I've discovered this site and pretty much devoured Europe Through The Back Door in the past week and had a itinerary question. 2014 is a big year in our family as my wife and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage,our older daughter starts high school and our younger daughter enters middle school. We're planning on celebrating all this with our first trip to Europe. I've left out France purposely because we've told our oldest we'll take a trip there exclusively when she graduates high school. Is England/Italy doable in 14 days on the ground? We might try 24/48 hours in Paris to break it up but otherwise were open to ideas from seasoned travelers. Thank you in advance.
I like the idea of about a week in and around London and a week in Italy, as long as you plan to fly open-jaw and fly from the UK to the Boot. It's great to see two places that are really different on your first trip (of many). Trying to fit anything in between them will eat up too much time. If you want to spend more than a week in the UK, or if you don't want to fly, then I would go to Belgium/Netherlands for the rest. With 6 days in London, you can see a lot, including a couple of day trips, then fly to Italy for 7 full days - Venice/Florence or Florence/Rome would be my suggestions. I think Venice is a very romantic place, so for a 20-year anniversary, I'd really try to include it. You could even split your time in Italy between Venice and Rome, skipping Florence, even though the train goes through it.
Guy, YES, England and Italy is certainly "doable in 14 days", however you'll have to limit the number of places you visit in each country. Consider the trip as somewhat of a "sampler" for future visits, when you can explore each country in more depth. That will also provide you with a glimpse of two somewhat "different" cultures. I'd suggest structuring the pace a bit "slower" rather than using a "blitz" approach (ie: if it's Tuesday, this must be Rome). You could (for example) visit London and one other city in the U.K. and then move to either Venice or Florence and then Rome for the final part of your trip. You'll need to use open-jaw flights, inbound London and outbound Rome. For travel from London to Rome, use a budget flight, such as EasyJet from LGW to FCO. They have about four flights a day at various times, and the fares are currently as low as £42.99 PP. That would be the most efficient use of your very limited travel time, and would avoid a long train journey. The country or city-specific Guidebooks have good information on hotels, restaurants, sights to see, transportation, etc. in the places you'll be visiting. Your local Library should have copies of most of the books and hopefully they're reasonably current. If you could provide a list of what cities and sights you're interested in seeing, it would be easier for the group to offer more specific suggestions. Good luck with your planning!
Thanks for some really quick replies! I probably should have used the word practical instead of doable! As far as Italy is concerned we'd be very happy splitting up our week in Rome and Venice for a first time there. England seems harder for us to nail down besides London. We're going mid-late August 2014 and most of what we're interested in(as of now)centers in and around London. We could probably fill a good deal of our time there with the walking tours alone. My youngest and I would love to see an English football game either the Premier League or next level down. Other than those activities and the biggies in London we're pretty much a clean slate. Thanks again.
First, anything is doable. Just a question of, "Do you want to do?" AND "What does doable mean?" A week in London and a week in Rome works very well. Personally because of distances I would save Rome/Italy for another trip and focus on England with a couple different sites and then Belgium/Netherlands. Maybe fly into London and come home from Amsterdam. Personally I am not a big fan of long train trips which you would have shifting between London and Italy. Probably should view some of the Steves' DVDs related to these areas and see what appeals to you.
I'd concentrate on Great Britain OR Italy, not both. Two weeks may sound like a lot of time, but it will go by very quickly. I'd assume that you are going in the summer because of the ages of your kids. Depending on what month you plan to go, the weather could be better in Italy or the UK. Both could be crowded. Doing more research should help with finding out if anything special is going on in either location during the time you want to be there and deciding what you'd like to see when there. If you do decide to split the time between London and Rome, you will probably want to fly rather than take the train just to save time. And you will want to fly into one and fly out of the other. According to the DB Bahn website, by train it takes 21+ hours from London to Rome. The train goes through Paris. It takes 11+ hours from Paris to Rome. Finally, GB would probably be more accessible due to the (almost) lack of a language barrier. We think the food is better in Italy. (My husband says he'd rather eat than communicate.) Places to go, things to see and do are equally as wonderful in either Italy or GB.
I agree that a week in London would be about right for a sampler. You could do a couple of day trips depending on your interests, any of the following would work: Windsor, Bath, Cardiff, York, Canterbury, Dover, Winchester, etc.) to get an idea about the rest of the country. If you want more in depth, I'd allow the whole 2 weeks for the UK. That way you could see a couple of spots in Scotland, and maybe even Wales. Otherwise, fly to Rome and base there for the other week- again doing some day trips.
