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10 Day With 16, 17 boys


As a grad 12 grad gift I’m taking my two sons on a Europe trip. Trying to keep in simple however we do want to go to Helsinki for a few days before heading to another destination outside of Scandinavian counties ? Thanks

Posted by
181 posts

I could tell you where I would want to go, but that wouldn't be much help because it'd be my dream vacation, not yours.

Where do your boys want to go? They are definitely old enough to have a say in the planning. And if they are really at a loss, what types of things interest them? Food, history, castles, museums, outdoors?

Why Helsinki? Not that it isn't an interesting city (I hear), but I would suspect it wouldn't make a lot of Top Ten lists. Why is Helsinki a must? Family connection? Something there you want to see?

Is it your first trip to Europe? If no, where else have you been? Do you want to return to these places, or do you want to go somewhere else?

Is budget an issue?

Would you prefer to fly into Helsinki, out of Helsinki, or have it be in the middle? Note that you are probably flying into and out of Helsinki in some way either way, unless you want to take a ferry to another Baltic or Scandinavian country.

The Forum is a lot more helpful once we have some basic information about you and the type of trip you want to have.

Posted by
288 posts

Agree. We have taken our boys to Europe 4 times through high school. The key to a great trip is having them in to what we are doing. What are their interests? Get them involved in planning with your guidance. We did some things with them i would not have chosen, but ended up having a great time.

Posted by
2624 posts

From Helsinki take a direct ferry to Tallinn, Estonia (2h) and explore the old town for the day or spend the night. While there you want to explore the old town. If you spend the night consider taking a direct train or a nonstop flight from Tallinn to Riga, Latvia.
From Helsinki you can fly nonstop to: London, Brussels, Amsterdam, Bourgas, Reykjavic, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, Dublin and Bucharest plus:
DE - Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf
ES - Barcelona, Alicante, Madrid and Málaga
PO - Gdansk, Warsaw and Krakow
GR - Athens, Crete, Rhodes and Zante (Zakynthos)
IT - Pisa, Milan, Rome, Bologna and Venice
TR - Izmir, Istanbul and Gazipasa
FR - Paris and Nice
CH - Geneva and Zurich which are good jumping off points to get to the Berner Oberland.
PT – Lisbon and Madeira

Posted by
6 posts

Hi- I should have explained more so thanks for feedback . I was an exchange student In Finland for a year when I was 17 and my boys have heard all about it endlessly so they are curious . Yes my son who is the one graduating put together 4 separate potential itineraries since it’s his gift . 1. Spain /Portugal 2. Helsinki /Estonia /other. 3. Amsterdam/Brussels 5. Budapest/Austria . My boys have been to France twice as they are bilingual in French . I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in Europe several times for work.

Trying to maximize exploring for them and not make it a trip where we are constantly in trains /planes etc . We are departing from either Toronto or Detroit depending on airfares around June 29- July 10 ish.

Thanks again for all the feedback so far ….half the fun is in the planning .

Posted by
24920 posts

Will you have 10 nights on the ground in Europe?

Spain/Portugal, combined with Finland, would be totally unrealistic in the time frame you're dealing with, so I'd scratch that possibility immediately. Unless you choose Finland+Estonia (and maybe bus to Riga from Tallinn), you're going to have to fly to get to your second destination, something I would be really, really loathe to do with only ten days available. Realistically, you need 3 nights in Helsinki unless you take the 6 PM ferry to Tallinn on the third day after a nearly full day of sightseeing. So if you choose a combo other than Helsinki-Estonia (maybe with Riga), you'll only have 6 or 7 nights for the second destination. Transportation efficiency would be really important to me. I'd choose the all-Baltic option because I wouldn't want to waste a large chunk of a day dealing with airports.

I have never been to Belgium, but it appears nearly unanimous that Brussels in not one of the country's most interesting cities.

Posted by
6245 posts

Some brass tacks...

  1. Your travel window looks like end of June/early July. That suggests northern Europe, since Mediterranean destinations are often brutally hot in mid summer (especially to many Canadians). So, Finland is not a bad choice. Personally, I no longer visit southern Europe in the summer (too hot, too many crowds), greatly preferring the cooler, less crowded north. That said...

  2. Your decision to include Helsinki is fateful, in that it will probably dictate much of the nature of your trip. It's not an awful choice to center a trip around, but it's definitely an unusual one. Just be aware that it will determine a lot about your trip.

  3. Your trip is quite short. Just 10 days on the ground (hopefully you are counting your days honestly, not including your arrival nor departure days, no matter what time the flights are...if not, start thinking about it as just a week-long trip, to avoid unrealistically over-scheduling yourself). Given how short the trip is, I'd limit yourself to one other destination (see below).

