Where and when to take the kids to Europe this summer?
March 12, 2012 9:54 AM   Subscribe

3 week family vacation in Europe – kids want a mix of cities and beach. We are thinking Spain, but are totally flexible. Is it better for us to travel in July or August? Seems like many Europeans are on vacation in August.

Hooray, we are taking our 10, 12 and 14 year old fantastic kids on a 3 week holiday to somewhere in Europe this summer – the trick is that we need to decide where to go! We’ve already done a big Germany/Italy trip with the kids, so we want something different this time around. The oldest wants to explore cities, the middle one wants beaches, and the youngest is into mythology. I’d say Greece would be the perfect destination, but I think it’ll be way too hot in the summer (and my husband and I have already been there twice). Questions – seems that much of Europe goes on vacation in August. Is it better to travel there in July, instead? Or does it even matter? It has to be either July or August due to kids' school vacations. Also, where should we go? We are totally open and need ideas. We will likely rent a car, but would also consider travelling by trains & planes. Our budget is low. We’d likely stay in B&B type places or if we end up on a beach, we’d like to rent a small apartment for one week out of the 3. Thanks for any ideas or advice you have for us!
posted by caroo to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Turkey seems to fit the bill pretty well!
posted by EtTuHealy at 10:12 AM on March 12, 2012

UK school holidays start late July, and everything at that point gets somewhat more crowded and expensive. So aim for early August if possible.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:13 AM on March 12, 2012

Sorry, I mean early July.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:14 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You could do Portugal and possibly Spain too. Lisbon has a wonderful city and great beaches and a great, old culture. And very inexpensive.
Beautiful and mysterious nearby Sintra is oddly cool all year round. You could also take the train up to Porto.

July is fine as long as you stay near the coasts. Inland in both Spain and Portugal can get really, really hot.
posted by vacapinta at 10:25 AM on March 12, 2012

August will likely be crowded/hot down around the mediterranean - so I would advocate for July.

Then, I think EtTuHealy has a really good suggestion about Turkey. Though I've not been myself I know quite a few people who have and they have spoken highly of it as beautiful and the people super nice and lots of Greco/Roman ruins still standing around.

We looked into France in August once and the price of vacation cottages spikes then, as does the number of tourists (mostly French). We were in Crete last fall and that was pretty terrific - not too expensive, really beautiful, etc. But you'll need a car and Greece is more hectic/chaotic/uncertain than ever lately.

So I'd put in a vote for July, then Turkey. France if you can afford it, Portugal is also a good suggestion and likely cheaper than France.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:48 AM on March 12, 2012

Croatia has beaches AND little tiny islands AND is cheaper than further west!
posted by mdonley at 12:36 PM on March 12, 2012

Europe is on holiday in August and a high proportion head to the beach.
If you get your holidays in before UK schools break up you will get slightly emptier resorts and slightly better prices. I am not sure where you are originating from and your profile does not help. One option could be to fly In / Out of London and then fly to / from your preferred destination using either, one of the cheap airlines (Easyjet / Ryan Air ), or go on a UK package holiday, which are often extremely good value. Some give you the option of flight only. As to destination, the Spainish island of Mallorca and Menorca have some great beaches and many self catering apartments, car hire is reasonably cheap and Palma has a gothic city centre.
Croatia has some stunning coastline and so does Turkey but getting around will not be so easy.
posted by adamvasco at 12:52 PM on March 12, 2012

I would also recommend Turkey but if you were moving around from city to city (or city to archaeological site/city) you'll probably be flying, which isn't hard to do, but does require some thinking about costs. Turkey is big enough that flights are often a better idea than the buses, although those were fairly cheap. We ended up doing a quick trip to Ephesus from Istanbul and it didn't add that much time and we arranged it in a day or so from Istanbul. It is extremely beautiful, full of amazing ruins and cities, and also has nice beaches. If you were renting an apartment, the food in the markets where I stayed was really inexpensive. I think Spain and Portugal would be a great idea. Many Roman ruins, lots of gorgeous old towns, so many beaches. I don't know about apartment prices, but Malta might be fun for a week or so. Lots of Punic ruins; would be quite hot though.

Definitely July, as well; August is frequently the holiday month so prices do sometimes spike for holiday accommodations and it tends to be really hot, especially in apartments designed without air conditioning. Then again, the weather's been so strange this year that the summer might be totally different than usual!
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:56 PM on March 12, 2012

I went to southern Spain in July. It was very hot, but I just carried a bottle of water around and used a fun umbrella as a parasol, which got giggles but totally helped. Spain is great--lots of sightseeinh, nature, culture, beach, a rich and varied history, good tourist infrastructure. Lots of folks knew some English and were patient with my Spanish. As long as you prepare for the heat, I would absolutely recommend it. We wnt to Granada, Cordoba, and Ronda. Would have loved to see Seville.
posted by elizeh at 8:11 PM on March 12, 2012

If you're going to Spain, I would go in July - the earlier, the better, because it gets crazy hot there. I was there in June and I didn't want to move an inch because it was so hot.

Other than that, I think Spain is a great idea, especially if you want a mix of beaches, ancient ruins and cities. There's loads to do there - a lot of cool museums and architecture to look at, as well as a lot of beaches to hang out on. I'm not sure about the mythology aspect of it all, but a few Spanish cities were old Roman cities - for example, Zaragoza, and there's a lot of ruins left there, as well as an interesting historical background.

If you have time, I would add Portugal as well. It's super nice and if your kids are into old architecture, there's a lot of it in Lisbon. It's also very pretty in the summer.
posted by cyml at 1:10 AM on March 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you for all the great suggestions - I've been trolling every flight booking website there is trying to find the best deal on flights, and it looks like Lisbon may be wise starting point. Its overwhelming to have so many options - but thanks for all the ideas - much appreciated!
posted by caroo at 12:43 PM on March 15, 2012

Response by poster: Booked! Spain and Portugal with a bonus Bastille weekend in Paris :)
posted by caroo at 1:02 PM on May 30, 2012

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