I don't know where to start!

Mar 7th, 2007, 06:54 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 4
I don't know where to start!

I am wanting to take my 13 year old daughter to Europe for two weeks in July...yes I know, I know.... but July is the only time we can go.

Anyway, She wants to go to Paris and Italy. She is interested in just experiencing Europe and shopping of course.

I am not sure if you can go to Europe without a daily activities guide or not. Unfortunately we are go with the flow kind of travelers.

So with that in mind..I have no idea how to even begin to plan our trip. Do we fly from country to country? Maybe train? Do I consult a travel consultant, if so who? Could we fit one more country into our trip? If so which one?

I don't even know what to do in Europe. I have read travel books and searched websites, but it seems as though every thing I have read talks about structured activities and not just being in Europe.

I have been researching for about 4 weeks on and off and can't find a place to start.

My first instinct is to try to fit as many countries in as I can but I know that is not wise.

I just need a little help and direction.

jennking is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 07:07 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,414
Hi J,

Open a bottle of Côtes du Rhône or Orvieto.

Sit back and relax.

Start with Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome under "Destinations".

Airfares are at www.kayak.com

Flights within Europe are at www.whichbudget.com.

Train schedules and tickets are at www.trenitalia.com.

Also see
Helpful Information: Italy 2

Paris Superthread

100 Great Things to Do in Paris

Degasís Paris Walks

Now have your daughter help plan the trip.

I would do 6 nights in Paris (with one daytrip), Fly www.myair.com to Venice (3 nights), train to Florence (3 nights) fly home from FLR or PSA.

You could also do 6 nights Paris and fly to Rome for 6 nights Rome (daytrip to Orvieto).

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 07:14 AM
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With two weeks, I'd visit between two to four cities. You could each list your top 2 or 3 to come up with a list of 2 to 4.

Then look at a map; are they easily connected by train (e.g. London, Paris and Brussels), or do you need to fly between some cities (e.g. London to Venice)?

Once you've settled on your cities, book your flights to fly into the first city and out of the last (called "open jaw"). We flew open jaw last summer (into Rome and out of Venice) and the fare was exactly the same as it would have been to fly in and out of Rome.

Then, book your hotel.

This first part (deciding on cities, then booking flights, then hotels) should be done as soon as possible because in July, you'll want air conditioning in most places.

Next, buy the DK Eyewitness Guide for each city you're visiting. Spend a few days paging through the guides and looking at the beautiful pictures, and you'll come up with way too many things to do and see.

Then, both of you should list the top 3 to 10 things you want to do in each city (depending on how many days in each city). From there, make up your list of "must sees." You could have one or two "must sees" each day and wander and shop the rest of each day.
missypie is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 07:22 AM
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I would suggest doing three cities max, preferably two. You will be surprised how quickly the time goes. I was in Paris last November for 9 days and I couldn't believe it when it was time to go home, seems like I just got there.

Pick your cities and then go from there. There must be some sites or such that you would like to see. I just made a list of the things I wanted to see and then just went "with the flow". I had no strict schedule or time table. I had been to Paris twice before so some things, like going up in the Eiffle Tower, were not on my list.

You will need maps of the cities as you plan so you can see where things are in relation to each other. You are not familiar with the cities so you will spend some time finding places, getting used to the transportation system etc. I did most of my "must do's" first thing in the morning and then spent the rest of day exploring different areas of the city and of course shopping. We also would have a late and leisurly lunch everyday and then spend the rest of the afternoon to early evening walking it off.

It made for a very nice and relaxing trip. I don't like a lot of structure when I travel, but there are things that I want to see. Things I have seen on travel programs, things I have read about, historical buildings, and some of the art and churches, but I don't spend each day running from site to site with a specific amount of time alloted to each place, so for me, I find a comfortable mix.

But, again, the first thing you have to do is decide where you want to go, and with only two weeks, you don't want to spend a lot of time on trains and planes I wouldn't think.
crefloors is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 07:22 AM
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Common problem...What are your daughter's interests? What is your profession or main interest. Rotary or Kiwanis? You need to find a European connection. Simply stumbling about Paris and Rome will not be rewarding. Maybe a French cooking school? Athletic: canoeing and kayaking tours as well as bike excursions abound.
GSteed is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 07:22 AM
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I am with the above posters, right down to the final paragraph. Get the Eyewitness guide book, sure, but I really wouldn't worry about plotting each and every day, or even ANY day.

There are very few things that you and your 13-year old will want to do that require booking in advance.
Shopping, giggling over hot chocolate/gelato, eating frites/pizza on the street, watching Parisiennes/Romans/Venetians and other tourists and finding your very own church/museum/gallery are the joys of first-time with your daughter in Europe. Relax and you will enjoy...I speak from experience.
LJ is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 07:27 AM
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Sometimes less is more. I'd make sure there was a mix between city and country... Maybe five days in Paris, then perhaps a few days in Provence (though it will be hot and humid in July). Perhaps onto Lake Como or Cinque Terre for a different kind of experience, a couple of days in Florence, and end up in Rome.

