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100 + days in Europe over Winter with 2 children

100 + days in Europe over Winter with 2 children

Sep 7th, 2009, 07:47 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2009
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100 + days in Europe over Winter with 2 children

I know, a challenge to say the least! We've never travelled, but we are a resourceful country farming Australian family about to embark on the trip of a life time. Flying out in early January 2010 and returning to Oz in the middle of April 2010 (trip totals approx 110days). We are in our mid 30's and our two children are 7 and 10 yrs. First stop is London. From there, we would like to do a road trip through England - Scotland - Ireland. Next, we're thinking Belgium - Germany - Poland - Czech Republic - Austria by Eurial (?) Other countries that we want to visit include France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Turkey and also Morocco. We are looking for ANY advice on how to do this trip. We are wanting a total cultural experience and are prepared for backpacking, budget accommodation, drive/fly/rail. Our children are very adaptable and we want to come home feeling that we've made the most of every minute of our time away. We're open to experiencing out of the way/non tourist destinations. Being Winter, we know it'll be cold - but don't feel that it'll stop us from enjoying our holiday. If you've done this type of holiday through Europe with children - we'd love to hear from you. Any ideas would be wonderful.........
Ronael is offline  
Sep 7th, 2009, 07:57 PM
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Only time for one quick comment right now (will try to get my mind around the whole thing and come back)

But my first thought is -- you want to do a road trip through Scotland/Ireland/Belgium etc starting in the very dead of winter. The days will be very short and the weather possibly VERY difficult . . .

100+ days seems like forever - but it really isn't when talking about places as spread out as Scotland, Ireland, Portugal, Morocco and Turkey (and 10 other countries).
janisj is online now  
Sep 7th, 2009, 07:59 PM
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Do you have visas that let you stay longer than the maximum 90 days?
kybourbon is online now  
Sep 7th, 2009, 08:14 PM
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We did something similar in 2006. 11 weeks in Asia and Europe, with children aged 11 and 13. It was the greatest experience.

If you should care to follow along, I wrote about it in: Travelgirl's Trip of a Lifetime.

Have fun!
travelgirl2 is offline  
Sep 7th, 2009, 09:39 PM
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Couple of practicalities:

Visas: You're limited to a maximum of a TOTAL of 90 days in Belgium - Germany - Poland - Czech Republic - Austria, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy COMBINED. This shouldn't be a problem for you: in practice there's no significant time limit on your stays in the UK, Ireland, Turkey, Morocco or Croatia

Darkness. January days are exceedingly short (0800-1600) in England: they're shorter still in Scotland, and much of Ireland is sort of on the wrong time zone, so days get closer to 0900-1700.

Weather. I really wouldn't start with a serious roadtrip round the British Isles. It doesn't actually get cold - though many fainthearts on this board love whingeing about how insupportable life is at 5 degrees C. But if it snows, we're hopeless at dealing with it, you miss the opportunity of doing a roadtrip during our spring, and the point of roadtrips here is getting out and doing lots of walking along our footpaths (the 120,000 miles of pedestrian rights of way from the middle
of towns, across private fields, into the next town) Much more pleasant from late Feb. Worse in a way: you can't actually guarantee snow in Britain, if that's a novelty you want to show the children. Indeed it's 99.9% likely you won't see any snow at all in England, Ireland or southern Scotland: just the occasional chilly rain or glorious crisp sunny winter's day

I'd arrive in London, recover, get a cheap flight somewhere warmish, then work my way back north, intending to do the British Isles trip at the end. Or at least wait till early March (when spring at least starts springing, though it's a few weeks away from having actually spring)before the big drive

Travel. The two basic sites you need are www.bahn.de (for accurate railway timetables: those non-European sites that try to sell you their products are generally inadequate) and
www.whichbudget.com (for allegedly low-cost planes, though often these days convebntional airlines undercut self styled cheapo companies)

Strategy. What are you really trying to do? Three months on and off trains does sound just a bit potentially dispiriting. Don't underestimate just how time consuming (and morale sapping) checking out of a hotel/flat, getting to the station/airport, hanging round then doing the same thing in reverse at the end of the journey can be.
flanneruk is offline  
Sep 8th, 2009, 12:29 AM
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Re Snow in Scotland....the north-east has it every year, but people just get on with it...and there are 5 ski areas in Scotland http://ski.visitscotland.com/ they open every year and last year was a very good season.
Don't restrict your plans because of possible weather though.....as they say, there's no such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong clothes!
alihutch is offline  
Sep 8th, 2009, 12:54 AM
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Hi Ronael, what the the previous poster, flaneruk, says should all be heeded.

