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Best Tour/Company to see Most of Europe w/ 2 teenagers??

Best Tour/Company to see Most of Europe w/ 2 teenagers??

Jul 19th, 2013, 07:55 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2013
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Best Tour/Company to see Most of Europe w/ 2 teenagers??

After seeing all of the high points in the U.S. our family is ready for its first trip to Europe. We have two daughters 14 and 16 and are planning on going in summer 2014. I suspect that this may be our final big vacation together as a family - so I want to expose our daughters to as much of Europe as possible in the shortest time - 12-14 days. France, England, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Beligium, Italy??
We would like to keep the costs down so I was thinking Cosmos since they seem to know their stuff – even though their hotels are not in the city – we are fine taking taxis or public transportation. We are good travelers and don't need fancy hotels, meals and don't mind walking. I have concerns by keeping the costs down we may spend just as much taking optional day tours. Also, our daughters are more into seeing the sites and scenery than hanging out in museums.
I know many people prefer to stay in fewer places for longer times – but since this is our family’s first trip to Europe – I think getting a little exposure to as much as possible is the better route.
Any recommendations on tour companies and specific tours?
Birkie is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 08:10 AM
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Birkie, be prepared to be strongly discouraged from taking ANY organized tour on this forum. I would not recommend Cosmos myself.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 08:12 AM
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>>much of Europe as possible in the shortest time - 12-14 days. France, England, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Beligium, Italy??<<

>>I know many people prefer to stay in fewer places for longer times – but since this is our family’s first trip to Europe – I think getting a little exposure to as much as possible is the better route. <<

Really REALLY bad idea IMO. The fast paced/budget group tours are merely looooooong bus rides interrupted by short city visits. And your kids may hate you afterwards. How do you/they feel about being up at 6:30 or 7AM every single day, luggage out in the hall by 7:30 at the latest, and six plus hours sitting in a bus? . . . every day??

Plus even the cheapest coach tour gets VERY expensive when the price is multiplied by 4. You can travel for less on your own since you can get quad/family rooms or rent apartments. And for destinations - in your less than two weeks - pick three cities max - London/Paris/one city in Italy would be OK. Fly into one city and home from another to save $$ and backtracking.
janisj is online now  
Jul 19th, 2013, 08:40 AM
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Based on what you described, you might enjoy http://www.gate1travel.com/. I have been on two guided tours with them and find them inexpensive, but too fast paced. Also, see their INDEPENDENT, non-guided travel, which I went on in June and loved it.

My favorite, but more expensive, tour company is http://tours.ricksteves.com/tours/. My teenage daughter and I have been on four of these tours. Great!

I also like independent travel because I can travel at my own pace.

Please feel free to ask more questions. I have a lot of experience in this area.
KL467 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 08:46 AM
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I have never known a teenager (and I have known a lot) who could stand to spend most of every day on a bus for 12-14 days, no matter how beautiful the scenery (and it sure won't all be beautiful). Nor one who could get up at 7 am. Nor one who wanted to hang out with adults all day.
What do your kids think about this idea?
StCirq is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 09:07 AM
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Hey B,

> 12-14 days. France, England, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Beligium, Italy?? <

Have you heard of the movie "If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium"?

That is just what you are doing.

ira is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 09:07 AM
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I remembered very little of my first fast-paced trip to Europe in '77. My wife didn't remember a thing either - except driving the car for 5-6 hrs a day. My mom & sister "bailed out" & went home after about 10 days. My wife & I went again 2 years later (mom/sister refused) and we slowed down the pace quite a bit. We visited the exact same places we did before - but this time spent 3 days at each area instead of 1/2 day. We learned after about 5 trips to Europe to shorten the driving time between destinations to 2 1/2 hrs max (3 1/2-5 hrs if by train). Now a short stay for us is 1 week in the same place (we normally spend 2 weeks in one area).

12-14 days is a very short trip - especially since you'll spend most of that time on a bus if you take a cheapie tour, with cheapie hotels outside of town, and having dinner with 30 other cheapie (and perhaps elderly) tourists at a cheapie restaurant.

Do a little more research and consider what I think is the best "independent" itinerary for a first-timer family:

- Fly into Venice & spend 3 nights there.
- Take the train to Florence & spend 2-3 nights there.
- Rent a car and drive through Tuscany - spend 1 night in San Gimignano, and 3 nights in Pienza. Explore the beautiful countryside and hill villages around Pienza by foot or car.
- Drive to Orvieto (1 1/2 hr drive), explore Orvieto on foot, (keep the bags in the car), return the car, and take the train to Rome (1 hr trip)
- Spend the remaining days in Rome.

Get the Rick Steves series on Italy to prep for the trip.

Less is more.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 09:17 AM
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I very strongly urge you to consider other options. Budget tours are painful - up at 6:30, luggage outside the door at 7 - on the bus at 8 and for most of hte day. You will drive by a lot of places, stop at very few - for not much time - and be repeatedly taken "shopping" at places where the guide gets a kickback on what you buy - and further cutting into our limited sightseeing time.

Before taking the trip - and you should consider looking into either tours that show you more or independent packages that let you pick what YOU want - you should learn tour brochure language:

View - means you see something out of the bus window
Stop - is a 5 minute photo op out front
Visit - only this allows you to go inside - but usually not for long
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 09:28 AM
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I concur with practically every post here. Seriously reevaluate the hell you are about to subject your family to.
sparkchaser is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 09:46 AM
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Not even a possibility. Why not do it yourself--and for heavens' sake, pare down the itinerary. It may or may not be your last family vacation. We took ours to Europe for 3 weeks when oldest graduated from high school. It whetted their appetite, and each has returned on their own, and then we took them all, with spouses to Paris several years ago.
You have a year to plan. The internet will give you untold amounts of information. You can make a budget and stick to it, and make room for splurges. Get the children to also say what they want to see--not what a tour says you have to see.
AND I have been on tours also, and glad for them when we did--difficult places like China, but also sponsored by a city group, etc.
Gretchen is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 10:04 AM
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It's off-topic but anyone amused by OP's opening sentence?