I have been to both places multiple times. With a week in London and Italy, I would do the trip this way...
First week - London. You could do a couple of day trips from here but spend the evenings in London which has plenty to do at night with kids. Day trips to consider are Bath, Warwick Castle and Stonehenge. There are others, but probably want to limit day trips to just 2-3. The time in London could be spent hundreds of different ways. I would highly recommend the Making of Harry Potter studio. Just got back from there last month with my son and he LOVED it. Second week in Italy. You might want to consider flying to Venice. It would be a hassle, but probably faster and cheaper than train options. The chunnel to Paris would not only chew up time but also money. I don't think the night train from Paris to Venice runs anymore. A flight might be your best bet. Spend a day and a half in Venice and then train to Rome where you could finish off your trip. If you get bored in Rome, a long day trip to Pompeii is a consideration. Good luck!!
I love both England and Italy and could easily spend two weeks in either, but since you're having trouble finding more than London for your UK itinerary, I suggest you should do both, but give more time to Italy. London deserves 4 or 5 days to really explore, but Venice, Florence, and Rome are all so unique that it would be a shame not to see them if you've gone all the way to Italy. How about....? Day 1. Depart USA 2 Arrive London. 1/2 day London 3 London 4 London 5 London 6 Fly to Venice 7 Venice 8 Train to Florence 1/2 day Florence 9 Florence 10 Train to Rome 1/2 day Rome 11 Rome (Ancient sites) 12 Rome (Vatican) 13 Rome (anything else you want to see) 14 Depart for home
Add a day to London (maybe a day trip in Britain) if you have an extra day on the ground.
If it's Tuesday it must be Belgium. If Europe is a once in a life time seeing as much as you can in the limited stay could be a way to go. If you (or at least I) want to enjoy the trip, seeing and experiencing the details of life can be the better alternative. My best trips to Europe have been walking, biking and cross country ski tours where 20 miles on foot or skis is a long day but we get to "smell the flowers" and live the experience. Your choice, but I would pick the UK or Italy and spend the two weeks exploring and enjoying.
Guy, there's nothing wrong with staying in London for 6-7 days. Most people are not up to full speed on their first full day - jetlag, longhaul flight, and maybe not even on their second. Since this is your first trip, 2 hotel changes (London-Venice, Venice-Rome) gives you an gentler pace. There are so many different things to do in London: London Walks are great, but so are pub lunches and dinners, the theatre, the (free) museums (400 years of costumes at the Victoria and Albert, Egyptian wonders at the British Museum, all the kings and queens at the National Portrait Gallery), Westminster Abbey, the view from the roof of St Paul's (or the new Shard), riding a double-decker bus (not the tourist hop-on,hop-off). Toss in a visit to Windsor or Hamstead Court and a day in medieval Cambridge. Enjoy the planning! Truly, less is more on a European vacation. Some of your best memories will be of unplanned experiences. Matt (who didn't realize that you have 14 days on the ground) does bring up a good point. You can spend a day in Florence between Venice and Rome. Get an early train from Venice, leave your bags at the train station in Florence, sightsee, then get an evening train to Rome. But you may find that Venice and Rome will fill up your time. Enjoy the planning! (again)
Congratulations Guy! You've gotten some great advice here - it's really a question of how busy/relaxed a trip you are looking for. With 14 days, you definitely can "do" both London and parts of Italy but only you can decide whether or not the trade offs are worthwhile based on your goals! Should you decide to limit your trip to England, there is more than enough to keep you busy and entertained in 14 days. After London you could do a loop through the Cotswolds (darling villages), perhaps a day in Salisbury and then a day or two in Bath. Since this will be your first trip to Europe here are a couple of things to keep in mind. 1. Pack LIGHT - especially if you are planning on using the trains to get around in either England or Italy. By "light" I mean 1 carry on (rolling or not) and 1 small personal item (totebag, small backpack, etc.) European trains are not designed for lugging large quantities of luggage. 2. Develop a well researched itinerary. Lots of posters I'm sure will disagree but I think this is a good idea for a couple of reasons. One, you end up having to do a bit of research so you know what your options are - therefore no regrets that you "missed something" because you didn't know about it. Two - if something on the itinerary isn't working (i.e. no one is enjoying it) you can simply skip to something else without having to spend time figuring that out.
Good luck with your planning!!!!
