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andresusilo Oct 20th, 2013 07:48 AM

A 21 Days European family holiday. What not to miss & How to travel ?
 
Me, my wife and our 3 daughters (15, 14, 9 years old) are going to spend 21 days in Europe (Arrive Barcelona on 7th Dec, and Leaving Paris on 29th Dec).
As this is our first time to Europe, we are thinking to visit many countries as much as possible to experience Europe to the most, but we do not want to be so tired doing so.

I have so many questions that I can't even sleep well thinking about them. They are:
1. What not to miss while we were there (as we do not know when we will have the chance to come back there once again)
2. How to travel to one city to another efficiently by not spending a fortune.
3. What to do
4. Where to stay and eat

To be totally precise..
1. What not to miss ...
So far our plan is to start from the very west part of Europe which is Barcelona (we bought the air ticket already). Then we will go anti clock wise making a big circle as follows :
Barcelona-FrenchRiviera-Mount Titlis-Rome-Venice-Vienna-Budapest-Prague-Berlin-Amsterdam-London-Paris
By doing this, we think we might get most of Europe already.
A bit of Spanish culture, A bit of truly European village in Switzerland, Some Rich Italian famous places, A classical city in Vienna, An experience of Eastern europe in Budapest & Prague, A bit history in Berlin, Cycling in Amsterdam, Shopping experience in London (sales everywhere on boxing day by the time we arrive London) and A bit romance in Paris.
However, Those cities above are not a must to visit. Please share some experiences and advices for us if there are better cities to visit.
(We heard about not to miss experiencing Christmas market while we are in Central/Western Europe, but we do not know which one is worth to visit on our long way up to London from the south.)

2. How to travel between cities.....
As there will be 21 days to spend, then we need to wise spending on transportation.
We checked Euro Rail, and we are thinking to get 15 days Euro pass. This means there are some few days that we need to get other transportation than rail.
From Barcelona, we are thinking to get a one way car rental to Switzerland via French Riviera. From Switzerland, etc and end in Paris, we will be using Euro pass.
Friends, please share some advice, if renting a one way rental car is worth to do (one side i think it's worth the money as we are a party of 5 so it might be cheaper traveling by car than any public transportation, but another side I also worry about the price of gasoline and the high price of one way rental.

3. What to do and 4. Where to stay and eat
In order you could share some advice about what to do and where to stay or eat, I think you should see our schedule so far might look like as follows:
7th Dec: Arrive Barcelona
8 Barcelona
9 Barcelona - Cannes (by Car)
10 Cannes - Enggelberg (by Car)
11 Engelberg - Mount Titlis - Bern (by Car)
12 Bern - Rome (Overnight Train)
13 Rome
14 Rome - Venice
15 Venice - Vienna
16 Vienna
17 Vienna - Budapest
18 Budapest - Prague
19 Prague
20 Prague - Berlin
21 Berlin
22 Berlin - Amsterdam
23 Amsterdam
24 Amsterdam - London
25 London
26 London - Paris
27 Paris
28 Paris
29 Paris - Singapore

Your share experiences, and generous advices are much much greatly appreciated..
Thank You !

jamikins Oct 20th, 2013 08:20 AM

Not at my computer right now but an immediate problem is your time in London. You aren't accommodating Xmas hours. Most things close early on Xmas eve, there is relatively no public transport and not much open Xmas day and holiday hours on Boxing Day. So if you want to see anything in london you will need to adjust your plans. London deserves about 5 days as there are do many things to see here as it is by far the largest city in Western Europe and you would sadly short change it with two nights....

You also aren't counting the 1/2 day you lies every time you move.

I think this plans needs an overhaul to be realistic taking into account opening hours, Xmas, daylight hours and travel time...

Aramis Oct 20th, 2013 08:34 AM

Andresusilo;

First congratulations on having the opportunity to take your family half way around the world on a phenomenal adventure. You are certainly going to create some terrific memories, especially with your children at those ages.

Having said that, and being the a believer that people should travel the way they want to travel and not how others tell them they should - it is your family, and your dreams, after all, this is one of the most ambitious itineraries I have ever seen posted. It will require an immense amount of effort and day time travel between stays to accomplish what you have proposed. I have resummarized it by where you will spend each night;


Barcelona - 2
Cannes - 1
Engelberg - 1
Bern - 1
Train - 1
Rome - 1
Venice - 1
Vienna - 2
Budapest - 1
Prague - 2
Berlin - 2
Amsterdam - 2
London - 2
Paris - 3


That is 22 overnights encompassing 14 different locations, including 6 one night stays in a row with one of those on an overnight train. The pace will be extremely difficult.

