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Help- 1st time family planning self tour of Italy

Help- 1st time family planning self tour of Italy

Old Dec 31st, 2012, 06:01 AM
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Help- 1st time family planning self tour of Italy

Hi,
We are a family of 4 (2 kids ages 11 and 14)and are desperately saving up in order to plan a tour of Italy in 2014 (having only ever experienced the bog standard all inclusive beach holidays which we are totally bored with now the kids are older). My husband and I love Italy (been to Milan/ Venice/Sicily/Naples as a couple and want the kids to have a cultural holiday instead of looking at a hotel pool and the same stretch of beach for 2 weeks)
Our plan is (and feel free to make alternative suggestions as we are COMPLETE novices).....
Fly to Rome, have 2 nights there (3 days),
then Florence for 2 nights (3 days),
Cinque Terre for a further 2 nights (3 days),
then onto Sirmione for 2 nights (3 days),
finally finishing at Venice for 1 night (2 days)before we fly home.
I'm currently pricing it all up to try and get an idea of costs, but cant seem to get on with the train website as it seems there are hundreds of destinations in Rome for example in which to go from and as I ve not researched what attractions we are going to actually plan at each destination yet, its proving difficult- also, when I just chose a random station to get a feel of the price, it said that the prices hadnt yet been released (for July 2013)
My questions are (and this will be the first of many as I have lots.......lol) Will this trip be do-able by train and is it relatively easy with the kids- we've chosen the lake and the beachy bit so that we get some relaxing time and not spending too long in Venice as myself and my husband have been there before.
Please please please give my any suggestions/ advice and any "must do" attractions/ activities that you can suggest - all will be greatly appreciated.......
(btw, I currently have the Rick Steve? book on order).
Thanking you all in advance
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 06:19 AM
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ok, beginnernomad, take a big breathe, sit down and welcome to fodors!

you have AGES yet to plan this trip, and one of the things that seems to be causing you most trouble, [train travel and its cost] will actually be one of the least problematic. Trains are frequent and cheap in Italy so you don't need to worry about that. [well, not yet, any way].

the first job is to get an idea of your itinerary, especially where you're going to fly into and out of, so you can look out for the cheapest flights. [you can set up alerts on airline sites and websites like kayak.com so that you get the best deals]

secondly, where are you coming from? I'm sensing the USA, in which case, received wisdom is to fly into Venice and out of Rome, because transatlantic flights out of Venice tend to leave pretty early. you need to be looking at the "multi-city" option on the airline website rather than the round trip, but it should be about the same price, give or take.

thirdly - the length of your trip pretty much dictates what you can do - you seem only to have 9 nights, in which case trying to pack in 5 separate destinations will be well nigh impossible. the general rule of thumb is that every time you move you lose 1/2 a day - and 4 moves would mean 2 days lost out of a 10 day trip - ouch!

we found that travelling around so much did not suit our kids; they were much happier with longer stays in each place. THat is absolutely not to say that you should stick with the "package tour" type of trip, but there is a middle way between the two. i would suggest a max of 3 places - perhaps Venice, Sirmone [not sure about their being a beach there as such, but it's a lovely relaxing place with lots of boat trips, walks along the lake, and hotels with swimming pools] and Rome, depending on what you decide you want to do.

for things to see and do in each place, any guide book will give you loads of ideas, or click on the Destinations button above.

as for the train stations, not to worry. like all big cities, Rome has many minor stations, [and a metro system] but the main one that you will probably need to focus on is "Termini". in Venice the main station is Santa Lucia, and in Florence, Santa Maria Novella.

good luck with your planning!
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 07:13 AM
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JUse dates within the next few weeks to see sample schedules at the official train website:

http://www.fsitaliane.it/homepage_en.html

I find it helpful to list itineraries day by day so I can see how the travel days fit into the schedule. Here's your proposed itinerary:

Day 1: arrive Rome (Rome Night 1)
Day 2: Rome (Rome Night 2)
Day 3: travel to Florence (Florence Night 1)
Day 4: Florence (Florence Night 2)
Day 5: travel to Cinque Terre (CT Night 1)
Day 6: Cinque Terre (CT Night 2)
Day 7: travel to Sirmione (Sirmione Night 1)
Day 8: Sirmione (Sirmione Night 2)
Day 9: Travel to Venice (Venice Night 1)
Day 10: depart for home

As you can see, your itinerary has you traveling every other day. As mentioned, every time you change cities, it takes some time to travel between stations, wait at stations, ride trains, arrive in the new city, find your new hotel, and check in. I would expect these little extras to add at least 1.5 to 2 hours to your travel time. So, for example, the 90-minute train ride between Rome and Florence becomes at least 3-4 hours in transit.

