As people flocked back to Europe in the summer of 2022, we saw the price of flights continue to rise. We knew we wanted to escape the heat in Italy, but we knew it would be a challenge to fly with our 11 month old baby given all the delays and cancellations that had been happening that summer. We had two weeks to fill and a European road trip with a baby seemed like the perfect solution!
We would be leaving from our home in Northern Italy, so it made sense that our itinerary for our Europe road trip with baby take us through Switzerland, France, Germany and Liechtenstein.
We hope you enjoy reading about our Europe vacation with a baby that included passing by Switzerland lakes, eating cheese in France, toasting with beers in Germany, and getting bitten by a bee in Liechtenstein!
Europe Road Trip – Table of Contents
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Our Two Week Europe Road Trip Itinerary
Our daughter Atena, was 11 months old on our first European road trip with a baby. We did our best to manage her needs throughout our family road trip along with our desire to explore.
Traveling in Europe with a toddler or baby is quite wonderful. You can find so many baby-friendly places that give your little one a chance to explore while parents can enjoy the surroundings.
This wasn’t new to us, given we live in Italy but it makes European road trips all the better for family trips! You can go at your own pace with small kids and enjoy everything Europe road trips have to offer!
Here’s how we spent two weeks on our Europe vacation with baby (who was quickly becoming a toddler before our eyes)…
We chose to leave our home in the north of Italy on a Monday, to try and avoid the traffic (spoiler: we didn’t!). For our family, the best time for the departure has always been the morning, before the morning nap.
When Atena woke up at 7 am, we got ready and had a typical Italian breakfast with cappuccino and brioche. After breakfast, we went to a local playground to let her burn off some energy so she’d be ready for a nap in the car. At 9.30 am we were ready to go!
Road Trip with a Baby Stop #1: Lucerne, Switzerland
Our first stop on our long road trip with baby was Switzerland. Switzerland is a wonderful place to visit in Europe with toddlers or babies. At every stop, whether it was in a city, up in the mountains or in the countryside, there were playgrounds with beautiful views and large free spaces.
The services throughout Switzerland are great too. For example, in every rest stop on the highway, there was a nursery room with comfortable changing table and free diapers of varying sizes.
We arrived in Lucerne at about noon and started our afternoon in the city. There is a pathway along the Lake Lucerne that Atena could practice her newest walking skills. And along the lake was the perfect place for a picnic.
We had brought our lunch from Italy, because we knew Switzerland would be really expensive and we wanted to save as much money as we could for the trip. Lucerne is full of drinking fountains, so make sure to bring your own water bottle to save money and reduce plastic waste during your trip.
After playing at the playground by the Lucerne lake, we were ready to jump in the car and drive until Alsace, France.
For driving in Switzerland, it’s important to know that to use certain roads, highways for example, you must buy the Swiss Motorway Vignette. The Swiss Motorway Vignette costs 40 CHF and is valid for the whole current year up to January 31 of the following year.
If you are driving without a vignette, you will be fined (CHF 200) and will also have to buy the vignette! You can buy this sticker before entering Switzerland, at the dedicated selling points, or inside the country at filling stations, post offices and at customs posts.
European Road Trip Stop #2: Alsace Region, France
After a long day of driving, we arrived at our hotel at 5pm and we were exhausted. We all managed to have a short nap before dinner.
For dinner, we went to Kaysersberg town and had a delicious meal. The restaurant didn’t have a highchair for Atena, but luckily, we had brought our own portable highchair with us.
Since we had all had a small nap that afternoon, we really needed to get Atena tired again before bedtime. We found a wooden playground where she could burn off all that extra energy. We had a great night sleeping in the Alsace countryside and were ready for the next step in our European road trip itinerary!
In the morning, we had breakfast in our hotel with French cheese and bread, before heading to Colmar. In Colmar, we parked near a big park and played with fountains, swings, and slides. We had lunch in a restaurant shaded by the trees.
Since we weren’t left with a lot of time to see Colmar, we took the little green train that travels through the main tourist area of Colmar. The tour was interesting and Atena was quiet and content the entire time.
In the afternoon, we visited Ribeauville and Riquewihr, two quintessential Alsacian towns. Most of the town centers were pedestrian, so Atena could practice her walking, meet other kids and make friends with some dogs. As a snack, we ordered crème brulèe, a typical French dessert, which we highly recommend!
After an afternoon exploring the charming towns of Alsace, we returned to Kaysersberg. We really loved the playground between the typical Alsacian houses and it was a perfect spot for our little toddler to play.
