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First post - my itinerary highly influenced by this forum

First post - my itinerary highly influenced by this forum

Jun 5th, 2007, 01:47 PM
  #1  
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First post - my itinerary highly influenced by this forum

This is my first post, so I'd appreciate if you guys would take it easy on me. I try to spell and punctuate correctly, but I was not an English major.

My family (me, my husband, and our 12 and 15 year old daughters) will be flying into Paris on July 23, arriving at approx 7 am (yikes!). Check in for our hotel (Hotel de l'Elysee in the 8th arr.) isn't until 3 pm. We plan to take the train from the airport to the metro (this is free if you have a railpass, correct?). Then we will purchase Paris Visite passes to give us unlimited travel on the Metro for three days. We will each be toting a 24" rolling upright suitcase (recommended for rail travel by folks on this forum), a carry-on such as a tote bag, and possibly a purse (I will probably get a Metro-safe purse although my husband thinks this is overkill). Hopefully we will be able to get all of this stuff from the metro station to the hotel, which is 600 meters from Madeleine station. We will spend three nights in Paris and I have already scoured the Zagat Survey website and picked out various good, reasonably priced restaurants in all of the areas we are likely to visit. We will likely concentrate on shopping, eating, and gawking at the sights. I understand that the sales will still be occurring during that time. We will probably not spend much time in museums, although I thought that Wednesday night would be good, as the Louvre is open late that evening. With any luck, it won't be too crowded.

I have taken the advice of many on this site and determined what my best rail option would be, and I'm better off getting a 5 day, 3 country pass than individual tickets, even though we are only planning on using 3 of those days. We paid to upgrade our kids to first class, since you can't get a second-class Selectpass and you can't get a youth first class pass.

After three days and nights in Paris, we will take the rail to Lausanne, Switzerland and then switch to the Golden Pass route for the remainder of the trip to Wengen, where we will stay at the Hotel Eiger for two nights. I chose both the hotel and the town because of recommendations from you folks.

After our brief stay in Wengen, we will travel by rail to Fuessen, Germany, where we have reservations at the Hotel Kurcafe. We have reserved an English speaking guided tour of Neuschwanstein castle for the following morning. Then we're off to Frankfurt.

I probably haven't allowed enough time in Switzerland and it is a lot of traveling. However, I think that the train days will not be boring since we will be going through some very scenic areas. It will also give us a break from the intensity of all of the man-made buildings and monuments of Paris.

Once in Frankfurt, we will rent a car and take a short drive to my second cousin's house, where we will spend a week with her and her family. She is my age and has 8 and 3 year old daughters. We will take day trips from her place. Likely places: Essen (where my grandfather grew up and also where my dad's first cousin lives), Luxembourg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber (yes, I know it's touristy, but I'm a tourist so I think I can handle it), Bad Homburg spa, a sommerrodelbahn (very high on my 12 year old's list), and perhaps Burg Eltz. I think we will just decide what to do on which days when we get there. My cousin is planning a barbeque with their friends while we're there, so that should be fun. We will fly out of Frankfurt.

I recently got a pre-screened offer for a Capital One No Hassles credit card, so I will probably go ahead and get that (thank you Fodorites for the advice on this one).

We got our passports a year ago thankfully, even though we didn't plan this trip until 4 months ago.

I think I have all of my ducks in a row and things look good on paper. My big problem will be keeping my kids from getting in each other's hair too much. They fight a lot, even at home. If any of you know of good tips for sibling peace, let me know.
KatherineAM is offline  
Jun 5th, 2007, 02:33 PM
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Hi KatherineAM,

Do you know how long your train rides are? Paris to Wengen on the Golden Pass route is nine hours (the fast route is seven hours); Wengen to Fuessen is 9-10 hours.

It really will be too much of a good thing; you'll snooze through a lot of it. I think you need either more time in Wengen to make the looong journeys worthwhile or another mountain destination that's not quite so far out of your way.

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Jun 5th, 2007, 02:33 PM
  #3  
 
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Welcome KatherineAM! I'm sure everyone will be nice to you here I can't really comment on your specific itinerary, but do have some general thoughts on traveling with two daughters!

We've been traveling in Europe with our two girls since they were 11 and 13, and I'll say that travel seems to bring out the best in them. We've had very little conflict on our trips (usually 2 weeks).

Our family loves train travel. The girls enjoy the views, take naps, listen to iPods, etc. Everything is interesting for them - including how the trains are set up and how the food is served, etc. This is still true, even though they are both in college now.

