3 weeks in Europe for Hawaii Family

Old Mar 12th, 2011, 10:03 PM
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3 weeks in Europe for Hawaii Family

Aloha all-
Our family (my husband and I, two girls 10 and 12) have flights planned to Europe in August 2011. We arrive in London and fly out of Zurich 18 days later. Luckily, we are stopping off in New York for 5 days to help with jet lag.
My question is this: We know we want to spend 6 days in England and 5 or 6 days in Paris (with several day trips to countryside). Any suggestions for the final 6 days?
It is tempting to want to go on a multi country binge (living in Hawaii is great but one doesn't get to go to Europe very often!), but all the posts I read warn against this. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. We are all very active and fairly used to a hectic schedule. Mahalo!
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Old Mar 12th, 2011, 11:05 PM
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Kail-, we are same as you in preparation stage. But we will start travel much sooner than you. Since you have family of 4, three country are enough from our reading. The third country can be either Switzerland or Italy. I think Rick Steve's web site is good place for your itinerary reference. By the way, where do you read warning against for more countries? We are just a couple so we are contemplating to cover more countries. We may use alternatively Eurail pass and budget airlines there. Any opinion is welcome.
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Old Mar 12th, 2011, 11:29 PM
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There's a big difference between active sightseeing and spending your time getting from one place to another. The later allows you to see trains/train stations or planes/airports rather than sights.

You're already covering all of England in 6 days and Paris in 2-3 days (which does not do justice to the city). It looks like you're flying out of Zurich but do not plan to do any sightseeing in Switzerland which could be your third country and would make sense because you're leaving from there.

France is huge country and is very diverse. Going to different parts of it seems like going to different countries.

But if you're set on another country just for the sake of saying you went to several countries I suggest Belgium (Brugge, Antwerp, Brussels). You can fly from Brussels to Zurich to catch your flight home.
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Old Mar 12th, 2011, 11:56 PM
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Thanks for replies...I wish we had more time but I also know that we won't be able to get back to Europe for years. Adrienne, we actually will be spending 5-6 days in Paris (which will include several day trips out to countryside). Six days in England will be 3 days in London and 3 days at friend's house in Cotswolds with minimal travel. I like the idea of 3 days in Switzerland before leaving out of Zurich...Swiss Alps will seem so 'exotic' to our hawaii eyes. That leaves about 3 or 4 days in between. Brussels? Amsterdam? Austria? Germany? Or extend England and France? I personally loved Venice (20 years ago), but my husband is against going to Italy (NEXT trip we'll go South, he declares!) and I do think Venice in August sounds a little scary.
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Old Mar 13th, 2011, 12:24 AM
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5-6 days in Paris with several (means at least 3) days outside Paris = 2-3 days sightseeing in Paris. Have you factored in the time it will take you to get from London to Paris? At least half a day. That leaves 5 to 5.5 days in Paris and 2 to 2.5 days sightseeing there.

Where you go depends on your interests. Perhaps if you tell us a bit more about the types of things you want to see you will get more definitive answers. I would not go only to Brussels if you're adding 1 more city. I think Amsterdam is more interesting.

Figure out how much time it will take you to get from Paris to some place else (add time from hotel to train station/airport, waiting time, transit time, time to get to new hotel, packing/unpacking) to determine where else you can go and still have some sightseeing time.
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Old Mar 13th, 2011, 12:34 AM
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Adrienne, you are so right! It is so easy to forget about travel and 'assimilation' time. My 12 year old wants to go to Amsterdam as they are studying WWII history at school and she read about Anne Frank. She also is currently memorizing Reagan's Berlin Wall speech "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall!", so Germany/Berlin is an option (though not MY first choice as the 'extra 'country/city). My 10 year old is a fashionista and wants to go to Paris for that reason. She will love it! She wants to live there when she is older and become a fashion designer... We all would enjoy a day renting bicycles and so that makes Amsterdam/Netherlands a possibility. I hope this helps. It's 10:30 hawaii time so I'm off to bed!
Aloha...
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Old Mar 13th, 2011, 12:43 AM
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Did you know you can rent bicycles in Paris and there are bike tours that go to Versailles. There is a system of bike rentals in Paris but I think there's a problem with using American credit cards since they do not have the required chips.

http://fattirebiketours.com/paris

I would add time to Paris and then Amsterdam. That will give you a flavor of a city that looks very different from Paris.
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Old Mar 13th, 2011, 04:42 AM
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I would stop thinking in terms of 'country' and think about places. You cant see Germany, Britain, France etc in 18 days. What you can do is see London, the Cotswolds, Paris and 1 other place reasonably.

Is there a reason you are flying back from Zurich? Can you change your flight to leave from Paris or Amsterdam?

Berlin really is the outlying here.

I would add some time to London - you will still be a bit jetlagged after flying in from NYC plus it will take a few hours to get to your hotel and get settled from the airport. So you will only get a couple of full days in London which really isnt enough. I would stay in London for 6 days, 3 days in the Cotswolds (it will take time to get there and back - it may make sense to go there first if you are flying into Heathrow. Then spend 3 days in Amsterdam and 6 in Paris.

