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First time family trip to Europe - Amsterdam to Paris to ??? to Venice


Traveling with family beginning in mid-June. We're beginning in Amsterdam (3 nights), then Bruges (1 night) to Paris (3 nights). From Paris, what are your thoughts on either taking the train to Avignon then exploring Provence for 4 days? Or crossing the Alps via Switzerland? What would you recommend? Any tips would be great. Once in Italy, we plan to explore the north by car for a few days before ending the trip in Venice. Thank you

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
11300 posts

It would help to know how many are in your group, what their ages are, and what their interests are. In the meantime, I'll point out that you will probably land in A'dam in the morning, after an all-night flight, so you're likely to be tired, sleep-deprived and jetlagged. It will take you most/all of the morning to get through procedures at the airport and get into the city to your hotel to check in. Lunch? Most people coming from the US find the best they can do is keep moving until it's late enough to go to sleep for the night. Many are still in a haze on their second day, not able to take in all the new experiences. Next, every time you change locations, you lose about 1/2 day in transit (door-to-door, packing, checking in etc). The rule of thumb is for every X number of nights, you have (X-1) days to sightsee. You'll have a few hours on your travel day to get oriented to your new city, maybe see one sight or take a walking tour.

I will say that Paris is a major destination and 2 full days will give you about enough time to see the monuments from the outside but little time to explore them. Also someone brought up the question of a train through the Alps and one answer was that there were lots of long tunnels - not sure is that's the route you're thinking about.

Posted by CJean
Ontario, Canada
1524 posts

I agree with Chani that you are shortchanging both Amsterdam and Paris. The first could really use an extra day. Paris could use at least 2 more. I can't recommend one over the other for Provence or Switzerland, since they're so vastly different. Except that Switzerland will likely be a lot more expensive but not as hot. How many days are you devoting to driving around N. Italy and Venice?

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
19700 posts

If you have never been to Bruges/Brugge you may find that giving Belgium sort of a wide spot in the road sort of stop in the journey between Amsterdam and Paris is shortchanging it. It would be very helpful to know how many kids and ages, and if anybody is mobility challenged or has special requirements.

It would also be very helpful to know what you mean by Northern Italy - do you mean Dolomites or Milan or Turin or Brescia or Lake Garda or Vicenza or Verona or Lake Como or Padova, etc. How long will the northern Italy part be?

Do you know about all the traps that an unwary driver in Italy can fall into? Do you understand the terms ZTL, TUTOR, IDP?

Are there particular things about the places you list that float your boat, or that of some or all of your family? What are they?

We are standing by to help!!!

Posted by kzkzoh OP
13 posts

Thanks to everyone who has helped out so far. I've spent a lot of time reading posts on this forum, and the community is incredibly supportive.

I'll be traveling with my parents, who are in their 50s (I'm in my 20s). For them, it will be the first time in Europe. I've been to Amsterdam before (and am quite familiar with the city). I'm also quite comfortable with traveling, generally.

Originally, my plan was to go from Amsterdam (4 nights) to Bruges (1), Ghent (2), Munich (2), Innsbruck (1) to Verona. But I've done a similar route before.

Instead, Paris would be exciting. That said, I'm still not committed to visiting France instead of Switzerland. What are benefits/drawbacks that you see?

Nigel could you explain more about driving considerations in Italy?

Also if you have any more general recommendations, that would be great. I'm quite open to rearranging the trip, if there are better itineraries (so long as it begins in Amsterdam and ends in Venice to accommodate flights.)

Thanks so much!

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
10692 posts

You won't want to pick up a car in France and drop it in another country; the cross-border drop charge will be very painful.

The Dolomites (consider Ortisei) would mesh well with Venice and get you lovely mountains, plus Austria-influenced food and architecture. It's a very nice area and if you stay at altitude, excessive heat would not be a concern. There are many nice smaller cities to visit between there and Venice, time permitting: Verona, Vicenza, Padua.

Posted by joe32F
Edmonds, WA
3508 posts

Have you booked your flight out of Venice?

How many nights do you have for the trip? One of your earlier posts mentions 14 and another 17.

Trying to suggest an itinerary without knowing the number of days to fill is extraordinarily challenging

Posted by kzkzoh OP
13 posts


Sorry for the lack of information. The trip will be 17 nights. And the flight from Venice is confirmed.

Posted by joe32F
Edmonds, WA
3508 posts

Here is my $0.02, in keeping your original above itinerary as much s possible, would be to add at least one more night to Paris and after your sojourn in Avignon you could spend 2 nights in Cinque Terre OR Florence and finish with 3 nights in Venice. You would not need a car for getting around in Italy and taking a car from France to Italy is certainly going to have a punitive one way fee.

Posted by Adam
3796 posts

I like your itinerary. Any of your destinations could use another day, but what you are doing is not unreasonable for a quick taste.

Think seriously, though, about the pace your folks would like. And you may need a break at some point if you push things fast.

Provence would be a simpler proposition, logistically, but the Alps would prove the biggest break, the greatest contrast, in your trip, and that is also worth something. Don't stay in Avignon, try a smaller city like Arles or a town like St. Remy. The latter requires a car, which you should get if you will be staying more than a few nights, to sightsee beyond the reach of bus and train.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
1619 posts

If you like wine (or even if you don't) head to Burgundy from Paris. Dijon and the surrounding area is easy access from Paris and you can take trains through Switzerland to Italy (Dijon-Lausanne- Milan-Florence).

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
11300 posts

Speaking as one who is a lot closer to 50's than 20's (and on the same side of both), consider how your parents will handle and enjoy a series of short stays (lots of packing/unpacking, getting used to new rooms, bathrooms, beds). Especially on a first trip, places and experiences start to kaleidoscope (google it if you don't know it :-) on a "whirlwind" tour.

Posted by kzkzoh OP
13 posts

Thanks to all for the help so far! So the plan is to travel from Paris to Avignon by train. We’ll then have 3 nights and would like to explore Provence and the Côte d’Azur by car. Where would you recommend we stay as a base? I realize it’s a rather large geographic area, but we’re comfortable with day-long road trips.

When it’s time to head to Italy, would you recommend driving to Nice and then taking the train to Lake Garda, or should we rent another car once in Italy and drive to Lake Garda/Verona.

Thanks so much, again.

Posted by djp_syd
David in Brisbane, Australia
7085 posts

17 nights would be a minimum, and only by train, over the path you describe.

Amsterdam (3 nights)
Bruges (1 night)
Paris (3 nights)
Avignon-Provence (3 nights)
Nice-Cote d’Azur (3 nights)
Milan (1 night)
Venice (3 nights)

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
1619 posts

The hard part of your trip will be getting from Southern France to Italy, not as easy as you'd think! Also, I would skip one nighters unless you are arriving and leaving in a rental car, too much hassle and cost with transfers. Logistics are the deciding factor for me and an efficient trip would be all on high speed trains of about three hours...... Amsterdam to Paris on the TGV. Paris to Avignon on TGV and rent a car at the train station. Base in St. Remy and check out the area by car. Now the hard part, getting to Italy. I would bite the bullet and make it a day of train rides, Avignon to Lyon to Turin to Milan to Florence. Four trains in a day and probably 12+ hours so you could always break it in two but I'd rather burn one whole day for travel instead of two days. Florence and then Venice. From Florence I'd drive South to Tuscany for a few days. I've done this trip more than once although took trains through Dijon, Lausanne, Milan.