Here are some additions, suggestions and tips :

- if you can, start at Morocco, followed by Spain, Italy, Croatia and Turkey, in that order. By that time you are into february, which is the hight of the skiing season in Austria, so consider a few days in vienna combined with skiing lessons, especially for the kids, somewhere near by. I do not know about Poland but Prague and Southern germany will also be cold but are doable albeit with quite a bit of precipitation. Then, you can do France, and move on to Britain and ireland.
- You will probably find that room, board and transport the most expensive in Britain. With two childen, you should probably drive yourself, thus being able to find reasonably priced B&Bs and restaurants, rather than being limited to what is available within easy reach of train stations and coach depots.
- Actually, the same strategy will apply to central Europe and Italy as well. I mean renting a car.
- You will not need a car in Turkey. Spain is also doable by public transport, because many historic sites and places to see are more or less clumped together and train and coach transport are reasonably cheap.
- In Turkey, Istanbul, Gallipoli for the relevance to the Anzac war dead, Ephesus for the antiquity and a very cold cappadocia for the alien landscapes with fairy chimneys and cave hotels, and early christian cave churches and underground cities, should be considered.
- In Spain, Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, sevilla and Granada are suggested. Consider staying at Paradores, if not very expensive, because they are good value and interesting. If you drive, there are many small towns with medieval heritage which are fun to visit also.
- The Italian countryside and sea coast is very beautiful, in addition to antiquity and the arts. Again, medieval towns like Siena and San Giminiano and the northern coast including portofino may require a car.
- In France, consider various regions like the Loire Valley for reasonably priced castles for lodging also.
- You will not need to make reservations at hotels except for skiing areas, during this season. So try to plan as much flexibility in your itinerary as possible. It will reduce stress and cost. Driving will also give good flexibility. You want to be able to say, 'We are tired and this looks like a good place. Let us stay the night here."
- Find out from your bank what the costs of drawing local currency from ATMs are.
- Take a bit of cash Euros and Pounds with you.
- Take photocopies of your passports in each of your suitcases.
- the weather will be suitable for having concealed pockets.
- Beware bag snatchers and pickpockets in London and Spain, and touts and hassling shopkeepers in Morocco and to a lesser extent Istanbul.
And finally, please write nice long reports of your travel experiences after you have finished all.
otherchelebi is online now  
Sep 8th, 2009, 01:43 AM
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For trains, this site is invaluable...

alihutch is offline  
Sep 8th, 2009, 07:01 AM
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Ronael: As explained above -- you'd be MUCH better off starting from the south (Morocco or Spain) and zigzagging north ending up in Scotland at the end. That way you are sort of following the weather -- and length of daylight which if anything is more important.

travelgirl2: I remember your wonderful journey/trip report. One of the most interesting ones ever posted on here IMO.

But I don't recall it included wandering around Scotland or Ireland in the dead of winter. Huge, HUGE difference between June and January - like 12 extra hours of daylight for starters.
janisj is online now  
Sep 8th, 2009, 08:27 AM
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I can't help with all of your trip, but I think it sounds like fun. In 2001, we went to Europe in mid February, starting in Scotland, and our kids were 7 and 10. Yes it was cold and yes the days were short, but we loved it! Had a bit of a blizzard one day on our road trip, but we are used to driving in snow so it wasn't an issue for us. We had 3 weeks and spent a week in Scotland, a week in London and a week in France. No regrets at all
mms is offline  
Sep 8th, 2009, 08:53 AM
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Hi Ronael,
We are doing a similar trip right now, albeit without children. We are actually in our sixth week of a 97 day trip.

I agree with following the weather. We are traveling from north (Uk and Scotland) to south (Italy) to avoid the blazing hot temps.

You say you want to make the most of every moment, then please take my advice and don't plan something every minute. You just cannot keep up that pace for that period of time.

