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First time Europe trip for family of 4

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Apr 4th, 2016, 09:53 AM
  #1
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First time Europe trip for family of 4

Hi! My family are planning our great european adventure in June. We are a family of 4. My kids are 20 years old and 16 years old. As first time travellers to Europe, we want to visit the must-see places. However, we also have a tight budget.

Our choices are:
1) London-Paris-Venice-Rome-London

Or

2) London-Paris-Amsterdam-London

Please help us out with our itinerary if doable.

1) Which is a better choice, 1 or 2? Are there other options to maximize stay?
2) is this doable for 21 days including travel period?
3) Is June a good time to go?
4) How many days should we stay in one city?
5) Is it cheaper to stay in a budget hotel or Ainbnb?
6) any recommended tours in each city?
7) I love to shop! Where is the nearest shopping outlet that sells a Prada or Givenchy? Can I still squeeze this in the itinerary?

Appreciate all the help you can give.

--Mary
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Apr 4th, 2016, 10:20 AM
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Have you already purchased round-trip flights to London, and is that why you start and end both itineraries there? If not, you should look into open-jaw flights (flying into one city and out of another).

Either way, but especially if you're locked into flying in and out of London, you're better off on a tight budget with option 2, because with option 1 you'll spend a lot of money traveling longer distances.

Either itinerary is perfectly doable for 21 days, and June is a find time to go, but be aware it can get hot, especially in Italy.

With itinerary 2, and assuming you can get an open-jaw flight so you can return from Amsterdam, I'd suggest 7 nights London, 7 nights Paris, and 6 nights Amsterdam. But I'd also suggest maybe considering at least one small-town stop for a few nights, maybe in Bath or Delft or Haarlem.

Start by picking up a good guide book. Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door is a good place to start, plus I'd pick up separate guide books for each destination you decide on. Then, to find out whether it's cheaper to stay in a budget hotel or Airbnb, look at the actual prices listed for hotels you'd be comfortable staying at, and go on the Airbnb website and check out what's available. Because there's no one correct answer to your question #5, except "It depends."

It's kind of late to just start planning for a June trip if you haven't been before and don't have a solid grasp of where you want to go. But don't get discouraged! Make a plan soon, and start working out the details. Then when you have more specific questions, come back and post them here. It's hard to provide useful advice not knowing more about the style of travel that appeals to you, kinds of activities you're interested in, what you consider to be a tight budget, and so forth.
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Apr 4th, 2016, 10:28 AM
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What nocloset said. Plus, if you're on a tight budget, I don't understand looking for designer goods, especially since "outlets" such as they exist in the USA don't exactly exist in Europe. You won't find any bargains even if you do find outlets.

You need to hit the guidebooks to answer your basic questions, and more. Then, when you have what you think is a reasonable plan, people here will be happy to refine it.

You are very late to be planning this. You need to get going.
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Apr 4th, 2016, 10:38 AM
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Designer outlet "Biscester Village" https://www.bicestervillage.com/en/home/

Cheap place to stay in London. yha.org.uk don't be put off about anything you have heard about hostels this is the bees-knees.

London is big, biggest in Europe. So you want at least 7 nights here (plan by nights), travel costs money so I'd look at Paris and Amsterdam. Then work out your budget for Rome or Venice..

Time is a wasting June is closing in.

Fodorite janisj does great London, flick through the recent London questions here and you'll find answers you never knew you needed the answers to.

Public transport is nearly always the right answer before you ask, but get a car pick up at Heathrow.
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Apr 4th, 2016, 10:48 AM
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A couple of notes:

If you don't have the plane tickets yet check out open jaws (called multi-destination on web sites) tickets. this will avoid wasting the time and money to get back to London the day before your flight.

Agree that # 2 is probably better for you budget since it;s all trains and if you buy the tickets in advance (as in now) you can get good discounts - esp for the Eurostar from London to Paris. Do not wait until the last minute or you will and up paying 3 times as much for the same seat.

As for shopping, europe does not specialize in discount malls (that's why so many europeans come to the US to shop, since things are so much cheaper here) - and if you are truly on a tight budget I would not think about buying a $2500 designer purse for $2,000 as the best use of limited funds.

