First time to Europe-family of 5

Old Nov 9th, 2015, 08:11 AM
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One correction, on day 4 we spent most of the day in London and took train to Paris in the evening. As listed above London would have been too short even for us.
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 08:23 AM
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"Say Oxford from London and Chartres or Giverny or even the Normandy beaches from Paris."

Which is pretty much what we did. The kids were most impressed with the Normandy beaches as it was shortly after a big anniversary, there had been a lot of press coverage and DH's father, their very beloved grandpa, has landed there.
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 08:24 AM
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You're financially without problems here.
Just decide what you want to see and organize yourself.
Land in some place, train to another and or rent a car. Leave from another place.

For example you could do London x days -train to Paris y days, rent a car and do the Loire, exit from Paris.

Or... or...

Beer in France is ok for any of your kids...
I started drinking beer at 13 in pubs (ok in Belgium, but the French are as bad as we are).
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 08:40 AM
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Already great advice - no cruise, no travel agent, no bus tour.
Bus tours are limiting in many ways.
Travel agents often have much less experience than people here.
Cruises are a good way to see a museums or particular ruin, etc. They are not a way to experience any of the culture of a country. Evenings in Europe, when people are out walking, eating, relaxing, etc. are wonderful. You get a taste of local life and local food.

Take it one step at a time.

Subtract airfare from your total budget to see what is left for the trip.
Establish exactly how many days you will have total, including travel to and from home. You can't plan an itinerary without that. It would only be speculation and disappointing if you plan more than you can actually do.

Travel between places (checking out of hotel or apartment, getting to the train station, travel time, getting to your next hotel or apartment) eats up time. People often think they can go to more places than is practical.

Options - these are endless, but to give you some parameters with an
example or two of ten days
Two major cities with a day trip from each
(Paris and London) (Paris and Rome)
Two cities and one smaller city
(Paris, London, Amsterdam) (Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam)
One city and one country area
(Paris, Another area of France or Belgium)
Part of one country - three or four places with good transportation between
(Rome, Florence, Venice)

With two weeks, you could see
Three or four cities with day trips
One or two cities and one country area
One country in more depth
One city in one country, large area in another country

We like to have some sort of organizational plan. With the age of your kids, I would include them in the planning. Have a family meeting. Have each person write down the two or three places they dream about seeing when they think of Europe, not just one because you need to see if there is any agreement on any. If anyone does not care, that is fine. They just agree to go along with whatever's the others plan. This is a start. Then start narrowing things down. You cannot do everything. Trying to do that leads to frustration.

After you have a loose itinerary, get feedback from people here. Many live in Europe or have lived or traveled extensively. They can suggest good day trips or good arrangement of your itinerary.

Do not book airfare, etc. until you firm up the itinerary. When you do get around to airfare, look at "multi-destination" tickets, into one city, out of another. It saves time and money not to back track. Because of departure taxes, some places are less expensive to fly into and more to fly out of. Some are easier to fly into than others.

Unless you want a road trip through the countryside to see mostly small towns, stick with trains. They are great in Europe: fast, efficient, relatively cheap by comparison with car rental, gas, parking, etc., no parking issues, easy and best of all, usually go city center to city center.

This is a lot - hope it is useful.

Family talking about it is a lot of fun.
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 08:45 AM
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I think we should have a party -- this is the only thread I've seen in a while where everyone got along and agreed. Time to celebrate
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 09:23 AM
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THANK YOU!

So happy that I asked this question before meeting with the Travel agent-which is tonight! You have all been so extremely helpful and made me think of things I would not have thought of otherwise. There is no obligation to meet with TA and we might get some more ideas, so we are still going to do that.

I am intrigued with trying to do this ourselves-with much input from the kids. Finding this forum will be a great place to go to find out where to stay once we settle on locations.

I wish we could have a party! I would buy the first round and keep asking questions! I doubt my 2 younger kids will want to drink while we are in Europe, but the 19 year old will be thrilled she can do it "legally"!
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 09:41 AM
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Mominthepark,

I still like guide books and other internet info, but Fodors is the best travel help I ever found. Sometimes posters disagree, even argue, and occasionally get nasty, but everybody does want to help other travelers have the best experience possible. Sometimes the minute details they share are really amazing. The collective knowledge and insight of posters here is without compare.
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 12:31 PM
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I don't have time, right now, to read the above comments, but as for taking an organized tour, I'd dump that idea. Yikes! I'd go for 2 cities and apartment rentals for your amount of time. I'd also look for day tours once you arrive into whatever cities you decide to visit. There are lots of companies that offer day tours, both for the city and also trips outside of the city, and it's cheaper to book them once one gets to the city of one's choice. Or you could get a rental car, but it can be difficult and expensive to park cars in a city. You'd need to ask Fodorites who've rented cars about that. In 40-plus years of overseas travel, I've yet to rent a car as I drive enough here at home in L.A. and like for others to drive while I'm on vacation. But, a rental car might work for your situation.

