3 weeks with teens

Jan 17th, 2009, 11:47 AM
  #1  
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3 weeks with teens

Following will be my itinerary for our upcoming June trip to Italy.

Our last trip (which was for a month) to Paris, Lisbon and England resulted in a lot of whining (from kids and husband) about having to see "another museum or castle" and not having enough time for fun,relaxing things. Although we have a pretty hectic schedule, I am looking to incorporate things for the kids.

I started researching Italy as our next destination about a year ago. My husband and I both got Citi cc's that rewarded us with miles. We have used these cards for anything we could and have earned over 150,000 miles in just over a year. This would give me two free flights and left me with only two to buy. I started my daily searching for flights in November 2008 and have not found anything under $1500.00 (including taxes,etc). Let me add that I was budgeting less than $2500.00 for the two flights I would have to buy and the two flights I was getting with the FF miles (tax costs). Needless to say, it hasn't been looking very good.... Until someone posted about Aer Lingus having a sale! I gave it a look and with the two flights totaling $1483.00, I swooped on it. I then booked the two flights with the miles for $114.00 each; so far way under my budget of $2500. Now to include my costs of flying from Dublin to Venice and Rome to Dublin (on Ryanair) for another $743.00 to bring it to $2454.00- right on target! Now I know that some of you will be saying that I now have other extra costs and that is somewhat true, but not entirely.

With my flights on the miles, they do not allow for open jaw and if I had gotten flights to Italy, I would've had to fly in and out of one city. That would have been a hassle and would have involved backtracking. The plus side is we also get to see some of Dublin.

So here is my sample itinerary:

6/7 leave SFO
6/8 Arrive Dublin- stay two nights at Bewleys Airport Hotel in Family room (89e?)
Visit Guiness Brewery (for husband)
Malahide Castle (for me) and maybe the Choclate Factory (for kids)
6/10 6am Ryanair flight to Venice
6/11 Venice
6/12 Venice
6/13 Train to Florence
6/14 Florence
6/15 Day trip to Pisa
6/15 Florence
6/16 Train to Rome
6/17 Rome
6/18 Rome
6/19 Rome
6/20 Rome
6/21 Train to Pompeii- then to Amalfi
6/22 Day trip to Capri (unless I can find budget place to stay for 4)
Want to go into the Blue Grotto and maybe a boat ride around island with some swimming time. Would also like to go up the chair lifts.
6/23 Capri or Amalfi
6/24 Amalfi
6/25 Amalfi
6/26 Train to rome (hotel near Cia airport with quad room)
6/27 10am Ryanair flight back to Dublin- another stay at Bewleys
6/28 10am flight back to SFO

We are looking to hit most of the major sights but will skip some of the musuems so the kids are burnt out completely on the "art" side of things.

I have searched many apts and have found a number that look promising- with exception to Capri. I would love to stay at least one night on the island.

I do not have a large budget and try to save money where I can; but I also understand that time is money and will spend a little more if it saves ample time (like buying the museum pass in Paris and not having to wait in the long lines).

We are not foodies and enjoy just snacking and eating street food- this is where we tend to save the majority of money on.

I welcome all your advice and expertise..... I love this site! : )
namaka is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 12:08 PM
  #2  
 
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For a budget stay on Capri you could look at the Hotel La Tosca. Don't know whether they have family rooms, but maybe two doubles would work?
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 12:23 PM
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Brace yourself for a lot more whining, with added whining about how hot and sticky it is.

With the exception of the Amalfi, everyplace you are going is about centuries-old architecture, churches, museums and palazzos and castles. It will be boiling hot, polluted and jammed with tourists. Swimming in Venezia is lousy, there is no swimming in Florence or Rome.

Am I to take it that you are locked into flying into Venice and out of Rome? If it were me, and I heard all those complaints about the last trip, I would pick up a car after seeing Venice and go someplace in the countryside with a swimming pool for a week, and then drive to Sorrento.

I think Umbria might have the right combination of big impact day trips and just plain fun. There is chocolate and escaltors in Perugia, amazing art worth seeing in Assisi (plus the life of vegetarian St Francis, the patron saint of Italy to think about), a wolf story and a funicular in Gubbio, the extraordinary natural sight of the Piano Grande, plus interesting small day trips to perfect walled tows like Spello, etc.