Here's how much time you would probably be in transit on your proposed vacation:

Day 1: however many hours it takes to travel from home to Rome
Day 2: Rome
Day 3: Roma TE to Firenze SMN: 1 hour 30 minutes (direct train--3-4 hours in transit)
Day 4: Florence
Day 5: Firenze SMN to Vernazza (sample CT town): 3 hours (two train changes--4-5 hours in transit)
Day 6: Cinque Terre
Day 7: Vernazza to Desenzano Del Garda-Sirmione: 5-5.5 hours (two train changes--6-7.5 hours in transit)
Day 8: Sirmione
Day 9: Desenzano Del Garda-Sirmione to Venezia SL: 1.5-2 hours (direct train--2-3.5 hours in transit)
Day 10: however many hours it takes to travel home

I hope this helps you consider your priorities and if this style of travel will meet your family's needs.
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 07:26 AM
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Congrats on starting to plan a wonderful family trip!! My best advice is to SLOW down. Eliminate a few destinations. You count when you are staying 2 nights that you have 3 days in that location, but you have often counted days twice - giving it to the location you are leaving and the location you are arriving at. You have 10 nights but 14 days, obviously that can't be correct. As annhig said, often you lose 1/2 day when traveling from place to place.

We have been to Italy three times with our kids, when they were 12 and 9, 14 and almost 11, 18 and almost 15 and I am planning our 4th trip for this March to visit our daughter who will be studying abroad in Rome.

I would strongly recommend with 10 nights you limit yourself to 3 places max. I would add more days to Rome - none of you have been and there is so much to see and do there. We spent 4 nights in Lerici on the Ligurian coast, had some beach time and were also able to visit the Cinque Terre from there. Just an idea that might help you fit in some beach/relaxation time as well as Cinque Terre without having to move around so much. Also, agree with annhig, don't worry about the trains - that is the easy part, and you can even book when you arrive.

Here are the links to my trip reports that also include pictures:

http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego...eflorence2005/

http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego...-tuscany-rome/

http://www.fromhometoroam.com/catego...es-milan-2010/
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 07:31 AM
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Your kids are a great age to take to Europe! Tt is a wonderful thing to do for you and for them.

You have plenty of time for destination decisions. To get a handle on how much time you have, thus what you have time to do, you have 9 nts listed and 14 days. That does not add up because you have not allowed for travel time from hotel to hotel or arrival days. Perhaps you actually have more nights than that. Arrange the itinerary anyway you want and put in anything you want - depends on what you want to do and see. Write it out and allow travel time.

Day 1 - Depart US
Day 2 - Arrive Venice (2 nts - 1&1/2 days)
Day 3 - Venice
Day 4 - Train to Florence (3nts - 2&1/2 days)
Days 5,6 Florence
Day 7 - Train to Rome (4nts - 3&1/2 days)
Days 8,9,10 - Rome
Day 11 - fly home



With kids, it might work best to have fewer bases and do day trips.

Agree it will likely work out better to start in Venice and end in Rome.

