How to take a family trip to Europe on a shoestring

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Travelling around Europe with kids needn’t send you broke – all it takes is a little imagination. Follow these budget-friendly tips for a fun and memorable holiday the whole family will rave about for many years to come.

Slow down and live like a local

While it’s tempting to fill your itinerary full of tourist attractions and tours, it doesn’t need to be that way. The most memorable moments are often the unplanned ones – the chance encounter with a chatty local, the cafe you stumbled upon during a ramble through narrow laneways on a lazy afternoon, the street juggler you took the time to enjoy. Staying longer in one place and doing less is a more authentic, less exhausting way to discover a destination – for you and the kids.

Get around by train

It’s easy and cost-efficient for anyone to travel by rail in Europe, but it’s even better for families. Up to two children travel free with an adult on Eurail, and one global pass gives you complete freedom to hop on and off trains as you please in countries all around Europe. If that’s not all, the pass also gives you 10% off European tours and attractions.

Choose hostels over hotels

Youth hostels aren’t just for backpackers. Book ahead to secure a private family room with ensuite – most hostels have them – and make use of the shared kitchen to make breakfast and pack sandwiches for lunch on the go. The kids will get a kick out of the quirky Basecamp Hostel in Bonn, Germany, a collection of vintage caravans and trailers all under one roof. Families can stay in the eight-bed tour bus or a four-person Airstream Trailer. The caravan interiors were designed by German television and film set designer Marion Seul, each with a different theme.

Hit the holiday parks

Europeans are big on camping, so there are plenty of campgrounds to choose from, in and out of big cities. The campsites are usually well located in picturesque surroundings close to walking trails, towns or beaches. Choose from a simple tent set up with camp-style beds, or opt for an affordable but comfortable cabin. As in Australia, some holiday parks have swimming pools, playgrounds, bike hire and games rooms. Most parks offer book-early discounts of 5-40% and, if you book your stay outside of that country’s school holidays, it’s likely to be a lot cheaper.

Track down free activities

Have a picnic in the park by the Eiffel Tower, spend a day at the beach in Greece, watch the changing of the guard at London’s Buckingham Palace, join a free walking tour in Rome – there are oodles of free things to do around Europe that make for a fun day out. By all means, do some research before your trip, but the best activities can often be found by asking a local what they’d recommend. Keep in mind that kids often get free entry to museums and attractions. At the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, for example, children under 18 can enter for free. Want to save even more? On the first Sunday of every month, the whole family can have free admission (be sure to book).


Happy mother and son traveling to Paris and playing to be on a plane near the Eiffel Tower

Keep meals simple

You know what’s worse than a tired child when you’re away from home? A tired and hungry child. Fortunately, there’s no need to eat out three times a day when you travel in Europe to keep kids’ hunger at bay and you’ll save a bundle in the process. Shop at local food markets for in-season fruit, add some cheese and freshly baked bread and you have the makings for a delicious lunch. If you have access to a kitchen, fill up the family with a hearty breakfast to keep them going until lunchtime without the need for snacks. As for staying hydrated, have each family member carry a purifying water bottle – it can be filled up anywhere, and there’ll be no need to buy endless plastic bottles of water. Good for you, good for the planet!

Travel Insurance

A family travel insurance policy provides cover for you, your partner or spouse and up to six children under one policy provided they are travelling with you on the same itinerary for the entire duration of your trip.
On our policies, a ‘child’ is used to mean your kids and grandkids who are travelling with you, not currently working more than 30 hours per week and under 21. This also includes, stepchildren and those for whom you are the legal guardian.

What’s covered with family travel cover?

Across all of our plans, the applicable limit for benefits such as cancellation costs, out of pocket expenses, travel delay and many more is per adult listed on the policy unless stated otherwise. Have a look at our PDS to see the difference between single and family policies in terms of cover and the benefit limits available. A few things TID offers cover for are:

  • Emergency assistance: If you need medical assistance at any time, our team are on call 24/7 to locate the nearest medical facility, arrange your repatriation if needed or find the closest embassy.
  • Gadget cover: Our travel insurance policies offer cover for phones, cameras and laptops. If our limit doesn’t provide enough cover, you can add individual items to your policy for an additional premium during the purchase process.
  • Missed tours: If you have to miss an excursion because of sudden illness or injury, you may be able to claim some, if not all, of the cost back.
  • Rental vehicle hire excess: If you’re thinking of bundling everyone into a car for a mini road trip, our travel insurance includes cover towards rental vehicle excess if your hire vehicle gets damaged or stolen.


This is a brief summary of cover only and does not include the full terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions. Read the PDS before purchasing.


I grew up in the US, Germany and Australia, so it feels more foreign for me to stay in one place than to move around. Since then, I’ve called Boston, London, Seattle, Brisbane, Madison and Sydney home for study and work as a journalist, travel writer and photographer. I specialize in adventure travel, social issues and interiors/architecture. Home is now an 1890s cottage in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. I traveled to my seventh continent last year – an action-packed expedition to Antarctica – and have memories galore of my travels. Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies, galloping with gauchos in Chilean Patagonia, trekking through Japan, and camel riding in Jordan are among the most memorable. My least favourite travel hiccup was being stranded in Cameroon when I should have been winging my way to Paris for a little me-time. You win some, you lose some.


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