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Need information in arranging our first family trip to Europe

Need information in arranging our first family trip to Europe

Jan 21st, 2010, 03:44 PM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 4,270
My suggestion would be starting your trip in Venice. Think about this – you arrive by plane, walk ten minutes to the ferry terminal, and then you have a one hour boat ride to the centre of Venice. The transition from the stress of airline travel to the calming ferry trip is magic, and your kids will probably doze off on the ride.

Venice is the most child-friendly place in all of Europe. No cars, and it is like exploring a maze – there’s something different at every turn. Your 11 year old will be able to explore on his/her own, and the younger ones can kick a soccer ball around the campo.

Venice is really quite small – from one end to the other is about one hour’s walk – and so your kids won’t get too exhausted. There’s virtually no street crime in Venice – the nearest we’ve seen to street crime was an African handbag vendor being chased – on foot – by a cop blowing a whistle. The vendor won the race!

Think about taking an apartment - the whole business of shopping for food gives a great introduction into the ways of a foreign country. Buy fruit from the Rialto market. Buy slices of pizza from any bar. It saves a packet – and an apartment gives the kids a chance to have some down time.

From Venice, you might want to stay in the country somewhere – hiring a car and staying at an agriturismo. Travel by train in Italy is cheap and the trains are excellent.

In any case, just stay in two places in the time that you have available. Other posters have commented about the hassles of travelling via the budget airlines, and they are correct. The combination of Venice, and another small town, would be worth considering. Maybe a couple of nights in Rome would be worth a thought, depending on how connected your kids are to history.

I’ve spent a while in Venice, so I am totally biased. If you click on my user name, you’d find a somewhat wordy trip report, the output from a nine week stay a year ago in Winter.
Peter_S_Aus is online now  
Jan 21st, 2010, 03:58 PM
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Thank you all for responding so quickly. I am replying to each of you specifically since I felt you all had a lot of good points. Please feel free to respond to my queries to others though. I really am appreciative of your willingness to help.

@StCirq: You confirmed my fear. However, I am also very hopeful that, kids will sleep through the DC to London flight and will not have jetlag if we try to pack the first day with things for them to see… but I get your point… will have to rethink the whole plan.

@gradmere: Since we have 10 days at hand, I did not want to do just two cities… felt 5 days in the same city will be a overdose, (we are not a city kind of people even though love to see places) and did not know which one to drop… so I guess need to rework this plan. BTW, in reference to your response to jtw999, we the parents of US, have been driving from to place to place dropping kids off, doing this and that on the way and pack our life so much that it becomes hard to imagine thing in any other pace…

@jtw999: Thanks for your encouragement. I am like you… wanted to sample Europe and these 4 cities (and some more) are in my mind must see. You see life is too short, trips are expensive and I have a mile-long list of places in the world to see… so wanted to cram in a lot in one trip. Want to see as many places in the world as possible together before the kids grow up! At least there is one more person like me.

@tippcanoe: Is not it the same hassle if you take trains? Also I though the train fair is much more expensive than flight fares (for example: the Venice to Rome fare in train is about $40/pp but is only $12/pp by flight)! As for seeing two cities, will talk to DH and see how to priorities.

@ christycruz: You have a good point… our kids (and us) get very anxious with lack of rest. So, there goes my whole plan to get the bang for the bucks. All the flight I am getting are from the international airports, and I am paying for 3 bags (of 32 Kg each, totaling 96kg max) to check-in. Is there any other fine print I should check? Have you used their service before? If you have, how was your experience? Why would I need two rooms? In US 3 kids can stay with parents in the same room. Is that not the case in Europe? I will check Priceline.

@kybourbon: I thought Eurorail is the system which has a lot of trains. Is there a better place to buy train tickets? Very good suggestion, I did not realize 3rd is Easter day. Will it not then affect any other city we would be in Europe? Is Easter Monday a major holiday in other places too? I can try to rearrange to start at Rome (if we are at all doing the 4 cities… thing).

@colduphere: Thanks for your encouragement. I am hoping kids would be excited to see all these new places and would not be too cranky. I am also planning to see less of a city this first time and go back to those we like the first time in another trip. I will look at trips reports to gain more insight into how people manage to get more out of their trip.

