Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Need information in arranging our first family trip to Europe

Need information in arranging our first family trip to Europe

Jan 22nd, 2010, 07:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,753
junk, with regard specifically to kids and jetlag, I have kids who are now 19 and 22. They have traveled to Europe with me every single year since they were born, sometimes a few times every year, so I have some experience. Maybe it's just my kids, because it's true everyone reacts to jetlag differently, but every single trip they have slept the entire way across the pond (whereas I have never slept a wink), and still, by about 7 pm on the night of arrival, are half-dead. I remember distinctly two occasions where one of them literally fell into a dinner plate sound asleep in a restaurant, and they were both restaurants where we had to plead with the staff to let us eat earlier than the locals. They have also fallen sound asleep in taxis, on shuttles and metros, and upon arrival at hotels in mid-morning.

So your assumption that they will sleep on the plane over and be all refreshed on Day 1 is probably flawed. Trust me, if you go with your planned itinerary, your kids won't see London.
StCirq is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 07:43 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 65,005
PLEASE listen to StCirq . . .

You seems to pooh pooh how the time changes might to affect you family. It isn't just the sleep/lack there of on the plane.

The 5 hour time difference alone causes havoc w/ body clocks -- and usually more so for children.

Even IF they sleep through the flight. 9 AM (when you'd want to arrive at the Tower of London for instance) will feel like 4 AM to them - and you too. It will take a few days to get back to normal and everyone plugging along on all cylinders . . . .
janisj is online now  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 07:51 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 595
Took our kids to London, Paris and Loire Valley for 2 weeks when they were 11 and 16. We arrived in London early morning, left our luggage at the hotel and got onto the hop on hop off bus and within 20 minutes my sons and husband were fast asleep on the bus. So much for their overview of London. First days are somewhat painful for all concerned.

The trip was a great introduction to Europe for the kids. They enjoyed taking Eurostar to Paris and liked staying in the country for a few days. Might be a good introduction for the kids to do London and Paris and then back to Italy for another trip.
macdogmom is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 07:55 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 595
Forgot to add that at the end of the trip in Paris, the 16 year old's appendix burst and he and my husband had to stay an extra week in Paris at the American Hospital. Ambulance took him from our hotel room to the hospital and they did surgery that day. My husband still raves about the doctors, nurses, hospital and the food (how good it was!). And the bill was tiny. Viva la french healthcare!
macdogmom is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 07:57 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,525
I have my own routine to adjust for the jet lag (going to bed early and getting up early...before the trip), but what I have seen of a 'scientific' nature, is that the body gets back 1 hr a day...so London would take 5 days before you feel 'at home'.

It is a factor, and should not be discounted. Sleeping on planes is a hit/miss affair...if the lady in front talk a lot, the kid behind cries a lot, your kids get bored and want to watch movies through the flight....

How are your kids when they don't get enough sleep? Remember that when you land it is probably 3AM (back home time) and, to overcome jet lag, it is recommended that you do not take a nap at the hotel( you want to adjust your body clock, not accomodate it), but rather get out, get sun, keep going and go to bed at normal local time. How will kids like getting up at 3AM home time, doing a full day, then going to bed at 3PM home time?

I'd pick one city...maybe 2. If the holiday is for the kids, they won't care if you do one city. With day trips you could easily fill your days, and sleep in the same room every night.

London or Paris would be fine. London, easier, no language issues. Paris, bit more exotic. Loads to do in each place, many day trip possibilities.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 08:16 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 2,216
I have very clear memories of the first day of my first trip to Europe--a trip to England-at age 16. We took a city bus tour in London. I don't remember seeing Big Ben or even the Thames that day. I DO remember the sidewalk coming up to meet me. I had a bump right below my bangs for the rest of the trip. That episode will forever define "jetlag" for me.

Therefore, I found it ironic that when I took my own kids to London (their second trip abroad) during Easter week, jetlag nearly ruined their initial experiences.

Our flight had been terribly delayed leaving NY, and as everyone who flies from the East Coast knows, flights to Paris or London are actually too short to get a nice 4-hour stretch of sleep (a businessman once told me that he learned to fly WEST to Chicago and fly to Paris from there so he had enough sleep to be operable). Worse, the hotel could not check us in until almost 4 pm because the former occupants had not left their rooms (the staff was frustrated, too). We were at our wits end--we had a transport pass and were able to ride double decker buses for an hour or two to bide the time, but eventually we just collapsed in the lobby. I remember my 8-yr-old just sobbing with exhaustion. Luckily, we were "staying put" in the London area for the week and the trip didn't end up as a disaster.

