Help with planning family trip to europe

Sep 14th, 2009, 05:59 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 19
Help with planning family trip to europe

I'm planning to take my family to europe next summer for approximately one month. My two daughters will be 11 nd 14 by then. I have read some of the posts here and am getting the message that we should paln to stay put as much as possible. My family is from The Netherlands originally so that is a must see but don't have relatives to stay with. My husband's only request is to go to the Louvre in Paris. My girls very much want to visit some Harry Potter sights in UK . I travelled to europe 20 some years ago on my own but find I have lost my confidence trying to plan a trip for the four of us. Both my husband and I work full time. Should we use a travel agent? As well, how soon should I be looking at booking accommodations? Any advice/itineraries would be welcome!
tineke is offline  
Sep 14th, 2009, 06:19 PM
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Three countries (England, Scotland, Netherlands) plus Paris. You could certainly pay someone to book your trip for you, but you really should decide as a family what you want to see in each place, how much time you want to spend chasing Harry, chasing family history, etc.

Start with your daughters identifying the so-called Harry Potter sights and finding them on a map. Decide how you're going to get to them. Figure out where the important family places in the Netherlands are and how you can get to them. Research what interests your family in Paris (beyond the Louvre) and how much time it will take to see everything.
Jean is offline  
Sep 14th, 2009, 06:23 PM
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If you only go to five or six places, you really don't have a lot of organizng to do. We travel with three kids. I think we have concluded four or five nights per location is about right but others will feel differently. That allows you to rent apartments which helps with kids.
colduphere is offline  
Sep 14th, 2009, 06:25 PM
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I agree with Jean about deciding the exact sights you want to see. I think a logical progression for the trip would be:
Fly into London, see Harry Potter sights (and some other stuff too!).

Take the Chunnel (Eurostar) to Paris. See Louvre, et al.

Take the Train to Amsterdam & see Netherlands.

With travel time, jet lag, sightseeing, etc. I think you have a generous 2-3 week trip.
halfapair is offline  
Sep 14th, 2009, 06:28 PM
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First step, get some guide books from the library or bookstore and get your girls to do some reading and involved in finding which sites are Harry Potter in UK and also what they might like in the Netherlands and Paris. the more they are involved in planning, the more they will buy into the trip.

Could I suggest that you fly into Amsterdam and out of London.

7 days in Netherlands seeing your old haunts and various sights

5 days in Paris (there are lots of Paris experts on this forum)

4-5 days in French countryside doing one of the following:
Loire Valley and chateaux
Normandy-D-Day beaches, Bayeux tapestry, Mont St. Michel
6-7days London billions of things to do besides platform 9 1/2
at King's Cross. I think that I read somewhere that
Diagon Alley was filmed somewhere in London but can't
say where (good research topic for the girls). I
some of the interior scenes of Hogwarts are in Oxford.
London is one of my favorite cities, so I may be
giving it too much time for your taste.
The balance of your time rent a car and see the English countryside. Fly home from Gatwick or Heathrow.

This is just a rough idea. I think flying in one airport and out the other will save you from backtracking and others may have different ideas about the order of your travels. I just thought to keep the two places on the continent together to save going back and forth across the channel.

Many say that having an apartment is the best deal for a family. If the apartments rent Saturday to Saturday, maybe you might plan for Paris and London back to back to be able to rent apartments there.

I am sure that many will chime in with lots of great ideas, probably better than mine, but if it were my month in those three places you mentioned, I think this might be my "druthers". I suppose your girls are too old for a nanny or I'd volunteer.
irishface is offline  
Sep 14th, 2009, 06:30 PM
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I also agree with Coluphere about basing yourselves for 5-6 nights in each place & getting an apartment. That will give the kids more space. It will also give them a better idea of what it is like to live in another country.

They can compare it with their lifestyle at home.

My daughter & I played a game of "rate the bathroom" from London to Paris as we did our sightseeing and had to cope with life's necessities.
halfapair is offline  
Sep 14th, 2009, 09:53 PM
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I agree with the ideas above. Flesh out what exactly your priorities in each city/country. Prioritize each item based upon locations. Spend more time in the one with the most priorities. I'd recommend open-jaw to Amsterdam- from London or vice versa. Trains between all three are available if you keep Paris/france in the middle.

