European family road trip itinerary: England to Italy

classic cars parked on italian street, European family road trip

Why take a European family road trip?

There’s a lot to be said for short flights and quick transfers for getting you swiftly away from the humdrum of everyday life to your family holiday destination. However, there are so many interesting places to explore between A and B if families are willing to embrace the journey in between. We spent four weeks on our European family road trip with our two boys aged seven and five. It was a luxurious length of time which gave us the chance to really enjoy travelling and spending time together learning about different destinations in Europe.

If you’re looking for route ideas – whether to drive predominantly through France or cut through Switzerland, I’ve written all about the various ways of driving to Italy from the UK.

Rural Italian road with vineyards in background, European family road trip from UK to Italy

Scenic roads through northern Italy on our European family road trip

A European road trip with kids is quite an education. We travelled through the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Austria and Germany. That’s a lot of languages, flags, cuisines, cultures and history to be introduced to. We crossed bridges, explored historic cities, shopped in local markets, slept in a variety of farms, hostels, campsites and hotels. We drove over mountain passes, swam in lakes, rivers, the sea and countless swimming pools. We spent days hiking, climbing and cycling and met some very interesting and hospitable people along the way.

Family enjoying lake in Switzerland

Lake swimming in Golzernsee, Switzerland

We also argued. We got tired, we got lost and we got very hot. Sometimes we needed a bit of space from one another. We also found plenty of grim service stations and some pretty unremarkable towns and we ate in one or two dubious restaurants. Our road trip wasn’t perfect but it was a refreshing change from airports, car hire firms and luggage restrictions. Interestingly, despite it being the height of the holiday season, we didn’t get stuck in any major traffic jams.

Orange Fiat 500 following green Lamborghini in Modena Italy, European family road trip from UK to Italy

Maranello, Italy

Tips on European road trips with kids

We had a few hiccups along the way but overall our European family road trip was a success. From our first hand experience, here are some tips to make a family road trip in summer time as enjoyable as possible:

  • Avoid driving on a weekend. We planned our route so that our big driving days (particularly the drives over the Alps which friends in Switzerland had warned us about) were not on Saturdays or Sundays as we’d heard the roads would be busy. As a result, we didn’t come across any traffic jams. The drive from Calais south through France can be busy with British holidaymakers so combined with the possible threat of Brexit-related hold ups in southern England (which of course didn’t come to pass) we avoided northern France altogether by sailing to the Hook of Holland.
  • If your ultimate destination is the Med, try to be creative with your route to avoid very long driving days. We found the Harwich to Hook of Holland ferry crossing worked brilliantly as the departure at 11pm meant my other half was able to go to work on the day we set off on holiday. The ferry docks at about 7am so you can knock off plenty of miles before lunchtime.
  • If you’re planning to travel to Calais, consider taking an evening crossing or tunnel and find a cheap place to stay near Calais. By doing this (and depending on where in the UK you’re based), you should hopefully avoid rush hour traffic in the UK. You then have a whole day ahead of you to cover quite a bit of distance on the continent.
  • Not everyone has the luxury of taking more than two weeks off work in the summer but if you are able to stretch your time away from work, you can spend more time on the journey and have fewer long days in the car. We only had one really long day of five hours driving, all of the other days were shorter.
  • Research interesting stops to ensure the journey really is part of the holiday. The fairy tale villages in the Alsace region of eastern France are perfect for an overnight stop while the lakes of Switzerland are a rewarding break after hours in the car. On our trip, we drove through the Netherlands and Luxembourg: windmills, romantic castles and stunning forest scenery were some of the highlights for us on the first leg of the journey.
  • Ensure you have an endless supply of snacks in case you get stuck in traffic at the wrong moment. We enjoyed sampling local biscuits, different country’s seasonal fruits and of course taste-testing crisps in each destination.
Wine tasting in Corsica

