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1st trip to Europe

We are about to take a family trip to Europe with my husband, myself and our 3 children age 18-24. We only have 2 weeks in July and are looking for suggestions. We have traveled quite a bit in Central America and Mexico but never to Europe. Any suggestions??

Posted by
9363 posts

Where are all of you interested in going? What kind of activities are you interested in? Perhaps you should brainstorm as a group and come up with a list of possibilities. We'd be happy to offer suggestions once you narrow down your choices a bit. There is a wealth of experience (and opinions) on this board. :)

Posted by
157 posts

My recommendations would be Paris, Florence, Venice, & Rome....In that order

If you wish to see more of France I would say Normandy ( The American Cemetery at St Laurent & Mont Saint Michel ) & The Loire Valley Chateau's.

Last year my son & I did Paris, Nice, Monaco, Rome, Florence, & Venice in 2 weeks and I would vote to skip Nice & Monaco in lieu of Normandy or the Loire


Posted by
4132 posts

My suggestions is basically "know thyselves." Go to the library and take out four travel guides. Go to a bookstore and buy the most recent Europe Through the Back Door.

That's five books. Give everyone a book and the job of describing highlights from it. Swap books. Talk things over.

That should give you a starting point for what kind of trip you'd like to have. If you still need advice at that point, come back here!

Posted by
3428 posts

I suggest you start with the UK. 2 weeks would give you a good taste. Spend 2-3 days in London with day trips to andy of these: Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, Windsor, Canterbury, or Dover. Take the train to York and spend a day. Take train to Edinburgh and spend 1 day. Take the train to Aviemore and spend 2 to 3 days- there are lots of day trips and outdoor activities- also lots of Whiskey Trail trips you could do. Take the train to Inverness and spend 4-5 days- LOTS of day and 1/2 day trips- Isle of Skye and Ellen Donnan Castle, Orkney, Culloden, ETC.....
Take the train back to London- break it up with a stop in Stratford-upon- Avon or Oxford or Bath or Stirling..... 1 final night in London. I've done similar trips multiple times. Feel free to contact me for more ideas.

Posted by
53 posts

I completely agree with Jim. Our first trip through Europe was London, Paris, Florence, Venice, Rome (in that order) and we LOVED it. We did it in two weeks and although it felt a bit rushed it was worth it. We just wanted to see the highlights the first time around and now we know where we'd like to go back and spend more time. We went this past July and it was quite crowded but definitely not unbearable. You just need to plan ahead, like buying advance tickets for the Florence musuems.

Posted by
32106 posts

Lynette, I have a few suggestions to add to the others....

With only two weeks in July, you'll need to plan very carefully as Europe will likely be hot & crowded. Pre-booking Hotels would be a good idea and plan transportation carefully (rail or budget airlines?).

As mentioned in a previous post, it would be a really good idea to read Rick's "Europe Through The Back Door" before you get too far in your planning.

I'm assuming ETBD will be holding a travel fair again this year (Feb. / Mar.?). As you live in Seattle, you might want to attend seminars on the countries you want to visit.

Again, as previously mentioned it would be prudent to arrange reservations for Florence Museums & get Paris Museum passes before you go, so that you don't waste time any more time than necessary in queues.

Don't try to fit too much in - 5 cities in 2 weeks is reasonable - London, Paris, Florence, Rome and one other, perhaps Munich (Castles, Dachau, etc.) Brief stop in Cinque Terre maybe?

Posted by
12040 posts

My first suggestion would be this- think about what sort of activities interest you and your family, then perhaps we can offer more specific recommendations.

Second, if traveling in July, rather than filling your trip with "grand tour" highlights, do some research and pick some lesser known destinations to add to the mix. As others have mentioned, many of Europe's best known attractions are packed in July. Unless you want to spend the majority of your trip battling the heat and crowds, consider weighting your trip with more "backdoor" destinations than "must-sees" (a term I do not like).

