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16 days In Europe, Itinerary help!

Hey All! So I’ve been reading other posts and now Im worried my itinerary is way off base! We are arriving in Paris at 7am on a Tuesday and plan to depend on public transportation. My plan is as follows

T: Paris
W: Paris
T: Paris
F: Paris
S: Travel to Brussels or Antwerp
S: Brussels/Antwerp
M: Travel to Amsterdam or Haarlem
T: Amsterdam/Haarlem
W: Spend day in Alkmaar riding bikes
T: Travel to Berlin
F: Berlin
S: Berlin
S: Take early train to Munich/7-8 hrs in Munich/Take late train back to Berlin
M: Berlin
T: Travel to Bacharach
W: Cruise up Rhine valley, take train back to Paris
T: Fly out of Paris

I know some of it looks over zealous, like the Munich leg and maybe the Rhine Valley. We are also completely flexible on destinations. I’ve changed my mind 100x since we booked our flights, there is just so much too see! I’m also going with 4 kids, ages 17, 15, 11, and 6. So maybe I’m trying to do too much. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Also this is all of our first trips to Europe, so I am completely new to all of this. Most of the trips I plan are state side! Thanks!

Edit: I have changed my mind completely and decided to stay in France for our whole trip, thanks for all the help in whittling down my very over zealous itinerary!

Posted by
2338 posts

Yeah, it does look over zealous. I'd strongly recommend looking at Rome2Rio to get an idea of the transit times between these places. And don't forget to add a couple of hours onto each trip for getting to and from your hotel and train station. That may persuade you to eliminate a couple of stops and slow down a bit.

PS I think you meant Bacharach in Germany.

Posted by
37 posts

Lol I`totally did mean Bacharach!!!! Thank you! So I found Rome2Rio a few days ago, and I love it by the way! I did all the trains and the only one that seemed daunting was the Berlin to Munich b/c I was trying to do it in a day. We are there during Oktoberfest and it was so expensive to stay in Munich but my husband really wanted to go. Is there a more doable route you would suggest? We don’t really need to do London or Rome, which I’ve had in a few of my earlier itineraries. I would like my kids to see a few different cultures and really experience Europe.

Posted by
1586 posts

Berlin is my favorite city, so I like all the Berlin time. A day trip to Munich? I don't like so much.

I enjoyed Erfurt's Oktoberfest last fall. Erfurt largely escaped bombing during WWII and has a gorgeous old town. It's Oktoberfest is nowhere near as big as Munich's, but I'm not sure that is bad. You would spend 1:40-1:55 on the train each way instead of 4+ hours. Dates are Sept 25 through Oct 11. Website (still with 2019 info): https://www.erfurter-volksfeste.de/

Posted by
37 posts

Bummer, those dates are after we have left Europe. But does that mean there are Oktoberfest’s in cities throughout Germany? Maybe I can find one that is closer than Munich during the time we are there. Any day trips you would suggest from Berlin? Or a place to stay that is not inside the busy city but able to reach without a car? Thanks

Posted by
2827 posts

Yes, there is a lot to see in Europe; but you and especially your kids will have a better experience if you don’t try to cram in too many destinations. To start with, I would not spend the time it will take to get to and from Munich for a 7 or 8 hour visit. Berlin has tons of interesting sights; more than enough to keep you busy for 4 days. The bonus is that they are extremely varied; art museums, historic sites and museums, a palace, parks and gardens. If you want a day trip, Potsdam is close and also very interesting.
Though I am not one who dislikes Brussels, I’d be inclined to eliminate Belgium, and add those days to The Netherlands. There is an outdoor museum near Amsterdam which has historic dwellings and workshops, along with people demonstrating traditional crafts and skills. We enjoyed it, and I think your kids would, too. There is also a miniature city, Madurodam, at The Hague, which looks pretty amazing. A canal boat ride should be on your must-do list.

Posted by
36 posts

I know what you mean about changing your mind 100x! So many terrific possibilities. How exciting to be traveling with your family. As a kid I traveled to Europe with 3 siblings ages 6 - 19, as well as traveling with my own kid starting when she was 9. One thing to take into consideration is everyone’s differing reaction to jet lag, time change, sleep deprivation and adapting to new cultures. When I was 16, I can remember (or not remember) I totally missed Lake Constance because I spent the entire first day of our European adventure asleep under a feather bed. When my daughter was 15, she needed to sleep most of our second afternoon on a trip to Paris.

For this reason, I might consider slowing down the pace and choosing 3 home bases and take day trips. Maybe 5 days in Paris, 4 or 5 days in Amsterdam (or another nearby city/town) and 5 days in Berlin (or some other German city perhaps closer to Munich that interests you), then 1 day to get back to Paris the night before you fly home.

