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7 weeks Europe with toddler - Itinerary advice

7 weeks Europe with toddler - Itinerary advice

Jul 22nd, 2014, 03:03 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2014
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7 weeks Europe with toddler - Itinerary advice

Hi there,
In late September my husband and I are planning a 7 week trip to Europe with our daughter who will be 16 months old (our first time to Europe). So we're planning on traveling slowly, staying up to a week at each place. We won't see a great deal of the continent, but we hope to have a decent experience in each place. We plan to stay at self-contained vacation rentals and eat in most nights since she goes to bed early. Mornings will be spent sight seeing, go to restaurants for lunch, then have quiet afternoons when our daughter naps. We will be flying in and out of Helsinki (due to a cheap flight). So this is our itinerary so far.

Arrive Helsinki - stay 4 days.
Side trip to St Petersberg - 2 to 3 days (catch train there, overnight ferry back to Helsinki)
(Fly Helsinki to London)
London - 7 days (day trip to the countryside, maybe Bath)
Paris - 7 days (perhaps day trip to Loire eg Blois)
Normandy - 5 days (car hire)
Switzerland - 5 days (probably somewhere around Lake Geneva, Gruyeres region or the alps around Gstaad/Saanen)
Venice - 4 days
Tuscany - 7 days (car hire)
Rome - 7 days
(fly back home to Australia via Helsinki)

A couple of questions -
- Do any places look like they would be too short/long in that area?
- recommendations of where to stay that is close to sights, public transport and ideally close to any farmers markets (or organic supermarkets)
- Recommendations on a nice small town to base ourselves for Normandy, Switzerland and Tuscany.

Thanks very much
Bilby88 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 03:26 AM
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I would suggest some place relatively flat for Tuscany. I assume you want the most scenic parts of Tuscany, so Pienza or San Quirico d'Orcia might work. Try to find an apartment in town so you are not constantly in your car to shop or go to restaurants, and looking for parking.

If the reason you want Tuscany is to visit Florence and Pisa, then choose Lucca or Pistoia, or Florence itself.

If you really want to see Venice you can do it with a toddler but all those little bridges will make it a challenge. I would try to book someplace that you can very easily access by vaporetto or water taxi without crossing bridges with your toddler and your luggage. I am sorry that I can't give you a precise suggestion, but if someone else here can't, then ask on the Slow Travel website.

You might want to check out the Slow Travel website anyway for recommendations, because they specialize in extended stays in one location at a time, featuring apartment rentals, etc and you might get good tips about parking and shopping as well as rentals.
sandralist is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 03:28 AM
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Normandy then Bayeux is kinda obvious but you could take an appartment around the dock in Honfleur which might be nice

Switzerland (sorry but other will have ideas)

Tuscany, a few Buonconvento, San Querico, Montepulciano might be too big, Siena would be too big,

Times look good
bilboburgler is online now  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 04:16 AM
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If you want to stay in the Chianti area of Tuscany, Panzano is a nice small village. Bayeux is great for Normandy.

While in the Loire, visit Chenonceau rather than Blois.
mamcalice is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 04:34 AM
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We have just brought up our eight year old visiting 5 continents and The Artic circle.

From personal experience toddlers love pottering about on a beach, there are some incredible locations in Italy, Greece and Spain close to small villages.

I would mix city and sightseeing trips in with more beach time. You have planned 5 days in Normandy but in late September the weather could be an issue. Look further south say Sicily, Corisca or Sardinia.

We had one too many bad exeperiences trying to convince ourselves that toddlers love cities.
Dickie_Gr is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 05:35 AM
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In Tuscany, you might consider an agriturismo. We did this when our daughter was two, and have been back almost every year. We go in the summer, so the pool is a plus. But often these places have a little playground and space to run around. Even though we have kitchen facilities, we rarely make dinners when we stay. Sometimes we put together a lunch and eat it at one of the picnic tables on the grounds. But, the big draw for us is that we can have them make us dinner every night. The food is great, and when our daughter was small, it was nice to feel like we could let her out of her highchair to wander around and she wouldn't really be bugging people (max four groups at dinner).

Here is where we stay, but I am sure there are many other places that are similarly nice:
eastave is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 07:11 AM
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Venice will be really tough with a toddler. Those little bridges everywhere mean that you will need to pick the stroller up and put it back down on the other side again and again and again. You don't realize how many bridges there really are until you do this for a day. So I think four days there is too long. What we did when our kids were that little was stay in Verona and do day trips from there. Venice is only an hour away by train, and then you can do other day trips too like Sirmione, etc. Here is the trip report from way back when when we did it: http://www.markandmonica.com/Travel/italy.htm
MonicaRichards is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 07:14 AM
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Also agriturismos are nice but be sure it's fully open in September when you're there. We were at ours in late Sept early October and the kitchen was closed. It was us and for part of the time one couple staying in the whole place. Plus in Tuscany they plow the fields in late September and those rolling hills will be dirt. So it worked out fine enough but I would never stay in another one off season.
MonicaRichards is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 09:09 AM
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Autumn starts in Finland in mid-August. I recall my friend meeting me in Edinburgh a few years ago on the 1st September and she said it had been zero degrees that morning when she had left her home in the south.
Take warm enough clothes.
Frances is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 11:11 AM
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Your locations seem spread in very distant places, I wonder how you will move from one place to the other.

