Europe in June with 8-year old

Mar 2nd, 2015, 02:10 PM
  #1  
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Europe in June with 8-year old

Hi everyone,

I have a month off of work and am seriously considering traveling to Europe with my daughter, who will be 8. My husband is unable to travel with us due to work, so it will just be my daughter and I.

We can travel any time between the beginning of June and mid-August (summer break), but I am leaning toward the month of June. Some of the places I have always wanted to visit are Paris, the south of France, Venice, Rome, and Greece, especially the islands. I am a total foodie. My idea of a good vacation is doing and seeing, not lying on the beach for days on end or staying within the walls of an all-inclusive resort. I love hiking, exploring, and seeing how the locals live. I would rather see a breathtaking landscape or charming little village than visit an art or history museum, but I wouldn't go all the way to Europe and pass over the must-sees. My daughter is a trooper, but she is only 8, so that limits our activities to some degree.

Keeping all of that in mind, I have a number of questions.

1. Does the above (very tentative) itinerary seem doable in one month?
2. Are all of those locations safe for a woman and child traveling alone?
3. Do we have time to add an additional country to our itinerary? If so, any suggestions?
4. What activities would you recommend?
5. Any tips for traveling between these locales?
5. Any additional thoughts, suggestions, or travel advice?

Thanks in advance!
thepilotswife is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2015, 02:40 PM
  #2  
 
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<< I have always wanted to visit are Paris, the south of France, Venice, Rome, and Greece, especially the islands>>

If that is meant to be an itinerary, then it needs some fine tuning. Like ... nightly lodging budget, expectation of lodging type (flat, hotel, B&B). Assuming that your plane travel is free or cheap as "thepilotswife" what benefits you get with partnering airlines, etc., will factor into this.

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Also nonspecific, especially considering you've identified two major cities, one nonmajor city and two non-trailhead laden regions as your desired destinations. Seriously: you've chosen two beach regions (Greek Isles, South of France) with no additional specificity. Certain Greek Isles are more hike-worthy than others.

What "exploring" means is also up for redefinition - not much of Europe has been unexplored. Similarly, the locals are not museum pieces, if you want to experience a little of how they live, then join family in those areas if you have any, or rent flats because those will at least be representative of the dwellings said locals have and use.

To answer the six inquiries:

1. It can be done with about a week each in Paris, Rome and South of France and the remaining 10 days divided as you choose between Greek Isles and Venice.
2. In a general sense, yes. In a specific block-by-block sense, not necessarily. The central areas of each city (including Nice as representative of So. France) should be fine.
3. Who knows, the itinerary is so nebulous and your intent so unstated that perhaps you can. Certainly the Vatican is another country and you can add that while in Rome.
4. There are tons of resources on this and you need to check them and come back with "what do you think about . . ." because you've said "breathtaking landscape or charming little village" over "art or history museum" and chosen Paris, Rome and Venice as three of your destinations. Do you understand the disconnect?
5. Again, this becomes a question of what benefits do you get as thepilotswife or is your board name not related to hubby's work? Paris to Nice or Rome to Venice is a train trip. Other hops are decidedly longer - Nice to either Rome or Venice is 8 hours or more by train and may include a change. Traveling by train to Greece from Italy is pointless - take a plane; a ferry if you're only going to Corfu.
5 (reprise). Map the trip. Do your research. INVOLVE YOUR DAUGHTER IN THE PLANNING. No better way to have her happy and not rely on her trouper aspects than to get her excited about going.
BigRuss is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2015, 03:24 PM
  #3  
 
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I don't think you have time for everything, especially with a child, even a very agreeable one. On a short trip of a very few days, an adult can run around and cram things in. Doing that on such a long trip is an easy way to burn out fast. On a long trip, you have the luxury to slow down, relax and absorb the culture and atmosphere and you will need to do it, especially with a child. Don't worry for a second about missing "must sees." There are so many, you can't help missing things. The key is to be in the moment, enjoying thoroughly what you do see and experience.

Get some guide books. Figure out things you want to see and do and how much time they take. Allow some time for playing in parks, riding carousels, etc.

Since you did not mention it, London may not be a place of interest to you, but both of my DDs, who are long grown up, say that London and the Netherlands as well as Paris and Venice were their favorite places to visit as children. They have the most memories of London: the V&A Museum, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and seeing shows in London. They had a lot of children's books with stories set in London, so we visited those places, bought a Paddington Bear, etc.

They liked Paris because they walked and sailed boats in parks, went up in the Eiffel Tower, etc. They both liked the gardens in Versailles, the hall of mirrors and the beds. Now, my little GD wants to see Paris and go to all the places pictured in the Madeline stories.

