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Searching for a Family Friendly Europe Destination

Searching for a Family Friendly Europe Destination

Old Sep 12th, 2010, 09:01 AM
  #21  
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Thank you so much for the detail! Some of my other concerns with travelling with small children is the transportation from the airport to the apartments....what is the best way? And if it is by car/taxi, do they have car seats or would we need to bring our own?
And regarding the train ride, I'm ok with it being 5 hours but is it the type of train that the kids can get up and walk around?
I will definitely keep researching but I think the Paris/Switzerland trip would be great for our family!
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 09:18 AM
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Hi rhondaarmour,

Some more info for a Paris-Switzerland trip.

Taking the train will be about the same amount of time as flying between the two, once you take into consideration getting from Paris to the airport, waiting at the airport, flying, claiming your bags, and then getting from the airport to your destination. But travelling by train is a whole lot more fun than sitting in a bland and sterile airport -- you get to watch the scenery slip by, you can munch a fresh picnic, and you can meet some of your European neighbors. Yes, you can get up and stroll the train aisles or visit the Bistro car on the train.

You can get excellent fares for the train trip if you buy your tickets about 90 days in advance, so you should be ready to do that when the time comes around. You can buy your tickets online at

www.voyages-sncf.fr
if you can work in French

www.tgv-europe.com

Please don't select the USA as your home country, or the site will switch you to Raileurope, where point-point fares are quite a bit higher.

Most folks go to Switzerland to see the mountains, so I'll assume that's where you'd like to go. Most first-time visitors really enjoy the high Alps of the Jungfrau region, and some favorites are the car-free villages of Wengen and Mürren. You can take the TGV from Paris to Basel, then continue onward to the Jungfrau. You can get more information at

www.myjungfrau.ch

Be warned, also, that July and August are high tourist season at the Jungfrau area, and if you stay in a town that allows cars, you will see a LOT of tour busses. That's one reason I love the car-free villages. Most hotels will meet you at the train station with an electric cart to help you when you arrive with luggage.

Hope this gets you started!

s
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 10:19 AM
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About distances: use mappy.com or viamichelin.com to plan routes, get travel-time estimates, and look for interesting places to visit along the way.

Southern France DOES have air-conditioning, and in our experience the area is less humid than in northern France, Germany, and Austria. I still remember August in Salzburg! If our hotel hadn't had a/c, we would have melted--which we did whenever we ventured outside.

If you decide to rent a house or apartment, begin the hunt right now--many desirable properties will already have been booked. You could also consider B&Bs.
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 10:47 AM
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With kids that age I think train is much better than plane. There is not long check-in and waiting time at the airport, there is a lot for them to look at out of the windows, they can walk around the train and possibly go to the dining care for a snack - and it's easy to play games with them since you get much more room. for a lot of little kids a train ride is just fun - like a boat ride.

Also the Paris/Switzerland idea seems like a good mix. There is plenty for kids to do in Paris - lots of parks and playgrounds, carousel, boat rid etc - as well as stuff for parent. And there are plenty of cafes where you can get casuale meals with kids at all hours.

In Switzerland there will be lots of countryside, lots of lakes and boat rides, castles to explore, and there is a great museum of country life that the kids might enjoy - esp the farm animals. Once you get there I would rent a car so you can do day trips however you want - and aren;t stuck on a train if the kids really feel like running around.
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 01:06 PM
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So a couple of questions from that last few replies:
Can a car be rented right from the airport or should we make those arrangements later on once settled in?
If we don't stay in a hotel but in an apartment, is the only way to get from the airport to our apartment is by renting a car? You indicated that an electric cart would pick us up but only if staying in a hotel. Again my concern is being stuck at the airport with kids and not knowing where we are going!
When going from Paris to Switzerland is it best to take the TGV? Is that the only train option? Just want to be sure we are taking the correct one.
Thanks again to all that have responded with REALLY valuable information...I'm really getting excited about our first trip to Europe!
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 01:18 PM
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hi again, rhonda,

looks like you are leaning towards the Paris/Swiss combination which will be great for your kids. if you choose somewhere like Wengen for part of your swiss stay, you won't need a car at all, as they are not allowed - you get the train all the way there. alternatively, you could stay further down the mountain in Lauterbrunnen and use that as a base for touring the area, in whuich case a car might help.

