We are a travel loving family from the USA with two little girls. At the start of 2017, when our kids were 18 months and 3.5 years old we decided to accept a work assignment to Italy for my husband’s job and have been exploring Italy and the rest of Europe since then. We had an opportunity to travel to the Bavarian Alps when our girls were 2.5 and 5 and loved it so much that we decided to go again the following summer.
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Where is Bavaria, Germany? This area of Germany is the most southern region, just north of Italy (across a small strip of Austria) and was a 9 hour drive from our home in Pisa.
We like to drive in the daytime and make the road trip part of the vacation itself, so we try to enjoy our pit-stops and the views along the way. During the car ride we kept a box of toys, books, and coloring supplies between the car seats so the girls could have easy access to their toys during the trip.
We do let them use tablets sometimes but only during the last part of long road trips or when it’s too dark to see their toys, so it really is something special.
Check out our list of the best toddler toys for airplanes – which would work equally well for road trips with toddlers!
Getting from the Airport to your Accommodation
The nearest major airport is the Munich airport and is about one and a half hours away by car. There is also a train station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Where to Stay in Bavaria with Kids
We stayed in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Our hotel was on the Garmisch side of town but we preferred to spend more time in Partenkirchen along Ludwig Strauss street.
If we went again I would consider staying in Mittenwald, which is an adorable Bavarian village about 30 minutes outside of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and on the way to Austria. Oberammergau is another lovely town to visit near many activities and sights.
Getting Around Bavaria, Germany
We had a car both times we visited the area and found the signage to be clear to understand and the streets well maintained, especially compared to driving around Italy.
We met with friends who took the train from Munich (they did not have children) and they were able to meet us in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and walk around. Not having a car didn’t hinder their Bavaria trip, as they just planned their outings based on what was available by public transit.
If the weather is good and you want to avoid driving, you could use the trains to get to many of the Bavarian villages from Munich.
But a car will give you much more flexibility, especially when visiting Bavaria with kids. Having a car will also be give you more flexibility if the weather isn’t great, when you visit Bavaria.
Both years we traveled at the end of July and the weather ranged from sunshine and low 80s F to rain and high 50s F so you need to be prepared for the range of temperatures.
Baby and Toddler Travel Tips for the Bavarian Alps, Germany
In most European towns we prefer baby carriers for travel due to small spaces inside shops and restaurants, but I will say that the Bavarian towns we explored seemed to be stroller friendly if you have a small lightweight travel stroller. I did see plenty of locals with strollers.
We used a baby carrier when my youngest was 2.5 but let her walk the next year, which made things easier for us.
Car seat laws in Germany are similar to the USA so I would definitely recommend using an appropriate car seat for your child’s requirements while driving. (See Baby Can Travel’s list on Amazon for the best travel car seats)
Read our post on 5 Things to Think About BEFORE Traveling with Car Seats.
Restaurants were kind and welcoming to our kids but don’t expect a high chair to always be available. If you need one, it’s best to bring a portable high chair for travel like the MyLittleSeat fabric chair.
Also changing stations weren’t common so be prepared to change your child in alternate locations if you can’t find one. My tot mastered the “standing change” at a young age so that helped us before she was potty trained. Head over to this post more tips on traveling with a potty training toddler.
We brought enough pull-ups with us but diapers are sold at the Lidl in Garmisch along with most other baby supplies needed as long as you’re flexible with the brands available.
Things to do in Bavaria with Toddlers
The highlight of our first visit was the day we spent at Lake Eibsee. This mountain lake is at the base of Germany’s highest peak, Zugspitze. The views from the lake were incredible and I truly felt like our family was in a postcard.
We chose to take the cogwheel train to the lake, but you can also drive and park or even ride bikes. I don’t recommend biking if you’re not an avid biker. We were initially wanting to do it and were thankfully talked out of this by some friends who attempted the ride earlier in the week and really struggled to pull their kids in a trailer.
The train was a fun experience for us and the kids, and we didn’t have to stress about parking since the parking lot looked quite chaotic when we arrived. From this point you can also take a cable car up to the summit of Zugspitze, where there is snow year-round (don’t forget your jackets!).