Third, as many others have written, always assume you will return. Do not fall into the trap of scheduling too aggressive an itinerary to try to see "everything", because you simply can't, either on one trip or decades of travel.

Posted by
12154 posts

In July, I would stay North of the Alps, visit Italy another time because it will be a bad combination of hot, crowded and expensive.

British Isles are great but isolated from the continent and should be done as one trip.

Some portion France, Benelux, Germany and/or Austria is also a doable option for you.

The downside, crowds will be big and prices high.

The upside, there will be more activities, festivals and events that I miss traveling in the shoulder season.

Posted by
7737 posts

As a fellow Seattleite, I have to agree with the suggestion to go to northern Europe. We're so pampered here in the Emerald City by our beautiful mild summers that we forget how brutal it can be elsewhere. Then throw in luggage that you have to cart around and the fact that you'll be walking and walking and walking. Scandinavia would probably be great in July.

Posted by
5315 posts

Scandinavia is absolutely beautiful in July. It is the best time to visit. If you like the outdoors, consider Sweden and Norway.

Posted by
1717 posts

For an enjoyable first trip to Europe, travelling in three or four countries is not the best plan for all persons. Frequent travelling, and to a different country every few days, can cause a person's mind to be in anxiety all of the time : worrying about missing a train, worrying about being late for a tour in a castle, or missing your appointment time in a museum. I like the old advice : when you are in Europe don't forget to take time to smell the roses.
For most Americans going on a first trip to Europe, I think Germany and Austria (only) is a good choice.
The people in those countries express a good attitude toward Americans. Germany and Austria have excellent railroad passenger trains going to every destination that you have time for. Germany and Austria are beautiful. And, deciding where to go in those countries is easy : Just read the book "Rick Steves' Germany and Austria". Near the front of that book, in "INTRODUCTION" he says the places of highest priority for sightseeing.

Posted by
14 posts

I would limit myself to one or two countries. May be as a first introduction to Europe the UK would not too bad followed by Paris/France. From there travel to Brussels/Amsterdam and back to the UK. Your children are old enough to appecriate the old world.
From all these cities you can take side trips. Don't overload your trip. On your next trip concentrate on one country eg. Italy or Germany or the Scandinavian countries. Travel by train is easy in Europe. For the months of July, Hotel reservations are a must especially for a family of 5

Posted by
188 posts

Hi Lynette,

I think the previous posts have some really good points. On our family trips, I found that having everyone involved in the "research" and decision making before and during the trip was key.

Since you have travelled to Central America, you have no doubt experienced heat and humidity. We travel to Europe in the summer (work gives no other opportunity) and have found that although high heat and humidity CAN limit certain "ambitious" activities, we still had a great vacation. Like the rainy days, if you make the best of a weather situation you will have memories and adventures!

Posted by
993 posts

There are a lot of good suggestions here. Samantha Brown says for a first European trip go to England. It's "Europe - lite". Getting the whole group involved in researching is a grand idea..

Posted by
18940 posts

For a suggested route, you might look at Rick "Europe in 14 days" tours. I am not necessarily saying to take one, just to check out the routing. On the other hand, his tours have some pretty long (8, 6, 5, & 5 hours)bus days. You don't want to spend all your time traveling. Maybe better to stay in Benelux, western Germany, northern France. There is plenty to see there, and the culture is more similar to the US.

Posted by
934 posts

I live in Wisc. but have attended Ricks seminars in Seattle and think that after reading his europe thru the backdoor book youll have a good idea on what you like.Then attend a seminar. My first trip we had three weeks and saw a little of everything traveling from Frankfurt to Salzburg,Bavaria,Venice,Florence,Rome,Siena,Chenqe Terre,Switzerland,and the Rhine.Much too much but I thought Id never go back.Ive been back 6 more times and did less traveling.I suggest Italy for 2 weeks including Como,Venice,Chenqe TerreFlorence andRome.Best regards