You haven;t told us anything about yourselves so we don;t know your interests, if you want to see some countryside as well as cities - and if you want to focus on: museums, churches, castles/palaces, fine dining, hiking, biking, clog dancing, archery, beaches, mountains ??????

You really need to give us more info.

Also you kids are well old enough to do a lot of the planning. Make sure they get hold of the Let's Go Student guides and the Thorn Tree section of the Lonely Planet web site so they can learn what local young people reco in terms of activities, pubs/clubs etc. And be sure to allow enough time for the group to break into component parts (kids will probably want different night life than you do) and perhaps some times by specific interests.

Our first trip with DDs, then 11 and 14, they did a lot of the work and picked out specific places they wanted to see as well as a couple of restaurants and a ballet in each city. And a coule of days they wanted to revisit places the DH and I had enough of and we met them later for dinner.

Please come back with more into/specifics and people can help - but you are very late making arrangements and need to move quickly now. Esp important is your nightly hotel budget in $ or pounds/euros and if you want to put all 4 of you in one room (we got our DDs their own since there was no way I would share a bath with 2 tween/teen girls) or want 2 rooms.
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Apr 4th, 2016, 12:41 PM
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Heed nytraveler's advice about booking train tickets early (you are not traveling enough to look at railpasses) - not only Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) but in Italy at www.trenitalia.com. There is also an overnight train between Paris and Venice (www.thello.com) that save daytime travel time even over flying and the cost of a night in a hotel. For lots of stuff on European trains and night trains check www.seat61.com - great info on discounted tickets; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

The sons may want to stay in youth hostels or youth hotels sometimes as folks their ages from all over the world gather there - a great adventure - also can cost accommodation costs (but adults will not like hostels though some have family rooms).
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Apr 4th, 2016, 01:18 PM
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You will probably want to have two bathrooms, plus the possibility of more space. Apartments in Paris can provide this, but at a luxury price.

Since this is your first European trip, I would recommend two adjoining (or as close as you can get) hotel rooms in a budget hotel in Paris. If you want to stay together, you will need a "quad" room, which normally has only one bathroom. Budget hotels are clean, rooms are small, but you'll have "real" beds, fresh linens, enough hot water and air conditioning if needed.

You will likely need the support of front desk staff on your first trip, instead of being left to figure things out on your own in an apartment. You are allowed to bring food and drinks back to your hotel room, as long as you clean up after yourself. Many hotels have minibars - if you plan to fill it with your own food, you can ask to have it emptied before you arrive.

You can always leave your luggage in a hotel if your room is not ready - apartments do not normally allow this unless you rent the night before you arrive. Many people choose apartments because there's a washing machine - but these machines take 2 hours or more to wash a small load, and there are not usually dryers available. Rinsing things out in the sink or going to the nearest coin laundry (there are many, much more efficient than apt. units) would be much faster.

You didn't state a budget, but there are plenty of clean, safe, conveniently located hotels in Paris for around 100 - 150 EU. Some include breakfast and free wi-fi. Go to booking.com or hotels.com and search in the Latin Quarter (5th, 6th arrondissements), or the Bastille/Nation area (11th, 12th arr.) for good deals.
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Apr 5th, 2016, 01:11 AM
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(but adults will not like hostels though some have family rooms).

huh?

both yha and danhostel are full of adults, many over 50
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Apr 5th, 2016, 01:22 AM
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Watch out for bedbugs.

http://www.thelocal.fr/20140829/france-bedbugs
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Apr 5th, 2016, 01:46 AM
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For Paris, I usually stay at http://www.cosmos-hotel-paris.com.

Clean, no frills, no frou-frou "luxury" and added services, but reasonably smart decor, good wifi and a staffed reception desk (not professional concierges, but there will be someone there). Good public transport connections. Not the most chic or upmarket of neighbourhoods, but equally, not overloaded with overpriced tourist traps.
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Apr 5th, 2016, 02:45 AM
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sparkchaser - you can pick up bedbugs anywhere. Hostels and budget hotels are not the cesspools they used to be.

Chain hotels, luxury hotels, doesn't matter - if the people who were there before you had bedbugs, lice or tse-tse flies, you'll end up with them too.