We ordered tarte flambée (popular local cuisine), but it wasn’t our favorite. Perhaps our Italian origins had us comparing it to our pizza.
The following morning we wanted to visit Eguisheim, for one last little town in Alsace. Eguisheim was the perfect spot to have breakfast in a little pastry shop, where we ordered pain au chocolat and croissants.
Our last stop in France was in the stunning town of Strasbourg. Strasbourg has a beautiful Cathedral and a beautiful city center, of which you can not miss the Little Venice area.
Road Trip with a Baby Stop #3: Black Forest, Germany
From Alsace, France, we drove a short distance to Freiburg in the Black Forest in Germany. Freiburg is a university town, so the environment was fresh and young. In the central square, where the Cathedral is, we also came across a market. It was at the market we enjoyed our first German lunch: we ordered bread with wurstels, sauerkraut and mayonnaise.
It’s important to get healthy baby food while traveling, so we bought her some fresh fruit and vegetables at the market with the nearby vegetable stand.
Wandering around Freiburg, we found some little canals where the kids can play. Especially in the heat of the summer, Atena enjoyed running around with the other kids and cooling off in the water.
From the heat of Freiburg, we headed directly to the mountains, to a small town called Furtwangen in Schwarzwald.
Our hotel, the Hohengasthaus Kolmenhof, was adorable. They had a big natural playground, near the river which seems to be the legendary Danube source.
Our Italian stomachs were craving pasta and pizza for dinner, so we found an Italian restaurant in Triberg city. We spent the evening in Triberg before going back up in the mountains where a comfy bed was waiting for us, with the background sound of trees, birds and rivers.
In the morning, we visited Titisee Lake, a famous German tourist resort in the summer. The water is incredibly blue and there is a short pathway along the shores. Near the lake, you can find street food and drinks, but this time no vegetables were available. There is also a big cuckoo clock, a traditional clock with bells singing and characters coming out of the windows every hour.
We decided to take the ferry boat on Titisee Lake, which allows you to have a beautiful view from the center of the lake. From the boat, we saw a quiet campground that had a clean beach where tourists were sunbathing and having a swim in the clear water.
While it looked so inviting, we hadn’t planned on swimming in the lake. Our toddler was not on the same page as us and she jumped in following a little duck. Being on a European road trip with a baby (almost a toddler), we were grateful to have our car nearby with our portable changing pad and a full change of clothes for our daughter.
In the afternoon, we visited the Triberg waterfalls, which are the highest waterfalls in Germany. Unfortunately, due to the summer drought and lack of rain, the show was not as wonderful as we expected.
Nonetheless, we still enjoyed hiking with our toddler in the woods. For this excursion, we do not recommend a stroller, but a baby carrier or toddler carrier instead. If you visit the Triberg waterfalls with young children, who won’t be carried, be sure to make they were proper shoes for hiking as the path is steep and full of rocks.
Included in the Triberg waterfalls ticket is the entrance to Triberg Fantasy Museum. This was a great place to visit with a toddler, where we took a lot of selfies and photos in the different ‘worlds’. Our toddler quickly made some friends and really enjoyed playing with them in this safe place.
On our final day in the Black Forest, we went to the open-air museum of the Black Forest, the Schwarzwälder Freilichtmuseum. The Schwarzwälder Freilichtmuseum is where you can learn about the traditional houses, habits, and inhabitants of the area.
There are interactive rooms, animals such as llama, hens, and sheep, free activities for kids and adults, and a corner with water games. The restaurant inside the museum gates was good and we were finally able to try the famous Black Forest Cake, it was such a success!
In the evening, we stopped in a hotel in Lichtenau, which had a biergarten on the first floor. After several days of researching where to eat dinner, we enjoyed the ease of having a restaurant just down the stairs.
Lichtenau, itself, does not offer much for tourists, but the neighborhood was really quiet. It was perfect for walking to the nearest playground after dinner. Throughout our walk we were able to imagine how calm and slow the life in this countryside could be.
While it might seem we spent a lot of time at playgrounds, we knew this was key to successfully traveling to Europe with toddlers. Searching for playgrounds is how we found the best restaurant of the trip: Obere Roggenmühle!
Obere Roggenmühle is located in the natural reserve of Eybtal mit Teilen des Längen- und Rohrachtales and it has everything you need to occupy a toddler: a little lake with big fishes, llamas, birds that can be fed with their food available in small packages for few cents, a huge playground and some old tractors that kids can climb and “drive”. Moreover, it was the first time in Germany that there was fish on the menu, it was fresh and fried.