We chose to just stay at the lake for a more relaxing day. I underestimated how warm it would be so I did not bring swimsuits but we did see people swimming in the lake, even with the cold mountain water temperatures. We enjoyed wading in the water then eating lunch at the biergarten on the lakeshore before you taking a little hike. The bathrooms at the restaurant were not baby friendly but with so much big open outdoor space, it wouldn’t be difficult to find an area to lay your baby on a portable change mat for a diaper change.
There are trails going around the whole lake but we weren’t there to take a long hike so we just strolled at a toddler pace until we wanted to turn back.
Baby Can Travel tip: For long hikes with toddlers, travel with a hiking backpack carrier is ideal since you can keep your toddler up high where they can see, a rain cover works great for protection on rainy days, and you have space to store diapers, snacks and water.
Other options around Garmisch-Partenkirchen include a gondola ride up to Wank mountain, which is a bit less expensive than Zugspitze summit and has a great playground at the top for children. Bring your sunscreen and hats though because the shade was limited here! The Sunday Afternoons Kids Play Hat is ideal for full sun protection for toddlers.
One thing we were unable to do from our desired list was to hike Partnach Gorge. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate with us the day we wanted to do this but my friend managed it during a trip with her 3 year old and said it was kid friendly but not stroller friendly.
You need to walk or take a horse carriage ride (for a small fee) from a parking lot about 1.5 miles away from the gorge so if you take a stroller, you’d have to leave it at the entrance of the gorge. A baby or toddler carrier is recommended here as well as a comfortable hand on your little ones who might be walking, but the closeness to nature is something kids will love. Bring shoes that can get wet and a flashlight for the darker areas of the gorge.
Don’t miss all our Resources for Hiking with a Baby or Toddler. We cover everything from hiking tips to the best carriers for hiking.
Our second trip involved much more rain but we did manage to enjoy a very family friendly hike around Lake Riessersee which was a quick 5 minute drive from Garmisch.
The path around the lake took us about 30 minutes and would be mostly stroller friendly except one small section which two adults could easily help the stroller up and over together. We saw ducks, large carp, and even the location of an Olympic bobsled track marked by an old sled and photos showing how the icy tracks were made in the early 1900s.
After our hike we ate lunch at the lakeside restaurant. The place felt so secluded but was easy to find and get to, which is a perfect combination for us.
Looking for other toddler friendly destinations in Europe? Don’t miss our post on Lisbon with toddlers!
Where to Eat in Bavaria with Kids
We loved eating lunch at Renaissance Riessersee along the banks of Lake Riessersee. There is a playground next to the restaurant and it has the option to eat outdoors in good weather. Pancake soup and spaetzle are always a hit when we travel to Germany with kids.
We also enjoyed our dinner at Gasthof Fraundorfer which included a traditional dance performance during dinner. Our kids loved seeing the Bavarian costumes and the lively clapping and stomping done by the young men who danced to the live German music.
What to Bring to the Bavarian Alps with Toddlers
My best advice is to have a backup plan in case of wet weather and the clothes to make sure your family is comfortable in a range of temperatures, like a toddler rainsuit or packable warm jacket. There is so much to do that we had no trouble finding alternatives when our initial plans were changed due to rain.
Besides the clothing and a good baby carrier, we also brought items to entertain our kids at the restaurants, like sticker books and small toys. Though our kids were welcomed, they weren’t provided with crayons or any activities.
Read our post on winter travel gear for babies and toddlers for more suggestions on travel gear for colder destinations.
Final Travel Tips for Bavaria with Toddlers
We attempted to see the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle, known for being the inspiration for the Disney castle seen at the start of every Disney movie. It’s obviously one of the most popular things to see in Bavaria, so after a disastrous attempt to find a parking spot and being turned off by the hoards of tour buses in the area, we decided to just observe it from a distance.
Our kids didn’t seem to mind at all and likely preferred the leisurely stroll through a field with the stunning Bavarian castle as a backdrop to waiting in lines with frustrated parents. If this is something you want to see up close with your family, be prepared in advance and start your day early. We learned the hard way that it’s far too popular to do on a whim, like we did.
We loved the Bavarian alps and found the laid back attitude of the town to be a great way to enjoy nature and some German culture with our family.
This guest post was written by Jane of Little Trips
Jane is an American mother of two who currently lives in Pisa, Italy. She loves to travel and explore the world with her family. Her favorite way to connect with another culture is with food and drink. When not traveling you can find her reading, writing, or planning another trip. Follow along on her blog or Instagram @littletripstravelblog.