Visiting Germany With Kids: How To Plan Perfect Family Holidays in Germany

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Having birthed my first (and soon to be third) babies here in Germany and considering what kind of avid travelers we are, it’s probably not hard to surmise that we think that Germany with kids is a fantastic place to consider for a Germany family holiday!

While many adults envision Lederhosen, giant beers, and endless kinds of wursts, the reality is that family holidays in Germany for kids can be a dream come true for all!  I mean, for those younger, “Thomas the Train” obsessed kids (No? Just my 4 year old??) you could spend hours at the train stations alone watching the train cars zoom on past.  For those little princesses in our lives, places like Neuschanstein Castle is a real life fairytale in and of itself.  For older kids, it is shocking how into some of the history they can get (yes, even the ones that you typically can’t pry away from Minecraft!) and the much more laid back culture of Germany is easy to get the whole family into the groove of!

family vacation germany

^Don’t Forget a Single Thing In this Massive Article.  PIN IT FOR LATER^

Is it Good To Go to Germany With Kids?

kids germany trip

Can I tell you a little secret?
Honestly, I believe ANYWHERE (well, ok, MOST anywhere) in the world is good to travel to with kids.  Sure, are there some destinations and locations that just scream “Kid Friendly?” Maybe, but outside of places like Disneyland and Santa’s North Pole, I am a FIRM believer that you can make (almost) anywhere in the world a great family trip. (yes yes, I know, I would never go for a Holiday Jaunt on Skid Row, but I think you get the point)
Which is why I really can’t stand the “Best places to go in Germany with kids” because they are all worthy, but more importantly, adaptable!

So, take what I just said with you as you read the rest of this article and know that I think that you can make anywhere in Germany with kids an amazing, fun, and memorable experience for all ages.

Other Important Articles To Read About Planning a Trip To Germany

Things To Know About Germany With Children

Before we get into all the specifics of Germany family vacation and where to visit Germany with kids, I think it is really important to point out a few cultural differences (particularly things I have noticed as an American living in Germany).

  • Noise Levels: Kids will be kids, of course!  However, Germans have a particular preference on the noise level of any group of people, whether it be adults or children.  You’ll soon be able to spot the Americans in any room because of how loud they are talking.  This can be a challenge for younger kids, but if you don’t want to get nasty stares, then start practicing how to talk in very quiet voices when out in public, on the trains, and at restaurants.
  • Respectful: Sort of in line with the above, I often find it perplexing that when we are at places like restaurants just how quiet and well behaved kids are.  I mean, here are mine, trying to run circles around the table playing tag while the local kids are all sitting and waiting patiently for their Schnitzels at the table with Mom and Dad.   We’ve learned to always have a stash of small toys and activities that the kids can play with at the table to keep them occupied (coloring books, books to read, toy cars). More on eating out with kids below.
  • Safety: Germany is extremely safe!  While in bigger cities like Berlin, it’s a wise idea to keep the wallets and passports hidden, pick pocketers are typically the worst a tourist may encounter.  In some cities, you may encounter some homeless people or refugees looking for some help, but they stay out of your way.  I’ve never felt unsafe or in serious harms way while traveling in Germany.
  • Kid Friendly: There are a ton of kid friendly activities to be found all over Germany.  Also, Germany does a fantastic job of catering specifically to families with hotels like Kinderhotels, Familelhotels, etc where they are created JUST for families. 

Documentation

do i need a passport for germany?

Passports

Everyone traveling to Germany, despite their age, will need a valid Passport.  As of this current writing, the passports must have at least 3 months of validity past your return flight.  For example, if I was flying home in December after visiting the Christmas Markets, my passport would need to be valid at least through that March.
Remember: Passports are valid for 10 years only for travelers over 16.  For kids under 16, they are only good for 5 years!  So double check everyone’s is up to date.

Visas

You currently do not need a visa for entry into Germany as a tourist (from most Western countries).  For example, if you are form the US, you can stay for up to 90 days without a visa.

 

Ok, lets now move on to traveling in Germany with kids, age by age before we talk about things like booking accommodations and what foods everyone will be sure to love, no matter how picky an eater they are!

Flying to Germany With Kids

flying to germany with kids
Flying to Munich with the family

Where to Fly Into

This is really going to depend on your itinerary.  For example, if you are following my 10 Days in Bavaria Itinerary, then Munich is going to be your best option.  Since plane travel isn’t cheap, especially when talking several kids, you may want to consider budget over convenience. I find some of the best prices to be in and out of Frankfurt. I have also found some incredibly low, flash sales to Berlin with Scotts Cheap Flights.  Since we are travel hackers, we also prefer to fly on points to help keep costs down, especially during the expensive summer months. 

When To Go To Germany with a Family

Again, this will all depend on what activities you are wanting to do.  If you are still trying to narrow that down, don’t miss my “Best Time To Visit Germany” post.

If you are solely looking at the cheapest flights for the whole family, February tends to be a good month.  In February, you can still do plenty of sight seeing (just be sure to bundle plenty of layers and use my tips in my “What To Pack For Germany in the Winter“)  If your family is into skiing, winter is a great time to hit up the Alps for some amazing runs. 

However, the summer months are going to yield the best weather with arguably the most things to do with your family, but will also be the most expensive flights.  This is especially when we like to use points and miles.

FAQ: Can Kids Go to Oktoberfest?  YES!  Many people like to go to Germany for Oktoberfest and want to know if it’s appropriate for kids.

Kids will love Oktoberfest, as it is basically a big, giant, festive, carnival.  However, it can get EXTREMELY crowded (and yes, rowdy) at times.  Therefore, go as early as you can and on a weekday. Have a meeting point pre planned just in case people get split up. However, if you are wanting to get a fantastic Fest Experience without the touristy version of Oktoberfest, look for “Volksfests” in other towns, which I’ll talk about more in the section below on exactly where to go. 