Our next stop on our European road trip was Stuttgart, Germany were we just stayed for an afternoon. In Stuttgart with a baby, we spent time exploring the city center, eating local food, enjoying the locals’ company.
Starting to plan our way home, we decided to stop at Oberstaufen and stay in a family hotel for once. The MONDI Resort offers apartments with a kitchenette, living room and a huge balcony. Staying in an apartment was the best solution for us with a toddler, and we spent two nights there.
The Italian restaurant in the hotel was great, the best pizza we had eaten outside Italy so far and they even had an inside playroom full of games (a ball pool, little strollers for dolls, a little kitchen, a billiards table and even a bowling room!).
Included in the price of our stay at Oberstaufen, is the Oberstaufen Plus Card. This car gives you a free ride on the cable cars and free entry to the near water park, Aquaria. We chose to spend our first (and rainy) day relaxing in the resort pool, which was perfect for Atena because the water was warm and shallow enough for her to play in.
On our second day, we chose to take the Hundle Bergbahn cable car and go up in the mountains: the path was smooth, and our toddler travel stroller did great! We enjoyed the beautiful weather, the clear sky and the fresh air.
European Road Trip Stop #4: Liechtenstein
By now, we knew it was really time to start our journey home to Italy. We planned a long drive with a stop in Liechtenstein for lunch.
We chose the city of Vaduz, which is the capital of the State and also the seat of the National Parliament. From the city center, looking up to the hill, you can see the Vaduz Castle which is not accessible because the Price of Liechtenstein lives there. We visited the Cathedral of St. Florin, that displays the various styles and periods of architecture in the city.
This wasn’t the best stop on our European travels with a toddler for two reasons. First, we could not find a public playground that was worth spending any time at. We had come to rely on playgrounds when traveling Europe with a toddler to help her burn off energy and give her time to move.
The second reason we didn’t love Vaduz was the unfortunate incident of getting stung by bees. That reminded us the importance of having with us our first aid kit when traveling!
Vaduz turned out to be as pricey as every city in Switzerland, so we chose to continue driving through Liechtenstein and find a place to sleep in nearby Switzerland.
Final Road Trip Stop: Switzerland (a second time)
As we traveled through Switzerland for the second time, we stayed in the Youth Hostel of Valbella for the night. While it was our first time staying in a hostel with a toddler, it ended up being such a great choice.
From there, we took the car to go to Heidsee, a blue lake with a incredible views and a walk around it where we were able to use our travel stroller. There was also a bar near a playground, where we were able to sit down and enjoy the last sunset of our European road trip with a baby.
9 Tips for Road Trip in Europe with a Baby
1. Know The Best Time to Drive
On a typical day we usually woke up at 7.30 am, had breakfast and played a bit. We would leave our accommodations at 9 am when Atena would nap in the car.
We arrived at our first city/activity at about 11 am, where we also had lunch. By 2pm, we’d be on our way to our second stop for 4 pm where we would explore. By 7 pm, we’d reach our accommodations for the night, have dinner then off to bed.
This worked so well for us, as it gave our toddler plenty of time to play and still get the rest she needed.
2. Plan Your Stops
The most important thing we had to pay attention during the whole road trip was the planning of our stops. We planned them around driving (as we mentioned above) and always fit it time for Atena to burn off some energy.
3. Bring Plenty of Car Toys
Car travel toys were essentials to keep her busy while driving, especially if it wasn’t nap time. One of these car seat travel trays for toddlers is a great way to keep everything from ending up on the floor!
4. Download Movies Before Driving
In Europe, we can navigate the internet with our roaming on for free in most of the countries, but not Switzerland. We made sure to download Atena’s favorite playlist on Amazon Music and some Podcasts on Spotify for us parents.
5. Don’t Forget Snacks
Snacks for everyone and plenty of water! Here are a ton of great toddler travel snack ideas! Plus, get a good toddler travel snack cup and a travel sippy cup for your toddler so you don’t have to worry about spills.
6. Travel Light
Before we had our baby, we were a backpacking couple, so we are used to traveling light. That served us well in being able to pack up daily and fit everything in our car.
7. Find Playgrounds and Places for Burning off Energy
After 7 days on the road with our 11 month old daughter, we felt like we were on the Grand Tour of European playgrounds.
Here’s a trick on how we found out the best playgrounds: on Google Maps, in the search tab, we typed the word ‘playground’ in the language of the Country we were in. After pushing ENTER, a lot of playgrounds will appear on the map. If you select one, photos, rates and reviews will appear to you!
