Monday, November 28, 2016

Can you avoid tourist mayhem and still get the "Europe Experience"?

I've had stress on my mind a lot lately. It must be the holidays. I've also been going through our photos and videos from the last few years of traveling around Europe. The funny thing is, behind every one of the pictures and videos is a set of stories, some of them hectic, some of them more pleasant. As humans, we never like to show the hard times, only the good ones (isn't that the 'fun' of Facebook? :) ). While reflecting on these experiences, I realized that there were quite a few places to visit that purported to provide that classic European Travel Experience, but that were too exhausting to actually enjoy. Paris, Rome, London -- each of these were incredibly stressful, and we traveled during the offseason. Don't get me wrong, they're worth the visit and I wouldn't recommend skipping them altogether, but we just found that traveling as a family with 4 kids, there were more enjoyable, less exhausting experiences that still provided that uniquely European cultural experience.

So, with those happy memories brewing, we put together a new video on our favorite places to travel as a family in Europe--the places we definitely plan on going back to on our next visit. Watch the video (above) and get our two cents on each place below:

[OBLIGATORY SPOILER ALERT LINE, in case you haven't watched the video yet]

5. Tarragona, Spain. 

The Mediterranean coast of Spain used to be a Roman settlement, and Tarragona has, perhaps, the best preserved sites. Add in the beautiful beaches, and this place was perfect. It was like being in Rome without the crowds, pick-pocketers, smelly subways...well you get it. No, it doesn't have Rome's splendor (we've done Rome, and there is no substitute) but we really enjoyed it as an ancient Rome experience. And what we enjoyed even more was how inexpensive it was to see it all.  We paid more for parking in a garage for the day than we did to visit all the Roman ruins. The Tarragona Family Card was under 50 Euro for the whole family, and we got admission to all the major Roman sites. Definitely worth it.

4. Black Forest, Germany.

Tour guides will tell you that Black Forest was therapeutic for those overburdened and facing stress-born illnesses. It only takes one visit to realize just how therapeutic the place is. A collection of beautiful Bavarian towns and throw in some waterfalls, an open-air museum, and, our favorite, a toboggan ride, and you'll not want to leave. People there are extremely accommodating as well. When we went, our AirBnB fell through and it didn't take much frantic searching before we found a place to accommodate us (and we have a family of 6!) Locals were happy to suggest homes and families we could talk to. Take a drive around the Black Forest for an enjoyable experience.

3. Rovinj, Croatia. 

Every stress-free trip list should feature a shanty beach town with beautiful views and ample places to relax, swim, etc. Rovinj is our favorite. We had originally booked a few days in Pula, but venturing 20 minutes into Rovinj made us realize that we had chosen the wrong place to stay. So much charm, and the local boat rides can be had for deep discounts if you ask, and if you travel in the offseason. Added bonus: the people of Croatia are incredibly hospitable. Some of the nicest people we met in Europe.

2. Lucca, Italy.

There's nothing big about Lucca. It's a small Italian town with the usual small Italian town delights. So why is it so high on our list? I don't know to be honest. We just really enjoyed it. Whether it was biking around the city walls or popping into a local pizzeria, it just felt like the complete Italian experience, minus the hubbub of tourists.

1. Salzburg, Austria.

Ok, we know what you're thinking: how can we put a major tourist destination atop this list?  Parking can be difficult in the city and there is a lot of foot traffic. But for us, the Salzburg Card made all the difference. For under 100 Euro, our family of 6 got to see all the best sites, plus we had full access to public transportation, making our visit to the city quite easy. Plus, how can you not feel relaxed in the city where the Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music.

Hope you enjoyed our list. Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and leave a comment on places you'd like us to profile!


  1. Great post. The Black Forest is high up on my to do list but I think we're going to wait for the little one to get a bit older first. It would help if I didn't have to carry her the whole way!

    1. Good call, Gessell, Black Forest can be a lot of walking! :)