On the other hand, hotels and hostels are held to a higher standard of cleanliness and must pass occasional city inspections. Apartments are illegal, and are never inspected for fire or sanitary codes. Most apartments never benefit from regular mattress or pillow deep-cleaning or replacement.
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Apr 5th, 2016, 03:09 AM
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Just say no to bedbugs.
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Apr 5th, 2016, 05:50 AM
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1) London-Paris-Venice-Rome-London

Or

2) London-Paris-Amsterdam-London

I'd pick neither. I'd go London > Paris > Venice > Rome and fly home from there perhaps. Returning all the way to London seems a waste of your valuable time unless it is a must. If you can't change your tickets, then it would still be doable if you can perhaps get a flight into London from Rome (or Amsterdam if that ends up being your choice).

Please help us out with our itinerary if doable.

1) Which is a better choice, 1 or 2? Are there other options to maximize stay?

I'd say personal choice with either quite nice.

2) is this doable for 21 days including travel period?

With 21 days, I think you'd perhaps want to add a couple of day trips out of each city if you do London, Paris, and Amsterdam. It might be interesting if you took a ferry back from the continent and stopped along the way to see a few things returning to London, alternatively. You'd get to see a bit of the coast that way, too. If you try to hit Rome and Venice, I'd say fly to one and then fly back to London from the other is your best bet. You'll easily fill 4 days in Rome.

3) Is June a good time to go?
4) How many days should we stay in one city?

My experience is there are never enough days in Paris and London because there is so much to do. I'd say a minimum of 4 full days in each of those. Also I would recommend you look into the Paris Museum pass if you're doing a June trip especially. I know I was extremely glad not to have to queue up for tickets only to queue up yet again for entry everywhere we went.

5) Is it cheaper to stay in a budget hotel or Ainbnb?
6) any recommended Tours in each city?

We have very much enjoyed every London Walks tour we've done. If you love ghost tales by firelight, the Ghost Bus was a lot of fun though a tad expensive. We concluded it was worth it if nothing else because it was something we could do in the off hours of the evening in the end. In Paris if you want to go up the Eiffel Tower you can book in advance online and I highly recommend it. The line was several hours when we were last there and that was in the off season, but we were able to go right up at our appointed time on the dot.

7) I love to shop! Where is the nearest shopping outlet that sells a Prada or Givenchy? Can I still squeeze this in the itinerary?

I'm not a big shopper when I travel, but I've had friends rave about the shopping in Florence, Italy. Prada has 3 shops in Paris, but they don't really do outlets like the US in France. They've got an outlet in Italy, but it is just outside of Tuscany. Givenchy has a shop in . La Vallée Village which is a Chic Outlet Shopping Village. Somewhere I read one was also to open in Bicester Village last year in London, but I don't know if that has happened as of yet.
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Apr 5th, 2016, 08:42 AM
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First things first:

You MUST go to www.daysoutguide.co.uk and print two of every voucher for every site that interests you. When you go to London, have passport-size headshots for all four of you and buy 7-day paper travelcards from a national rail station (e.g., Victoria, Waterloo, Clapham Junction, Paddington, etc. - not on the level of the London Underground trains, the level of the commuter and intercity trains). Even if you're only in London 5 nights, you will break even on transport with week-long passes. Do NOT buy Oyster cards. Do NOT buy London Pass. Buy only 7-day Zone 1-2 travelcards that are orange, flimsy, plastic-coated, size about the same as your credit card.

Here's why: 2for1. You get TWO entries for the price of one at the London sites for which you have vouchers. But ONLY with the paper travelcards, not with Oyster cards or single-ride tickets. Places that participate in the voucher system include the Tower of London (almost always), St. Paul's (frequently), Cabinet/Churchill War Rooms (usually), and special paid-entry exhibits at some of the various museums. There are four of you, two 2for1 entries at the Tower will save you about 45 pounds (depending upon what the 16-year old otherwise would have had to pay) and that's $70 savings.

As for the rest of this:

1) Which is a better choice, 1 or 2? Are there other options to maximize stay?

Neither. Fly open jaw. To book this, you can use the "multi-city" option on whatever website you're using to book tickets.

