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Seeking early itinerary help for 10 days, Cairo, Egypt to Amman, Jordan

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Just learned that our family of 4 will have 10 days (excluding travel, only 8 full days) in late March. We fly into Cairo, Egypt (3/27) and out of Amman, Jordan (4/6). I am doing research, and plan to do much, much more, but in the meantime, would appreciate some advice from forum experts to cram in as much as possible without totally sacrificing our sanity. I have always found wonderful help on Fodor's Forum and like to engage the forum experts as early as possible in the trip-planning process. Of course, Petra, Giza, etc. are essentials, but just can't figure out how to cover more and what we will simply have to miss. Please offer your thoughts.

I totally realize that this should be three weeks or longer, but unfortunately, this is all the time we have. (So, if you plan to simply scold me for thinking I can adequately see two countries in little more than a week, please don't bother. I already know! It's killing me that we don't have more time!) While we would hope to return to this part of the world again some day, who knows. Therefore, it's best to see and experience as much as possible on this trip.

A little useful background about us, so you can properly advise .....

Budget is flexible -- we can and will splurge on great experiences or unique accommodations (e.g., hot air balloon and cave hotel in Cappadocia, ryoksan on Mijyjima), but generally find that 5-star hotels keep us a little too removed from the culture. We will spring for flights if land travel takes too long. We will rent a car and drive if that's the only way to go (and can just hire a marriage counselor to repair damage later). Flights are free so we have a decent budget to work with.

We have traveled quite a bit with our kids (ages 13 and 15) and we all love adventure, history, and meeting new people. We handle travel and accompanying jet lag, hassles, etc. very well. We travel light (one backpack each) and have no trouble moving about. We'd rather lose a couple hours of sleep than drop a key site from our itinerary. We tend to need a bit longer than average in ruins and museums, and don't really shop. We like good food, but can survive if it's only passable. Kids have traveled this way since they were 6, and can handle heat, long rides, language difficulties, weird food, being touched and stared at, etc. better than any adult I know. So don't assume we need "kid-friendly" anything.

We much, much prefer independent travel, but have in the past worked into longer trips a one- or two-day package here and there, usually for price or convenience (e.g. Mekong Delta, Meteora, Troy, Stonehenge/Canturbury). We dislike the inevitable souvenier shopping stops, but can tolerate them if the package is otherwise excellent.

Generally, we like to prearrange local experts for accurate and in-depth knowlege of key historical sites (as opposed to finding someone at the gate). I've found that this forum is the best for identifying top local guides.

So, with all that, I turn it over to you the FF experts. Please, have at it!! Give me an outline to start and I promise to do the research. Appreciate your help!

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