As you begin your search for the perfect bike tour for your family, one of the top things to consider is whether you would most enjoy a self-guided experience or a guided experience.
Self-guided or guided?
Your family might enjoy the independence of a self-guided bicycle tour, which allows you to ride at your own pace and make stops at sites (and ice cream shops) that interest you. Self-guided tours are also a great value, with most costing less than $1,000 for one week and even less for children sharing rooms with parents.
Our moms on staff have younger kids and agree that a self-guided tour would allow for looser structure each day, which is important when tiny bladders and bellies dictate so much of our time! Since you’re not keeping up with a group, you can take a break when the kids get tired or at snack time or at every puddle along the way!
Your family, however, may appreciate the support of a guided bicycle tour, where a group cycles together with a guide, and a support van is at the ready to transport tired riders. These tours are popular in destinations like Asia and Africa, where families might feel most comfortable riding with a local.
Our moms on staff think that a group guided tour might be better for families with teenagers who could cycle alongside the rest of the group and may have more interest in what the guide is showing you.
Some of our tours are available as private guided tours, which means your party would have its own guide for the duration. This might be a suitable option for families with younger kids who still want a guided experience.
Dedicated bike paths
Safety is a priority for any parent, and dedicated bike paths offer wide, well-marked asphalt trails away from road traffic. If Europe is your family’s destination, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the availability of these paved routes.
You may even have enough peace of mind to let the kids ride ahead to relieve some pent-up energy, get away from a sibling, or just scope out the best ice cream shop in the next village! Learn more about tours with dedicated bike paths, including a few suggested tours.
Hotel-based tours (based in one hotel)
While most bicycle tours travel from town to town with each overnight in a different hotel, your family may prefer to have a home-base in one hotel.
It’s possible for some family members to take the day off or do a shorter route while the others do a longer or faster ride. Many of these hotel-based programs also have built-in rest days for non-cycling activities of your choice.Each day you explore the local area without the pressure to get to the next town.
Logistics bonus: you skip rounding up everybody’s toothbrush and repacking multiple bags each day!
Bike and boat tours
Another similar option: bike and boat tours, where your “floating hotel” travels with you. If you don’t feel like riding, watch the world pass by from the comfort of the deck. Plus, sleeping on a boat adds an extra level of fun and adventure for children. (Okay, adults too!)
Our staff mom of a teen recommends bike and boat tours are usually better for families with older kids. With smaller quarters, sometimes thin cabin walls, and restricted non-cycling activities on board, these tours could feel limiting for families with younger children. But they might offer just enough opportunity for a sometimes-brooding teenager to have some downtime in their cabin or on deck, and it’s perfect should they choose to stay on board instead of cycling one day.
Here are factors we consider when recommending family bike tours:
- How old are your children?
- How much cycling have they done?
- How comfortable are they (and you) on roads with traffic?
- Does the tour take place on dedicated bike paths? Or possibly quiet side roads?
- Is the route grade flat or mostly flat?
- Are the daily distances shorter (easier for shorter legs)?
- Does the tour operator provide appropriate bikes and rental equipment for a variety of ages (bike seat, bike carrier, tag-along, children’s bikes)?
- Does the tour possibly have educational value, enjoyable sites or attractions, non-cycling activities, built-in rest days?
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