Wow! Thanks to all who have posted on my other thread! You all are amazing! :) With all the info about Switzerland...the cost of getting there, the currency/exchange rate factor, and the poor time of year to visit...we decided to remove Switzerland from our itinerary. :( We are now going to fly round trip to London and plan to limit our trip to London and Paris. Considering, is $4000 a new reality? Many of you support purchasing train tickets separately & ahead of time. Knowing that we are staying in one general area would it be worth it to purchase a rail pass for day-ish trips? Eileen, if you are reading, can you give me more detail about your reasons against a rail pass? I feel like I am missing something from the information on the site? I checked out airbnb.com and was floored! Are those prices per person or room? How are they that cheap? Can they be scams?? Thank you to those who encourage traveling with children! :) We looove our children and are excited about the opportunity to travel overseas with them. They are very easy-going, nap/sleep anywhere, are flexible with our CRAZY schedules, and are generally happy & healthy. Hopefully we can chock up any mishaps to part of our adventure! :) We figure they are light enough to be carried/worn or can walk when possible. I do wonder about taking umbrella strollers, but perhaps that has been answered elsewhere or should be another thread? I honestly don't know what to think about the washing clothes dilemma? We are packing our hiking clothes which are very lightweight and fast drying, but I have never hand washed them and left them to dry. I suppose a trial run will be our answer? Oh and we are all a go for our passports. :) Thanks again for your thoughts!
hi again and dont you just love it when your plans are still in flux? afa trains. I didndt buy any rail pass when i was traveling using trains. I would buy point to point since i knew where i was going when. I also choose to p/u my tickets different ways. IE. print e ticket @ home, p/u at station using the kiosks and buy the ticket there. i just wanted to experience what each +/- and imo, the e ticket was the fastest since i had it in hand. afa clothes go. I had no problem doing my laundry. it will depend on what/if you plan for it. I had used DIY laundrmats and some drop off. iirc, the one in london i used cost me 10 BPS for < 10 kilo of laundry. i was below that. i dropped off friday late PM and p/u sat afternoon. laundry and web cafes and such is the reason i say to p/u RS book. if you stay in one of the areas he recommends, he points out things like laundry, web cafes, grocery stores, bus/tube stops and such. one thing tho, when i went back a few months later, one of the laundry shops was closed. but again, you have an idea whats near or not and you can always ask at the hotel or locals where any laundry shops are. also, as some pointed out, dont expect your laundry to dry overnight! local humidity can make a dif on drying times. afa strollers, people were using them all over europe and also taking them on the Eiffle Tower! MY only gripe about those selfish people was that they didnt collapse them and had their kid in their arms with an EMPTY stoller in the SMALL CRAMPED ELEVATOR and kept 2 people from using it. So hint hint. one note. you have to also realize that using the tubes in both cities arent setup for wheeled things. If you have wheeled luggage, you must CARRY it up/down the stairs to get to the platforms. same with strollers! some of them have elevators, some not. Some have escalators, some not. happy trails.
On airbnb.com, it will specify if the space for rent is a room versus a complete apartment or a complete house. The prices are not per person but for the entire space. No, they're not scams. In fact, airbnb.com has put a bunch of security layers in place to ensure both owners and renters are legitimate and the transaction is secure...you can read all about it on their site. I have read of only three issues with airbnb.com: (1) Two different owners had their apartments trashed by illegitimate renters...you can Google it for details, (2) NYC has a problem with airbnb.com's business model (probably b/c they're undercutting corporate hotels), so they passed an ordinance making their service illegal in NYC, and (3) Some "owners" aren't really owners...they rent themselves, and their contracts usually prevent subleases (i.e to you and me). This one actually could be an issue for a renter (i.e. for you and me) if the actual owner finds out, like checking to see if his apartment is being offered on airbnb.com without his permission. Since your card will be charged up front and the owners can set stiff cancellation penalties, it's a good idea to consider travel insurance (lots of other good reasons, too). Having said all of this, I would not hesitate to use airbnb.com again in the future. BTW, some of the apartments may have en suite laundry facilities (or something in the building...check it out).
Hi Anna...If you have not yet found a place to stay in Paris check out vacationinparis.com. they have great apartments, are very reasonable, and you can look up on the net in any arrondissement.Also they are located in the US and you can get your key before you go.