Remember to save space in your car for souvenirs…

What to take on a European family road trip

I’ve put together a comprehensive list of things to pack for a family road trip in a separate post but here’s a condensed list of essentials to keep children occupied in the car and to help the trip go smoothly:
  • Audio books: we didn’t hear a peep out of our seven year old for long stretches of the drive as he was immersed in Roald Dahl and Michael Rosen.
  • Top Trumps: these card games are brilliant for road trips and for occupying hungry children before dinnertime. If there’s nowhere to burn off pent up energy, these cards are a great distraction.
  • Packing cubes: until I had these I thought they were a bit of a waste of money. However, they are really practical for family holidays: each member of the family has one or two cubes which they can sling into a drawer when you reach your destination. We packed the cubes directly into our car which saved on space and made everything much easier to locate.
  • Insulated water bottles: some of my family don’t like drinking warm water which has been sat in a hot car all day so these are essential for fussy drinkers.
  • A decent cool box: we did quite a bit of self catering and picnicking so it was useful to have a cool place to store left over food and lunch.
  • Plenty of sun hats and sun cream: sometimes it was hard to locate a hat or bottle of cream when we’d been out for a day. They had a habit of ending up in a bag buried deep in the boot of the car so it was helpful to have spare sets of both these items.
Green hills and mountains of the Parco Nazionale Appennino Tosco Emiliano, Italy

The scenery we passed in the Parco Nazionale Appennino Tosco Emiliano, Italy

Our family road trip itinerary through Europe

We travelled approximately 2,300 miles or 3,700 kilometres (by car and train), slept on four ferries and one train, stayed in two campsites, one youth hostel, four hotels and two farms. And we visited four car museums…

Ice cream sign in Alba Italy

Alba, Piedmont, northern Italy

This is the road trip route we took:

Harwich – overnight ferry – Hook of HollandWiltz (northern Luxembourg)- ZurichBristen (Swiss Alps)- Bellinzona (Swiss/Italian border- Alba (Piedmont in northern Italy) – via Noli – overnight ferry from Savona to Bastia in Corsica – Solenzara – overnight ferry from Bastia to Savona– via Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park – Maranello – via Mantua – Lake GardaObereggen (Dolomites) – Innsbruck – overnight motorail-Düsseldorf – via Rotterdam – Hook of Holland – overnight ferry – Harwich
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European family road trip

The best bits of our European family road trip

Of all the destinations on our driving holiday across Europe, we loved the Swiss Alps and the Italian Dolomites the best along with swimming in the rivers of Corsica. Our most memorable meal was at a tiny restaurant in the village of Caprino Veronese near Lake Garda and our favourite swim was a daily dip in the Solenzara River during our week in Corsica.

Children playing in the river in Corsica

Solenzara River, eastern Corsica

Although our car was pretty full of stuff, we managed to buy lots of bottles of wine from local vineyards which we came across. Our favourite discovery was a little place off a dusty road on our final day in Corsica, the Clos d’Orlea near Aleria.

Lake Pranda, Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park

Lake Pranda, Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park

An unexpected highlight of our European family road trip was exploring the cool forests of the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park in central Italy where we ate stew and polenta in a wooden refuge deep in the forests on the eve of Italy’s most celebrated national holiday, Ferragosto (15th August).

The best drives on our family road trip through Europe

  • The roads through the forests of the Luxembourg Ardennes are beautiful: quiet, traditional and very green despite the heatwave of 2019.
  • We loved Corsica’s stunning mountainous interior: empty narrow roads pass gorges and rocky passes, there are tiny settlements in very remote places.
  • The roads through the vineyards of Piedmont’s Langhe wine region offer sweeping views of hillsides covered in vines and hilltop medieval villages.
  • Driving up and over the mountains in the Parco Nazionale Appennino Tosco Emiliano took us through lovely scenery.
  • The drive from the Dolomites down into Austria took us through some lovely villages of timber-framed houses and streets clearly built for horse and cart rather than car…
Vineyards of the Langhe wine region of northern Italy, European family road trip from UK to Italy

Vineyards of the Langhe wine region of northern Italy

Here’s an overview of what we got up to on our European family road trip:

Day 1: Stenalink from Harwich to the Hook of Holland

Taking the Stena Line ferry from Harwich was a revelation. If the thought of tackling the motorways to reach Dover or the other south coast ports fills you with fear, this overnight route is definitely one to consider. The ferry departs at 11pm so it’s perfect for families who need to squeeze in a day’s work or school before heading off on holiday. We live in Hertfordshire so it was a particularly pleasant way to start our holiday: no motorways, no early morning start, no rush hour.
Our cabin was new, cool and incredibly quiet. The layout is perfect for families. We had two sets of bunk beds with a double bed at the bottom of one of them. Despite a thunderstorm raging outside, we had a very peaceful crossing and a great night’s sleep (contrary to some of our subsequent sea crossings later in the trip).

