Of all the road trips our family has taken around Europe, there is one route that has a special status.
My husband comes from Hungary, and I from Lithuania, so naturally we have travelled a fair amount of times between the two countries.
We have taken this Eastern European trip at Christmas time, in spring and summer, and have varied the route slightly to get the most out of it and not get bored on our way.
My son loved our road trip holidays, although we didn’t plan many child-specific activities into it.
He enjoyed listening to stories (either by me or the CD player in the car), playing games, sleeping in the car and sleeping in a new place each night.
What he liked most is learning about new places we would visit though.
Trying a new meal (and often leaving it for me to finish), going for an ice-cream, visiting a castle, a Christmas market, an interactive museum or new playground.
Depending on your interests, you can alter your stops, but here are the ones I recommend including:
Augustow – A small Polish town close to Lithuanian border where you can take a boat trip around the canals and have a hike in a forest.
Bialystok – Border town with a very special mix of Poland, Belarus and Lithuania. Great food and even better beer!
Warsaw – Everyone says it’s the new Berlin, so have a look for yourself. Plenty to do for a whole week.
From here there are three main ways to continue.
Eastern: Hold east and continue to Lublin – a charming student city. If you want to take a little detour, you can visit Lviv in Ukraine and enjoy great chocolate and flaming coffee. Believe me, the extra time and kilometres are so worth it. Continue to Rzeszow, Kosice in Slovakia, with a stop in Eger, and to Budapest.
Central: Head straight to Krakow and then down to Zakopane to admire the mountains. The road will take you through the High Tatra mountains, so it is more suited to experienced drivers. Keep in mind that you might need special equipment if driving during winter. Visit Liptovsky Mikulas in Slovakia, Vac and Szentendre in Hungary before you reach Budapest.
Western: From Warsaw go towards Ostrava, then to Brno and finally to Bratislava to visit the biggest cities of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. On the way to Budapest stop in Gyor for the final rest before reaching your final point.
If you drive straight from Vilnius to Budapest, it will take you around 16 hours.
Sardinia makes a great destination for a road trip with kids. Sardinia has a bit of everything from stunning mountains, to quaint old towns to some of the most beautiful beaches that you will find anywhere in Europe.
There isn’t that much public transport on the island so a road trip is definitely the best way tovisit Sardinia.
Our recommendation is to spend 10 days to 2 weeks doing a road trip around the north of the island.
Start your road trip in Alghero which is a beautiful city with fabulous fortified sea walls to explore with the kids.
It makes for a great introduction to the island and is an easy place to fly into and hire a car for the rest of your trip.
From Alghero you could head northeast to the beaches of the Costa Smerelda, calling in at the stunning Cala Brandinchi before heading south towards Cala Gonone.
This is a great place to have some adventure with the family as you can explore caves, or go mountain biking, kayaking and rock climbing.
Of course, if you prefer, you can simply relax by the pool and enjoy the glorious weather or build sandcastles on the beach.
Finish your road trip by heading across the mountainous interior of the island to the pretty fishing port at Bosa where you can visit the castle and spend a night or two soaking up the Italian atmosphere before completing the loop back to Alghero.
The Wild Atlantic Way is an extensive road trip route of 1,553-miles, from top to bottom, following the majestic shorelines of the west coast of Ireland.
The route can start at either end – in the southernmost points of County Cork to the northern tips of County Donegal, although there’s nothing stopping you from starting at any point along the way.
To start out, most people will arrive at Dublin airport, although Belfast’s airport gives an ideal vantage point for starting the Wild Atlantic Way from Northern Irelandas it is just a short drive to the northern points of County Donegal.
Along the way, the coastal road trip includes many of Ireland’s well-known tourist attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, and the peat bogs Connemara, with a recommended stop halfway at the old city of Galway.
It is well signposted from top to bottom following blue signs with WW waves on them.
I would recommend at least one night of camping at the various campgrounds and national parks in Ireland, as these are great experiences for kids with barbecuing, camping and the wild forests to escape the car and explore along the way.
Be sure to bring warm clothing as the weather can be a bit nippy at night. Plus some games and a football to keep them entertained.
Highlights here include the island fortress of Suomenlinna and swimming in the Baltic Sea at the Allas Sea Pools.
From Helsinki, we travelled north to Lake Saimaa and the Finnish Lakeland region.
During the summer months, Finland is awash with blues and greens, the forested landscape scattered with patches of brilliant blue water.
There is so much water in Finland that it has been given the nickname “the land of the thousand lakes”.
We spent two days staying in a villa on the banks of Lake Saimaa, the biggest lake in Finland, before travelling further north to the edge of Linnansaari National Park, home to the rare and endangered (and very cute) Saimaa Ringed Seal.
After two more days here we headed back south.
One option, if you have time, is to cut across the country and spend a couple of days in the city of Tampere on the western coast.
We didn’t have this luxury, unfortunately. Instead, we drove back towards Helsinki before breaking west towards the city of Turku (a much faster route).
Beautiful Turku lies on the southwest coast, just two hours from Helsinki. It’s the oldest city in Finland, filled with lively cafés and restaurants and a cool creative buzz.
There’s plenty to do here, such as visit the 700-year-old Turku Castle.
Nearby is the picture-perfect harbour town of Naantali. This is a great place to stay for families, not least because it’s the gateway to magical Moominworld.
The small theme park is home to Tove Jansson’s loveable characters. It will delight kids big and small, even if you didn’t grow up reading tales of the Moomins.
From Turku, we drove back to Helsinki for a final two days before heading – somewhat reluctantly – home.