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junk4rp Jan 21st, 2010 12:59 PM

Need information in arranging our first family trip to Europe
Hi All,

We are planning our first Europe trip from March 27-Apr 6th. I am doing the planning at this time. So wanted to validate some information and wanted to ask for some more.

1. We are family of five with three kids of 11, 7 & 7 age. I am checking on one way flights from WAS to LON and then returning from ROM to WAS. The approximate price I am getting is close to $780-$800/pp. Is this a good price for that time & route or should I wait.

2. Here is our tentative itinerary:

-Reach London on 27th morning; see London on 27th and 28th.
-Go to Paris on 29th morning; see Paris on 29th, 30th and 31st.
-Go to Venice on 1st April; see Venice on Apr 1st and 2nd
-Go to Rome on 3rd; see Rome on Apr 3rd, 4th and 5th
-Leave from Rome on 6th

Is this too ambitious for a first trip? I am a little scared, but do not feel like dropping any of these cities from my first trip.

3. At first I was checking Euro rail to travel in between London-Paris-Venice-Rome. But then I checked EasyJet and the price they have for internal flight is much better than Euro rail and also it will save us time. So, I am inclining on taking these internal flights. Is that the right way to travel within Europe?

4. We are on budget, so where can I find budget accommodation like max $150/night average in these cities? Is that even possible?

5. Given the time constraint, what should I see in each city.

I know I have asked too many questions. But I am confident each of you experienced travelers / planners can answer one or more of these question and then I will be little less scared to plan everything on my own.

Thank you in advance for your help and I promise I will help fellow travelers when I am experienced!


StCirq Jan 21st, 2010 01:09 PM

Yes, far too ambitious, especially with three kids in tow. The first day is usually completely lost because of arriving, getting to hotel, unpacking, getting your bearings, having kids who will fall into their dinners sound asleep at 7 pm if they make it that long. That leaves you with one day in London.

Take it from there - most of a day devoted to getting to Paris, getting your bearings, unpacking again, etc. Kids still not over jetlag because you raced around London on that one day you had.

It just gets worse....

You have 10 days on the ground, including the day of arrival, so basically 9. Each time you move from one place to another, as far away as the places you've chosen are from one another, you'll lose at least half a day. So you'll really only have 5-6 days of sightseeing. The kids will be nuts.

Pick 2 places, 2 countries.

grandmere Jan 21st, 2010 01:14 PM

I think that is way too ambitious for any trip, first or not. Even flying you lose most of a day checking out of hotel, going to airport, flying, checking into next hotel. And especially with children I would just choose two cities; otherwise it's going to be a hit and run whirlwind. London and Paris would make sense, as would Rome and Venice, IMO.

Sounds like a wonderful trip for your family after you tweak it a bit.

jtw999 Jan 21st, 2010 01:22 PM

Awww! It sounds like a lovely trip! I'm in a similar boat - travelling to Europe with 3 kids. It will likely be our only trip as a family as we live in Western Canada.
We are cramming what we can in and will prioritize. If we get too tired, then we'll drop the last things on our list.
I figure we can rest when we get back!! I figure a sampling of the great things is better (in our case - not for most) than delving into a couple when the respect they might deserve. I hope to return to Europe in the future with my husband in a decade or so and then we can take our time in the museums, etc...

We are also doing London in 2 days. We are going to use the Hop On Hop Off tours and pick a few things we want to see most. I can't vouch for the tours personally, but I've heard great things!

As for Paris, I have a list of must-sees and I'll do our best to see them all.

We can sleep on the flight home.... ;)

tippecanoe Jan 21st, 2010 01:29 PM

I agree. Pick two cities, and don't bother with any internal flights - way too much hassle with three kids and luggage.

London and Paris are an easy Eurostar train apart (2.5 hours). Rome and Venice are 3.5 hours apart. If you reserve online in advance, you should be able to get reduced fares.

While Paris is my favorite city, my preference here would be Rome and Venice. Venice is absolutely unique, and Rome has something for everybody. I often use to look for cheap hotels, although you may get a better price by dealing directly with the hotel.

christycruz Jan 21st, 2010 01:38 PM

I think the plan is too ambitious. Family harmony will make for great memories, and this break-neck speed may hamper that harmony. People, adults too, not just children, are not on their best behavior when exhausted. However, you know your family and their limits best.

