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Family of four - First Time Trip - Tour Company or No Tour Company?

Family of four - First Time Trip - Tour Company or No Tour Company?

Old Feb 19th, 2015, 12:06 PM
  #41  
 
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I would say that you will have to make your own decision (based on statistics and facts, I hope) about terror alerts.

On the hotels, we have always stayed in hotels or B&Bs because we like the idea of having staff available if we have questions, etc.

We stayed in the quad room at Lime Tree Inn; it was a tight fit, but workable; two rooms of course is more comfortable. Our family decided we did not like that location so much, and on subsequent trips returned to the Bloomsbury area, within a block or two of the British Museum. Check out the Grange Beauchamp hotel. Not so cute as a B&B, but largish rooms and decent continental breakfast.

In Paris, we've stayed a bunch of times at the Le Regent, in the 6th arrondisement, in two double rooms. We adults took the larger double and the kids got the smaller double. On another trip, we stayed in a quad room at another hotel, but the hot water kept giving out, so I won't recommend that one!

I am an early bird, so is DS. DH likes to sleep in a bit and DD is a bear to get up. If we had breakfast in our hotel, then DD could join us a bit later. And many times I've gone for a walk or a run, or visited a cafe, while the others slept. Though I've got to say that the prospect of stopping at a patisserie in the morning, for an extra something with breakfast, did help DD to get out of bed.
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Old Feb 20th, 2015, 01:13 PM
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Start by reading a good guide book. It will dispell most anxiety you may have on planning your own trip. I like Rick Steves because he really dumbs it down and basically even tells you where to eat. You can use his suggestions as your starting point, then take forum posts (such as this) and make it your own.

I get so many ideas from trip reports (Trip advisor.com) and reading these forums. Renting an apartment is super easy and much more cost effective, plus you can scramble eggs at 2am if you want or give hungry kids bowls of cereal any time! No hotel doors slamming at all hours etc.

Part of travel is the scary part, the unknown...calculated risks if you will. I can plan, plan, plan..but things alsways happen, good..and bad. I had never been on a subway till London, never been on a train or puchased train tickets till we went to Hamptin court (Fabulous!), but we did it! I am currently planning Rome, Florence and Paris..talk about overwhelmed!! Phew..but after all my reading I think I have my arms wrapped around it. BTW: My budget for two people, 18 days turned out to be around $7,500.00-Open jaw flights from the west coast with a flight from Florence to Paris, staying in apartments in Rome and Paris and a Hotel in Florence as it is too short a stay. I am taking 2 organized walking tours in Rome, one in florence and 2-3 in Paris. In Paris we are purchaing the Pass Navigo Decouverte for transportation and the Museum pass.
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Old Feb 20th, 2015, 06:16 PM
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Look at http://www.paris-walks.com/ and http://www.walks.com/ . We have used both in the past. A great and cost effective way to see a city. Not too long for kids to get bored and usually with very interesting local guides. Some cities also have free walking tours where you pay what you think is fare. I have not done any in London or Paris but I am sure there are probably some out there.
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Old Feb 20th, 2015, 06:19 PM
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If your daughter loves art, don't miss Musée de l'Orangerie . The Monet's there are gorgeous - even to non art lovers!! Regarding Versailles - our daughters both preferred Château de Fontainebleau.
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Old Feb 20th, 2015, 06:49 PM
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I'm going to disagree with a few people here.

I have always thought that staying in a hotel for "first timers" can be very, very helpful. You have the advice and counsel of the front desk staff and/or a concierge. Even in Paris, these people will speak English and can be helpful with directions and suggestions. Apartments are economical and useful for the second time around and later, but for the first time, I suggest a hotel. There are many, many choices, so you likely can find something that will suit your budget for the four of you.

Second, the Hop On, Hop Off bus tours can also be useful for the first timer. You get to see the highlights. If the kids get restless, you can get off and a stop that interests you, then get back on to continue. You get to see the highlights quickly, then can go back to see your favorites later and spend more time there. More important, with the maps provided, you get the "lay of the land". I have been on the tours and have enjoyed them myself, traffic notwithstanding.

Sometimes experienced travellers forget what it's like to be new to big cities. If you do your research and are prepared, you certainly can get around. But make it easier on yourself by staying in a hotel or B&B (many in London) and taking a few tours.
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Old Feb 20th, 2015, 09:49 PM
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We traveled out of the US for the first time (both mid 40's) and we rented an apartment in London and had no problem. There are tourist offices in most cities and you can always just walk into a Hotel and ask if you need help. We did two walks with the London Walks company, went to a concert at the O2, did a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath with a small tour company and got to Hampton court on our own. Part of the fun for me is figuring it out, no one is going to die if I miss a train or take the subway in the wrong direction (very easy to do!). We just always gave ourselves enough time. Our trip was in 08 with NO smart phones, apps etc. Paper maps and printed walking instructions. That was just my experience. But I do hear the "for the first time stay in hotel" a lot. So there is merit to it.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2015, 01:51 PM
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contact Family Friendly Italy. Gina can help you with everything you need for Paris, England and Rome
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Old Feb 22nd, 2015, 02:52 PM
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We really enjoyed the day tour we took from London with International Friends of Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor Castle. Of avoid doing a multi-day tour for many of the reasons others have mentioned, but you may like doing a guided day trip or two.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2015, 11:27 AM
  #49  
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Thank you everyone for all the wonderful information, suggestions and advice. You guys are awesome and much appreciated! We've definitely decided to do it on our own. I will post again as soon as our dates and locations are set. Thanks!!!
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