First Trip To Europe - Itinerary Check

Hello All! Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide on the logistics of our trip. I have a wife and two children (a 3 year old and a one year old) ready to travel! Our goal is to spend a great two weeks in Europe, and our rough itinerary is as follows: May 13th Leave evening on the red-eye May 14th Arrive in London at noon. Walk about. May 15th Visit sites in London May 16th Train to Paris May 17th Visit Sites in Paris May 18th Visit Sites in Paris May 19th Train/Visit to Switzerland May 20th Roam around Switzerland May 21st Train to Venice May 22nd Sites in Venice May 23rd Train to Rome May 24th Sites in Rome May 25th Sites in Rome May 26th Sites in Rome May 27th Fly back to States Obviously we have been reading this site like crazy, along with watching videos and what not. We are conscious not to try to see too much, but we also want to hit several cities and know we may spend a bit of time traveling. Here are some questions: Are these too many cities? Any considerations for traveling in May? Any tips for traveling with children? Has anyone done a similar trip arriving in London and leaving from Rome? Is the rail system a good way to travel for this sort of trip?
Is there a certain stop we should stay in longer than another? We figured Italy, but not having been there, we are open to suggestions. I appreciate the help. We are so excited!

Posted by George
Canada
834 posts

I think you should acknowledge, that with a family in tow, you are not likely going to hit the streets of London until mid to late afternoon - leaves a lot of the city to see the next day. Personally I think you're being a bit over ambitious, as a family of 4, as to how fast you can move around, but, if you're set on that itinerary I'd take a day off Rome and add a day to London. It's one thing to say you've been to a city and quite another to say that you've seen that city.

Posted by Steven
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
3 posts

Thanks for the reply! I appreciate the feedback. We don't want to be worn out, so we really want to plan accordingly. We are not married to this itinerary.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

Steven... I tend to like to do whirlwind trips on occasion, so I am not one to suggest just staying in one place, but with two toddlers this might be a bit much. I would forget Switzerland on this trip and add a day to London, then I would take 2 days from Rome and the extra day from Switzerland and try to find some nice little village in Tuscany for a few days of downtime and village life. The children will nt be asking to see more historical sights in Rome, but they may be asking for time to play in a park or swim in a pool and be away from a lot of chaos and crowds. It is going to be enough of a challenge just getting on and off all these trains with two babies and all your gear... I would try to minimize that as much as possible.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4875 posts

With such young children I would go to less places. I'm sure with jet lag and a blitz itinerary your kids will have issues. Do they nap? Go to bed early? Be realistic about how much time you really have each day to visit sites. You don't really have two weeks. Forget your arrival and departure days. With 12 real days I would split that into 3 locations, 4 nights in each. London and Paris work well together. Fly into London and take the Eurostar train to Paris. From there, chose either Switzerland or Italy (Venice or Rome). Fly home from whatever you choose with an open jaw (multi-city) flight. People fly open jaw all the time.

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1199 posts

Steven, you are moving around way too much & will end up being exhausted, especially with 2 young children in tow. Don't underestimate the amount of time you may need in the beginning to recover from jet lag, especially for the kids. You may not feel truly rested and ready to go until your 2nd to 3rd day there. There is SO much to see in London, Paris & Rome alone & personally I think you're not devoting enough time to each of those places. My travel philosophy is that I'd rather stay in each place longer & saturate more of it before moving on. You could easily just concentrate on London & Paris for this trip & visit Italy another time or vice versa. Just don't overdo it because you'll end up spending so much of your time in transit between each place that you really won't see as much as you'd like.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3345 posts

Probably too much, especially with two small children. May is perfect. Rail is fine for anything under 600 km. You are staying too little in any place you listed, except for Rome. You could eliminate Switzerland and fly from Paris to Venice, instead of taking the train. That will give you two extra days, which you could add to what you like. Plan by counting the nights, it's easier. You are currently spending 13 nights in Europe (From the night of May 14 to the night of May 26). Remember that two nights in a city mean one full day, from sunrise to bedtime. The travel days shouldn't be counted since so much gets wasted in checkin/out of hotels and train travel. I would spend the 13 nights as follows: 3 nights in London (2 full days in London) 3 nights in Paris (2 full days in Paris) 2 nights in Venice (1 full day in Venice) 2 nights in Florence (1 full day in Florence)
3 nights in Rome (2 full days in Rome) That gives 8 full days at the above locations plus you'll have 5 travel (partial) days which might give you an extra few hours to each location. The above itinerary is heavy in big cities and light on countryside/small towns. If you absolutely want to do Switzerland, you should give it at least 3 or 4 nights. But in that case you need to remove an equivalent number of nights somewhere else.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