As far as EasyJet goes, read their information carefully about exactly where the airport is located, when to check-in and how much luggage is allowed, because they have very strict rules that are different from international flights.

Usually, this will be faster than the trains, and cheaper. But getting to the airport early will chomp some of that time savings. And getting to the airport where EasyJet is may be more expensive than you expected.

Hotels under $150/night is going to be tough because you will need two rooms (or did you mean $300 total?). Apartments aren't usually an option for one or two nights. I would search "budget hotels" here with each city listed separately. I know someone just asked about London. I always use Priceline for London, but that's tricky for 2 rooms I think.

grandmere Jan 21st, 2010 01:41 PM

Jtw999, I am reacting to the idea of 4 cities, not how much you pack into a day while you are there. Granted you can accomplish a lot in a day and sleep on the flight home, but 5 people moving from city to city that many times is going to be a real downer and would not be easy to lop off the last city if it gets to be too much what with reservations, etc. Maybe your kids are older than junk4rp's, which would make a difference in how well they'd handle moving about so much.

jtw999 Jan 21st, 2010 01:51 PM

Grandmere- I was being facitious.I apologize if you felt I was being disrespectful. I'm just feeling the pressure of packing it all in, too... Europe has been a dream of mine since I was a child and I hate the idea of going and missing a thing!

I definitely agree with the idea of tired children (and adults) being unpleasant travelers.

Also, I've had a terrible time trying to find rooms for 5. It's a challenge!

kybourbon Jan 21st, 2010 01:54 PM

Euro rail is not a train, but a seller of train passes.

Easter is April 4th. Rome will be packed with tourists and many things will close early on the 3rd, close for Easter and close for Easter Monday which is also a major holiday. I would rearrange the schedule to be in Rome at another point in the trip. Can you start in Rome and end in London?

StCirq Jan 21st, 2010 01:57 PM

<<Europe has been a dream of mine since I was a child and I hate the idea of going and missing a thing!>>

Unfortunately, a trip such as you've planned will ensure that you miss more than you'll see, unless you're doing a thesis on European transportation.

colduphere Jan 21st, 2010 02:02 PM

We travel with 3 kids. I don't find the kids get tired/cranky. I find the parents and always-with-us sister in law get tired/cranky.

With rare exceptions our rule is minimum three nights per city. Train over plane. Wander around rather than check sites off a list. But to each her own. Have a great time.

rickmav Jan 21st, 2010 02:09 PM

I agree with the others, but I'm thinking that might not change your passion for seeing it all. I think I would ask myself and my children what we most want to experience/get from this trip. For the younger children it might just be the excitement of packing, airports, movement, etc. - like when you buy a small child an expensive present and all they want to do is play with the ribbon. You will certainly achieve that. I would be very surprised if that's what you or your spouse want.

It's all well and good like jtw999 to hate to give up anything and want to pack it all in and sleep when you get home, but our bodies don't work that way. You will find yourself sleeping through the Hop On/Off bus tour, wide awake in the middle of the night, susceptible to any germs flying about because you are dehydrated, wishing that you were alone then feeling horrible about it, etc.

I don't believe I have ever read a trip report on this site written by someone who did what you are trying to do. And I think it's because the trip was such a blur, they are so embarrassed that they can't distinguish between experiences, and they feel foolish having spent so much money that they have nothing worthwhile to share with others.

If it were me I'd focus on London - at least everyone speaks English, you can read the signs, etc. - for the first four days days while you recover from jet lag and there is a lot in London to really entertain kids. Then I'd opt for either Paris or Venice. I know in Venice you can rent some apartments by the night. Really explore the place, introducing your children to another culture, let them practice some Italian words they learn ahead of time with you, getting lost and working off their excess energy, having a contest to find the best gelato, eating pizza, etc.

I think you'll all be the better for it.

jtw999 Jan 21st, 2010 02:11 PM

<<Unfortunately, a trip such as you've planned will ensure that you miss more than you'll see, unless you're doing a thesis on European transportation.>>

Our trip is not set up quite the same way, so transportation is not an issue. We have a 10 night Med cruise inbetween London and Paris and we've been able to factor days for travel.

I think it's reasonable to want to get in all the famous sites. it might not be reasonable to put this into reality, but we can dream!

colduphere Jan 21st, 2010 02:25 PM

"I don't believe I have ever read a trip report on this site written by someone who did what you are trying to do."

