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First family trip to Europe and would really love suggestions.

First family trip to Europe and would really love suggestions.

Nov 7th, 2011, 09:55 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2010
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First family trip to Europe and would really love suggestions.

We are a family of 6 in the early stages of planning our 1st trip to Europe. Our kids are 11, 15, 18 and 19 and have done a lot of traveling in the US (we live in Arizona), Canada, Mexico and a few Caribbean cruises. Since we have traditionally done beach type vacations in the past, it would be nice to do something different (although we always enjoy the beach). We also love beautiful scenery, architecture and enjoy outdoor activities. A few museums would be okay but I think the kids would get burned out fast with too many. We are planning on at least 3 weeks but we are open. I apologize for being vague but, since we have never been anywhere in Europe, I am not even sure where to start. I think that we would all enjoy Paris. I have also looked at a Germany/Austria/Switzerland loop plus or minus Paris. One thought was flying into Frankfurt (seems to be fairly decent prices from Phoenix), traveling Germany, Austria, Switzerland and either flying out of Switzerland or taking the train to Paris before heading home. Places I think we would like to see? German castles/Bavaria, Rothenberg, maybe Romantic Road drive, the loud "beer houses" with lots of locals and music (maybe that's just what I have pictured from TV), Salzburg/Hallstat area, Berner Oberland, maybe Lucerne. From these boards, I know that it is best advised to try not to do too much and, again, we are early in planning and totally open. I haven't ruled out a totally different area/countries. My main goal is planning a trip that will keep everyone happy (if that's possible). I'm excited just to be going to Europe so I could almost talk myself into going anywhere. My family, on the other hand, has left it up to my "capable hands" so I'm hoping all you experienced travelers can help me out. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
abseas is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 10:26 AM
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With 6 in your group the biggest challenge will be transportation---I see little choice but a 9 person van.
Germany is the best place to get that. I would start in Frankfurt and end in Munich with these stops:
Romantic road
Salzburg area-[St. Gilgen]
Lake Garda
Berner Oberland
Bavaria castle country.

That is a full plate but tons of fun. Good luck!
bobthenavigator is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 10:50 AM
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Hello.... we take our family of five a couple of times every year, whether to the Caribbean, Central America or Europe. Our kids are 13, 15 and 17 and we just took them to France and Spain this summer.

We rented a VW Touran that was basically like the US' VW Routan. It has three rows of seats, easily seating six. It fit our five and had great storage compartments under the floor that fit the kids backpacks and suitcases. (Travel light!) The key to the Touran is that it was very easy to maneuver through tight streets and parking without being a 9 passenger van.

Your trip including Paris (perhaps your arrival or departure city?) and some great bavarian locales sounds like a great plan.

The key is flexibility. Be prepared that when you are standing in front of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (like I was last summer) with our teens, they remonstrated. The really wanted to go and do some shopping instead of wait in line to go inside another cathedral. It was a compromise, so we walked all the way around, taking photos etc. and headed off to shop. Did I completely get what I wanted and planned? No. But it won't be long before they are all off to college and I'll be on that same trip just with DH.

Paris is a great place to start and it's rather compact, meaning that you can see a lot in just a few days and feel like you are in Europe. You can't beat the food and everyone will be happy with the choice, whether it is art, history, food or "really old stuff" as my 13 year old put it.

Since you are a larger group traveling, planning your museum visits on "free" days will stretch your budget. Also, slipping into a grocery for beverages and snacks when possible keeps everyone happy. Mine are most amenable to "one more place" if no stomachs are growling.

Sounds like fun! Let us know if we can assist with specifics!
Continental_Drifter is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 10:53 AM
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Oh! And do budget about $25 per person for a two-day ticket on the sightseeing double-decker hop on/hop off busses available in most larger cities. It's easy transportation and it's above ground. While the metro is certainly cheaper, you miss a lot if you're under ground most of the time!

We use the city busses, but if you only have a few days and haven't been before, the double-decker busses are fun for all.
Continental_Drifter is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 11:43 AM
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As part of your planning, assume that you will not use a vehicle in Paris, if you end up there. You might want to train to Paris from elsewhere or leave from Paris by train/car.

Also, picking up a car in one country and dropping it off in another could lead to additional large charges, check this.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 11:52 AM
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Michel is correct on both counts. Picking up the car in Nice and dropping it in Madrid cost us an extra $400, but it was infinitely cheaper than flying/train five of us from NCE to BCN to MAD!
Continental_Drifter is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 11:57 AM
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What time of the year are you planning on traveling? Apartments are a great way to travel, but remember in summer they sometimes require a minimum of a one week booking. (We have in the past booked for a week even though we only planned to stay 5 days, as it is still a cost effective, great way to travel with family.)

