First time to Europe-family of 5

Old Nov 9th, 2015, 04:36 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 26
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
First time to Europe-family of 5

We are debating on the best way to see Europe-our children are 19, 16, 15. We would go in June and would have about 10-14 days. Our budget is about $3,000-4,000 each. This will probably be the only time we could take a trip like this.

At first of course we considered doing the bus tour-seeing as much as possible, but the more I look into it, the less I think the idea is right for us. My husband thought we would see more of the "country side" being on the bus. While the idea of someone telling us where to go and what to do sounds like it would be nice as we wouldn't have to plan anything. I also know I don't want to be hurdled like cattle and we like to go off and explore on our own.

My husband does not like the open water, so we thought one of the Mediterranean cruises was out of the question. But I have him considering it as we would only have to pack/unpack once and I think the kids would get more sleep and we wouldn't be on a tight schedule. I know there are many advantages to this, but so many options of Cruise lines.

We also looked into the possibility of a river cruise, but I don't think we would see the major cities and I have read that water level may dampen the trip.

So, what advise do you have for us? We haven't told the kids yet as we are making sure it can happen first and thinking it will be a Christmas present. After we tell them, they will do some exploring online and tell us what they would like to see. We do have a meeting with a travel agent, but I know the more questions I ask here, the better I am prepared to meet with her.

Thanks in advance!
mominthepark is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 04:51 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,297
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
My honest opinion is that with teens you will not want to do an organized tour or a cruise. Instead, you will want to focus on choosing places that appeal to the things and activities that your particular family is interested in doing and seeing. Also, think about your kids sleeping patterns. If they are like most teens, I am assuming that they are not going to be too cheery about having to be up, breakfasted and out the door ready to wait for the tour group every morning at 8:00. Tour groups plan days that match the average expectation of the average person in the age group they tend to cater to, and you've got a difficult demographic here.

In your shoes, I'd make this a family project. Tell the kids what your total budget is and get them involved in planning what they want to do. Most travel agents also all suggest the same, typical things that are most commonly of interest to the average tourist. They will not know anything about your family's special interests or desires.

Finally, with a family of five, I'd look for apartments to stay in rather than relying on hotels. Typical European hotel rooms are quite small, and you will be spending a lot trying to find accommodation that will fit all of you in. You'll save a lot of money by being able to have snacks on hand in the fridge and not having to shell out money every single time one of your kids wants something to eat or drink. Breakfasts can easily and cheaply be prepared in an apartment, and part of the fun of being in Europe is going to the grocery store and seeing what different products are available.
julies is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 04:54 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,886
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well I think a cruise is a terrible idea - since you end up with most of your time on the boat and very little time actually seeing europe. Once you account for time disembarking, trekking to the city you are seeing - which can be more than an hour from the port, then do the reverse and get back to the boat on time, you may only end up with 5 or 6 hours in each city. Enough to see 1 or 2 major sights or take the dreaded half day city tour. Part of a day is simply not enough time to see much of anything IMHO.

For instance, to see even the most important sights in rome you need at least 3 days (4 nights), not 5 or 6 hours. Also your teens will have no opportunity to visit local student cafes or pub and meet any european kids.

Either this tip of cruise (fine for those in their 70s and up IMHO) or a bus tour, guarantees you will see the least of europe, spend the most time with other - usually american - tourists and get the least for your time and money.

If you and your kids - they are plenty old enough to help with planning (ours did from the time they were 11 and 14 - are willing to do a little work you will have amuck more enjoyable trip and either spend less money - or see much more for what you are spending. Plus you get to see what YOU want - not what it's easy for a group tour to take you to.

Only use a travel agent for a cruise or tour - they can do nothing for planning your own trip unless you want to travel at the luxury end - which is a much bigger budget than you have (since the agents wither get a commission from the tour/cruise or the cry expensive hotels they put you in). And if you use a travel agent make sure they have traveled extensively in europe - or it's the blind leading the blind.
nytraveler is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 04:55 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 7,763
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
<i>We are debating on the best way to see Europe-our children are 19, 16, 15. We would go in June and would have about 10-14 days. Our budget is about $3,000-4,000 each. This will probably be the only time we could take a trip like this. </i>

Does that budget include airfare? If yes, you are realistically looking at $1800-2800 per person, possibly less. That's still a solid budget though.

