Travel with Teens

I am looking at spending just two to three weeks in Europe next summr with my 12 year old son and 13, 17 year old girls (family of 5). Not sure about an organized tour that makes you be somewhere at a certain time, but not sure I can plan and navigate on my own. What countries do we for sure go to and is it better to try an organized tour group. What is reasonable to expect to spend

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
172 posts

You raally cannot expect much help from those here with such a vague question. How can you even think about traveling to Europe if you have no idea of what countries, cities, towns, sights and so forth that you would like to see?
Why not ask your children to do a little research and have them come up with some suggestions?

Posted by Beth
Mount Zion, Il, USA
2 posts

I am just starting to research it.. The kids have suggested Paris, Rome and Amsterdam. I don't have any idea is it best if you have no real idea to take an organized tour?

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
172 posts

If you feel uneasy about making your own plans, try looking into some of the Rick Steves tours--the Best of Europe might be a good start, although it also might be more expensive for five persons than doing it on your own.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

Start by looking at some organized tours (both Rick Steves and others, like Trafalgar and Globus). Whether you take one or not, it will give you ideas about what the various companies consider the "highlights." You can then research these places and see if they appeal to you. Think about your question in reverse. A person in, say, France, asks "I'm coming to the US next summer with my kids. Where should I go, and how much will it cost?" You'd need a lot more information to even begin to answer the question. So, think about what you'd ask and tell that person, and apply it to yourself. What are the interests of the travelers (if the kids aren't happy, no one will be happy)? Do you want to see big cities, rural areas, small towns, or a mixture? Will anyone be upset if you don't go to a certain "name brand" place (as in, "We MUST see Stonehenge and the Eiffel Tower")? You should also get a copy of Rick Steves Europe Through The Back Door. This book will give you the "nuts and bolts" tools you will need to organize your trip and what's involved. You can then decide whether you want to take a tour or do it on your own.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

The trouble with tours, besides the structure that you're aware of, is that they're geared to appeal to older folks. The two younger kids, and probably the older one as well will have an acute case of the screaming meemies at the end of the second day. Now you're stuck with Door Two. Doing it yourself the first time is pretty easy if you break it down into chunks. 1. Pick the places. Don't settle for 'Paris'. Make the suckers tell you what it is they really want to see there. Give them some time to do their own digging. Add twenty percent for goofing off and the unexpected/unknown things you discover once you're there. Note the number of days required 2. Put some dots on a map with the numbers above near the dots. Look for clumps. Paris and Amsterdam are a clump. Rome is way out on the end of the stick. In three weeks, you can fit in four spots, max, since you have to move a mob. Adjust travel time by how long it takes to get everybody moving in the morning. 3. Aportion the time between the spots by what has to be done there. Figure a half day for movement between places unless something like Rome sneaks back in which will burn a whole day, 4. Unless the locations are really close together, fly into one place and out of another. 5. Find places to stay in each destination. 6. Figure out the cheapest way to get between places. If it's all cities in one clump, it's going to be trains, maybe buses. Buy tickets if there's an advantage to early purchase.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

You're almost done, but there's some bits and pieces that don't fit into the sequential planning: a. Spending the whole time in cities can suck. Think about tossing in a small town or village for a few days in the middle. A place where the kids can run around on their own for a few hours each day. b. The older girl can take off on her own in any of the cities. The two younger ones almost could (mine did), but they sure as heck could do it as a team. Give them lunch and walking around money and tell them to be back at Spot X by Time Y. You cannot loose kids, they always come back. c. Everybody has to be able to tote their own junk. All of it; not just the planned stuff and something extra. d. Cost can sneak up on you, mostly because of the vagaries of transportation - - sometimes you can get a group rate, air movement can eat you alive with a mob, using lots of urban transportation instead of walking can add up. Staying way-the-hell-and-gone tosses in commuting costs. I've forgotten, but I think everybody's too old for entrance discounts. If you go for gites or apartments you can save a bit and sending the kids out for groceries will give them a pretty good experience - - make them eat what they buy, take no prisoners. The first trip is going to be the most expensive because you're stoopid. I'd have money left over on five hundred bucks a day, four might make me nervous, but I could do it. Figure six and you should be fat.