I'd certainly recommend that you involve the kids in the planning significantly. You could use it as an educational tool as well. Start with a map of the three countries- like an atlas. That will allow you all to get a better understanding of the locations of each place in relation to each other. Another option would be to have your kids to work on the London itinerary, your husband the Paris and you the Netherlands. That will allow you each to have a significant part in planning.

Since it is next year for the trip, you have time. But keep in mind, the best apartments will likely go quickly, so you should try to flesh that out first. Working from a 'home' base in each is the most convenient, and cheapest. There are numerous old posts here that have a lot of the information you'll like, as well as other travel sites. You can come back with specific questions about specific cities as you develop your itinerary.

Good luck and enjoy!
apersuader65 is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 12:40 AM
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Hi there,
In all of my searching for our trip with our kids, I did come across the following with regard to a Harry Potter tour (follow this link)
I think it is way WAY overpriced - but it does give a clue as to where to go to see the main places that feature in the films.You could jott them down, hire a car and do it yourselves. is a fantastic website with heaps of ideas.
All the best
Ronael is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 04:24 PM
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Here's a Rick Steves web page on Harry Potter film sights that might help you get started on the England/Scotland part of your itinerary.
Jean is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 05:28 PM
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Wow! Thank-you so much for the help! I love the idea of letting my girls research HP sights, my husband do Paris planning and I will look after Holland. I am feeling a bit of the burden of planning it all. I really appreciate the links too. There is an overwhelming amount of information out there. Any suggestions for order of booking? First accomodations then flights to match? And how soon? I have my eye on a lovely (slightly over budget) apartment in North Holland.
Again, thanks for the advice.
tineke is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 06:05 PM
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Does anyone know approximately when school is finished for the year in France, The Netherlands? UK? In some parts of Canada, where I am from, we are finished on June 25th. I thought if I left as soon as possible afterwards, I might miss some holiday "traffic". (I would leave earlier but I am a teacher -you'd never know it given my horrible mistakes on my first post-sorry!)
tineke is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 06:35 PM
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Just 2 things-each "kid" should have his/her own camera and for God's sake, remember to say "bon jour"," bon soir" etc upon greeting, meeting anyone or entering a store.
sobster is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 08:41 PM
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Lots of great suggestions already, especially flying into Netherlands and out of England.
In addition to some of the really big sights, these are a few things I would suggest for the girls.
Read the Diary of Anne Frank and visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
Consider a visit to Brugges on the way to Paris.
Watch movies of some of Jane Austin's work and possibly visit Bath or some of the villages where some of the movies were filmed.
Take a canal boat in London from Little Venice to Camden Market.
Take in at least one play in London. You can get fairly cheap last minute tickets to lots of things.
Possibly see a play at the Globe Theater if either of them are into Shakespeare.
Ride the London Eye.
Visit Hampton Court.
Sassafrass is offline  
Sep 15th, 2009, 09:43 PM
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Have a great time planning your trip - it may seem overwhelming now, but take one step at a time. I find that when I plan our trips (which I very much enjoy), I'll have a period of activity and doing things, and then when that step is done, I don't need to do anything for a while, until the next round of plans.

You asked about the order in which you should make your plans. We always make our flight arrangements first (open jaws is the way to go). Then lodging, making reservations in big cities that get booked up sooner, then later, in less-touristy locations. Much closer to travel time, any car rentals and reservations at museums and the like. And, because we're foodies, we make some of our dinner reservations ahead of time, particularly for dinners on weekends in big cities.

We've travelled a lot with our 2 kids (now 10 and 14), have not stayed in apartments, and still had a wonderful time. I do try to plan 3-4 night stays at least, depending on the location. For our family, I've found that a one-night stay here and there is fine, and not too stressful in terms of packing and unpacking. One-night stays work out well when we're travelling from one major location to another, but want to stop and see things on the way.

