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HImom Jan 28th, 2010 05:35 PM

3 weeks in Europe with 20 & 22 year old "kids"
Hubby & I were only in Europe once, 15 years ago. We were there 3 weeks & saw Rothenberg, Venice, Rome, Paris, London and Bath, all independently & had a FABULOUS time! We plan to go for 3 weeks with the kids May/June from LAX and would love suggestions on how to maximize our experiences. An open jaw trip would be fine with us and we would be happy if one room (if we can get a quad) or two otherwise. We stayed mostly in B&Bs recommended by Rick Steves in our other trip.

We are trying to get the kids to weigh in on what they want to see & do. D taught herself German & took 3 college semesters of it. She's also taking intro to architecture for non-architectural majors; she's also very artistic & loves anime/manga, animation & cinema. S will be getting his EE degree. Both are lukewarm about museums--a few hours at a time is OK but not endlessly. S has liked animals (went to a zoo in about every city in the US we visited). H loved the suits upon suits of armor in the Tower of London, while I found the jewels to be worth at least a look & then was ready to leave.

H has some interest in a river cruise and also touring a castle. He also thinks we should show the kids Rome, Paris, and of course Germany. Would appreciate thoughts as we move forward in our planning. Since S will be starting his career shortly after we return, this may be the only family trip to Europe.

The kids are very light packers (carry aboard all their gear when they come home for winter break and also for summer). H & I also pack pretty light as well & took Eurail & Chunnel on our prior trip to Europe.

Thanks! HImom

HImom Jan 28th, 2010 11:35 PM

Any thoughts about this? We would welcome suggestions, since everyone here has so much more expertise than we do. Last trip was March/April. I suspect there will be more crowds in May/June.

We are debating whether to stay at B&Bs (as we did last time, mainly Rick Steve's recommendations) or hotels & welcome any input/experiences.

kerouac Jan 29th, 2010 12:01 AM

Well, I think that once you have worked on a basic itinerary concerning at least the big cities and your open-jaw flight plans, it will be a lot easier to make suggestions. Are you willing to rent a car somewhere? That makes a big difference as well.

mpprh Jan 29th, 2010 12:08 AM

May / June is a good time. Not too hot, kids holidays not started, the only snag is odd public holidays in some countries.

Why not do a lease car deal with Peugeot (min 17 days).

That way you could fly into London, then take the train to Paris, pick up the car and go anywhere you fancy.

Aim to leave the car in the Med - Nice, Rome etc to maximise the coverage.

Without knowing more about your interests, it is difficult to suggest an itinerary.


I'd look at Logis and Accor group for cheap hotel stays.

NorCalif Jan 29th, 2010 12:15 AM

We did a last-minute 3 week trip a couple of years ago with our two kids (18 and 20 at the time). We went to London, Paris, Rome and Venice (you can click on my name to see the trip report if you're interested). We stayed in hotels in London and Paris as we were in both of those places for just a few days at a time. We were in Rome a week, so we rented an apartment there. Last Christmas all of us were in Barcelona for a week and rented an apartment there too. I really like apartments because they allow you to comfortably spend time together as a family - something sometimes hard to do in small hotel rooms. In our experience there aren't as many rooms in Europe that sleep 4 as there are in the US.

On our 3 week trip we each just brought a carry-on and a small daypack. We traveled by train between all 4 cities. It worked out well for us not being burdened with hard-to-manage luggage.

I haven't done a lot of touristing around in Germany for many years, although was in Cologne and Berlin this spring . Berlin is a city that young people usually like a lot, in my experience (our kids weren't in Berlin with us).

Not sure what specific questions you have? Are you looking for suggestions about what cities/countries to see, or what to do in Paris or Rome? I think you'll get more suggestions if you're a little more specific about what kind of advice you're looking for.

Sounds like a great trip in the making!

lovisa Jan 29th, 2010 08:48 AM

Rick Steves has a suggested "Best of Europe in 3 weeks" itinerary. It might give you a starting point:

HImom Jan 29th, 2010 09:25 AM

Thanks--we're hoping to avoid driving & car rentals because none of us feel that comfortable driving in another country. Have never lived in an apartment while traveling and would appreciate more information about that option.

bobthenavigator Jan 29th, 2010 09:42 AM

After planning about 260 trips, I have learned some good guide lines for planning:
1. Average at least 3 days per destination
2. Make the next one a max of 4 hours travel time
3. Mix it up--half in big cities and half in small towns.

Having said that, I have always liked the Munich to Rome itinerary. To include:

Bavaria castles
Salzburg and environs
Rural Tuscany
Cinque Terre[ optional, but boys would love it]

That is a start--you may have to drop one of those. Good luck---do not try to do too much.

charnees Jan 29th, 2010 09:48 AM

HImom, there are zillions of apartments for rent in major cities!! Just google vacation rentals - city name and see what comes up. Look at and read the apartment reviews once you see some you like. They also have a listing of the bet rental agencies.

We think apartments are the only way to go. You do need to stay at least 3 or 4 nights to rent one. There is usually a living area and dining area-kitchenette plus bedrooms and one or two bathrooms.

I suggest you stick to public transportation. You could, for example, start with 4 nights in Rome, then train to Florence (the construction of the dome of the Duomo there is a very interesting engineering feat. Read "Brunelleschi's Dome"). After 3 nights, go on to Venice for 3 nights.

