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[Itinerary] Need help creating itinerary for 22 DAYS 5 CITIES

[Itinerary] Need help creating itinerary for 22 DAYS 5 CITIES

Old Jan 21st, 2020, 05:53 AM
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[Itinerary] Need help creating itinerary for 22 DAYS 5 CITIES

Hi everyone,

We, group of 6 people (my parents in their late 60s, my wife and I in our 30s and my 2 children age 9 and 2), will be travelling to Europe for the first time ever in June 2020. We are interested in seeing some (but not all) main attractions, enjoying great scenery, buildings and structures, sampling food and maybe visiting some museums. We will likely NOT be taking any heavy activities such hiking, skiing or bungee jumping (?!). Here is our first draft itinerary:
  • Day 1: Flight to Paris
  • Day 2-5: Explore Paris + optional Day/half-day
  • Day 6: Travel by Train from Paris to Bern
  • Day 7-10: Explore Bern + Day trips to Lucerne, Grindelwald, Thun and more?
  • Day 11: Travel by Train from Bern to Venice
  • Day 12-13: Explore Venice + Day trips
  • Day 14: Travel by Train from Venice to Florence
  • Day 15-17: Explore Florence + optional Day/half-day trips to Tuscany
  • Day 18: Travel by Flight from Florence to Barcelona
  • Day 19-21: Explore Barcelona + optional Day/half-day trips
  • Day 22: Flight back home from Barcelona

What do you guys think about this Itinerary? Is it too much, too tiring considering that we'll be travelling with young children? Should I reduce or add more days to some destinations given our interests above?

We really appreciate your inputs.

Ricky

P.S: the reason we add Barcelona to our trip is because we hear Barcelona is a great city to visit and also there are beaches which our kids will really enjoy.

Last edited by rickymorty; Jan 21st, 2020 at 06:46 AM. Reason: Formatting, few typos, clarified day-trip
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 06:31 AM
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Hi Ricky, welcome to the forum. I can appreciate wanting to see so many places during your three weeks on the ground, but I think you need to step back and do the math. It’s easy to underestimate the time it takes for a “day trip”. Each will consume the majority of the day, leaving little time to explore the major cities where you’re based. For instance, staying in Paris for five nights with four day trips leaves you only one partial day to explore Paris, along with time for evening meals after you return from a day trip. Keep in mind five nights equals four full days along with a partial day upon arrival. Even without kids, it would be a whirlwind trip. With young kids, I think you’re going to run into serious problems. I presume you’ve chosen specific bases because you have an interest in those cities. If you really want to see them, you’ll need to cut out at least half the day trips, leaving you with an itinerary that is still pretty ambitious.

Did you choose your itinerary by looking at tour group schedules? Yes, they visit lots of cities. They also load you onto a bus very early in the morning and dive you directly to the major sites, stopping for a very short time before moving on. Everything is very regimented, not relaxing and enjoyable. Are you familiar with the Chevy Chase movie “European Vacation”? You’ll miss so much of what makes Europe a favorite travel destination.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 06:37 AM
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I would seriously reconsider the day trips with a two year old. There is more than enough to see in Paris itself, for instance.

Not sure why you are basing in Bern, or visiting Switzerland in the first place if you are not spending most of your time in the mountains. Also be aware that Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in Europe.

Barcelona is a very (too) popular destination, but not really for beaches.

It might make more sense to fly from Paris to Venice, and then to Nice. I would not take a two year old to Florence, people go to Florence for the art.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 06:45 AM
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Since it is a first trip for your family I thought I might mention a couple of factors you might consider as you plan that could help you decide if you are trying to do too much. One of the things I prefer to do when planning is to it by thinking of where I spend the nights-not the days. I find that this makes it easier to think about the real amount of time I have for travel between places. Also you don't mention where you will arriving from-because it makes a big difference in terms of jet lag if you flying from New York to Paris versus if you are flying from somewhere really far away. And even when I am just in the preliminary planning stages I like to look at possible flights to see what time you will arrive. Because, ideally it is nice to arrive at your first destination at a time when you can check into your hotel-but depending on where you are coming from many transatlantic flights land very early like 7AM and it is always terrible to feel like you have to wander around like a zombie until you can check into your hotel at 3PM for instance.

