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15 Day Route around France Advice!

Hi we are a family of 5 ( 3 daughters 13,10 and 8) and we are flying to France in early October. This is our itinerary for Oct. 3- 18):

-Fly into Paris 3 days
-TGV down to the South to Avignon for warm weather( Have a rental car in Nice and French Riveria for 6 days)
- Head Back ro Loire Valley for 3 days exploring chatauexs
- Go to St. MONT MICHELLE( Wife REALLY WANTS to go there) for 2 days and see some small towns there
- Headback to Paris.

Too aggressive? Any thoughts? I guess it all depends on weather in October. Should we the route? Any advice would be helpful.

Posted by
6788 posts

Can't tell, because the way you're describing things is typically used for willful self-deception and obfuscation.

Gotta be specific. What day do you arrive in France, what day do you depart, what days are you planning to go from X to Y, and from Y to Z? Without that, anyone trying to offer advice is left guessing.

That said, with "15 days" what you're describing sounds somewhere between "hurried and aggressive" and "batsh*t crazy and might kill you (or at least make you wish you were dead)." But the devil is in the details (which you have conveniently omitted), and it depends on exactly how you define "15 days".

Posted by
2577 posts

As you have asked for thoughts, mine are that you cannot possibly visit Paris and maybe 4 other regions of France (Rhone Valley, Côte d´Azur, Loire Valley and Normandy) in only 15 days. Eventually you´ll need to take a much more realistic approach to your vacation and map out exactly where it is you want to visit and precisely how you are going to reach the different points.

You really do not need a car in the Côte d´Azur (train travel is cheap and rather comprehensive) but you probably will in the Rhône Valley, the Loire Valley, and most likely in Normandy as well. One possible solution, and there are many, would be to stay in Paris then rent a car and visit the Loire Valley and Normandy which would typically consume your 13 available days (assuming that 3 Oct and 18 Oct are travel days).

Posted by
1817 posts

Those of us who've been around this forum for a while sometimes get frustrated by questions that leave out important details. Don't take it personally.

I recommend you use Excel or a similar spreadsheet application to map out your plan.

List the dates of your trip in one column. Then, next to each date, put the place you will sleep that night. Then look at a map and research travel options from Point A to Point B. How will you travel, and how long will it take?

I think once you've done that, you'll be able to determine whether this itinerary is too far-flung and spread out to accomplish in 15 days with three young daughters. I suspect you'll want to consider cutting back on the number of destinations. But after you've done this exercise, you should have a better idea.

Posted by
6788 posts

The dates are at the top of my Topic

Respectfully - no, they are not.

This is our itinerary for Oct. 3- 18

What does that mean? Does that mean you leave SFO on Oct 3? Or you arrive in Paris on Oct 3? There's a difference - a huge difference. And "Paris 3 days" is fuzzy and vague.

Fly into Paris 3 days

If you want 3 full days in Paris, then you're sleeping there 4 nights (in fact, maybe 5 - if you're counting the day your flight arrives as one of those days)...

If you want meaningful advice, you need to list where you will be on each day, which days you will be going from-where-to-where (bonus points for specifying how you'll get there, but we can usually guess since there's often only rational way to go - but you might be surprised). Why ask for such details? Because many (perhaps most) people on their first (or their 10th) trip to Europe fail to account for basic truths, like:

  • You should not count the day you arrive in Europe or depart for home as actual, usable days - not matter what time your flights are.
  • You do not instantly transport yourself from one location to another. It takes time. Perhaps a lot more time than you may be assuming. In fact, in most cases, it takes pretty much the whole day - which is why many of us use the following formula: X days in any location really gives you (X-1) days there.
  • Your group only moves as fast as (and as happily as) your slowest (least happy) member. Anyone there have trouble sleeping on planes? Is not a morning person? Is a picky eater? Gets moody and stubborn when things don't go their way? You will all move at their pace, like it or not.
  • Unless you are all pretty experienced and motivated travelers, you will probably find that a shocking amount of your time is consumed by the completely mundane tasks of just living, and getting around. Expect to get lost, maybe often. Getting oriented in a foreign land may take up more of your mental bandwidth than you think.
  • The list goes on.

I wouldn't say you need an Excel spreadsheet. But I would suggest you get quite specific, about each day on your trip. After all, you only have 16 days to work with - or, wait, was that 13 days? See?...saying you have an "itineray for Oct 3-18 means just that - you might have just 13 days, or maybe 16 - which is a big difference. How is someone who's trying to offer advice supposed to know what you have to work with?

Posted by
784 posts

Do the dates you listed include your travel days to and from France? Keep in mind that you basically lose a day Every time you move. With the children the age of yours, I would choose to visit either the north or the south, plus Paris. In 3 weeks, we covered Paris, Normandy (including Mt. St. Michel), part of Brittany, the Loire, Burgundy, and Champagne, with only 2 1-night stays, and it was all by car (no kids), beginning and ending in Paris.

My recommendation is to spend more time in Paris and split the remainder of your time either between Normandy and the Loire, or the Cote d'Azure and Provence.

Posted by
4132 posts

Aaron, do that spreadsheet thing. It will help.

Based on what you have said, you simply do not have the time to touch all these bases.

I'm guessing you are arriving on Oct 3 and departing on Oct 18. That is 14 nights.

You have a bunch of travel days where you might catch a sight or two but basically are getting to your next place and settling in. They are not sightseeing days, really.

So, 3 days in Paris = 4 nights
2 days at MSM = 3 nights
3 days in Loire = 4 nights

You've got 3 nights left to see Provence and then the Cote D'Azure. How are the five of you going to make that work?

Here are two better alternative.

Paris 5 > Provence 5 > Nice 4 fly home from Nice
Paris 5 > Bayeux (in Normandy) 3 > Mont St Michel 1 > Loire 3 > Paris 2 fly home from Paris.