Posted by Emily
Chicago
256 posts

I agree with the others. Planning it yourself is easy if you put a little oomph into it. Don't overthink it, just plan what you and each of your kids would like to see. Have everyone enter input and ask each kid what one thing they MUST SEE. The rest will be compromises among everybody. Don't overplan, just like you don't overplan at home. Don't travel too far from one spot to another. Don't try to see too much. Don't cater to each kid's every whim. Now for the dos: DO take advantage of the excellent train system to travel fairly quick (5 hrs or less) trips from one city to another. DO consider open-jaw traveling (fly into one city and out another) for convenience as well as to save money. That round-trip fare from Chicago to London looks reasonable, but if you end your trip in Berlin you'll blow more money getting back to London. DO look into apartments and vacation rentals. DO consider a trip to a concentration camp. The kids are old enough to handle it and realize these are some of the most important places in the world to visit. DO give them some alone time, especially your oldest one. The cities may be large but they are safe and they can always stop for a Coke at a café and ask directions if they get lost.
DO have faith in yourself that you can do it! We are always here to answer your questions.

Posted by Donna
Cleveland, OH
291 posts

Beth, take a look at the Rick Steves family tours (check the Tours tab at the top of this page). They get good reviews and your kids can interact with other kids. The itineraries will give you an idea of what you can see in that timeframe.

Posted by Kim
San Francisco
119 posts

I personally would not choose a tour because I hate being beholden to other people's schedules. I agree to get the kids involved. Mine have planned quite a bit of what is on our plan for next summer. I love planning travel, so going on a tour would rob me of half the fun! Also, I am not afraid of trying to figure my way around. If that is all really overwhelming, you may want to do a tour. But kids are smart, they will be able to figure it out. It's not like you are traveling with 5 year olds - older kids can be a big help I would think. We are doing almost all apartments. I like vrbo in the US for all of our rentals, so I am using that for Europe as well. I always look for ones with lots of good reviews. I would never stay anywhere that has no reviews. I also judge them on how quick they are to respond to my initial request. I would focus in one area also - that also limits the language you need to learn. Hitting like 4 different languages is tough. You may consider starting in London. That's what we did first trip (pre-kids). It's just like visiting a big city in the US and no language problems. My kids are smaller (9 and 11) but I am trying to only hit one big historical site per day, and leave lots of time for exploring. And we won't do many museums... yours may do better being older though. Have a great trip!! Kim

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7829 posts

Beth , if you are going to consider a tour I can strongly endorse the Rick STeves Family tours.. I took my 11 yr old on it a few years ago and she had a great time and we saw a lot more in 2 weeks then I would have scheduled for us.. I normally do independent travel, in fact on that trip we stay 9 days in Paris extra and 3 extra days in Rome before and after tour.. so being on my own is not an issue at all.. I have traveled solo and with my kids for years. But , this tour provided a chance to give my daughter a taste of a lot of places without being stuck on a bus with a bunch of 70 yr olds.. Our group had only 26 people in in, and of that 14 were between 10-18 ( there was one 8 yr old ) The kids hung out at back of bus and made friends almost immmediatly .. It was however a tad pricey but there was no nickel and diming, we stayed at least 2 nights everywhere, we had only a few early morning calls to go, and since you carry your own stuff there was no need to do that stupid putting your suitcase out before you go to bed. It was civilized. Several families onboard were doing as I was and tacking some extra time on before or after tour for more indepth visits to tour start or end cities, or were just going on to another place. Look under tours here, then look at "Tour Scrapbooks" and "tour reviews" you can see photos and real feedback from those on the tour.. I also think just picking 2-3 places and going on your own is a great option.. this was the only trip I was taking my dd to Europe for and I wanted her to see a lot places quickly,, but when I took my 13 yr old on another trip wejust did London and Paris for 17 dyas on our own and had a blast too.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7829 posts