Looking at your initial ideas especially with the train travel I would recommend you spend some time looking at https://www.rome2rio.com/

This will help you look at the travel times by train, plane etc. to help you make some decisions. For instance Bern to Venice is at best a 6 hour train trip so that is basically 1 whole travel day.

In general, I think your initial ideas are a bit ambitious but do-able, although it really comes down to how you like to travel. Barcelona is a great city but a little bit of the outlier in terms of the geography, so you could decide to not go there this trip and focus just on the France Switzerland and Italy portions. However, if the flight routing through Barcelona is good for you-maybe you keep it but drop part of Italy for instance.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 06:57 AM
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Thank you for your replies, HappyTrails2 and thursdaysd.

HappyTrails2 Maybe I did not make myself very clear regarding "+ day trips". What I meant was for each destination (Paris, Bern, Venice, Florence, Barcelona) we will spend most of our time exploring the cities. "Day trips" mean we might add 1 or 2 day-trips or half-day trips if time allows. We'll definitely take our time exploring the cities. The pace will be slow and relaxed. If my first draft itinerary seems similar to tour groups schedules which I dislike, I will probably reduce to 4 cities instead? Would it be better?

thursdaysd The reason I picked Bern is because I want to use it as base to see both Grindelwald and Lucerne. Bern's accommodation seems comparatively cheaper. Since we have people in their 60s and a toddler, hiking/trekking is out of question. But we'd really like to visit Switzerland old towns, heritage sites and lakes.

And I will definitely look into Nice with a possibility of replacing Barcelona.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:18 AM
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I would definitely drop Barcelona. Maybe look at the Italian lakes after Venice--Lake Garda in particular. There are beaches and kid friendly activities.

Florence is wonderful, but I am not sure it is the best choice for you given your interests. Maybe consider Lucca. Very family friendly with a wall around the town that people bike and stroll on. Great train connections, so you can do easy day trips to Pisa, Montecatini, and Pistoia. If some family members wanted to see Florence and its museums, it too is an easy train ride.

Also, how will you getting between these points?
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:20 AM
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jpie We'll fly from Asia to Paris so jet-lag is definitely a concern. I prepare to have the first day in Paris for just recovery. Fortunately, our in-bound flight to Paris will arrive in early afternoon so checking-in hotel shouldn't be any problem. I like your suggestion of planning in terms of nights instead of days. I'll try to have a more comprehensive itinerary by the end of tomorrow. I currently do have a brief but more detailed itinerary (with train trips and duration) in table format but cannot for the life of me figure out how to post here.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:29 AM
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mama_mia Ooh, at a quick glance, Lake Garda seems like a great option. I'll definitely look into it.

How crowded/touristy would you say Lucca/Pisa/Montecatini is? We prefer quieter places to the ones like Rome.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:33 AM
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For the most part, you can only travel as fast as the 2 y.o. If there will be jet-lag, for the first day or two or three, the toddler's schedule could be topsy-turvy, and I presume he/she will still need a daily nap. Some little ones have trouble adjusting to new food, new bed, etc., and you're hoping he/she can easily adapt five times. Some kids don't miss a beat, and if you're lucky your toddler might be one of those intrepid travelers. But unless you've already done something similar, you can't know how this is going to go.

Also keep in mind how much stuff you're going to need to bring and visualize schlepping it all from city to city, on and off trains and planes (watch out for baggage limits), something like 8-9 times. Yes, you'll have the g-parents to help and the 9 y.o. can likely pull his/her own little rolling suitcase, but it will be tough and mostly on the two dads.

I would consider fewer destinations and include a quieter, smaller town somewhere to give you all a respite from big, crowded cities.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:34 AM
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Years ago, we did this in Switzerland and loved it - we stayed in Interlaken, and while we were there, we took the train to Wengen, then the lift to Mannlichen, then walked (easy walk) to Kleine Scheidigg, then the cog railway to Grindelwald, and train back to Interlaken. We would have gone up to the Jungfrau, but the videos you can see in Grindelwald showed that it was socked in with fog, so we didn't go.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Jean
For the most part, you can only travel as fast as the 2 y.o. If there will be jet-lag, for the first day or two or three, the toddler's schedule could be topsy-turvy, and I presume he/she will still need a daily nap. Some little ones have trouble adjusting to new food, new bed, etc., and you're hoping he/she can easily adapt five times. Some kids don't miss a beat, and if you're lucky your toddler might be one of those intrepid travelers. But unless you've already done something similar, you can't know how this is going to go.