As for using a travel agent, personally, I wouldn't use one. I've been pretty much doing it on my own since I was a young teen and traveling solo to Europe, since back in the 70s. I've for the most part done my own planning for all of the continents. Now, with the internet and forums, it's quite easy to do the planning on one's own these days.

I personally book my flights/hotels on Expedia as I get tons of Expedia points. I just used 310,000 of them and got $448. off my 4-night room at the Four Seasons in my upcoming trip back to Singapore. I also got one night free in that booking which was a big help as I have 9 flights booked in 3 countries, 4 cities, and for nearly 2 months away on the upcoming back-to-S.E.-Asia trip. So, whenever one can save money, it's a plus. So, whatever you do, try to hook up and get both frequent flyer miles on airlines and also some types of points for future travel. I don't think you can do that if a travel agent does all of your bookings.

With 5 people traveling, you should be able to rack up a lot of both frequent flyer miles and travel points for other travel situations. Just funnel those frequent flyer miles and points in a direction that's beneficial to you and your family for the future. I've been on frequent flyer programs since the 70s and have gotten a lot of free flights around the world.

Good luck to you and your future planning.

Happy Travels!
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 12:35 PM
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With that short of time I'd keep distances between stops short - like land in

London

Take the Eurostar train to Paris

Take the Thalys train to Bruges, Blegium for a bit of old-world splendor

Take the train to Amsterdam (older daughter will love the pub scene!)

fly home from there

That gives you 4 countries and the experience of taking the train under the Channel and a high-speed train too that goes up to nearly 200 mph - that and the Thalys train.
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 12:41 PM
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Forgot to add that since you're going in June, you'd better jump on getting the flights selected as that's a really busy travel time and flights book up fast. I'll be back on vacation in Europe in June/July and booked my flights, on Expedia, about 2 months ago.

Happy Travels!
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 01:04 PM
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Last summer my wife and I took our 4 kids, ages 13 through 19 on a 19 day trip. We split time fairly equally between Edinburgh (Fringe festival, Tattoo) London and Munich. A couple of years earlier, I took my oldest daughter (15 at the time) to Ireland, London and Paris.

with kids that age, you have some really great options (probably a bit overwhelming) and there's been some great advice given so far, but here's my take as someone who's been there. Of course, a lot depends on the interests of you and your kids, but in general, I would recommend limiting yourself to only 2 main cities, such as London and Paris. that way, you and your kids will have some time to get comfortable in a location and you can then give them some time on their own.

As others have mentioned, forget any sort of organized tour, cruise, etc... In fact, I would recommend that you do as much as humanly possible to reduce the amount of time you spend cooped up together traveling. you will, at some point, totally hate each other if you spend to much time just moving from point A to point B. Also, try to avoid having all 5 of you together at the same time too much. 5 people is a fairly large, ungainly group, and with 3 teens, I will bet my house that there will be different, competing interests. Allow time to to split up. Let you 19 year old go out on his/her own. Let the kids go on their own adventures (buddy system).

get a nice flat rental in London for 5 or 6 days and you’ll have a ton of fun together and on your own. Same in Paris (or some other city). Your budget should be fine, too. All in, we did 19 days for around $6,000 each, and exchange rates are even more favorable now.

We made sure that everyone had a cell phone, and we spend lot of time in smaller groups, and we gave our kids a lot of autonomy. That is really important. Let your kids roam.

Regarding flights, I usually find the best rates about 2 or 3 months prior to summer travel. On our last trip, we booked in April for travel in August. Also, I only book direct from the airline. First, the airline will almost always (always?) have the best price. And, should you have problems, there's only one company to call.

best of luck, I'm sure you'll have an amazing time!
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 01:54 PM
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first time to Europe, we did the reverse of what Pal suggests, but instead of Belgium we spent time along the rhine/mosel on the way to paris. Trains all the way!
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 04:01 PM
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As for drinking, in France when we ordered wine by the bottle at meals they routinely poured it for our DDs 14 and 17 - the same in Italy and Germany. (Can't comment on beer - neither they nor I are beer drinkers.) But we also drank bottled water - the kids drinking mostly water.

