At Ciao Bambino, we love biking as a way to engage kids in active sightseeing. We routinely recommend sightseeing bike tours in Paris and London, but my week-long family bike trip in Germany with Austin Adventures was a first for us. Biking in Europe is not simply about riding a bike; it’s a cultural immersion. For families that want an active vacation in Europe but not the organization challenges that come with it, this is an excellent option.
Tips for Planning a Family Bike Trip in Europe
Evaluate Your Kids’ Biking Ability
Before you and the kids get excited about a destination, check the difficulty level of the trip compared to your children’s biking ability. For most trips, the recommended age is 7 or 8 years old, which assumes beginner level biking ability, including use of gears, and enough maturity to look both ways before crossing the street — a basic rule of the road that proves challenging at times for all ages.
Tip: For kids that aren’t ready to bike solo, tag alongs are available.
The Parents’ Experience
When considering a family bike trip, ask yourself what type of biking vacation you want. If kids are beginners, they’ll spend more time biking with their parents. Older tweens and teens tend to bike in packs if there are a few of them on a trip, so they spend less time with their parents. Guides are aware of where everyone is on the path and make sure that no one is lost.
The daily itinerary offers extra side trips where parents can split up and one can go off biking while another stays with the children. Depending on the specific scenario, a guide may be able to bike with the children while the parents take a side trip.
Practice Biking Ahead of the Trip
On the Austin Adventures Mosel Valley Family Bike Trip, daily biking mileage is 20-40 miles over a 7 or 8-hour day that includes snack breaks, sightseeing stops and lunch. My 8-year-old daughter didn’t have a problem with the 40-mile day but she did struggle with shifting gears on hills. Our preparation for this trip was a 10-mile bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge … not enough. Before you go, it’s helpful to bike a few times at least half the longest distance that you’ll bike on the trip and preferably one where kids practice shifting gears.
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Choose a Tour Operator That Knows Families
A tour operator that is accustomed to working with families won’t blink, as our guides didn’t, when a yo-yo string becomes entangled in a derailer or when a playground on the bike path calls for an unscheduled stop. The experience with Austin Adventures, a company that truly knows families, was beyond my expectations. The guides know how to make things fun for the kids and provide parents with appreciated adult time.
Use the Support Van Sparingly
For my daughter, day one of the trip was challenging and we let her cut the afternoon ride short and return to the hotel in the support van that is always a short call away. Turns out the support van is a cool place to be – it carries the snacks. By the end of day one, with a kid-tested snack hierarchy established, every kid wanted to ride in the support van given the opportunity.
A quick explanation before the trip that the van is only used when needed for safety or fatigue reasons will curtail the pleas to ride in it.
Go With the Flow
The experience on a bike trip is different for each family based on the variables of biking ability and the ages and personalities on the trip. Biking in Europe is as much about the journey as it is about the final destination. While each trip is organized with a trail map for each day, parents with beginner bikers may spend more time leisurely soaking up the scenery while parents of older kids have more time for side trips and faster-paced biking.
While these tips are targeted at parents and kids, it’s not uncommon to see grandparents riding alongside their grandchildren. Tour operators have electric or ebikes available for adults making a bike trip an interesting option for a multigenerational family vacation.
Want Help Planning a Family Bike Trip or Family Vacation in Europe?
Ciao Bambino’s expert Family Vacation Consultants offer comprehensive trip planning assistance including itinerary development, hotel selection and booking, as well as activity and guide recommendations, request assistance on My Trip Planner. We can also help you choose a bike trip in Europe that’s the best fit for your family.
Best family things to do and family hotels in Germany on Ciao Bambino
Editor’s Note: Austin Adventures provided a media rate for the bike trip. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photo by Kristi Marcelle.