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Finalizing itinerary for family of 6- France/ Italy

Finalizing itinerary for family of 6- France/ Italy

Old May 1st, 2017, 07:10 PM
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Finalizing itinerary for family of 6- France/ Italy

We are a family of 6: 2 adults, and kids ages 16, 14, 12, and 6 and are thrilled to be spending most of August in France and a bit of Italy. I know it's not the ideal time for traveling, but it is the only time we could go.

I'm trying to finalize how many days in each spot and narrow down where we will go. We are an active family and love great food, architecture, art, history. But with a 6 year-old we also want to balance going with just slowing down and enjoying (not to mention the August heat).

Here is what I have so far:

5 days in Paris (including a day trip to Versaille). We rented an apt near Canal St. Martin near Republique. It is challenging to find rentals large enough for 6 within our price range and I would prefer to be closer to the city. wondering if this will feel too far out?

Day 6- rent car and head to Normandy via Giverny. Travel the Route of Abbeys. Stay the night in Honfleur or just stop in Honfleur and sleep in Bayeaux?

Day 7- Bayeaux tapestry and perhaps a few small villages/ beach? Or military museum?

Day 8- D-Day sites, military museum in Caen. Still narrowing down exactly where we will go on this day but most likely will hire a guide. My husband is a veteran and he and one of our sons are very interested and well-versed in military history of this region. This will be a huge highlight for them.

Day 9- day trip to Mt St. Michel. Back to Bayeaux in the evening.

Day 10- drive back to Paris, return car, TGV to Avignon or Arles.

Day 11- 13 rent new car. visit Provence region. Drive to Valbonne evening of day 13.

Day 13-19 stay with friends in Valbonne. Day trip Riviera towns/ relax in their pool

Day 20-23- Cinque Terre with friends ( we are still trying to find a spot that will fit both of our families)

Day 24-26- Tuscany- probably Pienza or Montepulciano

Day 26- drive to Rome for the night

Day 27- Return home out of Rome

A few questions- would it be better to spend 3 days in Normandy allowing us an extra day in Tuscany?

Should we skip Provence and extend time in another region- either Tuscany or with our friends in the Riviera area?

I'm thinking that we will need two rental cars- one for our time in Normandy and one for the time in the south of France/ Italy. I haven't looked into rates yet, but would it make sense for us to pick one up in Arles or Avignon and return it in Rome or too expensive?

We don't want to have long travel days or long car trips, and are trying to of course maximize our time on the trip while also having time to just relax and enjoy small towns, good food, not running from one thing to the next- hence trying to spend at least 3 nights in each locale

I would greatly appreciate feedback on any and all parts of our trip so far.

Thank you!
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Old May 1st, 2017, 07:36 PM
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There will probably be a pretty hefty fee to pick up the 2nd car in France and drop it in Italy. Check out how much it is. May be better to drop the 2nd car in France somewhere near the Italian border then train or bus or taxi (depending on distance/cost) into Italy and pick up a new car there.
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Old May 1st, 2017, 07:51 PM
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That's what i am learning, Joannyc. Thanks!
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Old May 1st, 2017, 08:03 PM
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You won't have a drop-off fee if you pick up in one France location and drop off in another France location. One-way rentals in the same country are fine. But, picking up at an airport or train station in France will add an additional fee; however dropping at one of these locations will not.
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Old May 1st, 2017, 08:08 PM
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Also, try Autoeurope.com and Kemwel.com for the best prices. Sister-companies based in the USA who are consolidators dealing with all the big rental car companies in Europe. Also, if you incur any issue with the actual rental car company, Europcar, Hertz, Avis, etc. they will go to bat for you instead of you fighting with the rental agency directly.
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Old May 1st, 2017, 08:30 PM
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Figure about €850 to €1,000 for the drop off. There is no practical way to get from Bayeux to Avignon except by train [journey of 5:42 at 8:35AM], which includes 50 minutes to get from the Gare de Est to the Gare de Lyon. If a van is not available, that might mean 2 taxis or else the Metro with one change. Viamichelin estimates a 5 hour drive back to Paris, so obviously that's out.

If flying into Paris, you should pick up a car at the airport and head to Normandy. La Chaine d'Or in Les Andeleys is a popular first night stop. Then drop the car in Bayeux or Caen and take a train to Paris.

If serious about the Cinque Terre in August, a train from Nice takes about 5.5 hours with 2 [or 3] changes. Driving there is ill-advised, but you could pick up a Hertz rental in La Spezia when leaving, drop it in Chiusi Salo [24 kms from Montepulciano] and take a train to Rome.