Tips For Flying With Kids

trip to germany with kids

Flying With a Baby to Germany

If you haven’t checked out my extremely extensive “Traveling To Germany With a Baby or Toddler” Guide, I have a TON of pro travel tips that we have learned from flying countless times to and from Germany.  From where to get baby food in Germany to best places to visit, I cover it all.

Read The Traveling In Germany With Baby Guide Here

Flying to Germany With Gradeschool Kids

Once kids are a little older (think preschool and above) then they start to be less demanding of your time during flights. I have seen some kids on international flights just simply plug in their headphones and get sucked into whatever cartoons are on for the next 8 hours.  I personally prefer to have some screen free options.

Activities for Kids on a Plane

  • While this isn’t screen free, I love having my kids do some language Apps. There are some decent kids ones, like “Study Cat,” ” German Learning for Kids” that are all German language apps for kids. Or if you have an older child, Duolingo is great (get a free account here).
  • Reading. This is probably the most obvious screen free activity. Some kids can get sucked into a book for hours, others will turn their nose up at the idea of it. If you want to limit screen time, negotiate a “For every X minutes of reading, you can watch X movies/ shows” type of deal.
  • Madlibs. Who doesn’t love these games!? Get them here
  • Card and other Games. There are travel editions of games like Travel UNO and Old Maid as well as Travel Bingo, which are great for playing on the plane, as well as on the trains or at the hotels.
  • Start a travel journal. Since you will be traveling, having a travel journal is something kids can really get into. On the plane, they can start to organize a journal as well as start their first entries. What did they do to get ready for the trip? What did they pack? What are they looking forward to…..etc
  • Audiobooks
  • Crochet. I once saw an older child working tirelessly on a scarf one time on a plane and thought that was brilliant! Download a few tutorials offline before boarding the flight if you are newbies and want to try learning.

Flying to Germany With Teens

Meh…..let them roam wild. I remember the first time I flew to Germany when I was 15 to visit my sister who was stationed in Darmstadt with the Army. This was well before kindles and IPODs, so my carry on bag was loaded down with my portable cd player and about a million cds and probably a good 10 books. This was also well before the times of individual entertainment systems on flights.
But I remember just loving being able to do my own thing. Even then, I liked to write, so I would journal. I listened to my music (I remember I was particularly into “Rent” during that trip!) and watched whatever movies were playing.
Let your teen just kick back and chill

Other Items to Bring On the Plane for Kids

In addition to any items mentioned above, some other things that are good to have for the kids are:

Booking Accommodations in Germany for Families

Family hotel Germany

Depending on the size or ages of your family, finding family hotels in Germany can feel like a struggle if you are new to the game.  

Finding family accommodation in Germany isn’t always as straightforward as it is in the US and the rooms are often smaller, making it harder to accommodate for families.  Here are some important things to know when looking.

Family Rooms Are Expensive

Some hotels have specific “Family Rooms” but they often come with a pretty decent price tag.  However, it can be nice to have a bit more space in your hotel room.  These rooms often have a big bed (similar to a queen or a king size) and a set of bunk beds, and some will also have a pull out couch depending on the size of the room. 

Many Accommodations Will Charge Per Person (Including Children)

This is going to vary from location to location, but it is something to know that kids just don’t automatically come free all the time.  Some hotels don’t charge for kids under certain ages, others will have discounted kids rates.  You’ll almost always pay some sort of free when booking at family-specific accommodations, like KinderHotels.

If you are staying at a chain hotel or guesthouse, they may charge a small fee for extra bedding, if it is required. 

Always Include ALL Children In Your Booking

When I was a kid (there were 4 of us), when we traveled, we often had to take turns of who slept on the floor in a sleeping bag.  Some hotels don’t have a problem with this in Germany, but you have to notify the hotel of all the number of people in the room for safety rules and regulations.  

For example, I currently have two little ones.  The toddler is always in the bed with us and the kiddo can “camp out” for the night on the floor.  Therefore, as a family of 4, we can easily fit into a normal, king sized hotel room.  However, if I were to put 2 kids and 2 adults into the search engines of the hotels or even Booking.com, it rarely will give me that option.  Therefore, you just simply need to contact the hotel directly, explain that your kids will be in your bed or that they can sleep on the floor, and can you still book that room.  

Parenting Pro Tip: If you have younger kids, get a travel cot or a travel mattress for staying in Germany.  This can help cut down on rooms needed!

Where To Look For Family Hotels and Accommodations in Germany

As mentioned previously, Germany has some really fantastic lodging options that are geared just towards families.  Here are some of the first places I look when looking for hotels and places to stay in Germany with my family.

AirBnB

This is probably a no brainer.  We LOVE AirBnBs because we get plenty of space, we can cut down on food expenses by doing breakfasts and even some dinners at the house, and we don’t have to worry about loud children in a hotel.  

Tip: AirBnBs are not illegal in Germany, however, a person can not sublet their apartment or home.  In fact, I had a fellow member of our Travel in Bavaria Tips and Advice Facebook Group concerned about her Munich AirBnB booking because the host was telling them things like “If anyone asks, tell them you are friends.”  If someone owns their place, there is no issue renting out to AirBnB, so if this is something that concerns you, a quick message to a host before booking can clear any of that up for you. 

Tip: If you want to make sure that your homestay is on the up and up and not skirting any local rules, all listings on Booking.com have to be registered.  On the left hand side, you can filter for apartments and homestays (many that are on AirBnB are also on Booking) 

Kinder Hotels

Kinder Hotel is an actual chain of “Certified” family friendly hotels. You’ll find things like baby baths, bottle warmers, baby beds, a free kids club, and more at these hotels. 

Most of these have some sort of all inclusive or half board package available as well. 

These hotels are often on the pricier side, but if you are looking for a weekend to just relax, eat all you can eat buffets, go swimming in gorgeous pools, have tons of on site kids activities, and have some sauna and spa time for you (There is free child care included!) then you can’t beat these experiences! 

