(Europe?) Vacation with two young kids
March 28, 2014 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Where in the world should we take a two week vacation in late May with a toddler and an infant? We'll be traveling from southeast Asia to the US and can basically fly anywhere on the way back at no charge. (We'll still have to pay for lodging, food, entertainment, etc.). We're leaning towards somewhere in Europe, but are open to other ideas. Suggestions?

My family and I will finish up an expat assignment in May. Since we have to fly halfway round the world anyway to get to the US, we decided to take two weeks for a vacation stopover along the way. And thankfully, my company will pay for the flights (within reason).

The big catch is that my kids are a nearly-three-year-old and a 9-month-old. This obviously limits our mobility and ability to do museums and other adult activities. But it's not as bad as you might think. We've traveled extensively while on assignment to several developing nations and loved it. We just have to take it a little slower and be flexible.

We are thinking somewhere in southern Europe because it is about halfway home and the weather is nice in late May. But we're also considering the Middle East or New Zealand.

So where to go?
posted by John Frum to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Were I you, I'd rent a Marriott Vacation Club Property just outside of Paris.

These are fully stocked townhouses, and it's close to Disneyland Paris (if you even remotely think that might be fun.)

You can take the RER into Paris to do parks, museums or just stroll with your little ones.

You can do day trips to other places, or just rest back at the villa.

The fact that you've got cooking facilities right there, means that you can do meals in the villa, and not always dine out. Which is a BOON to traveling with small children.

I love France, and even just hanging out in the village would be a slice of heaven for me.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:07 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Spain or Portugal, and in late May the weather will be lovely but European schools won't be out yet so you skip the hell that is summer vacation + tourism season. Win!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:10 AM on March 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

You could try something like this Club Med in Portugal which is designed for families with young children. It would save a whole lot of hassle and give you plenty of time to just relax.
posted by mareli at 9:17 AM on March 28, 2014

It would be helpful to know if your kids are also well-traveled, and if they are flexible in terms of routine.

For instance, Short Story is decidedly not flexible on routine. We took a cruise with him when he was 18mos and it was the Worst.Trip.Ever. But at 2yrs we went to an all-inclusive where, with the exception of naptime, we literally spent the entire day at the pool with no other distractions, and it was fantastic (and we've already booked the repeat trip for this year).

So, knowing your kids' temperament will go a long way to answering this question. After that, I would say it all depends on what you as the parents really want to see, and weather. You can see the city sights or go to an all-inclusive anywhere.
posted by vignettist at 9:33 AM on March 28, 2014

My partner and I stayed here a couple of years back on recommendation from friends. At the time our two children were of very similar age to yours - around 1 and 3 1/2. It's a lovely country house in Tuscany, a beautiful region of Italy. Their entire USP is that it's set up for families with small kids to have a relaxing time; adults without children can't book. All your meals are taken care of; there is great food for the kids; there are endless toys, games, books, dressing up games etc. The food for the adults is fantastic, and all adults eat together in the evening when the kids are in bed. I recommend it highly; it is not, however, cheap!
posted by Hartham's Hugging Robots at 9:47 AM on March 28, 2014

If I were you, I would pick a country, pick a city and then rent an airbnb appartment and just enjoy the city, see a museum every few days, and then just grocery shop and cook and 'be' in that city for a while.

If that is your style, then any city will do... Barcelona, Lisbon, Rome or the south of France come to mind.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:53 AM on March 28, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far!

Vignettist, my kids are very well-travelled. For their ages, they do a great job handling change. The older one frequently asks to go fly on a plane or stay in a hotel apropos of nothing. We've done self-driving vacations in Bali and Australia where we stayed somewhere different every couple of days, and that worked well.
posted by John Frum at 4:34 PM on March 28, 2014

When I was quite young, my family spent three weeks in a rented villa in the hills in Tuscany. Best vacation ever, for parents and kids. Great food, wonderful beaches nearby, interesting cities within a short drive, lots of dirt and rocks and pine cones for the kids to play with, low key as all get out but so absolutely lovely. Lots of lovely rental houses are available on vrbo.com, and you can choose a place with a nice kitchen, laundry facilities, and a crib. Having a kitchen and W/D make it a lot more affordable and you can be so much more flexible with the children.

Cities work too, and we spent a magical week in Venice with our toddler just looking at water, people, etc. But my daughter needs outdoor time, and she much preferred the places we stayed that had a yard, especially if the place was out in the country so that there was more than just a patch of grass to play in.

I'd choose the actual destination based on the weather and the food. Spain, Portugal, Italy, southern France, Morocco, Greece -- all wonderful places with people who absolutely adore children and make travel with them delightful and charming. Which food/language/culture do you prefer?

I'd totally avoid an all-inclusive resort because, um, why go to Europe if you're going to hang out in an enclave with a bunch of foreigners? You sound well traveled and interesting, so I'd guess you'd be happier doing something more authentic and less packaged.

Having good traveling kids is a true joy, and taking them places opens doors for you, too. Have a fantastic time.
posted by Capri at 4:58 PM on March 28, 2014

It's in French, but I've never seen a region's child-friendly attractions cataloged more comprehensively than Alsace des Petits They review not only the major attractions, like La Montaigne des Signes (feed the monkeys!), but also have commentary on age appropriateness and whether a site is fun in the rain. There are reviews of individual playgrounds, as well as a weekly activity calendar (again with ages). It's impressive.

If AirBnB doesn't come up with any promising apartments to rent, the government maintains a list of private rental accommodations called "gîtes" that are searchable online. Alsace, particularly the old town of Colmar, which mostly survived WWII, is a charming combination of France and Germany, and very affordable. It's got lots of tourist infrastructure, just not many Americans. Definitely a slower pace of life, such as the supermarkets being closed on Sundays. Colmar is also a quick train or car ride from Strasbourg and Basel, Switzerland, as well as being at the center of a beautiful wine region. You'll more likely need a car to visit the Vosges mountains or Germany's Black Forest (Schwarzwald).
posted by wnissen at 5:15 PM on March 28, 2014

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