Then I would drive to Sorrento and ditch the car and stay someplace with a pool and day trip. I'd include Pompeii if it's not 7,000 degrees.

There is an argument to be made that by inserting Rome between Umbria and the Amalfi you could "balance" urban sightseeing with rural relaxation. But I actually think maybe if you book-end the trip with cultural sightseeing Venice-funweek-funweek-Rome, that the final week will produce less whining, plus they end will be in sight if they are just allergic to mixing education with travel.

have fun!
zeppole is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 12:24 PM
  #4  
 
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PS: I suggest you book an agriturismo in the Umbrian countryside, preferably one that cooks dinner for you and has a swimming pool, the latter being essential.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 12:25 PM
  #5  
 
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Sorry, just wanted to add that I live in Italy, mainly because of its cultural attractions. But I wouldn't want to be in most of those cities in the summer.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 12:28 PM
  #6  
 
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Thats a lot of moving around. We've found it to be cheaper, and much more enjoyable to stay in apartments for 1 week at a time when on 3 week vacations.

We used www.romepower.com to rent an apartment in Rome and it was great to have a place to go back to a relax during the day and in the evening.

Also we used www.summerinitaly.com for Positano.

Is there a reason for flying into Dublin? Doesnt seem to fit with the rest of the itinerary. It would make more sense to me to spend a week in Rome, a week in the Amalfi Coast, and may a week in Umbria, or Venice...
jamikins is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 12:45 PM
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Just want to second the suggestions made by zeppole. We traveled with kids and a pool was definitely a life saver. We rented a farmhouse in Umbria with pool. Spend mornings doing day trips to places like Perugia, Gubbio, Siena, etc. Returned late afternoons for a dip and casual dinner either at home or local taverna. Also rented apartment (within a palazzo) outside of Venice and commuted to city, returning in evenings to our little garden and fabulous local food. Even when seeing Rome, we stayed at hotel with pool. Kids loved heights so definitely include the campanile in Venice, the one in Siena, and Castel St. Angelo in Rome. Haven't made it yet to Amalfi so can't speak to that but you at least there you have the beaches. Enjoy -- all will have a blast!
winnie is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 12:59 PM
  #8  
 
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How old are the teens? Do they have to stick with the parents all the time? Letting have a couple of hours to themselves now and then while the parents (or mother alone) visit 'another museum' might make things much easier and much more enjoyable for all members of the family.
quokka is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 01:05 PM
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The part that interests me most is that you got two FF miles tickets in January for a trip in June!
sf7307 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 01:25 PM
  #10  
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Thank you zeppole for all of your suggestions- I read all of your posts for advice.

With that said, I understand what you are saying about Umbria and will definitely start researching if that is something that interests all of us. However, I do not want to plan to see a city/town just so that we can get a place with a pool. We are from Northern California where it gets well over 100 degrees in the summer and the kid don't care about swimming very often in their own backyard.

We are coming to Italy for the history and the culture- I just don't want to burn them out with ONLY that type of thing. They also like the cities for people watching, shopping, hanging out at parks and even going to the movies (like we did in England). Both my husband and I lived in Europe as children so exposing our children to the culture and history is part of why we want to go.

I was thinking that by putting Amalfi at the end with mostly just fun, relaxing things to do, it would be better. I've tried the itinerary many different ways.

thursdaysd, thanks, I will check out the hotel.

jamikins, if you re-read my initial post, you will see why I am using Dublin as a gateway city.

DD is 15 and DS is 11. We do often split up with DD and I shopping and the boys doing something more relaxing. The kids don't usually go anywhere by themselves though.

sf7307, the miles are from my Citi cc and there are no black out dates or certain airlines I have to fly and it was 60,000 miles for each ticket. The downside is their rules are changing come March. They used to have two types of miles for flights. The first one being a fixed rate of 60,000 miles for any ticket (to Europe) as long as it was under $1200 (before taxes, etc) and extra miles if it went over. The other type was a variable rate where if the ticket was $300 (before taxes, etc), it costs 30,000 miles. So a $1200 ticket would be 120,000 miles. Come March, they will only offer the variable ticket- not a good deal in my book so I am glad we were able to get the tickets now.
namaka is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 05:40 PM
  #11  
 
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A few thoughts:

In Dublin, it would be more fun to stay in city center so you could walk around and enjoy the evening atmosphere and just walk to your room. For the kids, a student lead tour of Trinity College with a visit to old Trinity Library and the book of Kells is interesting. Also, the Kilmainham Gaol is a pretty intense & interesting experience.