if you went this way, a third week could be spent by a lake; again you could use boats to get around and not need a car.

if you DO decide to rent a car, of course you can pick it up some days into your stay, but it's a lot cheaper if you pre-book and pay for it at home before you go. the hire co. will generally supply car seats [for a fee].
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 02:02 PM
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Since language skill is limited to English, apart from the UK, Scandinavia or Finland might also be a good choice - perhaps renting a summer cottage by the sea part of the time or farm stays. Stockholm is stunning in the summer months, there is Legoland, Tivoli & Bakken in Denmark for kids, lots of castles, Viking Centre and many more places.
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 02:31 PM
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I second Odin's suggestion of Stockholm, Denmark (Legoland, Tivoli, and Bakken) in July. I was there in August with my 3 year old. Very easy place to travel with a preschooler. Everyone speaks English and is extremely helpful and accommodating. Beautiful scenery and not too many Americans.
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 02:54 PM
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You don't need any language skills to go to Paris and Switzerland on vacation.
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 03:13 PM
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It looks like some of your questions have not been answered yet:

>

I've never been on a train where you couldn't walk around although the only place to walk is from car to car.


>

If you're going to Paris then you will definitely not want a car there. Cars in major cities will present lots of problem. First there are one-way streets to navigate and pedestrian streets to avoid and then you'll have to find parking which isn't readily available. It's so much easier to walk or take public transportation in cities.

>

You take whatever train is going to where you want to go. The TGV is a type of train and runs on limited routes; usually to major destinations. You don't say where you're going to in Switzerland so it's difficult to tell you what type of train you will be on. But this is like asking if your plane is a 737 and worrying that you'll get on the wrong plane if you don't know it's a 737.

When you get to the train station (just like an airport) there will be a large board giving the train destination and arrival time. There will be a track number (just like a gate number at an airport). You go to the track that is assigned to the train you're taking.

Here's the train site. Plug in Paris and your destination and you will see the type of train you'll be taking. If you go from Paris to Wengen you will take three types of trains - TGV, ICE, and R.

http://www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 04:15 PM
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In Paris you can take a shuttle from the airport to your apartment or hotel. Some of them have car seats. Google for that. Or maybe somebody here can make a recommendation.

I think Switzerland particularly unsuited to travel by car. As annhig indicated, cars are not allowed in some of the most scenic locations. And the public transportation is superb. Train/bus/boat schedules interconnect. Then there are funicular railways and gondolas and ski lifts, etc. Your kids are going to love this.
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 05:24 PM
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I might just go ahead and say that I think Switzerland is a really really beautiful country, but is basically boring for a lot of stimulating things to do.
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 05:24 PM
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So the next thing that I find mind boggling is finding accomodations. The goal is to have 1 apartment/B&B/villa in Paris and 1 in Switzerland so that we aren't moving around a lot once we are in each location. But where do you stay when you want to see all the attractions in Paris and where do you stay when you want to be in the mountains yet see the downtown in Switzerland? Is it possible to stay in 1 location and just do day trips to various areas? If so, how do I find out the central locations in each country? And without blowing the budget??
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 06:32 PM
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europe is EXPENSIVE for Americans nowadays. So why not get the "Let's Go" book for Europe - it's everyone's bible for travel. Or for any country at that. Indicates everything from places of interest to restaurants, hotels, pensyons, sights etc. Best thing you can have for vacation. Why not try somewhere less expensive like Turkey - very family oriented, hospitable and friendly, great weather and activiities as well as famous historical sights - lots of fun water parks etc. A great place for family vacations. Kusadasi, Bodrum, Cesme etc.
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Old Sep 13th, 2010, 07:06 AM
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Gretchen, it depends on what you find stimulating. Have you tried hiking? Skiing?

