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First Time Family Trip to Europe

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Looking for any and all advice. We are taking our two kids (10 and 12) to Europe this summer for 4 weeks. I will be alone with the kids for the first two weeks and my husband will join us for the last two. This is the first trip outside of the country for both kids.. We're thinking of making an itinerary that hits two or three major cities as home base (Maybe London and Paris?) and do day or overnight trips kind of hub and spoke. For first timers, do you have any recommendations on best cities and best accomodations (assuming we'd stay in each for over a week)? We're super excited about this, but also a little intimidated trying to figure out an itinerary with so many options out there. Also, we had one friend absolutely swear by using an apartment-by-owner rental type of deal. But we had another who was equally adamant that it's not a good idea in Europe. Any thoughts there?

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