3 ways to do European family road trips
Drive your road trip sales with Natalie Marsh’s guide to the best scenic, historical and coastal routes
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While your clients might associate road trip holidays with destinations such as the US, if they look a little closer to home they’ll see that Europe does self-drives just as well. Here they have the option to pick up hired wheels on arrival or take their trusty family car with them.
Either way, the roads across the continent offer routes to all kinds of family-friendly fun, from skiing adventures to brilliant beach stays. Do your clients like to soak up luscious landscapes on scenic drives? Would they prefer to hop between cultural and historic sights?
Or perhaps they enjoy sweeping coastal views and spending time at the beach? Whatever their preference and whatever age the kids are, here we’ve covered all three types to help you steer your customers towards a family road trip to remember.
The Majestic Alps, Inghams Why not suggest that clients extend their ski trip by taking a leisurely drive instead of flying? As well as having the convenience of being able to take ski equipment in the car, clients can marvel at the views from each mountain turn at their own pace – and the Alpine villages make for beautiful leg-stretching stops.
Remind them that there will be a few tolls to pay along the way across France, but having their car will give them the freedom to visit nearby cities, such as Lyon or Grenoble, if the family wants a day of respite from the slopes.
Book it: A family of four (children aged five and eight) can stay at Hotel Ducs de Savoie in the Tignes/ Val d’Isère ski area from £4,393 for seven nights on December 24, including ferry transport.
The Greenery of Slovenia, Responsible Travel Slovenia has been declared the first ‘green country’ in the world, thanks to its conservation efforts. All shades of green coat the landscapes, promising beautiful views for those who explore it all by car, and your clients won’t be able to keep their eyes off the marvellous panoramas.
Slovenia is a small country, so driving times are short – ideal for those with younger children who won’t sit still for long. Responsible Travel’s self-drive itinerary stops at some of the country’s most picturesque spots, including the Julian Alps, Lake Bled and Triglav National Park.
Book it: Responsible Travel offers a seven-night self-drive package from £635 per person, including transfers, accommodation, six days’ car hire and itinerary, with possible discounts available.
The Danish Peninsula, Best Served Scandinavia There’s so much to love about driving in Denmark, not least its scenery: more than 400 islands are strewn off the Jutland peninsula and connected by some of Europe’s longest bridges. On the northern tip of Skagen is Råbjerg Mile, a large sand dune rising 40 metres high and stretching for more than a kilometre.
And 90 minutes’ drive south of here is Rold Skov, a fairytale-like woodland where myths of trolls abound – perfect for entertaining the children. Kids’ favourite Legoland Billund Resort is just three hours’ drive from Copenhagen.
Book it: Best Served Scandinavia’s Best of Denmark 10-night self-drive costs £5,965 for a family of four (two adults and two under-12s) in August. This includes Heathrow-Copenhagen flights, 10 days’ car hire, and five two-night stays at family-friendly hotels.
Croatia’s past, Balkan Holidays Croatia’s 1,000 miles of Adriatic coastline not only make for scenic driving but are also home to family-friendly historical spots. Dubrovnik’s old city is a Unesco World Heritage Site, but older teens may recognise the fortified walls from Game of Thrones.
Fort Lovrijenac sits atop a cliff and doubles as a theatre for summer performances, suitable for the whole family. Three hours north and just outside of Split is Salona, where there’s an amphitheatre and other ancient ruins, and kids can learn how the Romans lived.
Book it: Balkan Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B at Hotel Rosina in Makarska for two adults and one child for £2,165, including flights, departing on June 4. A week’s car hire for a Fiat 500 is £399.
Scotland’s rural roads, Hoseasons You don’t have to cross the Channel or the Irish Sea to experience a great European road trip. Many of Scotland’s cities lie close to each other, making it easy to see some of the country’s most impressive historical attractions.
If your clients are driving from England, recommend a stop at Hadrian’s Wall to bring the kids’ history lessons to life, before heading up to Edinburgh to see the famous castle and the historic Royal Mile.
Book it: Hoseasons offers seven nights at a Deluxe MS Lodge 3 at Thurston Manor in Dunbar for £2,272 for two adults and two children from August 15.
Germany’s fairytales, Fred Holidays Explore the origins of some of the best-known folk stories on this 370- mile fairytale route across Germany. There are attractions for adults and children alike on this journey between Hanau and Bremen, which passes through key places in the lives of the Brothers Grimm, the writers who penned the original stories of Rumpelstiltskin and Hansel and Gretel in the 1800s.
There are castles, palaces, nature parks and medieval towns to see as well as locations from the famous stories.