Rhondaarmour, you aren't going to see everything. Especially traveling with young children. Resign yourself ahead of time. Pick out those things that are most important to you and make sure you get to those. Save the rest til next time -- or the time after that. You will come back.

In Switzerland, the thing to see is the mountains, not the "downtown." A lot of people on this forum like the Bernese Oberland -- for its concentration of mountains and lakes. They prefer to stay in a small mountain village like Wengen, Murren or Grindelwald. I kinda liked Interlaken, a very touristy town, but the nexus for trips up into the BO mountains and on the lakes.

Or Lucerne, which is city-like but has good access to mountains and lake.

So more research to figure out what things and places are most important to you.
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Old Sep 13th, 2010, 08:39 AM
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But where do you stay when you want to see all the attractions in Paris and where do you stay when you want to be in the mountains yet see the downtown in Switzerland? >>

rhonda - you can't see everything in Paris in a week, two weeks, or even 2 months. you just have to pick a reasonably central spot and use the metro to get about [and probably walk quite a lot too!]

in Switzerland you don't go for "downtown" [not sure what that really means in a european context] but for countryside, mountains, lakes. hopefully you'll have had your fill of "downtown" by the time you get there.

if having the excitement/facilities of a city is important to you, then Lucerne would be a good choice in Switzerland.
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Old Sep 13th, 2010, 08:40 AM
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Exactly--the cities are very 'straight". As I said, it is drop dead gorgeous. I have hiked plenty of places, and the 2.5 yo was in a backpack on DH's back. So that would be one piece of equipment to think about bringing. And as I said before, at least my kids got "caught up" on "isn't that mountain just gorgeous" very quickly. I am just trying to be realistic if a LOT of money is going to be spent. If my kids are bored they made for a really bad trip for everyone!!
I'd think of a more "varied" place to go personally. Just an opinion. And a place that really has some things very young persons like to do. They have active minds.
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Old Sep 13th, 2010, 08:41 AM
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Oh, and our kids DID go skiing at Zermatt on the glacier in June. If the 6 and 2.5 year old like to ski, then that would be fun too. Three weeks is a long time.
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Old Sep 13th, 2010, 08:57 AM
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Hi again,

Using trains in Switzerland is just a lot of fun. They will take you everywhere you want to go, particularly if you are planning to do the hub-and-spokes kind of trip where you stay put and go out for excursions. Trains run three or four times an hour, so you are never stuck anywhere for long.

Oh, and if you *are* stuck for 10 or 15 minutes, it's a chance to have a cup of coffee or an ice cream, chat up the other passengers who are also waiting, or just to sit and watch the daily life going on around you. I really love the slow and lingering type of travel that you get with train travel.

Also, you and your children will have the opportunity to meet locals during the ride, instead of being stuck inside a mini-bubble.

Finally, using the trains is more **green** yaaay!! Just imagine how happy you'll be leaving Switzerland as pristine and pure as it was when you arrived. North Americans don't often get the chance to use trains and travel green, so this would be a chance to do it! Geee, you can take a road trip just about anywhere, lol!

Now, as to your destination. Again, I would advise the Jungfrau region of the Oberland. I don't know if the apartment owners would also meet you at the train, but I would certainly ask! If you don't want to stay in one of the car-free mountain villages, you could stay in Bern or Thun -- and then you would take a taxi from the train station to the apartment. The key is to find a central town that is within about two hours of transport to all the places you'd like to visit.

Have fun as you research!

s
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Old Sep 13th, 2010, 09:46 AM
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<how do I find out the central locations in each country? And without blowing the budget??>

What is the budget?

Paris is easy, just stay in a central location of the city (1st, 4th, 5th, 6th,or 7th arrondisements are all central and popular). As far as where to stay in Switzerland as a base, just read on this forum. It is full of itineraries and suggestions. Or a guidebook might be helpful at this stage of planning (and a map of the country).
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