Unless the kids are into hiking, CT might be dropped. While it is not a great beach, the Lido is OK and would save a move. The kids might also enjoy visting the islands off Venice. Would they enjoy biking the walls of Lucca or the Tower of Pisa? You could do both in one day by train from Florence. Would they enjoy any day trips from Rome - Ostia Antica?
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 07:56 AM
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Beginnernomad, we are doing a similar trip except it will be this summer and will bring 3 kids ages 15, 13, and 9. We travel to Europe frequently, and I am very frugal. Like you we are going on a total non-car trip which is a first for us. The trains and buses will give you everything you need. The advice to stay in one place and day trip is exactly what you need to do. Florence and Rome are great - you can do Pisa, Lucca, Siena from Florence, and Naples, Pompeii from Rome. IMO, I would save Venice/Cinque Terre for a separate trip. The first two days will be useless for anything big because the kids will be only non-jetlagged about 5 hours a day. We are doing short term apartment rentals in Rome and Maiori so we can nap when the Italians do and during the hottest part of the day. This will allow us to "eat in" two meals and save money on dining. Also, when planning, you must look at what is most important to do. For example, in Rome Sunday and Monday are terrible days for the Vatican if they are part of your plan. We were planning on going to Naples on a Tuesday, and that is the day everything is closed. In my research, too, I have had to always take the kids into account - I know they love old stuff, but we have said, "no museums." Ruins and churches will have to suffice for history and art. Doing that full of a schedule and based on my experience, all that will happen is the kids will be glad that it is over. We found a two-hour "gladiator camp" in Rome for our boys that we will do before going to the Colesseum which will make it much more alive. And you must include a special line item in the budget or gelato.
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 08:30 AM
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WOW... I'm loving you lot already!!!!
(THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR REPLIES)
We are actually travelling from the UK so the flights will come in at around £500 return from Gatwick (based on 2013 prices)- and we are looking at taking a 2 week holiday so clearly my itinery shows my complete inexperience (as the nights and days don't add up.
I know we have ages to plan, but because we are saving for this, I really want to research exactly what we will need to be doing and how much to save for- and I also don't want to look like a complete ignoramous when we arrive having not read up on all the fantastic sites and areas to see (I am generally quite ignorant on historical places of interest, having been more used to just booking "shopping trips" from a tour rep on a bog standard package holiday)
Have just read your suggestions out to my husband and think we will drop Cinque Terre and try and get a day trip in to there from somewhere.
Definitely want to see the Tower of Pisa and go biking in Lucca. I feel like a kid at Christmas who wants it all!!!!! lolololol
I soooo cant wait for this trip and think planning it will be half the fun- also its a good feeling to be able to show the kids a different holiday which, now they are older, I feel more confident about doing.
Will do some more research from work when I go back on Thursday and report back with my latest thoughts...... watch this space!
And thanks so much again- am thinking I may be a regular here....
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 08:46 AM
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Glad you actually have two weeks for your trip! Those extra 4 days (or more, if you can bracket with weekends) will give you time to relax and explore each location more.

You have done the best thing you can do based on your self-described inexperience: you have sought advice BEFORE it's too late to change your plans--an excellent beginning.
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 08:49 AM
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Certainly it is your vacation but I still think you are trying to cram too much in and will lose so much time in transit. We were in Rome a few months ago and stayed there all 9 nights. We took day trips to Tivoli, Orvieto and a half day to Ostia Antica. We still didn't see everything!

Rome is loaded with interesting things to do and see, so only two nights there is not enough!
I was in Sirmione years ago and it was charming. I would consider Rome/Florence and venice for another time.

Good luck with it....I know it's exciting!
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 08:52 AM
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Ellenem is absolutely right. You are doing this the smart way. Lots of people come to the forum and are upset by the advice they get because they have already booked everything and it is non-refundable.
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 09:54 AM
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One thing I would be very careful about is beaches in Italy. To someone coming from the US many of them are a shock since they aren;'t beautiful wide white sand beaches - but are often pebbles or even rocks, narrow, and in town with lots of "stuff" on or near them.

Perhaps coming from the UK this might not be so bad - but is often a big disappointment to americans.

And agree that you need to lay out your trip night by night. And since you are coming from the UK you have more options of where to fly into and out of - but would still definitely do an open jaws trip rather than a circle.

I think your next step is to lay out the trip day by day - and definitely get the kids involved in the process. They are certainly old enough to do a lot of the research - and pick places THEY really want to see - even if not old enough to actually make reservations.
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 11:50 AM
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hi beginnnernomad,

well, coming from the UK will certainly make it easier and cheaper. which is your nearest airport? if possible I would strongly recommend using easyjet - we've found them very reliable [famous last words] and the most user-friendly of the "budget"airlines.

if you can get your itinerary fixed enough to be able to book as soon as the 2014 summer schedule comes out, then you might well be able to beat your £500 target.
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 12:35 PM
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Depending on how adventurous you and the kids are, another possibility is to start with an exciting overnight train trip, racing across Europe.