The wonder if travel is to spend some time in each place, soaking up the culture and the history. Don't rush it. Stay awhile in your different destinations ... and savor!
travelhorizons is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 07:30 AM
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If you have no idea at all where to start you can go to affordabletours.com. You might be an escorted tour type of person, and if not you can look through the various company's trip itineraries to see what most people do and some of the more popular routes. It can give an idea of whats possible.
TravMimi is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 07:46 AM
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A mix of places is a good idea. Perhaps a major city for shopping and sightseeing and some beach time in the south of France or Italy!
Kids tend to get fed up with too many museums and galleries!
lso moving around in the summer heat (especially in Italy)can be difficult.
An open jaw ticket would be helpful
If you can, book your hotels soon and make sure you have A/C.
Two weeks is about 12-13 days

Paris 5
Nice 3


Rome 4
Venice 3
Paris ( with side trips) 6

Mar 7th, 2007, 07:52 AM
Posts: n/a
"I don't know where to start"

Well, as Glinda the Good Witch said, "It's always best to start at the beginning ó and all you do is follow the Yellow Brick Road."

I think the beginning in your case is to define what you mean by "experiencing Europe." You've said you want to shop, and that is one part of experiencing Europe. If you mean varied, high end shopping London, Paris and to some extent Rome are good bets. If you are looking for local crafts other destinations might be better.

So I think you might want to spend some time deciding just what elements of Europe you want to experience. Urban, country, food and wine, history and art in the their many periods and schools . . .

Keep in mind too that every day, and sometimes every hour, will be a mix of sightseeing, taking a seat at a cafe, stopping into a store. If you travel by yourself, you provide the structure.

Having found the beginning, you just follow the Yellow Brick Road, in this case the information highway. People here (I think Fodor's calls it gold rather than yellow) will have plenty of ideas.
Mar 7th, 2007, 08:13 AM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,033
The first advice has to be that this will be the first trip to Europe of many, especially for your daughter. On your next visit, you can see some of the places that you have missed this time, and so on. Then perhaps you will want to visit some places a second time.

Don't fill your day with museums, galleries and other sights. Take your time and visit the ordinary every-day places as well, so that you get a good feel of the life style.

Keep away from other tourists, especially American tourists, and go to places after hours. The Campo dei Miracoli in Pisa, with the Baptistry, Duomo and Leaning Tower is much more appealing in the evening when the crowds have gone and the cheap stalls have closed.

The other posters have made some good suggestions about places to go. What is more important is that you go home with some good memories, rather than a ticked-off list of sights.
chartley is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 08:17 AM
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Paris and Italy for two weeks sounds good to me. Fly into one and out of the other. Decide how long you want to stay in Paris, then where you want to go in Italy. If you are mostly interested in cities, Venice and Rome are wonderful and provide two very different experiences.

If you are interested in experiencing the countryside, you can rent a car and spend a few days in Tuscany or Umbria between Venice and Rome.

For flights between Paris and Venice or Rome, check www.whichbudget.com, as suggested above. This will show you the European budget airlines that don't show up on a search on the major search engines such as kayak, travelocity, expedia, etc.

I don't think it is unfortunate at all that you are "go with the flow kind of travelers". It is lots of fun that way. What I do is read a lot ahead of time and have an idea of the things I want to see and do. Then I decide what to do each day while I am traveling. I usually pick one or two main things for the day, and the day just sort of develops around those things. You can't do everything; just enjoy those things that you do.
Nikki is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 08:19 AM
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All of the above advice is good advice.

For the major cities condier taking a half day or full day with a tour guide and tour group. This will let you see alot of the major sites (these tours range Grey Line and Viator to customizable tours). The hop on hop off types of tours work for some people.

Parcel out your days to your destinations and make your reservations. In parceling out your days, most flights from the US land around dawn. For most of us, the first day is an immense struggle with jet lag, not an ideal day for the top one or top two attractions on our lists.

Get a few books (DK, top ten are good books).

If your final schedule is not hectic, then some daytrips might give you the chance to experience a little more of Europe.
Big_Red is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 08:25 AM
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Some good free resources i always bring to attention of novice Euro travelers, especially those pondering train travel:
www.ricksteves.com has lots of train travel as well as cheap flights, railpasses, etc. And the free European Planning & Rail Guide is a superb primer on rail travel as well as many other topics from packing to suggested itineraries (free at www.budgeteuropetravel.com) Any major guide, like Fodor's guides, will suffice for info you need once there in each city and are fun to read about ahead of time.
Srongly consider a rail trip for maximum freelance flexibility, etc. and trains are so easy to use and so modern. PalQ
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 08:27 AM
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When making reservations consider "multi city" flights, also known as "open jaw". That way you fly into Paris and then out of Rome (or whatever) rather than returning to your original destination which takes time and doesn't cost much less as you will have to pay to get back to the original city.

