships with their local communities, to ensure you get an experience that’s as culturally rich as it is fun.
The beauty of taking your family vacations in Europe is there are so many different languages, cultures, landscapes and cuisines to explore.
Whether you’re looking for adrenaline packed thrills with your teenagers or a relaxing week away with toddlers and grandparents in tow, Europe offers incredible variety. It also means budget airlines and short flights or, even better, convenient overland travel. An essential element of our activity vacations is the quality of the guides and instructors. They’re as good at putting parents’ minds at ease as they are at entertaining the kids.

What does a Europe family vacation entail?

Benefits of a family vacation

Family vacations can make for a fantastic bonding experience between different generations, and also likeminded peers if you opt for a small group. Operators try to match families where the children are of similar ages. You might want an itinerary that mixes physical activities with cultural excursions to compliment your children’s studies, or a vacation to reward their efforts during exams. Even teens that are glued to their screens at home will barely give their phones a thought after a few days of fun activities in the fresh air, and it’s heartening to watch them develop their teamwork, leadership and responsibility. Happy memories that you’ll all treasure are packaged into every trip.

Who is this type of vacation suitable for?

Our family vacations are designed for those that are looking for something more than just lazing around the pool or sunbathing on the beach. Note that most small group trips will have a minimum age limit which varies according to the type of activities involved (see examples below). Tailor made and accommodation-only trips have no minimum age, but you should keep in mind that some activities will be unsuitable for younger kids. In addition, some operators are happy for babies and toddlers to accompany their older siblings on vacation, but of course they won’t be able to participate in any activities, and organised childcare may not be possible. Besides helping you plan your trip from start to finish, hosts will often act as guides that take care of all the dull or stressful aspects of a vacation, such as booking activities, sourcing good places to eat and handling the navigation, so that you can relax and have fun. They’re also great at looking after and encouraging kids, ensuring that every member of the family has a great time.

What kind of accommodation should I expect?

You’ll normally be based in remote, rural areas that are nevertheless well-placed for activities in the close vicinity or a short drive away. Note that you’ll need to have a car for some tailormade trips, whereas small group vacations tend to include all transport including airport transfers if required. Accommodations range from quite basic upwards, and we’ve got several unique places that will fire your imagination – you might stay with a Romanian Count for instance, on an Andalucian eco-farm, or in a log cabin deep in the Finnish wilderness where the Northern Lights can be clearly seen. You might be sharing with other families, couples or groups – expect to be firm friends by dessert on the first night. And speaking of meals, depending on where you’re staying you may be eating inhouse, using restaurants in the area, or helping to prepare shared meals.

What kind of activities will we be doing?

Whatever floats your boat. Maybe your family has an adventurous streak, in which case activities such as canyoning, sea kayaking, husky sledding or mountain biking will nudge you out of your comfort zone. If you have younger kids, then you might look at vacations where you can enjoy short walks in the countryside, visit local farms or pick up shells on beaches with gentle surf. Activities are meticulously organized so that distances are achievable and no-one is overstretched. And you can be sure everyone will be getting a good night’s sleep.

Best time to go on a family vacation in Europe

When vacationing in the height of summer, do as the locals do and make for beach and mountain retreats. They’re much cooler, and reduce the need for a midday siesta.
A thorny issue with family vacations is that they are limited by school term times, which bumps up the prices of everything from hotels and flights to restaurants. We suggest looking at alternatives to the traditional vacation, or at least waiting until the tail end of summer. And if you do need to travel in August then look for lesser visited destinations where your Euros should go further.

Our top Europe family Vacation

Activity vacation in Montenegro

Activity vacation in Montenegro

An active villa vacation at stunning Lake Skadar, Montenegro

From £745 to £845 7 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 1 Oct, 8 Oct, 15 Oct, 22 Oct
2024: 7 Apr, 14 Apr, 21 Apr, 28 Apr, 5 May, 12 May, 19 May, 26 May, 2 Jun, 9 Jun, 16 Jun, 23 Jun, 30 Jun, 7 Jul, 14 Jul, 21 Jul, 28 Jul, 4 Aug, 11 Aug, 18 Aug, 25 Aug, 1 Sep, 8 Sep, 15 Sep, 22 Sep, 29 Sep, 6 Oct, 13 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Europe family or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Europe family vacations, month by month

Some European destinations can be very inviting during February or October half terms, or at Easter, but blisteringly hot in August. You might also consider a special family Christmas in Finnish Lapland featuring fairytale snowy scenery, reindeer and the chance to see the Northern Lights. Here are some suggestions on where to go in each season. From March and April into May, Romania and Montenegro are beginning to warm up nicely, while more southerly countries including Greece and Italy are already lovely and hot. The countryside is an inviting place to be in the Easter break with wildflowers and baby animals everywhere, and high season prices still a way off. During summer it’s best to give popular cities such as Lisbon, Barcelona and Dubrovnik a swerve. Though they obviously have much to offer in the way of cultural diversions and cuisine, in June, July and August they can get uncomfortably hot and crazy busy. Far better instead to be on an under populated stretch of coast practicing water sports, or up in the mountains somewhere like Montenegro or Cantabria. Your family activity vacation hubs – Greece, the Algarve, Croatia – are still very much open for business in autumn. What’s more, the rural scenery is beautiful and the water, having been heated all summer long, will now be delightfully warm. If you don’t want to risk the head teacher’s wrath with an early September getaway, you can go during October half term instead. Avoid crowded ski slopes with a less conventional winter family vacation. In Finnish Lapland, dog sledding season starts in December and runs through to April. February half term can be tackled head on with some winter sun in the Canary Islands, and families with children not yet of school age could look to the Algarve or Granada in November and January.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: ronnybas] [Family vacation - Tahko: Visit Lakeland] [Switzerland: Ricardo Gomez Angel]