  4. Helsinki is a geographic outlier. You will pay for that both in the cost of your flight, and in time spent getting there/getting back. Because of that, I would caution you not to include further outliers, as the cost (in time) of getting back from there may shorten the usable time you have on an already short trip. Best to make your choice of the "second destination" as someplace that you would have to go through anyway to get home efficiently.

For example, Helsinki + Estonia could work for you (Estonia is much more than Tallinn, though few tourists get beyond Tallinn's admittedly charming old town). But getting home from Estonia will add one more flight leg, and you would begin your flight home on the far eastern edge of northern Europe -- this will limit your options for flights getting you home in one day. Instead, you might choose someplace a bit to the west (you're headed west to get home anyway), and a place that's well-connected to the long flight back to Canada.

Helsinki plus Scotland or Ireland might be a more efficient option. I'm not Canadian, so I don't closely follow flight options, but I'm guessing that you might be able to catch a direct flight home from Edinburgh or Dublin. Both Scotland and Ireland make ideal summer destinations, have all kinds of cool things to see and do which might interest your sons, and would make flights a little shorter. Just remember how short your time is, and be careful not to try to do too many places. Look for flight routings for the trip home that are as efficient as possible (otherwise, you may end up with a lost day due to connections, or possibly a very expensive ticket due to smaller markets with less competition).

Hope that helps.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you - that is great advice . Yes Helsinki is an outlier for sure and knowing how much I hate crowds I will stay away from the south for that time period . Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Posted by
31089 posts

given the previous comments and your very short window, I'd take graduating boy's 3rd choice.

Amsterdam is a good airport for both in and out - I'd expect there to be something decent to both YYZ and Detroit, and from Helsinki.

The Advantage of Amsterdam and a short pop over to Belgium is that the distances and travel times are so short, and the architecture is unique. For 16 and 17 year olds there is just so much to do. You may never leave Amsterdam and the Randstad. Trivia - would they enjoy a floating cellar in Edam?

Posted by
31089 posts

by the way - in your lad's list, did number 4 get lost on the way?

Posted by
6 posts

I think my typing was faster than brain … thank you for insight . I will have to google that trivia as I don’t know what that is…..these are also good suggestions.

Posted by
181 posts

Embracing the Baltics/Scandinavia might be your best bet here. I like the idea a few have suggested of going to Estonia and maybe Latvia after Helsinki - although, as has also been pointed out, that means it will be harder to get home.

What about Helsinki-Stockholm-Copenhagen? You could take the overnight ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm, spend a few days, then train to Copenhagen. That might be a lot, but your boys are young and can move fast. I think Copenhagen has good flights to North America? It seems like all SAS flights go through there - but someone can correct me on this. Also, if you are into biking, the Tour de France starts in Copenhagen this year. This could either be a plus or minus for this itinerary, depending on your love of biking/hatred of crowds.

As far as Amsterdam/Belgium - Amsterdam, while I've never been, would be interesting. But i did spend a week in Brussels in my mid-20s and the two best things about it were 1) eating an American-style burger at a Tex-Mex restaurant (don't judge, I'd been living in Poland for months and was starved for a real burger) and 2) a bar with the coolest karaoke night set-up EVER (There was a stage and everything!). My point is - Belgium might not have the appeal you're thinking it does. But again, just my experience. We did do a day-trip to Bruges and it was a lovely way to spend the day - but not super exciting.

Posted by
7012 posts

I have traveled a lot with children, including teens and pre-teens. I suggest that you treat them like adults. We focused on travel for history, art, culture and somewhat scenic places. Travel was fun but a learning experience. All four of my kids turned out to love foreign travel. Travel left them more mature, more learned and more understanding of the World.

As for travel beyond Helsinki, you only have 10 days, not sure how many in Helsinki, but suggest staying close, like the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania or perhaps Stockholm, Sweden.

Posted by
24920 posts

Should you decide to seriously consider Stockholm + Helsinki (with or without Copenhagen or Tallinn), one thing you might like to know is that folks who have done it (I haven't, yet, but am planning to) say the overnight ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki is more scenic than doing the trip in reverse. It's because of the timing of the passage through the Stockholm Archipelago.

There are some interesting-sounding secondary cities in Sweden, too, so you could stick with just Sweden and Finland and still see more than just the two capitals.