To answer your questions candidly: You're taking on too many cities. You should visit London and Paris. Or, Italy from Venice to Rome. You cannot easily go place to place with children in tow. May is as good a month as there is, and you'll miss the biggest crowds. My tip for traveling with very young children is to leave them at home. We have 19 month old and 5 year old grandchildren, and I cannot imagine international travel with them. My daughter loved staying with my parents when we went overseas, and we didn't take her to Europe until age 12. We started in London 4/2012 and left from Rome. EasyJet from London Gatwick to Pisa is great. We then went to Florence for a weekend and stayed 5 nights in a Tuscan/Chianti agriturismo doing day trips by rental car.
Like was earlier said, 300 km would be as far as you'd need to go with kids on a train.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10884 posts

I would drop Venice and Switzerland? How do you roam around Switzerland in one day? Save those two for the next trip. Catch Florence on the way to Rome.

Posted by karen
Long Beach, CA, USA
110 posts

I spent four full days in Paris and seven in Rome (on different trips) and neither was enough. We still have a list of places in both cities of things to see and do and eat and drink. Just because you set up a home base and stay more days/nights in one city, doesn't make you a bump on a log. If anything, the more time you spend in a city, the more you can see and do. One of our favorite things we did in Paris was the day that we grabbed some meat, cheese, bread and wine and did a picnic by the Seine. We wandered off after that to visit someplace that I can't quite remember now. However, if we only had 2 days in Paris, we couldn't have justified spending a morning just sitting around. I would think that breaks like that would be perfect for a family with small children.

Posted by Susan
Meridian
138 posts

I agree with dropping out a stop (Switzerland makes sense to me as well) and I also want to point out that each of the remaining - London, Paris, Venice, Rome - are great transportation hubs if you want to take a spontaneous half-day trip. Please check into the Parks and plan a picnic...so much fun to mingle with locals, let the kids play and relax.

Posted by Steven
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
3 posts

Thanks for all the very thoughtful replies. We go back and forth about being confident travelers, to being scared to death about taking the trip. We don't want to spend a bunch of money and not have fun, but we don't want to be bumps on a log either. I can sit in a rocking chair at home! But at the same time, I don't want to overdo it.

Posted by Kelly
St Petersburg Florida
948 posts

I think for London, Paris, and Rome, 4 nights is the minimum to spend in those cities. Having said that, it looks like Venice and Switzerland have to go. But Venice is so awesome, needing 3 nights minimum to just experience the crust of it. But when traveling with a 3 and 1 year old, I am going to agree with other posters......Limit your moving around. Maybe just stick with London, Paris, and Rome.

Posted by Tim & Diane
Denver, CO, USA
13 posts

Hi, Steven. Like others, I would be concerned about trying a whirlwind tour of large cities with young children. The kids will get very tired, and you want to assure that your trip yields the most enjoyment for you and your wife, as well as them. However, I would disagree with dropping Switzerland from your itinerary. International travel can be tiring, a the area around Interlaken will be a perfect place for some "downtime" for everyone. Consider flying into London, spend 4-5 days, then take a mid-trip "time-out" and spend a day to traveling by rail to Interlaken. The 3-year-old will enjoy the relaxing train ride, and Interlaken will break up the time spent in big-city environments. The area around Interlaken is beautiful, and very relaxing, but still has lots to see and do, i.e. day-trips up into the Alps, the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and around the surrounding lakes. Take a day "off" and walk around Interlaken and get out of the small downtown "tourist" area. Picnic in the park on the north side of the Aare River, where the kids can play while you and your wife talk about the wonderful time you've had and begin to plan for your next trip to Europe. Once you feel relaxed and re-charged. take the train back to Paris for the remaining 4-5 days, before heading home. An alternate itinerary would be London -> Paris -> Interlaken, with your return flight out of Zurich.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

I'm wondering how you are going to take the children? 2 strollers? 1 stroller and one in a front/backpack? Venice is particularly difficult - lots of cobblestones and bridges with steps over the canals everywhere. You should also check in advance how you can take the babes into museums and other indoor sights that you plan to visit. Some will allow strollers and child-packs (I have no idea what they are called), some will not, and you don't want to waste your time getting turned away from a sight. You may not have bad weather, but May, like any other month in Europe, is unpredictable. Be ready for rain.