Family-Friendly Road Trip: The Channel Tunnel

7 December 2016

Taking the family from London all the way to Belgium combines two different continents into one epic road trip. The surprise here is you don't even have to leave your car.

London's Eye is the perfect, exciting ride for both kids and adults when visiting the British capital. (Image: Getty)

Days 1-2: London, England

Get acquainted with London by visiting Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and other iconic sights while mixing in some kid-friendly attractions, such as the London Dungeon and Science Museum.

Don't bother driving in the city. Grab an Oyster Card for cheaper public transport and discounts on dining, shopping and entertainment.

Catching one of the city's highly-rated musicals is a great way to kick off the trip. London has a lot of staple shows, such as The Lion King, Matilda and Wicked, with cheap walk-up tickets.

Family-friendly accommodation is easy to find in this populous city with numerous hotels offering connecting rooms. Premier Inn Kensington (Earl’s Court) Hotel remains one of the best for value, location and facilities.

Leeds Castle is a great stop on the way to the Channel Tunnel. (Image: Getty)

Day 3: Folkestone

From London, you're aiming for the English side of the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, but don't rush for fear of missing quintessential British attractions and towns along the way.

Take the turnoff to Maidstone, the closest town to Leeds Castle. The castle is a fascinating piece of history that welcomes all with its birds of prey exhibit, play areas, grottos and Segway tours.

Spend the night in Folkestone and wake up fresh for the following day's cross-continent journey. The Holiday Inn Express Channel Tunnel offers comfortable rooms with multiple beds close to the train.

If there's sunlight to spare, head to the Kent Battle of Britain Museum, which has retired fighter jets and other displays about one of England's most famous battles.

Calais is renowned for its quaint bed and breakfast houses and countryside, but the waterfront is worth a visit too. (Image: Getty)

Day 4: Calais, France

England one day, France the next; the holiday gets really interesting now. Remember to purchase a ticket for the Eurotunnel Shuttle, not the Eurostar. The cost is determined per car (about AU$155 for a single trip) and will change if you plan on riding the train back within a specific time period.

The car shuttle train is made up of closed wagons that hold vehicles in place during the two-hour ride under the English Channel. You can walk along the carriages, but there isn't much to see, so pack entertainment.

The next sunlight you feel will be in France's city of Calais. Take in the Six Burghers Monument, Town Hall and city views from the Calais Lighthouse. If the weather permits, Calais has a collection of sandy beaches on the Opal Coast.

Stay in one of Calais' charming B&Bs, which better serve families and offer more classic French culture than hotels.

Ghent is a picturesque town with a host of things for all of the family to enjoy. (Image: Getty)

Day 5: Ghent

Stick to France's northern coast on your way to Ghent – the kids won't believe you're about to enter your third country in as many days.

However, there's one more stop beforehand. The city of Dunkirk's World War II history is one of miracles and near defeats. Learn more at the Memorial Du Souvenir.

Leaving Dunkirk, you're about 10km from crossing the border into Belgium. A landscape of open, green fields is interjected by quaint towns and heritage cities leading into Ghent.

Ghent's portside districts and medieval landmarks paint a beautiful profile on Belgium's canvas. The 12th-century Gravensteen castle and 10th-century St Bravo's Cathedral are only the tip of the city's historic side. Stroll through the city centre, along the canal, ducking in to local shops and restaurants.

The Marriott and Novotel are two family-friendly hotels with great proximity to attractions and affordable rooms.

The Grand Palace in Brussels is a royal end to the road trip. (Image: Getty)

Days 6-7: Brussels

This unbelievable road trip, covering three countries, comes to a temporary end in Belgium's capital, Brussels.

Far from just a finish line, Brussels is a prime location for extensive immersion in Belgium's melting-pot culture of French, English and Dutch influences.

Get an entertaining taste of the continent at Mini-Europe, which has accurate miniatures of cities complete with working models and multimedia games. There's also the Oceade year-round water park with slides, wave pool and Jacuzzis.

Remember that culture? The city has some fascinating institutions including the Comics Art Museum, Natural Sciences Museum and Autoworld Brussels.

Brussels is packed with family-friendly hotels, B&Bs and holiday rentals for longer stays. As hotels go, Novotel Brussels Centre offers cosy mid-range rooms in a prime locale.

There's one more decision to make. Will you head back to England, continue through Europe or begrudgingly return home?


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Ben Stower

I love the kind of travelling that is one part strategic planning and two parts spontaneous adventure. Whether I'm exploring my local city or a small town in the middle of nowhere, I'm always hoping to find something no one else has discovered.