Planning a trip with a kind of a theme in mind can be great, especially for kids. Our son was very much into James Bond and real-life spies during the time of his first trip to London, so we did activities focused on that (as well as many other things).

Because we like both cities and rural areas, our trips always include some of each. For example, on that trip, we began in London, then took the Eurostar to France, where we spent time in the Loire Valley. We then ended our trip in Paris.

Our kids are more or less interested in helping to plan, depending on their moods (and mine). It works the best if I come up with a short list of possibilities, and then present them. Having kids check out specific websites of possible places to visit helps too. We also have discussions about how we can't do everything, and narrow down what everyone's "must-sees" are. Also consider what your kids, and your family as a whole, have done on previous trips closer to home. You're likely to enjoy the same kinds of things in Europe.
Lexma90 is offline  
Sep 16th, 2009, 01:30 AM
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Tineke, Dutch School holidays depend on the area and type of school.
If you can still read Dutch you can find the details at
Basically the North (which includes provincie Noord Holland and Amsterdam) has holidays from 10 July, Midden (Provincies Utrecht, Part of Brabant, Zuid Holland, Flevoland and part of Gelderland) start on 3 July, and south (all the rest) start on 17 or 24 July. Kids who have done their finals finish school in early June.
Life is actually must quieter here once the kids are on holiday as so many Dutch go elsewhere in Europe for their holidays, traffic jams all but disappear and it is very pleasant. But the prices of holiday homes goes up of course.

I'll be happy to help you with the Dutch part of your trip if I can.
hetismij is offline  
Sep 16th, 2009, 02:59 AM
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We did this for 3 weeks when our kids were in high school and it was truly wonderful. You don't have to do all the planning--in fact you NEED to have them help plan. Get a big map of Europe and have everyone stick pins in where they would like to go. Then connect the dots and see what seems to work out.
I don't think you need to stay in places a long time, but you need to stay long enough to truly dip into the culture.
A travel agent will not book you into economical hotels, etc. in my experience, and often know less about an area than you do. The internet and boards like this offer SO much info, and first hand at that. I think you will have no problem working out a wonderful and memorable itinerary.
Gretchen is offline  
Sep 16th, 2009, 03:01 AM
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By the way, if you would like to have a truly remarkable guide for a day or so in Paris, Michael Osman would be the one. He will maximize your use of time and knowledge of the museums and the sites. He is very reasonable.
Gretchen is offline  
Sep 16th, 2009, 05:35 PM
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Thanks so much for all the great advice. I have a lot to go on now and an itinerary is taking shape in my mind.

"Sobster", no worries. Both the girls have decent, light weight, digital cameras and they have been in a French Immersion school since Kindergarten-they will speak French in France and they are very polite.

"hetismij" Thanks for the school information and offer to help with the Dutch. I know enough to figure out what your sign-in name means and I may take you up on your offer for help with translations. Other than some of the main sights- Rijksmusem, Ann Frank house in Amsterdam, is there anywhere else that you would recommend? We are thinking of staying in Edam and renting bikes. Is it possible to bike safely from one town to the next on bicycle paths?

A few of you have mentioned taking the Eurostar from England to France. From what I understand that is not covered by Eurail passes. Other than that did you rent a car or take the train? I had hoped to mostly take trains to avoid worrying about a car in a big city and to sight see in a relaxed way but if we do end up going to Loire Valley or Normandy beach area, is a car more practical? It seems picking the right Eurail pass has become more complicated in the last 20 years too.

On a slightly different topic, both my girls have birthdays coming up and Christmas not too long after. We planned on getting them decent backpacks and travel journals. Any other trip related gift ideas?
tineke is offline  
Sep 16th, 2009, 05:47 PM
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...and oh yes-the kids or even the parents, should keep a little diary of restaurants, hotels, good lodgings, bad lodgings, special or enjoyable activities. For next time or to recommend to others.
sobster is offline  
Sep 16th, 2009, 06:04 PM
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Moleskine notebooks are great for travel journals. They are bound not spiraled so they don't snag knit clothes.

Eurail pass does not cover Eurostar, but there is a discount:
greg is offline  

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