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Advice on planning a Mothers/Daughters Vacation

Advice on planning a Mothers/Daughters Vacation

Apr 6th, 2012, 05:46 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2012
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Advice on planning a Mothers/Daughters Vacation

So next September (2013) I'm planning on going to Europe with my cousin and both of our moms (who are sisters). I share a birthday with my Aunt and we want to go as a birthday present to ourselves (I'll be 24 and she'll be 56). I've never been out of the country so I would really love any advice on planning our trip (we don't even have a length of time yet but it does need to be less than two weeks). We know we want to go to Paris and Rome and spend some time in the Tuscan countryside (with a glass of wine in our hands at all times of course), but other than that, I have no idea where to begin. I've done a small amount of research and know that we shouldn't stay in hotels and instead rent an apt. My cousin would like to see the Almalfi coast (and I'm pretty sure she isn't going to want to give that up). Any advice or suggestions on places to go, means of transportation and anything else that you could think of would really help me narrow down our choices. Also: food is my profession and my passion so I'm all about great food, whether it be Arancini from a small corner cafe or a full tasting menu and I would love to hear about any great places to check out. Thanks!
NicDT is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 06:59 PM
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You've already said you want to go to four places (Paris, Rome, rural Tuscany, Amalfi coast), but know that you have less than two weeks. Let's say you have 12 nights (easier to plan based on nights than days), including the night of your arrival. That's only 3 nights per location, plus you have to factor in travel time in between those locations. Personally, as wonderful as Paris is, I would drop Paris and focus on Italy, to give you more time in each location.

Rule of thumb on travel time: assume it will eat up 1/2 day to pack up, check out, get to transportation, take transportation, get to hotel/apartment, unpack. It may not really take half a day, but it's a good assumption to work from.

With only three nights per location, it might be a little difficult finding apartments, but as we stay in inns or B&Bs, I'm not knowledgeable about apartments.

For the Tuscan countryside, it's easier to get around by rental car.

Consider flying "open jaws;" airlines, on their websites, usually call it something like multi-city, where you fly into one location, and out of another. It will save you time, especially if you go to Paris and Rome. If you drop Paris and visit Italy only, then flying in and out of Rome might make more sense.

For food and restaurant ideas, check out the Chowhound website.
Lexma90 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 07:15 PM
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You really can't do all that in 2 weeks and get anything useful and pleasant out of it. Look at a map of Europe and where places are in relation to each other and what it would take to get between them. Pick two places and do them justice. You're going to end up on a huge continent and have to navigate around very large areas - think "I'd love to spend two weeks in the US - a few days in Boston, a few in Atlanta, then a few on the coastal towns in South Georgia, then South Florida on the coast." Not fun (at least for me).

And food would be my least concern, frankly. You'll find amazing food no matter where you travel in Europe if you do your research.
StCirq is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 07:56 PM
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I'm going to suggest that you confine your trip to Italy. 12 or 13 nights in Italy is just right.

Rome, a smaller town in Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast.

With day trips, and car rental in Tuscany, you will find more than enough to do.

I like Rome, and I like Paris. In fact, I love them both and have been to both more than a few times, BUT I don't want to visit them on the same trip. Two cities, packed with important things to see, and lots to learn about transport, customs, language, etc. It could be a bit much.

So far, that's my suggestion: stick to one country. You'll save money, too, not traveling the greater distance between Paris and Rome.

About apartments: I am not one to push apartments on every visitor. For many on their first trip to another country, a hotel with services like a front desk is very comfortable and convenient. You'll be moving fast and might want to ask questions, get suggestions, help, etc.

I stay in lots of apartments, but not on every single trip or at every single destination. We also had a little experience before we started to stay in apartments.

And any apartments you stay in will probably mean four women using the same bathroom. For the length of a nearly two week trip, that sounds a bit much to me.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 08:12 PM
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We rent apts but never on a first visit to a city/ town. You will want the help a front desk offers.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Apr 6th, 2012, 10:24 PM
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If your passion is food, then for Italy, invest in a copy of Fred Plotkin's "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler," which is the single best book ever written about the regional cuisines of Italy, and it has recommendations of restaurants in all price categories. I'm not putting you down, but it is really important to know that arancini are a Sicilian specialty -- which is not where you are going -- and if you find any arancini being sold where you are going, it will be like ordering Texas barbecue in Vermont or bagels in south Dakota or gumbo in Chicago. (Sorry if you are not American, but maybe you get the point.) Not only are you missing out on your chance to eat the real specialties of the region, in the region where they are best, but you will taste a mediocre arancini because the ingredients aren't local, so you'll get substitutes that change the dish. Food in Italy is intensely regional and local.

