We are thinking to plan a 12 day trip from California to Europe this November. Family of four with kids ages 13 and 11. This will be our kids first trip to Europe. My 13 year old daughter dream is seeing London:) but my husband and I had been in >London/france tour before. We are busy travelers and we like to do as much as possible in our trip. I like to know what do you guys recommend for us? If we like to see 2-3 countries, like to hear your feedback and advices. Thank you in advance!
Honestly, I recommend you either extend your trip, or scale back your too-ambitious plan.
A "12 day" trip from California - do those 12 days include your travel from California and return? If so, you will really only have 9 or 10 full, usable days in Europe. That's enough to do about 3 places - places, not countries.
You need to consider that even if you like to do (or once did) blitzkrieg crazy hyperspeed travel, that's not what your kids are probably going to enjoy. Remember, a group only moves at the speed of its slowest (crankiest, most fussy) member. And you are not going on a "tour"(!) where everything is done for you, you never get lost, and everything goes along like clockwork. On your own - and with kids - you are going to have a lot more to do, and you will move slowly.
With the time you have, I'd pick no more than three locations. Could be London + Paris + a side trip, but I'd caution you against trying to put your kids through a blitzkrieg. A lifetime of therapy might be the result.
As David points out, 2-3 countries is too ambitious even for those who like to be busy. Each time you change locations you lose the better part of a day what with packing up, checking out, making your way to the station (or worse airport!), arriving, getting oriented, checking in, etc.
Also, November brings less-desirable weather, especially in the north. Since you posted in Spain, I assume that is of interest to you and two-or-three spots in Spain is quite possible and all doable by train.
Italy is another thought. You can see a bit of each of Venice, Florence and Rome if you have at least 10 nights on the ground, again all doable by train and with plenty to keep you occupied even if it rains.
I disagree with just about everything white label said (sorry). I wouldn't spend time on the Algarve, I personally wouldn't plan to drive from city to city in southern Spain (though a rental car for a day or two would facilitate seeing the white villages), and I certainly wouldn't attempt Madrid-Barcelona-Rome-Berlin. Who wants to take five flights within 12 days? Three of those cities justify stays of at least 4 days (not counting the day lost when flying in), and Madrid has a bunch of highly desirable side-trips, so a two-day stop isn't advisable there, either.
I agree that southern Spain is a very, very good option. Note that there are fast trains to whisk you between Madrid, Cordoba, Seville, Jerez and Cadiz. They also link Madrid and Barcelona, but I think Barcelona is too much to add on what I assume is a 10-day trip. The express trains are much faster than driving, but the fares may be quite high if you buy tickets at the last minute. Often there are very good deals available if you buy well in advance. You can take a look at fares for immediate travel vs. fares for November on the Renfe website. The fare for the full trip Madrid-Cadiz seems to range from 44.60 to 82.00 euros, depending on how far in advance you buy and what time of day you want to travel. Buying a bunch of short segments along that route would add up to a higher figure, I'm sure.
You could also go to London and then fly to one other destination in Europe via a budget airline. In that case, you'd want to return home from the second stop, so explore multi-city rather than round-trip flights.
Hi- I did 3 countries (3 nights in each) a couple of years ago and it was one of the best experiences ever! So, completely doable. However, I wouldn't say we did the "country", it was more the city and we saw a lot in our limited time. If you plan ahead and allow for flexibility you most definitely can have a memorable experience that doesn't feel rushed. It was our first time to all 3 cities (London, Paris, and Barcelona) and I'm glad we went that route. It left us yearning for more but appreciating what we saw. With that said, we went in late summer so we had lots of daylight & great weather. Definitely helped. What about Rome, Madrid and Barcelona? I just returned from Rome & I think you can pack in the major highlights in 3 nights. Also, the weather will be more mild in Italy & Spain. I've also been to Barcelona & 3 nights is most doable (more so than Rome). But, if you'e willing to revisit London & Paris (I loved the Eurostar ride!), then you can easily add Rome or Barcelona (flight from Paris to Barcelona is quick) and have your 3 countries. I think that would be such a great experience for your daughter!
A 12 day trip equates to 11 nights, and one of those nights is lost to overnight flying.
With ten nights to spend ...
Paris (4 nights)
Barcelona (3 nights)
Madrid (3 nights)
Rome (4 nights)
Florence (3 nights)
London (3 nights)
If your 13 year old daughter's dream is to see London, I might suggest you include it, even if you have been there before. Seeing a country through someone else's eyes is always different.
From London, you could go to Edinburgh and Dublin, or you could journey to Paris and visit a bit of France. From London you can visit anywhere. Flights within Europe are cheap, as you probably know.
I am always happier to spend time in a city or area to get a feel for it, rather than dashing in and out.
It really depends on your purpose of the trip: see many cities or settle into an area and take advantage of the little things. One trip my husband and I did many years ago in England was to focus on hedge mazes in the country. We had a blast getting lost in mazes and seeing the beautiful gardens in that country.
California to London London to Barcelona or Madrid Barcelona or Madrid to California
When we went to Lisbon, our free tickets required us to go to London, then connect to Lisbon. We had to connect again in London when we flew home from Madrid and spent a night in London on the way back so we could have a day to spend in Cambridge. There are plenty of flights from London to Spain. Adding Paris doesn't leave enough time for each city, in my opinion.