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Mom and 2 teens traveling soon to Netherlands, France, Italy Needs Advice Please!

Mom and 2 teens traveling soon to Netherlands, France, Italy Needs Advice Please!

May 24th, 2004, 07:23 AM
  #1  
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Mom and 2 teens traveling soon to Netherlands, France, Italy Needs Advice Please!

Eons ago, when I was 17, I backpacked across Europe with a friend. Now my son is 17. In honor of his high school graduation, I impulsively booked r.t. tickets to AMS (best fare I could find--still outrageous!) for him, my daughter (15) and myself, 16 days beginning 24 June. The goal is to see my very ill uncle in Paris plus show the kids a bit of the european continent, cheaply and efficiently (hotel backpacking), since we don't have much time. Here is my tentative itinerary:
Arr. AMS 9:55 25 June. Without leaving airport, take Basiqair 12:25 flt to Naples, arr. 14:40.
Cheap (ha!) hotel in Naples (1 night), see Pompeii next day.
Evening train to Rome, 2 or 3 nites in Rome.
Train to Florence, 2 nites Florence.
Train to Venice, 1 or 2 nites Venice.
Train to somewhere??? en route to Paris. Swiss alps perhaps? OR, overnite train right to Paris. If we stop en route in Switz., then another train to Paris, 3 or 4 nites in Paris. Train to AMS. If we didn't stop enroute to Paris, perhaps a day stop at Brugges on way to AMS. 3 or 4 nites in AMS, with day trips to Delft, Utrecht, etc. Or, perhaps stay in Utrecht and daytrip into AMS.
Train to Schiphol,fly home 10 July, noon. My questions are:
1. Is the itinerary too much to do?
2. Will I be cutting it too close to book a basiqair flight to Naples that departs Schiphol 12:25? Would I be better doing VirginExpress at 2:55, which I think goes to Rome instead, then train to Naples?
3. Should I book these discount air tickets from home, now?
4. Should we use rail passes or pt to pt? When I priced out pt-to-pt it seemed cheaper, but railsaver recommended a 4 country/8 day plus one pt-to-pt for me, and 3 country/6 day youth passes plus benelux 5-day flexi for the kids. It seems odd to me to pay for a first-class pass for me, when I'll always be in second class with my kids anyway. Should I make train reservations from home even tho it costs more, because of crowds of tourists and our limited time? What do I do if we're using passes and change my mind and want to go somewhere else, or take a side trip via rail?
Any advice you could give would be much appreciated, since I have no recent travel experience and actually think about things like safety, budget, and hot showers now that I'm a grown-up. Thanks--Leslie
lesliec1 is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 08:34 AM
  #2  
 
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I can't begin to think about this itinerary right now, but - if the primary goal is to visit uncle in Paris, shouldn't you do that earlier into the trip rather than later?
ie. visit Amsterdam a day, train to Brugge for overnight, on to Paris for a couple/few days. After that, see how many days you have left, look at a rail map, and gauge how many more stops you want to make, circling back to Amsterdam.
If you end up at Rome, maybe you can fly back to Amsterdam the day before your flight home.
Train routes thru Switzerland will eat up a lot of time, from what I've seen when researching on rail timetables.
Travelnut is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 09:31 AM
  #3  
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Thanks for your reply. I am trying to delay Paris more towards the end of our trip because my uncle's wife will have had recent surgery, thus she'll have more time to recover before we get there. Ideally, I would have wanted to fly in and out of Paris or Rome--but couldn't find affordable airfare. My kids are keen to see Italy because of their Art History course. The AMS flight was a somewhat more affordable option, a nonstop from PHL where we live (unusual), so I thought it must be serendipitous and booked it. I see what you mean about Switzerland. Everything looks so accessible on my nice little map. If we do start down in Italy, do you think the Basiqair flight from AMS to Naples at 12:25 is realistic, based on a 9:55 scheduled arrival from US? Thanks again for your help. --Leslie
lesliec1 is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 09:45 AM
  #4  
 
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I don't to be responsible if you miss your Basiq Air flight, but it seems like this is plenty of time to me. If you want to be careful and are paranoid, try to see if Schiphol maintains realtime flight arrival information, and monitor the flight you'll be on for a couple of days to see if it usually gets in on time.

I'd book the discount air ticket now. I don't know if the prices go up if you buy the last minute -- but other posters may be able to tell you. I seem to remember reading here that EasyJet and/or Ryanair flights go up in price as the departure date nears.

Have a great trip!
111op is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 09:48 AM
  #5  
 
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By the way, if you decide that the train ride from Italy to Paris is too long and you'd rather fly, there's Volare, which frequently comes up here. I've never used it. And there's whichbudget.com which tells you about budget airlines.
111op is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 10:15 AM
  #6  
ira
 
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Hi leslie,

> Here is my tentative itinerary:

Arr. AMS 9:55 25 June. Without leaving airport, take Basiqair 12:25 flt to Naples, arr. 14:40.