My point is that you can't control flight delays, holiday hours and closings, transportation strikes, your children's total # of sleep, etc. You CAN control how much these types of things could possibly impact your trip. Every time you switch hotels and cities, you've just added in time- and money-consuming variables that could ruin your experiences.

You received some great advice here. TWO cities in your 9/10-day time frame is more than enough. As everyone is saying, any and all cities offer opportunities for daytrips that don't involve re-packing. It's really not possible to run out of fun things to see and do.

Peter_S_Aus's suggestion about Venice as a first stop makes more sense to me this year than it would have last year because my first Venice visit was in 2009. He's right! It's the type of place where kids could "go with the flow" for the first day or two because the city itself, not museums, etc, is the enchanting part.

Paris-Amsterdam (another really FUN place for kids just based on how different everything looks and you would be in tulip season!), London-Paris or Venice-Rome certainly can work well with kids your age and as others have so clearly stated, might make it possible for your to take advantage of a money-saving apartment rental or two. We were able to find a hotel with adjoining rooms in London, an apartment-type hotel room in Rome, but otherwise, we've always had to get two hotel rooms and those $$$ add up.

Hope you believe all of us.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 08:25 AM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 556
I wanted to chime in and repeat what others have said about hotel rooms. It is not like the U.S. where you can get 2 queen beds and a rollaway for the price of one room. The rooms are much smaller and so are the beds. You will be very hard pressed to find hotels that will accomodate 5 people.
Also know that it is not possible to "sneak" in one or two kids (not that you suggested doing that). Older children do not usually stay free in a parent's room.
I would go to the Expedia website and put in your number of people and see what hotels came up that could accomodate you.
(Note the price quoted will usually be for 2 people, you would need to click on "select" to see a total price.) This would at least give you an idea of what's available.
Lynnaustin is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 08:30 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,607
I've stayed in some hotels with "family" rooms but even those rooms tend to be "quads" that sleep four persons max. You will probably need two rooms, a triple and a double, and that will be at least 100 euros per room, per night, twice your stated budget (and even that might be tough in these very expensive cities you are visiting). I agree with everyone that an apartment will probably be more comfortable for a family of 5, but you will probably have a hard time finding one for such short stays.
cheryllj is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 10:00 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 7,788
I agree with so many of these other posters: two cities is plenty for your time frame. There are plenty of side trips you can take from the major cities without having to pack and unpack, hop on planes, etc. Tempting as it is to try and do everything you'll want to also make the trip pleasant and fun.

We have taken several trips with our kids who are very good travelers. However, each has gotten sick arriving to Europe on different trips (a stomach bug, a fever, etc.) so you can't assume your kids will automatically bounce back from jet lag. Even if they do well, you may be the exhausted one and will want your wits about you when traveling abroad.
KTtravel is online now  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 10:57 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 136
Hi All,

I am overwhelmed. I have been on other forums (techie kind) and usually get 2/3 responses over a few weeks time. This is the best place I have joined so far. The information you have provided is so amazing. My only regret is I did not look for it any earlier. I am still reading all your post. I talked to DH (who is in India visiting his parents) last night and we will finalize things in Feb when he is back. In the mean time I am doing my research and getting things ready to make final decisions.

@surfmom: Thank you for your advice and a big thank you for your reference to your trip report. I read the reports and responses to the report from others. That did two things. One, it made me look forward to the trip with much more enthusiasm and second, it inspired me to log my trip details to write my own trip report. So, you are going back to do a London/Paris trips again this spring. Great! Where are you planning to stay, if you do not mind to share? Yes, my kids will definitely like to play in the parks as opposed to running from one place to other. The rushed trip idea is all mine; I am a little too optimistic about what we can achieve… I surely hope we can go back but, I have plan to visit Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Thaliland, Malayasia, Egypt, Greece, Spain, Hawaii, Jamaica, Japan… you get the idea, in this lifetime (preferably before the kids get too old to travel with us). Will see!

@kybourbon: Thank you for all the information about the train system in Europe. Well, as you can tell I have gained some wisdom from the responses to this thread and re-planning as a result. The language barrier part had escaped my planning until someone here mentioned. The other thing I had missed was the Easter week. That is why I was asking whether those three cities are doable in 10 days. Really want to see Venice and Rome. But have a feeling that family might be more interested in London/Paris. So will talk with kids and DH this weekend and decide.