For example, the driving distance contemplated by this itinerary exceeds 6,200 kms and it would take more than 61 kms to accomplish it using highways. Train time is likely to be similar. Here is your itinerary summarized by travel time between overnight stay;

Barcelona - Cannes 5:40
Cannes - Engelberg 6:20
Engelberg - Bern 1:45
Bern - Rome 9:00
Rome - Venice 5:00
Venice - Vienna 5:40
Vienna - Budapest 2:20
Budapest - Prague 4:40
Prague - Berlin 3:30
Berlin - Amsterdam 6:10
Amsterdam - London 6:00
London - Paris 5:00
Paris - 3

You have almost 25 hours of travel to execute, in 5 days, between Cannes and Vienna, changing hotels(train) every night. Even allowing for the fact that one night is accomplished while sleeping, consider that you plan to leave Rome, arrive in Venice 5 hours later (more than 6 including time to get to and from the stations), and then leave Venice the next day to travel about 7 more hours in total to Vienna. That might look like this;

DAY 1
8:00 a.m. - prepare to leave for Rome train station
9:00 a.m. - depart Rome
2:00 p.m. - Arrive Venice
3:00 p.m. - settle into Venice hotel
3:30 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. - tour Venice

DAY 2
8:00 a.m. - prepare to leave for Venice train station
9:00 a.m. - depart Venice
3:00 p.m. - arrive Vienna
(repeat 7-8 hour visit and prepare to do leave early again the next day for Budapest)


The temptation to do it all is overwhelming, I know. I think anyone who has longed of traveling anywhere distant has felt the urge to try and cram in everything they could. Since this is your first time to Europe, would I be correct in presuming that you have never traveled at this pace, or for this length of time, before? Is it really something that you think all of your family would enjoy and could handle? Some people are "goers" and just want to see a place quickly and move on, but they know that about themselves. They are not concerned about packing and unpacking, long travel times etc... Are you a family like that?

Before I give you any specific advice, it would help to know if you are committed to this type of itinerary. It won't make sense to listen to people tell you to drop this, or drop that, until we know what you are really committed to seeing if you might want to reduce the pace of this.

bobthenavigator Oct 20th, 2013 08:53 AM

I love your spirit---I hate your logistics !
I would cut to 7 destinations---something has to go. This is crazy to try--just too much travel time. You pick what must go, but I would drop all of the western loop.

bobthenavigator Oct 20th, 2013 08:55 AM

Ooops!
I meant Eastern loop---Vienna, Prague, Berlin.

ellenem Oct 20th, 2013 09:00 AM

Before you go any further with this itinerary, I encourage you check travel times for all the trips you propose. Keep in mind that at this time of year in this region, you will have perhaps 8.5 hours of daylight (sunrise about 8:00a, sunset about 4:45pm). And that moving from place to place will take more time than the actual train or car ride when you consider "hidden" travel time such as packing and unpacking, checking in and out of hotels, finding your way to train stations, airports, parking, and waiting at stations/airports.

For example, for your car trips early in your plan—Barcelona-Cannes and
Cannes-Engelberg—both of these drives would take at least 6 hours if not more. Considering "hidden' travel time, on these two days you will be "traveling" for 7-8 hours (or more), without stopping or actually visiting any sights of interest to you.

Do the computations with real travel times for your entire itinerary to see if you will really have enough time to see the sights you hope to see in each location, and also whether the sights will actually be open during the hours of the day that you are in that city. How many hours will you be traveling? How many hours you will have to actually see the sights?

StCirq Oct 20th, 2013 09:16 AM

Your enthusiasm is wonderful. Your plan is a hot mess unless it involves teleporting or a helicopter. You have 21 days and 12 destinations (some of them entire areas), with no accounting for travel time between them. In 21 days you might reasonably be able to do some justice to about 5 destinations. Sorry. Drill down and figure out the real-time logistics of travel from one place to another and start over. And stay away from Rail Europe. Good luck.

adrienne Oct 20th, 2013 09:27 AM

Please do not waste your money with this itinerary. Way too many places. You won't have time to see anything. Plus it will cost a lot of money to move around this much.