The train compartments are great. It's especially easy if you end up not sharing the compartment, but we've had some memorable trips making friends with our compartment mates. We usually buy food to take with us on the train - rail stations usually have a good selection we've found.

I'd recommend a smaller suitcase, especially for your girls (but really for all of you). Staying with relatives, you'll probably be able to do laundry. Even if not, we've done 2 week trips in central Europe in the winter, with much bulkier clothing, with just 21" suitcases each and no laundry done. It makes a difference when you hop on and off the trains. Each of us brings a nylon duffle bag folded flat in the outside pocket of the suitcase. As we travel and accumulate things, we fill the duffles with laundry, and they clip to the suitcases for ease of navigation in train stations. For your extra piece, I'd bring a bookbag type backpack rather than a tote (especially the girls) as it will leave your hands free.

The best thing we did was to buy each of them a small notebook and encourage them to keep a journal. They've pretty much done this on every trip abroad (as have I, starting with my first visit to Germany/Austria in 1983!) and the journals are priceless to have now. Their views are so fresh and they notice the most amazing little details. (Writing also occupies their time on the trains.)

I've been typing up my daughter's journal from our first family trip to Europe (Scotland 1999) when she was 13, and it is precious. I've been laughing out loud at some of her observations. I plan to make a little book on www.blurb.com, combining her journal entries with our trip pictures.
noe847 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2007, 02:42 PM
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To take the train (RER) from CDG you would buy a ticket, you would not be using a Rail Pass. Cost is 8,10 euro per ticket. From the RER you would need to transfer to the Metro.

Your ticket is good till you exit the system.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jun 5th, 2007, 02:44 PM
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That's an awful lot of time on trains. Believe it or not, even in Switzerland they are not always that scenic (as often train tracks go thru the back and/or less scenic parts of town, or simply thru dense woods. Believe me 9 hour day-time train rides can get plenty boring, especially for kids, no matter what you are looking at.

I'm no expert on itineraries, and I do love the time I've spent in Switzerland (5 trips so far) but think you might want to make a spreadsheet of your time in transit and take a look at the figures.
suze is online now  
Jun 5th, 2007, 02:50 PM
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Hi Katherine

You're doing great so far - you'll have a fabulous trip I'm sure.

This may be too late for you, but if you haven't bought the 24" suitcases, try to get by with a 22" or smaller. I usually travel with a 21" but my last trip had to take a 24" and I about died! It got very heavy and hard to make train changes, hauling up and down stairs, etc.

Have your kids practice pack and walk up and down a flight of stairs with a full suitcase a couple of times quickly. That will get them to see how it is in real train stations.

My kids (all girls) were veteren OVERpackers until their last trip they took by themselves with 25" bags. Lots of trains. They swore they will never travel that way again.
canterbury is offline  
Jun 5th, 2007, 02:55 PM
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I want to join in on encouraging you to rethink the size of your bags, particularly since you will each also have a carryon and will have access to laundry facilities. Because you are travelling by train, I really think your daughters in particular will be sorry to have to deal with such bulky bags. Just my two cents.

Have a wonderful trip! Sounds like you've really thought it through.
Eleni is offline  
Jun 5th, 2007, 03:03 PM
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I didn't notice that you will have a carry-on and possibly a purse as well. TOO much!

I had a cross body purse as well as my 24" suitcase (packed full with stuff I was bringing my daughter who's living in the Netherlands). I am very weak and it was really hard on me. Maybe you're stronger, but my kids are much stronger but still had a hard time.

Note: To the rest of my kids who will be doing a semester abroad:

I am going on record - I will NOT be your mule!! Please buy everything you need when you get there!!
canterbury is offline  
Jun 5th, 2007, 03:45 PM
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Welcome!

I third (or is it 4th) the idea to try to downsize the suitcases.

Just one other minor point - "Hopefully we will be able to get all of this stuff from the metro station to the hotel, which is 600 meters from Madeleine station" That may seem like "only 600 meters . . ." But even w/ just 21 inch roller bags, do you really want to walk more than 6 1/2 football fields, w/ luggage, in a place you are unfamiliar w/, jet lagged after a sleepless 24 - 36 hours??

You don't want everyone to hate Paris before you even see any of it. For 4 of you I'd recommend either a taxi all the way in from CDG, or the RER and then a taxi to the hotel.
janisj is offline  
Jun 5th, 2007, 04:01 PM
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You seem to have already fixed this itinerary, but I have to second the comments from Swandav2000. Out of the first 7 days of your trip, you'll spend 2 of them sitting on trains. I love Switzerland (and the Wengen area is gorgeous), but the 2 days there will cost you 2 additional days of travel.

