The short answer is yes, absolutely!!
When we told people we were planning on spending 3 weeks in Europe as a family of 6 with 4 kids under 5 and nothing but 2 backpacks we got a lot of *unsolicited & mostly unhelpful* advice!
Everyone was quick to tell us that we were crazy, but we’re a pretty adaptable bunch so thankfully we didn’t listen!
For me, Kayla, I have a 48L REI Crestrail. This pack has a huge main compartment, top compartment, and lots of side zippers and pouches. The back has a metal frame for support and structure and lots of padding. Plus it buckles around the hips and waist for weight distribution. I had no problems carrying this bag stuffed full while also baby wearing a 1 year old. For reference I’m 5’8 and 120lbs.
Andrew’s bag is a 75L Deuter. Obviously, it’s significantly larger than mine and he also baby wore our 2yo so he was pretty maxed out with his full bag and child attached to his body. His bag also has a steel frame for structure, 2 split large main compartments, large top compartment, lots of side pouches, padded straps and back, and buckles around the hips/waist for weight distribution. For reference Andrew is 6’3 220lbs.
We stayed in each city for 1-3 nights so during the day we left our big bags in our AirBNBs and took out with us a 30L Eddie Bauer Adventurer. This is our go to travel backpack for all our short term trips. It’s been on many flights with us to many destinations and is a true work horse. It’s very comfortable, lots of pockets, and can hold an incredible amount of stuff!
How & What To Pack:
Packing cubes are always your friend! I packed all 6 of us a weeks worth of outfits (shirts, pants, underwear, socks) and then we washed and rewore throughout our trip.
Because we were in Europe for winter which is very cold and wet, we all had 1 pair of waterproof insulated boots that we wore every day. Andrew and the kids all had leather Keens and I had Sperry duck boots.
We carried with us just our toothbrushes, hair brush, a day or two worth of diapers and wipes and small travel size of toiletries. When we ran out of something we simply found a store to buy more. That is probably not the most cost effective way, but we were really trying to limit the amount of weight we were carrying around from place to place so that was best for us. There are drugstores on pretty much every corner in every country so it’s not hard to find whatever you need! Including a pharmacy for adult and kid medicines. Belle ran a fever for about 24 hours in France and it was no problem finding a pharmacy to get her some children’s Advil and the pharmacist explain the dosage for her weight.
How To Get Around:
Trains! Trains! Trains! Europe is so well connected with a fast and efficient rail network. Large cities have incredible public transportation options like buses, street cars, and metros. Europe is so much more easily accessible and family friendly to travel through than the US it’s crazy! Long haul trains will have luggage storage areas, overhead bins, and clean bathrooms. While metros, street cars and buses don’t have bathrooms or designated space for luggage you can still bring them aboard. I was thankful to have backpacks that didn’t take up space but we saw tons of people on the buses and metro with large rolling suitcases.
Let’s talk strollers for a minute. We did not bring our strollers because it just would have been too much for us but lots of families in Europe rely on strollers for everyday use. We found Germany and Portugal to be extremely stroller friendly. Germany in particular has lots of elevators in their train and metro stations for strollers to get to their platforms easily. Germany is extremely handicap accessible and their infrastructure as a whole is great. Paris was horrible for strollers and wheelchairs. Almost every elevator we saw was out of order. We witnessed so many people carrying strollers ups and down the stairs at the metro stations. I don’t know what someone in a wheelchair was supposed to do! It was horrible.
**What about all the souvenirs we want to buy? -Buy all the things! Seriously! We would stuff our backpack full of everything our little hearts desired then every day or two we would find a post office and ship it all back home! European countries have FedEx, UPS, DHL, and regular national postal services. We used FedEx in France and found Deutsch Post to be the most useful and easily accessible in Germany.
**I’ve heard Europe, specifically Paris, isn’t very kid friendly –We did not find this to be true at all. We are quite the spectacle everywhere we go. Large families, especially with a lot of really little kids, are not the norm anywhere so we get a lot of attention and the vast majority of it is good attention. We even found most restaurants had high chairs which was something I read was hard to come by but we never had a problem. Another issue with a stroller though is I’m not sure what you would do with a stroller while you went in places. Restaurants and shops are tiny so you would not be able to bring one inside which would mean you would need to leave it on on the street? Another very kid friendly thing we experienced in airports (Lisbon, Paris, and Berlin) the airports are sooooo kid friendly! They have special security areas for families only and families are given priority boarding. I actually thing Europe is a lot more family friendly than the US. One of the pictures below is a restaurant owner hugging my 2yo because he was just smitten with them.
If you have specific questions about something I left off, just ask me!