Then take the train to Switzerland, and on to Germany. Stay in Paris the last 4 or more nights, and fly home.

lovisa Jan 29th, 2010 09:54 AM

From LAX you might save a little money with budget airline AirBerlin (flight used to be LTU) In the late spring and summer they fly nonstop LAX to Dusseldorf and return on Mondays and Thursdays. The website only has capacity for roundtrip flights, but you can call to get an open jaw. Dusseldorf would be great for Rhine and Mosel valleys (river cruises and castles).

lovisa Jan 29th, 2010 09:56 AM

Forgot to add, from Dusseldorf you can connect to a lot of places, and include other destination in ticket price.

HImom Feb 2nd, 2010 09:41 PM

Thanks for these suggestions. I'm still trying to get the kids to share their preferences so we can see a bit of what each person wants. Will give them a deadline of this weekend so we can get things underway.

HImom Feb 2nd, 2010 11:48 PM

Pros & cons of starting vs. ending in Rome, if Rome is the southernmost part of our trip. I was thinking that weather is warmer and more reliable in Rome & then heading north and west toward our other destinations.

D has confirmed that she is interested in Berlin, Austria, perhaps Netherlands (particularly loves musicals, even in foreign language that she may understand a bit of but the rest of us will not). Haven't heard back from S yet.

alihutch Feb 3rd, 2010 02:02 AM

You do need to stay at least 3 or 4 nights to rent one.
Not always...there are all different, the minimum stay can vary according to season.
Stayed in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago for just 2 nights in an apartment.

TommieG Feb 3rd, 2010 03:44 AM

Musicals are very 'hot' at the moment in the Netherlands. So from that point of view a visit could be worthwhile.

Driving isn't that difficult here in Europe. To get around fast with more people, a car sometimes can help. So maybe you could do the longer stretches by train/plain and the getting around in a certain area by car? I myself are always very happy to have a car at my hand, but I notice that most Fodorites are real train-lovers!

Russ Feb 3rd, 2010 03:23 PM

"H has some interest in a river cruise and also touring a castle."

It would surprise me if the Rhine/Mosel region wouldn't please all of you. Make Frankfurt one of your airports, and you're not far from the area.

Two best castles to tour on the Middle Rhine, both very authentic, well preserved, and unlike the "Ludwig" castles south of Munich, centuries old:

On the Mosel, several lovely towns make for an interesting side trip; check out Cochem and Trier:

Cochem has its own castle, with a great free-flight falconry show:

I strongly agree with the suggestion to try an apartment wherever available - so much roomier, nice to have an equipped kitchen for breakfast and small meals, and often inexpensive. We had this 2-BR place with a view of the Rhine in St. Goar a few years back:


River boats stop at all the Rhine villages, as do local trains. Schedule:

A group of 4 can get around cheaply in this region by train and bus on a "Länder Ticket"; look under "Rheinland-Pfalz ticket":

HImom Feb 12th, 2010 09:44 AM

Thanks so much! We are thinking of seeing Paris, Rome, Florence and Germany. We're still waiting for our son to figure out where he'll be working and whether he needs our help to move before or after we go to Europe.

HImom Mar 7th, 2010 12:43 AM

OK, have finally gotten kids to talk about their preferences and check out airfares. Am currently thinking of cutting out Italy & spending more time in England, France and Belgium/Amsterdam/ Germany. This appears to considerably cut travel time. Am currently thinking of flying from LAX to London Heathrow & departing Paris back to LAX. It seems like Rome is so far south from all the other things we are thinking of seeing. I'd welcome any feedback.

jamikins Mar 7th, 2010 02:59 AM


CAn you give us more detailed idea of what you want to do?

You list 4 large countries, but clearly dont have enough time to do all.

Are you thinking London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin? Or some other combination? What do you want to see in each? That will help us determine how to help you.

To start I would suggest 5 full days in London, 5 full days in Paris, and maybe 3-4 full days in each of Amsterdam and Berlin.

I would set our your itinerary in nights and then come back to us so we can provide helpful feedback...

Hope this helps!

isabel Mar 7th, 2010 03:37 AM

Given the interest in castles, river cruises and German, the Rhine Valley is a good idea. Russ gave good info above. You will travel very inexpensively with that train pass. Here's the link to my trip report where I review the fabulous B&B we stayed in last summer. We had 5 days but since this is sort of a "taste of" trip I think you'd do fine with only four days in the region.

I also second the idea of flying AirBerlin. Since you live in one of its few US hubs you can do it (they only have four US hubs). As you'll see from my trip report we flew them last year and they are very good for a "budget" airline.

If you have three weeks, and you did about 4 days per destination you'd have five destinations. I'd probably pick Paris, London, and Amsterdam for three of them. And while you could spend weeks in any of them, four days would give you a nice introduction. For Amsterdam at least you could certainly do day trips to smaller towns.

So with Paris, London, Amsterdam (and day trip) and Rhine Valley you'd have a nice mix of large cities and small towns. Four days in each of those would leave you with about five more days, and I would fly to somewhere in southern Europe. While Northern Europe is wonderful, many people have a real love for the very different feel of southern Europe and it would be nice for your kids to get at taste of that too. I know for myself if my three week trip doesn't include at least a week in southern Europe I don't feel it's complete. Easyjet flies from the major cities and is really cheap if you book far enough in advance. The obvious choice would be Italy. If you really didn't want to fly, you could take the fast train from Paris to Provence and that would give a taste of Mediterranean atmosphere. It will probably cost more than flying to Italy though. From Italy you could easyjet or AirBerlin back to Dusseldorf if you weren't able to get an open jaw.

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