And I hope you will reconsider your plan to "not spend much time in museums in Paris."
Jean is online now  
Jun 5th, 2007, 04:07 PM
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I always use a 24" suitcase these days. It works just fine for train travel in Switzerland (just don't pack it too heavy).

Plus I recommend to make your tote your purse, or put the purse in the tote, so you only have 2 items each to keep track of as you move about.
suze is online now  
Jun 5th, 2007, 04:08 PM
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Suitcases are too big and you're spending too much time on trains.
StCirq is online now  
Jun 6th, 2007, 04:00 AM
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I don't think a 24" suitcase is too big for a normal, healthy adult or teenager; as long as the 12 year old can handle hers on her own. On longer trips we take a couple of 26" suitcases and have never experienced any life-altering difficulties. Though it is true that the lighter you are willing to travel, the easier it is to get around. So ideally you'd take no luggage at all--only what you can stuff into your pockets.
Jake1 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2007, 04:03 AM
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I think it sounds good. You are clearly aware of the time you'll be spending on trains and are ok with that. It's a nice way to travel. Have a lovely time.
nona1 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2007, 06:59 AM
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As usual, great advice from everyone who took the time to reply to me.

As to the luggage...my husband has been resisting the 'traveling light' idea. I have one 24" upright but have not bought anything for the kids. I will fill up my suitcase and have the kids take it up and down the stairs in our house to see how they handle it.

I was concerned about the distance from the metro station to the hotel. A taxi sounds like a good, but expensive idea. I will toss that idea around in my head some.

Regarding the time of train travel, yes, I was (and am) aware of the time involved on the train and am a bit concerned about the time spent on the trains for this trip. My thinking was that the experience of seeing all of that spectacular scenery would make the trip interesting rather than boring.

We will explore museums, but do not want to be fighting the kids if they are bored or if their feet hurt. I do want to see the d'Orsay.

Our last vacation, a one week cruise, was nearly a disaster because my oldest was really moody and didn't want to be with her little sister.
KatherineAM is offline  
Jun 6th, 2007, 07:05 AM
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For folks planning a rail trip i always refer two sources with excellent info: www.ricksteves.com - his sight gives good rundown of railpasses and their efficacy; and www.budgeteuropetravel.com to get their free and excellent European Planning & Rail Guide, a good primer on using trains and railpasses, etc.
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 6th, 2007, 07:13 AM
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Hi again,

You wrote, "My thinking was that the experience of seeing all of that spectacular scenery would make the trip interesting rather than boring."

It will never take the place of actually getting your feet on the mountain. I always suggest travellers stay longer and experience the scenery with all five senses rather than seeing it through a train window (like a tv screen).

And, believe me, nine hours is about five hours too much of a good thing.

But, yes, it is your choice.

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Jun 6th, 2007, 07:26 AM
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hi, Katherine,

here's a few trips from a seasoned traveller with older kids.

get a taxi from CDG to hotel. with four of you, it won't cost that much more than the RER and you'll be much more relaxed.

between 4 of you you need only two full-sized suitcases. One for you and DH, another for the kids. you can always do laundry at the hotel, or if not, a visit to a french launderette will be a good experience for the girls. if you end up buying Paris, you can always buy another one while you're there.

don't worry about the train journeys. they are far less stressful than plane travel - no nonsense about one carry-on for starters. equip them with i-pods and plenty to eat and they'll be fine.

and in a train, you can usually make them move into another seat if they are squabbling - can't do that on a plane!

looks like a great trip,

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Jun 6th, 2007, 07:52 AM
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yk
 
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24" suitcases are really too big. I have a 20" which I travel with - no matter how long the trip is and whether it's summer or winter.

Once I made the mistake of using a 24" and regretted every minute of it. Your husband will end up be the one schlepping all the suitcases.

Also agree with taking a taxi to your hotel on the first day. If you can afford to travel first class on the trains, you can afford the taxi fare.

You said your kids "fight a lot, even at home" - I wonder how it'll be for them to spend 9 hours on a train together...
yk is offline  
Jun 6th, 2007, 08:52 AM
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Do not take the train and subway to your hotel. Belive me i took a very small rollon on the subway and it was a nightmare. Their are stairs and long hallways you have to tranverse. Take a cab service to your hotel. You are going to be tired and this ride will be well worth the money. If you get a chance check out my web site for some agenda of our Paris trips. emilyandjim.info ... have fun.

jim
Oscar_James is offline  

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