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First Time Family Trip to Europe

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Nov 9th, 2012, 11:01 AM
  #1
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First Time Family Trip to Europe

Looking for any and all advice. We are taking our two kids (10 and 12) to Europe this summer for 4 weeks. I will be alone with the kids for the first two weeks and my husband will join us for the last two. This is the first trip outside of the country for both kids.. We're thinking of making an itinerary that hits two or three major cities as home base (Maybe London and Paris?) and do day or overnight trips kind of hub and spoke. For first timers, do you have any recommendations on best cities and best accomodations (assuming we'd stay in each for over a week)? We're super excited about this, but also a little intimidated trying to figure out an itinerary with so many options out there. Also, we had one friend absolutely swear by using an apartment-by-owner rental type of deal. But we had another who was equally adamant that it's not a good idea in Europe. Any thoughts there?
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Nov 9th, 2012, 11:11 AM
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Staying a week in each city makes sense. An apartment might be the way to go in terms of lodging.

There are lots of things that are within a day's trip from Paris: Chartres, Versailles, Giverny (Monet's garden), Fontainebleau--the list is almost endless. Count on at lest 4 days within the city with three outings to provide a change.

Get the Michelin Green Guide for Paris.

For children: they might like a boat ride on the Canal St. Martin, and if you can do it one way to La Villette, add the hands-on Science Museum. If they are interested in music, the Cité de la Musique in the same area offers exhibits to which the music of the period is attached; e.g. in front of the exhibit of Baroque instruments one can hear over the headphones samples of Baroque music.

To whet your appetite:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...7624827228334/
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Nov 9th, 2012, 11:12 AM
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oh yes - someone who isn't trying to see the whole of europe in a week - what a great trip for your kids.

I'd suggest that you think of three different and differing places, [or at least go to somewhere different in between 2 cities] and definitely consider apartments/villas. They give you much more space and freedom than hotels AND are normally cheaper.

London would be a good place for your first stop - fewer language problems for the kids - and loads for you to do, as well as being a safe place if you are there by yourself with them for the first part of the trip. Paris or Rome would be great places to finish in. in between - the south of france, an italian lake, or even walking in the Bernese Oberland would be good options, depending on what you all like to do.
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Nov 9th, 2012, 11:16 AM
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One option w/ 4 weeks is to have 4 base cities and rent apartments in each one.

Could be London, Paris, plus one other city in the UK (like maybe Edinburgh) and one additional place you've always wanted to visit (Rome or Barcelona or Munich or Amsterdam or anywhere)

Or London, a week in a rental/rural cottage in SW England or Yorkshire, or maybe Scotland, Paris, and one other place. Or it could be London, Paris and two weeks touring around 'baseless' - like one week in rural England and one week in southern France.

You have TONS of options.
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Nov 9th, 2012, 12:37 PM
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Renting an apartment is an excellent idea, imo.

Did your friend have a bad experience? What were their objections?

What are your interests? Are you an active outdoors family?
Do you take your children to museums?

Is there a city to where your husband has been and not really interested in returning?
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Nov 9th, 2012, 12:38 PM
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Oh I forgot to ask, are you planning to learn langauges with the children prior to the trip?
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Nov 9th, 2012, 12:53 PM
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"But we had another who was equally adamant that it's not a good idea in Europe."

Didn't see that bit. My guess us that friend either hasn't rented flats in Europe - or - didn't do adequate research first.

There are (quite literally) thousands of threads on here about apartments in Europe and the VAST majority (like almost all) are positive.
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Nov 9th, 2012, 12:58 PM
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London is catnip for the hobbits. If you're planning to learn languages, you should consider teaching them English. ;-) If you have boy(s), they'll go nuts over the various transport, castle, military and science museums and activities. Any kid will go whacko over the food options (go to Fortnum and Mason and see how long it takes to extract them).

Edinburgh is worth a few nights, but if "this summer" is August, you need to make your plans NOW: Edinburgh triples in size in August due to the numerous festivals it hosts.