Famil Hotels

These are great options if you are looking at family hotels. Germany has them all over the country. 

This is a similar concept to the Kinder Hotels, where there are many hotels throughout Germany that cater to families.  Famil Hotels have tons of family friendly activities on site, many have childcare included, and you can find ones that have full or half board as well. 

Center Parcs

While most people flock to the Kinder Hotels, my recent obsession is the brand Center Parcs.  They have resorts all over Germany and you can read my full review on the one in the beautiful Allgäu region of Bavaria.  The reason I am loving these family friendly places to stay in Germany is that it is made just for families and are basically little small villages that are full of family centered activities all right within a short distance. 

And as a penny pincher, I just can’t seem to beat the prices of the Center Parcs (no, I am not getting paid to say any of this!) for what you get in return.

You get your own little cottage that comes mostly stocked with linens and full kitchen amenities (although read my full review for a list of things you should bring along with you). There are HUGE water parks on the grounds, several restaurants to choose from, and family activities on sight like bowling, playgrounds, mini golf, paddle boats, and more.

While we’ve always found plenty to do at the parks themselves, most of them are located within driving distance of great places to see in Germany so that you can do plenty of day trips. 

Click Here To See Current Center Parc Deals and Discounts

FarmStays (Urlaub auf dem Bauernhof)

staying at a farm in germany

If you are wanting a really fun and unique experience, there are a lot of agritourism-style farm hotels.  Don’t worry, you aren’t sleeping in a barn with the cows (although at some of them, if you want, you can definitely play with the animals and even help chip in with farm chores).  However, don’t think of these as cheap stays, either (cheaper than a Kinder Hotel, but not as cheap as some Pensions).  These often come with fantastic kids activities on site as well, huge breakfasts (and sometimes other meals), and typically have bigger room and family-style accommodations since they are geared towards kids. 

Hay Hotels

Maybe you read the farmstay section and are like “Hey (pun intended!), maybe I DO want to sleep in a barn on a bed of hay!” Then let me introduce you to Hay (Heu) Hotels.  To find ones in the region or area you are looking for, just do a simple google search of “Heu Hotel Bavaria” or “Heu Hotel Mosel Valley” etc to find local farm stays.  Many of these offer the above farm stays as well as literally “Sleeping in the hay.”  After all, you ARE looking for a memorable trip with your family, aren’t you!?

Hostels

family friendly hostels in germany

Ok, before you get all “Horror Movie” on me with wide eyes saying “Aren’t hostels unsafe!?” Let me completely reassure you that that is something out of Hollywood.  Now, are there definitely some party style Hostels, particularly with backpackers?  Yes.  However, with some time spent on reading reviews, you are going to be able to sift those ones out really fast.  Here is what to look for when reading reviews:

  • Noise levels from other occupants
  • Part of town (is it on a party strip?  Above a bar?  Yeah….avoid those)
  • Reviews on cleanliness.  Most hostels you can pay an extra fee for fresh linens and towels.  Read reviews on these
  • Staff friendliness.  It probably goes without saying that reviews of an accommodating staff bodes well for traveling families

Why I love hostels with my family

  1. They are so affordable!  You can get a room for your whole family for less than a typical guesthouse or hotel room
  2. Many have family room options.  There are some hostels that even advertise TO families.  We’ve stayed in rooms that have a double bed plus a set of bunk beds.  Alternatively, almost all hostels have “dorm” style rooms as well.  Many have varying room sizes for this (for example, 6 bunk beds per room or 12).  If you can book ahead in advance, you can just book one of these rooms all to yourself. 
  3. They are decent sizes.  Since you are probably getting a whole “Dorm” room or a private room, they are actually really decent sizes.  The family room (double plus 1 set of bunks) that we have stayed at in Stuttgart was actually way bigger than a hotel room. 
  4. You have a kitchen to cook meals in (cut down on costs)
  5. There is usually a commons room where the family can go to hang out, play board games, play pool or air hockey etc.

Pensions and Guesthouses

Before we had kids, my favorite places to stay at in Germany was family run Pensions and Guesthouses.  Especially in Bavaria, the buildings have so much charm and ambiance to them.  It isn’t uncommon for families to run these businesses and they take great pride in running a hospitable business.  Breakfasts are often included and are HUGE spreads (more on that below in “Eating in Germany with Kids.”)

The problem with Guesthouses is that the rooms are often much smaller than what we are used to in the US, so it is hard fitting several kids into one room.  However, if you are traveling with older kids who can stay in their own room (or don’t mind splitting up and getting 2 rooms in general), I would definitely still look into these for lodging. 

Hotels

hotel room in germany

And then, obviously, there are just normal hotels.  My preferred search engine is Booking.Com.  You can actually filter out different things like prices, pools (pools aren’t too common in Germany, unless at more of a resort style hotel or big chain), number of rooms and more.  You can read all the reviews and see pictures so that you can feel pretty confident in your booking. 

As mentioned previously, we collect points and miles, so we often stay at places like Mariott, Hyatt, Hilton, etc.  You definitely don’t get the “local” experience like a guesthouse, but you also pretty much always know what you are getting when you book these types of hotels. 

Tip: One thing to consider when booking at a hotel or a guesthouse, is to look into their suite options.  For example, some suites have almost what feels like an entire sitting room.  You can inquire directly with the establishment if they are ok with a roll out bed or even just offering some extra sheets and pillows for the floor.  Sometimes, even though a suite is expensive, it can still be cheaper than two separate rooms. 

Getting Around Germany With Kids

bavaria train

Germany with Kids: Train or Drive?

Your two main options for getting around Germany with a family is by car or train.  Here are some of the things you need to know about each as well as some pros and cons.