I think your kids will love Venice and wish they could stay longer. They can go up in bell towers and take boats to the islands. They could go to a mask painting workshop. The synagogue tour is very interesting.

My teens enjoyed Siena more than seeing Pisa, so you might consider that as a day trip from Florence.

My teens also absolutely loved Assisi. If you do get a car, it is a wonderful place to spend a day.

Positano is fun for climbing steps for great views. Shopping at night in Sorrento might be fun for them.

In Sorrento, if you get up early and go down to the docks, you will see the fisherman bringing in big catches. Some of the fish are so big, they are lifted with wenches and it takes four or five men to move them about. It is really an interesting sight and great photo op.

While on the AC, consider visiting Paestum (Great Greek ruins) and Naples.

Besides the wonderful museums, Naples has some really exciting things.

One is a tour of the underground in Naples. It was featured on the History channel last year and I took the tour last fall. Some of the tunnels are very narrow and you carry a candle to see your way. Talk about history!

Another exciting thing might be to walk in the Phlegrian fields (fields of fire) just outside of Naples.

My teens also enjoyed walking around the rim of Vesuvius.
Sassafrass is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 06:28 PM
  #12  
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Wow, Sassafrass, you have given me more ideas to look into. Most of these ideas I know nothing about but will certainly start researching.

I am definitely trying to mix the history and culture with things that they might enjoy so I appreciate your thoughts. With everything I've read, I thought 3 days in Venice was kind of the norm.
A mask painting workshop sounds fun!

What did your children like about Siena and Assisi and what didn't they like about Pisa?

With only 3 weeks, I don't see how I could possibly add Naples without taking out someplace else. I am of Italian descent and am told that my family is actually from Naples. As much as I'd like to go there to trace the family tree though, I will have to save that for another time as it just didn't make it too high on the list of "to-do's" this time. Guess I'll be coming back!
namaka is offline  
Jan 17th, 2009, 10:22 PM
  #13  
 
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namaka, we are a southern california family, and we had a fantastic and memorable trip to Italy in June 2004 with our teens! They loved it! That is the trip which hooked them all on international travel.

Rome and Venice were their favorite cities in Italy. One thing I did was a big hit with the teens...I left the last full day in each city as an unplanned "free choice" day. On your last day in each city, your family will be familiar enough with the city, so that your teens will know by then how they want to spend that last day. Our only rule was that we wanted our daughters to stay either with my husband or I, or else with their older brother.

I also gave my teens guidebooks with photos to browse through at home, and I e-mailed them web-sites with info and photos at home. I encouraged them to research a bit so that they could contribute to the itinerary-planning phase. They each added something. I told them if it was practical I would incorporate as many of their ideas as I could.

My teens loved the restaurants in the Rick Steves guidebook, because they tend to have a lot of atmosphere, and are often friendly casual family-run places, with good food for good prices. We would hand the guidebook to the teens for some meals and let them choose the restaurant...this worked out well and made them more excited about dining in Italy.

We also handed them the map and let them guide us towards a gelato shop or a cafe or pizza place they found in the guidebook...finding the gelato shop, using the map, became a fun challenge for them, and we discovered lots of little interesting side streets along the way!

Another way to plan with teens is to have an exciting outing planned for the morning, so they will want to get out of bed...and leave the afternoon free for spontaneous exploration.

Enjoy! We still talk about our fantastic time in Italy and Venice especially!
Melissa5 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2009, 05:16 AM
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namaka,

You wrote: "We are coming to Italy for the history and the culture-"

It is almost impossible to go anywhere in Italy where you not visibly surrounded by history. In fact, the hard thing is to absorb as much as there during the time you will be here. Overload is most often the problem visitors experience, even when they don't pack their days with a list of things to do. There are churches and historic building that you will walk into in Venice that you're realize the minute you see them need hours to appreciate they are so rich in decoration and have endured so many years with so many different purposes to think about.

