Have never posted on this forum before, thanks in advance.
My 2 kids (12 & 7) and I are going to Europe for 2 months next winter (Nov and Dec) We want to see a much as we can, not interested in partying, mostly natural and architectural/art/historical sites. I have never been to Europe before and am daunted (terrified) Money is an issue,
Would hiring a camper work out cheaper (than leasing a car and staying in hostels) and if anyone has campervaned in Europe in winter - how do you think kids would handle it?
And luggage - those who mentioned backpacking for 2 months in Europe in winter, where do you put all your clothes? Do you just pack say 2 changes and then rotate them??
One last thing, where would be the best place to spend Christmas in Europe (for someone who has never had a White Christmas?
White Christmas is pretty rare in most of Europe. It happens, but it's always an exception rather than the rule, and we count ourselves lucky when it does. Your best bet to get any certainty of snow is going either high up to the mountains (Austria/Switzerland and around) or going as far north as Scandinavia. (Stockholm would probably be great.)
In general, Europe in winter has a lot of dismal and overcast days, sometimes with icy rain that make everything utterly miserable; days like that mean that you won't see most places from their best side. Be prepared for that or you'll be disappointed. Luckily there's also the occasional gorgeous clear blue-skied days, moments of wild stormy skies with magical light, and of course many cities look wondrously pretty when the lights come on at five in the afternoon and you're sitting tucked inside with a cup of hot chocolate somewhere.
A campervan probably would be cheaper, but I really don't think you would want to spend nights in one in most of Europe (though I don't have personal experience).
Depending on how much you want to be on the move, you could also consider mostly travelling by public transport (the rail network is absolutely excellent throughout Europe), and staying in places for longer amounts of time, using hostels as a base to leave your luggage and doing unencumbered daytrips, only renting cars for short amounts of time when you want to go explore national parks and the like. It'll be a trade-off, but might be worth running the numbers on to see how it compares. (There's various passes and the like which would make this cheaper; I don't know the details on them, but I'm sure someone will be along shortly who does.)
If you want a White Christmas then head up to Scandinavia - you are almost guaranteed snow up there. In fact, there are loads of places where you can pretty much guarantee a white christmas - parts of Switzerland, Croatia, Finland... Hiring a camper van might be a good way to go - it depends on your budget. You can get a Euro Rail Train pass for reasonable prices which allows you to plan your trip in advance with flexibility and get around the continent in comfort. I hope this helps.
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I do not recommend campervanning in Europe in winter. It is possible, but only if either your campervan is specifically equipped to handle the cold or you are sticking to Southern Europe (Sicily, Spain, Portugal).
It is difficult to rent a campervan that can handle the cold. Especially if you want snow be prepared to shiver in your campervan and scrape ice of the windows every morning.
If you are set on campervan travel in Europe it would be better to go in April, May, September or early October.
(I've slept in a tent and a campervan in late October in Germany - I have no desire at all to extend that experience to December and January.)
For winter travel as a single mom with 2 kids and wanting some snow fun I would recommend renting a car and staying at small hotels.
Hostels can be great value, but mostly if you are travelling alone. With a group it can be cheaper to stick to hotels, rental appartments, farm stays and small pensions. These places are also usually more kid-friendly than a classic backpacker's hostel. The exception are some HI/YHA hostels in Bavaria (Germany), these cater specifically to families.
Train travel is great, but when you are looking at skiing lessons or snow-shoe hiking or sledding (any sort of snow fun) in a small village or town in the mountains (Alps, Dolomites, Bavarian Forest, Swabian Alb, Black Forest, ...) I strongly recommend having a car. While it is possible to get to some places by bus, it can be very inconvenient if the bus goes only once a day or once a week.
As to what is the cheapest way of travel, draw up a rough schedule of what you want to see in Europe and we will be able to give you more specific help.
FYI, there is long-term car rental available from French car makers, for 2 months this should be a better deal than Eurail passes for 1 adult and 2 kids. (Eurail global pass for 2 months is 2635 EUR for you and your kids, roughly 44 EUR per day.)
Do you just pack say 2 changes and then rotate them??
Yes. It is 3-4 changes of clothing and all items should match. (Every item of clothing is black or marine or red - you pick your color.). When looking for a place to stay always check that you can wash things. The basic idea is to pack enough for about one week and wash if necessary/possible.
Your 12-year old should be capable of carrying a backpack or handling a suitcase with all his/her stuff, your 7-year old should be given a small suitcase/backpack that contains all his/her toys. Though you might have to help with packing, the contents should be the kids' responsibilities.
If you are interested in snow fun, be prepared to buy or rent skiing clothes. For a tropical bird staying 2 months in Europe during winter I would strongly recommend buying skiing clothes, as these make excellent winter gear even in the cities. (Especially for kids.) In Germany you can get good and cheap skiing gear at C&A, I am sure others can help you with their home countries.
In terms of money, plan on having about 50 EUR per day and person. That works out to about 9000 EUR for two months, plus the flight tickets to Europe.
[ Edit: Edited on Nov 21, 2008, at 12:12 PM by t_maia ]
I am not sure if you are talking about this Christmas or the next, but anyway let me share my thoughts.
You ask about travelling in a campervan in Europe in Nov-Dec.
It is cold that time of year anywhere you go. Most campervans will have a heating system but will they have the space to dry your clothes? With the children you will have quite some clothes to dry.
The children will be either running around the cold outside or be trapped in the car that is never quite big enough to play inside.
See, I run a little budget campervan rental in Dresden myself and in a warm time of year you would be a typical and welcome customer.
But I have two children myself too and I don't see them enjoying a trip like that in Winter. If it was just you going I'd say do it. Actually around Christmas is something of a small peak season for us, but that's mostly grown up enthusiasts, never families with children.
I think you'd be doing the kids a favor to do this trip in hostels rather than a van.
If you come anywhere near Dresden, let me know. I am happy to give you advise if you like?
Thankyou so much for all the fantastic advice. I do mean next Christmas by the way
As soon as I have booked some flights I will work out some sort of itinerary.
At this stage I just know I want to see everything....how crazy is that.
We already have ski gear, and will definately bring that. Thanks for the tip on clothing, and especially the colours. I will start shopping on ebay and make sure it all matches.
I have been looking into the hostels, and think I can get something most places for between $60-$100 AUD/night. Our budget is going to be half what was suggested - E4500 for the trip. This probably will not have to include the car hire. Luckily my kids have no interest in shopping, so I don't have to do the souvenir thing, but they do love food....There idea of holiday is trying out as many restaurants/bistros/takeaway food outlets as they can. I guess our food bill will be more than accomodation??? We really enjoy the outdoors as well, and will try and visit museums/cultural places that don't cost much
This is all so daunting for me, so thanks again to everyone for the posts. I am pretty much doing this alone. I try to bounce ideas off my daughter and she just says...whatever you want mum
Will keep in touch