@rickmav: We want the kids to have a flavor of Europe, see a few major things they have heard about each city and experience these with us when they are still young… but definitely not at the cost of exhausting them. Do you think 3 cities are possible in 10 days? May be London, Geneva and Paris? My main concern is getting a little bored in one city and having no plan to anywhere else.

@fmpden: I really appreciate your thoughts on the plan. Yes, I want experienced travelers input so that I learn from them without putting our family through it. I also appreciate new travelers input which enthuse me about the trip. I had not taken the language barrier into consideration. Now as I am reading more people’s reaction I think I will rework the plan and see. I totally agree with you that kids do not move at the same speed as we do. I do not know much about Amsterdam, so was thinking of doing London-Geneva-Paris. Do you think that is possible? I will check Amsterdam too to see if we should go there instead of Geneva. We were at Disneyworld 2 years back. So, how would Disney Paris experience be compared to that?

@azh111: I am reworking the plan now. We really want to see Venice (before it sinks!). Hmm… dropping London… will think about it. But then it comes back to the language barriers in all the cities. Do you think we can manage to see Paris, Venice and Rome in 10days with very little knowledge of French and Italian?

@janisj: Yes, I am reworking the plan. Will see what we as a family agree with… in a few days.

@cheryllj: Agree with your first point… but about jetlag, trust me I know. I go to India… often, so I know how it hits. Last December we did Delhi-Agra-Jaipur trip in the first week arriving there. But we know India and we had a lot of help with the kids. Will have to work on this trip a little more.

@Peter_S_Aus: Thank you for your suggestion about Venice. Really want to see it. But did not know it is so small. What is the best place to evaluate train tickets in Italy? I like the apartment idea. Do you think I can find an apartment for a short trip? In US I use VRBO and HomeAway. What is the best site for apartments in Europe? I will look at your trip report.
junk4rp is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 03:59 PM
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Here's a trip report written by the parent of a ten year old, visiting Italy.

Peter_S_Aus is online now  
Jan 21st, 2010, 04:28 PM
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If you arrive in Venice by air, and plan to leave by train, the easiest thing is to go to the station a day before you want to travel, and buy the tickets then. There are vending machines for tickets that work in English and accept Visa cards, and they are very simple to use. Buying train tickets on line in advance can be a real hassle, and then you have no chance to change your travel plans. Trains from Venice to Rome go every hour. There is a coffee bar on the train (sells wine too!).

Travelling by air from Venice to Rome is hopeless – the cheap airlines fly from Treviso (I think) and that is a half hour (or longer) bus ride from Venice. At the Rome end, you are then a 50 Euro cab ride from Rome – trains are quicker than planes, because of the check in lines, security, and baggage claim.

Venice is geographically small, and very intense, or rather very dense. You are never more than three minutes walk from something interesting – a fruit stall, pizza place, ancient church, gondola hire point, water taxi stand, a line of disorientated Korean tourists, a boat picking up garbage containers, a boat delivering a heap of bricks, food, wine, whatever. I have the most vivid memories of our first trip to Venice, when Lou and I left our hotel early in the morning, and saw our first garbage boat!

We stayed in an apartment, and the owner is based in San Francisco. She was good to deal with, mailed us a set of keys so we could just let ourselves in, and her friend in Venice who manages the place was very helpful. The apartment sleeps four (a double bed plus a two person sofa bed) but I think you could negotiate some sort of sleeping arrangement so that five of you could say there.

We're going back there in November this year for a few weeks, and we'll take Lou's mother this time - a sprightly lass of 80 or so.

It’s here: http://realvenicevacationflats.com/
Peter_S_Aus is online now  
Jan 21st, 2010, 05:29 PM
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Far too ambitious - esp with 3 kids, 2 of them quite young. In your limited time you should do 2 cities - no more - if you really want to see anything.

As for a family room for only 100 euros a night - I think that's going to be extremely difficult even in the off season - esp since with little kids you will want to be centrally located - not trekking in an hour from the suburbs every day.