After seeing all of the high points in the U.S. our family is ready for its first trip to Europe.
sparkchaser is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 10:10 AM
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Wow,, my kids are glad they are not your kids, lol

I have taken my 11 yr old and 13 yr old to Europe. Both on separate one on one trips with me

My son ( 13) and I did London and France,, on our own and had a blast. We spent 17 days and had time in big cities ( London and Paris and outside the big cities.. I realize you do not have the luxury of time though.

My 11 yr old dd and I did 12 days on our own ( in Paris and Rome) , then joined a 14 day Rick Steves Family tour of Europe, not cheap but an excellent experience.. no getting up at 6.30 ( would your teens actually be willing to do that every day!!!) no one night stops, all hotels were central, almost all inclusive pricing ( Cosmos seems cheap up front, just wait till you get on tour where you will be presented with all sorts of extras.. plus have to till a few hundred dollars )

For only 12 days lets get real. Visit 3 places and try to enjoy them.. it will still be a whirlwind trip. Everytime you move you are spending 1/2 a day of sightseeing time in transit.

Fly into London,( 4 nights) ( remember two nights equals only one full day, so 4 nights gives you three full days in London,, I think a city like London is worth 3 days at least don't you?, then Eurostar to Amsterdam, few days there ( 2 nights ) then train to Brugges( one night) then train to Paris( 5 nights) , fly home from Paris, still totally a rush, but at least you can pick your own hotels that are central and convenient .

From Paris and London there are several daytrips to consider doing,, you really don't have much time to leave the cities but you may wish to visit Bath, Brighton, Oxford, or Versailles , Giverny(Monets Gardens) Rouen, Reims.. etc.. theres actually tons to do and see.

Sorry I really really think you should reconsider the Cosmos tour, the teens are not going to like it period... up early every single day and mostly old people on the bus.. really, is that what your kids memmories of their last big trip with mom and dad should be?
justineparis is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 10:24 AM
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Although outwardly it sometimes seems like my family is trying to see as much as we can when we travel, I always tried to remember that my true goal in traveling with my teens was to instill a love of travel that impelled them to continue exploring the world in adulthood, hopefully with me occasionally (because joint travel doesn't have to end once they turn 18 - we still take trips with our 20+ adults.)

Accordingly, we've taken turns at the helm: I chose U.K. and they picked castles, etc. They chose Italy and Germany the next two years. My 15yo recently chose Spain and planned it all. Travel is about education, not vacation, with us, so we cover more ground than most, but try to explore deeply so we spend almost a month in one country, exploring even before we go: learning the language, customs, history, understanding what we are going to see, and then seeing it and understanding why it is/was important, how it all fits in, etc.

My advice is to evaluate the ultimate goal of your travel and how much you all will enjoy the reality on the ground and results of each alternative and make your choices accordingly.

Involving your kids in the decision-making will heighten their interest in and commitment to this trip. Why don't you put this decision in their hands and see where they want to go, what they want to do and see. If they choose that 6 hour a day bus ride, then at least they can take a lesson from it next time if they don't care for it, and hopefully it won't discourage future travel. Who knows, maybe they'll love it. Make sure they know about all the alternatives, so they can make informed choices, and share the wise alternatives others on this thread have already offered.

You will travel again after the kids leave home. Whether you all travel together again may be influenced by their impressions of this trip.
castlevisitor is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 10:31 AM
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Well actually sparkchaser, I am amused, or aghast, at the first sentence in this post. Afraid to ask what they are, and how many days that trip took. Look, I don't know your family OP but a two week trip by bus across Europe with teens sounds ghastly; the 7 am's especially. My aunt and uncle took that trip in the 60's, in their 50's. My kids would refuse to go.

Pick 2 countries, or 3 cities, for 2 weeks, and have a good vacation. You will all be a happier family.
socaltraveler is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 10:38 AM
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Trust me---I have planned over 300 itineraries to Europe and this is a nightmare waiting to happen.

In your short time, pick a max of 4 destinations and make the next one no more than 4 hours from the last. Forget countries, think destinations.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 11:01 AM
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I second what bob says. Also, thanks for giving me the biggest laugh of my day when I read your planned itinerary!
yodababe is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 11:04 AM
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Even Clark Griswold put the kids in a car and drove them places instead of throwing them on a bus. Not that it turned out all happy...
StCirq is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 11:33 AM
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Good friends of ours took their adult daughters, one spouse, and about 4 grands under the age of 12 to Europe--for the express purpose of instilling a love of travel. One of the daughters took over the planning and assigned everyone, including the children, the project of researching the trip, places, and history of the areas. Learning by doing.
Gretchen is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 11:39 AM
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I personally prefer independent travel, but I can certainly understand the desire for something structured and organized on a firts time trip with kids. Perhaps a Europen cruise might be an option for your family. I've never done it myself, but it seems like it would give you the opportunity to visit a different city each day, while allowing the teens to "be teens" on the ship at night. Look up trip reports from others on this forum to get a sense of whether a cruise might fit your family's style.
msteacher is offline  
Jul 19th, 2013, 11:43 AM
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I'll suggest the OP engage Michael Osman for the Paris part of the trip. He is engaging, worth twice what he charges, can take the hard part of running the tour from mom--and will tailor it to whatever type of thing is desired. he is a good teacher, and fun to be with.
Gretchen is offline  

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