Their memories of Venice are a gondola ride, Florence is the statue of David, Rome is the Sistine Chapel. That is pretty much it for those three.

In Amsterdam, they were very interested in the Anne Frank House. They loved Maduradam. We bought wooden shoes for them to actually wear. They loved the gardens and big pancakes.

Both girls loved boats, so a canal boat in London, the Seine in Paris and the gondolas and vaporetto in Venice were perfect. Anytime they could ride a bike or row a boat, they were happy. They also liked things that involved going up in places, climbing steps in St Peters and in the Duomo in Florence. They also enjoyed concerts in unique places, like at night in a castle, so look for events in different places: parades, etc.

Both girls actually loved museums because they had books about each museum and picked out from the pictures the things they were interested in seeing. They loved looking for paintings of children that looked like them. They also read stories about different artists and wanted to find their paintings. The Louvre and Van Gogh museums were their favorites.

So, IMHO, this trip will be even more magical for you by experiencing things through your daughter. Mine were 5 & 7 when we moved there and 8 &10 when we left, so same age range as your DD.

You will be safe in all those places.

Your final itinerary will dictate how you travel.

Examples:
Train from London to Amsterdam. Train to Paris, fly from Paris to Venice, train from Venice to Florence or Rome, etc.
or Train from Paris to Avignon, train to Arles, etc.
Fly to Athens, fly or ferry to islands.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 09:44 AM
  #4  
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Thank you so much to both of you for your replies! Sassafrass, your specific information about what your kids enjoyed is immensely helpful and exactly what I was looking for!

To clarify a couple of things, do realize that I have a lot of planning to do and that what I outlined in my original post doesn't constitute an "itinerary." That is my next step and I was hoping for feedback that would help me get there.

I have always wanted to see the above mentioned cities/regions, AND I like to hike, explore, etc. I don't see these as mutually exclusive, but instead am hoping for suggestions of some side trips in or around these locales that might involve some outdoor activities like hiking, biking, etc.

When I say I would like to see how the locals live, I guess what I mean is that I'd like to immerse myself a little more than some people choose to, i.e. rent an apartment vs. staying in a hotel, visit small towns and local shops and restaurants, and see and do things that are somewhat off the beaten path and perhaps less "touristy." BUT, I'm not going to go to Paris and not visit the Eiffel Tower. Hopefully that makes sense?

I do not have any flight benefits, unfortunately.
thepilotswife is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 10:08 AM
  #5  
 
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Hi
The very extensive answers you have been given are great pieces of advice, the other half and I travelled round Europe last summer using the interrail train passes, could honestly not fault them they worked out great value for money travelling between places, it may be an option worth considering on the travel front.

If you have time I would seriously recommend a day or two at pompeii it is a truly remarkable sight! Although it is a historical sight the landscape and sheer scale is breathtaking in its self if you are in the area this is obviously very close to mt vesuvius which have organised tours for all ages to enjoy. Being in the south of Italy this could also work nicely as a stop between Rome and the greek islands
Singlegrouse is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 11:17 AM
  #6  
 
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since you are largely going to major tourist cities take the train as cars are rather useless once in many cities where wide swaths of city centres have been made off-limits to private vehicles and many hotels may not have parking - parking can cost $30 a day or more and you can't leave anything of value in your car overnight often if parked on a street.

So consider the train - for lots on European rail travel I always highlight these IMO superb sources for planning a European rail trip - www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com - download the latter's free online European Planning & Rail Guide for rail itineraries in various countries.

You may want to look at the newly revamped Eurailpasses where kids that age get a free pass (formerly was 50% off) - you can also take an overnight ferry between Italy and Greece - with the trappings of a cruise ship - kids that age will love it and you save on the cost of a hotel - private berths are not that expensive on the ships.
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 11:20 AM
  #7  
 
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Thepilotswife,

As I think of things that might interest you, based on what you have said, I will pop on line and put them in.

Venice.
The Lido (the beach area for Venice, about 15 minutes by ferry) and rent bikes. There are bike rentals near the docks. It has safe places for you and your DD to bike and you could even go for a swim. There are plenty of restaurants for lunch. I think this would be fun for both of you. It is not Venice, but I always enjoy the Lido for a few hours.

You could also do some biking along the Brenta canal or take a boat down the canal. I have not done this, but it is on my list, and looked fun for biking.

Google images of biking the Brenta and the Lido for good pics and where to rent bikes.

Of all the nearby islands, you might like Burano because it is tiny, but fun to walk around, with bright fisherman's houses.