Search For Deutsche Bahn Train Tickets Here

Train Travel With Kids in Germany 

train travel with kids in germany

First, let me just say that we love doing Germany by train with kids!!!  Like most things German, Deutsche Bahn is a very efficient, well oiled machine (well, train).  Here are some of the reasons why using the trains in Germany (particularly with kids) is a great option

  1. It is efficient: If a train says it departs at 8:57, it departs at 8:57.  Only a handful of times have I had trains be delayed
  2. Kids Don’t Need To Be Strapped In: For the younger travelers, being strapped into a carseat for hours can end up feeling like a huge struggle (for everyone!) I love that on the trains we can walk around freely, take bathroom breaks whenever we want without making the total trip time longer, and kids are just generally more comfortable rather than being in car seats. 
  3. They get to just about everywhere:  My first 6 years of living in Germany, I lived in what some may call a Podunk town in the middle of nowhere, Bavaria.  I was able to take the train just about anywhere that I needed to go, even from my small little village!
  4. It can be price efficient.  This one is hit or miss.  For example, there are regional day tickets, like my beloved Bavaria Day Pass.  These tickets get up to 5 people on a local train ticket for the whole day (great for families).  There are some nuances (like only being able to use local trains (no fast speed ones) and a few time restrictions (you can read all about that in my Bayern Train Pass Article) ) but for the most part, these regional offers are great ways to save money if you are staying within certain areas of Germany at a time.  
    Tip: If you are doing just train travel, I recommend using the regional offers to get around locally, for example, if you are going from Nuremberg to Munich and then combine those with one way trips or even with a flexible German Rail Pass, which is useful if you are doing a lot of train travel around to further areas. 
  5. Clean.  I always feel very comfortable on German trains.  The seats and bathrooms are all very well maintained and clean. 

Deutsche Bahn With Kids Tips

deutsche bahn kids

Know the Different Kinds of Trains:  The main types are RE (Regional), IC (Inter City) and ICE (Inter City Express).  The ICE trains are the ones that you would take longer distances and are the fast trains

Have Activities For Them: Just like on the plane, you’ll want activities to keep them occupied if you are on longer trains.  On shorter trains, we find the kids are enthralled with just watching the scenery and having the experience of being on the train.

Food:  You can bring food and drink onto the train and the longer distance trains will typically have a food cart as well.  The Regional Trains occasionally have a person that goes train to train offering small snacks (chips, candy bars) and drinks. 

Tip:  We LOVE stopping at a Backerei at the train stations and grabbing some grub before boarding.  Getting sandwiches, pretzels snacks, and drinks that will last our trip ahead of time helps to ensure nobody gets hangry in case we can’t find something everyone likes on the train.  If your kid needs special foods (fruit juice boxes, baby puree, etc make sure you have these before boarding)

Deutsche Bahn Discounts for Children

Free Under 6: Kids under 6 travel for free on most trains (Note: it is under 5 if using a regional group ticket).  Kids under 6 do not need a ticket, however, if you are booking a long distance train and want seat reservations (more on this in a minute) then they will need a seat reservation as well. 

Under 15 Years Old Free: For children under 15, if they have at least one parent with a paid ticket they are free (again, this does not apply to the regional day ticket offers).  Just make sure that when you book the tickets, any children are written/ noted on the original ticket to avoid any issues. Note: Kids over 6 count towards the group when booking the above mentioned regional tickets.

Deutsche Bahn Family Tickets

You have to contact Deutsche Bahn directly in order to book a family ticket.  These aren’t necessarily discounts (although you can always ask!) but instead, is an extension on the above mentioned age restrictions.  For example, you can only list so many kids on a ticket.  By having a Family Ticket, you can have at 4 children aged 6 to 14 years hassle-free on all your tickets. 

ICE Trains With Kids

As mentioned previously, the ICE trains are the Inter City Express Trains.  You can zip from Munich to Berlin in 5.5 hours or from Frankfurt to Hamburg in just 4.  If you are going to be doing any ICE Trains, be sure to take advantage of the family and kid perks:

Family Area:  There is a section on most ICE trains called the “Familienbereich.”  This is an area dedicated to families with kids (think grade school ages).  This is a good area because you’ll find that in most of the other cars, it is VERY quiet.  Having rowdy kids will surely get you some nasty stares in the normal cars.  However, in the Familienbereich, your kids are free to be….well, kids!!!

Infant Compartment: My favorite is the “Kleinkinderabteil” which is a dedicated compartment for families with young kids (infants and toddlers). It is an actual enclosed, small area that fits about 8 seats that has doors that close.  I love this because when my kids are toddlers, we just close the doors and I don’t have to worry about them darting down the aisles.  It’s kind of like our own little enclosed play area. 

Both of these areas have places for strollers to be stowed, outlets for tablets (or bottle warmers), and a bathroom nearby with a changing table. 

Note:  You have to reserve both of these family areas well in advance and they often get booked out FAST.  If you know you are going to be taking an ICE train and want these areas, then I recommend booking your ICE train tickets as soon as they come out (typically about 3 months out) and booking your family compartments immediately. 

Also, there is a small fee to reserve these, but it’s only about 10 Euro for a family of 5

Freebies

On Board Entertainment: DB has now started offering a service (Familienbetreuer) on select routes that actually have a person in the family compartments that offers activities like crafts, storytelling, and face painting! Talk about fun for the kids! This isn’t on all ICE trains and it is currently a suspended program during COVID.

Activity Kit:  Another great (free!!) thing is that DB offers a little travel kit of activities for younger kids.  All you have to do is go to the meal car of the train and ask for it.  It varies in what’s included, but typically has stuff like a coloring book, activities booklet, little game, and kids magazine.  Sometimes they even have little train figurines as well. 

Getting Around Germany By Car With A Family

driving in germany

Your other main option for getting from one place to another in Germany is by car.  As much as I love taking the trains in Germany, once we started having kids, I found it a bit easier to just do it by car ourselves.  It gave us the flexibility to leave whenever we wanted and we could get to more off the beaten path type of locations.  This has allowed us to create our own Germany family itinerary for wherever we may want to go and adapt it to our current phase of kid life.

If you haven’t yet read my “Ultimate Guide to Driving In Germany” make sure you do that right now.  Don’t worry, driving in Germany does not need to be scary! 

