We have been advised to see Pompeii as a day trip from Rome. Would it be better to spend the night somewhere? We are traveling in June 2008 with our 13 year old son.
You can do it as a long, tiring, and expensive day trip from Rome. Probably your 13 year old has more energy than mom and dad. The details of the Pompeii trip have been discussed many times on this helpline and you can retrieve those discussions by using the search box in the upper right corner of this webpage. Rick's Rome book gives detailed instructions on how to do this trip. He gives a special warning on pickpockets in this area (Naples train stations).
If you are staying in Rome Ostia Antica http://www.ostia-antica.org/indexes.htm would be a much easier and I think better daytrip for a 13 year old. Ostia Antica is only about 40 minutes from Rome as opposed to 3 or 4 hours to Pompeii. Ostia is more park like (trees and paths) which means a lot in the summer.
Another vote for Ostia Antica. It is a wonderful, often looked over sight. Train tickets alone to Pomepeii will host you about 160 euro RT for the 3 of you - Ostia Antica is 1 euro per person.
We've been to Pompeii and Ostia Antica and both are fascinating and well worth a visit. We took picnic supplies to both and picnicked while we were there. In fact, at Pompeii we were not the only picnickers, there were school children there on a field trip (I guess) and they were picnicking too.
If you go to Pompeii, I highly recommend that you hire Gaetano Manfredi as a guide. He is really good. His contact information is in Rick's book. And if you have time, go to da Michele in Naples for pizza.
I forgot to add that doing Pompeii as a day trip from Rome is a long day, but it is very doable.
Pompeii will be expensive as a day trip from Rome. Ostia will be easier, and it's only a metro ticket - 1 Euro to get there. You make one transfer, but it's easy.
My daughter and I just did it last week. It's not Pompeii, but it's a good exposure for your son. I've done Pompeii, but from Sorrento- it's closer from there.
Get a guide for Ostia to get the most out of your trip. We just got there and walked around, so I feel we missed some of the better information. There was one lady that approached us and asked if we wanted a guide, but we said no...wish we'd said yes!
We ate at the cafeteria at Ostia, and it wasn't too expensive. Just grabbed a panini. We had water with us.
There are signs at most of the major points in Ostia, printed in English, explaining what you are looking at. The fun part is...it's really open, and you can walk just about anywhere..we even found an underground passage, and walked in that - scary!
Be careful about Pompeii. A lot of stones still on the ground and a lot of half constructed buildings. You'd think an earthquake or a volcano had messed up the place. Hopefully, by the time you get there all the buildings will be finished and it will look more like other modern Italian towns.