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First trip to Europe with Teens

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Apr 26th, 2014, 07:19 PM
  #1
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First trip to Europe with Teens

My husband and I are just beginning to plan our first trip to Europe with our children - age 13 (boy) & 18 (girl) for summer (probably June) of 2015. The trip is a long-requested graduation present for my oldest who will be graduating high school next summer. At this point, we're thinking 14-16 days due to budget, with 3 area focal points....Italy (especially Rome), France (especially Paris) and one other, possibly Barcelona, Swiss Alps, or London.

We would like to see the major sites, but still have time to explore with some unscheduled activities, see the local culture, and have some down-time to relax. Our teens would also like to be around other teens their age as well whenever possible.

I'd greatly appreciate recommendations on going with a fully guided tour (like Rick Steves or Trafalgar) vs. transportation-only vs. do-it-ourselves (and where to get started with this).

We have traveled extensively across North America as a family, but are a bit nervous (and excited) about traveling to Europe without a good plan in place. We're leaning towards some type of arranged tour primarily for transportation, language and lodging specifics at this point, but don't know where to start in making good choices.

Thank you.
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Apr 26th, 2014, 07:52 PM
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There is a reflex here against guided tours which I usually do not appreciate but this time it's me going "you don't need a tour".

We have travelled extensively with our three children. To each their own but I really would not want to be on a guided tour with teenagers.

We usually write trip reports but did not for a Rome, Sorrento, Venice, Zermatt trip in 2009. Easy to do by train. No language problems. I am not suggesting that identical trip but some combination of Italy and a part of Switzerland is easily doable. We rented an apartment in Zermatt to control costs.

I suggest picking your destinations and then worrying about transportation and accommodations. People will mention the heat. I have yet to hear a teenager complain about heat. Perhaps yours are different.
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Apr 26th, 2014, 11:57 PM
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To start off with the planning.
Remember you want "....but still have time to explore with some unscheduled activities, see the local culture, and have some down-time to relax"

So my suggestion is slow down and cut out some locations. Maybe even visit just one country.
The more time dedicated to travel the less time to do what your really want to do. One night stands do not work.
Good luck in your planning.
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Apr 27th, 2014, 01:32 AM
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Friends of mine did their first o/s trip as a family with their 3 kids last year. They are a 18 year old boy & girls 16 & 13 travelling from Australia.

They did their own thing and went to Spain, Germany, France & Italy, with a
few days in London. They were away 4 weeks.
It was a great success, with the usual odd day here & there where one of the kids wanted to stay home & did.

They had flats/apartments / houses in Italy & France for a week and generally stayed in apartments where they could elsewhere.

They flew, used trains & rented a car in Italy.

They has a ball and said one of the best things they did was getting everyone involved in the planning and making sure everyone ( including each of the adults ) had one "dream day" in their location of choice. As the kids were old, smart & reliable enough to be left to their own resources occasionally, the parents & kids all had some time to themselves.

Of course, there were occasional quick lived "moments" - but with 3 teenagers, that's to be expected, isn't it?

Honestly, I would encourage you to do your own thing, too. Just make sure you have a bit of flexibility - and make each kid carry /wheel his/her own luggage. Do a weekend/long weekend trial to another town before you go.
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Apr 27th, 2014, 02:38 AM
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Given any word of budget I'd cut out Switzerland. You can see the Alps and join in the mountain life style if that is what you want in many of the surrounding countries including Italy and France.

Public transport (which includes internal airlines) is well developed so you should find it easy to get about and in the sites you mention English is spoken widely so really nothing to panic about apart from the fact that things are "different".

I'd look at 3 or 4 places to stay and while hotels have the benefit of conceirge, which can be helpful on first arriving in a new country, I'd look at appartments in mainly residential areas with goog public transport connections so you can eat in some of the time. (unless holidays means no cooking to you :- ) ).

Tours make no sense as you rush by coach everywhere keeping away from those pesky foreigners. Get on a train and chat to people, even take a picnic and share.

Don't fly out of London and don't fall for flying out of Milan, I'd look at something like
London, Paris, Venice (with trips into the Italian Alps) and Rome flying back from there. Yes it makes each move long but you can take the train from London to Paris, and Venice to Rome.

Is 4 days each enough for the three main cities (just about).

