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First trip to Europe in Mid March! Suggested itinerary for family travel!

We are planning our first trip to Europe for Mid March, leaving around March 12 and returning before Easter. Our dates are relatively flexible, but we'd like to include our son's Spring Break of 3/15-3/23. Our son is a seasoned US traveler and we're ready to head overseas. What would be a great first taste of Europe for our family? We love: the outdoors, interactive museums, just getting to know the people and culture of a new place. We'd like to see art highlights, but wouldn't enjoy whole days of art gazing! We don't mind cold weather, although we don't want to stand outside in freezing rain the whole time!

We've been thinking about Italy as the Pompeii exhibit was just a highlight at our local science museum and now we'd like to see the real thing. But, is Italy too overwhelming for a first trip overseas? Is it horribly crowded around Easter?

I'm certain I'm not completely getting out my thoughts here. Sorry, home in bed with a terrible cold! Thought getting on the internet to start planning might help me feel better!

We're open for anything! And would very much welcome suggested itineraries from families who've done it!

Thank you.

Posted by
9363 posts

It would help to know how old your son is.

Posted by
800 posts

Elizabeth - Italy would be great. It is my son's favorite country and he went for the first time when he was 10. The ONLY caveat I have to this is I don't know what it would be like at Easter, but even then I'd try flying into Rome (before Easter) and out of somewhere smaller for Easter Weekend- we flew back from Pisa last year and it was very easy. Pompeii is great, Italy is wonderfully family friendly as well as a great place for first timers to Europe as you'll find so much of it "familiar" - i.e the food, your first sight of the Colesseum or The David.

My second suggestion to my first timer friends with children is England - again, so much of the history will be familiar to even your 10 year old, not to mention much of the wonderful children's literature that takes place in England (starting with Winnie the Pooh and ending with Harry Potter). Sure it will be cold and rainy, all the better to drink lots of tea & wander the museums.

England or Italy - you can't go wrong!

Posted by
277 posts

It is difficult to suggest since interests and budgets vary with the individual. However, the rule of thumb for first time Europe travelers is to start out easy. I would do the following: Start with London, and if you are so inclined take the rail to Paris. If you can, fly into London and out of Paris to avoid the back track with time wasted. I have had the opportunity to travel to Europe every year including Russia, Prague, and South America. My next trip in May will be China. My first visit to Europe was London, and it has given me the confidence to travel extensively without the benefit of a structured tour. Preplan as much as possible. Purchase a few guide books: I use Frommers; Steves; DK; and Lonely Planet. Each will give you a different perspective on the same destination. Don't worry about communicating, all speak English. If you have the time, if you go to London, rent a car and travel outside of London. If you go off season, the rates will be much lower.

Posted by
3313 posts

You might go to the library for some Rick Steves videos - they'd give you some idea of what the various destinations look like. Bear in mind that Europe looks much more calm in his shows than is often the reality.

I'd urge you to focus on one area and not "Europe". Italy is a great place to start, especially in the early spring. You could fly into Venice and start there because it lacks the traffic and commotion you'll encounter in other cities. From there, you could go south through Florence and then Rome and onto Pompeii. Fly back from Rome if you can.

Posted by
4125 posts

Italy is a great choice.

Not cheap though (which you didn't ask, & probably knew already).

Posted by
157 posts


For your time frame I would suggest Paris, The D-Day beaches & Mt Saint Michel.

The weather in March can be iffy so all the Paris Museums along with the Bayeaux Tapestry would be great.


Posted by
1717 posts

Hello Elizabeth. For the month March I think Italy is a good choice. The weather was very pleasant at the Cinque Terre on March 13 and 14 when I was there (2004). The air temperature was in the 60s F. in the afternoons.
Reserve your tickets for the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and Villa Borghese Gallery in Rome, 4 weeks before you go to Italy. Read the book "Rick Steves' ITALY". I would not want to be at the Vatican on Easter Sunday.

Posted by
14 posts

Our first trip with our son overseas also occured when he was 10-We did 9 nights in Ireland, then 4 in London, also over the easter break in Late March. Being in Ireland for Easter was something else, especially if you are Catholic. Ireland was easy to navigate, no language barrier and had the right mix of outdoors, people and culture of something new without being 'too' new for a 10 year old. British museum was great for a 10 year old, and we felt like we got a good taste of London for the next time we return. Weather was fleece jacket weather (Better than what we get in MN in March) If you do Ireland, most of the B&B's were affordable and accomodated a family of 3 in one room. Good luck and have fun!

Posted by
12077 posts

I would expect Rome to be packed near Easter. Other than that, Italy should be ideal. The weather will be pleasant and the prices and crowds more manageable.

My wife and I took three children, oldest 16, youngest turned 8 on the trip.

We started in Verona then Venice, Modena, Vernazza, Piza, Lucca, Florence, San Gimignano, Sienna, Orvieto and Rome.

We didn't go to Pompeii/Herculaneum, we weren't interested in Naples; we opted for Ostia Antica outside Rome instead.

Of the places we went, I would skip Lucca and Modena in the future. Of the places we missed, I would add Assisi and Civita.

I recommend getting a car for the hill towns.

Don't stay in downtown Florence, the prices are too high and the quality of lodging is poor (from someone who is happy staying in a hostel). Instead find something outside of town with convenient public transport.

The only place you can't live without reservations is Rome. Everywhere else you can call each morning for the night.

Posted by
31 posts

Took 3 kids to Europe in the fall of 04. They were 6,12 and 16. London is lots of fun for everyone. Don't know what the weather is like at that time of year but my kids loved Germany. Neuchweinstein Castle, Rothenburg (take the night watchman's tour) and the Rhine Valley (climb the ruins of Rheinsfel castle) are all favorites of my kids. Italy was also a highlight. Venice is their favorite city. Rome is fun and you can also go to Pisa and Florence. The Cinque Terra is a must if you go to Italy. Make sure you start at town 1 and hike as far as you can (we made it to town 4 with a 6 yr old). You hike along breathtaking ocean view and through lemon on olive groves.

I would choose one area, take it slow and see the sights in that area. Enjoy the culture and food. Trying to pack in too much makes everyone grumpy. Good luck.

Posted by
3428 posts

The UK is a great place to start with kids. We tooks ours starting about age 9. The Tower of London and Windsor castle were among their favorites. London is a great base- you can do day trips to Cardiff, Wales, Dover, Canturbury, Windsor, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, York, Oxford, and lots of other places. The markets of London are great for exploring- Covent Market changes daily and there are lots of street buskers to watch, too. Many of the museums are free and the theatre is marvelous!!! If you have time, a trip up to Scotland would be good, too.