Ditto for packing light. Try to stay in apartments. For about the same price as hotels, you get extra room plus a kitchen and a washer if not a dryer. Just got back with my 3 kids and we stayed in flats for our trip and it was wonderful to have some room to spread out. I used Airbnb for London and Italy. For Paris, I used Vacation in Paris.
Thanks for all the awesome helpful advice. Fortunately I'm still months ahead of even being able to book any of this so we'll have plenty of time to research our options(which is a lot of fun in itself!).So far the 100% certainties in London are : Harry Potter Walking and Studio Tours, Globe Theater, Dickens Walking Tour, London Eye, a football match or two and a few museums. As a kid growing up in the Philly area I've spent MANY a vacation at the Jersey Shore( going there again in 3 weeks!) so I'm really intrigued by Blackpool. Rick makes a compelling case for it as well. It would be interesting to us to contrast a trip "down the shore" for Americans and Brits. Italy for now looks like a combo of Rome, Venice and probably Florence. As far as flying out, as my profile says I live in the Pittsburgh area but I have plenty of family in Philadelphia and Jersey so flying out of Philly,Newark or if the price is right NYC are all in play. Any thoughts from experienced travelers here would be greatly appreciated although I feel I've asked too much already. Thanks again!
Don't worry, Guy. No one's been punished here for asking too many questions. For open-jaw flights, you are generally limited to U.S. carriers. Also try British, though you'll have a connection on the return flight, probably through London. Try sites like expedia and travelocity. They'll show you the carriers for your route. Then watch the fares. I always book directly with the airline, so I don't know if there are advantages to booking with a travel site. The budget airlines like Ryan Air and Easy Jet are your best bet for the flight from London to Venice (love your choice). Prices increase as you near flight dates, so you'll need to book that at least a couple of months in advance. Be sure to have your ground itinerary set before you buy tickets. You can also start looking for lodgings now. Expect prices to be the same or slightly higher a year from now (they never go down, sigh). You can usually make reservations without a deposit. Be sure to read the booking conditions first - sometimes they are non-cancellable or there's a charge for cancellation. Since you're going in high season, you'll want to book about 3 months in advance.
There is so much to see and do in England. We have been there five times. We have stayed 7 to 14 days each time. We will never get tired of London. We still love to go back there. You can do day trips out to Bath, York, Cambridge, Oxford, the Cotswolds, a one day boat trip on the Thames, see Stonehenge, etc., etc. As we have been to Italy twice and there is a lot to see there, I would still suggest two weeks in London, instead. Save Italy for another trip.
Were I in your position I would do exactly as several have advised, splitting the time between London and Italy and flying open jaw.
Between now and then I would fine-tune things by reading several guide books and seeing what jumps out. You might, for instance, want to swap Venice for Florence (or you might not). You can involve your kids in this too: give them each a guidebook to read and pick highlights from. The four of you will probably not be the most nimble of travelers so resist the urge to overschedule. The sample itineraries others have posted seem about right. For the connecting flight from London to Italy pay attention to where the connecting airports are in relation to London and Venice. Some can be quite far and logistically hairy.
Having traveled with a number of teenagers to Europe...my advice would be to go to both countries. They will love the diversity and you will give them so many memories at a very impressionable age. Both places are so different... and should they develop a love of travel... they will find a way to return.
Just an FYI on the Harry Potter studio tour. FIrst of all, do go! It's fabulous. But it's also a short train ride and then a bus ride out of London, and between that and the line to get in, etc., it's at least a half a day out of your itinerary. Keep that in mind when allotting time for London. I didn't really figure that out until I booked the tickets and researched getting there. We did manage to squeeze in an hour in the British Library before we went, since it was near the train station. And then we came back and walked around and had tea, since it was midafternoon or even later, I think.
I agree with a lot of people who posted, pick one Country and save the other for a different time. There is so much to see and do in each country. 14 days sounds like a lot but when you consider transferring from hotel to hotel and from airport to airport, it wastes time. Look at the RS England tour, the London tour and all the Italy tours and you will see how many things there are to see and do. I have been to both countries and each offers a lot of things to see. I would not even break it up with Paris because again, time is needed to get to and from airports or train stations and hotels. You will not be bored with either country. Plus you need down time to rest each day and go on to see museums, shops, theatre, cafes, sites. If you pick Italy, you would want to spend time in Venice, Rome and Florence and you would need the 14 days for that, again, time on a train to get to each city, plus getting over jet lag the first day. If you pick England, you will want to spend a lot of time in London and then on to the other small cities, York, Bath, and other places. Have a great trip.