Also, please understand that the most famous destinations in Italy have become a hodgepodge of disconnected "wow" tourist sights that span thousands of years, and it can get dizzying and tedious to constantly be arriving at some old place on the list that doesn't have any connection in your mind to anything else. It's just an isolated piece of decoration or castle.

Whew. So exposing your children to the culture and history is not the hard part. Getting a grasp that goes beyond exposure is, and "less is more" is really the byword here with one caveat: You cannot do too much reading or video watching in advance of a trip to Italy to get the thrill of the history you will be walking into and around.

For kids especially, I think, it matters less that they see some particularly famous place. Assisi is not as famous as Florence, but it will surely impress your kids just as much. Siena has a lot to offer. Someplace like Verona, which has a Roman arena in addition to a fantastic castle -- plus one of the most pleasant piazza and street life in Italy, can make for an easy break.

If you don't get a swimming pool, you absolutely must get air conditioning.

Anyway, the standard thing is to take the trip you outlined in your first post, so it will be packed with tourists. I would involve your teens in deciding between Siena and Pisa. Visiting the monuments of Pisa is a very easy morning day trip to manage from Florence. They are isolated in one part of town. Historic Siena is a small walled city, and it is jammed top to bottom with things to see. You don't have to see them all, but it can feel overwhelming. But the impact is strong.

As you look through books, imagine that in the most famous places, the pictures you see aren't showing you the thick crowds of people that will be there with you.

Have a great trip.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 18th, 2009, 08:31 AM
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The free day idea is a great idea. And just the excuse to get your kids (and maybe husband?) involved in the research. The more they research the more they'll be interested in the sights.

Looking at your itinerary, I'd like at least one more day in Venice. I think Florence would appeal less to your crowd, but it makes a good base for day trips to Lucca and Siena (by bus) as well as Pisa. Maybe do Lucca and Pisa on the same day? Lucca has an intact city wall with a path around the top. You can rent bikes to ride around it, looking down into the town.

Reading other peoples' trip reports about traveling with kids, they (the kids) often enjoy staying in one spot, getting to feel part of the neighborhood, more than any other part of the trip. Remember living like an Italian, learning about Italian supermarkets and farmers' markets, doing the passagiata, is all part of the culture. And is likely to make a greater impression on your children. Learning how daily life is both similar and different in a foreign country is immensely educational.

Sorry to hear you couldn't do an open jaws flight with your FF miles. We've done it numerous times. Could you have done it if you'd booked earlier?
Mimar is offline  
Jan 18th, 2009, 09:16 AM
  #16  
 
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Dear namaka,

I have 2 teens and we have been living in Europe now for 2 years.

I have tried to do the culture thing, as I think it is an important part of educating your children so I hear your desire for that and of course support and applaud you.

A few things I have learned that have helped a lot...

1. One "cultural" activity a day is plenty for the kids. After that, expect diminishing returns.

2. I am 48 so I see everything as a "must see" and I may "never have the chance again." Remember, your kids have LOTS more chances to "see" Europe and if you make this fun, they will return again with a different maturity level and different energy level.

3. Most places you will be, your 15-year-old will be old enough to take care of the 11-year-old so that you and your husband can do the other cultural activity or museum while they hang out somewhere and relax with a cool drink, their iPods, or a book. I left my kids in the AC in the hotel in Rome watching "Colliseum" while I went to a Chagall exhibit. We all were happy. It killed me a little to "waste" the time, but I remembered my point #2 and let it goooooo....

4. I also learned that even my husband does not have my stamina for museums. It's okay to leave everyone somewhere while you go off to do what you want to do. In fact, a little alone time for the commander of the trip is a very good idea.

5. Whining is tough to hear when you are spending so much money. Have the talk well before the trip about how whining ruins things for everyone and that there is a no whining policy. Then agree to a schedule that allows everyone to get what they want. If the kids voted on Pompeii, then no whining at Pompeii.

6. June is very hot and crowded in Italy. Do take the advice of hitting some smaller cities and not killing your audience in Rome. We spent 8 days in Rome in June. It was pretty exhausting. My kids didn't whine too much, but I did let them go off on their own with cell phones and parameters and allowed for some total down time as well. They were 16 and 13 at the time and did fine.