Renting a car in one country and dropping it in another country will incur huge drop off charges.

Focus on a few places such as Barcelona, London, and Paris and enjoy them. See the sights and experience the cafes and markets. These cities have so much to offer that it would be a shame to get there and see one or two things and then move on.

neckervd Oct 20th, 2013 09:35 AM

You plan to spend more time in cars, trains, airports, planes, airport buses, hotel lobbies (check in / check out) than you will have for the visit of the places you mentioned. That's your choice and I don't comment it.

But a few other remarks:

December in Europe is rather cold and rainy, with daylight roughly between 9am and 4pm.

It will be horribly expensive to rent a car in Spain and to give it back in Switzerland.
When renting your car at Barcelona, ask for a car with snow tires and chains, as there may be snow and ice between Milan and Engelberg.
Under such circumstances, you could of course not do the Cannes - Engelberg journey in 6 hrs 20 min (without any intermediate stop), but rather in 8 hrs, plus 3 hrs stop for lunch, dinner and coffee breaks. You will drive along the sinuous mountain road to Engelberg in the darkness anyway, may be in a snow storm, may be by moonlight.
Take warm clothes for Titlis; the temperature can easily go down to 20 centigrade below zero, resp 0 degrees Fahrenheit. But warm days with temperatures up to 40 degreees F are possible too; weather is always unpredictable in the Alps.
I suppose you know that the ticket for the Titlis gondola costs about 100 USD/pax.

There is no overnight train Berne - Rome.
But I cannot understand why you want to go to Rome, as you obviously don't want to visit this town (otherwise you would need 4 full days there).

Robert2533 Oct 20th, 2013 09:43 AM

Sounds more like a nightmare than a family holiday! With time running out, you really need to give this a lot more logical thought. Maybe talk to a professional? Look at a map? Check the logistics?

One thing to remember, the days are short and it will be cold in northern Europe. So be sure to pack accordingly.

PalenQ Oct 20th, 2013 10:51 AM

Deember could be dicey driving in some areas like Eastern Europe - not usually but not unusually with ice, etc. But obviously for a family cars have their benefits - I would either do all by car and return it to the country you rent it in to avoid steep drop-off charges or go all by train - I'd go first class with a family of five as it is IME of decades of European train travel much more relaxed for a group that wants to sit together - often lots of empty seats IME - and room to spread out in.

For lots of great info on European trains and planning a train trip check out these IMO superb sources: www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com - download the latter's free and superb IMO online European Planning & Rail Guide for lots of train itineraries for different countries.

You could mix in an overnight train for the experience for kids and for utilitarian reasons - covering long distances at night and saving on the cost of a hotel. You can virtually relocate from one end of Europe to the other at night.

nytraveler Oct 20th, 2013 11:07 AM

Sorry - but this is not a vacation - this is a forced march as if you are invading europe.

There are several problems:

You have not allowed any time to get from one place to another - so you will have one day at most and sometimes only part of one in each place.

You have not taken into consideration that you are going to multiple different cultures with at least 8 different languages - changing on a daily basis.

You have not taken into account that you are going in December - with very short days and early dark, many places open on shorter off-season hours, that there are holidays when everything will be closed (your time in London will be totally wasted) and not allowed for transit delays due to bad weather (It's almost sure you will get some sleet, ice and snow).

Traveling with 5 people - 3 of them kids - will take longer and be more complicated than would travel by just a couple.

Moving around so much will significantly increase the cost of the trip - with additional air fares and numerous long-distance train fares.

Getting 5 people into one room will require a family room - which are available - but each hotel may only have one - so you have waited very late to do your planning.

Frankly - there is no way I would go on a trip like this even if you were to pay me a substantial amount.

IMHO you will need to cut out at least half of your destination if you really want to see anything more than train stations and airports.

janisj Oct 20th, 2013 12:12 PM

You have received lots of useful/helpful advice. To cut to the bare facts . . . Your plan is almost 100% impossible logistically, and 1000000% impractical.

Re think the entire thing and decide which 5 cities ( 6 absolute max) you want to visit.