You should be able to make it in 2 1/2 hr.

>Cheap (ha!) hotel in Naples (1 night), see Pompeii next day.

How much are you paying for your hotel.
I would add another day to Naples. You would want to visit the Archaeological Museum and the Capella Sansevero at least. Plus, Naples is soooooo Italian.

>Evening train to Rome, 2 or 3 nites in Rome.

>Train to Florence, 2 nites Florence.

I would add a day for a trip to Siena

>Train to Venice, 1 or 2 nites Venice.

At least 2 nights in Venice

>Train to somewhere??? en route to Paris. Swiss alps perhaps? OR, overnite train right to Paris.

www.volareweb.com will fly your from Venice to Paris ORLY for about 40E each. Check the weight restrictions.

>Train to AMS. ... perhaps a day stop at Brugges on way to AMS.

I would go direct. You have enough packing and unpacking.

>3 or 4 nites in AMS, with day trips to Delft, Utrecht, etc.

>Train to Schiphol,fly home 10 July, noon.

>My questions are:
1. Is the itinerary too much to do?

Yes, but you are still oung.

>3. Should I book these discount air tickets from home, now?

Yes, the quicker the better.

>4. Should we use rail passes or pt to pt? ... railsaver recommended...

Did you click "only if it saves me money"?

Adults get only 1cl railpasses. However, if you enter the schedule for one adult and one youth traveling together, you can get a 2cl pass, and a 2cl pass for the other youth.

>Should I make train reservations from home even .....

With railpasses you have to pay for reservations on ES* trains, about $12 each. For IC trains, reservations are optional. You can make reservations a day ahead. (Did you make reservations when you were 17?)

Sounds like a great family trip. Have fun.
ira is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 03:24 PM
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Thank you 111op and ira for your suggestions. I will definitely check the arrival time trend for the flight we'll be taking. Ira--so far I don't have ANY hotel reservations. I only just bought the airline tickets on Fri. and spent the entire weekend reading about travel on the internet. I am in shock over hotel prices! Your assumption about my youthful vim and vigor was cute--I'll try to remember that when I'm stooped over gasping for breath under the weight of my pack. My last backpacking odyssey was so long ago that no train reservations were required, but I'm sure they would have been advisable because we spent several nights wedged on train floors with about 300 US hippies and half the Italian army. Back then, $700 cash was almost enough to cover food, hostels/camping, and everything else for 2 teenage girls for 7 weeks. We DID run out of money at the end and subsisted for 3 days on orange soda and someone else's leftover watermelon. We stupidly had no lire to pay our airport tax and couldn't board our plane. I solved the problem by pulling my tank top a tad more low-cut and bursting into tears-- the entire male population of the Rome airport offered to pay our airport tax. If I tried that stunt now, they would probably all run out screaming! Anyway, I really appreciate your suggestions and will try to get busy. My aim is to find lodging for $100 or less for the 3 of us each night. Don't know if it's possible, but we'll see. I'm leery about sleeping on overnite trains after reading horror stories on the internet. Also, don't want to overdo the church-frescoes- museum thing with my kids. Happily, they like art, but they also like shopping, internet cafes, and checking out the local youth scene, too! Since our time is so short, would you recommend that we take a 1-day tour in Rome, Florence, and/or Venice to quickly cover the biggie tourist destinations? Also, can we safely drink european tap water these days? Thanks.--Leslie
lesliec1 is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 10:40 AM
  #8  
 
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Last leg of your trip (sounds great to me!):
Bruges is gorgeous but it may be so mobbed in early July that you won't even see it.
Delft might be a good place to stop en route to Amsterdam for one night or 2 (Hotel de Emmaeuspoort is inexpensive and next to a bakery...). From Delft you can get to Rotterdam or The Hague in 15 minutes, or to the beach at Scheveningen by public transportation. In Amsterdam, consider Hotel De Prinsenhof. Have a great trip!
jenviolin is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 11:48 AM
  #9  
ira
 
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Hi leslie,

Your budget of $100/nite (83E) is rather low.

In Florence I can highly recommend the B&B Peterson. www.bedinflorence.it

You can get a single and double for under 100E.

See my trip report for further info.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34451044


ira is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 11:53 AM
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I just got back last night from Italy with a 16 year old son and 14 year old daughter...I'm trying to put together a post on tips for traveling with teens before I tacked the trip report.

But I have to say, taking the train and then only staying 1 or 2 nights and then another train, I dunno...We stayed 4 nights in Sorrento, train to Rome, 1 week, train to Florence 4 nights, train to Venice 3 nights and travel days are pretty stressful. If I could have forced us to pack a little lighter, maybe it wouldn't have been so bad, but frankly I'd find a schedule of taking a train every 2 or 3 nights to be hell. but maybe you guys are tougher than we are...