Personally, I would prefer Austria over Switzerland - Austria is cheaper and more children friendly, but probably this would add some extra travel hours.
asps is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 11:17 AM
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I also am not clear how you are moving between places.

London to Paris to Normandy to Switzerland to Venice to Tuscany to Rome. Are each of these train trips? Flights? You're keeping the rental car?

for Lac Leman region, I love Vevey (or Montreux or Lausanne).
suze is online now  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 05:09 PM
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Thanks very much for the helpful replies. Yes the distance is very big - our plan was to catch trains between each locations. From Paris we would hire a car to see Normandy, then return it and catch a train to Montreux area. Then train to Venice etc. We were trying to avoid to avoid flying as we will be doing a lot of flights just getting to Europe & back.
So perhaps Normandy might not be a good idea that time of year? We were after a scenic area in the French countryside and were interested in visiting the D Day beaches & Mont St Michel. But maybe somewhere south like Provence or Corsica might be better weather, although they would be harder to get to Switzerland which we were really hoping to visit (especially for the alps, cheese & chocolate factories).
So Tuscany in October is not as pretty as other times? We were going to avoid Florence & Pisa and just stick with the country side & villages. But now I'm a bit doubtful about this plan also!
Bilby88 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 05:13 PM
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By the time you get to Tuscany, it sounds like it will early November. Or late October. The countryside will be brown, the fields tilled, the grapes and olive crops picked. Many agriturismos will be closing. Could be still warm, could be cold and rainy. The cities will still be charming.
socaltraveler is online now  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 05:14 PM
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Also some good tips for Venice, I think we will rely on the Ergo Carrier for there rather than stroller. I'm reluctant to make our stay there shorter in case of rainy weather. Will try to find accommodation that can reach train station directly by water
Bilby88 is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2014, 10:00 PM
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Hi Bilby88,

I think your plan for Switzerland is very good -- I love the Gstaad/Saanen area, and it's nicely located to see a lot. You can be in Montreux in about 90 minutes to see the lake, Chillon, Vevey, and the vineyards of the Lavaux, and you can be in Thun or Spiez in the other direction in about 2h as well. You'll be in the neighborhood of Gruyeres to see the village and the castle, and there are some very nice walks in the area around Gruyeres/Bulle. In addition, you can ascend (cable car) some nearby peaks such as Wispile or Eggli and have a bite at the mountaintop restaurant, or you can walk along the valley floor to nearby towns such as Saanen (45 minutes), Schönried (2h), etc.

Have fun as you plan!

swandav2000 is online now  
Jul 23rd, 2014, 12:35 AM
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Tuscany is absolutely beautiful in early November. It is one of the best times to be there -- although you can get a lot of rain if you are unlucky. If you don't like farm country, don't go to Tuscany and stay on a farm. But many people do exactly that, and they rent an apartment on a farm that also has a restaurant so they have both a kitchen but don't need to cook every night, and they have a fabulous time, especially with a baby, because it is so easy.

Yes you will be there for the time of the olive and grape harvest and the pressing of new oil and wine. Most people find it wonderful, but a few are disappointed because they wanted to take different pictures of poppies and sunflowers. All the agriturismi will be open (where do these ideas come from?) If you are there in early November you will be at the beginning of the harvesting, not at the end.

I happen to like Florence and Arezzo, but personally don't find Lucca or Siena charming, and it doesn't sound to me like you want Pisa. I simply don't know what to say to people who describe the Tuscan countryside in autumn as displeasing to them. I think it is absolutely gorgeous and the food is great and harvest time is the most enjoyable time in any farm culture. Finally the work pays off!
sandralist is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2014, 12:41 AM
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This thread from Chowhound is basically about the Umbrian countryside but everything said in it is equally true of Tuscany, only the names of towns would be changed:

sandralist is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2014, 01:01 AM
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Something else about the Italian portion of your trip:

At that time of year, you can get rain wherever you go in Italy. If it rains, I would much rather be in the countryside with an apartment big enough for a toddler to have room to play with toys on the floor or sit at a table and draw, with a kitchen and a fireplace and chance to cook soup and make hot chocolate, rather then be in a much smaller urban apartment in a city, since your toddler is too small to be taken to museums. In places like Lucca and Siena, there is really very little to do indoors if it rains heavily, and most of the indoor activities of Florence are not toddler friendly. At an agriturismo you will get more space, better and cheaper food and you can buy a pair of cheapo rubber boots so your toddler can stomp a mud puddle. You can go to the local village market or cafe and everyone will get to know you and coo over your daughter.
sandralist is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2014, 06:21 AM
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sandralist, I got the idea of the agriturismo closing because I was in one that mostly was closed in October. No other guests, no kitchen, one groundskeeper that we saw twice and they didn't even show up to get the payment until we were leaving. So it definitely happens. This was October too, not November.
MonicaRichards is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2014, 06:49 AM
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Bilby88, this trip report of our trip to Italy when our kids were 1.5 and 4 might also give you a good idea what it's like to travel with a toddler. And what Venice and an off-season agriturismo is like too: http://www.markandmonica.com/Travel/italy.htm
MonicaRichards is offline  

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