You mention some great destinations. We covered some of them (a family of 4) over 2 holidays .... I attach links to our trip reports which may give you some ideas .... they are a little dated but still relevant in planning.



Happy planning!
PRLCH is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 12:51 PM
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I'd give each member of the family the job of coming up with one thing they want to do to give you a steer.

Huts on the whole beer festival thing it is normally in September/October (the Oktober fest) but the wine festivals can be as much fun (world's biggest in Bad Durkheim)
bilboburgler is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 03:28 PM
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First family trip to Europe and would really love suggestions.
Posted by: abseas on Nov 7, 11 at 1:55pm Posted in: Europe Tagged: Austria , Germany , Switzerland
I apologize for being vague but, since we have never been anywhere in Europe, I am not even sure where to start.

What about that Med cruise last September?

You could start with getting a guide book and a map.
spaarne is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 03:35 PM
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To bilboburgler's point... We often assign each person a full day of sightseeing/activities and even restaurants. Our kids have done a great job of each planning a day, even when our youngest was just 8.
Continental_Drifter is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 06:33 PM
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Apartments: Great idea, but start looking now, as there aren't many that accommodate 6. In Germany, a week is not always the minimum. I've rented for 3 nights or so on several occasions, including high season. A small "short-stay" surcharge normally applies. But prices in Germany are very reasonable. We stayed at this place in Germany's castle-rich Rhine Valley and loved the place; you could have two apartments here for under 100€/night.


Maybe you'll find similar digs in other locations where there are several apartments in one building.

Renting a large vehicle is not your only option. Germany is an ideal place for families your size when it comes to train travel. The individual states offer daypasses (Länder Tickets) for regional travel for about 30 Euros/day per family:


The "Bayern Ticket" (Länder Ticket for Bavaria) covers a huge area and also is valid for transfer to and from Salzburg, Austria. You can use it on public transport within Munich too. This map shows all the places you can travel to:


The Austrians have a group daypass too - 28 Euros - use it to get to Hallstatt (you might need two with 6 people):


And German Railways has cheap advance-sale tickets to and from other countries. Paris to Trier can be done by the 6 people in your family for 145 Euros. Paris to Munich, 195. Munich to Interlaken, 195. So plan your major long-distance travel legs into and out of Germany to save.

Itineraries and advance-sale pricing (92 days in advance) here:


A large vehicle and lots of driving is NOT your only option.
Russ is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 08:20 PM
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Thanks for all the great advice. I definitely have a lot to think about. We had considered a Med cruise last year but it didn't work out with the friends we were going to be traveling with. We ended up doing a southern caribbean cruise out of Puerto Rico. We had a ton of fun, especially during our extra time in Puerto Rico but I would really like to do something different for 2012. Our oldest is graduating from high school and it's my 50th birthday so it seems like a good year to do something special. We will probably travel in either June or July (most likely the end of June and beginning of July) and thought about combining a car rental in some areas and traveling by train in the others. I had no idea that the train systems were so extensive so I will definitely have to research that avenue further. Does anyone have any "must sees" for that general area?
abseas is offline  
Nov 7th, 2011, 09:48 PM
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Hi abseas,

Yes, the train systems in Germany and Switzerland are very extensive -- they are convenient, efficient, and a lot of FUN. And as Russ notes, if you buy your German or international tickets in advance, you'll get great discounts. I think you'll find that it's a lot more fun to travel by train rather than having all y'all cooped up in a van! You'll be able to chat together, read, listen to music, play cards, etc. Oh, and you'll also be able to make some friends among the other travellers --

And in Switzerland, your two youngest children will travel for free on the trains.

In Switzerland, you're right about your two bases, Luzern & the Oberland. In the Oberland, a great base would be Wengen, which is a car-free village perched right on a mountain. In Germany, Garmisch-Partenkirchen would be a good base because it has excellent transport to the Alps, to two castles, and to Mittenwald.

Have fun as you continue to plan!

swandav2000 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2011, 02:37 AM
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If you are primarily interested in the major cities you are better off traveling by train. A car in any major city is a millstone around your neck. For an illustrated introduction to the rails of Europe see http://tinyurl.com/eym5b.