Forget a bus tour or a cruise. Rent a van or a wagon.
sparkchaser is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 04:57 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 78,320
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Cruises and bus tours generally attract an older crowd - would you kids like to be with grannies and grandpas the whole time?

I'd either rent a car or do a train trip - for lots on planning a European rail trip check these informative sites: www.ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com (download their free online European Planning & Rail Guide for lots of suggested itineraries; and www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com. a car could be neat - a large car and kids could take turns driving and have fun doing that - like on German autobahns where many stretches have no speed limits!

But if going largely to large tourist meccas cars are a drag now in many cities but if wanting to tour the countryside as well then cars are great. but if mainly a string of large cities stick to the train or plan on hotels well out of the city centre and taje excellent public transportation in cities.
PalenQ is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 05:01 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 7,763
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Europe is a big place. Did you have a particular country you wanted to see? 10-14 days is not a lot of time if you had plans to see four or five countries.
sparkchaser is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 05:03 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,876
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
As others say, NO cruise NO tour bus. We have done this with our children at age 18,16 and 14 for 3 weeks. And again as married adults for a week in Paris. It is more fun than you can imagine. Your budge is really quite good, IMO.
Renting a mini-van for touring outside of cities would be a possibility--or just tour cities and use the excellent public transit in Europe.
I would go to Paris for 5-7 days, maybe doing a day trip to Versailles and then another city if you aren't going to drive any. Maybe London although it will be mmore expensive.
Make your air arrangements open jaw if you do more than one city.
Gretchen is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 05:04 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,876
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I will add that we did a good bit of driving for that length of trip and were able to put our family in a full size Audi (and fall in love with that car!! Got one later!).
Gretchen is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 05:39 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 11,770
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I would prioritize what you want to see/go. That may dictate transportation.
Bitter is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 06:17 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 25,826
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
wow, so possibly the only chance to enjoy Europe when the kids are still able to enjoy a frizbee and a (some of them) a beer.

I'd look for a two centre stay both in appartments.

A city like London/Paris/Amsterdam and a river holiday like the Mosel/Tarn/Loire

The city lets you get out a probably spend more money in a anglophonic environment while being by the river will need a bit more local language skills (though in Germany and France there is always someone who can help out).

Do a bit of hiking, fishing, cycling, boat trips etc
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 06:21 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 7,763
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
<i> and a (some of them) a beer.</i>

If they are in Bavaria, all of them can enjoy a beer. A 15 year old can drink a beer under the parent's supervision.
sparkchaser is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 06:36 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 7,160
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I definitely agree the tour/cruise idea should be jettisoned. But I don't agree about renting a car. You will be limited to a relatively small area. There are hefty surcharges if you rent a car in one country and drop it in another.

The best transportation between European cities is the train. And you can watch the scenery stream by. But 5 train fares for every trip can be daunting. However, if you buy the tickets well ahead of time, usually 90 days, you will pay a fraction of the last minute fare. You will have to stick to a schedule but I wouldn't do anything else with 5 people to herd around.

10 days is very little, just enough for 2 or at most 3 places. Try to extend the time for this trip. Your kids are getting older. It may be the last time you all travel together. This will be a memory you all value.

Planning a trip yourself is a big task. (However, a lot of us at Fodors love it; I'm addicted.) If you enlist the kids to help plan (have they studied any foreign languages?) and ask questions here, you can do this.
Mimar is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 06:42 AM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 49,560
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bus tour - terrible idea with teens. Cruise - terrible idea if you actually want to see anything of Europe. Travel agent - terrible idea unless you have chosen one of the aforementioned terrible options.

There is nothing at all to keep you from engaging the entire family in designing a trip that will suit YOUR interests. Guidebooks abound, maps abound, there is the internet. The kids are plenty old enough to do research and make suggestions.

You mentioned your husband wanting to see some of the countryside, so why not rent an apartment in a city for half your stay and rent a house in the country and a car for the other half? Europe is full of beautiful countryside, and full of lovely places for a family to rent.
StCirq is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 06:43 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,297
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Definitely stretch your time as long as possible. Airfare is awfully expensive (especially in the summer) and by staying extra days you will be amortizing some of that cost.
julies is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 06:56 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 6,024
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Do not take a cruise or tour. And you may not need a travel agent either. Try to extend the the trip to two weeks if you can.

