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Trip Report Traveling with a 13-Months Old to Europe (My 2 cents & Itinerary)

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Hello, this is my very first post, I want to say that I love this forum very much and I find this site extremely helpful when planning my trip. THANK YOU FORDORITES!!! I've decided to post because I would like to share some my experience and itinerary traveling with my family and a 13-month old toddler. Although we traveled in Fall ‘10 (Sept/Oct), I think the information is still relevant and I hope my information will help parents with young kids plan their perfect Europe trip. I am posting this now because this is a perfect time to plan for the Europe trip in Fall '12.

Since I am traveling with a toddler, I pre-booked everything from the US (Los Angeles), including hotels, train tickets/transportations, tours, and even some restaurants; I just didn’t want to deal with these things in Europe. We overpacked baby clothing, diapers, and formulas, but packed just enough baby food to last for 2-3 days. We bought 1 umbrella stroller (along with a rain/weather shield) and also packed enough medicine and Pedialyte just in case.

A little about the tour:
- Places: London->Paris->Venice->Rome (15 days total)
- Group: 3 adults + 1 toddler
- Total cost for per adult (everything included): US$4000*
* Hotels and plane tickets cost 2/3 of the total


Here's my itinerary:

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    ***

    -== LONDON ==-
    Hotel: Park Plaza County Hall London
    Note: Nice and clean hotel, big room with a mini bar and microwave, pretty close to the Waterloo station, London Eye, and Big Ben


    9/28/2010 (Tues)
    - LAX to LHR direct fight, arrive in the morning by United
    Note: We used Addison Lee to take us to the hotel

    - St. Paul’s Cathedral
    - Millennium Bridge
    - Tate Modern
    Note: We visited them all in the morning; I'm not a big fan of modern art, so I might try something else next time. As for lunch, fish and chips!

    - House of Parliament Tour
    Note: We overslept and missed the 4:30pm pre-booked tour completely, what a waste of money! We went out later that night and had very good India food @ Punjab Indian


    9/29/2010 (Wed)
    - London Eye
    Note: Bought the ticket online prior the trip; no line at 10am and we got the whole capsule to ourselves

    - Big Ben
    - Westminster Abbey
    Note: Walking distance from London Eye to the Big Ben, we took several pictures but didn't stay that long

    - British Museum
    Note: This is my favorite museum. I liked it a lot better than the Louvre because this museum is more compact and easier to navigate

    - Natural History Museum
    Note: We stopped by the NH museum before it closed because my son loves animals. I should plan my schedule so we spend more time here and maybe Science and/or V&A museum

    - Shopping (Harrods)
    Note: We ate at the food court, the food was awesome but kinda expensive...


    9/30/2010 (Thur)
    - Tower of London
    Note: Again, I pre-booked the ticket. Got here at 9:30am and no line whatsoever. We joined the Yeoman Warder tour but left the group after a short time because we couldn’t hear anything the guide said

    - Tower Bridge
    - Buckingham Palace
    Note: Awesome palace, we booked the Buckingham tour in advance too. Too bad that we couldn’t take any picture inside

    - Walked around the Soho/Piccadilly area at night


    10/1/2010 (Fri)
    - Depart to Paris @ 8AM by Eurostar
    Note: We used the same Addison Lee to pick us up from the hotel to the St. Pancreas station. Also, I used my remaining Pound to buy the Paris museum pass at the station

    Afterthought:
    1. We missed several things that we planned to do in London, but hey, we will come back again!
    2. We should take it easy on the first day because of jet lag
    3. The Tube is not the easiest place to navigate a stroller but it was not that bad. The staff and the passengers were surprising friendly and helpful to people with stroller

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    ***

    -== PARIS ==-
    Hotel: Hotel Gramont
    Note: A bit expensive, very friendly staff, big room because we booked the Quadruple room, < 20 minutes walk to the Louvre, quite a bit of French & Japanese restaurants in this area.


    10/1/2010 (Fri)
    - Arrival from London around 11am (Paris is +1 hr of London time)
    Note: Stupid me, I actually made reservation at the le Train Bleu but I didn’t realize the restaurant is at Gare de Lyon and not Gare du Nord. None of the people I talked to know what the heck I was talking about (in English). After I realized my mistake, we grabbed lunch at the Nord and dropped the luggage at the hotel afterward.