Also keep in mind how much stuff you're going to need to bring and visualize schlepping it all from city to city, on and off trains and planes (watch out for baggage limits), something like 8-9 times. Yes, you'll have the g-parents to help and the 9 y.o. can likely pull his/her own little rolling suitcase, but it will be tough and mostly on the two dads.

I would consider fewer destinations and include a quieter, smaller town somewhere to give you all a respite from big, crowded cities.
Jean, you make great sense. I will seriously consider limiting to 4 cities. We will also try our best to travel light and restock at base cities.

I understand that Paris and Venice will be hectic during peak season but places like Grindelwald/Florence/Lucca will be more relaxed?
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by rickymorty
jpie We'll fly from Asia to Paris so jet-lag is definitely a concern. I prepare to have the first day in Paris for just recovery. Fortunately, our in-bound flight to Paris will arrive in early afternoon so checking-in hotel shouldn't be any problem. I like your suggestion of planning in terms of nights instead of days. I'll try to have a more comprehensive itinerary by the end of tomorrow. I currently do have a brief but more detailed itinerary (with train trips and duration) in table format but cannot for the life of me figure out how to post here.
Yes I was guessing you might be coming from far away so jet lag may knock you down a bit the first couple of days-that and trying to get your 2 year old's sleeping times on track. It will be a huge advantage to be able to go directly to your hotel and check in though.

Also you may not know that now the taxis prices in Paris are a "fixed" flat rate going into Paris from the airports. Make sure you go to the "official taxi line" outside and not accept rides from folks waiting outside the arrivals area soliciting your business. At the line you can tell the person there you are 6 people and they will wave over a larger van that can accommodate your family.

Here are the rates:

Paris-CDG to Paris right bank: 50
Paris-CDG to Paris left bank: 55
Paris-Orly to Paris right bank: 35
Paris-Orly to Paris left bank: 30

there is a charge for supplementary passengers once the number goes above four, which would mean a cost of 4 per extra passenger. Also you might ask other parents here whether you need to travel with a car seat for your toddler-I don't have children so not sure about that.

In terms of posting your itinerary you can attach various files. Here is the FAQ about doing that:

https://www.fodors.com/community-faq...tos-and-videos

I have found it easiest to post photo file formats. Here is and example of a few lines of the spreadsheet I use for planning-although sometimes I customize it differently - just to show you as an example of posting a table as a photo. You will see once you start fooling around with that functionality it can be kind of quirky but you will get used to it:






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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 08:00 AM
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June will not be as hectic as the July and August holiday peak season in Europe, but of course capital cities like Paris will always be busy. We find June in general a really nice month to be in most places in Europe.

One thing I meant to mention is that even if you decide to drop Barcelona I would definitely still look to see if you can fly open jaw, in one city and return from another since that will still save you a lot of travel time. So it still probably makes sense to end your trip in or near a more major city like Zurich, Geneva or other cities where you can either fly directly back to Asia-or connect easily to London or Paris or whatever cities are easy for you to get your tickets for the long haul flight back.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 08:04 AM
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Lucca is on the tourist map. There can be crowds at times along the main drag who come through on bus tours or off cruise ships. However, like in most Italian cities and towns, if you venture away from the popular thoroughfares or hit those spots after the day trippers, you will find it enjoyable and relatively quiet. I find this to be true even in Rome and parts of Venice. Since you are not so interested in museums, ask here for suggestions on quiet areas of any of these cities to base yourself.

Pistoia does not seem to get as many international visitors. Montecatini Terme is interesting for its Liberty/Art Deco architecture and spa. Pisa is a fair sized city--most folks flock to the Field of Miracles/Leaning Tower (me, too, so I cannot comment on other areas).

