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Parents' first time in Europe - help on itinerary

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Nov 1st, 2013, 10:26 PM
  #1
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Parents' first time in Europe - help on itinerary

Hello! This is my first time posting on Fodor's after a long time reading everyone's helpful posts to plan my own travel. Please bear with me!

I myself have stayed in Spain for 6 weeks before and am going to Italy for a month very soon. I plan to go with my parents (both in their mid fifties, active, can walk anywhere on normal terrain) to Europe during May next year for 2 weeks. It will be their first time in Europe. As I spent 6 weeks in Granada before and very much enjoyed getting to know the city, I'm not the type who wants to see many places in a short time period. However, my parents can only afford 2 weeks off of work, so I have thought of a very rough draft itinerary based on the cities I've heard them casually mention before.

Day 1-4: Prague
Day 5-7: Budapest
Day 8-12: Paris
Day 13-14: possibly Southern France/Provence, but we might spend more time in Paris if they want to.

My parents mostly enjoy good walks, scenic train ride, and leisurely mornings sipping coffee in a cute coffeeshop. Museums are not a must, nor are "must-see" sights. My dad also enjoys driving and has no problem driving manual. Among the destinations above only Prague and Paris have to be in the itinerary. Do you think I should stick to those and take side trips to smaller towns instead? The only thing is I've read many threads on Prague vs. Budapest, which only made me want to give them both an equal chance. (The only reason Prague got 4 days is to account for jet lag).

Or, should we take an entirely different itinerary altogether? Should we replace the cities with smaller towns to better fit the short time allotment? Just that my dad talks about Prague and my mom talks about Paris sometimes, so I wanted to incorporate those into the trip. Any opinions are appreciated!
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Nov 1st, 2013, 11:13 PM
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Good idea to take it easy on arrival. But you won't have day 4 in Prague if you go to Budapest, even if you fly late in the day it won't be a day in Prague that counts for much.

And it will be really only two days in Budapest - which is ok if that's what you really plan on.

A hurried mini-trip to the South of France at the end of the trip is not worth it, but you could turn your trip around, fly into the South of France, say to Nice or Marseille, in the first place and relax there before tackling the big cities.

Then take the fast train up to Paris, fly to Budapest, and take the day train or night train (http://www.seat61.com/international-...udapest-Prague) or a flight to Prague and fly home from Prague.

Generally look to relocating late in the day so that you don't waste the good morning energy while sitting on a train or in an airport. After a day of sightseeing it's fine to snooze on a train before getting into a new city in time to check in and go to sleep, and wake up in the excitement of the new place.
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Nov 2nd, 2013, 05:36 AM
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I think your itinerary is pretty good except for the Provence thing. I agree, that makes no sense at all. For one thing, it is too little time there to spend that travel time, and secondly, at the end of trip, it doesn't have an airport to get back home that wouldn't require a transfer somewhere. At least from Paris, you could get a nonstop to many places.

I'd recommend they fly Easyjet from Budapest to Paris, it is a direct flight and I really like that budget airline. They don't fly on Tuesdays and their flight is in the afternoon, but I'd consider it as a good choice. Other airlines will probably be more expensive (like Air France).

I think it would make more sense to end up either in London or spend a few days in Vienna as long as you are around Budapest, rather than Provence. If you want to add another city. There are lots of good flights from London. They could easily spread out the schedule more as is for the other 3 cities, also, with more time in Paris and/or Budapest. YOu don't have much time in Budapest at all given the time to get there. Most people are interested in seeing London if they've never been there, and at least there is no language difference so it's easy to get around. But if they've never mentioned it as a place they want to see, not worth the trouble to get there, I guess (they could go Eurostar).
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Nov 2nd, 2013, 08:32 AM
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ira
 
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Hi W,

For first-timers, I recommend flying into London for a week, the train to Paris for a week and then flying home.

This will provide a chance to get acquainted with Europe in a place where mostly everyone speaks some sort of English and a visit to a city that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Have a nice trip,

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Nov 2nd, 2013, 09:11 AM
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I, too, would leave Provence for another trip, instead adding a day to Paris and one of the other cities.

Watch your dates in Prague, where May is very busy for VE Day week and an annual beer fest mid-month.

Agree with Christina that easyJet is good for intra-Europe travel. If you fly from Prague, leave a little early for the airport because traffic can back up.

You should be able to get an apartment in Paris and Prague as long as you stay at least three nights.
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Nov 2nd, 2013, 03:27 PM
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Thank you to everybody who responded! I had a hunch the Provence thing would be too much time wasted on getting there, so we decided to leave it out of the plan completely.

@michel: Ah, I didn't realize the train from Prague to Budapest takes 7-8 hours, map distance certain looks deceiving! If so I think it would be a better idea to do Day 1 - morning of day 5 in Prague, then depart, stay in Budapest day 6, 7, depart for Paris on Day 8 and spend the full day 9-13 there, then perhaps depart at night on Day 14 from Paris.

I will definitely take the late night train advice for myself, but I think my parents would like to get a full night sleep in the hotel, haha.

@Christina & ira: London is definitely a must-see city, but they've decided that they should leave it for a time when they can spend at least 7 full days to London, then perhaps spend time in other destinations in the UK. They feel Prague and Budapest are more manageable cities for this trip

@alan: Thank you for the VE Day advice, it never crossed my mind! We're looking to fly to Prague beginning of May, so hopefully we'll be out by the 8th eek.