8. Leave Time to Explore
While it might seem we spent a lot of time at playgrounds, we quickly learned that this was key to successful Europe travel with a toddler. We made sure to give her time to play at each stop, which then kept her happy when we wanted to explore.
One benefit is that so many of the small towns are close together so having our own car made it easy to explore more than one town in a day
9. Be Flexible
The day before leaving, I started to worry about whether this a long road trip would suit a family with an eleven-month-old baby. We left many days flexible and moved around as it made sense. After this experience we can guarantee: baby can road-trip!
10 Must Haves for a Road Trip with a Baby or Toddler
1. Baby Carrier or Toddler Carrier
You never know when you’ll encounter an area that isn’t stroller friendly, having a toddler or baby carrier can be a life saver! Baby carriers and toddler carriers for travel are also perfect for those days when you want to get out hiking.
2. Travel Stroller
There are so many places where a travel stroller is the perfect fit, like pathways around the lake. If you bring an airplane travel stroller, just make sure it can also withstand the cobblestone streets, which are common around Europe!
3. Travel High Chair
A portable travel high chair is worth packing, as you’ll never know when a restaurant may not have one or if you’ll want to use it in an apartment rental.
4. Diaper Bag with Essentials
You can stay organized easily if all your diaper change essentials remain in your backpack diaper bag. This is especially useful if you make spontaneous trips along the way! You only need to grab one bag that has everything you need for short outings.
5. Car Travel Toys
You’ll want a combination of baby travel toys for the car or some of these car travel toys for toddlers. While the iPad can be a good distraction, audiobooks and other screen-free travel toys are worth packing.
We used playlists on Spotify, packed some of her preferred soft toys and a new busy book. This busy book made of soft materials turned out to be the best option to offer our daughter when she was bored or angry about being in her car seat.
Bring plenty of snacks! They can work wonders at those stressful moments! Just make sure you pack snacks that don’t pose any choking hazards if feeding in the car (even sitting in the back seat might be worthwhile).
We packed several kinds of snacks, such as sandwiches, biscuits, and plenty of fruit. We also packed plenty of water for her and for us. For us adults, we bought a big box of sweets, that we opened the second after she closed her eyes!
Toddler Snack Cup
A toddler snack cup makes it easy to give your toddler a snack like yogurt melts or dry Cheerios on-the-go without having to worry about them all over your car!
7. Toddler Sippy Cup
You can keep your toddler well hydrated by having a non-spill sippy cup with water ready to go!
8. Baby or Toddler Travel Bed
If you are going to be moving around a lot, which is typical on a road trip through Europe, then your life will be simpler if you pack your own travel crib or toddler travel bed. The Lotus travel crib is ideal since it’s lightweight and packs small. Don’t forget a SlumberPod and a white noise machine for travel, if you’ll be sharing a room with your baby!
Read our full review of the Lotus travel crib here.
9. Picnic Supplies
You are on a road trip after all! You can stop for a picnic at any time it suits your family!
10. First Aid Kit
You just never know when you might need it! It’s always worthwhile to pack a first aid kit. Ours came in useful after our run-in with the bees!
Where to Stay in Europe with a Baby or Toddler
What had worried us the most on the last days before departure, was that we hadn’t booked all our accommodations in advance. We had just focused on the first few nights and then planned to book everything day by day.
We had made this decision because we did not know how our toddler would react to being in the car so much and we wanted to keep the end date of the trip flexible.
At the end of the day, Atena’s reaction was really good and she enjoyed traveling to new places so much that our trip lasted more than 10 days!
During our trip, we stayed in hotels, B&Bs, houses… but the accommodation that surprised us the most was a Youth Hostel in Valbella, Switzerland.
It was Atena’s first time in a hostel, so we chose a room with private bathroom. The common areas, such as the self-service restaurant and the garden were amazing. A bonus was that the view was breathtaking.
They even had a playroom full of toys, so we could spend our evening there after dinner and let Atena burn off all the energy she had left from the day.
Final Thoughts on First Road Trip with a Baby
After 11 days being on the road, driving more than 2,000 km, walking (or being carried :D) an average of 20 km per day, we finally arrived in our hometown in the north of Italy. We cooked ourselves a big pasta dish, enjoyed our play corner, took a long shower and a nap in our beds.
Our worries had gone, Atena was so good during the whole road trip and, after the first days, we learned how to adjust our adults’ need to explore to her curiosity and rhythms.
If you’ve ever considered doing a road trip in Europe with a baby or toddler, we highly recommend it!