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10 tips for travelling with kids in Germany

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected]
10 tips for travelling with kids in Germany
A girl cools off next to a fountain while visiting Berlin in June. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

From where to stay, what to do and how to travel, Berlin-based journalist and mom Rachel Stern lays out some tested tips on going on a family holiday in and around Germany.

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(Easily) find family friendly places to stay

In recent years, a handful of ‘kid free’ hotels have controversially opened in popular German tourism destinations like the Baltic Sea. But for every one of these adult-only abodes, there are hundreds of hotels and resorts designed specifically with families in mind.

In almost all price categories, it’s easy to find Kinderhotels with built-in playgrounds, swimming pools which double up as mini-water parks, and activities ranging from finger painting to horseback riding.

Some come with a hefty price tag, particularly if they also offer childcare, while others like Ahorn Resorts won't set families back more than €100 a night in many of their scenic locations.

Alternatively, those looking to set up a tent (or Wohnmobil) in Germany's great outdoors can check out Camping.info, which lists over 2,000 camping sites around the country. For another option, little kids will especially love mingling with farm animals on a Bauernhofurlaub’.

If you prefer your own four walls, Airbnb also maintains a listing of particularly family friendly flats and homes.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The most popular camping destinations in Germany

Embrace train travel

We admit that German trains have a way to go before they get their punctuality on par with many of their European neighbours. But there is one thing that makes them score plus points: special features for families. Most train journeys on ICEs allow you to book a separate family compartment (Familienbereich), which is often colourfully equipped with toys and books and enough space for a pram, for an extra €10.40. Those travelling with small children can also book a ‘Kleinkindabteil’, which gives them extra privacy and access to a Wickeltisch, or changing tables.

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Even many regional trains include family sections with extra storage space and tables converted into board games with coins to be used as the playing pieces.

Unlike with planes, kids can also travel completely free on Deutsche Bahn trains up until the age of five, and get a 50 percent discount until they’re 14.

A train on a bridge

A Deutsche Bahn train crosses the Ravenna Viaduct near Hinterzarten in the Black Forest. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Patrick Seeger

Get involved with local activities 

Especially in the warmer months, there are countless family-friendly festivals and special events all around Germany ranging from renaissance fairs to harvest celebrations paying homage to the latest seasonal crop. Most include play areas and activities just for kids.

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Check out the city or tourism website of where you're staying for an up to date listing or kid-centred sites like Kindaling if you'll be in one of Germany's larger cities.

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And a no-fail option whether you're in Berlin or a small village: playgrounds. Germany is graced with well-equipped Spielplätze wherever you go and they serve as great ways both for your kids to burn off some energy and interact with locals.

Visit diverse theme parks 

Many families head to Europa-Park, Germany’s largest amusement park situated in Baden-Württemberg, in the summer. But there are countless alternatives for rides and spectacular shows, such as Heide Park and Phantasialand.

If your kids are fans of Germany’s own PlayMobil, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, you won’t want to miss the toy manufacturer's FunPark in Zirndorf, Bavaria. Also not too far away in Günzburg is Legoland Germany.

There are a smattering of smaller regional parks, such as Karls-Erlebnis-Dorf. With locations around Berlin and northern Germany, the park from the famous strawberry seller features rides for all ages and of course every type of its namesake delicacy imaginable. 

Younger children will especially enjoy the fairy tale themed amusement park and forest Zwergenwald Sommerrodelbahn in Ibbenbüren in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Take a fairy tale trip 

Speaking of fairy tales, if your kids are fans of the Grimm Brothers, you might want to drive 600km-long fairy-tale-road Deutsche Märchenstraße stretching from their Heimat of Hanau and along many picturesque forests and villages which inspired their stories.

And let’s not forget the hundreds of castles, from the famous Neuschwanstein in Bavaria to Schloss Heidelberg and the hundreds in between. Most offer special discounts for kids and tours for families.

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Take a hike

Germany has 16 national parks, meaning that wherever you're travelling in the Bundesrepublik, there likely isn't one very far away. From the Black Forest National Park to Saxon Switzerland, Germans revere their Nationalparke and they're a popular bike for holidaymakers and day trippers alike. Children in particular will enjoy extras like animal enclosures, guided hikes of flora and fauna and in some cases Baumwipfelpfade, or an elevated canopy pathway which weaves through the trees.

And in contrast to theme parks, there are low or donation-based admission fees.

A view of the Elbe in the Saxon Switzerland
A view of the Elbe from the peaks of Saxon Switzerland. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Stay well stocked

No matter where you are in the world, keeping snacks and other supplies on hand for kids is a must. The drug stores DM and Rossmann boast an especially large assortment of goods for kids, from shampoo to sand toys and even clothes for smaller children.

Those travelling with babies and toddlers might be relieved that many locations come equipped with changing tables and free nappies of various sizes. Not to mention gratis ice cold tap water - a rarity in Germany - free for the taking in a tiny cup.

Stay updated about travel conditions

ADAC, the largest driving association in Europe, provides regular updates on its websites about driving conditions, ahem, sprawling back-up traffic jams that take over the Autobahn at the end and start of school holidays. They don't just detail info relevant to drivers, but also list upcoming works that could impact train and plane travellers.

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Keep cool

Sweltering temperatures and a lack of AC in Germany might make your kids (and you) want to plunge into a pool. It’s easy to find Freibäder (open air swimming pools) all over the country, most of which offer a special shallow play section for smaller kids. 

Or you could check out one of Germany’s 2,000 officially designated Badenseen (swimming lakes) if you’d prefer taking cooling off amid a scenic backdrop.

Stay safe

Germany is overall a very safe place to travel with children. But there are a few things you can do to put your mind at ease, especially if you don't speak the language well. Germany's official warning app, NINA, gives alerts about emergencies and natural disasters in your area. The app Nora also connects users to local police and emergency services.

Packing a basic first aid kit will come in handy. Basics like band aids, disinfection spray and tick tweezers (Germany has seen an increase in several regions) will serve you well, and mean you’re not scrambling to find an Apotheke (pharmacy), or out of luck if it’s an evening or Sunday.

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