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New plan- 1st European trip itinerary (15-16 days) w/ 11 & 13 yr old-- advice would be appreciated!

I wrote a few days ago, and greatly appreciated the feedback! Thought it would be less confusing to start a new thread. Gave some thought to some wonderful suggestions made about visiting some different areas (Berner Oberland) than we were considering. But instead we eliminated some places from our original plan & added extra days to cities below. So would now appreciate thoughts about our new idea! =) Still really thinking about the Berner Oberland (instead of Paris), but wanted to work with this idea first!

Our boys are 11 & 13, and haven't traveled outside the US. We live outside San Francisco. We are planning 15-16 days European trip in late Aug/early Sept 2020.

Thinking London (5 nights) -----> Eurostar to Paris (4 nights) -----> Bologna area(1 or 2 nights??) Car rental-----> Rome (5 nights) -----> San Francisco

Thinking we should take a train (overnight?) from Paris to Bologna (vs flying). The only reason we are going to Bologna is because both our boys love exotic cars, so we plan to visit the Ferrari, Lambroghini (and maybe Pagani) tours outside Bologna. But... we don't have to stay in Bologna -- just trying to figure best way to get from Paris & stay somewhere enjoyable nearby.

Our new plan is to rent a car once we arrive in Bologna, so we can get to the exotic car locations, and then we thought it would be enjoyable to drive to Rome rather than taking the train. Thoughts on this?? Thought we'd either return the car when we get to Rome, or maybe keep for 1 extra day for day excursion from Rome? I know trains make European travel very simple, but some of my fondest memories in Europe are discovering little towns, getting stuck in narrow streets, and even getting a little lost! But not sure if I need a "reality check", so appreciate others' ideas and opinions! =)

And again, thank you!

Posted by
4786 posts

Thinking we should take a train (overnight?) from Paris to Bologna (vs flying).

This does not sound like a great idea to me. Can everyone in your party sleep soundly in difficult sleep conditions? IME the noise on night trains makes it impossible for me to sleep at all. There's constant movement, bright lights, and other things that may prevent sleep. If anyone in your group could be called anything like a "light sleeper" a night train could be a miserable experience for them.

we thought it would be enjoyable to drive to Rome rather than taking the train. Thoughts on this?

Again, this sounds like a headache to me. Trains work wonderfully in Italy. A leisurely drive around some parts of Italy may be enjoyable, but if it were me, I'd simply take the train and skip the potential hassles. Having a car in Rome itself would be a nightmare (just driving in to Rome to drop the car would stress me out, and I'm not shy about driving in challenging places).

Personally, I'd fly from Paris to Bologna, and train from there to Rome. Just my 2 cents. Good luck and enjoy your trip.

Posted by
4030 posts

Please fly from Paris to Bologna. Rent and return your car in Bologna and use the car locally when visiting the car factories. We stayed for a week in Bologna with our two boys and we had a car. The car made it easier to see the countryside, which is lovely around Bologna. But you don't need to drive all the way to Rome. Not a great idea, that one.

Posted by
179 posts

I would completely agree with the above! The countryside is beautiful but no need for the day trips from Rome. The train system leaving out of Termini is AMAZING and so many places to hop on for a trip!

Posted by
5690 posts

What David said.

Dump the car before and train to Rome.

Another vote to fly Paris to Bologna

Posted by
3710 posts

Whilst in London you (more likely your boys) might like to visit the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the New Forest.

https://www.beaulieu.co.uk/attractions/national-motor-museum

It would be a great day trip from London, take the train to Brockenhurst and either a taxi to Beaulieu or you can hire bikes at the train station to cycle the 7 miles throught the forest.

It's also not just a motor museum, it's a medieval abbey, a grand house and gardens and more.

Posted by
809 posts

Something to consider is that right now your trip is mostly big cities. I know I get big city fatigue and I am a adult. I think kids can be more sensitive to that. The cities are usually a haze of subway ride, museums, cathedrals, and a sense of rushing around. I took my kids to Europe for the first time in 2018 and they loved the big cities but they were absolutely gaga over the Berner Oberland. As Rick says, it really is the perfect vacation from your vacation. Of course you know your family best but if it was me I would do either London, Paris, and Switzerland; or Paris, Switzerland, and Rome.

Also I wholeheartedly agree with those who say do not rent the car. From what you remember when you were younger, renting a car is a fun adventure—getting lost and being spontaneous. Forget about that when traveling with kids, where you have to deal with them fighting in the car and getting lost is just drama and misery. ;)

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you everyone for your advice!

Now rethinking with this plan instead: (and this would be late Aug/early Sept)

London (5 nights) -----> Berner Oberland (4 nights) -----> Bologna area( 2 nights) Car rental for Bologna, then train to -----> Rome (5 nights) -----> San Francisco

Not sure about transportation between London & Berner Oberland, and also Berner Oberland to Bologna?

Posted by
3277 posts

...reason we are going to Bologna is because both our boys love exotic cars, so we plan to visit...

Very good thinking. I'm sure they are fine boys, and the more you get them involved in the planning the happier they'll be. Unhappy kids that age can be a real problem. Not saying the inmates should run the asylum, but creating the mindset that it is "their" trip will ensure a better experience for all.

Posted by
646 posts

You asked about transportation between London and Berner Oberland. The two ways I'd look into are flights to Zurich or Geneva (use www.skyscanner.com ) or trains (see www.seat61.com ).

You can compare prices, but I think the boys might enjoy being in a train going almost 200 mph hour (plus they are quieter and more spacious than planes). From London you can be in Paris in 2 hrs 20 min, with tix as low as $59 in advance. Arrive Paris Gare du Nord, take the Metro to Gare de Lyon and take the bullet train (reserve in advance, see above link) to Geneva (3 hrs) or Basel or Zurich, then it's about 3+ hours to Lauterbrunnen.

Posted by
657 posts

I like your newest plan. Only use the car to check out Bologna and area. The rest of the driving is just a headache. It sounds like an amazing experience for your kiddos and you. Three big cities is probably enough for your kids. Good luck in planning. Get the kids involved in what they would like to see.

Posted by
9272 posts

I like your new plan, too. As to getting to the Berner Oberland, I used Bahn.de to look at options. Although you cannot buy your tickets there it is a good place to research options. It would be a long train day but doable and perhaps fun for all as you can relax without typical airline worries, nap, eat, read, talk, watch movies. I plugged in a random date in April and here are the options. There is one itinerary from London to Paris to Basel to Interlaken Ost that is three trains/ two changes good pace with plenty of time to get from Paris Nord to Gare de Lyon (I would take a taxi). From Interlaken you transfer to the local trains to your final destination, Lauterbrunnen, Mürren, Wengen, etc.

From the Berner Oberland to Bologna can be researched at Bahnhof.de as well. It is another longish train day but by the time you get to an airport in Switzerland then fly, it may take you just as long.