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Where to go?

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Hi. We are a family of 6 (parents, 4 teens). Bought tix (under 1100 each - seems a decent price ) We are flying into Amsterdam and out of London, and have no plan for the 6 weeks in between…. early June to mid July 2015. Just wondering if anyone has any suggestions. Musts include AMS, Berlin, Krakow, Spain, Portugal, London… maybes include Budapest. Ludwigs castle, Prague, Salt mine in Austria, Bilbao music fest, south of France? Really just starting… hope to train some, rent a van for much… Would love any suggestions. The kids are all girls, and are pretty flexible and happy to travel. Ages 13 thru 18. Any opinions on Booking.com - have used before and really loved the convenience, but not sure if hotels, apt renters, etc like the fees.. Any reason to buy Euros now?

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    Being summer, I probably would have started South and moved North, and it is usually cheaper to fly into London rather than out, but you seem to already have tickets, and London must be your last stop. That makes bookends of Amsterdam and London with things to put in between that are pretty far flung, so getting from one place to another is going to eat up travel time and money. That will require some careful planning.

    Besides Amsterdam and London, I recommend choosing perhaps four cities or areas, settle in and see the surrounding areas.

    Except for Spain and Portugal, you have only cities. Were you planning quick stops or day trips to other sights.

    In Sourthern areas (Spain, Portugal), get places with pools or by the beach so you can do sight seeing in the mornings, relax and cool off in a pool or ocean in the afternoons, more walking/sightseing in the evenings, which are very, very late in those countries.

    What kinds of things do you enjoy most, museums, shopping, food, walking/hiking, history, small towns, cities, etc?

    From Amsterdam, think about day trips, or stopping in Bruges for a day or so (nice beach about 15 minutes by train).

    Consider spending a few days in Bath and other interesting places in England before a few days on London.

    Spain is a huge country. What do you have in mind? If heat is no problem, anywhere would be fine. If it is, you could concentrate on Barcelona and San Sebastian, Bilbao and north. Allow about a week for that part of Spain. If you choose Southern Spain, (Andalucia), allow 10 days for 3/4 places.

    You mentioned South of France. You could rent a car for Northern Spain and Southern France, turn in the car and fly to the next place. That could easily take two or more of your weeks.

    Along that line, think about what you want to see and do in each location and how long that will take, plus travel times. You may have to narrow down some destinations.

    Get the girls involved and perhaps let them each pick a destination and do the research for that part of the trip.

    Your major job is to narrow options to create a reasonable itinerary.

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    "Any reason to buy Euros now?"
    "Just wondering if anyone has any suggestions."

    I think you're asking questions like this and requesting suggestions of any kind because right now you are completely and utterly at ground zero with all of this. You have undertaken a huge task and there's a LOT you must learn and decide. What you need to do is to get started on your own first. The best advice I can give you for now:

    1.) Get a couple of good guidebooks. Read up on travel basics - money, packing, security, etc. (I think Rick Steves does a good job with this.) Packing guidelines will be essential for this group!

    2.) With the guidebooks, look at additional destination and sightseeing options near your must-see places. Don't let frivolous stuff like a salt mine tour, or the 30-minute overpriced tour of the fake castle King Ludwig II built in the late 1900's, dictate a major detour; there are almost always fun, touristy things to do near or in between major destinations.

    Finalize your destinations, keeping in mind how you might get there and where you might stay as a group of 6.

    3.) Transport: Look into flights between Spain/Portugal and the northern destinations. Amsterdam - Prague - Berlin - Krakow... those places could probably be connected by ground travel. So could the towns you visit in Spain and Portugal, perhaps. The kind of vehicle you'll need for 6 people and their stuff will be very expensive.

    Note that Germany has numerous options for family / small-group travel. These are sometimes possible for long journeys but work best for short day trips. The Happy Weekend ticket is a daypass good for the entire country on local and regional trains; although a trip on those slower trains would take 9 hours, in theory your family could travel from Cologne to Berlin for €58 or less:

    http://www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/prices/germany/happy_weekend_ticket.shtml

    One example for local outings: A family of 6 can travel around Franconia (in northern Bavaria) seeing Bamberg, Rothenburg, Nuremberg, Würzburg, and other great towns for €18/day total using a "Tagesticket Plus" day pass. AND... if you get that pass on a Saturday, it's valid on Sunday too. Is that not enough? The ticket also gives you discounts on area sights...
    http://www.vgn.de/en/dayticket?Edition=en&p=tagesticket-plus


    4.) You would be very wise to plant yourselves for 5-7 days at a time in a roomy vacation rental, whether apartment or house - hopefully one with a washer and dryer! Homeaway.com is a decent commercial site that may be helpful.

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    Any reason to buy Euros now?

    Normally I would say NO but the Euro is fairly weak now so if you can buy Euros with a minimal fee, I say go for it.


    Musts include AMS, Berlin, Krakow, Spain, Portugal, London

    Four cities and two "countries". Doable but it might be best to pick a single city in Spain since distances are so far (it is an almost 6 hour drive from Madrid to Barcelona). My suggestion is to rent a large enough apartment in each city and fly from city to city (or if you are feeling particularly sadistic, rent a van in AMS and drive it from city to city).

    Definitely grab some guidebooks and see what there is to see from your "musts" and go from there. Fussgaenger has some good advice with staying in a roomy apartment for several days instead of hopping from hotel to hotel.

    Fussgaenger, unless I read the map wrong, the 18 Euro Tagesticket Plus is only good for the VGN tariff 10 area which doesn't include Würzburg but does include Bayreuth.

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    "Fussgaenger, unless I read the map wrong, the 18 Euro Tagesticket Plus is only good for the VGN tariff 10 area which doesn't include Würzburg but does include Bayreuth."

    The 18-Euro ticket covers the entire VGN network.
    Würzburg is NOT in the VGN at all and I should never have mentioned it in that list of possible destinations with that ticket - good heads-up there, sparkchaser.

    To visit Würzburg from somewhere in the VGN zone (like Nuremberg) you'd probably want a Bayern ticket day pass instead.

    http://www.munich-touristinfo.de/Bavaria-Ticket.htm

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    Your musts alone would make a good trip. There's a salt mine outside Krakow. There's also a concentration camp of some notoriety nearby.

    Prague > Krakow.

    Budapest isn't close to Krakow or Prague. Don't delude yourself on the driving distances. And don't underestimate the gas prices (see http://www.fuel-prices-europe.info/).

    Get a diesel vehicle because the prices are 15-30 Eurocents/liter less than for petrol. Even now, with BOTH favorable exchange rates and low oil prices, diesel is $5.15/gallon based on a 1.15E/liter price, and petrol (European for "gasoline") is over $5.80/gallon based on a 1.30E/liter price. Prices are worse in the UK, lower in Spain.

    Do not buy Euros. Get them from the ATMs in Europe. Your bank will charge you from 8-10% in some way (either by fees or a crap exchange rate). And they're not particularly useful in London. They're also not the currency in Krakow.

    Set up a Cap One or Credit Union or other account for travel money that has no foreign exchange fees for withdrawals at the ATM. Don't use your regular bank unless you know the forex fees are minimal (e.g., Chase and its 3.5% + $3 charge). Get a credit card with low forex fees too.

    Thinking you won't rent a vehicle for the whole trip - useless in London. Plus, drop charges are high no matter where you rent if you relinquish the car in another country ($300-700). So know that.

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