Not too long ago, our pals at Stars and Stripes Europe published “5 Family-friendly summer vacations in Europe.” It got Nellie and I talking about our favorite family friendly vacations since living in Kaiserslautern and why we loved them. Since we have “big kids,” it is easy for Nellie and I to take a Parents-only trip in a 4-day weekend. However, when we take family vacations, there are a few things we have to consider for the entire family.
First is cost. All five trips we will list are relatively cheap to get to and from Kaiserslautern, and don’t require making reservations far ahead to score a cheap flight. We also considered the cost of eating and enjoying family friendly activities. Speaking of activities, that’s second in the list. Having children that range from elementary to adult, we have to consider a wide range of activities that everyone can enjoy. Third is access from Kaiserslautern. All, except one, of these can be reached by car on a 4-day weekend. For the one that requires a flight, I think we can all agree that there are plenty of flights departing from Frankurt Hahn. So for the list, here we go!
This is probably one of the first places we posted about on Kaiserslautern Day Tripper, and I’m still convinced this is Europe’s best kept secret. By now, many of you know I’m a Holland fanatic, and Duinrell is where it all started.
Duinrell is an amusement park located in Wassenaar, Netherlands, a town just south of Amsterdam. Several companies have campers on-site, such as Eurocamp. Staying on the campsite gives you a resort feel, with direct access to the amusement park, water park, bowling alley, and other on-site amenities. While a day or two at the amusement park is fun, you can rent bikes and take a short bike ride into downtown Wassenaar or to the North Sea! You also can hop on a train for a day trip to Amsterdam. If you visit in the Spring, staying at Duinrell provides easy access to the tulips at Keukenhof.
We love Duinrell because there are plenty of things to do for our entire family. We prefer to book through Eurocamp (UK based company). The last time we visited, we paid only £200 total for three nights! This included tickets to the amusement park for our entire stay.
The only destination on our list that requires air travel is Mallorca. Visiting this Spanish Mediterranean island is worth the short flight, which there are plenty leaving and returning to Frankfurt Hahn each week. We went to Mallorca in February, paying about €25 one-way per ticket!
Mallorca is a popular destination for German locals, so you’ll hear plenty of Deutsch spoken while you are there. Staying on a resort in Ca’n Pastilla is a popular choice among tourists, but we chose to stay in downtown Palma for extra space. Its main attraction being that it is relatively low cost, we spent only €300 total for five nights in Palma. We rented a car from OK Car Rental, paying under €100 for the entire stay. Of course while there, the most popular thing to do is soak up the beach, but don’t pass the opportunity to scarf down paella, horseback riding on the beach, and visiting beach villages spread throughout the island!
Europe’s second-most popular amusement park is a short drive from Kaiserslautern! Europa-Park is a European-themed amusement park, and each section of the park styled after a different European country. It’s great to visit any time of the year, but you can also schedule your visit around one of its many themes such as Halloween.
Of course an amusement park checks off the block for family fun. The best part is that visiting an amusement park in Europe doesn’t have to break the bank the way it does in the States. Adult entry into Europa Park is €47, and entry into its waterpark Rulantica is €38 per person. The price is greatly softened by using a VAT form when you pay at the park entrance. You can also cut down expenses by bringing your own food and drinks, which is something you couldn’t get away with back in the U.S.
There are many great choices of places to stay on the park, but you can also save by lodging off the park. A simple Booking.com or Expedia.com search will give you lots of affordable and nearby options. A family trip to Europa-Park is also easy to bundle with a road trip in Germany. Being close to the Black Forest, a trip to Europa-Park can be just a stop along your way to (or from) visiting the Black Forest!
“Oh of course he’s going to list Garmisch.” Most of you will probably see Garmisch and keep on scrolling. However, I’m posting this on the off-chance that someone thinks Garmisch is too overrated to visit!
Garmisch is unique on this list, as your experience varies greatly depending on the season you see it in. I encourage everyone to make at least a Winter trip and a Summer trip and see the stark difference! Just take visiting Partnach Gorge for instance. Seeing the icicles dangling from the mountain during the Winter is just different than watching the trickling waterfalls in the Summer. There are also the Winter versus Summer activities.
We love staying at Edelweiss on-base, but there are also plenty of affordable off-base accommodations in town. On our most recent trip, we rented a large apartment for the same price we would’ve paid for a room at Edelweiss. Still, our family loves going their own way and running around Edelweiss on our Winter trips. We also love the host of activities from skiing the Zugspitze to sledding at the Hausberg.
In the Summer, our family enjoys trips to Eibsee, Partnach Gorge, and the alpine coaster at Oberammergau. While there, don’t forget about day trips to Dachau Concentration Camp and Neuschwanstein Castle. At only a five hour drive, Garmisch is a must visit while stationed in Kaiserslautern! Don’t forget to read our Winter and Summer blog posts about Garmisch!
#5 French Riviera
So you see French Riviera, and you are immediately thinking, “Didn’t he say affordable?” Hear me out, but before I get to that, let me tell you why we just love the Côte d’Azur.
No matter where you stay on the French Riviera, you will find no shortage of day trips. Slide into Monte Carlo to see the cars that cost more than you (and I) make in a year. Visit Marseille and re-live the Count of Monte Cristo at Château D’If. See endless amount of yachts just floating in the bay of St. Tropez. Head inland and see the lavender fields and kayak Verdon Gorge. Spend the day laying on the beach in Nice, then head over to Cannes to see and be seen. Challenge yourself by hiking the cliffs of the Calanques. Are you convinced yet, that there are endless activities to enjoy on the French Riviera?
Just under a 10 hour drive, its doable on a 4-day weekend, but don’t cheat yourself. Plan to stay a week. Whether you just want to kick it at the resort or fill your day with all the activities listed above, your entire family will be begging for another trip.
So, going back to affordable. Look, if you want to spend your monthly income staying a few nights in St. Tropez, then have at it! However, there are literally hundreds of campsites that line the French Riviera, many with direct access to the beach! Renting a camper is generally affordable, but of course depends on location and campsite amenities. Campsites usually include a pool, restaurant, and a grocery store on-site, and generally have resort style amenities such as a spa. Last year, we spent €700 for five nights at Camping Fréjus, and this year €1500 for seven nights on a last minute booking at Nova Lodges in Port Grimaud. Don’t pass up this Mediterranean destination!
So, I shared my five family friendly European family vacations, but that’s just from my perspective. As we know, all families are different, but hopefully I gave you a place to start when looking to book your next vacation. The important thing is just to get out and enjoy Europe while you can! Bis bald!