Perhaps true, but the lady who did Rome, Naples, Pompei, Sorrento, Capri, Naples, Rome all in one day (against almost all advice here) reported back that she had a great day (she was ignored when she reported back). Some people like to move quickly.

ElendilPickle Jan 21st, 2010 02:40 PM

I agree with everyone who says you are trying to cram too much into too little time. Go to Italy or do London and Paris.

Lee Ann

fmpden Jan 21st, 2010 02:48 PM

Your nuts !! For the sake of your kids, DON'T DO IT 11 Cut it half. Who is the trip for? You or the kids? Don't say family. What kinds of memories do you want to create for your kids? You came to this board asking the experienced travelers to give you advice. And so far only the inexperience traveler who plans to do the same thing says, Go for it.

Adult can suck it up and sleep on the plane going home but not 7 year olds. Kids do not have the same interests as adults, attention span, or eating habits. When a 7 year is tired and wants a hamburger he can become pretty uncooperative.

We made our first trip to Europe when our two sons were 7 and 11. Let me point out some of the things you are overlooking.

You have nine good days on the ground. The first day is wasted -- by 3 pm you will not be able to keep the kids awake. And if they are, they will have no interest in what you want to see and do. The next day only be slightly better for the kids.

We always plan on losing at least a half day to a full day when changing locations. And using budget airlines in Europe can be a real pain because they often use out of the way airport with less than great public transit connecting them to their city. Then there is the whole business of arriving early, check-in, security lines, etc. So plan on about five hours of lost time plus your flight time. Then you have to pack up, check-out, find the airport, get to the new city, find the hotel, check-in, get oriented to the new city, etc. So you are not going to do much on those days. Subtract three days - down to six. You might save a half day by taking the train from Venice to Rome since the train ride is only 3 to 4 hr depending on the train. And they would enjoy that much better than another plane ride.

Now traveling in Europe is more frustrating and tiring just because it new territory, don't speak the language, understand public transit, culture, the restaurants, etc. It is not the same as traveling in the states. Takes more energy. And then you have worry about three kids. It was always much more stressful traveling with out two sons than by ourselves. Especially when the 7 year old was going through the pizza and hamburger phase of life. When the boys were younger we found it was critical to have an off day every third or fourth day. Let them sleep in and do what they wanted to do that day. With the kids we covered about half the territory that we now can do by ourselves. It will be very slow traveling with three kids. Just finding bathrooms is big hassle for two of us.

At the most I would suggest a tight three cities -- London, Amsterdam, Paris. All easily, quickly, and cheaply reached by train. London and Paris are more kids friendly than Venice or Rome. Save Rome for time when they would really understand and appreciate Rome. And for the kids, DisneyParis is not out of the question.

Good luck.

Long travel distances can be hard on the budget

azh111 Jan 21st, 2010 02:51 PM

I also have three children and love to travel to Europe with them. We usually do 4 places in two weeks time and for us it is perfect. Being you have a bit less time, perhaps you should go to one less place? Maybe save London for another trip?? Whatever you decide, do not omit Venice because it is one of a kind and your kids will love it as will you!!

grandmere Jan 21st, 2010 03:10 PM

Jtw99, I didn't think you were being disrespectful; I was afraid you were thinking that I am a spoilsport! :-)

janisj Jan 21st, 2010 03:13 PM

I haven't read everyone -- but I'm sure I agree w/ most of them. WAAAAY too much in WAAAAY too little time. It looks like the only person who agrees w/ you -- is one who hasn't taken their own trip yet! Everyone who has been there/done that is telling you it is nearly impossible.

Just a couple of quick comments:

• The more you jump around the <u>less</u> you actually see. All that packing/unpacking/traveling/checking in/checking out eats up nearly half of your time. You will only have 1 full day to see London for instance.

• You mention you are on a budget. The more travel -- the MORE expensive. Plus you lose the chance for the main economy for a family - renting apartments. Pick TWO of those cities -- London and Paris make sense, but any city pair would work

cheryllj Jan 21st, 2010 03:38 PM

I can't add much more to what everyone has said, but I agree. Waaay too much in too short a time. I'd stick with London and Paris, but at the very least, cut out one city.

You are *seriously* underestimating the effect of jet lag the first day. The idea that you will "see" anything of London the day you arrive is laughable. So you will have one day to "see" all of London. Hah. Cross your fingers it doesn't rain that day.

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