    - Arc de Triomphe
    - Louvre museum (with Paris museum pass)
    Note: I didn’t realize the museum is this BIG. I am a guy, no need for map, so we got lost in the museum many times before we found the Mona Lisa. Since it was Friday and the museum opened late, there weren’t too many people when we found Ms. Lisa


    10/2/2010 (Sat)
    - Montmartre/Sacre-Coeur
    - Moulin Rouge
    Note: There wasn’t much to see at the Moulin Rouge in day time. We decided to go just because I saw the movie and it wasn’t that far from Montmartre. We will probably skip this next time or come here at night to watch a show or something

    - Centre Georges Pompidou
    Note: Interesting building, but again, I’m not a big fan of modern art. Since we’ve got the museum pass, might as well check this out


    10/3/2010 (Sun)
    - Norte-Dame
    Note: We got here early and there was very few people lining up to go inside. There was a church service going on and people like me just keep circling around them, feel kinda weird...

    - Farmer’s market
    Note: Great place for fresh fruit and crepe

    - Sainte-Chapelle & Musee d’Orsay
    Note: We planned but didn’t go to the places above, too tired


    10/4/2010 (Mon)
    - Hotel des Invalides
    Note: Darn, the Napeoleon tomb was closed to visitor on Monday

    - Pantheon
    - River Seine cruise
    Note: Booked with Bateaux Parisiens, we got to the dock around 4~5pm and the whole cruise was almost empty


    10/5/2010 (Tue)
    - Eiffel Tower
    Note: We ate lunch at the Le Jules Verne; we bypassed the queue and went in a private elevator to the restaurant, which is on the 2nd level. After lunch, we went outside to the deck for a while before we headed back down

    - Champs Elysees
    Note: Shopping... or window shopping...

    - Depart to Venice at night
    Note: I underestimated the amount of traffic on surface street (and I am from LA), it took us 1 hour to travel 6KM from the hotel to the train station, and we almost didn’t make it on time. We decided to take the train (was Artesia night train, now it’s called Thello) because we have never been on a sleeper train before. With all the horror stories we heard, lucky that we didn’t get rob at night. The whole train ride is definitely a unique experience

    Afterthought:
    1. I didn’t like the Paris metro at all. Although the passengers are friendly, the staff was just plain rude, and I still couldn’t figure out how to open the gate for the stroller. After the first day, we chose walked or took taxi to the destination
    2. I regret that we didn’t get to sit outside the café and enjoy the people & view because there were too many people smoking

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    ***

    -== VENICE ==-
    Hotel: Hotel Antiche Figure
    Note: The room is kind of small but the location is great, especially for first-timer. The hotel is right across the Grand Canal from the train station, and there is no need to figure out which vaporetto to take while lugging the luggage


    10/6/2010 (Wed)
    - Arrival at Venice Santa Lucia in the morning with no delay
    - Gallerie dell’Accademia
    Note: Tickets was booked online because reservation was required. The tickets were waiting for us at the admission counter and there were not too many people inside the gallery

    - Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
    - Campo Santa Margherita
    - Gondola ride
    Note: Negotiated with the gondolier a little and have him take us from the hotel (across from S. Lucia train station), to the Rialto bridge and back for E$140 + tips. The gondolier tried to sing but it was horrible :)


    10/7/2010 (Thur)
    - Wash clothes in the very early morning
    Note: The Santa Croce laundromat is very close to the hotel. Venice definitely feels different in the morning and at night without all the tourists.

    - Rialto Market
    - Murano
    Note: We didn’t visit the “free” glass factory tour because I don’t like to deal with buying stuff at the end. We just strolled in the neighborhood; in fact we got lost and have to ask the locals on how to get back to the touristy area

    - Burano/Torcello
    Note: Didn’t get a chance to go there


    10/8/2010 (Fri)
    - Doge’s Palace + tour
    Note: Booked the Secret Itinerary at Vivaticket, I don’t recommend this tour with young kids, too boring for their tastes

    - Piazza San Marco
    Note: Acqua alta but not too bad. Tips: the police(?) will let you cut in front of the people if you are holding a baby

    - Basilica San Marco
    Note: Reserved a timeslot for E$1 person each to bypass the queue. Know what, turned out there was no queue. We spent < 3 minutes inside the basilica. Very important to remember is that you have to “check-in” your backpack and stuff at a separate location prior entering the basilica, you don’t want to get kicked out after waiting in line for a long time!

