It pays to get expert help when planning a European road trip with kids. Travel with Kidz Specialist Georgina Grandi recently spent six weeks in Europe with her husband Frank and three children Raphael, 9 and twins Olympia and Angelica, 8.

She says her favourite city was Spain’s San Sebastian. The resort town on the Bay of Biscay in Spain’s mountainous Basque Country has stunning beaches, a cobblestone old town and plenty of playgrounds for the kids. “We stayed in Gros where lots of locals live,” Georgina says. “It has playgrounds for kids, amazing tapas and cafes, you can walk to the beach and central San Sebastian is just over the river.”

The family took a quick day trip to the Guggenheim in Bilbao – something that’s incredibly easy when you have your own car. Georgina remembers this as one of her favourite days.

“Driving through the epic mountains was just spectacular,” she says. “A completely different scenery to other parts of Spain. After visiting the museum, we had a coffee and listened to a jazz band whilst the kids played at the park next door. Nothing short of heaven.”

Georgina and her family in Spain

Georgina and her family in Spain. Credit: Georgina Grandi

After a week of glorious family fun in Spain, the family met up with relatives in Croatia. They hired a nine-seater van, thinking everyone could ride together on a road trip through Croatia, Italy and Slovenia.

Georgina says she learnt the hard way that travel in a nine-seater van requires extra planning. The family drove to Trieste with the in-laws and planned to drop them at their hotel. But the small hotel had no drive up entrance.  “There was actually nowhere in Central Trieste we could stop to let them out of the car, or not that we could find at short notice,” Georgina says.

They eventually found a sign to a car park but there was a problem. “As we were driving up to the entrance, I realised the car park was underground and you had to go into a narrow tunnel,” she says. “I yelled at my husband, ‘STOP! We’re not going to fit in that tunnel’.” Georgina jumped out of the car and ran down the street, stopping three lanes of traffic as her husband tried to manoeuvre the van backwards.

“It was stressful, she says. “But now I laugh looking back, these are always the best stories.”

Georgina says anyone considering a road trip in Europe should consider where they are travelling and what they want to do before they select the size of their car or van. A big car is easy to drive on the autobahn, but it’s almost impossible in Rome. Once you get the car size right, Europe is much easier with kids.

“Road tripping in Europe is fun,” Georgina says. “It gives you the opportunity to stop in small, out of the way villages for a lunch break or an overnight stay.”

Georgina and her family having fun in Europe.

Georgina and her family having fun in Europe. Credit: Georgina Grandi

Families should ask their TWK personal travel manager to help plan their road trip.  The travel managers can help to create individual itineraries so families get everything they want out of their holiday and all the little details are taken care of.

Accept that not everything is going to be exactly as planned, but you may just end up somewhere better than you expected, Georgina says.

Top tips:

  • Take the scenic road instead of the freeway. Map where you want to travel before departing so you have a good idea of distances.
  • Keep your phone charged and have access to google maps or similar.
  • Don’t do more than 400 kms per day as a general rule. It allows you to get to your destination before dark.
  • Stop at least every 2 hours and plan the stops. Does it have a park for the kids to play? Where can we park? Is there something interesting to see? And everyone’s favourite, where are the toilets and don’t forget some local coins for the toilets.

If you plan to visit major cities, Georgina recommends leaving the car at the airport or at an outer suburban train station. Use the car for day trips in the country. You don’t need to drive in the city. Remember many of the cities have small laneways and cobblestoned streets. Navigating these areas may be more than you bargained for.