You can totally handle a family trip across the pond.
So you've found yourself with a kid or two (how'd that happen?!)—and you've accrued a little vacation time. What better way to spend it than a trip to Rome, London, Barcelona or Paris with the fam? Though contemplating such an adventure might once have seemed ludicrous, pre-planned vacations now make it so much simpler to travel Europe with kids. Plus, you'll foster in your children a love for history, art, language and a thirst for seeing the world—and have a ton of fun while doing it.
These cities have what it takes to please both kiddies and adults:
Step one: Gorge on spaghetti and gelato. Step two: Sign up for gladiator school. Parents and kids can take part in a two-hour class where they'll learn all about Roman history, try on gladiator costumes and learn to duel like ancient Roman warriors. Fill the rest of the trip with a tour of the Colosseum, a pizza-making class, a stop at the Spanish steps to have your caricatures drawn and a visit to the Mostra di Leonardo museum, where you can learn to build Leonardo da Vinci's wooden bridge and participate in other workshops. Repeat step one as needed.
Before you do anything else, show the kids a breathtaking view of the city from the air on the London Eye—a 135 metre-high observational wheel. Next: Explore. Use a Hop-On Hop-Off open-top bus pass to see the major attractions in one day, then wow the entire family with a tour of Warner Bros. Studio, where all of the Harry Potter movies were filmed. You'll see the sets of the great hall and Diagon Alley and a glee-inducing collection of props and costumes. Consider rounding out your trip with an afternoon at Covent Garden, a visit to the London Sealife Aquarium and a ride on the magical 4D bus at Shrek's Adventure.
Some like it hot! If you're dreaming of balmy weather, Spain may be the perfect place for a European family vacation. Plan for plenty of time spent outdoors including visits to the Tibidabo Amusement Park (which first opened in 1905 and still features many original rides and mechanical figures), La Rambla (a pedestrian street filled with flamenco dancers and fire-eaters) and Zoo de Barcelona (home to more than 7,500 animals, plus pony rides, a petting zoo and a mini-train). And when it comes to museums, Barcelona has great child-friendly options on topics from chocolate (Museu de la Xocolata) to soccer (FC Barcelona and Camp Nou stadium).
Naturally you'll want to see some of the big city sights, like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Sacré-Coeur, but balance out your landmarks checklist with an interactive trip to the Cité de Sciences et de L'Industrie, the science and technology museum that's packed with games and experiments (even for kids as young as two!), plus a planetarium and IMAX theatre. The Paris Aquarium, which has 43 tanks and 10,000 aquatic creatures, is another spot that will delight kids of all ages. Be sure to munch on plenty of French pastries and confections throughout your stay including macarons from Pierre Hermé.
Curious about your European travel options? Air Canada Vacations now offers family-friendly vacation packages to all four of these cities—including hotel, flights, airport transfers, activities for kids and special promotions (like having your second child stay free).