Also, when you are driving yourself, you can be a bit more lenient on your luggage and “stuff” allotment.  We would find ourselves trying to pack super light when using trains, but if we have the car, we toss in that extra bag of diapers, bring along some extra snacks, etc. 

However, before you get behind the wheel just yet, here are a few things you need to know about driving in Germany with kids.

If You Need A Van, Book It Early

van rental in germany
This 9 passenger van was WAY to cumbersome driving in Germany! But there were no smaller options available on our dates needed

Depending on the size of your family, you may need a van to fit everyone in one vehicle.  While vans aren’t entirely uncommon in Germany, they also aren’t a typical norm.  Therefore, they can actually be quite difficult (and expensive!) to rent! 

Another thing to note is that most cars in Europe are stick shift.  Therefore, if you need an automatic AND a van, then you really will need to get on that as early as possible. 

Note: Driving (and parking!) in Germany with a van can actually be quite difficult since there are many towns that have very small roads.  Therefore, take that into consideration when picking the exact van out. 

Find Cheap Daily Rates for Van Rentals Here:

 

Don’t Drive Into the Big Cities

If you plan on going to places like Nuremberg, Berlin, Munich, etc or small, cobblestoned medieval towns, like Rothenburg, then I highly recommend finding what is called a Park & Ride (P&R) outside of the cities so that you don’t have to even bother with parking, driving in the cities, etc. 

You can find Park and Rides just by googling them (IE: “Munich Park and Ride”) and you’ll just park your car, sometimes for free, sometimes for a few Euro/day.  At these locations, there will be some sort of public transportation (S-bahn, buses, etc) that then will zip you into the city center. 

Car Seats and Boosters/ Age Requirements:

  • EVERYONE in the vehicle is required to wear a seatbelt. If a passenger is found without one, then the driver is held responsible with a high fine.
  • Children 3 & Under must have a car seat.
  • Children under twelve (and under 150cm) must have a booster or restraint system and be seated in the back

FAQ: Should I Bring My Own Car Seat or Rent One When Traveling

do i need a car seat in germany

This is a tough question.  On the one hand, I like to travel light.  On the other hand, I take car seat safety EXTREMELY serious.  As a serial traveler myself with kids, I have found that car rentals are NOT very trustworthy when it comes to car seats.  I have found more times than not that the car seats are expired (yes that is a thing), who knows when they have been washed last, if they were installed correctly, and if they are even the right kind of car seat/ restraint for your child’s age.

Therefore, when we lived in the US and were coming back to Germany frequently, we almost always brought our car seats.  Buy a Car Seat Protector Bag, like this one, and you can actually fit several car seats in it.  This way, you ensure that it is safe, is what YOUR child requires, is clean, etc.
Pro Tip: Short on other luggage space?  I have stuffed plenty of other “stuff” into the car seat bag with the seats! 

Did You Know: Car seats do not count against your luggage allotment.  

If you are going to request a car seat through your rental company, know that it often is an extra fee.  When you go to request one, give the following information:

  • Number of car seats needed
  • Ages of children 
  • Style of car seats needed (Infant/ Bucket Seat, Booster, etc)
  • Front or Rear Facing required
  • If you want a 5 Point Harness
  • Ask for expiration date

Pros and Cons to Train vs Car Travel

Train Pros:

  • It can be REALLY fun and unique for the kiddos
  • YOU don’t have to worry about driving in a foreign country
  • They are easy to use
  • Deutsche Bahn has tons of fantastic routes
  • Young kids aren’t stuck in a car seat for hours (can get up, move, walk around, go to the bathroom, etc)

Train Cons:

  • Depending on the tickets, it CAN get pricey for a big family
  • You can’t do a TON of off the beaten path locations (easily or timely at least)
  • You are restricted to the timetables 

Driving in Germany Pros:

  • It’s so much more flexible
  • You can go anywhere you want
  • It might be cheaper to get a whole family somewhere by a car

Driving in Germany Cons:

  • Some people are nervous about driving in Germany/foreign countries
  • Gas prices in Europe can be expensive
  • You need to book large vehicles in advance to fit a whole family
  • It’s not always the most enjoyable experience to drive in the big cities
  • Parking can be very difficult

So, as you can see, at the end of the day, picking if you should drive or take the trains is probably going to come down to 

  1. The size of your family
  2. What locations are you planning on going to
  3. Your personal travel style/ preferences
  4. Costs

Getting Around Germany By Public Transportation In the Cities

Despite whether you choose to drive or take the trains everywhere, you are probably going to find yourself taking some public transportation at some point on your journey.

In pretty much all the bigger cities and towns, you’ll either be able to walk around everywhere or you’ll be able to easily take the public transportation systems (Sbahn, Ubahn, Trams, Buses). 

If you have a smartphone, I highly recommend looking up the local App, where you can just purchase tickets in a cinch right there without worrying about finding a place to get tickets.  Google Maps is actually quite accurate as well with routing timings. 

With Kids:

  • Check the local city for the cost of kids, but they are often free under certain ages or with a good discount. 
  • Depending on the ages, make sure they understand that they need to be quick, to stay with you, etc
  • Encourage quiet talking on all public transportation within Germany, it’s just the cultural (and polite) thing to do
  • Strollers are acceptable on public transportation, although you may find a few disgruntled looks if you are getting around during high traffic times
  • COVID: As of current writing, all people above the age of 6 must wear a N95 mask on all public transportation

German Foods For Kids and Eating Out in Germany 

what to eat in germany: curry wurst
That is one GIANT wurst!

I know, I know, most people just envision Germany as the land of endless sausages.  While you aren’t wrong, Germany is SO much more beyond tons of pork, wursts, and beer.  In fact, there is so much German food for kids to enjoy. 

I have a WHOLE article just on What are Kid Friendly Foods in Germany to Eat where I cover everything from breakfast all the way down to dessert and everything in between!