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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 08:17 AM
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Replace the Spanish beaches by Tuscan or Venetian beaches.
Viareggio, Marina di Pisa, Lido di Camaiore, Pietrasanta, Follonica etc. are all sandy with shadow water, excellent for kids.They are all less than 2 hrs from Florence, by (often) direct trains running about every 30 minutes.
You find similar kid-friendly beaches around Venice, for example Lido di Jesolo or Cavallino (direct bus to Venice Mestre railway station as well as to Punta Sabbioni, stop of the Venice city boat to San Marco (every 30 minutes).
Bern can be visited in 1 day (without museums, but with a funicular ride to the children playground Gurten). But 4 different lakes (with regular boat service) can be reached in less than 1 hr: Lake Thun, Lake Biel/Bienne, Lake Murten and Lake Neuchatel. Vineyards and castles along all these lakes. Lucerne, Interlaken, Mount Niesen, Kandersteg, the Emmental showdairy at Affoltern, Beatus Caves, the stork colony of Altreu (reachable by Aar river boat) and many other places worth a visit are about 1 hr away.
You may cut long railway journeys by overnight stopovers, for example Paris - Bern at Basel (medieval city center, famous zoo) or Bern - Venice at Peschiera on Lake Garda (kids fun and water park, Gardaland).
The main airport of Florence is called Pisa, but Rome Fiumicino or Milan Malpensa airport are only 2 1/2 resp 3 hrs away.

Last edited by neckervd; Jan 21st, 2020 at 08:22 AM.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 08:27 AM
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You may cut long railway journeys by overnight stopovers, for example Paris - Bern at Basel
The idea is to REDUCE the number of hotel stays. In this case flying would be better.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 09:04 AM
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Four cities would be better with children. Switzerland is a magical place as long as you know it is very very expensive.

Lucca is a very small town with not a whole lot to see and do. Once you have walked around the walls of the town that’s about it.

Lake Garda is lovely and we stayed in Salo. The hotel had a pool and we often purchased good quality pre made food and took it back to hotel and ate sitting around the pool. The hotel did not mind at all.

Have you considered Lake Como. Stunning area, frequent ferries to other towns. we have been to Bellagio and Varenna and loved both places. While in Bellagio we took private tour for a day trip to Switzerland. My sister has severe mobility issues, and this worked well for her. While it cost nearly an arm and a leg, she would not have been able to see the alps otherwise.

Whatever you decide, have fun planning and enjoy the trip.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2020, 06:31 AM
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Hi everyone,

Sorry for the delayed reply. Being a newly signed up user, the forum only let me post maximum 5 times within the first 24 hours.

And thank you all for your very helpful inputs. I've done some more research into your suggestions and made few changes to my itinerary which I will post later.

jpie No, I did not know about the fixed taxi rate. It is a great tip.

Regarding attaching files, I tried before but couldn't due to being new user with less than 5 posts. I guess I can attach now though. We'll definitely fly open-jaw regardless of any change in itinerary draft since open-jaw flights save us lots of time and travel.

mama_mia Out of all your suggestions, I think Lucca suits us the most. Next would be Pisa. However, Pistoia and Montecatini Terme seem lovely too. If we finally add more days to our Florence trip then we will go to one of those places you suggest.

neckervd At the moment, We've settled for beaches near Venice. They're in close proximity and look excellent for kids too.
Regarding our trip to Switzerland, we've changed our base from Bern to Lauterbrunnen as we've realized it's ambitious to aim for all Bern, Lucerne and Oberland. We will now dedicate our full 3 days to Oberland only (Murren, Wengen, Grindelwald, Spiez).

cheska15 Taken into account that Switzerland is very expensive. We've skipped Bern and moved directly to Lauterbrunnen, limiting our stays to 3 days only.

I hear that Lake Como is the best Lake in Italy. However, it's quite far out of our moving path. Lake Garda makes more sense since we can stop at Peschiera del Garda on our trip from Lauterbrunnen to Venice (like neckervd suggested).
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Old Jan 22nd, 2020, 07:26 AM
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ITINERARY UPDATE 1

After taking everyone's advice on board, I've altered my itinerary as below. There are now two options (i) Option 1 with 4 cities (Paris, Lauterbrunnen, Venice, Florence) in 21 days and (ii) Option 2 with 5 cities (Paris, Lauterbrunnen, Peschiera del Garda, Venice, Florence) in 22 days. The difference between two options is with Option 2 I've added 2 days in Lake Garda to my trips and reduced my stay in Florence by 1 day.
Please comment and let me know which Option makes the most sense and anything I should change.

Thank you in advance





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Old Jan 22nd, 2020, 08:01 AM
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I'm still not keen on the idea of taking a two year old to Florence, nor with spending much time there. However, despite several visits to Italy (including two week long visits to Venice) I have yet to go to Florence, so maybe you should ignore my opinion. I would use the time for Switzerland, Venice and the Lakes.
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