We did something similar with our teens, years ago, who were similar ages to yours. One week in London, one week in Paris, took the train between the cities,flew into one and out of the other. If I knew then what I know now I would have rented apartments. We also rented a car for a day or so in each city, so that we could take a day trip outside the city proper, and that was good.

Think of a two city trip is my advice.
socaltraveler is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 07:58 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 72,982
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
Just a short note -- but agree with almost everything posted above.

A coach tour would be AWFUL/HORRIBLE for a family of 5 w/ teenagers. A cruise will let you see a LOT of water and very little of anything on land.

A two city trip connecting by either train or budget airline (depending on the city pair). One example -- Fly into London, take the train to Paris, fly home from Paris -- could not be easier and you could take a day trip or two from either city. Say Oxford from London and Chartres or Giverny or even the Normandy beaches from Paris.

PLEASE don't subject your kids to a regimented, geriatric coach tour.
janisj is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 07:59 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 801
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'll be repetitive and say dump the cruise or bus tour. We planned a 15 day European trip with our boys and they LOVED being included in the planning, and they were 8 and 9. I also agree your budget is reasonable.

I'm going to go against the grain on the number of places you should see. Now remember...each person travels differently. But we like to move around more than most. We've taken European trips with the family 3 times and NEVER stayed in one place more than 3 nights, and we like it that way. We're planning a trip for next summer and once again 3 nights is the max. So...with that assumption and since it's your first trip to Europe, I think the following itinerary works well. It's what we did with the boys in 2011. It's a major sights tour and doesn't spend much time getting into the countryside. But it was JUST what we wanted to introduce our boys to the love of European travel. It's still their favorite thing we've ever done:
1 - fly
2 - arrive London, limited sight seeing
3 - London
4 - London
5 - train to Paris (3 hrs), tour Paris
6 - Paris
7 - Paris
8 - train/boat/train to Murren (incredible Alps mountainside town)
9 - Murren and mountain hiking
10 -Murren
Wekiva is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 08:07 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 801
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well darn....somehow it posted before I was ready. Let me finish the itinerary:

1 - fly
2 - arrive London early, tired sight seeing
3 - London
4 - train to Paris (3 hrs), tour Paris
5 - Paris
6 - Paris
7 - train/boat/train to Murren (incredible Alps mountainside town)
8 - Murren and mountain hiking
9 - Murren mountain top, Schilthorn or Jungfraujoch
10 - train to Venice (8 hrs), evening in Venice
11 - Venice, train to Rome (4 hrs)
12 - Rome
13 - Rome
14 - Rome
15 - fly home

It's busy, we moved around a lot, we only stayed 1 night in Venice...and we had the time of our life. Some day we'll slow down on our European trips, but not yet.
Wekiva is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 08:08 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 57,091
Received 5 Likes on 3 Posts
Agree with most of the above except that with teens, I would avoid stays in the countryside - IME they get terribly bored in the evenings. when we traveled with our kids when they were that age, they were happy so long as there were shops, cafes and bars, - i.e. things to see and do - in the evenings. just sitting, eating and drinking were not such good options.

also, your kids are of the age when they can go off by themselves. when we rented an apartment in Rome, our then 15 year old son loved nothing so much as going out by himself in the morning, buying our cornet for breakfast, and bringing it all home again - and after the first morning when I helped out, that's just what he did.

with 10 days, I'd go for 2 bases, with 14 you might stretch it to 3. fly open jaw into one and out of the other. rent apartments and get the kids to help decide where you go and what you do when you are there.
annhig is offline  
Old Nov 9th, 2015, 08:09 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 72,982
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
Meant to add, any city pair would work and no need for a TA for any of it.

If you do want to squeeze in a 3rd city as Wekiva suggests, I'd still do the majority of my time in two cities (you need to add a day or two to your arrival city to allow for jet lag recovery and general acclimation) Like maybe 5 days in London, 4 in Paris and a couple of days in Amsterdam.
janisj is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -