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Suggestions for 2 week travel in Europe with teens

Update: So we are looking at traveling first two weeks of July. Realizing we are somewhat ambitious trying to squeeze time in from London to Spain in that time frame. So I am trying to minimize distance traveled, to still make a loop starting and ending in London ideally. Kids wanting to see big cities like London and Paris, husband wanting coast / beach time, I myself would like to stick within France, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Northern Italy, etc. I would like to travel by train from hotel to hotel, so to speak. Willing to rent a car where hotels are for day trips. Again, two teenagers will be traveling with us...suggestions?

Trying to plan a 2 week trip (includes travel to and from) to Europe with two teenagers. One wants to start in London or Paris. The other in Lisbon or Barcelona (soccer player). We are trying to determine an in-between "loop". Would prefer to travel via trains, maybe rent a car once in awhile if needed. Vague, I know ;) Thank you!

Posted by
5891 posts

A good trip is to start in London and take the Eurostar fast train (2 1/2 hrs.) to Paris. Then there is a fast train from Paris to Barcelona that takes about 6 1/2 hours.

Posted by
10520 posts

If you want to connect London to Lisbon or Barcelona, fly between them. To find flights, use Skyscanner, then book direct with the airline to learn all the fees and rules:

To connect London and Paris, take the Eurostar train. Details here:

Note that if you do find things of interest in both Lisbon and Barcelona, connecting Spain and Portugal is surprisingly hard. There are a very few trains (often at very odd hours), there are a few buses, and there are flights (more than you would expect, given the lack of other alternatives). So, if you are thinking of seeing places in both countries, check on transportation links before finalizing any plans or booking any trans-Atlantic tickets.

Posted by
10575 posts

Considering the amount of time you had and the Lisbon-Barcelona connection problem mentioned by Harold, I suggest you choose 3 places: London, Paris, and Barcelona, in that order.

Posted by
3968 posts

Your itinerary is all urban, is that deliberate? If its what you want, you certainly do not need a car. Or did you mean to see things along the way?

"Loop" implies you will be doubling back to your arrival point. Don't do that, it's a waste of time! Flying into London at out of Barcelona, for instance, would be better.

For London-Paris, train, hands down. For Paris-Barc, the fastest train is 6-1/2 hours. I'd at least look into flying unless you are really into the train. For Paris-Lisbon, fly. I would not try to see all four.

Posted by
982 posts

More specifically, when you book your transatlantic plane ticket, what you want is what is called the multicity or open jaw ticket where you fly into London and out or Barcelona (often slightly cheaper than doing the reverse because of how UK departure taxes and passenger duties are set up). That option is often buried under some sort of link for 'Advanced Search' when you price out tickets. In most cases, this gives you a ticket that's cheaper than buying two one way tickets and a more sensible routing than backtracking to make it a conventional round trip ticket.

Intra-Europe plane tickets, on the other hand, are often quite cheap when bought as one way tickets because there's a lot of competition from low cost carriers that are glad to sell you a ticket with only one flight for a reasonable price.

For our big 2014 Europe trip, the most cost-effective transit plan ended up being a VPS-Edinburgh and then Paris-VPS transatlantic open jaw/multicity ticket on Delta. We 'filled in the jaw' by taking flights on BA from Edinburgh to London and London to Munich and then getting from Munich to Paris on high speed rail.

It take some willingness to play wit different combinations of tickets and transit types to see what ends up being reasonable. Fortunately for us, I'm one of those people who thinks travel research like that is actually fun.

Posted by
12868 posts

With this time constraint, I'd be very tempted to fly into Paris and out of Barcelona (or vice versa) if it was affordable. That would give you time for a side-trip or two from each city and/or a stop in a smaller city along the way for a change of pace. I love London, but three large cities wouldn't be my first choice. Even if the interests of your group tend toward the urban (museums?), fitting those three huge, touristy, sight-rich cities into however many days you really have will be rather constraining. (Your full days are one less than the number of nights you will spend actually in Europe--not counting the night on the plane. But every time you change cities, you turn a full day into no more than a half-day.)

There are fast trains between Paris and Barcelona that cover the entire distance in as little as 6-1/2 hours. If not stopping along the way, flying would be another option you could consider; I just hate dealing with airports in the middle of a trip, and flying won't save a great deal of time in this case.

Posted by
2996 posts

You don’t say what time of year you are travelling - if it is June-August, then there won’t be any football on.