Sassafrass Oct 20th, 2013 01:28 PM

You have not allowed even one full day for sightseeing in fabulous places like Venice. You are spending more time moving from place to place than you are seeing anything. In European cities, you have to actually stop and sit at a cafe or walk around to experience a place or see anything. One or two train rides can be fun. After that, you are just sitting and kids will hate you. I am sorry, but your kids will have no great memories of this trip as planned.

With only 21 days in winter, pick three (even up to five) bases, rent an apartment in each place, and do day trips.
Examples:
Italy
Rome - five days (day trip to Florence, Ostia Antica)
Train to Venice - three nights, two full days, or four nights, three days with day trip to Padua, Verona or Vicenza.

Spain
Rather than Barcelona, what about Seville for four days with day trip to Cordoba?

Amsterdam may be cold for cycling, but fabulous museums if that is of interest. Otherwise, . . .

London - five days with couple of days trips and take in some wonderful theatre and/or dance performances.

Paris - four or five days with day trip to Versailles

You can start to see that your trip as planned is unreasonable and allows for little sightseeing while costing a fortune in travel.

Days will be short and possibly cold. Plan to be in cities where there are things to do in the darkness of evening. Your girls will find great shopping in every city.

You pick what interests you most, but cut your trip cities to about half.

txgirlinbda Oct 20th, 2013 01:49 PM

Not to mention that it looks like you're coming from Singapore? So you've got to factor in travel fatigue and adjusting to the massive time zone difference. Slow down - it will be so much more enjoyable for all of you!

artsnletters Oct 20th, 2013 02:08 PM

If you look at bus tour brochures, it can lead you to believe that this kind of itinerary is simple. However, on bus tours everything it taken care of for you. You get door-to-door transportation between hotels rather than having to find your way to and from train stations, and they take you around to see all the most famous sights. You do spend a lot of time on the bus. Admittedly such tours are skin deep, or maybe not even that deep, but they do succeed in getting you past the things most people want to see.

However, it's a different story doing this on your own, especially with three children in tow. They are likely to tire of so much moving and so much sightseeing - since you won't be anywhere more than a day, those days are necessarily going to be packed. I agree with everyone else that this is way too much to bite off.

On a trip of this length, and absolutely with kids, you need to build a "vacation from your vacation" in the middle of your trip - a day where you don't do anything but some light wandering around somewhere atmospheric with no agenda. Otherwise, it's easy to burn out on sightseeing. Give yourselves a day off to recharge.

Sassafrass Oct 20th, 2013 02:52 PM

Even intense bus tours do not do this itinerary, going from Barcelona along the Riviera in winter and going from Rome to Venice one day and on to Vienna the next without even one day to visit Venice, then Vienna to Budapest and Budapest on to Prague without even a day to see Budapest.

Sassafrass Oct 20th, 2013 03:00 PM

Op: "What not to miss. . . "
You are missing all of the wonderful things you could see in Rome, Paris, Venice, etc. while you are on trains, car, etc.

PalenQ Oct 20th, 2013 03:22 PM

In December I'd cut out Eastern Europe - Berlin, Prague, Vienna because it can be much colder there than other places on your list and you do have to ax something - one area and spread it out more amongst the remaining places. From Singapore you may not like the cool wet dank dark days in Eastern Europe in November nor would cycling in Amsterdam probably be much fun in the typical winter weather of very short days and often overcast dark days IME.

msteacher Oct 20th, 2013 03:48 PM

To answer your first question, what not to miss.

Not to miss in London:
British Museum
Tower of London
Westminster Abbey
Westminster Cathedral
Tate Museum
Leicester Square
Picadilly Circus
Covent Garden
St Paul's cathedral
At least one performance at the theater
Time in a pub

Not to miss in Paris...
Eiffel Tower
The Louvre
Musee d'Orsay
Arc de Triomphe
Montmartre
Norte Dame
Versailles
Sainte Chaopelle
Orangerie
Many other museums and churches
Time in cafés

Not to Miss in Rome...
Coliseum
Forum
St Peter's Basilica
Vatican museum
Trevi fountain
Pantheon
Spanish steps
Villa Borghese
Trastevere
Multiple churches
Gelato
Many fantastic restaurants

These are just a few sites in each city I listed off the top of my head. There are many other "can't miss" spots in each city, as well as similarly long lists for each of the other cities on your itinerary. I agree with all the others who have said to pick 3 to 5 cities to visit. Then actually experience some of what those cities have to offer.


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