To keep your costs down, it doesn't make sense to go all the way back to London for your flight home. Fly out of Paris. Otherwise, you have to pay those train fares again. An umbrella stroller will come in handy. I used one all the time when my daughter was small, cobblestones and all. Puts them right to sleep.
I would rent apartments in both London and Paris. It will provide you with more space plus amenities you can't get in a hotel or B&B. It shouldn't be hard to find one with a washer and hopefully a dryer. That will save you time. I do suggest doing a test run with your clothes before you go to see how long it takes them to air dry. And having a kitchen can save you a lot of money to make your budget stretch. I use vrbo.com and homeaway.com to locate apartments. I believe there is a homeaway UK site too. You've already discovered airbnb, which I have not yet used.
Anna, are you talking about traveling in about 6-8 weeks? There are still some $59 fares b/n London and Paris, but they're going fast! Now that you're planning day trips in England, I'll leave that to others to address - I'm not familiar with Great Britain. The BritRail pass may or may not be a good deal for you, depending on where you go. England isn't covered by the Global Rail Pass, and France isn't covered by the Select Pass... And by all means, if you haven't gotten your airline tickets yet (is it you that has vouchers?), DO fly open jaws!
I guess I got lost somewhere here, but the only long train ride I can see from your description is on the Eurostar between London and Paris (and back again unless you decide to fly home from the last city you go to as someone already recommended). Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that you have to buy separate tickets for the Eurostar. Just like with a plane, if the kids cannot sit on your laps for the nearly 3 hour ride, you will need 2 adult and 2 children's fares. If the only train trips you might make would be relatively short day trips out of London and Paris, I can't see the need for any kind of rail passes. As you research more, you may find that the Tube or the Metro will actually get you to many of the places you want to go "outside" the cities. Discount options for those could be useful. Busses may also be more appropriate to those side trips. And there may be some kind of special semi-local train passes that would be applicable as well. You many need to do the math for the places you want to go outside the cities and compare prices. With the reservation requirements for fast trains and the cheap prices for local ones, I'd vote against rail passes because they are more expensive than buying separate tickets. Depending on what you want to do, you may not ride on any trains at all other than the Eurostar. Now that you have decided to stay in London and Paris, laundry should be no problem, even if you don't have a washer/dryer in your apartment. Residents have to do laundry and there are self-service and drop-off laundries in both places. What I have frequently observed is people coming to the laundromats just to dry their clothes.
No rail pass! They are not good for short daytrips. Rent apartments in London and Paris (VacationsIn Paris is great for Paris and they have flats in London too but only 2, I think). Take the Eurostar from London to Paris and book way in advance to get good prices. Fly into London and out of Paris. You'll have a great time and I'll bet you can do it for $4000 or less, if you don't go crazy on restaurants and daytrips.
Definitely take the stroller. You will be so glad you did. One bonus is that your 3 yr old can ride in it in train stations and airports, leaving you with hands free to do other things, plus you don't have to worry about him (?) running out on the tracks! One tip if you hand wash clothes: after washing, roll up each item in a bath towel. Have 3 year old jump up and down on the roll. He will love this. Unroll and hang to dry. This method removes most of the moisture so things dry faster. Even so, I would pack min. of 6 completely interchangeable outfits for each kid. Their clothes are so little and easy to pack, and no one wants to go all the way to Europe just to do laundry all the time. (Stop reading now if you are squeamish...) Major blowouts are a good reason to toss the duds and buy cute French clothes. Also a good reason to pack lots of plastic bags. A note about jet lag: if your kids have not crossed many time zones before, they WILL have jet lag. Little ones are not able to just "push through it" like grown ups. They have no idea why they are tired and cranky in the middle of the day, and why they are only hungry at 2:00 a.m Pack lots of healthy snacks for the first few nights. I promise, they will wake up hungry. Don't worry if they eat nothing during daylight hours for the first few days. (First time this happened to us, I was sure my 2 y/o was sick.) After a few days, they adjust and will probably eat an entire adult meal in about 30 sec. This is your clue that they are over jetlag! London: the Transport Museum in Covent Garden and Holland Park are gems for toddlers.
Paris: when my son was 3, he loved the Metro and baguettes. He's now 17 and this is still true.
Although laundry isn't the most fun thing to do on holiday, with 2 little ones, hand washing wont work. My suggestion is take a few hours of "down time" and go to a public Laundromat. Bring snacks and drinks and books and spend the two hours taking turns walking or entertaining the kids and get the clothes done in one go.