Beth , if you are going to consider a tour I can strongly endorse the Rick STeves Family tours.. I took my 11 yr old on it a few years ago and she had a great time and we saw a lot more in 2 weeks then I would have scheduled for us.. I normally do independent travel, in fact on that trip we stay 9 days in Paris extra and 3 extra days in Rome before and after tour.. so being on my own is not an issue at all.. I have traveled solo and with my kids for years. But , this tour provided a chance to give my daughter a taste of a lot of places without being stuck on a bus with a bunch of 70 yr olds.. Our group had only 26 people in in, and of that 14 were between 10-18 ( there was one 8 yr old ) The kids hung out at back of bus and made friends almost immmediatly .. It was however a tad pricey but there was no nickel and diming, we stayed at least 2 nights everywhere, we had only a few early morning calls to go, and since you carry your own stuff there was no need to do that stupid putting your suitcase out before you go to bed. It was civilized. Several families onboard were doing as I was and tacking some extra time on before or after tour for more indepth visits to tour start or end cities, or were just going on to another place. Look under tours here, then look at "Tour Scrapbooks" and "tour reviews" you can see photos and real feedback from those on the tour.. I also think just picking 2-3 places and going on your own is a great option.. this was the only trip I was taking my dd to Europe for and I wanted her to see a lot places quickly,, but when I took my 13 yr old on another trip wejust did London and Paris for 17 dyas on our own and had a blast too.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
648 posts

Below are two links that are easily missed on this website. I sent them to my son when he was considering taking his picky eater, unable to adjust to anything the least bit different, kids to Europe. The first is about traveling with kids on a RS Family Tour: http://tours.ricksteves.com/tours/content/family_qa.cfm. It has good info about traveling with kids in Europe, even if not on a RS tour. The second one is slightly different and is general information about traveling with kids in Europe, some of which has already been listed in previous replies: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/kids.htm. It is in the Travel Tips, but way down at the bottom of the page under Trip Planning.

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

Beth, we took our then 13+14 year old daughters for a 5 week trip to Europe and made sure that they did a lot of research/homework/planning too.(we went to the Netherlands,France+Italy) I suggest the book " Take Your Kids to Europe" by Cynthia Harriman as well as Rick Steves "Europe through the back door". Our kids helped with Chosing destination cities, things to do, budgeting, pricing flights etc. Its a great learning experience for them and takes A Lot of pressure off of You. (after all ,its your holiday too, so find ways to Delegate). They were both also aware of our budget (which I think is important) and so were understanding (accepting) of the need to bring water bottles everywhere and eating lots of Picnic meals. For a third option to the Package Tour or No package Tour, check out Untours.com They've got the accomodations,ground transport, on site Hosts to help with things to do locally and I think they are worth checking out. It's really difficult to give you an idea of what it's going to cost. Every family has different expectations, budgets and standards. We were happy to stay in a Hostel several times, take the train, rent an apartment and picnic. We Never stayed in a Hotel or rented a car.
Maybe Figure out how much you Can spend and work backwards from there. (check out non-direct flights for potentially cheaper airfare, but realize that you will lose an extra day to travel)

Posted by celeste
ATL, GA, USA
30 posts

If, like us, you have more money than you have good sense (or time to plan), you may also consider a Rick Steves My Way Tour. It relieves you of having to plan all the transportation and hotels, and leaves you to just focus on the places you're going. You're only beholden to the tour schedule when it's time to get on the bus to the next destination (every other day or so). The days are entirely on your own. We just got back a couple of weeks ago from taking the My Way Europe and it was a fantastic experience. There were a number of older kids (13-18) and they were without exception well-behaved, mature and a pleasure to be around. It was great for them to have others to hang out with, and they were able to go off in groups by themselves sometimes. We would do it again in a minute.