First timer itinerary advice

Old Nov 19th, 2023, 09:19 AM
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First timer itinerary advice

Hello,

I'm planning a 2 week trip for the first of June. I'm suffering from lack of confidence and indecision. Never crossed the pond, don't know how hard jetlag hits, etc. Four of us, including late-teen daughters traveling. My potential plan is London--Provence--Paris. 4 full days in each besides the travel days. To get to Provence, I found a flight that would have us to Marseilles by 11:30. Then get rental car and on the road. 4.5 days around Provence, then train to Paris for 4.5 days. I know you generally don't recommend the short flights as they're such a hassle, but I think I prefer to have a break between the big cities, rather than back to back, and Provence is very high on my bucket list.

My concern is the pace of things. Does this sound like enough time in Provence to bother? I know there's much more I want to see than we'll get to, and could save it for a future trip, but it would be a few years before we could go back and I'd love to get a sample lol. Is 4 days each in Paris and London enough? Does this whole plan sound like we'll be too rushed to enjoy or remember?

The other possible itinerary is 5-6 days each in London and Paris to give us more days for flexibility or downtime if needed. with a 2-3 day side trip in Loire Valley (or other region closer to Paris than Provence). I really think we need some type of country landscape break between cities. I haven't been as intrigued by anything as Provence, but I'm open to recommendations (not D-Day, please).

Thank you for your honest opinions!!

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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 09:27 AM
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I think it is too ambitious to include London in this trip. Either do Provence and Paris or London and Paris. You will spend a lot of time traveling to do three places in which there is much to see and do as well as to spend some time relaxing and enjoying the ambiance in my opinion. Of course all of this depends on what your interests and your priorities are. Remember that you and your family are not the only people traveling and so you do need to anticipate crowds and waiting time to enter places although tickets can be ordered in advance for places in London such as the Churchill War Rooms, The Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. In Paris you can purchase a pass that will allow entry to museums and several of the historic churches so that you move to the head of the line for admission.
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 09:40 AM
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First timers

Jet lag, will hit one of the 4 of you... stay awake, force yourselves to eat at normal local times, get lots of sunlight and you may be fine
First timers will find London is close enough to home to be less of a shock, at least the language is similar
I'd only do two main stops, so fly into London, catch the train to Paris and fly home from there. Paris has lots of places to visit nearby.

As you might guess catching the train from Paris to Provence is pretty fast.



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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 10:16 AM
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I always advise the big city, quiet countryside, and big city itinerary. And 4, 4.5, and 4 full days is about the bare minimum. But you can get a feel for each spot in that amount of time if you plan your London & Paris itineraries carefully. You'll want a more leisurely pace in Provence.

My wife & I have vacationed for 27 weeks in Provence - 4 weeks this year. Attached is a 37 page itinerary describing our favorite things to do & see.

Stu Dudley
Attached Files
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 10:41 AM
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Take the train from London to Paris. It saves time and is less hassle than going to and from the airports. Fly home from Marseille or Nice. I would take the train from Paris to Avignon or Aix-en-Provence. Lots to see in the Provence, an embarras de choix, as the French would say.





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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 11:09 AM
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Welcome to Fodors, where the free advice is worth far more than you will pay for it.

I am of the London plus Paris persuasion. Simple is best, fewer chances to mess up. Both offer out of town day trips if you fear being overcitified. From London there is Bath or Hampton Court Palace or the Greenwich Observatory. From Paris there is Versailles, of course, or a canal boat to la Villette.. Both cities offer bus group daytrips a la carte if you don't want to plan details

What are your interests? Are you shoppers, or museum people, theater, music, history junkies? Food? Cooking lessons? Wine? Hiking? History? Guided walks? Boat trips? Palaces? How about a balloon? Markets? Famous places? Top ten or off the beaten track?

We are here to help.



Last edited by AJPeabody; Nov 19th, 2023 at 11:12 AM.
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 12:47 PM
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I am of the Provence persuasion (plus brief skirting through London and a bit of Paris). If it were me, I would do London two nights, maybe three. It is so vastly overtouristed, but with the jet lag it will be so stimulating, so vital, and so ultimately not that wonderful a place. Provence will be a wonderful place by comparison. As many days as you can manage there, will be like lifetime joys, in infinite supply, one sublimely piled upon the other. Then Paris? Well, if you have to.
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by dfourh
I am of the Provence persuasion
Oh, excuse me - - did you mention teen daughters? Unless they are of uncommon character, then London swings like a pendulum do, with lots of cute guys. Paris is one macaron after the other enchanting, with lots of cute guys. And in between, in Provence, they can file their nails. Unless they are of uncommon character.
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 02:02 PM
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I would stick to two places with the time you have. Each of those places has so much to see.