You could head straight for the Cotswolds which would be a nice intro to England. 3 days.

Head into London and spend 6 days (rent an apartment). Tonnes of stuff to do here and you could do a day trip to Bath or Oxford, or Canterbury.

Option 1 - take the eurostar to Paris (www.eurostar.com book 4 months in advance for best price). Spend 6 days here with maybe a day trip or two.

Train to Amsterdam for last few days and fly home.

Option 2 - take the overnight ferry to Amsterdam (I'll post our trip report here - it might be fun for the kids to do an overnight ferry). Spend 3 days here.

Train to Paris and stay 6 days and fly home from Paris.

If you are stuck with the Zurich tickets it really does make more sense to spend a couple days somewhere nearby to fly home. Not sure how to work that as I havent been to Switzerland. But if you are interested in Amsterdam/Paris/England than you should really try to change your flights to fly out of either Paris or Amsterdam.

Hope this helps!
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Old Mar 13th, 2011, 04:44 AM
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http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-adventure.cfm

Our trip report on the overnight ferry to Amsterdam.

The other option is obviously to fly there...
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Old Mar 13th, 2011, 11:25 PM
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Thanks so much, jamikins, for the feedback. We got 4 RT tickets from HAWAII to Europe using 160,000 regular Frequent Flier miles so I am not complaining about the Zurich departure. We had to be really flexible. My friends who live in England suggested London first, then Cotswolds because they said in the country, if you are jet-lagged, you can't go anywhere late at night...you are stuck in a bed staring at the ceiling, wheras in London you can go do somethign later in the evening (or early AM).... that makes sense to me. So far, our plan is London, Cotswolds, Paris, perhaps fly to Amsterdam and then spend last few days in Swiss Alps before leaving out of Zurich. This isn't my dream vacation itinerary but sometimes you have to be flexible for free plane tickets! The other option is to bail out on Amsterdam and spend that time in Prague (?). How about an overnight train trip from Paris to Prague? I bet the kids would love it and I can stand ONE sleepless night--suffering for their adventure. Remember, no trains in Hawaii so any train trip is a 'neat' thing for them! Any feedback on Prague vs. Amsterdam? Mahalo and aloha everyone!
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Old Mar 13th, 2011, 11:33 PM
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Aloha, Kailuamon!

Prague is a great little city, but too far east for your short trip. Save it for another time. There is a lot to see and do in London and Paris in the time you have. Travel time to Amsterdam, if you have to do it, is much more manageable. I'm afraid that you'll regret not spending more time in London and Paris on this first trip though.
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Old Mar 15th, 2011, 12:29 PM
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Thanks, LeBurta. I think you are right. Three weeks seems like so much time until you start planning an itinerary!
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Old Mar 15th, 2011, 12:46 PM
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My family began a trip using FF miles with a three-day stay in Switzerland ... because we could only get tickets into Zurich.

You might consider spending those last days of your trip in Switzerland; it will certainly make logistics easier.

And Switzerland was wonderful, even for just three days!
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Old Mar 15th, 2011, 01:05 PM
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I would go from Paris to Annecy for a change of scene. Absolutely stunning scenery, beautiful lake, etc. You'll have been in mostly cities (NY, London, Paris) with a few days in the Cotswolds. Annecy is a relaxing train ride from Paris and there is lots to do and see around there. You could then train from there to Zurich.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2011, 10:57 AM
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Any suggestions for the final 6 days?>

Switzerland! Gorgeous Switzerland, IMO Europe's most gorgeous country - and I would head to an Alpine wonderland like the Jungfrau Region by Interlaken - stay in a place up in the hills like Grindelwald, lying at the foot of awesome snow-capped and glacier-girdled peaks - literally and figuratively the high point of Switzerland IMO and the Alpine Switzerland ethced in our minds' eyes - and a lot of unique experiences for kids that age - thrilling aerial cable car rides - walking right up to glaciers - riding the iconic lake steamers on either lake bookending Interlaken - summer tobaggon runs or summer luge runs (sans snow) and even in Interlaken itself one of Europe's most popular theme parks.

Anyway I would suggest taking the train from Paris to say Lausanne - TGV train on which you can snag online discounts at www.voyages-sncf.com (French railways) and heading for nearby Montreux, a lovely town on Lake Geneva a few minutes from Lausanne by train - spend the afternoon lazing by the lake or visiting the famous Chateau Chillon, a castle on the lake made famous by Lord Byron.

Next day hop the famous Golden Pass scenic train to Interlaken - spending three nights here.

Stay there until the day before your flight and go to Zurich for your final night.

And for this itinerary be sure to investigate the Swiss Saver Pass, to me one of the true bargains in Europe - a pass that covers not only trains but lake boats, aerial cableways, mountain trains, etc. and the kids get a free Family Pass with this so they never ever pay a dime to ride anything.

The best deal IMO would be a 4-consecutive-day pass - use it when leaving Montreux and end the 4 days in zurich, day before flying out.

Great sites for planning a Swiss train/pass journey I always spotlight these fantastic ones - www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.ricksteves.com.

Interlaken is only about an hour from Zurich by many direct trains.
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