Days 2 – 4: Luxembourg stopover

Driving time:

  • Hook of Holland to Wiltz 3.5 hours, 350 kilometres
outdoor swimming pool Camping Kaul Luxembourg

The swimming pool next to Camping Kaul in Luxembourg

We spent three nights at Camping Kaul in northern Luxembourg. This was a great spot to break the journey between the ferry port and our next stop further south. The campsite has a mix of glamping options and tent pitches. There’s a swimming pool, restaurant and various play areas and it’s walking distance to a supermarket and to the town of Wiltz. We could happily have spent the whole time in the lovely campsite but we did venture out to nearby Clervaux to visit the castle which houses the UNESCO photography exhibition Family of Man. Charting human life from conception through to death, the photography exhibition is brilliant for kids as well as adults.

Days 5 – 8: Switzerland hiking adventure

Driving times:
  • Wiltz to Zurich 5.5 hours, 500 kilometres
  • Zurich to Bristen 1.5 hours, 100 kilometres
  • Bristen to Bellinzona via the Gotthard Pass 2 hours, 120 kilometres
Day five was our only long driving day of five hours which took us from Luxembourg to Switzerland via a series of motorways. We decided to do this the quickest way possible but if we had our time again we would break the journey in the Alsace region as it was a bit of a boring day.
Hikers next to lake in Switzerland with mountains in background

Golzernsee, Maderanertal Valley, Switzerland

After a night with friends in Zurich we drove south via Lake Lucerne to the canton of Uri. We parked our car at the Bristen – Golzern cable car station near Silenen and hopped on the gondola up to Lake Golzern. Hiking in the Swiss Alps was a real highlight of our trip, we spent three days walking on relatively easy trails through forests, past waterfalls and rivers, surrounded by incredible mountain scenery. We swam in lakes, picked wild blueberries and stayed in remote mountain accommodation. It has given the kids a real taste for adventure and the distances and terrain were perfect for our children’s age group (they were five and seven at the time). You can find out more information about hiking in this region of Switzerland via the Golzern website.
Maderanertal Valley views, Switzerland

Maderanertal Valley views, Switzerland

We were really well placed after the trek to travel over the Alps. The Bristen cable car is just half an hour from the Gotthard Pass so we enjoyed a late afternoon drive through the mountains and down into the Canton of Tecino where we stayed in the very Italian-feeling town of Bellinzona. Late afternoon was a brilliant time of day to cross the Alps, there was very little traffic on the Gotthard Pass and the tunnel also looked pretty clear.
Views at the Gotthard Pass on our European family road trip

Views at the Gotthard Pass on our European family road trip

We spent the night at the Bellinzona youth hostel which has family rooms featuring a double bed and bunk beds. The hostel has car parking and is within walking distance of the town centre.
Piazza in Bellinzona, Switzerland

Bellinzona, Switzerland

Note: quite a few of the places we visited in Switzerland didn’t accept card payments and we did come unstuck on one occasion when we ran out of Swiss Francs.

Days 9 – 12: Driving from Switzerland to northern Italy

Driving time:
  • Bellinzona to Cellarengo (near Alba) via Lake Lugano and the Alfa Romeo Museum 3.5 hours, 280 kilometres

One of the main places I wanted to incorporate into our European family road trip was the north Italian region of Piedmont. The cuisine is fantastic in this part of Italy and it’s the home of the Slow Food movement. Piedmont is packed with vineyards and there are some lovely little towns to explore as well as a fantastic regional capital: Turin.

Morcote, on Lake Lugano, Switzerland

Morcote, on Lake Lugano, Switzerland

The drive from Bellinzona into Piedmont is a great route with plenty of interesting places to stop. We had a morning wander around the village of Morcote on Lake Lugano. We had planned to spend longer at the lake but a combination of factors (running out of Swiss Francs and a fierce thunderstorm) meant we ended up on the motorway to Italy sooner than expected. If the weather had cleared up we would have stopped at Lake Como but as the grey skies continued we found a convenient detour: the Alfa Romeo Museum just north of Milan.

family posing in artificial car at Alfa Romeo Museum, northern Italy

Alfa Romeo Museum, northern Italy

In order to fully enjoy the gastronomic offerings of Piedmont, I booked us into an agriturismo, Cascina Papa Mora. The farm has an unbeatable location midway between Asti and Alba. It’s under an hour’s drive to Turin and less than two hours to the Ligurian coast.