The minimum time we stay in any one place is three nights. We have 5 one week stays, London, Paris, Berner Oberland, Venice and Tuscany. Consider doing a few apt rentals in various locations. It gives you a bit of a chance to relax from packing and unpacking and you get the feel of a place better than just a day or two. You will know what I mean after your first three weeks or so.

Europe will always be here...don't kill yourself to try and see everything this time. Have a list of places you want to see and prioritize them. If you don't get to the last things on the list don't worry about it...things will crop up along the way...jetlag, weather, laundry days, days you just want to hang around the apt and not do too much, maybe just a morning or afternoon trip.

We are thoroughly enjoying our trip and it is in great part to the advice I have received on this board. We actually brought a small laptop on which I download pics and journal at the end of everyday. I recommend doing a journal everyday of some sort because you will probably never remember everywhere you have been and what you saw if you don't. You will look at the pics and have no idea what you are looking at.

You can do this as a budget trip. We don't get the breakfast offered at the hotels. They charge anywhere from 6 - 9 euro pp for breakfast, when for just 4-5 euros we bought some danishes and juice at the grocery store and had breakfast for two mornings. You can also do the same for lunch and then have a decent yet inexpensive dinner. We planned 80 US dollars per day for meals and we are under budget. We are actually only spending about 50 US dollars a day for two for our meals. Nice dinners in expensive restaurants just are not important to us...but you have to decide if they are to you and budget accordingly.

Your trip sounds fantastic. It will be here before you know it. What a wonderful gift to give to your children!

Have fun and take care,
michele_d is offline  
Sep 14th, 2009, 12:16 AM
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Thank you, thank you, thank you all! Such wonderful responses to my very open ended questions. Truely grateful!
I love the idea of following the sun as much as we can. Very sensible advice on so many levels. We're now looking into a short rental in France & Italy to break up the constant travel a bit. To stop for a while and 'live' the experience will be lovely. We're trying to avoid booking in too much, but feel that it is sensible to have a couple of longer breaks planned.
Thank you all so much, we'd love any further info if you have it. Your trips sound fantastic - and yes, we will try and keep a journal and post pics. Our kids will need to for school. Our little country town is buzzing with the excitement of our trip too!
Warm wishes.
Ronael is offline  
Sep 14th, 2009, 01:12 AM
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You are going to have to send us the travel report! Your experience wil be very interesting indeed! Not only your little country town is excited!
I'm jealous of that beautiful trip!
You need to spend enough time in the different places to meet the people, and from my experience you may want to stay a bit more in many of the countries in order to see your new friends a few more days.
For your short rental in France, you can look at the paris-apartment-rent.com for renting in Montmartre area (the most friendly district of Paris), for Ireland I would rather pick up a Bed & Breakfast (and for Scotland as well).
In Italy I visited friends, so I did not try the hotels or other type of accomodation, be very careful in driving if you have to drive, if french are not too good drivers italians are just crazy ones!
Korin is offline  
Sep 14th, 2009, 03:49 AM
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need to think a bit about clothes, you will need some cold weather clothing as well as the usual waterproofs etc. Really cold weather gear can be very expensive, so if going skiing and can pass through say Holland or France first you will find C&A can kit you out.

Central spain can be very cold in winter too as the centre is very high up
bilboburgler is online now  
Sep 14th, 2009, 12:43 PM
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I would imagine that you'll want to use one of those car leasing arrangements, or perhaps two of them (Europe and UK). That will influence your itinerary somewhat because the locations for picking up a leased car are fewer than for rentals. You'll also want to make sure your insurance covers you wherever you are going to drive (probably will for lease arrangement, but with rental cars, they are specific as to countries, and won't let you cross some borders). So, I'd say first thing to do is get a feel for what kind of restrictions there will be on your car travel, then determine what legs you really want to do by train/air, then tailor your rental options accordingly.

I agree with going south upon arrival. Maybe take a day or two to recover from the trip, then head south. Leave the UK for last. Drop the Europe (left hand drive) car when you get to Paris, spend some time there (a weeklong Paris apartment rental is great), then go do London (I liked doing a weeklong rental there, too) before picking up a leased car to do England/Scotland, and perhaps Ireland). Again, where you can pick up and drop off a car would play into how I would set up the itinerary.