2) is this doable for 21 days including travel period?

Either is, especially if you fly open jaw.

3) Is June a good time to go?

Uh, sure. Theoretically. At least the French and Italians won't all be on vacation like in August. Supposedly it'll be cooler than July and August but that could be wrong.

4) How many days should we stay in one city?

A week or more in London, pushing a week in Paris and Rome. Venice needs like 3 days. But if you're really nipping at the edge of the budget on this, skip Venice altogether - you get the least for the most there.

5) Is it cheaper to stay in a budget hotel or Ainbnb?

Speak in terms of actual numbers per night for lodging. I wouldn't use Airbnb for Italy or France. Not enough recourse if you get screwed. At least the Brits have a legal system that's navigable for Americans.

Note that Paris has severe restrictions on short-term rental flats. Note also that London has a whole industry of vacation rentals so airbnb is unnecessary - just go googling. And vacation rentals have all sorts of price points.

6) any recommended [t]ours in each city?

I want to know why capitalized "Tours" popped up with a link to the French city Tours - is this a Fodors formatting thing on the posts?

London and Paris have Fat Tire Bike tours, if you're all relatively ambulatory. London has a ton(ne) of walking tours, many of the best are available at www.walks.com.

7) I love to shop! Where is the nearest shopping outlet that sells a Prada or Givenchy? Can I still squeeze this in the itinerary?

Don't kid yourself, the best prices are probably in the U.S. And to get even equivalent prices in Europe, you'll have to go through the VAT refund process, which tends to be a complete pain.
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Apr 5th, 2016, 09:43 AM
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Big Russ, great advice!
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Apr 5th, 2016, 03:41 PM
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Really good advice here.

I'm with fuzzbucket and recommend staying in hotels for your first trip. Having staff available could be useful as well as being able to book 2 rooms and have 2 baths. The Ibis hotel chain (French I think) offers clean rooms in pretty useful locations. I am sure you can search the boards here for threads with recommendations or try booking websites.
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Apr 5th, 2016, 03:52 PM
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Oh yeah, another note.

Look: you want to shop and buy a bunch of stuff, that's fine. But if you buy at your first destination and get a ton of whatever (dresses, men's furnishings, leather goods, etc.) that costs a decent amount of coin, then ship it - if you obtained that stuff at one or two shops, you should have the merchant ship it to the US and the merchant will (make sure of this) write up the transaction as an international sale and WILL NOT CHARGE THE VAT. Buy enough goods and the no-VAT will pay for the shipping and leave money in your pocket.
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Apr 5th, 2016, 05:22 PM
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You may love to shop but you will be astounded at the prices in Europe. Just a FYI--people have told you there aren't "outlets" like we supposedly have. There are GREAT buys for leather, etc. in Italy. It isn't gonna be "brands".
IN Paris, at least, stay in hotels--Ibis is a good thought--squeaky clean, small rooms, rooms for the kids and for the parents at maybe 80E each. Think bathrooms, etc. Use the desk for reservations and ideas for touring.
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Apr 6th, 2016, 09:56 AM
  #19
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Thank you all for your tips and suggestions! Appreciate it!

I'm doing a lot of research, checking the sites you've mentioned. I don't want to waste time and book the trains early.

After some thought, we finally decided to do the: London-Paris-Amsterdam-London.
Yeah, I know, got the round trip tickets. With this, can I still squeeze in 1 more city nearby? Any suggestions?

We just want to tour the cities, visit museums, churches. Know the history, eat local food. Any restaurants, cafes we should try? Not too fancy but reasonably priced. My husband loves drinking beer. ��

Now, that you mentioned it, BigRuss. I saw that in my original post, the 'tour' is now capitalized and tied to a link. Awwww!... Fodors, what happened?
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Apr 6th, 2016, 10:50 AM
  #20
 
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Bruxelles. Some don't like it - their loss. I lived there and it is a great city but requires some planning

On the way from amsterdam to London or Paris.

I was yesterday in a family hotel that I really appreciated and found cheap for Paris : 200 euros a night for 4. Check my tripreport that I wrote if interested.

Enjoy Europe !
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