We were spoilt with home cooked food, local wine, a lovely swimming pool and a host of attractions on our doorstep.

Italian farmhouse Cascina Papa Mora near Alba, northern Italy

Farmhouse of Cascina Papa Mora, near Alba

During our stay, we visited several wineries, explored the elegant streets of Alba and enjoyed driving through one of Italy’s most picturesque landscapes. We also had a brilliant day out in Turin, exploring the sights of the city which were made famous (for us at least) through the 1969 film the Italian Job.

MIni cars on a race track

Minis on the Lingotto rooftop test track

Visiting Italy with kids? Read my complete guide to Italy for families

Days 13 – 19 Corsica with kids

Driving times:
  • Cellarengo to Savona / Noli 2 hours, 180 kilometres
  • Bastia to Solenzara via Le Pont de l’Enfer 2.5 hours, 125 kilometres

We drove from our agriturismo south to the little seaside town of Noli for an afternoon swim and dinner. This is a great place to wile away a few hours before the overnight Corsica ferry as it’s only 15 minutes from the Savona ferry port.

Beach with green hills in background

The seaside resort of Noli, near Savona

We used Corsica Ferries for our overnight trip to Bastia. We travelled with them about 10 years ago on the same route and we concluded not a great deal had changed in the intervening years. The boat felt rather old, the cabins were rather tired looking and the queuing and boarding system was typically Italian in its frantic last minute bun fight style. However, there was an outdoor soft play area next to the terminal so the kids were able to burn some energy with a spot of moonlight playing while we waited to board.

When you’ve had a bad night’s sleep on a ferry and your nerves are a little frayed, there’s nothing quite like a refreshing dip in a Corsican mountain river. After breakfast in Bastia, we drove to le Pont de l’Enfer. Despite the ominous name (it translates as Hell’s Bridge), this was a little piece of heaven: a cool shady river with huge rocks for clambering on, deep isolated pools for leaping into and a lovely restaurant hidden away in the woods where we had a delicious meal.

Citadel above harbour, Bonifacio in Corsica

Bonifacio in Corsica

Along with Piedmont, Corsica was my other key destination of the trip. This French island has incredible beaches, a mountainous interior and some beautiful medieval towns to explore. The cuisine is a mix of French and Italian with lots of stewed or grilled meats in the mountains and plenty of seafood on the coast. Due to the incredible heat we experienced during our stay on Corsica, we were quite lazy about finding good places to eat: we often ended up at the first pizzeria we came across so we didn’t experience the best of what Corsica has to offer from a culinary perspective. It’s worth doing a bit of research before you travel if food is a key part of your holiday priorities.

sandy beach in Corsica

Corsican beach

We based ourselves for a week at Sole di Sari camping village in Solenzara on the south east coast of Corsica: chalets and safari tents dotted along the banks of the Solenzara river.

Holiday park in Corsica

Sari di Solenzara campsite, Corsica

Corsica was a huge hit with the kids: the river was perfect for practising their swimming and the beaches were all sandy. They loved the novelty (as no doubt all British kids do) of going off to buy bread and pastries by themselves each morning as well as the nightly disco at the bar. We ventured out to Porto Vecchio and Bonifacio on one day but otherwise spent rather a lot of time in the river. We were really sorry to leave this idyllic spot.

Days 20 – 22 Fast cars in Maranello and Modena, Italy

Driving time:
  • Solenzara via Corte to Bastia 2.5 hours, 156 kilometres
  • Savona via the Parco Nazionale dell’Appennino Tosco Emiliano to Maranello 5 hours, 305 kilometres

Our final day in Corsica involved one last swim and some impromptu wine tasting. We took the scenic route from Solenzara back up to Bastia by winding our way through the mountainous interior to the old capital of Corsica: Corte. I’d love to return to the centre of island in cooler weather and explore some of the hiking trails as the scenery is stunning.

Farmland in Corsica

On the hunt for a vineyard in Corsica

We drove to Bastia in time for dinner at the Old Port and were luck enough to get a table overlooking the harbour at the pizzeria Lavezzi, if you’re looking for a family-friendly restaurant in Bastia, this little place is a good bet. Unfortunately, after that we endured a rather grim ferry crossing with Corsican Ferries: we travelled on a creaking, rattling old ferry which swayed as if in a storm despite the weather looking pretty promising as we set sail. I’ll definitely reconsider using Corsican Ferries in the future if they do not upgrade their ships.

