FAQs About Our Summer Travels in Europe

We’re finally home…sort of. We’re back in Hangzhou, China, staying with the girls’ grandparents. Things are feeling settled now. We can relax, eat home-cooked meals, and not be concerned about any trip logistics. Our stop here in China is a nice breather after a long, busy summer of traveling in Europe.

Going through six countries and eight cities in the span of ten weeks was exciting and fun, but the experience was also incredibly stressful and exhausting. With two kids in tow, exploring the great cities of Europe, including Rome, Barcelona, Paris, and Amsterdam, wasn’t easy. Our kids needed to be engaged (constantly), comfortable, and energized with significant amounts of sleep. Nonetheless, the trip was an amazing and memorable experience.

Here’s some FAQs about our summer travels in Europe:

Why did you go on this trip?

We went to have fun, sightsee, and live in Europe for a while. The weather was generally good, the dollar/euro exchange rate was favorable, and the timing was right with our girls who were six and three-and-a-half years old.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Where did you stay?

We stayed at Airbnbs in every city we visited, ranging from studios to two-bedroom apartments. Having access to a kitchen and a washer/dryer (in most cases) made all the difference in making sure our living situation in each city was manageable and comfortable. Plus, staying at Airbnbs was significantly cheaper than staying at hotels.

What were the most memorable experiences about the trip?

  • Seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris for the first time
  • Hanging out at the beaches of Barcelona
  • Shopping during the summer sales in Barcelona
  • Sightseeing in the ancient city of Rome
  • Visiting the Borghese and Vatican Museums in Rome
  • Attending Gamescom in Cologne, the biggest video games expo in Europe

    Exploring one of the massive booths at Gamescom

    Exploring one of the massive booths at Gamescom

What were the least memorable experiences about the trip?

  • Living in a rather dirty apartment in Cologne
  • Living in a very tiny studio apartment in Paris
  • Living next to prostitution central in Brussels
  • Battling the throngs of tourists in Venice

What was your favorite city and why?

Barcelona had everything we needed and was our favorite city in Europe. We also stayed in Barcelona the longest for almost five weeks total. Barcelona had great weather, beautiful beaches, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities, summer festivals, and just a really great vibe and energy to the city.

La Barceloneta beach in Barcelona, Spain

La Barceloneta beach in Barcelona, Spain

What was your least favorite city and why?

Brussels, Belgium wasn’t a particularly fun city to be in, especially when we were there for an entire week. It’s relatively small, most stores close by 7pm, and the city wasn’t really setup well for kids and families.

Without much to do in Brussels, we're grateful we had the help of the iPad to keep the girls happy.

Without much to do in Brussels, we’re grateful we had the help of the iPad to keep the girls happy.

What did we learn from our trip?

  • How to live without TV
  • How to live without wireless internet
  • How to live in close quarters with each other
  • How to eat the same things over and over
  • What our real comfort zones are
Playtime at a local park in Florence, Italy

Playtime at a local park in Florence, Italy

What advice would you give for families planning an extended trip to Europe?

Get accommodations figured out well in advance. Book train and plane tickets early. Pack as light as possible. Plan only one activity per day. Be mindful of your kids’ interests and energy levels. Travel slowly.

Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.

,

  • Angela Moy Young

    My brother and his wife took their eleven-year-old twins on a European cruise this summer and they also said that Barcelona was their favorite. Barcelona has never been a place I particularly wanted to go, but I’m adding it to the list now. Glad to see you had a wonderful time despite spending time next to prostitution central 🙂 And one can live without wireless? Blasphemy.

    • Yes, we were shocked that some people still live without wireless, but it helped push us out of the apartment to actually be outdoors and engaging in real life…haha.