Do read a few fodor trip reports on what people do in each city
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Apr 27th, 2014, 04:34 AM
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are you a family that likes cities or the country? i ask because by and large, what you have mentioned above is largely city based, with the possible exception of Switzerland. and of course whole countries [Britain, france and Italy on your list] cannot be focal points- they are huge places that you would need many weeks to see properly.

in 2 weeks or so, I agree that you have time for no more than 3 and probably only 2 places, especially if they are capital cities like London, Paris and Rome. There is loads to see and do in each of them - what would the kids most like to see? The historical sights in London? the eiffel Tower and museums of Paris? The Colosseum and atmosphere of Rome? the canals and palaces of Venice?

another approach would be to pick a country - say Italy - and plan a trip round the various experiences you can have there. for example, you could fly into Venice, spend a few days there, then drive up into the dolomites and go walking up in the mountains, then drop down onto Lake garda and spend a few days there before going back to Venice, perhaps to the Lido so the kids can swim.

or you could fly to Rome, get the train to Naples and see the sights there, then go to Sorrento and use that as a base for touring the Amalfi area, and finally go back to Rome and finish the trip there.

or ..........

I should add that my kids, when roughly the same age, loved Italy, but especially Rome and Venice. a trip which combined them [perhaps flying into Venice and out of Rome] with perhaps some activity in between like cycling for a few days, would have been a big hit with them.
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Apr 27th, 2014, 05:36 AM
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I'll stop soon with suggesting bikes in all my comments but the city bikes programs in London (Barclay bikes) and Paris (velib bikes) are really fun. In Rome we used hotel bikes but I think there's also a bike share program. You pay a few euros per day per bike and then no additional charge for rides less than 30 minutes station to station. Google for details. In Rome, hotel santa Maria in Trastevere is pretty, quiet and not too expensive. In London, crescent hotel is friendly, near st pancras train station and the British museum. It's hard to give up something, but maybe Rome Paris and London would be too much city. Maybe you need some country. Provence or something. Rent a car. Check airBnB for apts. You'll have a great time!
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Apr 27th, 2014, 06:33 AM
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I've taken a couple guided tours and liked them. There are some that have small gruops and are very good, and I think they can serve a great purpose for travel neophytes, those with a special interest, to less-traveled countries, or for those who just don't wnt to travel alone.

There are a lot of stereotypes and untrue statements about them, such as the one someone made above -- "you rush everywhere by coach." No, that isn't true. You choose a tour and what it does, and some do not do that. It is your choice. I've done tours that used trains, and stayed in places several days, no rushing, and the only coach was for areas where you really needed one to get somewhere, and that was very enjoyable, to see the countryside.

However, I don't recommend them in your case because I think they are best for singles or couples, not entire families. And I think the money could really add up for a family, also.

At the least, just book a package rather than a full tour--a package arranges transportation and hotels and may have someone onsite to answer questions or one half-day city tour, but that's it. I don't think those are really for families, either, though, as you usually book a double room.

I think you should start just be reading some good guidebooks for beginners. If you haven't traveled much, you really can't skip that step. I think Rick Steves is very good for beginners, and both Fodors and Frommers have a lot of good advice on the basics (basic itineraries, how to get around, etc.).
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Apr 27th, 2014, 06:44 AM
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With such a short time, pick one country. Trying to cover the major cities in 3 countries will kill your budget and your time.
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Apr 27th, 2014, 07:05 AM
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I agree = pick one country . . . or perhaps one country and a few days in one city in a different country. Like Italy + Paris. - Or - Italy or France + London.

Fly in to one city and home from a different place - In to Rome out of Paris etc.

IMO a tour would be awful in your situation. Expensive, plus w/ a few notable exceptions, most tour groups tend older than any of you. Some tours will be almost entirely +50 age group. How are your kids (or yourselves) at rising very early every morning, having your bags packed and in the hall by 7 or 8 AM and on the coach by 8 or 9 AM . . . every day? There are awful/good/great tours, but all the great ones and most of the good ones will cost an arm and leg for four of you.
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Apr 27th, 2014, 07:13 AM
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Last summer my daughter and I rented bikes in Trier and biked for four days along the Saar and Mosel Rivers. You can bike as much or as little as you wish as you can get a Rhineland train pass that will let you and your bikes get on trains.

We spent a couple of nights in youth hostels. There is a fear factor here, but really they were quite nice, full of adults, older people, youth groups, everything but college-aged kids. This can be a good budget option.

You can buy a train ticket from Paris to Trier for as little as 39 euros in advance. Your son will travel for free as he is under 15.

Even if you don't want to bike the Mosel and Middle Rhine areas are among the best and most enjoyable in Europe.

p.s. My daughter and I are going to do the bike thing again, only this time for about two weeks. We're looking at the Rhine around Lake Constance and a portion of the Danube.
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Apr 27th, 2014, 07:20 AM
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This may help
http://www.mybikeguide.co.uk/
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Apr 27th, 2014, 12:42 PM
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Switzerland can be much more easily fit into your itinerary than Barcelona or London, as it's practically en route from Rome to Paris. The train ride from Milan to Lucerne is stunningly beautiful.