Book it: Fred Holidays’ six-night Germany Fairytale Route self-drive costs £2,599 for two adults and two under-11s departing on July 20, including flights from Heathrow to Frankfurt, returning from Hamburg, accommodation and car hire.
The mix of the Med, Jet2holidays Driving along the Spanish coastline, with the twinkling Mediterranean on one side and the jagged Sierra Nevada mountains on the other, gives road-trippers access to the best of both land and sea. But on the coast, Tarifa, the southernmost point in Andalusia, is a great family-friendly stop, with a long, sandy beach.
Teens will be pleased to learn it’s a popular spot for watersports, particularly kitesurfing, thanks to its reliable winds. Just over an hour’s drive away is the buzzing port town of Marbella, where a Segway tour is a great way to get around. Family-friend activities abound in Benalmádena, with a Sea Life aquarium and amusement park.
Book it: Jet2holidays offers seven nights at the four-star Globales Los Patos Park in Benalmádena for £369 per person, departing Birmingham on May 17, based on two adults and one child (aged four) sharing. The price includes transfers. Car hire can be booked via Jet2Carhire.com.
Ireland’s wild coast, Irish Ferries Rolling hills and sweeping sea views await along the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s longest coastal route. Hugging the west coast for 1,500 miles, the route passes some of the country’s most picturesque spots – sure to keep kids’ attention focused on what’s outside the window.
The Kilkee Cliff Walk is one of the quieter scenic walking routes, offering families a chance to get out and roam free. There are 5km and 8km trails, depending on kids’ – and parents’ – energy levels.
Book it: Irish Ferries offers a seven-night stay at Moore Bay Holiday Homes in Kilkee, County Clare, from £827, including ferry travel for up to five people, departing on June 7.
Fjords of Iceland, Regent Holidays From waterfalls to geysers, the natural beauty on the well-trodden Golden Circle will be sure to keep he whole family entranced as they explore Iceland at their own pace. But the coastline is where Iceland really comes into its own.
In the remote Westfjords in the northwest, vast, sloping green hills touch the sea, and each bend in the road displays a more awe-inspiring view than the last. Farther south towards Reykjavik, black sandy beaches and glaciers can be found on Snæfellsnes, a peninsula with quaint harbours to explore.
Book it: Regent Holidays’ eight-day Iceland Family Adventure Fly-Drive costs from £5,180 for two adults and two children in August, including flights, accommodation and car hire.
Ask the experts
Tim Williamson, customer director, Responsible Travel
“Slovenia is roughly the size of Wales and it’s crammed with jaw-dropping scenery, from the Julian Alps to Lake Bled. It also boasts some of the world’s finest cave systems and dozens of fairytale castles and towns. Its landscapes lend themselves to activity holidays.
Tailored self-drive trips give you the freedom and flexibility to explore as you like, with all the benefits of local knowledge and support. There are the Unesco-listed caverns at Skocjan, home to the world’s largest subterranean canyon, and the 20km of passages and chambers at Postojna.
The 11th-century Bled Castle (pictured, overlooking Lake Bled) clings to its spectacular cliffside setting, while Predjama’s fortress offers witchcraft tales and underground caverns.”
Chris Rand, trade sales manager, Balkan Holidays
“A driving holiday in Croatia is perfect for numerous reasons. The main road through the country nearly always has the sea in view, which makes it really special. Plus, there is plenty to see along the coast including the beautiful cities of Split and Dubrovnik.
Split has its ancient old town and a Roman amphitheatre. Not far from Split is Krka National Park, the highlight of which is Skradinski Buk, a 400m-wide waterfall with stunning natural pools where hot tourists can cool off. In Dubrovnik, the Pearl of the Adriatic, there’s plenty to see, but a boat tour and a walk of the old city walls are highly recommended.”
David O’Connor, holidays & partnerships lead, Irish Ferries
“The Wild Atlantic Way offers a wide choice of family-friendly activities along miles of spectacular coastline. Take your car with Irish Ferries to Ireland and enjoy the freedom to trace the trail. Talk to Irish Ferries Holidays and get the insider track on how to make the most of one of the world’s greatest driving routes.
Choose to speed or cruise across the Irish Sea and then plan your stops: see the sea cliffs at Slieve League, cycle the Great Western Greenway, discover historical castles, learn to surf, visit the stunning Westport House & Pirate Adventure Park or even take a dip in the Atlantic or at Kilkee Waterworld.”
PICTURES: Shutterstock/Barat Roland, Phant, Michael Thaler
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