Posted by
29 posts

I do think your pushing it a bit but with that said it would make more sense to do the Rhine and Bacharach after leaving the Netherlands. Easy to do on train than either skip Munich and train from Frankfurt to Berlin or go on to Munich than Berlin. Than catch a hop flight back to Paris

Posted by
1586 posts

Berlin has some Oktoberfest events. The largest is at Kurt-Schumacher-Damm and is billed as a family event with rides and other activities. Last year, it ran Sept 20 to Oct 13.

The Berlin tourism website has a page dedicated to Oktoberfest that should populate with the Oktoberfest dates when they are announced: https://www.berlin.de/en/events/oktoberfest/

Posted by
1586 posts

Any day trips you would suggest from Berlin?

Rosalyn's suggestion of Potsdam is excellent. I would highly recommend it. Most people are attracted to the Prussian palace Sans Souci. WWII history buff that I am, I am most attracted to Cecilienhof, a lower-key palace that was built from 1913 to 1917 and served as the site of the Potsdam Conference at the end of WWII. The room where Truman, Stalin, and Churchill (later Attlee) met is still staged as it was for the conference with the original furniture.

Or a place to stay that is not inside the busy city but able to reach
without a car?

Berlin is a very spread-out city. There are parts that feel very city like (e.g., Ku'damm area and Potsdamer Platz). There are other areas that are very chill, like Prenzlauer Berg, which has a really nice, non-hectic feel -- especially around Kollwitzplatz. It's kind of like hipster family heaven (and I don't mean that in a negative way at all). Kollwitzplatz also has a Thursday and a Saturday market.

Posted by
1315 posts

Just as info: Oktoberfest is nearly only celebrated in Bavaria. You will also other find few folk festivals in Germany but with another focus. In Berlin Oktoberfest is celebrated artificially in some branches from Bavarian brewery chains, also 1-2 places for tourists somewhere - but it is culturally and traditionally not Berlin. You will not find real locals there.

Posted by
37 posts

Thanks everyone, but now I need to redo my itinerary, for the 101 time 😂 I like the idea of removing Brussels and adding more days to 3 home bases. But I just looked into the Alps and now I kind of want to do that instead of one of the others. Any thoughts on that? Maybe skip Germany or even The Netherlands, I honestly cannot make up my mind! But I am going to rethink it all and stick with 3 and plan a few day trips. I also don’t think I’m taking jet lag seriously enough. I think Injust figured we’d sleep on the plane and show up in Paris ready to sight see all day! I need to replan that out too! Give my kids time to acclimate! Thanks again all!

Posted by
37 posts

I did not realize that Mark, thank you for the info. Maybe my husband won’t be as bummed if we don’t make it to Berlin or Munich!

Posted by
13787 posts

I would not regret missing Oktoberfest, especially with 4 kids in tow. Nor was I impressed with Munich. Honestly, Frankfurt is much more interesting and manageable.

Have you traveled with the kids? How efficient are they getting up and out in the morning (and sharing bathrooms), packing and unpacking, staying together? How much walking/standing can the younger ones manage? A 2 week trip means laundry - the more you take from home, the harder and longer it is to pack/unpack and the bigger and heavier the luggage. OTOH, taking few clothes means more laundry. Build in time for that, shopping for incidentals (you will run out of stuff, especially if you pack light). After several very busy days, it's good to have a low key day to recharge. Keep in mind, your family will only move as fast as the slowest person at any given time. How are you going to keep 6 people happy with activities/sights that some may find boring or tiring?

If you stay in Haarlem, you'll be day tripping into A'dam and not have the option to return to your rooms for a rest.

Posted by
37 posts

Great points Chani! We travel a lot, but mostly it’s road trips or camping trips within the US. I planned for everyone to pack a backpack, like the ones Rick has in his store, and doing laundry at the AirBnbs we stay at. I thought this would make it easier to pack up and go quickly. My only concern is for the 6 year old and walking long distances, but planned to bringing a carrier that would let her ride on one of our backs if needed. But I do want to find kid friendly stops where the kids will enjoy themselves. I do think I need to whittle down my itinerary and leave more time for relaxing. I just want to see it all!

Posted by
36 posts

If you haven’t already, I might get the kids involved in helping whittle it down. I like using a variety of travel books and find the Dorling Kindersley series to be a good starting point with kids as the books have lots of great photos, fun cut away diagrams and brief, but interesting descriptions. Consider what your kids are currently interested in, books they are reading or what they are learning in school.

If you are still considering destinations, the classic Paris, Amsterdam, London combination has a lot to offer families on a first trip. In addition to offering cultural variety, the three cities are connected by high speed trains, making your travel between cities and back to Paris most convenient.

Posted by
1586 posts

Sorry I didn't point out that Oktoberfest is a Bavarian tradition! I sometimes forget what people know.