I hate to waste money so if I have no set destination I play with www.itasoftware.com and try lots of city combinations before making decisions. I also like that website's 30 day search feature will show you the best prices for a full month.

I would do three destinations in two weeks (factor in travel days and jet lag and you won't have a full two weeks). I would try to do a big city, a smaller city/town, and a bit of country or beach.
amwosu is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 09:40 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
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My first stop whenever I plan a trip to a new place: the library.

Although I adore Fodors and online surfing about travel, for my first taste I like to get a bunch of different guidebooks from the library and just randomly page through them for a few weeks, soaking in the information, seeing what catches my eye, etc.

This helps me go beyond my preconceived notions about a place and discover what interests me. (I think it is hard to "define" your interests before knowing what a place offers.) This way I also find "my" guidebooks- those with a writing style and travel philosophy that matches my own. Then I only buy the one or two I really find valuable.

I also advocate at least one train trip between cities for families taking teens. As a 14 year old American on my first trip to Europe, this was such a different cultural experience for me. My sister and I still talk about it.

Interestingly, the things I remember from traveling when I was young never involve planned sightseeing; it is always the random interactions and discoveries that come to mind. As a high school teacher, I am always reminded of how different my adult perceptions are from those of teenagers, even the most cultured teens. Things that would never be included in a guidebook are the things I remember most about my first trip to Europe, like finding a Benetton outlet (back in the 80s when this was the coolest thing for teens) in Switzerland.

Finally, have your daughter take a look at a guide that describes cultural differences in a friendly way. Rick Steeves Europe through the Back Door does a nice job with this. It will help her get excited and travel like a pro.
BlueSwimmer is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 10:21 AM
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First of all welcome to Fodors.

You have come to the right place for answers to your questions.

And what good answers and what excellent advice you have already received.

I've been to several European cities with teenage daughters from when they were 12/13 up to now when they are 16/18 (they both LOVE to shop and spend my money - LOL!) and their favourites have been Paris, London and Barcelona. Italian cities they loved, but not for the shopping which they found a bit disappointing).

Paris is a must(do get a hotel with A/C because Paris in July is hot), then maybe you could consider taking Eurostar to London (2 hour journey) staying there for a few days before flying to somewhere in Italy (Milan is supposed to be really great for shopping - we've not been there yet!)

We can't tell you exactly where to go, but once you and your daughter decide/agree on 2 or 3 places we can then help you loads with hotels, apartments, restaurants, etc.

Once you have decided the basics of WHERE, and got your accommodation sorted, you can go with the flow. Shop when you want, sightsee when you want, you don't need a minute by minute itinerary.

Before I travel with my daughters I have a 'list' of places/sights I would like to visit/see wherever we are going, and when we reach a lull in proceedings I suggest 'well, why don't we go and see such and such?' and it works out OK. Saying that, I have been to Paris 4 times now and STILL haven't got to the Louvre, but oh well, there's always next time...

Relax and you'll have a great time wherever you decide to go.
julia_t is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 10:37 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
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Great advice everyone! I too don't like a day by day itinerary, but rather a list of must sees in each city -- but with that said, you do need to check which days some of the sites may be closed so you don't end up missing something. I'm taking my niece "anywhere in the world" she wants to go for her high school graduation and she chose Rome, Venice & Paris and we will also be gone for 2 weeks. We invited her mom (my sis) to come along too. We fly into Rome and home from Paris and got a 3-country train pass for in between. Do have your daughter participate in the planning - ask her to pick at least 2-3 things she wants to see in each city and do the "research" so she can explain them to you when you go see them.
queener is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 11:35 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 4
Thank you all!
I canít believe the wonderful information here.

I am now officially excited and my daughter and I went and bout some books and learning language CDís.

I was wondering if you could guide me as to where to shop in these countries.

I am more interested in the local gems than high-end stuff. I remember when I went to Paris, as a teenager I bought a ring at an open-air market and it is still my prized possession.

jennking is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 11:44 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 96
Try Rick Steves guide books and website. WWW.ricksteves.com I buy books from 2 or 3 different sources since they all focus on different aspects of the same areas. I have been to Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Amsterdam. My wife and I are going to London and Nice in 2 months. No matter where you go in Europe, the culture, history and food will amaze both of you. Have a great trip!!
sherm99 is offline  

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