I recommend no 1. It is simpler and your kids will be bored to tears in the Loire.

Posted by
40 posts

Wow! Sorry for leaving out detailed information. My recommendation would be not to repost.

Thanks for all the helpful advise from people on this forum willing to help and to read between the lines this information that’s obvious. We are seasoned travelers and have been to Paris 5/6 times. This is our the first with the kids to Paris though. Seeing Paris is 3 days could be tough and maybe I should do 4 days to be safe. Maybe we should cut out St. Mont Michelle to save us 2 extra days in Loire Valley or in Paris. I’m still on the fence. One question- Do you think catching a TGV to Nice is too aggressive or should we stop first in Loire Valley for a few days and then head to Nice?

Posted by
40 posts

Adam! Thanks for your patience and help. I really appreciate it. Why you think kids will be bored in Loire Valley? Why? I’ll do some more research and might make some changes..Thanks

Posted by
43 posts

Not to aggressive. I did the same thing though we went to the Alsace instead of Loire. Your wife is right about CSM. It's wonderful. Do everything you can to spend the night on the isle. It's the best!

Posted by
2577 posts

Do you think catching a TGV to Nice is too aggressive or should we stop first in Loire Valley for a few days and then head to Nice?

There are indeed many TGVs from Paris to Tours but none from Tours to Nice. That typically means a train from the Loire Valley to Montparnasse, then a train from Gare de Lyon to Nice. That will probably take most of one day.

There is usually a daily train from Tours (St Pierre des Corps) to Avignon but I am not sure you can make it to Nice in the same day. You´ll need to check but this is an example of the dangers of simply assuming you can move about on a whim. With your family and potential hotel changes, it will take most of a day to make any location change.

Posted by
40 posts


Thanks for your input!! I found a very reasonable price TGV from Paris to Avignon. We can rent a car from Avignon and tour Nice,French Rivera and explore some smaller towns in the area around. Thanks for your help and catching that error. I think this trip is doable but just might cut out Loire Valley. I’m hearing from many people that it might be too boring for kids...

Posted by
10298 posts

Though they are often lumped together in guidebooks, Avignon and Nice are in different areas and a 3+ hours drive from each other.

Posted by
40 posts

Thanks Bert’s,

Did that drive Nice and Avignon before. This trip we will break it up and do a couple stops along the way. There some cute towns the kids would really enjoying seeing. Good input thanks!!

Posted by
4132 posts


It looks as though there is one direct TGV from Amboise to Avignon on weekdays. It takes a little over 4 hours, which isn't bad, but does not leave until 5:30. So you could sight see that day and rest (and eat) on the train. There are also many 5-hour trains with one change. A long-ish day, but perfectly feasible.

If you are set on the Loire, and are up for it, it makes more sense to go directly there from the airport, then spend your 4 nights in Paris (3 days), then take one of many trains to Avignon where you can pick up your car. Again, flying home from Nice is the smart move.

My prediction about the Loire is perhaps a bit flippant but consider that 3 days of touring empty Renaissance palaces is likely to try anyone's enthusiasm. It seems unlikely to me that there will be enough of it (enthusiasm) to go around your family of 5.

The Loire works so well with Normandy that you really should consider saving it for a trip when you have time to do both. Honestly there is so much to see and do in S of France, and especially Provence; make the most of that.

Posted by
2577 posts

It looks as though there is one direct TGV from Amboise to Avignon on weekdays.

I don´t find any direct trains from Amboise to Avignon during October and TGVs do not serve Amboise. Basically, Amboise to Avignon requires a return to Paris Austerlitz on an Intercité train, a station change to Gare de Lyon, and then a TGV to Avignon. I would plan 6 to 8 hours depending upon the train selected.

consider that 3 days of touring empty Renaissance palaces is likely to try anyone's enthusiasm.

I might agree if that is all you did. However, the Loire Valley has more for children than practically any other destination on the proposed itinerary. Consider:

Grand Aquarium de Touraine

Parc des Mini-Châteaux


A large number of bike trails

There are also visits to troglodyte villages, mushroom caves, horseback riding and these are just the obvious activities. A little investigation would probably open many more options.

What children typically do not enjoy is the confinement of lengthly car rides and train trips. By the time a family of 5 packs and leaves one hotel, travels to a new location, finds a new hotel and settles in, most of a day will be consumed. Available daylight in October is noticeably less than in June, July, or August. You do not really want to waste valuable vacation time traveling.

This itinerary needs to be seriously cut back to no more than three destinations and Paris is one of three.

Posted by
5945 posts

I travel at a pretty fast clip and your tentative itinerary would be too much for me. I think since Mont Ste Michel is a given, I would concentrate on Paris, Brittany and Loire. There are beautiful areas of Brittany quite close to MSM. Dinard, Dinan, Saint Malo. For MSM, I would get there in the afternoon/eve, spend a little time there and stay on the island or on the mainland quite close. I would then get to the abbey (factor in the walk up to it) at opening, spend 2-3 hours and then be off to small towns in Brittany. On your way back to Paris, you could visit Rouen and Giverny, but I would think you'd be bumping up against "too much" again.

Posted by
10298 posts

Indeed the troglodyte farms in the western part of the Loire, the Anjou region, are fascinating!
The most interesting chateau I have ever visited in 40+ years of French tourism, was an early Medieval troglodyte with rooms, stables, kichens, chapel, corridors, all dug into the earth for defense. Absolutely to see—kids will go bonkers. It’s off the beaten path, with a ho-hum Renaissance chateau built on top of it at ground level, a typical silk, velvet, Renaissance furniture, a room where a king stayed the night, etc. The property is privately owned and has a winery, so something for mom and dad, too. Chateau Brézé: