The allure of the autobahn, castles, festivals, and bratwurst are only a glimpse of what entices people to visit every year. On top of that, the reliable infrastructure, cleanliness, and high safety rating make Germany an ideal spot for a family vacation.
Here are some tips to help you find things you need during your time in Germany.
Tips for Families Traveling to Germany
- Purchasing everyday necessities: Baby food, diapers, pacifiers, and other baby and toddler necessities can be found in limited supply at grocery stores, gas stations, or pharmacies. For a larger selection visit a convenience store or drug store such as DM, Rossmans, or Müller. Pay attention to hours of operation; even in cities stores can close in early evenings. Especially on Saturdays. Remember that these shops are typically closed on Sundays and public holidays. Main train stations (Hauptbahnhof) and airports will have stores open everyday.
- Medicine: Over the counter medications are not available in Germany over the counter. Instead, you must go to a pharmacy (apotheke) and speak with one of the pharmacists about your situation. They will then give you suggestions on what to do next (either recommendations for medicine or require a visit to the doctor for a prescription.) Additionally, pharmacies operate during regular hours. They are typically closed on Sunday and have limited hours on Saturday. Consider packing your own over-the-counter medications for your trip.
- Public restrooms: Diaper changing facilities are more common in women’s bathrooms than they are in men’s. Some public places (restaurants and shops) will not have any diaper changing facilities, so it’s best to ask a staff member for recommendations and be prepared for unconventional options. The convenience store, DM, usually has a diaper changing stationed packed with complementary diapers, wipes, and cream. Public restrooms that do have changing facilities are often very clean.
- Dining out: Most restaurants do not offer a kid’s menu or activities to occupy children while waiting for food. Add to that, meals are often not rushed in Germany so service can be slower than kids are used to back home. Bring something to keep them busy for sit-down restaurants. The good news is that there are some restaurants that have an indoor or outdoor play area with a staff member watching the kids. There are also many “Eltern Cafes” that offer a play area for the kids, and a cafe for the adults.
- General safety: Germany is a safe country, but be responsible and aware of your surroundings.
Transportation in Germany for Families: Getting there and getting around
- Flights: Many American and German carriers offer direct service to and from major hubs. My favorite, Lufthansa, offers great service for families. Lufthansa has a number of tips for flying with children.
- Trains, Busses, Subways: Public transportation makes almost every city, town, and village accessible within Germany (as well as multiple faster rail options to bordering countries). Kids under 6, if traveling with their parents, are free. Long distance trains often have a reservable cabin for families called a Kinderabteil. Regional trains often have a bike area that is perfect for sitting with a stroller. Busses and subways have spots allocated for strollers. If someone is occupying the spot, just politely ask them to move. The only issue for strollers is that some subway doors are narrow, so wider strollers may be difficult to manage. Also, many stations and stops do not have elevators or escalators. More and more transportation maps are starting to indicate station accessibility, otherwise a fellow passenger will often offer to help a family lift the stroller. (For more information on riding the German Rails.)
- Cars: For those who prefer to drive themselves, rent a car and take to the streets. Spend some time learning some basic rules of the road, though, so you don’t upset other drivers. Seat restraint restrictions are similar to those in the United States, but not exact. While locals have to use a different type of carseat, vacationing families should be ok with their carseats from home. Or rent one while visiting. Driving on the autobahn is a popular bucket list item, just keep safety at the top of your mind.
- Walking around: It’s common to find buildings and shops that have steps. This makes maneuvering a stroller difficult, but not impossible. Locals deal with this all the time. Some buildings and smaller hotels will not have elevator access. In those situations there is usually a spot for stroller parking, but be cautious. More often than not your stroller is safe, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a bicycle lock with you.
In case of Emergency
Nationwide life-threatening cases call: 112.
Nationwide doctor on call (who will be able to assist you on local facilities as well): 116 117
Extra tip: Keep an Emergency Checklist during your trip.
Essential Packing List for Families Traveling to Germany
In addition to your typical packing list, don’t forget to add:
- Walking shoes: Go for quality for everyone in the family
- Stroller accessories: A rain cover year-round, a foot muff in the winter
- Activities to occupy kids while in restaurants
- Over-the-counter medication
Family Experiences in Germany
- The Fairytale Route follows 600 km of towns and streets the Grimm Brothers lived, worked, and played. Whether driving the whole route, or selecting just a portion to explore more intensely, it is guaranteed to be a memorable experience for the whole family.
- There are castles dotted throughout Germany’s landscape. By far the most famous, and most recognizable to kids, is King Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland in California. King Ludwig II had other castles worth visiting, as well, such as the Herrenchiemsee. This more ornate replica of Versailles is a tribute to the Sun King.
- For a combination of castles, history, festivities, and rivers, attend the Rhein on Flames. This spectacular fireworks show is hosted by a different castle and town along the Rhine River every weekend in August. My personal favorite is in Koblenz, the city at the intersection of the Mosel and Rhine Rivers.
- Give kids of all ages a break from sightseeing by visiting one of the many theme parks in Germany. Holiday Park is an hour outside of Heidelberg and a good option for those with younger children. They are closed in the winter, so double check opening hours before finalizing plans.
- With over 35 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Germany, there is definitely something to appeal to different members of the family. One place to consider? The town of Bamberg offers a look back in time. It is one of a few cities left untouched during the war.
- Christmas Markets can seem overwhelming to families. However, some cities offer all the atmosphere of the bigger markets, with smaller crowds that appeal to families. One such market is the Weihnachtsmarkt in Erfurt. Various markets take over the whole city offering a variety of foods, a large ferris wheel on Dom Platz, trinkets from all over Germany, and a double decker carrousel.
- Ever wonder what families in Germany do on Sundays when all of the shops are closed? They take to nature. Pick from one of the country’s 14 national parks. The Harz National Park is a good choice. Whether it’s hiking, looking at views from Northern Germany’s highest peak, or riding on one of the year-round toboggan runs, there is something for every member of the family
***Please note: We will be adding Berlin and Munich guides in the near future.***