There are ferries from Stockholm to Tallinn as well, in case that would fit with your ultimate itinerary. It appears that Tallink Silja departs Stockholm at 5:30 PM and arrives in Tallin at 10:45 AM. The return sailing departs at 6 PM and arrives in Stockholm at 10:30 AM. Those aren't short sailings, but at least they're overnight so you don't lose a huge amount of sightseeing time. Cabins on those ferries aren't particularly cheap, but then again hotel rooms in Stockholm aren't inexpensive.

Posted by
3982 posts

I think Helsinki, then fly to Amsterdam. I don't understand why anyone would want to go to Brussels. I have been to all three of these cities.

Posted by
1321 posts

I think you have plenty of time to fly out of Helsinki direct to some other destination.

Munich is nice in the summertime, and is a teenager friendly city. Day trips or a couple of nights in Alps or Alp foothills.

Amsterdam is interesting and you could easily go to some more outlying Dutch cities, some fun Dutch amusement parks, beaches etc.

Berlin is a very good city in which to to enjoy a week. My family prefers staying in leafy, up-market, relaxed, provincial capitol Potsdam and doing the very easy day trips into Berlin. The sights in Berlin are far away from one another, so you're getting on transit anyway. And at the end of the day it's nice to stroll pedestrianized restaurant zones or the huge imperial gardens and palaces in Potsdam. Potsdam is a super place to rent bikes and ride around too, lakes all over, boat rentals, swimming beaches etc. Would be a quick and easy transfer from Helsinki. Berlin/Potsdam aren't too expensive either, which is a plus ....

Crazy huge water park in a hangar in Berlin too, a cultural experience of it's own sort!

Posted by
158 posts

you haven't really said anything about the interests of your sons.

The oldest may be going on to study at University. What career will he pursue and does that relate to anything in Europe?

Have they been following the war in Ukraine? If so, visits to Baltic States and old Warsaw Pact countries might be of interest. But Talin is good choice either way.

Will you be visiting your Host family in Finland? Will they have nieces/nephews/grandchildren of similar age that could take them to places?

Were they into Game of Thrones and such? Vikings lore seems to be attractive to late teens and 20 somethings these days. You are right by the land of the Danes.

Last, have you broached subject of Northern Lights from above the Arctic Circle? I think if I was that far north I would go the extra and make the trip. No guarantees, but there are other things to explore.

One of my memories from Amsterdam ... street vendors wanting to sell me Hash as I walked along with my parents.

Posted by
6 posts

Hi.. it was my oldest son who has picked Tallin and Amsterdam . Then again he’s picked many other cities too however we had to narrow scope since they have summer jobs and can’t be away from them too long . They’ve been to the Bordeaux area and Paris a few years ago. He is interested in different architecture and has researched points of interest in both Tallin and Helsinki. I think both boys are just looking forward to a new adventure . Northern lights are cool but not sure the summer is best for seeing them as there’s too much light in Lapland during that time . I’ve seen them but they never have … it’s spectacular .

Thanks again everyone - I’ve got some really great ideas . Going to book flights in next day or so.

Posted by
8 posts

Funny, I asked my kids where they wanted to go this summer, and my teen son said Finland. I asked him why and he said it's because of a game called "My Summer Car" which simulates life there. I passed on that suggestion, but my advice is to get your sons the game so they can see what it's like and go where ever you want.

Posted by
335 posts

Well if you decide to hit Brussels, The Rolling Stones are playing there on July 11. And you might just see my wife and me!!! Now there is a good reason for Brussels, right!!!

Posted by
3946 posts

Thumbs up to geovagriffith's attitude suggestion. If you begin thinking about your "boys" as, instead, young men, the trip can mean more to all three of you. Or maybe adults-in-training. They can join the planning process by doing internet research, for instance searching out the rapid-transit system. Let them choose some of the activities. If they participate, it's possible they will think it's their trip too, along with their cool parent.

Posted by
295 posts

I'll be following along. I'm taking my 17 year old graduate to Europe in September. Still nailing down itinerary, but great to compare notes.

OP, based on David's post, might it make sense, if you are going to fly mid trip anyhow, to fly into a less remote and far more affordable location, then take a flight to Helsinki before you go?

I just told my son today how I'd like to go to Helsinki, but it doesn't thrill him. He'd rather go to Stockholm.

No experience, but I'm told Berlin is great for that set. Lots of historical stuff, lots of modern stuff, and not impossibly large and certainly not too small.

@MaryPat, have you been reading my journals?! Just before the war, I designed a dream trip (just a dream, no actual booking) starting in Helsinki, then to Tallin, followed by Riga, Moscow and Kyiv. I went on about how people couldn't freely visit all those places when I was their age and about how things have changed... My father visited all those places and I definitely thought I'd see Riga and Kyiv in particular someday... I have a teddy bear named Riga from my childhood.