Mask painting class in Venice. Both you and your daughter could do this. It is fairly expensive, but a nice souvenir. Do it early on so the mask is dry for packing. TA has reviews of the shops offering it. Some are a lot better than other others.

If you should decide to go to Belgium or the Netherlands, I am sure most places are good, but Bruges (except for some cobblestones) is a wonderful place to rent bikes and bike past windmills and along canals. I did it a few years ago and it was a delight. The beach, about 10 minutes by train, was also fun. I am throwing this into the mix because the train trip from Paris to Bruges (or even Amsterdam) is not bad.

About bikes. We did not have helmets, so you will want to check into that, perhaps take your own.

Do play grounds still interest your DD?

Pompeii is, of course, a world class archeological site, but it does not make a good day trip from Rome in summer, so unless you are going South anyway, you would have to cut other things. I would also say that in Summer, with an 8 year old, an hour or two in the heat, would just about do it, and you, as an adult, would want more time there. OTOH, Herculaneum is equally interesting, and quite beautiful, but much smaller with many buildings more intact, so more understandable for an 8 year old, and two hours would do. I would not do either one as just a day trip.

From Rome, however, you could visit Ostia Antica or Tivoli (Villa d'Este), both good day trips.

Since you do not have any flight discounts, see if you can plan for Greece or Italy first, and finish in Paris. Probably won't make a lot of difference, perhaps none, but go as early in June as possible and to the hottest places first.

My preference would be fly into Venice, fly Italy (Rome?) to Greece, fly Greece to Paris. Home from France (either Paris or train to Belgium and Netherlands and home from Amsterdam) or train to Provence and home from Marseille, though it will be super hot and crowded there, just putting it in because it is on your wish list.

An apartment each in Venice, Rome, Paris would be great.

One last bit. Just IME, I would leave Greece off this trip and do places a little cooler. It requires so much travel time and is so hot, plus I am not sure your DD would enjoy it much. You would probably be wishing your DH was with you.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 4th, 2015, 01:01 PM
  #8  
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So, after reading the great replies and talking with a friend that has traveled pretty extensively in Europe, I've revised my very tentative itinerary. As much as I want to see Greece, it seems like it might be better to skip it this time. And, I've been sold on London.

Here is what I'm thinking:

Day 1 arrive in London
Days 2-5 London
Day 6 London to Paris (2.5 hr train ride)
Days 7-10 Paris
Day 11 Paris to Geneva (3 hr train ride)
Days 12-13 Geneva and day trip to Gruyeres
Day 14 Geneva to Nice (6 hr high-speed train ride or fly?)
Days 15-17 Nice with day trips to Cannes and St. Tropez (rent a car)
Day 18 Nice to Venice (fly?)
Days 19-22 Venice
Day 23 Venice to Rome (4 hr train ride)
Days 24-27 Rome
Day 28 Rome to U.S.

Does this seem doable with an 8-year old? Do my travel plans (train vs. plane) seem reasonable? I'm I planning too long/not long enough for any of the stops? Any other thoughts or suggestions?
thepilotswife is offline  
Mar 4th, 2015, 01:50 PM
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The London, Paris, Venice and Rome parts are great.

Posters with more knowledge about them can comment about the other places.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 4th, 2015, 04:46 PM
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Your new itinerary looks good. But I would cut Geneva. Making a detour to Geneva is not worth it; it's not that interesting a city.

I'd add the Geneva days to Nice or other of the bigger cities. There are lots of day trips from London and Paris. (Look at the excursions from London Walks, www.walks.com.) And there are some nice smaller towns near Nice, like Eze and Villefranche-sur-mer, easy to get to by train or bus.

The consensus here is that kids like more time in one place vs. many stops and lots of travel time en route. They like to learn their way around the neighborhood, get acquainted with the local baker and/or gelato seller. Those are the things they remember.
Mimar is offline  
Mar 4th, 2015, 05:33 PM
  #11  
 
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I love the month of June in Europe. I think that's when you should go. Start as early in the month as possible. I think you are doing too much by adding Greece. I would just stick with Paris, Provence, Venice, and Rome. All of them will be safe for you.
sanderskn is offline  
Mar 4th, 2015, 05:35 PM
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Oh and I saw you wanted to add London. Great idea! London has so many great things for kids.
sanderskn is offline  
Mar 4th, 2015, 08:51 PM
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You don't mention a budget. London is hideously expensive - as is Switzerland - ditch Geneva - it's like Brussels - very ho-hum.