And how you arrange this will depend on what you want to concentrate on when you're with the lesser half v. when he's not around.
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Nov 9th, 2012, 01:09 PM
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I am in the middle of a 10 week trip with my children (8 and 10) through Europe at the moment. I got all of our rentals through homeaway.com and they have all worked out great. I made sure to rent places that had good reviews and then communicated with the owners by email to get a feel. I think its a great idea to stay in each place for at least a week. We had a few parts of our itinerary that were only 2 - 4 nights and the transitions were exhausting! Plus the kids like to get settled in to a place that feels like home (another reason for apts or cottages instead of hotels). They loved London and Paris so I would definitely suggest those. Their favorite place so far has been Belgium - this came as a bit of a surprise to me but we had a great rental experience so that had a lot to do with it. Also the people are super friendly and everyone will happily speak English. Currently we are in the Dordogne region of France and it is wonderful - so many caves and castles to see here. It would be worth considering. I can't comment on Italy yet because we are headed there next for three weeks (covering Venice, Florence, the Abruzzo region, and Rome). We relied on public transportation in London and Paris and then rented a car for Belgium, Normandy, and the Dordogne. If you decide to check out this area, I found that a car rental was more economical for a family than train tickets. It also gives you the freedom of flexibility. Another option is ryanair as they have dirt cheap plane fares throughout Europe. For us, with kids this age, it has worked well to alternate time in a big city with time in more remote locations. Hope this helps. I know it is overwhelming! We planned for 10 months and I'm still doing research along the way. Good luck and have fun!
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Nov 9th, 2012, 01:14 PM
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Try not to miss the Ceremony of the Keys in the Tower. It was just wonderful. You MUST get tickets beforehand. Google it and you'll get lots of info.

This is from another's forum site:
Send a letter requesting tickets, include; names,address, quanity, dates (include alternate dates)to:
Resident Govenor and Keeper of the Jewel House
H.M. Tower of London
Ceremony of the Keys
London, England
EC3N 4AB

Also, you must include a self-addressed envelope with postage. The postage is called an international reply coupon and can be purchaed at your post office. I bought 2, just in case 1 was not enough. They are only $1.25 each. Include these with your letter. The response takes about 3 weeks to reply and the ceramony starts at 9:30 promptly.

Just be sure to check that the above is the most recent info. on it.
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Nov 9th, 2012, 01:45 PM
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I suggest spending some of your time staying in the countryside with a pool and a car. It would be nice to experience a change of pace from the cities. Maybe somewhere in the south of France or the Dolomites in northern Italy.

As others have expressed- stay in apartments.
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Nov 9th, 2012, 01:47 PM
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Nov 9th, 2012, 06:51 PM
  #13
 
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You absolutely can't go wrong renting a place in the Dordogne for a week with kids. SO much to do and see (though August is a madhouse).

Whoever was adamant about not renting an apartment (villa, cottage, house) in Europe must be mad. It's a HUGE and thriving industry and the VAST majority of people who've done it (including those who've rented my house) have had the time of their lives and saved a boatload of money. Especially with kids, it makes all the sense in the world.

I would personally do London, Paris, the Dordogne, and Tuscany or Umbria.
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Nov 9th, 2012, 09:45 PM
  #14
 
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>>Oh I forgot to ask, are you planning to learn langauges with the children prior to the trip?<<

It could be fun for them to get them to explore:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/

as well as public transport options:
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/default.aspx
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/15101.aspx
http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_21879/tourists/
http://www.ratp.fr/plan-interactif/
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Nov 10th, 2012, 08:53 AM
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I think brushing up on a local langauge adds to the excitement of the trip. Besides it's handier than looking up places to eat
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Nov 10th, 2012, 10:13 AM
  #16
 
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I agree with those that suggest at least one week outside of a city. One year we rented a cottage in Scotland (with boys 9 and 11) and had a great time taking day trips. Last year we stayed in apartments (for less than a week) in Germany and Austria.

We rented directly with the owners via their websites. No problem at all.

For France, search 'gites' both on this forum and the web for great info.
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Nov 10th, 2012, 11:41 AM
  #17
 
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http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...



http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ead.cfm



Jump to the bottom of the thread and then scroll up to Dec 31,2010. In that section, I have categorized the recommended hotels, by district, and have provided websites.



If you're looking for an apartment, you can try#8232;


www.parisbestlodge.com



www.homeaway.com



www.vrbo.com


www.airbnb.com




Happy Travels!
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Nov 10th, 2012, 02:42 PM
  #18
 
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indydad, I love reading all your blogs. As a parents of similar aged kids, I love to read about other families traveling to Europe. While we can't match your quantity, we've had some fun trips over the years.

KingFam, I'll try and come back and share thoughts... but we like the combination of city and country. If you have the time, you could visit some fun things outside the city centers.
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Nov 10th, 2012, 02:56 PM
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Thanks, surfmom. We are very fortunate to be here in the UK and are trying to make the most of it.

FYI, Scotland has been our favorite holiday so working in some "country" time versus city time would be also be our recommendation. North Wales and the Lake District have also been really nice.
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Nov 11th, 2012, 06:19 PM
  #20
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Thank you to everyone for your great advice. This is once in a lifetime and I don't want to mess this up! Based on your feedback and some additional research, we're thinking about either A) two weeks London, 1 week Paris, 1 week Rome or B) one week Edinburgh, 1 week London, 1 week Paris, 1 week Rome (obviously with day trips here and there). What do you think?

Also, jenninwv, would it possible to somehow get your lodging recommendations for those cities? I'd really appreciate it.
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