First Trip to Italy for my Big Family

Nov 6th, 2016, 03:51 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
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amyfhamill - there has been a lot of negative comments almost discouraging you from arranging this trip.

just go for it!

it will need very good planning but is certainly doable. use the negative comments in a positive way to have clarity between the party members before you set off.

a few observations .
1. note that a 10/12 seater mini-van will probably be manual
2. most airbnb/vrbo locations should be able to provide you with a floor plan so you can allocate rooms in advance
3. italian restaurants are used to seating big tables (big italian families!) so long as the reservation is made sufficiently in advance
4. for transport between Venice/Florence and Florence/Rome you should look at both Trenitalia - (Frecce trains) - and Italo - Booking well in advance you will be able to some fantastic fares. However, to benefit from the over 60s fares you first have to register with Trenitalia (not necessary for Italo)
nochblad is offline  
Nov 6th, 2016, 05:58 AM
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>>1. note that a 10/12 seater mini-van will probably be manual<<

And you will have to hire a driver since they require special licenses.
janisj is online now  
Nov 6th, 2016, 06:01 AM
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And I don't think we were being negative (well, most weren't anyway) -- We were trying to identify issues they need to know about in advance. I've taken several groups between 6 and 13 people to Europe and this sort of 'stuff' happens. A lot of it simply because of the group's size.
janisj is online now  
Nov 6th, 2016, 06:04 AM
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>>Speaking from a little experience traveling with a large family group, no matter how cooperative everyone is, it takes a loonngg time to move that many people from point to point. <<

Yup. For that reason alone, you might consider just two cities.

I didn't read all the preceding posts, but as far as rentals go, look for two or three nearby places, rather than one big house. I know the big-house, one-big-happy-family thing sounds good, but it's going to be difficult finding one that fits your, and everyone else's, needs.

This has the potential to be (a) the greatest time ever or (b) a disaster. Let's be optimistic and assume (a). But it'll take some planning and thought.
vincenzo32951 is offline  
Nov 6th, 2016, 09:49 AM
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If you are in charge, you will have all the travel problems referred to you both before and during the trip. The group family trip sounds romantic, but you will have as many details to deal with as there are family members. And, I suspect you will not have detailed knowledge of your destinations and the nuts and bolts of beds, food, and transfers, as well as facile use of the Italian language, spoken and written.

You will need someone with these abilities. These people exist. They are called tour guides and you are setting yourself up to be one, without experience.

I suggest you investigate getting a private group tour. Unfortunately, the cost will be more than your desired budget, but if you think about all the things needed to run a vacation of the type you are aiming for, with no real experience with both the destination and running a group, I think you will be better served by being a guest rather than a coordinator-in-chief.
AJPeabody is online now  
Nov 6th, 2016, 11:05 AM
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I don't think it's quite as complex as some here would have you believe, assuming there are a several practical people in your group and the rest are content to follow along.

I also think, the more I consider it, that you'll be wise to have the benefit of staff at a hotel to point you in logical directions, rather than renting private accommodations (villas, apartments) and be out there on your own. The same goes for transportation, keep it simple and use trains and take advantage of the help that will provide as you go.

Your chances of success go up with each simplification of logistics and that's worth a lot, in cash and peace of mind. It will be a shame if you cut corners at every turn to save a little and end up with chaos. Totally preventable.

When I'm making decisions and am at a loss, I think, what's the worst that can happen? That helps me put things into perspective. With rental cars, the worst can be dire. On trains, nothing that can't pretty easily be corrected. Private rentals can be not unlike being marooned on a desert island, while hotels may cost a bit more but will always have help at hand.

Make sure everyone has a city guide for each place you'll stay. Then no one can complain that they weren't interested in where the group has chosen to spend time as they'll have what the need to opt out and go their own way. Well, they can complain, but you won't have to take it personally.
MmePerdu is offline  
Nov 6th, 2016, 11:24 AM
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Regarding my recommendation that everyone have city guides, after trying many, my absolute favorites are the Knopf MapGuides. They fit in a pocket, are very easy to use & inexpensive and I carry one even in cities I've visited a number of times. Here's a fun little video showing how nice they are:
MmePerdu is offline  
Nov 6th, 2016, 12:18 PM
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Thanks to everyone for all the advice!!! I really appreciate your expertise and will plan accordingly
amyfhamill is offline  
Nov 6th, 2016, 04:19 PM
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>>I don't think it's quite as complex as some here would have you believe, assuming there are a several practical people in your group and the rest are content to follow along.<<

The "assuming" part made me laugh.
vincenzo32951 is offline  
Nov 6th, 2016, 04:52 PM
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I have organized and led several small group tours and this past summer took family on trip to Europe. I was very familiar with the places to be visited and well versed in making all kinds of travel arrangements but, in short, it is complex and OP is proposing to do it with 10/12 people. I only had to work with 7. The " assuming" part is laughable. It seldom works that way. Those that are agreeable to everything during the planning stages and fine with arrangements ( and, you may not even have that as a positive ) can become difficult during the actual trip. I truly don't think that anyone who has actually planned/ organized a trip for more than 1 or 2 people would "assume" that thre won't be problems even with extensive planning and even minor ones can throw things array.

My advice is pick two places. You can do the research and make accommodation arrangements. Use public transportation to get to second city. Also make use of local guides for general touring and allow for considerable flexibility. Realize that not everyone will want to do the same things.