Try not to drag your daughter around too much. I have travelled with my own children and we try and spend a week in each place. A week in Paris in an apartment would give you the opportunity to see the city plus a visit to Disneyland and even a day trip to somewhere like Mont san Michel. A week in a Venice apartment would similarly provide an adventure - the Rialto markets, swimming at Lido, day trip to Padua or Verona, immersing yourselves in the beauty of Venice. And another week in Rome - then you can take your day trip to Pompeii. Finish off with a week in Santorini or somewhere gorgeous on the Greek Islands (I personally love Corfu).
Blueeyedcod is offline  
Mar 4th, 2015, 09:57 PM
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I am sure the above advice about day trips is well meant, and would work for some, but it is way not good for you with your DD.

First, there are many good sandwich shops, etc. all over London and some of the churches have cafeterias in their crypts where they offer nice lunches at reasonable prices - interesting as well. Stop by the kiosks and box offices during the day and get discount tickets to plays and concerts. Rent an apartment or basic hotel and you will be fine in London.

Mont Saint-Michel is over 3 & 1/2 hours by car from Paris each way. By train, it is 2 hours, plus about 30 minutes by bus, so over 2 & 1/2 hours each way. At minimum, over five hours RT in one day with an eight years old is not, IMHO, an even reasonable day trip. Now, if you were also doing some sightseeing in that area and staying overnight on the Mont, it could be worth it.

As I said before, Pompeii is not a good day trip from Rome with a child, but if you wanted to spend three -nights on the AC, you could do a ferry trip down the AC one day, stopping at Positano and Amalfi and another trip to Pompeii (or Herculaneum - easier for a child).

Also, just IMHO, though it would be nice to do a bit of hiking, and you would enjoy trying the food, an eight year old will be bored with Santorini in a day or so. It is so much about relaxing and enjoying the views with a nice glass of wine. You would definitely want a pool.

Now, Corfu offers a lot more options for hiking with interesting coves and beaches. There are some busses, but you might want a car there, unless you wanted to hire a driver.

When you are in Europe where you can see real palaces and castles, and go on gondolas, etc., why go to a made-up, expensive, tourist place like Disney? You can go to Disney back in the States. In Paris, you can go up inside the Eiffel Tower or row a boat in the gardens of Versailles where royals once rowed.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 4th, 2015, 11:25 PM
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I don't see the point in Geneva and Gruyeres unless you have a deep interest in Swiss cheese. If you had the time you could go to the Bernese Oberland and take your daughter to the highest railway station in Europe, http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/j...of-europe.html, which would be interesting. It would probably add too much to an already crowded itinerary, though.
Heimdall is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 10:35 AM
  #16  
 
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I don't know Switzerland very well, but Geneva conjures up visions of bankers, lawyers, and bureaucratic functionaries.

We really liked Lucerne, on a beautiful lake and near some Alpine trek possibilities. It's not terribly touristy; we found an inexpensive place to stay right in the center of town, and plenty of reasonably priced places to eat.
bvlenci is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 01:11 PM
  #17  
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Thank you for all the great feedback! Each time I check in, there is another reply that makes this feel more real and more doable!

I added Geneva in because from there Gruyeres is a day trip and I've heard that Gruyeres is pretty neat. However, I'll give some more thought to whether I want to add that time and travel expense. If I cut that out, I think this is what it would look like:

Day 1 arrive in London
Days 2-5 London
Day 6 London to Paris (2.5 hr train ride)
Days 7-11 Paris
Day 12 Paris to Nice (high-speed train ride or fly?)
Days 13-16 Nice with day trips to Cannes and St. Tropez (rent a car)
Day 17 Nice to Venice (fly?)
Days 18-22 Venice
Day 23 Venice to Rome (4 hr train ride)
Days 24-27 Rome
Day 28 Rome to U.S.

I added one day each to Paris, Nice, and Venice. I might shift one of those to Rome once I've had a chance to check out the sights and day trips that interest me there.

I am thinking about day trips to Versailles and Giverny from Paris and Cannes and St. Tropez from Nice. Do those seem reasonable? Still working on London, Venice, and Rome, and open to suggestions.

Thanks!
thepilotswife is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 01:16 PM
  #18  
 
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I forgot to say above that I don't find London hideously expensive either. All of the public museums are free, and the parks are free. You can find good reasonably priced food, and there is also decent budget lodging.
bvlenci is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 01:31 PM
  #19  
 
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Since you have cut out some of the big trips, you would have time to stop in Tuscany for two or three days. Besides Florence, which my girls actually enjoyed a lot when they were that age, you could consider Lucca for a night or two where you could bike the walls. It is an easy train trip from Florence, not much out of your way to Rome.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 02:16 PM
  #20  
 
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Cannes and St. Tropez seem like a waste if you don't want to go to beach, and with an 8 year old.
DebitNM is offline  

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