You're also doing the right thing by looking into week long (or better) rentals in certain areas. I know you want to be flexible, but you save a lot of money with self-catering accomodations, and these just about have to be arranged in advance. I would set up as many of those as you can tolerate. You're not really going to be over there at a time that would be conducive to walking tours, so that eliminates one need to move about, and for portions that you are doing with a car, you can use self-catering lodging as a base to explore an entire area for a week, rather than moving from hotel to hotel (or B&B to B&B, or any combination thereof).
twk is offline  
Sep 14th, 2009, 05:05 PM
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Great ideas - we're now set on moving south from London (after a short rest!), through France, spending a few days in Paris and maybe a few more heading south. A relative has given us a contact near Toulouse with a very inexpensive ($300 AUSD/week!!) apartment that would suit our needs. We'll try to rent that for a week or even two. Such a good location to explore southern France, skiing in Andorra(? thoughts??) and northern Spain from. How far could we get on a day trip from here do you think? I've had a few problems researching the cost/availability of lease cars - the websites are saying that there's nothing available. Is this because it's too early to book or because it's Winter? I wondered if leasing was still allowed during the Winter months. From our short stay in France wer'e thinking perhaps travel in a leased car through Spain & Portugal where we'll then leave the car and fly to Morocco. Not sure about there onwards. Any more suggestions grately received - keep it coming, I love this website xx
Ronael is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 01:35 AM
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Many antipodeans buy a camper van then sell it after the trip. This gives you cheapish accommodation, saves on restaurant costs, and provides the possibility to explore areas off the rail routes.

There used to be a Sunday market in the camper vans outside Australia House, London but I understand this now happens via loot, gumtree, etc.

I'd also say :

start south - move north
leave "slack" days in the planning
maybe reduce the number of countries ?

mpprh is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 05:44 AM
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To handle cold weather, layer your waterproofs with fleece and just in case, get some silk long underwear.

For economical stays, http://www.bugeurope.com/ for family friendly hostels.

Make sure your kids do some of the research once you have settled on your main locations.
Barbara_in_CT is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 08:04 AM
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Hi Ronael,
We have a lease car right now that we leased through the Peugeout Buy Back program: http://www.autoeurope.com/buyback.cfm.

For your dates I entered Jan 15-March 30, 2010 for fun with pickup in Toulouse and return in Spain at Barcelona or Madrid or San Sebastian. Those are airport locations. It showed availability.

We found the process extremely easy. Choose what you want and the dates and then call AutoEurope to book. If they try to give you a higher price than what you found on the Internet, tell them and they will adjust accordingly.

About two months before our trip they FedExed the documents to us to sign and return with a copy of my husband's passport since he will be the main driver.

When we finished our week apt rental in Paris we took a cab to Orly airport for the car pickup. They checked my husband's passport one more time and then we were off. We will return it in Rome. We live in the US so I hope that doesn't make a difference in the leasing process.

We leased a midsize for 86 days for just about $3000. That includes insurance also. Be sure to get GPS as it will save your trip, your marriage, your sanity! Seriously..do not tackle the roads without the help of a GPS. It has saved us numerous times and I'm the official map reader in our family and very good at it too, but having a GPS is the only way to go IMO. Maps are great to have for overall views of your trip but place to place driving is a bit more confusing than we thought it would be.

There's another reason to take a small laptop. Even though you are on vacation your regular bills will keep coming in at home. About 4-5 months ahead put all your regular bills on automatic pay. We did this with everything from Electric, to credit cards etc.

I can monitor my checking account online, view credit card statements, transfer money etc without having to use an Internet Cafe. Every single place we have stayed has WIFI.

I instant message / video call with our two sons who are home in the US. I do not view any sensitive material on my laptop unless it is a secure connection though. Even though it is extra weight, and cords etc, a laptop has been invaluable for our trip. It's great to keep extra information on that you will acquire ahead of time regarding your trip, websites etc.

We also brought a small ( about the size of a deck of cards) hard drive as an extra backup for pictures. We save the pics to daily folders in the computer and then every week or so save them to the hard drive...just in case something happens to the computer, we have not lost all our pics - nearly 2500 so far!

Take care,
michele_d is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 12:19 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 479

Look up these Australian sites for lease cars in France,



I have used them both, very efficient and reliable. You can also call them up, they are based in Sydney.

Good luck!

swagman is offline  

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