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Europe city vacation with college kids this winter.

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Sep 7th, 2012, 09:17 AM
  #1
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Europe city vacation with college kids this winter.

I'm trying to figure out the most economical way to go on a two week winter family vacation in Europe. Our kids are college age. At this point we are looking for suggestions with, what 3 cities to see and how best to economically travel with five adults from place to place. We know that we want to go to London for maybe 4 nights, We'll rent apartments in these cities. I also wonder if we should go on a package trip? We have never done this but would it be smart to have city tours, transportation and hotels already planned. Have any of you ever done a tour? I really appreciate it. We have an open window from December 23 - January 16th. We are looking for culture, history, food and city walks.
goodness is offline  
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Sep 7th, 2012, 09:56 AM
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I have done a tour but not with kids and not in winter. I'm not sure that is going to work very well in your situation, I think it is better for single or a couple, not families. Also, I bet your college-age kids would hate that.

The problem is you want to do things economically but you have put up conditions that make things very expensive. One is London which is an expensive city, but at least it is of interest and there are things to do that are not expensive. But two is you've picked about the most expensive time of the year to travel for hotel room prices (Christmas and NY holidays). That could affect some airfare, also, depending on the dates you choose, but mainly hotel rooms.

So the first thing I'd suggest is that you go after New Years, that will help a lot with costs. Mid January is not an expensive time to travel, in general.

I think there may be some special train tickets for families, not sure (and not sure if that includes families who are all adults). I presume you do not want to go north from London in the winter as part of your vacation. Also, to save time and money, I would suggest you fly out of your last city, not try to return to London to fly home. But if you only have 2 weeks, you shouldn't go long distances. I'd go as far south as possible, the Netherlands in January does not appeal to me at all, for example. But don't make the mistake of thinking southern Europe is tropical in January.

London-Paris-Amsterdam is one obvious combination (but as I said, not one I would pick).

London-Paris-then some southern French city wouldn't be too difficult (eg, Nice). IN fact, if you all fly on cheap small airlines (eg, Easyjet), you could probably do London-Paris-Barcelona which would be my preferred itinerary as I love Paris and Barcelona. Then fly home from Barcelona. I think that would be a great trip. SOmeone else can tell you how to get the best deals on train tickets on the Eurostar from London to Paris, I don't know how.

But Easyjet flies from CDG to Barcelona for only 47 euro per person in mid-January (that includes 36 euro fare plus 11 euro admin fee for booking), add on 3 pct for credit card use. Still a very good deal.

True, you could get some advance cheap train fare from Paris to Nice or Marseille for probably less than 50 euro per person, but not that much, and I'd rather go to Barcelona.
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Sep 7th, 2012, 10:16 AM
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You definitely do no want a tour - which will bounce you around all over the place.

There are packages that you can buy (air, hotel, transfers) but the decent hotels are usually expensive and the loss leader options are typically not places you will want to stay.

You can do apartments if you want - but it's more difficult for fewer days - and you dont have the suppor of a hotel or a front desk.

I would do a hotel with one room for the parents and a triple (I presume) for the kids - since they re likely to want more nightlife and be out later than the parents are.

I would stick with cities in the winter - and probably do London, Paris (train from London - buy tickets very early for best price) and then a third place of your choice. Perhaps Rome (won;t be SO cold) or Prague )if you want someplace more intruiging).

Definitely do open jaws flights - they cost no more than round trips (search under multi-city or multi-destination - not two one-ways).

Finally - since you're talking young adults here - not toddles - where do THEY want to go. Everyone should have assigned responsibilities for a certain part of the trip - so no one gets to complain. (Even when my DDs were tween/teens, they picked out sights, restaurants and activities in the planning process.)
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Sep 7th, 2012, 11:35 AM
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I don't see the need for a tour either, especially if you want to rent apartments. Better might be to plan on some guided walks, like London Walks (walks.com) or Paris Walks (paris-walks.com), or other guided tours once you get wherever you end up.

London doesn't have to be that expensive - it depends on what you're comparing it to. You can eat cheaply, and many of the museums are free, including the British Museum.

I completely agree with asking the "kids" where they want to go. I really believe that, if you can afford the plane tickets, you can vacation in Europe just as cheaply as you can in the States. Pick three cities and go from there. Between some you can take the train (London-Paris, Rome-Venice), but between others you'd want to fly. There are some inexpensive airlines in Europe, like Easyjet or Ryanair, but if you do that you need to be very careful about luggage (they get you with the fees!). It's completely doable - you just have to pay attention.
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Sep 9th, 2012, 05:37 AM
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I would avoid London for Christmas itself. Virtually everything will be shut.
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Sep 9th, 2012, 06:07 AM
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Quite a few years ago, when our kids were in HS we did a similar trip to about 2 1/2 weeks. We flew into Paris, spent a little more than a week in the 6th at a hotel as a base then took the Eurostar via Chunnel to London on the day after Xmas and spent about 9 days in London at a hotel we found on Priceline (2 rooms) in South Kensington.

Priceline was a terrific option for us as the 2 rooms in London were far cheaper than any apartment we could have found. I would do this part over. We did not trust Priceline for Paris, as we had a distince desire to stay in the 6th and that wasn't assured. I would recommend an apartment in Paris.

You need to buy your inter-Europe tickets as far in advance as possible. The Eurostar worked well for us, we got a decent price by buying tickets several months in advance. It was more expensive than Easy jet BUT when you factored transportation to/from the airport (there were 4 of us), it was far cheaper. Our hotel in Paris came with a full breakfast, which we had every day. Xmas Day was a little hard, we spent it in Paris and did advance work to ensure we had something to do (we went to the circus) and somewhere to eat (reservations).

In Paris, we like L'Opentour basically a hop-on, hop-off bus tour for 2 days, which gave us a good introduction to the city and allowed us to decide what we wanted to see in greater depth. We did the Big Red Bus, similar tour, in London.

Also strongly suggest you discuss in advance guidlines for your kids. We let ours go off on our their own several times, with knowledge of where they were going, what they were doing, etc. We also bought metro passes in each city for each person, which paid off well.

Would not personally want to do a "set" tour. We are not IF ITS TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE BELGIUM type people. We like sleeping in once in a while, want some "down time" to sit in a coffeehouse or cafe and people-watch, like to choose our own venues. Hope this helps.
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Sep 10th, 2012, 07:25 AM
  #7
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Thank you so much, these are great suggestions. I'm wondering if we should plan on traveling in January and avoid December? Italy is out as we have all been. What about London - Morocco?
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Sep 10th, 2012, 07:42 AM
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Why lose a week of travel in Dec even if some things will be closed in London at Christmas ? Your idea of going from London to Morocco is a great one now that the cheap airlines fly between the two. Just be sure to only bring carry on luggage, otherwise the baggage fees are steep.
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Sep 10th, 2012, 10:03 AM
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It isn't just a matter of things being closed, hotels are more expensive around the Christmas holidays and New Years. At least they are in any major city I know, so I presume London is the same, but I might be wrong (in Paris, they are the peak rates of the entire year during that week).
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