But for those short on time, here are a few of my kids’ favorites:

  • Schnitzels (duh!)
  • Almost any kind of wurst (sausage)
  • ANYTHING from a bakery!
  • Pretzels (again, duh!)
  • Eis (German Ice Cream)
  • Flammkuchen

What Are the Drinking Age Requirements In Germany?

If you are traveling with older kids (teens) the rules here in Germany for drinking are much different than what you are used to in the US.  Obviously, this is a conversation and decision you can agree upon within your own family

  • 14 Years Old – Adolescents 14 and over may drink beer and wine if with their legal guardian/ parent
  • 16 Years Old– Adolescents 16+ may drink beer or wine with or without the presence of their parent/ guardian
  • 18 Years Old – Young Adults over 18 may drink any alcoholic beverage, including spirits and hard alcohol. 

 

Best Places to Visit in Germany with Kids

Ok, so I already forewarned you that I think just about anywhere can be made kid-adaptable. 

However, I still wanted to give you a list of places to go to in Germany with kids to start with:

Castles

kids germany
Lichtenstein Castle Near Stuttgart

This can be really hit or miss with kids.  Too many posh palaces (Schloss) is going to bore your kids to tears.  However, some castles in Germany can be REALLY fun for kids to see.  
Pro Parenting Tip: If you have a baby/ toddler, I can’t recommend baby wearing in castles enough.  Most of these castles will NOT be stroller friendly.  Also, if your kid is strapped to you, they can’t run off and touch anything they shouldn’t! 

  • Neuschwanstein: Most people (and kids) will be so impressed with this cinderella castle.  Break up your day by doing a gorge hike or take the carriage ride for a true fairytale experience.  For you adrenaline junkies (or those with older kids, why not try Paragliding Over Neuschwanstein!?) 
    Read My Ultimate Guide to Visiting Neuschwantetin Here (which includes how to get there, what things to skip, best times to go, etc) and my Munich to Neuschwanstein How To article. 
  • Burg Eltz: This is another classic beauty.  Kids may find the actual tour a bit tough to hang through (depending on ages), but my young son loved looking at all the Knight stuff.  There are also some great hikes and walks to do nearby as well.
  • Nuremberg Kaiserburg:  The reason why this is good for kids is because there isn’t much of an inside tour.  There are lots of little outbuildings you CAN go into and see if you want.  Otherwise, it’s just a great castle to wander around and go at your own pace (something that is almost always a necessity with kids!) You can read my 1 Day in Nuremberg Itinerary Here
  • Lichtenstein:  No, this is not IN Lichtenstein (country).  This is a good option for families because it is stunning with breathtaking (literally) views over some karsts and deep ravines below the castle (well protected by fences and other safety features) but has huge grounds to wander (run!) around on as well.  There is a short tour inside, but only in German.  We skipped that and just enjoyed all the views from outside.  (Tip: You can combine Hohenzelleren, another famous Germany castle with Lichtenstein in one day trip!) 
  • Castle Ruins: So, truth be told, my kids LOVE castle ruins way more than the put together, fancy schlosses above (mostly because they don’t have to stand through a “boring” tour). There are ruins all over Germany, so it is hard to give a list of these.  However, we love them because they are great opportunities to often see some beautiful countryside, typically have a very short and easy, but rewarding little walk/ hike, and they can climb and play all over them! 
best castles for families in germany to visit
Double Baby Wearing for the win at Burg Eltz!

Amusement Parks and Theme Parks

Amusement parks for kids in germany Churpfalz Park
Churpfalz Park in the Bavarian Forest

One great way to break up the sightseeing with a family is to find an amusement or theme park for a day!  Our whole family had a blast at Europa Park last year and this year, we can’t wait to do Play Mobil for my 5 year old son!  There are tons of options, but here are some other parks to look into to get you started:

Outdoor Activities

Germans have a little phrase that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.  You’ll find Germans out in all weather and it’s a reminder that rain, snow, or shine, you can find something to do!

Skiing: Germany has some wonderful skiing options! While many people like to head straight to places like the Zugspitze, I suggest more family-friendly places like:

  • Oberamergau (Alps)
  • Grosser Arber (Bavarian Forest)
  • Mittenwald (next to Zugspitze but easier, cheaper, and not as crowded)
  • Sauerland (Winterberg, Willingen and Schlossberg all in middle Germany)

Hiking: We LOVE hiking in Germany.  Whether it is more of a leisure walk along a great stream/ river or an actual hike in the Alps, you can find something for all ages, abilities, and preferences.  Obviously, all of the above-mentioned places for skiing are great options for families to find some hikes in the summer months as well. There are also a ton of fantastic lakes in Germany, particularly in Bavaria, that also offer some phenomenal hiking options. 

easy hiking in germany for a family
Hiking near Garmisch with the baby

Klettersteigs:  Many outdoor activity centered places have ropes obstacles and this is a favorite family activity for Germans.  We’ve done some really fun ones that have been quite a challenge as well as been to ones that cater to all ages (We recently went to one in Pottenstein that had levels perfect for our 4 year old even!) 

things to do in germany with kids: Klettersteigs
Klettersteigs for all ages!

Rodelbahns: These “Alpine” coasters are a ton of fun for all ages!

 

Some great Rodelbahns to consider are in:

  • Pottenstein (Franconia, Bavaria)
  • Hasenhorn (Todtnau, Baden-Württemberg)
  • Alspsee Coaster (Immenstadt im Allgäu)
  • Sommerrodelbahn (Garmisch)

Water Parks/ Thermes

Center Parcs Aqua Mundo Water Park
Center Parcs Aqua Mundo Water Park

On the same note as amusement parks, Germany offers a lot of unique water parks.  There are a lot of natural hot springs to be found throughout the country, so you’ll often find a “Therme” where there is a half pool area and half spa/ sauna (usually for adults) area.  