7. If your daughter is a shopper, have her start saving some spending money now. Then when you get here, she knows she is on her own for buying things. I find my kids "must have" a lot less when they are paying themselves.

8. Use your mornings wisely. Right after breakfast, when everyone is fresh, hit your "cultural" activity for about 2 hours. Longer than 2 hours usually will mean a melt down esp for an 11 year old boy. Then have a nice long relaxing lunch somewhere like the Spanish Steps where there is a lot to just observe. Hit the Trevi Fountain or the Pantheon or something without lines or audios or reading in the afternoon or evening. In fact, an afternoon nap is a good idea, and then do an evening tour when it is cooler outside.

9. Have them bring a book or something. An 11 year old and 15 year old will have different attention spans. Allow your son to find a nice bench while you and your daughter and husband are still enthralled with the ancient sculpture somewhere.

Good luck!!!

gruezi
gruezi is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 04:11 PM
  #17  
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Melissa- I love the idea of free time or free days! I told the kids that they have to help decide on the things we will be doing and although we probably won't have an entire free day (after they choose an activity), we will definitely have free time. I also agree with you, the kids have to be with either myself or DH. And what you said about having something exciting to go see first thing in the morning (to rouse them from bed) and leaving the afternoon free is wonderful advice which I will take. Thanks!

I also like the idea of giving the kids the map and having them lead the way to someplace that they're interested in. I think that may mean a whole lot of gelato; but that could just be on the days I'm leading the way, lol!

Mimar and Zeppole- I think I will also take your advice and go to Lucca and/or Siena. Renting bikes and riding around Lucca sounds right up our alley. And you are probably right about Florence not really being right for us. I did want to go see Bruneschelli's Dome as DD just read the book and I will be also. I will also take your advice about loading up the I-pods and leaving the kids and maybe DH while I go see something I alone might be interested in.

I will have to go back to the drawing board and look at some of the places you have referred. Should I add a day to Venice and subtract a day from Florence or Rome? Or just add some days trips from Florence and just less time "in" Florence?

On our last trip, we only visited 3 cities in 4 wks. That was mainly due to the fact that I was re-visiting Lisbon after 30 years (lived there as a child) and DH is half English and lived there for a large part of his childhood. The kids were also younger then and we didn't want to run them into the ground. They are actually really good travelers and have a love for it.

namaka is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 04:24 PM
  #18  
 
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If your biggest ambition for Florence (Firenze) is to see the Duomo, tack a day onto Rome and do Firenze as a day trip from Rome. It's 90 minutes by fast train.

So I would add some time to Venice, make Firenze a day trip from Rome, and go to the Amalfi.

After you've seen Firenze, maybe everybody will clamor to come back, and then you can have a Tuscany vacation, with Siena, Firenze, Pisa, Lucca and finish it all up with Cinque Terre if it turns out your kids love stair climbing.

buon viaggio


zeppole is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 05:37 PM
  #19  
 
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namaka,

Just a thought: If you give yourselves 7 full days in Roma, you can rent an apartment and save a huge amount of money, plus also have a washing machine mid-trip that will really help you pack light. Just make sure you get air conditioning.

There is a thread running on this board about easy day trips from Rome which you could consider in addition to Firenze.

Also, if you extend your days in Venice, I recommend a day trip to Verona to see the Roman arena and have a lunch and at least look at the castle (inside is a fine small museum) and a trip to the colorful island of Burano and Torcello if anybody is a cat lover and is willing to put up with 9th c. Byzantine church.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2297/...caf02eb3f0.jpg
zeppole is offline  
Jan 20th, 2009, 09:51 AM
  #20  
 
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I know that every kid is different, but beg to differ with gruezi on the stamina of kids. In my experience taking nephews and a niece to Europe, the boys were MUCH better travellers. One set was 10 and 12, the next nephews were 11 and 14, and next,the niece, 16. The boys were enthusiastic and ready for anything. My niece hated most of it. she was apt to say, "I'll stay here in the car while you go in."
When I asked what she would like to do before and during the trip, she rolled her eyes and said, "I don't care."(not her actual words but cleaned up for this board.)

14 years later the trip from h*** with the niece is a source of good tales, but otherwise....
irishface is offline  

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