One thing: If you fly into Provence, please don't drive that first day. With jetlag and just the length of the trip, even if you feel OK, you can have microsleeps without even realizing it that can cause accidents.
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 05:22 PM
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How exciting that you're planning such a nice trip! I think you can do all three spots although two would be more relaxed. If you want to keep all three locations, starting in London makes sense as it is a bit easier to manage whilst (note the English vocabulary) jet lagged.

I highly recommend Rick Steves books as he has good tips, particularly for first time travelers. You won't be able to see and do everything but you might ask your family to figure out their top "must see or do" preferences. I always figure it is OK to leave some great sights for a future trip.

The first week in June is a good time to travel as it won't be as crowded as later in the summer.

Happy planning!
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 07:00 PM
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You could easily spend your entire time in any one of the three destinations, but I'll align with those suggesting limiting yourself to two - London and Paris - especially for your first transatlantic travel. Fly into London, after a few days take the Eurostar train to Paris, then fly home out of Paris. Makes sense to have your fist stop be where you recognize most of the language, and flying out of Paris avoids the high departure taxes and fees from London Heathrow. As previous posters note, if you tell us what your interests are we can make more specific suggestions.
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 08:03 PM
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Oh my! Those pictures are just gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 08:09 PM
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Stu--thanks so much for sharing that amazing itinerary. I'm going to have several questions if we do go to Provence, but for now can I ask why you don't like Rick steves books? I'd been using his guidebooks almost exclusively.
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 08:24 PM
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Thank you all for your advice. This forum is great!!! I was hoping the consensus would be that I should stick to my plan, but alas, I'm going to chew on it a bit longer.

In the meantime, can I ask your opinion on airfare. I've only ever flown in the US, and usually budget airlines. So I've just been watching flights on Kayak, etc, and they haven't fluctuated much at all. Is there any reason not to go ahead and buy? I figured in this economy, prices are going to just keep going up, so might as well lock it in, but is there a time of year that airlines run discounts? Or are there any tricks to getting deals? Thanks so much!!!
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 09:10 PM
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Where are you flying from? I think I am in the two places camp. London and Paris for the same reasons outlined above with possible day trips to places like Stonehenge, Bath or Cambridge, Versailles, Loire Valley etc. Paris and Provence for the other option. Paris and Provence could be done several different ways depending on where you are coming from. I donít think 3 different places in your time frame is bad but I just think 2 places simpler.
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Old Nov 19th, 2023, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Neecy
Stu--thanks so much for sharing that amazing itinerary. I'm going to have several questions if we do go to Provence, but for now can I ask why you don't like Rick steves books? I'd been using his guidebooks almost exclusively.
The Michelin Green Guides are much more comprehensive. The Cadogan guides are better also. I must have at least 50 different guide books on France (really!) - none of them are Rick Steves. I actually enjoy his enthusiasm, but as far as what to see and what to do - he is rather "lacking" about France. His book is the "bible" on Budapest - but not France, IMO. Actually, most of his France stuff was mainly written by Steve Smith.

Stu Dudley

Last edited by StuDudley; Nov 19th, 2023 at 11:11 PM.
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Old Nov 20th, 2023, 01:29 AM
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I've never touched a Steves' book but find the Rough Guide excellent for many countries
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Old Nov 20th, 2023, 06:57 AM
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Thanks, I'm going to order those guides!
I'm probably going to fly from Chicago, but St. louis and Indianapolis are closer to me if I could find a deal.
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Old Nov 20th, 2023, 07:05 AM
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Originally Posted by StuDudley
The Michelin Green Guides are much more comprehensive. The Cadogan guides are better also. I must have at least 50 different guide books on France (really!) - none of them are Rick Steves. I actually enjoy his enthusiasm, but as far as what to see and what to do - he is rather "lacking" about France. His book is the "bible" on Budapest - but not France, IMO. Actually, most of his France stuff was mainly written by Steve Smith.

Stu Dudley
Rick Steeve's books are not comprehensive for any destination. Just a slice of what he considers the best sites. For an American on a limited time vacation, like the OP, they are very useful. For someone with 30 days to spend in one region, not so much. Nothing wrong with encouraging folks to branch out, but I think it's crazy to discourage first time travelers like OP from using a resource which is very much geared toward them and their limitations.
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Old Nov 20th, 2023, 09:11 AM
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"but I think it's crazy to discourage first time travelers like OP from using a resource which is very much geared toward them and their limitations."

I don't see any discouragement, just offering alternative sources.
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