However, there are lots of great water parks to just go have a blast at as well

  • Center Parcs: If you have a family, I recommend just staying at one as your lodging accomodation, but you can also buy a day pass to these amazing water parks as well.  Click Here To Find One In Germany
  • Tropical Islands (Near Berlin)
  • Rulantica (Next to Europa Park, making it a great option for a whole weekend adventure)
  • Galaxy Erding (Not far from Munich)
  • Badeparadies Schwarzwald (Black Forest)
  • Aqualand Cologne (Cologne)

Oktoberfest

Since you’ve gotten this far, you already read my FAQ above about if Oktoberfest is ok for kids to attend.  However, just to reiterate, there are PLENTY of amazing other fests and Volksfests that aren’t Oktoberfest that may be a bit more “family friendly,” not nearly as crowded, and still give a similar experience without all the drunk tourists. 

Fest “season” can start as early as the spring (For example, Nuremberg has their annual “Frühlingsfest” often around April and you’ll then be able to find local fests on and off all summer.  Most are done by late September. 

Other Fests You Should Consider

Ludwigsburg Kurbisfest

It’s not JUST Oktoberfest that is an amazing experience in Germany.  No matter the time of year you visit, you should really see if any of these fests are going on.

  • Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival: (Largest Pumpkin Festival in the World) Read My Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival Guide Here 
  • Volksfests: Oktoberfest is just a giant version of local Volkfests, which are often just as great (if not more fun since they are more “local”) like the Dult Fest in Regensburg or the Gäubodenvolksfest in Straubing.
  • Almabtriebs: These are seriously some of the most amazing fests I’ve ever been to.  Towns throughout the Bavarian Alps (and Austrian Alps, if you are following my 10 day Germany, Austria, and Switzerland Itinerary) bring their livestock down from the mountains with huge fanfare, crafts, handmade goods to be sold, oompah bands, amazing food, and more! 
  • Wine Festivals: Especially in the Mosel and Rhine Valley, each fall during harvesting season, there are often huge wine festivals.  Who said Germany is JUST about the beer!?
  • Oster Markts: While not as big as Christmas Markets, the German Easter Markets can be fantastic as well and you’ll see some beautiful handmade crafts 
  • Fasching and Karneval:  Fasching isn’t really a “fest” but it IS a festival! Fasching is like the German version of Mardi Gras and can last the entire week leading up to Ash Wednesday of Lent.  Places like Cologne are known for their huge Karnevals!
  • Medieval Fests: There are some REALLY cool medieval fests throughout Germany.  One of our favorites (that the kids also LOVE) is the Drachenstitch Festival (Dragon Slaying Fest) in the Bavarian Forest!

Christmas Markets With Kids

Germany Christmas Markets with kids
Trier Christmas Market

Christmas is one of the most magical times of the year in Germany!  There are some things to know as tourists when visiting Germany in December, so be sure to read those first. For example, there may be some special days to be on the lookout for or days that everything will be close that you will need to plan accordingly for the family. 

No matter the age of your kids, most children will find some sort of magic at a Weihnachtsmarkt in Germany.

If you have younger kids, if you can be at the markets on December 6th, St. Nikolaus Day, there is often a St. Nick walking around giving out goodies for kids. The Christkind is a beautiful golden angel that all the kids adore as well. 

Tip: If you are in Southern Bavaria, beware or Dec 5; Krampusnacht.  If you have young kids, this frightening beast (people in costumes) run a muck and “steal naughty children.”  It’s a blast for older kids and adults, but young children are often terrified. 

Some markets, like the Nuremberg Christkindle Market, actually have kid-designated Christmas Market areas with kiddie rides and figurines. 

And if your kid doesn’t care for the market itself, NOBODY can resist all the delicious foods to eat!!! While you enjoy your Gluhwein, grab your kiddos a delicious Kinder Punsch 

Read Some Of My Favorite Christmas Markets To Go To Here

Christmas Markets With Kids Tips:

  • Just like Oktoberfest, the markets can get EXTREMELY packed and busy (even small town ones) so be sure you have a designated meeting point in case people get separated
  • Go early and on the weekdays.  Don’t worry, the magical ambiance will be there at any time of the day!
  • Do NOT bring strollers.  Some markets get so packed that you won’t be able to move an inch with a stroller.  Instead, babywear.
  • Try ALL the foods!!!!

Best Cities in Germany With Kids

best cities to visit in germany for kids
Bastei Bridge, a perfect day trip from Dresden with kids

Again, I hate to make an absolute list here because I think you can really make any city great with kids in Germany.  However, here are a few more specifics to help you plan.

  • Munich with Kids: Munich has a ton to offer and is extremely adaptable with plenty of things for all ages
  • Garmisch: Garmisch is a great “base camp” for a ton of Bavraian Alp Day Trips.  This is a fantastic place if you’ve got older kids who love adventure and outdoors
  • Berlin: Similar to Munich in the sense that there is so much to do here (Here is my 2 Days In Berlin Itinerary) you’ll be able to find plenty to adapt to all ages to find something everyone enjoys at some point
  • Black Forest: Well, this isn’t just one city, but an area.  You can use the Black Forest as another great “jumping off place” and do tons of day trips to castles, quaint German villages, and more. 
  • Stuttgart: I don’t so much love Stuttgart as a city in and of itself to explore for more than a day, but there are SO many day trips from Stuttgart, that it makes it easy to set up camp and not have to do a ton of hotel hopping with your family. 
  • Rügen Islands: While Germany may not be known for beaches, there are actually some really amazing ones up in the Baltic Sea.  A very popular one is Rügen and the surrounding islands, which make for a great sea- getaway!
  • Dresden: If you can’t tell, I like going to towns that offer a lot of day trips in addition to the city itself.  Dresden has what feels like endless options for this! (And is a great city itself) 
  • Lake Constance:  This HUGE lake is a great place for families.  You can camp, stay in great hotels, and have tons of exploring, sightseeing, pretty towns, and nature to explore. 
  • Cologne/Köln: Another great “hopping off” base for day trips.  See the city itself and then take day trips to places like Aachen, go on a Rhine River Cruise for a day, see one of Germany’s most picture perfect towns, Assmannshausen.  Or do some of the water parks mentioned earlier. 
  • Fairytale Road: Again, while not one particular city, many families really enjoy the Germany Fairytale Road where you can climb Rapunzel’s tower, follow the Pied Piper, and more. 