If you don;t want them to have any - just let the waiter know. But be aware that soft drinks are very tiny and very expensive compared to the US so they might want to drink tap water. I've never noticed iced tea in any restaurants - but that might be possible.
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 05:03 PM
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griz-fan"Regarding flights, I usually find the best rates about 2 or 3 months prior to summer travel. On our last trip, we booked in April for travel in August. Also, I only book direct from the airline. First, the airline will almost always (always?) have the best price. And, should you have problems, there's only one company to call. "

It might depend on from where one's flying as to being able to get such airfares 2-3 months prior to summer travel. I fly from L.A. and if I want to fly non-stop to Paris for example, then there are two choices of non-stop flights; Air France or Air Tahiti Nui. Once they're sold out for my dates, then that's it unless I want to make stops along the way which I really don't.

Since I don't know where the OP will be flying from and since the OP has 5 tickets to secure, it might be a gamble that there will be that many seats available on a flight of their picking if waited too late. Plus, they might all want to sit together.

As for airfares, I personally definitely haven't always found going directly through the airlines to be cheaper than not going directly through the airlines. I shop around a lot and then make my decision.

Whenever, I've had an airline problem, whether booking directly with the airline or not, I've always ended up calling the airline anyhow to straighten a problem out.

Happy Travels!
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 05:10 PM
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Travel agent? Maybe maybe not.
You can really do so much online. Travel agents often only know higher end hotels--and may not really know the city AT ALL.
Firm up an itinerary.
Think about an apartment hotel that has a concierge that can help with reservations and advice.
Fly open jaw.
Please do not move around more than 2 places with day trips from those.
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 05:34 PM
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Gretchen:"You can really do so much online. Travel agents often only know higher end hotels--and may not really know the city AT ALL."

So, true. I once called AmExp which is quite good, but back in the day I'd call them as they could pick up the phone and call overseas hotels that I had selected and then book them for me. This was before I had my own computer. Well, one of the agents and I were on the phone and he mentioned that he was going to surprise his girlfriend and take her to Paris to propose. Well, he'd never been to Paris, so basically we chatted and I helped plan his trip. LOL!

When he got back, I called him about something else and he mentioned what a great time they had had. He had mentioned the hotel that he had gotten through AmExp and since I knew it well, I had been able to plan out the things he was interested in doing and explain how to get places both on the bus and metro and also suggest places where he and his fiance could eat and shop.

When I was planning the first, solo, and complicated multi-country trip though S.E. Asia, in the 1990s, I called AmExp to call the hotels in Indonesia to make a reservation after I had done my research and decided where I wanted to stay. That was also before I had my own computer and was on borrowed computers, reading travel books, and asking around for info. It's so much easier now and traveler's should take advantage of the internet and doing their own plans.

Happy Travels!
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 05:44 PM
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After meeting with the TA, we are considering visiting 3 cities: London, Paris & Rome. We live near Cleveland. Ohio, so that is where we will fly from; probably will have to connect somewhere. Spend a few days in London, train to Paris for a few more days, train to Rome for a few more days and flying home from there.

Of course this is just where our minds are right now. We will need to find places to stay as well as day tours. We really like the idea of spending more time in a few cities then just getting a taste of many cities.

We need a few days to digest all the information that we have read here and learned from the travel agent.

Thanks so much for your valuable input-Keep the ideas coming!
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 06:23 PM
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OK. It's good that you've narrowed it down and it's good that we now know from where you'll be flying.

As for London, others can chime in there to help your plans. I've only been in and out of Heathrow changing planes some decades ago, but still haven't been in London. As for Rome, it's been a while as I usually spend time in the north of Italy as I did near Venice this past summer. But, Paris is one city where I've been going almost annually since the 70s, so I can help out there as can others.

Now, it's to decide on what types of accommodations that you prefer; hotel, apartment, etc. And also what the top price range will be, including tax for hotels. Then, we can all jump in and make suggestions. Keep in mind that hotel rooms are, in general, very small in Europe and can be expensive. How many hotel rooms will you need if you decide on a hotel? As for accommodations, they do indeed fill up fast in the summer.

http://www.vacationinparis.com/index.php

http://www.homeaway.com/

http://www.vrbo.com/

https://www.expedia.com/Paris-Hotels...gionId=179898&

There are also other Citadines.

Happy Travels!
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 06:41 PM
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Train from London to Paris is great.
It is a very long train ride from Paris to Rome. Look into cheap flights from Paris to Rome.
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 07:27 PM
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Yes, it's definitely very long from Paris to Rome. It takes over 11 hours on a fast train whereas it takes about 2 hours to fly there from Paris. I remember when I took the train from Copenhagen to Rome. Never again. It took over 30 hours.

Out of curiosity, I typed in the end of June on Expedia and there are one-way flights from Paris to Rome on Air France for as little as over $53.00. But, there are baggage charges from 30 Euro-70 Euro per checked bag as only carry-on bags are shown as free baggage.

Happy Travels!
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