Boats moored in old port of Bastia

Old Port of Bastia

Throughout the trip, we tried to avoid driving on days when we thought the roads might be busy. We assumed that the day before Italy’s biggest national holiday, (Ferragosto on 15th August) would be busy and so instead of taking the motorway from Savona to our next destination of Maranello, we decided to take the scenic route.
Road through forest in Italy

The road through the forest of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park

Our drive took us through the Parco Nazionale dell’Appennino Tosco Emiliano. Sometimes, when you have no plans and you pick a place to visit based on an appealing signpost or a bend in the road, you discover a hidden gem. Other times (and we’ve had plenty of these on our travels), you find yourself in somewhere unremarkable. On this occasion, we drove deep into the forested interior of the park and found a lakeside mountain restaurant packed with Italians seeking shelter from the Italian summer heat. We ate grilled meat, stew and polenta followed by delicious cakes and enjoyed the cooler weather and a spot of DIY fishing in Lake Pranda.
Children fishing at a lake in Italy

Fishing in Lake Pranda, Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park

I was outnumbered 3:1 about our next destination. I’m not a huge car fan but the rest of the family insisted that whilst in northern Italy we should take in some of the Italian motor museums. So, we based ourselves at the very 1980s styled Maranello Village and visited not just the famous Museo Ferrari in Maranello but also the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena and the nearby Lamborghini museum. Unfortunately, the Maserati museum was shut for the holidays…
Silver car suspended on wall with children sitting underneath

Lamborghini Museum, Italy

My favourite of the three museums was the Lamborghini, I had thought this brand of motorcar was a bit obnoxious but the brilliantly thought out exhibition space portrayed the company as a fun and futuristic brand and the bright colours made it an enjoyable museum for everyone to explore.

The Enzo Ferrari museum was, predictably, a homage to the great man while the actual Ferrari museum was rather dark and serious, a destination for the die hard Ferrari fan.

Enzo Ferrari Museum

Enzo Ferrari Museum

In terms of infrastructure, the Ferragosto public holiday is on a par with Christmas in the UK so we struggled to find somewhere to eat on the evening of 15th August, most places had shut for the day and quite a few had closed for the whole week.

Days 23 – 26 Family fun at Lake Garda, Italy

Driving time:
  • Maranello via Mantua to Rivoli Veronese, Lake Garda two hours, 150 kilometres

After overdosing on red cars we headed north towards Lake Garda. There are so many towns of note to visit in this part of northern Italy that I found it hard to narrow down a place to break our journey. We opted for Mantua as it’s setting is so impressive, surrounded on three sides by artificial lakes created in the 12th century as a means of defence, the entrance to the city takes some beating.

The road to Mantua in northern Italy

The road to Mantua in northern Italy

After a wander around Mantua we continued on to our accommodation near Rivoli Veronese. We spent four nights at Agriturismo Corte Patrizia, a collection of apartments overlooking a vineyard with two swimming pools and lovely gardens. There’s a communal BBQ and seating areas next to a sandpit so the kids enjoyed playing with other guests while us grown ups sampled the farm’s wines and cooked fresh local fish.
Outdoor swimming pool on vineyard farm in Italy

Corte Patrizia agriturismo

One of our most enjoyable meals of the holiday was had at a local restaurant in nearby Caprino Veronese. Ristorante al Vicolo is one of those places which tourists love to experience but you’re only likely to come across it through word of mouth as it’s tucked away down a side street in a tiny village. The elderly owner came out to our table and explained what his wife would be cooking that evening. He then proceeded to choose our dishes for us. Of course everything was delicious: cured meats, baked vegetables, simple pasta dishes followed by tasty grilled meat with cheese for the secondo piatto.
Striped paving next to Lake Garda, Italy

Lazise, Lake Garda

One of the highlights of visiting Lake Garda was hiring a speed boat from Lasize for a morning. The boys loved steering the boat as we zipped past Bardolino and Garda and out into the expanse of blue. The towns along Lake Garda were pretty busy so it was lovely to have the lake to ourselves and enjoy a solitary dip in the water.

Days 27 – 29 luxury and hiking in the Dolomites, Italy

Driving time:
  • Rivoli Veronese to Obereggen two hours, 160 kilometres

After a morning coffee in San Zeno di Montagna which offers particularly lovely views over Lake Garda, we headed to the final destination of our European family road trip: the Dolomites.

View of Lake Garda from San Zeno di Montagna

View of Lake Garda from San Zeno di Montagna

We treated ourselves to a rather luxurious stay at the family-friendly Hotel Maria in the village of Obereggen. Our stay  in the Val d’Ega region of the Dolomites was one of the favourite parts of the trip for all of us. We did a brilliant 12 kilometre bike ride from the hotel over to Lake Carezza and enjoyed hiking and rock climbing. The boys had their first taste of doing a via ferrata and they are now keen to spend more time in the mountains after this little taste of adventure.

Cyclists near forest with Dolomite mountains in background

Cycling to Lake Carezza

Although the Val d’Ega region is not as well known as some of the others parts of the Dolomites, I would highly recommend it for families hoping to introduce children to mountain holidays. From Obereggen a chair lift takes you up to some excellent walking trails which even the most reluctant little hiker would enjoy. If you’re considering a summer mountain holiday have a read of my post about visiting the Dolomites with kids.

children looking at view of mountains in Dolomites Italy

Val d’Ega, Dolomites

Day 30 Motorail from Innsbruck to Dusseldorf

Driving time:

  • Obereggen to Innsbruck: two hours, 140 kilometres

After our four night stay in Obereggen, we drove to Innsbruck for what we had hoped would be another highlight: an overnight train trip through to Düsseldorf in Germany, cutting out around one thousand kilometres of driving.

red motorail sleeper train in Austria

The motor rail sleeper train in Innsbruck

This is where my trip planning somehow came undone…

With so many details to sort out on a 4 week European road trip with kids, I had been a little bit disorganised with this part of the itinerary. Due to some sort of oversight on my part, we ended up booking the overnight train for the four of us but only booking beds for three of us as our five year old didn’t have to pay.

Train carriage with breakfast on seat

Breakfast on bed in our train cabin

However, with the help of a generous but overworked train conductor we managed to secure enough bunks for all of us once we boarded. This did mean that our private cabin for four transformed into a six berth with other people who had also had difficulties with the booking system joining us.

I have travelled all across China by rail (successfully and comfortably) and I’ve also taken a car to Nice by rail from Calais overnight which was supremely relaxing (sadly this route no longer exists). Our journey from Innsbruck to Dusseldorf however was rather bumpy and the train felt like it was lurching off the tracks. As a result, I had a rather sleepless night as I worried about the boys being tossed from their narrow bunks and also worried about myself being hurled from the vertiginous top bunk.

We all survived the journey and despite the less than perfect arrangements we would consider this mode of travel again. It’s not a particularly cheap way to get from A to B but if you’d like to take your own car on holiday and avoid flying, the cost for a family of four on a return overnight rail journey is similar to the cost of flying to the Med in high season.
If you’d like to learn more about taking your car on a train, the Man in Seat 61 is the expert on all things rail-related.

Days 31 – 32, Industrial Germany, the Netherlands and home

Driving time:
  • Düsseldorf via Duisburg and Rotterdam to Hook of Holland 3.5 hours, 270 kilometres

What to do after a bad nights sleep on a train? Visit an industrial leisure park. There are so many interesting places to visit in this part of Europe that we’ll definitely take the Stenalink ferry crossing to the Hook of Holland again. On this occasion, we spent a morning exploring the Duisburg Nord Landscape Park located about half an hour north of Dusseldorf.

Children playing on metal structure

Duisburg Nord Landscape Park, Germany

In a previous life this park was a steelworks: much of the industrial site has been preserved offering visitors the chance to clamber up the side of a blast furnace or scuba dive in a flooded gasometer. There’s a place to hire bikes and there are a couple of cafes (one with a play area), parking and entry are both free.

Our final stop of the trip was a late afternoon visit to Rotterdam. We loved wandering through the city and taking in the architecture: the Erasmus Bridge and the Cube Houses. The Market Hall with its foodie stalls was fun to explore and we enjoyed evening drinks by the canal before finding a quick bite to eat in one of the many pavement restaurants. Rotterdam was an enjoyable city to dip into and we’d like to return there for a longer visit.

Canalside pavement in Rotterdam, Netherlands

Rotterdam, Netherlands

It’s a 30 minute drive from Rotterdam to the Hook of Holland. A very late ferry crossing makes for a very relaxed journey, there’s no need to rush. We were returning on a Saturday night (the bank holiday weekend in the UK) and the ferry was pretty quiet with very little queuing involved. Arriving back into the UK at around 7am on a Sunday morning also meant that our journey home was incredibly quiet with empty roads: a far more appealing end to a holiday than being at an airport.
So, that was our summer of 2019. In the summer of 2020 we took another road trip. This time we stayed a little closer to home and travelled across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  The weather was a little less reliable but it was a brilliant trip nonetheless. You can read all about it here: UK road trip.
If you’re looking for more information on visiting Italy with kids, check out my article about Italy for families.
Have you taken a European road trip with kids? Let me know how you got on in the comments below.
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European family road trip from UK to Italy
European family road trip from UK to Italy
European family road trip from UK to Italy


  1. pigeonpairandme
    20th January 2020 / 12:18 pm

    This sounds amazing. I much prefer travelling by road or rail to flying. You miss so much when you board a plane! It seemed to work for you, with all these hidden gems you managed to unearth on your travels. I do like the sound of the Parco Nazionale dell’Appennino Tosco Emiliano. That’s one I’ve bookmarked for the future. And although I’ve seen the Dolomites in winter, I’ve never been in summer. I’d really like to go….

    • 20th January 2020 / 1:18 pm

      Thanks. Your skiing posts have me tempted with winter in the mountains… just can’t decide whether I’m ready to take the kids skiing!

  2. 23rd January 2020 / 12:31 pm

    This sounds awesome! I hated road trips as a kid because they were so boring. But I’ve come to enjoy them as an adult. #farawayfiles

    • 23rd January 2020 / 12:32 pm

      Me too! I just hope my kids continue to enjoy them…

  3. Clare Thomson
    23rd January 2020 / 3:07 pm

    How incredible to have four weeks to travel across Europe! Our kids are starting to ask us for more sustainable travel options so I can see us doing more train travel in the future. I’d love to see Corsica and Lake Garda in particular. Your tips are so useful too. This is such a helpful blog post. Must have taken you ages to put it together! Fabulous share for #farawayfiles

    • 23rd January 2020 / 3:17 pm

      Thanks Clare. It was quite fun putting it together and useful to have it as a record of our trip. We’re planning to buy some sort of electric car in the not too distant future so that the road trips can continue. I’d love to travel by train more but my other half is somewhat reluctant!

  4. 23rd January 2020 / 3:20 pm

    Goodness, what a road trip adventure. Piedmont is definitely somewhere I fancy visiting, and Innsbruck is on my radar for this year. I see your idea of souvenirs is the same as mine! #farawayfiles

  5. California Globetrotter
    23rd January 2020 / 5:30 pm

    Road tripping is the best way to see soooo much more than you would flying! We love to drive everywhere and this year we drove from Germany to England/Scotland, but we even drove 2 weeks around the Balkans also from Germany and back! I’d loev to see Corsica and those mountains are spectacular! #FarawayFiles

    • 23rd January 2020 / 5:42 pm

      Wow, that’s a lot of miles! Definitely drive around Corsica, it’s stunning in the interior.

  6. 24th January 2020 / 5:00 am

    Sounds exhausting but fun. Shame about the mishap with the overnight train but I guess these things happen

  7. 24th January 2020 / 9:20 pm

    This sounds like my perfect trip. It’s certainly one I’d have great fun planning! I loved walking in Corsica a few years back but I’m not sure I’d trust my car to get us there! #farawayfiles

    • 24th January 2020 / 9:21 pm

      I’d love to go walking in Corsica, but definitely not in August!

  8. 25th January 2020 / 7:18 am

    That sounds like an epic road trip. I did shorter road trips with my family in Spain and central Europe over the course of several months and it was a great education for the kids (and parents). You gave a number of useful tips that should be useful for anybody planning such an adventure.

    • 25th January 2020 / 8:06 am

      I’d love to explore Spain by car, there’s so much history in the interior of the country.

  9. 29th January 2020 / 10:46 pm

    We love a road trip, not driven to Italy yet might have to show this to Mr CW

    • 30th January 2020 / 2:50 pm

      Well, I can highly recommend doing this, or a version of it!

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