    - Walk around
    Note: Honestly, with the signs and stuff, it was not that easy to get lost (at night is a different story because you can’t see the sign very well). I just follow the stream of tourists heading back to the train station


    10/9/2010 (Sat)
    - Depart to Rome by Trenitalia
    Note: I hoped things have changed; I was having so much problem buying Trenitalia ticket using US credit card. After trying 6-7 different credit cards, I gave up and borrowed one of my overseas friend’s card (with chip) and it went through with no problem.

    Afterthought:
    1. Venice is NOT a stroller or wheelchair friendly place. There are just too many steps and bridges
    2. Should eat at the local pizza and gelato joints more, so good!!!

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    ***

    -== ROME ==-
    Hotel: Hotel Diocleziano
    Note: OK room but free full breakfast. Location is very close to the Rome Termini and the metro


    10/9/2010 (Sat)
    - Arrival from Venice around 1:30pm
    Note: Seating arrangement can be a bit screwy in the train, some people has their assigned seat taken by someone. This was also the first time we met a rude American couple on train (took up all the baggage space with their luggage and complained after someone re-arranged the luggage for them; complained that they didn’t want to seat close to us because we have a baby; they also speak/laugh too loud in a relatively quiet train. What an S!!!)

    - Colosseum (with Roma Pass)
    Note: I pre-ordered the Roma Pass and picked them up in the Termini. There was a very long queue buying ticket to go inside the Colosseum, but with the Roma Pass, we went straight in. This was 1 of the 2 free entries for the Roma Pass

    - Roma Forum
    Note: Free, included with the Colosseum admission

    - Palatine Hill
    - Imperial Fori


    10/10/2010 (Sun)
    - Galleria Borghese
    Note: 2nd of the free entry for the Roma Pass. Even with the pass, you have to call ahead to make appointment to go inside (On the phone, just mentioned that you have the Roma Pass and the service rep will give you an appointed time; show the Roma Pass when you pick up the ticket inside the gallery)

    - Spanish Steps
    - Trevi Fountain
    - Pantheon
    Note: All in walking distance from Galleria Borghese. Again, there weren’t too many people there, maybe we were there early?


    10/11/2010 (Mon)
    - Piazza Navona
    - Shopping
    Note: Rainy day, a chill day


    10/12/2010 (Tues)
    - Vatican
    Note: We booked the tour through the Dark Rome (myvaticantour.com); we liked it because of the excellent guide. I am surprised by how crowded this place is, especially inside the museum. I tried to check-in the stroller but the customer rep actually recommended me to keep it because of the long walk, which turned out was right. We spent half a day here. After that, we walked around the neighborhood and enjoyed our last day in Europe!


    10/13/2010 (Wed)
    - Go home!
    Note: Taxi cost E$60 from hotel to the airport (FCO)

    Afterthought:
    1. Definitely should use the metro more often, the metro was extremely easy to navigate. The Roma Pass even works in metro after it expired (the pass is good for 3 days of free metro ride)
    2. Should be more careful in the Rome Termini next time. There were too many shady looking people in the station. I am glad that I didn’t lose anything over the trip
    3. Visit Ostia Antica next time


    ***


    Conclusion:
    We tried to cover as much grounds as possible without stressing our baby. I was glad that the baby napped OK in the stroller (Maclaren), if not, we would have to go back to the hotel for naps. Overall, we really liked this trip and will definitely come back again. I hope you enjoy reading my experience and I hope you find this helpful planning your trip.

    Cheers!
    Mark

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    Thanks for the report back, Mark!

    We traveled to Paris and Rome with our 11 month old nephew and were saved by the (Eddie Bauer) stroller. This age group seems to do very well traveling with adults, as long as they can be comfortable in their stroller for napping.

    There were 4 adults in our group and it made it nice at meal time. If baby was cranky, we could rotate turns strolling baby around until he fell asleep while others ordered and/or ate. Most of our meals ended up being very calm and uninterrupted. When baby was awake, baby was entertained by wait staff or fellow customers. Most people love babies. (obviously, we didn't pick super hoity-toity places, but they were nice. We would travel anytime with our nephew :)

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