FAQ: Should I take my kids to a concentration camp in Germany?

One of the many things to do in Germany is remembering the past.  Germany does a phenomenal job of realizing their atrocities of WWII.  Concentration Camps in Germany are places of somber remembrance.  So, should you go to them with your kids?

YES.

To put it simply.  Yes.  In Germany, part of the curriculum in the public schools is that all pupils must go to at least once concentration camp.   How you approach a camp will depend on your children’s age, developmental and emotional abilities, etc.  However, this is a once in a life time opportunity to teach our children about what hatred and racism can do.  Also, many of these places no longer have a ton of actual buildings and are done with extreme respect.  Sometimes the most horrifying part is seeing photos and reading the context behind them, which you can skip if you don’t go into the museums. 

At the concentration camps, many are self-guided.  This means that you can avoid certain places, like the gas chambers, if you feel like that is too much for your child to handle.  Alternatively, if you are on a guided tour, simply just ask the guides ahead of time if you can stay outside during certain buildings.  The answer is usually yes. 

For Younger Kids

Most young kids won’t even grasp or realize where they are at.  With that being said, before arriving it is vital that you do explain that this is a very important place and that everyone must remain respectful.  That means no running around, no loud talking, etc. 

For Tweens

They can start to understand some of the basic concepts.  You can choose how in depth you want them to go with the actual content, what buildings to actually go into, etc.

Teens

I was 15 when I first went to Dachau Concentration Camp and it will forever be etched in my memory.  It was a cold, December day with freshly fallen snow from the night before.  Despite me feeling like I was freezing, I remember thinking “I can’t even begin to utter a complaint, knowing that people wore less than potato sacks here.” I left Dachau feeling frustrated, mad, and confused that something like this could happen.  And while these may all be strong emotions for a teenager, they are often necessary so that the past does not repeat itself.  

Concentration Camps To Consider Going To In Germany with Kids:

  • Dachau
  • Buchenwald
  • Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg
  • Nuremberg’s Nazi Rally Grounds and Dokumentation Zentrum
  • Bergen-Belsen

Final Tips For Traveling To Germany With a Family and Kids

family holidays in germany

Balance “Travel” and “Vacation”

Pre- kids, we mostly did “Travel.”  Meaning, we were go go go.  We packed as much into the days as possible, sight saw everything we could, and made sure we did everything on every itinerary.

With kids, we tend to “Vacation” more.  Meaning, we may miss some top sights in a town because we go at a much slower, relaxed pace.  We may stay at a family resort where we don’t leave very often and just enjoy the pools versus staying in the City Center where we are off and running each and every day. 

Don’t Feel Like You Need To Do It All

Even if you choose more of a “Travel” rather than vacation mode, don’t feel like you need to see and do it all. 

It’s ok to stop for a few hours at a local park and miss out on a museum if that means that your younger kids aren’t crabby.

It’s ok to eat at the third pizza place in row instead of a German restaurant if that means your kids will have a full belly.

It’s ok to skip a famous castle and instead go somewhere that your teen is more interested in. 

IT’S OK!

Plan Early

As you’ve seen, there are a few nuances to traveling to Germany with a family, like booking hotel rooms or lodging that works for your whole gang or needing to book vans way in advance.  Therefore, in order to avoid logistical issues like those, it’s best to start planning your trip 9 months to 1 year ahead of time.  

You can always leave some of the details for later, but make sure you’ve got the bones of it booked if you have numerous people traveling with you. 

Don’t Hotel Hop

Before kids, we might have made an international trip, like going to Germany, a whirlwind tour.  I’m sure you’ve been able to tell by now through this post, that we do it a bit slower and differently with kids.

One way to not cause added stress is to find locations that you can spend a few days in for itself but then also find 2-3 more day trips.  This gives you several days at just one hotel, where you don’ have to constantly repack and move. This is especially nice if you’ve got floor beds! 

Ask For Family or Kid Discounts

Entry fees will vary depending on the location, monument and museum you are visiting, but in many places, kids under 12 (sometimes even 18) are free entry, or at least have a child discount.  Kids under 5 are almost always free to places. 

Depending on how big your family is, you can always ask if they offer a family discount as well. 

Include Your Kids In Your Germany Trip Planning

Depending on the age, this is a great way to get kids as young as grade school involved (and gasp! maybe even excited!) about your trip.

  1. Ask them to look up a list of Best German Foods and create a list of 5 that they are responsible for keeping an eye out on menus to try. 
  2. Have them look up a “Things to Do In X City” and pick one place or activity that they would like to see.
  3. Find books about WWII or Prussia, or other historical events that they could read about before (or during traveling).  Obvious options like “Anne Frank’s Diary,” “The Boy In the Striped Pajamas” for WWII and young adult readers comes up.  For younger readers, you can read some “Grimms Fairytales” 
  4. Have them journal.  Each day, they can write down a few things you did that day, any thoughts on any of it, etc. These are great to look back on when they get older!
  5. Have them work on a language learning app.  Even if they just learn things like counting or colors, they may feel less intimidated by the foreign language
  6. Give them their own, full day.  Maybe they plan this themselves based on their own interests in what a town may offer.  Or, you simply declare a full day as theirs and do only kid-friendly activities.  This is a great way for kids and teens to not feel like they are just on some stuffy, castle-filled, “boring” tour of Germany. 

Conclusion

So, there you have it! Family holidays in Germany can be amazing trips.  Germany for kids has endless options for every age group and family to enjoy.

Are you planning a trip to Germany with your family? What questions do you still have?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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