London and Paris are arguably the biggest two hitters in Europe, so visiting there will be hectic. You say you have 2 weeks including travel, so that really means 11/12 days in Europe, excluding the arrival and departure days, as these are effectively lost days. With that timeframe, I would opt for London or Paris for a week, then fly to Lisbon. It’s a much more compact city than Barcelona and there are some easy day trips such as Cascais, Evora or Sintra. London and Paris each need a minimum of 5 full days there just to scratch the surface.

If you are just visiting cities, you don’t need to hire a car, as train services are generally good. I prefer to stay in smaller, more rural places, with the odd visit to a city, so I always hire a car.

You are going to lose at least half a day every time you change countries. Your family is young, so are likely to be back in Europe at some point. Less is more.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you for all of the replies so far!!
@ David & Harold - the train info and links are helpful, especially the Spain/Portugal advice.
@ Adam & selkie - we are looking into flying in and out from different places, focusing on ease of coming and going, along with cost. needing to travel from where we live to airports with international flights which adds the time and costs, and reduces our options.
@ Jennifer - all good points. Looking at first two weeks in July. we knew most football was over, but women's world cup is then. i am trying to research smaller places outside of the urban areas to find what might interest everyone, while trying to reduce the length of travel.

Posted by
12868 posts

Although compromising is important in personal relationships, when you're putting together an itinerary for a short trip, trying to include things to please every member of the family may produce a Frankenstein's monster. I fear you are going to be marching your family through a large chunk of Europe without having time to appreciate much (any?) of it. I highly recommend a family council with a map spread out on the table and developing a plan that involves splitting your competing interests into two different trips so your have enjoyable vacations. Draw straws if you have to.

Point out to your family that much of Europe is not like the US--with hundreds of miles of cornfields punctuated by nothing much to interest a tourist. And each of the major capitals has far more to see than you will cover in a week--plus very good side-trip opportunities that allow you to continue to sleep in the same bed. You do not have to go to 3 or 4 countries to have a varied trip.

Posted by
21570 posts

Key information for us please - where is home? Don't need your town, but the nearest big city would be helpful.

How old are the teens?

Since there won't be any footy, would a guided tour to a major stadium be helpful for the one teen?

I'm confused after you put the in italics update on which response that is after?

Are you still considering a loop back to London or do you now want in at one and out at the other. Again, for seasoned travellers like some here, knowing your home big city may help them give you ideas and plans to save time and/or money and/or energy.

Will hubby be happy to go along wherever or does he really want beach and chill time uppermost?

I really like acraven's plan - just above - of all sitting down around a table with a map, maybe even a rail map.

Posted by
16 posts

@ Nigel - thank you for the questions, etc.

Nearest big cities to fly out of for us, first being closest are: Seattle, Portland
Teens: 13 and 16
Football: found location of women's world cup soccer game/s. not really interested in touring a stadium, he already had a vip tour of Camp Nou in Barcelona while training there...more interested in seeing games.
Update in italics: new to using this forum, was a generic update after seeing first responses to my initial post. was trying to begin narrowing things down.
Flying in and out location/s: we are not seasoned travelers past North America and some islands. for some reason my husband was wanting to fly in and out at same location. but if i can find just as inexpensive tix (in total) at two separate locations, that would be fine.
Wherever vs beach / chill time: depends on when this topic is brought up, lol. we are used to spending our vacations at beach resorts / houses. it is taking a bit to bend that thought process ;)

Posted by
12868 posts

Perhaps it will be helpful to point out to the family that the US has more/better/less-crowded beaches than you'll typically find in Europe if you're looking for time spent in the water or lying on the sand as opposed to simply observing from afar. There are some beautiful rocky beaches with dramatic scenery, but that often means lying on rocks, and the places that aren't very, very crowded are usually time-consuming to reach. The Caribbean is a better beach destination than Europe.

Posted by
382 posts

Realistically you've got two basic choices; fly into London and then over to Lisbon, or fly into Paris and head for Costa del Sol in Spain.

London/Lisbon etc is going to be cheaper flying form either Seattle or Portland. this trip would let you see the two big cities, and then hang out in either the Silver Coast or the Algarve in Portugal for some decent beach time.

Paris/Costa del Sol would let you see the city, drive (or ride) down thru southern France (I'd go by way of Lyon) and then hit the beaches east of Barcelona. You could day trip into Barcelona easy. And the beaches are very nice, just remind the boys staring is not polite.