I'd like to take my kids, aged six and nine on a tour of Europe this winter. They have never seen Europe and I haven't been for almost 20 years. We hope to spend two weeks travelling around and would like to see as much as possible. Could you suggest an itinerary? Western Europe has an excellent rail network so to best get around, I would suggest buying Eurail passes for you and your family, as these will enable you to use the trains with greater ease and flexibility. Many journeys will be free for pass holders but for longer trips, or those on high-speed trains such as the French TGV, you may have to reserve seats in advance and/or pay a supplement towards the ticket. There are various options available depending on how long you need the passes for and how many countries you will be visiting. Check out www.eurail.com for more information.
Some degree of forward planning is wise, especially with kids in tow. It will probably be easiest (and cheapest) to start and end your trip in the same city. Paris is a good place to use as a hub because it has great rail links to many other major European cities. London is only two and a quarter hours away on the Eurostar and, although it isn't included on your Eurail passes, it would make a great three or four day trip.
Skiing is an obvious winter attraction in Europe and there are plenty of options when it comes to choosing a resort. Many are no more than a few hours' rail journey from the French capital. Alternatively, you could take an overnight "trainhotel" to Barcelona, which is an experience in itself. The city is quieter during the winter months so you should find it easier to make the most of your time there.
If your family celebrates Christmas, another stop on your tour would have to be Vienna, a city that embraces the festive season with Christmas markets in the streets selling traditional food, gifts and decorations. Getting there by train from Paris involves a change at Munich, so you should take advantage of this by spending at least a day walking around the Altstadt, the old town in the centre of Munich.
In two weeks you should be able to show your family the highlights of Europe. The train journeys will allow you to see the countryside while getting some rest in between what will inevitably be action-packed days out. Do you have travel questions or queries? If so, e-mail them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org