I know Switzerland has a reputation of being very expensive, but I wonder if that's not true of all places in Switzerland. The only place I've ever been in that country was Lucerne, and I really didn't find it expensive. We found a reasonably priced and fairly central hotel. There were lots of little inexpensive cafés to get a meal. The trains were more expensive than in Italy, but if you don't move around too much, that wouldn't take a big bite out of your budget.

I once took a 3-week trip through Europe with my daughter, when she had just finished a year studying in Rome. We started in Italy, and stopped over in Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands before ending in England, where my other daughter was doing a choir tour. We had a wonderful time. We didn't try to visit any well-known "sights", except in Italy, where I had never been before.

Sometimes we stayed in youth hostels, where we occasionally met other parent-child groups. People of all ages stay in youth hostels, and it's a good place for your kids (especially the older one) to other young people. Many hostels have communal kitchens, where you can save money by preparing some of your own meals.

I would try, if possible, to extend your time a bit if you want to spend some time getting a taste of local life. You should also fight the temptation to see a lot of the things that are on everyone's top ten lists. Both Rome and Paris are packed with tourists at most times of the year, but both have places, even museums, that are ignored by most of the tourists. In Rome, you don't have to see the Sistine Chapel, and in Paris you don't have to visit the Louvre. If you try to tick off all the famous sights, you'll spend a lot of your time shuffling along with the herd.
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Apr 28th, 2014, 02:22 AM
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You are where we were back in 2006 when we took our first family trip to Europe. We did it independently and had a wonderful trip. You may get some ideas from our somewhat dated trip report .... but we still think fondly of that holiday.
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ris-london.cfm
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Apr 29th, 2014, 05:39 PM
  #15
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As others have said, definitely do this independently. Really very easy to do - lots of information from other travelers on these forums and so easy to communicate with hotels/apts via email. I would also recommend sticking with one country, but if you want then two at the most (just won't be able to see as much in each one). Also, more expensive to travel further then just short train distances in the same country.

We have traveled quite a bit with our kids - started when they were 9 and 12 and they are now 18 and 21. It really is an amazing experience to travel with them.

Here are some links to my trip reports that we have done with our kids (of places you mentioned) along with pictures:

http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego...eflorence2005/
http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego...-tuscany-rome/
http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego...ope/barcelona/
http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego.../london-paris/
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Apr 29th, 2014, 06:05 PM
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I would not do a bus tour with teens for a couple of reasons:

Many (most) of the passengers will be the age of their grandparents

For most you do spend a LOT of time on a bus (and doing "optional" shopping that nobody really wants)

There will be few opportunities for your kids to meet locals - since so many stops are only one night.

You can easily plan your own trip with the help of people here - but I would suggest in the time you have you do 2 or at most 3 locations - so you can settle into each and be comfortable with your kids doing things on their own.

(Our first trip to europe with DDs 11 and 14 we did one week London and one week Paris - and they loved every minute of it. But they had been involved with the planning from day 1. And by the time we went back when they were 14 and 17 they were able to go to student cafes and pubs in the evening, not just sights during the day.)
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Apr 29th, 2014, 09:08 PM
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In 2011 we took our children to Europe for the first time with another family. 4 kids ranged in age from 8 to 12. In 14 days we did the following:
London
Paris
Lauterbrunnen Valley (Switzerland)
Venice
Rome

That's 5 locations in 14 days...and we all LOVED it. It all depends on how you like to travel. Our goal was to introduce our children to European travel...not focus on one country. They'll have their entire lives to come back again and again to travel more slowly. I would think with all teenagers fast travel would be even easier than for our group.

If I had to limit it to 3 it would be Paris (with day trips), Switzerland (Lauterbrunnen) and Rome (with day trips). All very different from each other and yet all highlights of Europe.

One other thought is to get the kids involved heavily. Let each child focus on a location and be in charge of finding things to do. It helped our kids really get excited about the trip. And we saw things like the Cats of Rome that we never would have seen otherwise (very cool btw...cat sanctuary right in heart of Rome).
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Jun 26th, 2014, 05:55 PM
  #18
 
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OP-- We are planning a very similar excursion with our two teenagers for Spring, '15. We are going to flying into Paris and then flying out of Rome. We'll probably stay on the Sorrento penninsula instead of Rome, except for the last couple of nights. We've been to Europe before with our other two children and also on our own, and found that we could get around quite easily using public transportation. We even rented a car for a bit. We didn't sign up for tours, but saw everything we wanted to.
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Jun 26th, 2014, 07:41 PM
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>>OP-- We are planning a very similar excursion with our two teenagers for Spring, '15 . . .<<

The OP posted this back in April and never returned. Don't know if they even read the responses.
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