@Barbara_in_FL & janisj: Well, it might be London and Paris that we will do this spring. My 11 year old son is taking French this year for his foreign language study and would definitely enjoy practicing the language. In the process of reviewing his work, I am picking up a few words here and there. The 7 year old twins are very interested to learn French as well (influence by their brother). So, overall, I think Paris is definitely in. I will look into renting a flat. It will definitely be more convenient to eat breakfast and prepare a few meals.

@Lexma90: I really enjoyed reading your trip report earlier. I am happy that your daughter enjoyed the trip so much. My kids are a little like your daughter. They love Math and Science, but love to read, enjoy new places and food wise they do not any problem trying anything. They also are not concerned about non-English speaking people (they can understand/speak 2 other Indian languages other than English). I will talk with them over this weekend and see what they think we would do.

@christycruz: I thought RyanAir was more expensive than EasyJet. But it might be a moot point if we stay only in two cities. We might just use the train. I will look more into renting apartments.

@Tommartin59: Thanks a lot for your references to holiday apartments. I am sending some requests to them. I will bargain to see if we can find a good deal.

@Kate: Well the price quoted I thought had the tax included since I was almost at checkout page. I did not complete the transaction. But, if you think it is too good to be true, there is some fine prints I had not encounter until that point. After hearing from everyone over here, I am considering researching the train rides further. Thanks for your input.

@Russ: Thanks for your encouragement… yes we still have time to go back to Europe again, but… if you see my response to surfmom I really have a long lists of place to see. I hope I can fit in all that in this life time. But like you said, enjoying ourselves is much more important during our family trips than to check the boxes. So, I plan to trim it down to 2 cities. May add one countryside trip to the mix like you have suggested. I really like yours and others suggestion of 2/3 places. This gives me ideas about what other places are worth seeing … otherwise most first time tourists to Europe like me get to see only cities.

@NYCFoodSnob: Points well taken. I need to rethink the plan and come up with more realistic goal. Since I am trying to respond to every comment, I might not be expressing it the right way, but I am paying attention to each advice. I asked for the feedback so that I do not do it wrong and I am very thankful to everyone who has responded.

@apersuader65: That’s a good suggestion. I will check whether flying in to Paris instead of London will cost less. I did not even know there are different taxes for international arrivals. Asking others really helps. If I am staying pretty much within the cities, is it required to rent a car? Having a car might be convenient if we do day trips, but is there parking issues in London and Paris?

@StCirq: Oh, I might have misstated in my earlier response to you and did not make it clear… I agree with you about the jetlag… since I have experienced quite a bit of jet lags with kids and it makes the trips unpredictable. No, I do not think I will go with my original plan. I am re-planning at this time. Thank you for your effort to help me in planning this trip.

@janisj: I am listening to each one of you… please see my earlier response to StCirq… I will not pooh pooh anyone’s suggestion, since I am the one who has asked for help. I was just mentioning that I understand jet lag and in the process, I might have come across as ignoring that aspect. Sorry.

@macdogmom: I guess I have to do that, either London/Paris with a country trip or Rome/Venice with a country trip.

@Michel_Paris: I am not discounting the jetlag factor even though I initially kind of hoped that it would not affect us that bad. I am working out a new schedule. Oh, kids would not mind even if it is one city. It is just the adult (read me) trying to maximize the experience. Obviously, as many of you mentioned the idea is not to ruin the trip, but to have good time. So reading all you guys’ advice and working on.

Will respond again in a few minutes.

junk4rp is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 11:14 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 7,525
It is not unknown for people to do day trips from Paris to London, or vice-versa. So you could pick a city base, do a day-trip to another country, then keep visiting 'your' city.

If you choose either London or Paris, apart from a possible day trip to the other, I might limit myself to one outside the city trip....for example Versailles for Paris or Hampton Court for London.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 11:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,753
Whatever you do, don't have a car in London or Paris! Or Rome or (obviously) Venice, either.
StCirq is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 11:23 AM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 16,640
homeaway.com vbro.com/vacation-rentals/europe/france/ile-de-france/paris vbro.com/vacation-rentals/europe/united-kingdom/england/london Both rental sites you used in the US would work. There are many more. Good decision making for London and Paris. People giving you suggestions, really appreciate your responses to them.
iris1745 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 11:44 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 2,893
"I asked for the feedback so that I do not do it wrong"

Perfect (or even near perfect) can be an unrealistic goal. Stuff happens that no one can ever predict or control. Smart planning can help. You were smart to ask here. After 30+ years of personal and professional travel, I'm still amazed when I find myself in perplexing situations. Travel has evolved in the past three decades and in many ways it's never been worse. Experience simply prevents you from panicking and losing control when unexpected things happen. The best travelers are people who know how to be resourceful and flexible.