Side story: my parents come from a country with heavy French and USSR influence, my mom speaks some French (of course not as well as English by now since we've moved to the US for such a long time), and they have many friends/relatives who have either lived in or visited Paris/Prague, which might be the reason why those are their "dream cities". But I definitely hope they can visit the UK at a more leisurely pace in the future!
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Nov 2nd, 2013, 06:18 PM
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I would stick with Prague, Budapest and Paris if they really want to see much and relax. You have neglected to allow for the day they arrive, the day they depart and the day needed to get from Prague to Budapest and Budapest to Paris. Each will take a full day, even by plane.
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Nov 3rd, 2013, 12:26 AM
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When you say that they don't particularly want to see museums or must see tourist sites, I sometimes think it would be a shame to get home for a trip and be thinking "oh, I wish I'd seen .......". Just something to keep in mind.

I'm the same age etc as your parents and an overnight train with probably little or no sleep would ruin the next few days for me. I'd hate it.
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Nov 3rd, 2013, 03:17 AM
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They will find that in Prague most of the people they are going to meet will speak one or more of the lingua franca (English, French, German... then Italian and Chinese) they may also speak Russian and depending on their age will eiher admit or not. (If the Russian has loads of money then they will use it ;-) ).

So Prague is a good place to start. Not wanting to see museums in Prague makes the place a bit of a waste of time since the place is pretty good for this. There is, after all, only so much beer, pig's knuckles you can eat and people watching you can do.

Budapest is a pretty nice city and in many ways less touristy and generally more pleasant that Prague. If they stay near the Opera they get the benefit of the underground, access to most of the better restaurants, trains are reasonably close and the odd spa is close by.
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Nov 3rd, 2013, 06:02 AM
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you need to travel from east to west or vice versa. otherwise you just wasting time. use the train. so you can travel from Budapest to Prague to Vienna, Munich, Dresden, Berlin or even from Vienna to Italy. You see something of Europe and not just clouds.
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Nov 3rd, 2013, 06:30 AM
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>>then perhaps depart at night on Day 14 from Paris. <<

You'll want to factor in that most flights to the US depart in the morning or very early afternoon.
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Nov 3rd, 2013, 08:00 AM
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@nytraveler: yep, we've decided on Prague, Budapest and Paris this time. With those I already feel overwhelmed already, so we'll just have to pick and choose the sights we really want to see.

@cathies: it's always good to see input from someone with similar perspective I will ask my parents to pick sights from the guidebook. They usually leave the logistics to me because they know I love reading guidebooks and planning, haha.
I don't think they'd like an overnight train either. I hope the vacation will be relaxing for them!

@bilboburgler: I'll keep that in mind! I've made them come with me to museums in the past and it just seemed like they weren't as interested. They seem to have much more fun on more walking/hanging out/sightseeing trips, but that could have been the nature of just any family trips. But certainly they won't want to check off all the museums in guidebooks (as someone like me might be tempted to), that's what I meant to say.

@train007: by "east to west", do you mean we should go Budapest - Prague - Paris instead of starting in Prague? This is primarily because when I was checking flights (have been checking), arriving in Prague and departing from Paris have yielded cheaper results than arriving in Budapest.
Yes, ideally a trip around the area of Prague-Budapest-Vienna would be more relaxing, but I think it's important that they see the cities they've always wanted to see too, that's why we've decided on Paris

@janisj: ah, haven't looked at the specific time yet as I've only been looking at price trends. Something to keep in mind

Thank you again for your advices!
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Nov 9th, 2013, 07:23 AM
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If going by train check out these superb sites that will help understand the European rail system - www.seat61.com (though mainly oriented to Brits and trains from Britain to various places in Europe but a wealth of info on discounted tickets in various countries);l www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

If I were you I would pay extra for you and your folks to go first class on trains - much more relaxed - I've four decades of European rail travel behind me and especially older folks will enjoy the benefits of first class - the trip of a lifetime travel in style.

If renting a car check on possible steep drop-off charges for renting in one country and returning to another. And in cities like Prague, Budapest and especially Paris cars are useless for sighteeing - parking can cost a ton and can be hard to find - cars are a liability in many ways in cities - now for driving thru the countryside yeh great but you indicate your are angling mainly for cities.

Maybe in Paris take the train to Normandy and the D-day beaches and rent a car for a few days in Caen and leisurely drive around the D-Day beaches area.
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Nov 9th, 2013, 10:59 AM
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I think Prague and Budapest are excellent places for people who are less interested in visiting museums, because they have fewer of them. Budapest, in particular, has a great cafe culture, so they will enjoy that. On one rainy day, at the end of a 2-week trip, so we weren't real motivated, we went cafe-hopping. Wonderful memories of a huge thunderstorm while we sat cozily in a historic cafe, eating cake and drinking coffee.

Each city has an excellent museum on that country's experiences during the WWII and Cold War Era. In Prague, its the Museum of Communism. In Budapest, it's the Terror Museum (also called the House of Terror). They are quite different, and both worth visiting.
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Nov 9th, 2013, 12:14 PM
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If you aren't sure if your parents really like museums you might use one or two strategies I have with others in the same boat (and frankly for myself as I have found over the years as much as I think I "love" museums, more than a couple of hours in one and I am ready to do something else.

Many museums have "hightlights" tours (often free).

Many museums have other free tours focusing on a particular section or topic (also often free).

The museum's own website is often the best source of information about such tours as these details don't always make it into guide books. Instead of tours they might also have audio guides with similar features.

Smaller museums can be even more rewarding.

In Paris for smaller museums I highly recommend the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Cluny Museum and the Cognacq-Jay Museum.

In Budapest I highly recommend the "hospital in the rock" museum (undeground WWII hospital and cold war shelter), the terror museum mentioned above and the Hungarian history museum.

In Prague I highly recommend the Jewish museum.

Enjoy with your parents! (I took mine to Paris in 2004 and they still talk about it often.)
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