Jen makes a good point about travel time. It's about a 6-hour train ride from Amsterdam to Berlin and from the Rhine Valley to Paris. It may make sense to tighten up the circuit a little bit to avoid long travel days like that, especially with kids. Honestly, I try to avoid travel days like that as an adult.

Posted by
4114 posts

It sounds to me as though you are shortchanging yourself by trying to see too much in locations that require nearly a full day's travel to get to from the previous location.

If you are only doing cities, I would stick to 2 (with day trips) or maybe 3.

it is a pity you are locked in to flying in and out of Paris, because without that you could certainly manage Amsterdam > Brugges > Paris.

Posted by
1498 posts

Grain of salt comments from a grown up without children, but your trip looks way too exhausting even for me, let alone a big family who has never been to Europe before. Do not underestimate the power of jet lag. Though your kids might snooze just fine on the flight over, chances are most won't. Write off day one - and be pleasantly surprised if you are all bright and perky.

It's been said already, but every time you move around you lose a good chunk of the day. Especially since you're new to traveling in Europe, there's a learning curve (not to scare you, but shepherding 6 people around adds some complexity). Your itinerary as listed will have you seeing a lot of the inside of a train. (Note: if the Paris strikes continue into the year, you'll need to prepare for some plan B activities - keep an eye on the ongoing updates on this forum).

If it were me, at most I'd pick Paris, Belgium (pick one city as base), and Amsterdam - split the days between the three and plan day trips. Be sure to return to Paris the day before your departure flight (stay at/near airport). Also, I don't see the dates you're going, but keep in mind if it's summer, there are a lot more people and crowds to deal with and it will limit your AirBnB choices significantly if you don't set your mind very soon. You can't go wrong, so make a decision about your itinerary and get planning the details (second guessing will eat you alive).

Posted by
37 posts

So would this be doable?

Fly into Paris, take a few hours to eat breakfast walk around then get onto a train to Amsterdam. 4-5 days in Amsterdam, then take a train to Berlin. 5 days in Berlin, and on train ride back stop in Bacharach and do the Rhine Valley cruise. Get back to Paris for 4-5 days before flying out. I took out Brussels and Munich. Spending an extra day or two in Amsterdam and an extra day in Paris.

Posted by
4114 posts

Fly into Paris, take a few hours to eat breakfast walk around then get
onto a train to Amsterdam.

That would be hell. Long train trip worst thing possible for jet lag. You and yours WILL sleep on the train for much too long, prolonging jet lag well into your trip.

Jet lag is not about being short on sleep from your plane ride! It is about adjusting your biorhythms to the new time zone. Sleeping at the wrong time can be counterproductive.

Here is something that might be marginally better. See if there are any direct flights from your airport to Amsterdam the morning you arrive. Since you are at the airport anyway, this might get to to Amsterdam faster than the train.

Or, just stay in Paris, go to Amsterdam later.

Posted by
37 posts

You are right Adam, I’m actually leaning towards staying in France for the full 16 days. But my family feels like they need to travel to more than France. I’m trying to convince them we would have a more relaxing time if we stayed in France and explored.

Posted by
4114 posts

Jeshot, while I do think there is a compelling case for staying in France for the whole trip, my comment about "seeing Amsterdam later" was about seeing it later in your trip. So, Paris > Amsterdam > Paris, perhaps stopping off in Brugges.

I just don't think that a long train ride that first day is a very good idea.

Posted by
37 posts

Oh no Adam I understood, but I just feel that staying In France the whole time would be a more relaxed enjoyable trip for all of us. I do want to see Amsterdam, but I also think that I could easily spend all 16 days in France and feel fulfilled. But I can’t make up my mind and know that I need to do so, so that I can start booking lodging. I’ve gotten so many great tips already here though so I’m grateful I found this website!

Posted by
1586 posts

Random question: what language(s) are the teens learning in school?

Posted by
37 posts

😬 My son did Spanish did Spanish in 9th grade but we have fallen behind on our foreign language classes. My daughter chose sign language this year. This younger two don’t do any foreign language classes yet. But we all have Duolingo on our phones/tablets and will be working regularly on French for the next 7 1/2 months.

Posted by
12053 posts

Hi,

If you do a guided tour in Potsdam, the tour includes Sans Souci, Cecilienhof, which was the palace of the last Crown Prince, and Neues Palais. I heartily recommend seeing Neues Palais...very historically connected.

Posted by
1586 posts

jeshot,

Just for the record, you've been a really good sport through all of these questions 👍🏻. I was wondering if someone was learning German and that was the reason for Berlin. Duolingo is good for building vocabulary. I'm not sure how good it is at preparing individuals for conversation. If it's in the family budget, you may consider some family French lessons with a live native-French-speaking Skype teacher on a language learning platform like italki.