Sticking to a tight schedule and trying to accomplish too much is a stressful experience. Adrenaline can carry a single traveler through a got-to-see-everything itinerary but I would not place any bets on a family of five. You will do your family a HUGE favor by adopting a less-is-more approach and make plans for a second and third trip.
NYCFoodSnob is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 7,788
Glad to hear you are cutting back on your original plan. I think you will have a much more enjoyable trip.

Another thing to consider is whether it is cheaper versus time efficient to do a round trip flight from one city or an open jaw flight (flying into one city and flying out of another.) For example, would it be more expensive but worth it for the convenience to fly into London and out of Paris? Depending on the price, we have at times opted for the open jaw approach and have at other times scheduled a round trip flight.
KTtravel is online now  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 12:50 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,641
hi junk,

you've had some great advice [normal on this forum, IMHO] and [less usual] you seem to be taking it! well done!

however, I'm going to disagree a bit with some of the other posters and put in a bid for venice and Rome, even though i know that you are leaning towards Paris and London. my reasons are two-fold - you said that you really want to see Venice, and Rome is perhaps the most exciting city for kids that there is. my kids loved it when we spent a week there when they were 18 & 15, so much so that we are going back with DS, who is now 19 [but has always been young for his age!] in a few weeks time.

as for Venice, it appeals to all ages. again, our kids loved it and we had no problem filling 7 days. [if you click on my screen name, you can see my trip repotr from that week]. there is also a thread i think on Venice for kids.

the other advantage is the ease of travelling from venice to Rome [though I'll concede that the eurostar from Paris to London is also a good choice].

finally, if you just pick two places, you'll be able to stay in apartments, which has got to be nicer when you are travelling with children.

have a great trip,

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 01:01 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 958
If you do go the London/Paris route, please check out the threads here for Eurostar tickets. A good one from December is here:

BTW, RyanAir & EasyJet both have good deals, although not always at the same time. And it's always a hassle. But riding Eurostar is so easy it's like magic.
christycruz is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 01:19 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 16,658
Hi -

I have not read all your replies but it seems like you have decided to scale back which is a great thing.

I have only been to Europe twice both with my children.

The first time we went in 2007 was with our then 10 and almost 14 year old daughters. We flew into Paris, spent a few nights, went to Switzerland stayed a few nights (train), onto Florence (train) stayed a few nights and onto Rome (train again) - We did a day trip to Pisa from Florence (train).

It was in June/July. We had a wonderful time - I would have to look back but I think we were there for a total of about 15 days or so? Not really sure. Something between 2-3 weeks.

We were exhausted. I was so worried about not seeing enough, about being all the way over there and not getting enough in... seeing enough places. I packed too much, and carrying it all over was NOT fun. We stayed in hotels and apartments. I have no idea how you can manage on 150.00 USD a night for 5 people in Europe. But perhaps you can.

In December of 08 we went for the Christmas and NY holiday to Paris for 10 nights. We had an apartment in the 5th. We took our older son that time with his friend - so had 6 persons with us. We were going to do a night in London but ended up not - or perhaps take the train to Brugges but also did not for a few reasons.

Knowing what I know now (and there is no way anyone can convince you of this - I know how that feels) I would go to one place and rent an apartment that I would be able to take day trips/trains to from if I wanted to.

I would schedule less, enjoy more of the slow time. Do you know I did not like Paris the first time I went? And I fell head over heels in love with it upon my return for 10 nights?

If that just seems like too long - I think I would go to London, stay 5 nights and train to Paris and stay 5 nights.

Do NOT underestimate the power of jet - lag. It was really bad on our trip in December - one of my daughters could not adjust and ended up most of the night and it was almost impossible to keep her from sleeping during the day. She got very sick and needed medical care. (which was great care btw).

Europe is magical to me. The history, the art, the people... all of it so enjoy it with your family but go slow enough to do so.


A mom who did it both ways.
MomDDTravel is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 01:20 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 16,658
Here is a link to my trip report for Paris - I never did one I do not think for our first trip...

MomDDTravel is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2010, 01:21 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 32,129
"This is the best place I have joined so far. The information you have provided is so amazing."

Junk4rp - As I come here to argue, could you at least tell me to stick it. Thanks.
colduphere is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:49 PM.