Walking down the canal, hopefully a boat will be encountered going through the locks, something interesting for the children to see. The Republique Metro is a big station with 4 lines as I recall, so a handy place to be.
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Old May 1st, 2017, 08:31 PM
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Giverney is a a half-hour drive from Les Andeleys, by the way.
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Old May 1st, 2017, 08:34 PM
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The drop off I mentioned was France-Italy. Here's what you need to know about driving in italy:

http://driventoit.blogspot.com.au/
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Old May 1st, 2017, 09:16 PM
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A few comments. Honfleur is about an hour drive from Bayeaux and I do not like changing hotels if not necessary so whether to stay in Honfleur or Bayeaux would depend on when you would make it to Honfleur. I would do Bayeaux plus Caen plus a drive around Normandy on one day. The D day sites will take at least a whole day if not more depending on what you want to see. Would do a tour or hire a guide if you do not mind the fees. Drive to MSM early so you arrive upon opening and you will have plenty of time to get back to Normandy for other things.
You really have not allotted much time to visit Provence. I would either skip it for more time in Italy or consider skipping Italy and flying back from France. I would not do the CT in August personally. I assume you have already been to Rome?
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Old May 1st, 2017, 10:40 PM
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Bayeux to Avignon TGV the train is at 8:35AM. Change at the Gare-St-Lazare [not Est]; direct on the Metro Line 14.
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 07:24 AM
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Yes, we are flying into CDG. So, RonZ- you would reccommend heading straight to Normandy instead of starting with our first 5 days in Paris? I guess that might be an easier transition with the rental car- I'm just a little worried about driving and navigating while we are so tired. So arrive, get car, head to Giverny, sleep in Les Andelys before heading to Bayeaux, dump car in Bayeaux, train to next destination (Avignon via Paris). Perhaps we should skip Provence since we only have 3 days? or we could add more days to Provence and skip Tuscany. We have not been to Rome- I could be talked into spending 3 or 4 nights there- but everyone has said it will be so hot. Thanks for all the feedback!

mjs- I generally agree about changing hotels. With 6 people the less transitions, the better!

Thanks for all the feedback! I'm hoping to get our places locked in soon.
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 09:30 AM
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If you're arriving in Paris after a long, overnight flight, you probably will be sleepy and jet lagged for a day or more. Definitely better to spend a few days in Paris before picking up the rental car.

In fact I like spending time in my arrival city to get over jet lag. There are lots of things to do, day and night, and you can adapt your itinerary according to how you feel.

BTW get an International Driver's Permit for driving in Italy and France. It's a translation of your license, which you need to bring also. You can get the IDP at your local AAA/CAA office for about $25 including photo.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 01:06 PM
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joannyc thanks for the tips on car rentals!
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 02:52 PM
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For Normandy, we booked a D Day tour with Viator and loved it. Ours was the Canadian beach landing tour and our guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining. It was an all afternoon tour, about 5 hours.

The Bayeux tapestry is interesting, but you need only perhaps 1.5 hours. The town itself is nice to walk through, and we had one of our best lunches in France at Le Guarde Manger.

I think your itinerary sounds fun. I loved Normandy and Paris.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 08:08 PM
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Jessuhler, you're welcome!

If you can drive a manual transmission, it will be cheaper than renting an automatic.

Check trunk sizes online to make sure you can fit all of your luggage in it since there are 6 of you!
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Old May 6th, 2017, 11:07 AM
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This thread has been helpful as also traveling to Paris in a few weeks. We will spend our first 6 days in Paris, then head to Bayeux for WWII sights for 2 nights, then on to Belgium. I want to rent a car for the two days in Normandy. Would welcome specific suggestions for where it is easiest to pick up/drop off the car? We will be leaving from le Marais area, CDG is busy should we take the train to Orly for pick up or just train to Caen then get the car? What about the return? Don't want to waste a whole day trying to return a car. Thanks!
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Old May 6th, 2017, 01:19 PM
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The Cinque Terre is usually insanely crowded in August. You might want to stay in a nearby town and visit the Cinque Terre by boat; trains and buses going in are packed like the Tokyo metro at rush hour. (Other people can probably make better suggestions for places to stay than I can.) However, one advantage of staying in one of the Cinque Terre towns is that you can enjoy them when the day trippers are not there. During the day, you could do some hiking on the high trails, if the six-year-old is up to it. Some of the lower trails are closed, and the ones that are open might be shoulder to shoulder.
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