***Three-week Europe trip!***

Jan 14th, 2012, 08:17 PM
  #1  
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***Three-week Europe trip!***

We're chalking out our first ever 3-week Europe trip in late May. We're flexible with the time there, so could stretch it by a few days. However, we have 3 kids (13 years, 9 years, and 18 months), and for the first two, France, Italy, and Greece are all a must! We've traveled before to Costa Rica with the baby, so we're not too worried about that. If anyone has any idea about a good itinerary, please help us out! Btw, train, plane, car should all be okay with us. Thanks!
koopamanduk is offline  
Jan 14th, 2012, 08:29 PM
  #2  
 
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Can you narrow down your destination categories a bit? Instead of three countries, pick a maximum of five locations. For example, Paris, someplace in Provence, Venice, Florence and Rome, and then three places in Greece.

I am assuming you want to see the principal tourist destinations, and probably will be in cities most of the time, so focus on train travel. Cars are a liability in big cities because parking is limited and expensive, and you cannot easily drive inside the city (some places prohibit it unless you have a local permit), so days of expensive car rental fees are wasted. Getting from Italy to Greece can be by plane or overnight ferry.
charnees is offline  
Jan 14th, 2012, 11:01 PM
  #3  
jgg
 
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We spent 2 weeks just doing Rome, Venice and Florence when our kids were 12 and 9. Here is a link to my trip report which you may find helpful for that potential part of your trip. http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...or-2-weeks.cfm.

I agree with poster above that rather than picking countries you need to pick cities or areas. Even with three weeks, time can go by quickly, so you will have to pare down your wish list a bit, but if you slow down and enjoy yourself you will have a fabulous time!
jgg is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 02:34 AM
  #4  
 
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www.eurocheapo.com Go at least yearly in May was there last May no real clue about your budget.For me seat61.com Trains or
Econoair skyscanner.net work out easiest cheapest.Route for me
Fly into Paris train throught the Alps down to venice-tourism.com Florence Rome.Fly to Athens for your last week.
greecetravel.com ikies.com Oia my fav in the islands. Fly back to Paris to home. booking.com for good family room
rates stay flexible lots of financial civil unrest now especially greece. insuremytrip.com wise.ricksteves.com good euroewbie info also affordabletours.com . I took a Globus Tour as a newbie saw a lot at good price lots less hassle
but those early AM bus calls were a killer. Have done Renault Eurodrive car leases in the past viamichelin.com will be tough to roadtrip all the way down to Greece and back in the time you have ans usually more costly big parking fines traffic hassle with rentals in cities not a fan except in rural areas.

Happy Planning!
qwovadis is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 02:55 AM
  #5  
 
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I think your life and planning might be much easier if you spent one week each in France, Italy and Greece, renting apartments in each place. But I would wait to make that decision until mid-March, when the situation regarding Greece and the euro will be much clearer.

Knowing why your eldest kids are insisting on these destinations would make it easier to suggest an itinerary. However, generally speaking, Paris and Rome are extremely rich in variety of things to enjoy, and Athens in combination with a beach or island location can give you a real feel for Greece. Assuming you are starting from the US, I suggest France-Greece-Italy in that order, traveling by air all the way.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 04:32 AM
  #6  
 
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Darn, I had typed out a lengthy reply and my computer decided to restart suddenly!

To paraphrase:

3 countries in 3 weeks is a bit much in my opinion. You will lose a lot of valuable sightseeing time every time that you switch accomodations, especially if you are travelling quite a distance (such as the distance btwn France and Italy, and Italy and Greece). The 3 countries you've selected, all wonderful!, could easily occupy your family for your enire trip and trust me, you wouldn't be anywhere close to having "seen it all"!

Greece is our favorite place to visit, hands down. Amazing historical sights, friendly people, great food, relaxed pace...I could go on and on. We even took our 7 month old son with us this past May for a 2 week trip to Greece. By the way, Greeks LOVE babies and young children and will overwhelm you with kindness to them. With 3 weeks in just Greece, you could take the first 10 days and see 2 or maybe 3 of the islands and then spend the final 10 days exploring Athens, Delphi, and the highlights of the Peloponnese.

Italy is also a wonderful choice, but like Greece and maybe even more so, it is literally saturated with worthy sights. The 3 biggies - Rome/Florence/Venice take 10 days even if you're doing them quickly. Then depending on what time of year you are traveling, you could add in the Lakes or the Cinque Terra for a couple days of waterside R&R after the big cities. You could also head south to Naples-Sorrento-Amalfi Coast and see Pompei, Capri, and much more. It is a faster paced trip than I would personally enjoy but it is more doable than seeing 3 countries in 3 weeks and you would certainly see a lot during your visit. We are bringing our then-19-month son to Italy this year but will only see a small slice of Umbria and Tuscany in our 2.5 week trip.

I can't speak to France but there are many Fodorites who can provide you with excellent advice there.

