Please sign in to post.

Western Europe Road Trip

Hi we are a family of four (kids 12 and 15) planning our first trip to Europe in August. We fly in and out of Paris and have 21 nights. As we have never been we would like to see as many different areas as is reasonable. Our top priorities are 4 nights in Paris, 4 nights in Normandy and 4 nights in the Swiss Alps.

We are trying to fill in the other days but there are so many choices! We are from Canada and are used to driving long distances, but we have no idea if the following rough itinerary is doable in Europe. We were wondering if it is feasible or involves too much distance, and if it would be better to take out stops and stay longer in some places. If so, we are not sure what to take out? We enjoy being outdoors and smaller cities over larger ones.

Fly in to Paris pick up car, drive to Luxembourg City - 1 night
Drive through Trier to Rhine valley (St Goar or Bacharach) - 2 nights
Fussen, Germany (to allow a full day at the two castles) - 2 nights
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland - 4 nights
Colmar, France - 2 nights
Amboise, France - 2 nights
Caen, France (Mont St Michel, Juno Beach, Etretat Cliffs) - 4 nights (return car in Paris)
Paris, France - 4 nights
Fly home
Any thoughts or advise would be appreciated.

Posted by
8206 posts

hegaca, I count about 8 full days of your trip that you will be in a car driving, rather than seeing any of those places. Too much for me.

Posted by
3696 posts

You need to map out the driving times and probably double those due to stops and photo ops and meals, etc. I don't mind driving a lot and have wonderful memories of roadside picnics and places I would not have seen otherwise. But, if you are on a schedule with prearranged hotels it can often be grueling. I will usually wing it when I am on that kind of road trip.

A definite must would be a night on MSM... I think your kids will love it. After all the day tourists go it is such a magical place. Also love Bayeux and St. Malo up in that area. Normandy will be very impactful. Try to go to the American Cemetery when there are the least tourists... early or late. I have taken a few teens to Europe (grandkids) and I always make sure they have their own camera and keep a daily journal... just enough to remind them of what they say and memorable moments, etc. I devised my own for them and it is a fill in the blank of sorts, with plenty of space for additional thoughts or sketching, etc.

Posted by
796 posts

It sounds like a lot of driving to me. I would try to pick sights that are a little closer together, or instead of making a circuit by driving, fly to the furthest destination and drive back (or train back to the French border and pick up a car there). I think landing in Paris after a night on the plane (I assume you have an overnight flight since you have not been to Europe before), and then driving all the way to Luxembourg is very ambitious, and you are then moving on, so hardly any time to see Luxembourg.

France is full of hiking trails. We hiked at almost all our destinations. We also stayed in a lot of smaller places, which I think work well for kids. My choice would be to skip Germany and go to the Alps and different parts of France. You can pick up Germany on your next trip!

Posted by
141 posts

On the day you arrive, consider staying the night in Paris before going on. It gives you some leeway in case your flight is delayed or otherwise takes longer than anticipated. And lets the kids stretch their legs out after being cooped up in the plane for so long.

Or, consider stay two nights in Luxembourg. Jet lag and the uncomfortable miserableness of flying in cramped planes can really make the first day feel like a hazy daze.

I'd plan on the drives taking longer than anticipated because there are so many places you will want to stop and look around, take pictures, buy a pastry, etc.! My husband and I just got back, and 3 hour drives took over 5 hours just because we HAD to pull over or turn off at every cute town or side road with a dirt path to see what was there. :-)

Posted by
16893 posts

Rick would choose to stay in Trier over Luxembourg city; it's covered in his Germany book. Or, you could start with a TGV train direct from Paris to Colmar, which takes 3 hours. The best rates go on sale April 2 for dates through August 30. Pick up a car a day later in Colmar, and modify the direction of your loop drive. (I don't know whether the range of cars to rent in Colmar would be any different from those in Paris, so you'd have to confirm your choice.)

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for the responses everyone. Rick Steves has an itinerary for a 21 day driving trip through France, which is actually a few hundred kms longer than our proposed trip, that's why we thought it might work. But I see this might need some rethinking.