If possible, although you are very late, I would pick the 2 cities you want to see most and get an apartment - which will be cheaper, give you more room for the kids, help save money by eating at least breakfast and snacks in - and give the kids a chance to enjoy the trip a little - not just see the random airports of europe.

finally - if you decide to do London/Paris - or cities in Italy - you should train rather than fly. It will be both faster and cheaper. Plus you won;t have to worry about airline luggage weight requireemnts (many of which allow each person 1 piece of luggage the size of a small gym bag). Never mind landing at airpots more than an hour from the cities they "serve".
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 06:06 PM
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Regarding hotels - it is difficult to find affordable rooms for two adults and two kids, let alone three kids. No, kids do not stay free with adults in Europe. When you try Priceline, you will have to book two rooms. It says on the site, they guarantee a double room for two. In Europe that means a double bed. It will be tough to fit 5 people in a double bed.

I have travelled to Europe several times with my 10 & 12 year old. I would recommend London and Paris. But, if you have to add a third city - make it Venice. I would definitely skip Rome this time, especially as it will be Easter. Think expensive and packed.

Your kids will fall asleep by 5 pm the day of arrival regardless of where they are. Mine were at Westminster Abbey listening to evensong - snoring softly!

I think this is going to cost you more than you think to do your trip this way - in time and money.
poutine is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 06:24 PM
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junk4rp, as someone who has traveled with kids, you cannot count on them either sleeping through the flight over or bouncing back for a full day the first day. So you are wise to rethink that part of your plan. I don't know if you said where you'd be flying from, but from the east coast the flights are not long enough to really get a "good night's sleep."

You can find lots of opinions elsewhere on this forum about EuroDisney. I think to spend a day there when your time is so tight already would be really a shame. If you were spending a week just in Paris, that would be different. So my completely unsolicited opinion on that is don't waste your time. Unless your family has the worst case of attention deficit in history, you can't get bored in Paris in just a few days. Impossible. ; )

I am not sure I would include Geneva in such a short trip. Amsterdam has a lot of kid-friendly attractions and would also be very different, as far as atmosphere goes, from London/Paris, so it would give your kids some variety.
Barbara_in_FL is online now  
Jan 21st, 2010, 07:19 PM
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@Peter_S_Aus: I read the trip report you referred. Seems so nice. Yes, Venice is very interesting and I think our kids would enjoy. However I am split between choosing London/Paris/another city and Venice/Florence/Rome. Will see.

@Poutine: Sounds like everyone thinks London/Paris is doable. May add another city.

@Barbara_in_FL: Yes I would be traveling from East coast. Flights in my openion are not a place to sleep, but hoping this time kids would fall asleep...stress is on hoping. I will skip EuroDisney. I asked because someone else suggested. How long a stay is too much for kids in London/Paris? Will look into Amsterdam.
junk4rp is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 07:42 PM
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another on board with too much, but I think you've gotten that message.

here is our trip report from 3 years ago:

We are going this spring and doing London and Paris. And I'm worried how we are going to do what we want in 10 days. One of the wonderful thing about traveling with kids is that you get a chance to slow down and play in the park for an hour!

I agree there is so much to see and do. But 4 cities in 10 days is seeing airports, trains, packing, waiting, and unpacking. Instead, pick 2 cities that you can't miss - let them fall in love with traveling. They are so young, they have 80+ years (hopefully) to go back...

leave them wanting more

You can always go back. But if they get burned out on traveling, they will resent it and hate it.

ymmv. it is a vacation , not a race.
surfmom is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 08:34 PM
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>>>@kybourbon: I thought Eurorail is the system which has a lot of trains.<<<

No, it isn't. There isn't a Eurorail train or system. There are companies with similar sounding names (RailEurope, Eurail, Railsaver, etc.)that sell railpasses.

Each country has their own train company(s).

Italy is Trenitalia


Train between London and Paris

>>>Do you think we can manage to see Paris, Venice and Rome in 10days with very little knowledge of French and Italian?<<<

You were originally planning to do all those cites plus London in 10 days with little knowledge of French/Italian so I'm surprised you are concerned about it now.

I would fly to Rome and stay 4 nights, train to Orvieto (a little hill town north of Rome) for two nights, train to Venice for the last 3 or 4 nights. The kids would enjoy the underground tour of Orvieto, taking the funicular up to the town, exploring some Etruscan tombs, etc.

London and Paris with a daytrip to see a castle.

Apartments are the way to go for five people although some will only rent by the week. At this late date I think you are going to have trouble finding rooms with your travel being Easter week (rates will be high).

>>>Is Easter Monday a major holiday in other places too?<<<
kybourbon is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 08:40 PM
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Gosh, you could spend your whole time in London or Paris and never run out of things to do, especially if you added a few day trips out of the big cities. So it's really hard to answer the question 'how long a stay is too much.' I took my then-9-year-old to Paris a year and a half ago. We were there for three days and we barely scratched the surface, although I deliberately did not try to do too much to avoid overwhelming him. But certainly that was not too much time.
Barbara_in_FL is online now  
Jan 21st, 2010, 08:45 PM
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kybourbon has give you two good options::

London/Paris Don't add a3rd city - each of these two could fill your whole time and you'd still barely scratch the surface. Both - especially London IMO, have TONS of things for children.


Rome/Orvieto/Venice. My only slight revision would be to fly IN to Venice and OUT of Rome. Reason being, most flights from Venice to the US leave VERY early in the AM and getting to the airport is a hassle.
janisj is online now  
Jan 21st, 2010, 09:00 PM
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I'm the poster who started, but didn't finish, our trip report on taking our daughter to Italy last fall. Several years before that trip, we took our son, when he was 10, on his first trip - we began in London (4 nights), then took the train to Paris, picked up a rental car and spent 3 nights in the Loire Valley visiting castles, then finished our trip in Paris (4 nights).

It was a great combination, and if you really feel that you'd get bored with only two cities, adding on the Loire Valley will give you all a taste of the countryside. We (DH and I) had been to all of those places before, but wanted our son to see more than just cities (and he LOVES cities). You said you're not big city people, so how about adding some time in the countryside? (Though really, for the time you have, 2 destinations would be more than enough - make a list of what you think you'd want to see in each place - you'll find that you have more than enough for 5 days.)

Why did we pick London, the Loire and Paris for our son (and Italy for our daughter)? Well, DS was, and still is, a big Anglophile. He also, at the time, was very much into spies and James Bond. So while in London, we took a London Walks "Spies" tour. It was more about real spies, like Kim Philby, but we all enjoyed it. Anyway, we also thought he'd be more comfortable starting his European travels with an English-speaking country. We were wrong on that one - he didn't care at all what language people spoke. (Think about it, really. How often do kids talk to strangers on any vacation - not much. And most people speak enough English to talk to a kid.) And he likes the Impressionists, and we love Paris, so Paris was easy.

For planning our daughter's first trip, well, she didn't care much - she just wanted to go to Europe, and we really wanted to return to Italy (her one "ask" was to see Venice). She has not, in the past, been a big city person, but she really loved all of the cities we visited in Italy (we recently were quizzing each other, and each person had to name their favorites cities - she named Venice, Rome & San Francisco). We also spent about 1/2 our time in Italy in a quite-rural and untouristy area, Le Marche. Not really for first-time visitors, and now that we've been, we prefer other regions of Italy more. But it was a great experience for her, and we saw a number of castles, which she loved. And she did like being in an area where there were very, very few English-speaking tourists.

On our trips, we try to spend no less than 3 nights in each place, though depending on our route, that's not an absolute. But it allows the kids to feel a little settled, and for whichever adults packs the bags for the move to each new hotel, fewer changes is better.

So I would say cut back your destinations, tell yourself that you'll return, and start quizzing your family on what they want to see - that might help you decide. Also, if you're on a budget, we found that London was VERY expensive, compared to the other locations.
Lexma90 is offline  
Jan 21st, 2010, 09:13 PM
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The thing about London being expensive seems true on the surface. But do remember that the British (Kids generally LOVE the mummies), Natural history (Dinosaurs +++), Science (LOTS of hands on interactive exhibits), Imperial War (don't scoff, lots of interest for kids), V&A and other museums/galleries are free. And the wonderful London Transport museum is free for under 16's.

So - yes, lots of things are expensive - but lots are also free. Plus if you stay a bit longer you can rent a flat which will save a fortune compared to two hotel rooms.
janisj is online now  
Jan 21st, 2010, 10:21 PM
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My husband, 3 year old and I took RyanAir from Rome (Ciampino, pretty easy) to London (Stansted, expensive and time consuming). For EasyJet, the London departure would cause you the most travel and expense. For the rest of the cities, they aren't such a big deal.

You should search on this site for family hotel rooms or something similar. European hotel rooms (and beds) are much smaller than here. Even with my 3 year old, it was tough. Sometimes we'd spring for a triple, but it's pricey.

If you stayed in fewer cities for longer, you could get an apartment.
christycruz is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 12:34 AM
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I would definitely give hotels a miss. Check out renting a holiday appartment. There are loads of them available and you should get one for the kind of money you are talking about. Have a look at the big sites and bargain very hard. We are in the middle of a recession and owners are very willing to compromise.

Have a look at the following sites


These are all big reputable sites with a good selection of properties. Contact quiet a few of the owners - it is only an email and play them all off against each other. I normally get a 25% discount off the list price ....
Tommartin59 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 01:08 AM
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I've just realised something - you perhaps don't realise that the quoted airfares don't include taxes and luggage allowance (budget airlines are buggers for these extra charges), so what looks like a 12$ fair can actually turn out to be more like 100$.

Add onto that the extra time needed at the airport to get through high levels of security and what looks like a 1-2 hour flight is actually more like half a day.

In addition, airports, particularly airports used by the budget airlines, are always miles outside the city centres, so require expensive train/taxi fares just to get to the airport. Train stations are in the city centre.

So train is virtually always cheaper and much much faster.
Kate is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 03:34 AM
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junk4rp: You're very smart to expose your children at that age. But don't try to see ALL the big stuff first. The kids are young, and you probably are too. If you enjoy yourselves, you will all be inspired to return to see what you missed on this first trip and will find a way to do so in the years you have left, as a family or individually. The kids will probably enjoy some big city stuff but they are kids and will want to be able to be kids. Remember that 10 days for you is like a month to them. Mix it up so all of you can see enjoy some smaller places and the countryside a bit.

If you leave on the 27th and return on the 6th, that's only NINE nights.

I could see 3-4 nights in London, 2 nights elsewhere in England for some variety from the megacity routine (Bath? Stonehenge? The Cotswold villages and Warwick Castle? Stratford?) and 3-4 nights in Paris via Eurostar. You'd catch a glimpse.

I could see 3-4 nights in London, 2 nights in gorgeous Bruges (3.5 hrs. away via Eurostar, Venice of the north!) and 3-4 nights in Paris (2.5 hrs. from Paris.)

I could see 3-4 nights in London, 3-4 in Paris, and 2 in Normandy at the D-Day beaches (Bayeux is a nice base.).

I could see 4 nights in Rome, 3 nights in the Cinque Terre, and 2 nights in Venice. That would also provide some variety and maybe some better weather at that time of year, and train travel without the Eurostar would be cheaper, but check the train travel times first.
Russ is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 05:05 AM
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Off-season Coach tickets to Europe seem to be hovering around $800 these days. Gone are the days when I could fly an assistant for $500.

Two days in any fabulous city is a crime one should never be permitted to commit. StCirq offers experienced advice. At the very least I would drop one city and it would probably be London. I love Paris, especially with a lover but with kids in tow, it becomes another kind of experience. IMO, Paris always deserves a trip of her own.

I've been following Peter_S_Aus's Venice love affair. Everyone knows how I feel about Venice but I tend to enjoy ending my travels there. No exhaust fumes, quiet neighborhoods, life on the Grand Canal, the magic and mystery of a once great city: Venice is a great way to end a trip to Europe.

I love Rome but five nights is never enough for me. Whenever I'm in the presence of great art and architecture, I need to stop and stare for awhile.

Reading your itinerary, RP, leaves me exhausted with a headache. Trying to cram so much into 10 days, especially on a budget, will not yield rich memories. You'll mostly remember the things that go wrong. And then there's March weather.

Good luck.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 07:08 AM
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I'd agree with two cities. Either the Italy trip or the London/Paris. You could fly in to Paris and back from London. I understand London has higher taxes for international arrivals than Paris, so it might be a little cheaper as well. 5 days in each city would allow you to whet your appetites for travel. Also, a 1/2 day trip to Versailles would add another site from Paris and potentially the same from London.

You could do the planes/trains/automobiles trip as well. Say 4 days Paris, rent a car to Normandy area, ferry to England, drive towards London & drop car, 4 days in London.

Good luck and enjoy!
apersuader65 is offline  

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