By the way, expect the kids to really struggle for a day or two with jet lag and factor that into your planning.
TexasAggie is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 04:36 AM
  #7  
 
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PS. If you really do want to do several countries in 3 weeks, have you considered booking a tour such as the Rick Steves Best of Europe Tour? We are not tour folks, but we've run into RS tours twice in our travels and everyone appeared to be having a nice time. As the tour operators regularly move folks between countries, they have very efficient ways of doing it so as to lose less time in the transfers. Just a thought!
TexasAggie is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 04:46 AM
  #8  
 
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It's so hard to choose what to see, isn't it.

You mention that you've been with the baby to Costa Rica. Here's the thing: you don't mention where you are from, but Costa Rica is in the same time zone as Chicago (GMT - 6). So when you went to Costa Rica, you and your family shifted, at most, 2 hours of time from your usual schedule.

But going to Europe is a whole 'nother matter. Italy and France are GMT + 1, which means you will shift a minimum of SIX (6) hours (if you are an American.) Up to 10 hours if you are from the west coast. Baby's schedule will be much more disturbed! Your older children will also struggle to cope, because the flight to Europe is an overnight one. Even seasoned adult travelers find they have to force themselves to stay awake on the first day they arrive overseas.

So you can't exactly expect to hit the ground running. You will also need to factor in the time you will need to commute from place to place. Your eldest children sound enthusiastic over travel, but they need to do some research into how many hours commuting from place to place will take. Do they have any experience of family road trips? I doubt they like being in a car for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time, tops! You're also gonna have a hard time packing light with a baby (diapers, toys, etc.) You'll need time to do stuff like laundry, because it is imperative not to pack too many changes of clothes; too much luggage, or too heavy, will be like millstones around your necks.

You'll need lots of 'downtime' with a family. Kids, in my experience, are not that enamoured about scenery. They like clambering around old forts, and checking out the shops, and yes, the younger ones still need time to just play a little. You're also going in late May, so I presume the older kids will have to do a bit of homework en route, to keep up with their schooling (?) as the term/year is not yet over (?)

However, to get you started with Greece, if that is a priority:

http://tinyurl.com/72yzl9a

The above links to Globus, a well known commercial tour company. I cannot offer any insight as to how good their tours of Greece are, as I have not taken any. I suggest them for pragmatic reasons (you have very little time.) I also have absolutely no experience of cruises at all. But you've come to the right board to find out - there is a separate 'cruise' forum.

Best of luck.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 06:26 AM
  #9  
 
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If your 2 eldest children feel that France, Italy, and Greece are a "must" then they must have some idea of what they want to see in these countries. That will narrow your focus. You can't simply say that you want to visit 3 countries in 3 weeks because that's impossible.

With 3 young children and 3 weeks to travel I would choose 1 country and explore it. When are you going? Are you interested in beaches or mountains; countryside or cities or a combination of all of these things.

Have your kids look at maps and internet sites for each country and give input about what they want to explore. Then take a realistic look at how much you can accomplish each week and how long it will take to get from place to place.

A slower paced trip will give all of you some leisure time together and you'll remember more than rushing from place to place.
adrienne is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 08:23 AM
  #10  
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Thanks everyone for the great comments! I really appreciate your help...

Let me give you some of the information you had asked:

1. I am in the West Coast of the US, so yes, jet lag would be some problem. True, this was not a big deal for Costa Rica. However, I'll also add that we've made many trips (5+) to many countries in Southeast Asia, and Australia/New Zealand. Jet lag has never been easy, but most of the kids have experienced it in various stages of their lives.

2. The 3 countries indicated were for specific interests for the kids. Paris (mainly) for Louvre, Italy for Venice, and Greece for the historical side, especially for my teenage daughter. But yes, I am debating the last one with the kind of unrest going on there.

3. We do make l-o-n-g trips regularly in the US, 6-10 hours easily, at least 3-4 times a year. Of course, these are with the restroom, food, and gas stops, but the kids are okay in the car -- usually! I understand in Europe renting a car might be a hassle in many ways, but I was thinking short day trips perhaps? Say, to Nice or Marseilles?

4. But yes, the weight of luggage would indeed be a problem, especially with diapers, baby food, etc. For flights within Europe, or even Eurail, I am not sure what weight of luggage would be allowed of planes or even on trains. Any ideas?

5. Would Italy-Greece be okay with kids on the ferry? Just wondering...

Thanks again for the great tips!!!
koopamanduk is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 08:52 AM
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Looking upon it as a 'three city' rather than 'three country' trip makes it seem more feasible, and a week for each would give you enough time to explore the cities and surrounding areas.

The flights I have taken within Europe have had a 20 kg weight allowance, but budget airlines, e.g. easyJet, may have lower allowances. Trains and ferries have no weight restrictions as far as I know. I wouldn't recommend a ferry between Italy and Greece, because it takes too much time and costs about the same as a flight.

It's been many years since I've travelled with a baby, but I do know that disposable diapers and baby food are available in European supermarkets. Take enough with you to get by for a few days, and you will be able to top up as you go along.
Heimdall is online now  
Jan 15th, 2012, 09:12 AM
  #12  
 
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We are from the west coast as well and have made 3 separate trips to Europe with our kids. They travel well as kids are often more resilient than us adults.