I had planned on spending the afternoon after we arrived by train to sight see in a new place. But we were so exhausted by the trip, we would usually lounge around our hotel or apt and then our big activity would be going to dinner.

The train ride itself is nice, but there is packing, getting to the train station, figuring out where to get the train, our car was invarabily in the back so hustling to the car, getting your bags in the train, heaving them up overhead....then off the train, getting a taxi, ...it's giving me a headache just thinking about it.

Joelle
Joelleinitaly04 is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 12:23 PM
  #11  
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Wow, thank you all for your continuing input. Here's where I am so far in my planning. The itinerary is finalized as flying to AMS, spending a few hours in the city and returning to Schiphol for afternoon flight to Rome. 2 nights at the most expensive and "touristy" hotel I've ever stayed at in my life because I couldn't find anything else and was starting to panic. Train to Naples. 1 night in Naples at Hotel Duomo from Eurocheapo. Spend the next day at Pompeii/ Herculaneum. Late afternoon train to Florence, where I took various people's suggestions and tried to book B&B peterson, which is filled, but succeeded in getting a spot at their new B&B, Cascia for 2 nites. Train to Venice, 2 nites at 2 different hotels from eurocheapo (euronotsocheapo). Artesia to Paris in 6-drawer couchette, 3 nights in Paris but I still haven't found a cheap hotel there. Considered ETAP in outskirts, which I wouldn't mind for me, but I SO wanted my kids to have the typical Paris morning, waking up hearing church bells, wandering around the corner for croissants, etc. Not gazing across a parking lot at Carrefours. I may spend a tad more and try to be more in the center. I guess I should maybe put up a new post for advice on cheap Paris hotels. (My goal is $100 a night; I started with a much lower goal but reality has set in, when I see that 3 dorm beds in a hostel are more than $60...) ANyway, assuming we find our place in Paris, we'll leave on the 4th day, which will be the last day on our rail passes so we'll go somewhere enroute to Holland, perhaps Bruges--but that would make for a long train journey and not much time at the town--or Chartres? My goal is then 2 nights in Utrecht or Delft, with poss. bike rentals/day trip, then 2 final nites in Amsterdam. Since I thought Rome hotels were costly, I sure got a rude awakening with Amsterdam hotels. YIPES! With only 3 weeks until the trip, I've been working like a madwoman trying to organize everything. I've got all the plane tix, train passes, artesia reservation in place. The other italian and french train trips we'll book over there. I've been staying up all night every night this week calling Italian convents with my little phrasebook, to no avail. Was on hold to the Uffizi for 30 minutes! at 4:30 a.m. trying (successfully) to get reservations for there and the Accademia. Overall, I am just in shock at how much it will cost, and trying not to let that dampen my enthusiasm for what will obviously be a once-in-a-life-time trip for us. This week we must get busy finding packs, shoes, and other equipment. Difficult with kids about to have finals, graduation, etc. OH well, I can rest when we get home in July! thanks again for all your great help! --Leslie
lesliec1 is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 12:38 PM
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Hi Joelleinitaly. Just read your post after I wrote my last one. Uh oh, you make it sound so terrifying. I know we are being really optimistic in our planning, banking on making our train connections successfully, finding our hotels efficiently, having the energy to rush around what is obviously a quick-overview type of trip rather than an in-depth exploration, and most of all (for me) being able to limit my packing to what I can carry in a pack and then having my middle-aged out-of-shape back survive hauling it all around! Our usual summer vacations are 4 day tent camping trips, so this will be a totally different thing. But since we never have enough time or money on our vacations, we've become fairly good at squashing lots of stuff into a day and eating snacks here and there rather than going to restaurants, etc. (I showed my kids the movie "Gleaning", about people who exist by eating the leftovers out of farm fields and city markets, and told 'em to pay attention, that's what they are going to be doing in Paris.)
I'll look for your trip notes when you've posted them! --Leslie
lesliec1 is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 03:04 PM
  #13  
 
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Oh no Leslie, didn't mean to make it sound terrifying. Never was, just exhausting. And probably a big part of it was we just plain had too much stuff.

Are you planning to go to Pompeii AND Herculaneum AND taking a train to Florence in the late afternoon???? I can't imagine it. We spent more than 4 hours at Pompei and didn't get to see it all, we were just too exhausted to go to the very end of it.

If you camp and hike a lot, you are probably in better shape than we are (actually my daughter, a competitive figure skater always was less tired and willing to keep going) so it might be more doable, but I still think there is a tendency when planning, to overestimate how much you can actually do in a day.

But it's great to travel with your kids - it was a great expereience and they got along much better on the trip than they do at home.

Joelle
Joelleinitaly04 is offline  

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