Eurostar ex St Pancras to Paris, Gare du Nord. Quick transfer across to Gare de Lyon, before catching an overnight sleeper (4 bed couchette) to Rome Termini.

Arrive in central Rome early AM ready to start an exciting trip.

Your return journey can still be via one of the discount airlines.
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 12:46 PM
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nice thought, Bendigo, but I'm willing to bet that it would be significantly dearer than flying.
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 01:06 PM
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We travelled Paris - Vencie in a 6 bed couchette in December for Euro 35 per person (5 of us, so made sense to buy the extra ticket in our dog's name, even though she was never going to travel with us - no passport!) 4 bed is more expensive, plus need to add Eurostar (another Euro 35), but the offset is one night's accom, and you're in the centre of Rome first thing in the morning. Downside might be check-in at accom, plus being unshowered.
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 01:17 PM
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bendigo - that sounds like a great deal.

however the OP is coming from the UK, and has somehow to get across the channel, which has traditionally been pretty expensive. i just looked at the Eurostar website, and for this February, the lowest fare from london to Paris is just under £200, so long as you can leave at 5.40 am. later services are between £220 -£410.

then you have to get across Paris with 2 children and get on the next train - I just can't see it somehow.
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 01:25 PM
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Eurostar advance purchase tix are ridiculously cheap - We only paid GBP 35 each for one way - leaving London after 8:00am on a Friday morning. (Not Euro as per my previous post - sorry)

Plenty of GDP 69 return fares still available for January 2013:

http://www.eurostar.com/dynamic/_SvB...&_AGENCY=ESTAR
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 01:30 PM
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sorry bendigo, i just can't find anything like that.

what dates did you try? [BTW, I'm trying one way, as that's probably what the OP would want to do].
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Old Dec 31st, 2012, 01:31 PM
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Just checked a random date in March 2013 - lots of services that could get the family from London to Paris during the afternoon for a total of GBP 144, in plenty of time to grab a cross town cab to Gare de Lyon and make the night train:

http://www.eurostar.com/dynamic/_SvB...&_AGENCY=ESTAR

For more info on making these connections, and other terrific European train information:

www.seat61.com
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Old Jan 1st, 2013, 01:49 PM
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Hi All..... me again- wow, so much to think about, Hubby and I have been talking constantly since I first posted and are planning like mad (my hands are positively itching for a guide book!)
Okay- heres our revised itinerary (for the moment anyway...) Thoughts please......
Day 1 Arrive Rome
Day 2 Rome
Day 3 Rome
Day 4 Rome
Day 5 Depart Rome- travel to Florence
Day 6 Florence
Day 7 Florence
Day 8 Florence
Day 9 Depart Florence- travel to Sermione
Day 10 Sirmione
Day 11 Sirmione
Day 12 Sirmione
Day 13 Depart Sirmione- travel to Venice
Day 14 All day Venice, Late flight home
...... We will do Pisa and Lucca from Florence and everything else is still in the air so suggestions (including any critisisms (we can take it!) lol! )) welcome...
ellenem- thank you so much for that train schedule- was sooooo helpful,
jgg- have looked at your reviews and actually, we wanna come on holiday with YOU! they're fab!
knoxrichter5, am very jealous that you're going this summer (wish we could, but settling for a week in Cornwall with the caravan in order to save) also please can you give me details of the "gladiator camp" as currently have a 12 yr old who (I think) actually believes that he IS Peter Pan/Robin Hood/3 Musketeers etc, so would be perfect.
bendigo- thanks for the suggestion, but I also believe that the Eurostar would be outside our budget and maybe a bit too ambitious for us for our 1st trip (remember, I am only used to booking "shopping trips" from a rep inbetween breaks from lounging around a pool in a hotel! lol!)
What are peopls thoughts on Sirmione- is it...... (dare I say it??) "boring" compared to the other destinations- we actually want a relaxer towards the end of our trip in order to start "winding down" before going home, but when I've looked (online) there seems to be only water sports activities on offer and not all that much more to do which is great, but if thats the case- we could always rejig and do more days in Rome/ Florence....... and I KNOW we have loads of time, but actually, we always book our holidays a year in advance, so realistically, for Summer 2014, I can book this in 8 months..... (OMG! V.EXCIED) Thankyou all for your input thus far, I am amazed at how far we have come int he space of two days.......
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