I'm not a great fan of most tours but it would be considerably easier to find a tour that meets your requirements. Would also add that people will be more likely to adapt to a tour than if you end up doing the planning. By taking on the job of tour organizer and being family you will find yourself at the receiving end of all their complaints, problems and quirks. Believe me, family while seeming entirely reasonable at home can take on Dr. Hyde traits when put into a travel situation.
historytraveler is online now  
Nov 6th, 2016, 05:44 PM
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My use of the word "assuming" does not assume that that is, in fact, the case. Replace "assuming" with "if" and it simplifies the concept for those laughing at the possibility that members of anyone's family are practical & cooperative.

If we're to offer anything of use to OP, we must give them a bit of credit for having some capacity to go with the general plan. They may not actually possess that capacity but to laugh at even the possibility says, I think, more about the laughers than about Amy & her family or another Fodor's member. This really is the season of the rude.
MmePerdu is offline  
Nov 6th, 2016, 05:50 PM
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Rude or reality--- take your pick.
historytraveler is online now  
Nov 6th, 2016, 05:57 PM
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" would be considerably easier to find a tour that meets your requirements."

Finding an appropriate accompanied small group tour is, I think, a good idea. I have almost no experience of tours but if one could be located, it could be a solution.
MmePerdu is offline  
Nov 6th, 2016, 05:58 PM
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here we go again -- everyone who has actually organized such trips and are explaining what to watch for are doom sayers and 'rude'. GIVE me a break!

Not only is the OP talking about 10-12 people -- they are spread over 3 or 4 generations. With all that that entails.

A trip like this can be wonderful - and there will be many wonderful experiences. But it will NOT be easy and it and there WILL be problems.

I have taken several groups to Europe (mostly to the UK but also a couple of other places) and always to places I know intimately. That really helps -- The OP's trip has the added complication that none of them are 'area experts'.

So simplify to take the pressure off -- Limit it to two cities, do open jaw flights, take trains between the two cities, and stay in hotels.
janisj is online now  
Nov 6th, 2016, 07:21 PM
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Has your family got together in a rented house before? We have done it for up to 24 people of all ages. It is a lot of fun and nice to have a large room to get together in, plus food handy for breakfast and snacks. It is also logistically more work for everybody. So, if you have not done it, I suggest you quickly plan a practice trip (planning get together) this year for Thanksgiving or Christmas for 3 or 4 days.

Rent a big house within 1 to 3 hours drive or where most of you live. Figure out food, activities, who gets which room, etc. While there, have a couple of meetings to discuss the trip to Europe.

I wish you could somehow make a short trip (costly, but not more than the extra for a tour) ahead of time and scope things out for the group. One thing that made a huge difference when I took groups to Europe was whether or not I was familiar with the places we went. It is impossible to overestimate the benefit of that prior first hand experience and knowledge. If anyone in your group has that experience, use them.

One lesson. Whenever anyone said, "Oh, whatever you decide is fine, I'm easy, just happy to be going, etc., etc.," They truly believed what they said, but it seldom turned out to be true. It is OK. You deal with it, but it is easier if you expect it.

Some people are relaxed and easy going at home, so you think, no problem. Then, the stress of being in new places where they don't speak the language, are dependent on others for getting around, etc. make them anxious and they become a pain about food, rooms, etc. Others may be totally uptight at home, but suddenly chill on a trip, and amble along, happy to be free of responsibilities. The shy person becomes outgoing and the outgoing person becomes timid. You aren't responsible for them, but that will affect the trip.

We allowed for a lot of private time during trips. Even with just one other couple, out of a week, we did things together two or three times, dinner together two or three times, the rest off on our own. Sometimes different people formed groups in the morning, met for lunch and formed new groups in the afternoon. It usually depended on who wanted to go to museums. With your size group, people will likely group themselves into small groups of 3 or 4.

Agree with all advice to keep things as simple as possible. It will be a wonderful thing you do. One last bit. No natter what people said or did on my trips, once they were back home, they all talked about only the good things and remember it as a fabulous trip, and thanked me over and over. So, go for it!
Sassafrass is online now  
Nov 6th, 2016, 07:29 PM
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I just had an "Everybody Loves Raymond" flashback to Italy.

You have a lot of helpful advice here and should do the planning for flights and lodging soon. Desirable hotels or lodging for that many people can book up fast. Please consider air conditioned hotels at that time of year.

Does everyone have a passport? Do any of the passports expire in 2017? Apply or renew now! Some countries will not allow entry if your passport expires in 6 months.

I wish you and your family a wonderful time and hope you will post a trip report when you return.
Scootoir is offline  
Nov 6th, 2016, 08:00 PM
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Scootoir, very important point on the passports!!!
Sassafrass is online now  
Nov 6th, 2016, 08:25 PM
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Yess Sassafrass. I was trained as a passport agent before I retired.
Scootoir is offline  
Nov 7th, 2016, 02:31 AM
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Traveling with Mme must be a real blast.
vincenzo32951 is offline  
Nov 7th, 2016, 06:01 AM
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I don't think Mme travels with anyone, which might be why she appears to have no practical insight into what is involved in herding a bunch of neophyte travelers around Europe.

I wish the OP all the luck in the world with this endeavor, but it is NOT going to be a piece of cake.

Good catch on the passports, Scootoir!
StCirq is online now  

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