On our first trip when the kids were 12 & 8, we spent a month in just 3 cities (London, Paris and Lisbon) and we chose these cities only because my husband lived in England as a child and I lived in Lisbon as a child. We really did not venture much from each city.

The next trip was Italy for 3 weeks where we visited Venice, Orvieto, Rome, the Amalfi coast. Could've spent way more time in Italy (and hope too one day)

And this past summer, we again visited relatives in England before heading to Greece where we visited Athens (only to come and go from the islands), Santorini and Mykonos. It encompassed a little over 3 weeks.

I think that although your kids are well traveled, you should narrow your choices to less countries and choose instead three cities. If I were to offer my opinion, I'd say just do Italy this time as even with 3 weeks, you will barely touch the surface of all it has to offer.

Greece is pretty big and with so many islands, it deserves a trip of it's own.

And as far as your kids wanting the historical side (namely Greece), there is so much history everywhere that I doubt that they will feel as though they're missing out.
namaka is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 09:25 AM
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I like your idea of daytrips in the car, because then you wouldn't need a car big enough for both a family of five AND all your luggage, which could be a tad problematic. You'd just need one big enough for yourselves, and your day packs. On the other hand, if you stick with Paris and surrounds, you won't even need to mess with that....

I'm a big confused; you mention Paris and the Louvre, and then you mention Nice or Marseilles, and then 'daytrips.' I presume you don't mean either of these as a daytrip from Paris. Even by the TGV (high speed train), it is a 6 hour roundtrip plus Paris-Marseilles, almost twice as long for Nice (the TGV portion of the train trip ends before one gets as far as Nice, if memory serves).

You have lots of interesting places to see much, much closer to Paris.

My comment about weight of luggage reflects the fact that heavy, big bags are a pain. They are hard to pack into car trunks, hard to lift onto overhead train racks, hard to just shlepp around. And since a child of 18 months will often have to be carried, he/she counts as a 'bag'...
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 09:34 AM
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PS Mileage of kids and jet lag seems to vary. My most recent experience, with a traveler of some 9 months of age, was that aforesaid traveler did NOT care for schedule changes. At all. (He voiced an opinion on the matter at length....) But if yours do better, then that's a big plus.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 10:09 AM
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With 3 kids tours are probably not an option. (Very few tours allow kids under the age of 12 or so - and frankly the moving every night, long days on the bus and very early am starts are not really the best way to travel with kids.)

If it were me - in 3 weeks I would pick 4 destinations (cities - not countries) and get an apartment in each one. This will give you more room to spread out, save money since you can have breakfast and snacks at the hotel - and you don;t have to go to sleep when the kids do.

Also - finding hotel rooms (family rooms) for 5 people can certainly be done - but it's a very small percentage of rooms. Also - unless you pick one destination out in the countryside I would stick with trains for transit.
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 10:15 AM
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<>

That is so not true....
If you want to see the Parthenon, or Delphi, or your dream was to see the Colosseum , than there is no substitute for that in other parts of Europe.
Each country has it's own history, and this makes Europe so unique.
clausar is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 11:12 AM
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Hello koopanamduk -
Three weeks will be a nice amount of time. If it were my trip with my kids I'd do something like this:

Fly to Paris, rent one of the many lovely apartments for 1 week, explore the sights and neighborhoods. Pain au chocolat for breakfast every morning! The apartment gives kids lots of room to spread out and just be together with the family, easy meals, place to nap for the little one. There are so many great sights in Paris and your kids will love it. I'd do a day trip on the train, which would be really fun and different.

Then I'd fly to Venice and spend several days there. It is very fun for kids.

I'd take the train to Umbria, a place like Spoleto or Spello, rent a car and do day trips to get a feel for the lovely smaller cities in Europe.

Then I'd take the train to Rome and spend a week there, renting an apartment.

Have fun with your planning - this will be a trip your kids will remember!
rosetravels is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 11:49 AM
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rosetravels has a good idea, I think. If you really want to see some of Greece, you will have to adjust the number of days you spend in the cities rose mentions, to make time for Greece.

As for luggage weight limits on the train, it is only your ability to lift and load the bags in a very short time that matters. Train stops in Italy, if the station is not a terminus like Venice or Rome, can be very short. (3 minutes?) Not a lot of time to manage kids and bags, especially if many others also want to get on or off at that stop. The steps are high off of the platform, so the nine year old may need help from the older child, too. But the older children could each carry a small backpack and a small rollaround to handle themselves, if they are game for that. You'd have to try it at home, I think, first. Then you could have two adult-size rollarounds, two backpacks, and the baby.
charnees is offline  
Jan 15th, 2012, 12:19 PM
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And the stroller!
charnees is offline  
Jan 24th, 2012, 01:30 PM
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I suggest that you use Google maps to get an idea of the distances involved - a day trip from Paris to Nice is about 900 km and will take about 9 hours each way by road. It's approx twice the distance from San Francisco to LA each way.
Wa145nzJeffery is offline  

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