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Stretch out the school summer holidays with truly slow travel

Stretch out the school summer holidays with truly slow travel

Many families use this lovely long Easter break to plan the even bigger school and college summer break that comes around pretty quickly. What’s everyone in the mood for? Should we travel with another family, or with our extended family? France or further afield? One thing we do know is that more and more families are embracing slow travel in their plans. Travelling by train, and going for longer with more in-depth experiences are in. They want to detox digitally while also travelling ethically. Which is why we have put together a series of combined adventures within Europe, all of which you can access by train if you’re not travelling from further afield. If some of the routes seem too strenuous for all family members, we can always adapt them a little to keep everyone happy. Ultimately, we’ve joined up a few of those slow travel dots for you, so that your Easter family meeting gets everyone in the mood for adventure.

We can arrange tours that adapt the route to cater for all ages. Sometimes we all just need that extra bit of help along the way.

Adriatic adventures in Italy and Croatia 

This is an Adriatic adventure that starts in Venice and finishes on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, combining cycling and walking, beaches and piazzas, swimming and learning that’s too cool for school. Start off with our eight day, self-guided cycling holiday from Venice to Istria. Most of the route is fairly flat along both the coast and inland Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, until you get to Trieste, although the Julian Alps are in the background, rather than the foreground. This trip comes to a close in Poreč on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula, where you can take a break before embarking on a short walking holiday in Istria, which starts in Buje, just 36km from Poreč. This holiday takes you along beautiful trails in Učka Nature Park and also on the Parenzana Trail, a former railway route that used to connect Trieste and Poreč until the 1930’s. The slow travel adventure comes to a close in Lovran, which is just 11km from the nearest train station in Rukavac. 

Cross-border adventures and colossal landscapes in Germany and Austria

You will get your fair share of strudel and kuchen on this cross-border combo, cycling in both Germany and Austria and then taking on a family walking tour in Austria’s Salzkammergut Lake District. Start off in the historic German city of Passau, and cycle on the Danube Cycle Path for ten days as far as Vienna. This is the most popular section as it’s easy, even though you cover 250km in ten days. It’s also a perfect path to waltz along on wheels, with the Danube’s dramatic Schlögener Loop, vineyards and ancient monasteries along the way. Take a break in Vienna or Salzburg, just 2.5h by train, and start our family walking holiday in Austria’s magnificent Lake District. This is eight days of exquisite and easy walking, swimming, and taking boat or cable car trips. As well as experiencing endless colossal views such as from the Skywalk in Hallstatt, one of Austria’s most beautiful towns where you also spend two nights. It’s worth noting that train travel in Germany is free for children under 14 years of age, for those who can travel here without flying. 

Hanging out in Hallstatt, one of Austria’s most beautiful towns in the Salzkammergut Lake District.

It’s all about family in Italy 

For lovers of all things Italian, you can combine culture and nature on two adventures in Tuscany and Chianti, with no shortage of places to fill your boots with pasta and pastries along the way. Start off with an alternative Giro d’Italia per la famiglia, following a seven day journey from Pisa to Florence through the ridiculously beautiful landscapes of northern Tuscany. Take a few days to recover in Florence, because it’s rude not to really. Then head off on an eight day walking holiday through the Chianti Wine Region, also starting in Florence and finishing in Siena. Although wine won’t be on the menu for young people, the rolling hills bedecked with vineyards, ancient hilltop towns such as Montefioralle or the family-friendly hotels in tranquil locations promise a digital switch-off for all the family. Instead of the Chianti tour, an alternative is to take a 1h 30mins train journey from Florence to Siena and embark on this walking holiday to Cortona instead.

Canals and Côte d’Azur combo in France

Cycling the Canal du Midi between Toulouse and Sète is always a family favourite, following this ingeniously constructed 240-km-long artificial waterway over seven days. It’s categorised as an easy to moderate cycling holiday, with daily distances between 40km and 65km, coming to a close in the coastal town of Sète. This is a perfect place to spend a few days chilling at the beach before heading to Sospel by train, which takes between six and eight hours, but you could always break it up with some time in Marseille. The next stage of your adventure is a short walking holiday through the perched villages of the Côte d’Azur. This walking holiday is for keen walkers, as there are some ascents – but the views are worth it, with challenges including a walk fro Col de Castillon to the village of St Agnès via the summit of Mont Ours (1,239m), but you get to collapse in this prettiest of villages overnight. This gem of a trip finishes in Menton, which is easy for train connections again, but also extremely on the eye, with a prime Mediterranean location.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité – and family, cycling along the Canal du Midi in France.

From Czechia to Vienna

Another walking and cycling combo, this adventure starts in the Czechian capital of Prague, where you start an eight day cycling tour all the way to Vienna, following the Prague to Vienna Greenway. Although the tour starts in Prague, the cycle trail starts at Český Krumlov, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. You then continue through rural Czechia, with highlights including the ancient woodlands and vineyards of Podyjí National Park. This is a journey well off the beaten path in Czechia, culminating in a much more touristy Vienna. This is where you swap bikes for the beauty of Vienna’s Alps for seven days of hiking, following a well-developed network of walking paths. You can always shorten routes by taking cable cars or trains to higher elevations, and then explore the high-mountain passes for plenty of wonderful Von Trapp family moments.  

A gripping Scandi-vert combo

This is another cycling and walking combination with some seriously Scandi style in both Sweden and Denmark. We recommend starting off in Malmö with our iconic Öresund Strait cycling circuit. This takes you around the body of water that separates Denmark and Sweden, adjoined by the Øresund (road and rail) Bridge. Ride alongside sandy beaches, waterfront villages or the Jaegersborg Dyrehave deer park, all in Denmark, as well as harbour villages like Barsebäckshamn and the island of Van in Sweden. And yes, you do get to go on ‘The Bridge’, putting your bike on board the train that crosses one of the longest bridges in Europe. You may think that this is all quite hard to follow, but you can then swap bridges for castles on our seven day fairytale castle tour which starts in Copenhagen, just a 40mins train journey from Malmö. This takes you on a sumptuous, slow travel adventure to forests, lakelands and, of course, magnificent castles. Including Hamlet’s Elsinore Castle, the real name being Kronborg, just in case it’s on the syllabus. 

The perfect peleton, cycling together as a family.

Everything you need to know about slow travel by train 

We know that many people would love to do the rail thing but aren’t sure how to get on board this growing slow travel movement. One of the most common questions is about price, which is why we have written a dedicated blog, How to book cheap train tickets, with plenty of hacks for getting on the tracks. Sometimes, for example, it might be best to get a travel pass such as an Interrail/Eurail Pass, which also gives family options. And remember, even if you take the train one way and fly back the other to save time or money, you will already have cut your carbon footprint significantly, and doubled your sense of adventure.