I live in Italy and it is really not true that you will automatically find "amazing" food, and that is especially true if you are taking a fast trip hitting the most popular tourist destinations. With just a small bit of research, you can get a bead on where to find the traditional cooking of Rome and Tuscany (much harder in the Amalfi, be warned!). A lot of people who assume they can come to Italy are just as happy to eat food modified to appeal to what tourists find "yummy", but it doesn't sound like you are and the real food of Rome, Tuscany and the coast is better (and usually cheaper).

Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich also have good books about the regional cooking of Italy, and while Plotkin's writing is the most beautiful and complete, both Batali and Bastianich have a lot of passion for honest, old-fashioned food in Italy.

Your cousin should be tasked with figuring out how you are all going to get to the Amalfi and what it would cost. Maybe if she sees for herself how much time it will take out of the trip just getting there and back she will give up on it herself.

You will have a much better access to Tuscany's wine country if you rent a car. You might have more fun if you stay at a winery or on a farm.

There is nothing daunting about renting an apartment, plenty of newcomers to Europe do it all the time, even with babies in tow. You'll get more elbow room and it will cheaper. Just be sure you get enough bathrooms, and if you can't get enough bathrooms, consider a bed-breakfast for Rome. Gens Julia might work out for you. Read Reviews.
zeppole is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 12:23 AM
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PS: A lot of people won't take you seriously that food is your passion or should be your priority, but I do and if it is, make sure you arrange your trip for your own enjoyment. It is a very important cultural aspect of Italy, and its history. The landscape of Tuscany doesn't make sense and is just a one-dimensional picture postcard if you don't understand the importance of wine and food in shaping the region. Food in Italy is more than what you put in your mouth.
zeppole is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 05:12 AM
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I agree that you have too many destinations for a trip of less than two weeks. Do you mean 8 days or 13 days? First, think about how much time you have then plan where you will go. To do any of the destinations justice, you will want at least 4 days. If you have 13 days, pick 3 destinations and if you have 8, decide on 2.

For this trip, I would focus on Italy. Leave Paris for another trip. Once you have a better idea of your itinerary, come back with questions about transportation, food, lodging, etc. There is so much experience available to you on this board.

As for apartments, we find them very pleasant once we have visited a city and know how to get around. For a first visit, a nice hotel with a helpful front desk staff can save you a lot of time and make your trip lots more enjoyable.
mamcalice is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 05:52 AM
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I'm with the guys above, too many sites for the trip. However I think you also need to think about the time of year. In September the county is beginning to cool down and so moving the whole trip to Italy will be very pleasant and of course the italians will be back at work.

I'd suggest an appartment in Rome, the public transport is very good and it allows you to eat out or cook meals from the local markets (of which there are many)

If you want to see lots of Tuscany I might find a hotel in the countryside. (Siena is also a good base but the car is a bit of a pain in a city) but there is something nice in having a pool and the Tuscan countryside in the evening and afternoon to relax in. There are some very nice hotels around.

Still keep a good eye on public transport as a day trip to Florence from a station will be more fun than driving in, finding a car park etc. Other towns/cities are not on the train line so you need to drive to St Gim, Volterra etc.

Finally have a look for hotels offering cooking courses
bilboburgler is online now  
Apr 7th, 2012, 01:51 PM
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Thanks for replying so quickly. Zeppole thanks for clarifying the history of Arancini because I didn't realize it was Sicilian. I just want to clarify to anyone thinking that this is stricly a food trip: I'm the only person in the group that really is interested in the cuisine so I'm really not too worried about finding the best of everything. It was just a detail that I was interested in...but still ill keep all of your suggestions in mind. I'll make sure my cousin reads all your responses before we start planning. I would be perfectly happy with skipping Paris this time around. I'll be sure to keep you all posted on any decisions we make in case we need an expert opinion. Thanks again all.
NicDT is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 03:37 PM
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The problem you will encounter with apartments and small, unstaffed B&B's is the lack of entrance keys. Typically you get only one so if other people in your group want to come and go on their own it makes things very difficult.

Since you are interested in food, I suggest you read another Fodorite's trip reports. She is a chef so there's a lot of food details and pictures. In her Rome 2008, they rented an apartment for four people which might work for you.




kybourbon is offline  
Apr 7th, 2012, 04:23 PM
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I don;t know why you say you shuoldn;t stay in hotels. Many people prefer to stay in otels versus apts - and esp for first-time visitors the services and advice provided by hotel staff can be invaluable.

If you look into the options and decide you prefer an apartment - that's fine. But don;t assume staying in hotels is somehow the wrong thing to do.

(We always stay in hotels. I don;t want a kitchn - I don;t cook and home and certainly won;t do so on vacation. And almost every hotel has a mini=fridge you can use if yuo want to keep cold drinks in the room. And many hotel rooms are perfectly large enough for comfortabell relaxation.

If yuor goal is to cook while on vacation - or if yuo have small children- apartments make more sense. If you are adults and don;t plan on cooking I don;t see a lot of benefit.
nytraveler is offline  

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