For a loud and crazy beer hall night try the Altstadt in Düsseldorf on a Saturday. There is a farmer's market there also. On Sunday Düsseldorfers stroll the Königsallee, a boulevard of upscale stores.

Just up the Rhein (south) is Köln with a magnificent Dom.

Munich has relaxing beer gardens and bars of course, including the famous Hofbräuhaus. It also has a great science museum, Deutsches Museum, which your kids would probably enjoy.

I suggest that you get a Michelin Green Guide book for each of the countries you plan to visit and have the family start reading.
spaarne is offline  
Nov 8th, 2011, 03:06 AM
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When I was a cluelss newbie I enjoyed my

Globus Tour www.affordabletours.com out of LON

Great value saw a lot with a guide spent under $2k pp

Nice hotels great value good food.. to see the most

I would do that...

ricksteves.com good euroewbie site also

If I were going to self-guide which would take a lot

more work would fly into Paris and do a round robin

through the alps to Venice Rome back up through the

med coast to Portofino SanRemo Nice Arles Paris

by family rate train cheapest or Renault Eurodrive lease.

Have also enjoyed Med Crusing Bareclona to Venice on Princess

See a lot more cost effective for a family great for first

time crucon.com vacationstogo.com [email protected]

for deals on those... Generally for me simple is best

So I would probably elect a Med cruise August is chock

a block and blistering hot in the south avoid travel then.

Happy Planning!
qwovadis is offline  
Nov 8th, 2011, 09:16 AM
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Thinking about Europe as a destination is a little like thinking of the US as a destination. You will obviously get different experiences depending on which cities you choose. That said, London, Paris and Rome are the big three because they each have a lot to offer. The next tier of Venice, Munich, Amsterdam, Vienna, etc offer lots of options too.

When I was the age your children are my parents took us on a big trip like this. My mom assigned each of the three of us to do a report on some of the cities we were to visit. We gave these reports at the dinner table and it made each of us the "expert" on that destination. It really made us look forward to our cities.

It sounds like a great trip in the making. Have fun.
AisleSeat is offline  
Feb 26th, 2012, 05:59 AM
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We traveled to Switzerland and Germany with our middle school aged son, his cousin (also middle school) and another family of 4 with 2 boys (one younger, one older). We could not have had a better time as a family. Switzerland was a perfect mix of outdoor activities, culture and ease of travel. We stayed in Kandersteg (see videos below), Zermatt and Munich. We rented chalets in Kandersteg (a must, especially for families. The ultimate Swiss experience, plus it is so inexpensive!) In Zermatt we stayed at a holiday apartment with wonderful views of the Matterhorn. IN Munich we stayed at a Marriott using Priceline.

Here are videos of the trip:



You really can't go wrong in Switzerland. My biggest advise is to stay away from the big cities and stay in the small villages!

JazzDrew is offline  
Feb 26th, 2012, 06:04 AM
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By the way we traveled in June and the weather was great!

Another option is to check out Untours.com . We used them for our first Swiss trip to Kandersteg. They provide accommodations (great chalet in Kandersteg), transportation and a local person to meet you, get you settled and offer suggestions, all for a reasonable price. When we went Untours offered a kids go free program in Switzerland. Worth checking out, especially for 1st timers.

JazzDrew is offline  
Feb 26th, 2012, 07:06 AM
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Posts: 2,863
Russ has great advice about renting an apartment in Germany and Austria. In some cases you may need an apartment and another room. We (family of 4) rented apartments twice on our recent trip. Group tickets for train travel are also a bargain.

In Salzburg also visit the ice caves in Werfen, and of course do the salt mines.

The two apts we stayed at on our trip in Rothenburg and Salzburg would work for your family. Click on my name for a link to my trip report. I also wrote a more complete report at www.bensbauernhof.com - a great site for practical information.
bigtyke is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 04:16 PM
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London ! Paris and Rome are the big three. They have the most to offer. If you planned a week in each, say flying into London, Chunnel training on the Eurostar to Paris the flying to Rome and coming Bach home from Rome you would get the big three and a wonderful sampler of Europe. You will find something for everyone in each city.

I go back to Germany over and over so I understand the draw there. Dropping one of the three above and substituting Munich for a week you could day trip to Salzburg, Neuschwanstein, Rothenberg, Dachau and more.

With the ages of the kids I assume you are planning this trip in Summer. If you decide to use a rent car for legs of the trip, I have had good luck arranging a car through Gemütlichkeit Travel Gemüt.com
AisleSeat is offline  

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