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11 day London/Paris/Amersterdam(?) - avoiding Charles De Gaulle

I am taking my 15 year old daughter to London and Paris during spring break in late March. It's our first trip and although I'm an intrepid traveler, I don't want to pack in too much. The plan is to touch upon a number of the historic sites and do one day trip from London and Paris to provide her an overall perspective and wet her appetite for additional future travel (hopefully 1x or 2x each year). I've repeatedly heard about long delays departing out of Charles De Gaulle airport and wondered whether it would make sense to train over to Amsterdam (to see tulips, windmills, etc) and fly out of Amerstadam for the return trip back to the US. Is the Amsterdam airport a bit less congested (especially in late March)? For an 11 day trip (excludes travel days to/from US to Europe), am I packing in too much into the trip for a 15 year old? Preliminary itinerary is 4 days in London and 5 days in Paris - have 2 extra days (of 1.5 days if we train to Amerstdam) to play with. Any thoughts or suggestions would be most appreciated.

Posted by
774 posts

I don't think you need to structure your trip solely to avoid CDG. We've flown out of there a bunch of times, and have never had problems, though it is a bit oddly laid out. That being said, I think Amsterdam is a wonderful city, and so do my 17yo son and 14yo daughter. Fabulous art, and beautiful everywhere you look. It's easy enough to avoid the redlight district. We stayed in the Jordaan on our second visit, and I loved walking around the streets in that area. When we took our son on his first visit to Europe, we visited London, Paris and the Loire Valley, in about the same amount of time as you have. We included the Loire Valley (we spent 3 nights there) because we wanted him to see the countryside, as well as the cities.

Posted by
8954 posts

Most all international airports are busy, congested places. What makes Schipol Amsterdam one of the better airports in Europe, is that it's better organized. CDG is spread-out over multiple terminal buildings, whereas Schipol is housed in just one enormous building with a single corridor which connects the different piers. In regards to the itinerary, you've got enough time for a quick fun visit to Amsterdam.

Posted by
40 posts

I'm doing pretty much the same trip with my niece and mother in June, with 6 days in London and 7 days in Paris. We're flying out of CDG back to the USA. I'd stick to those 2 cities - and add a day in each rather than hustle to Amsterdam. I'm OK with delays coming home. I've flown out of CDG a number of times and can't recall a delay long enough to adversely impact my trip home.

Posted by
591 posts

If you have the opportunity to visit Amsterdam, then early spring is the time to go. The tulips start blooming in mid-March and the country is at its most colorful. Keukenhof Gardens is the must see venue (keukenhof.nl) and it opens March 21st. IMO I'd add a day to Holland and cut a day in one of the other cities.

Posted by
2 posts

Lire Valley sounds interesting. We are traveling at the end of March, so weather may be a bit chilly. Any lodging recommendations?

Posted by
11450 posts

It may be chilly and wet in march in all the places you are going, so plan around some inside sites, wandering tulip gardens in the rain may sound romantic , but it could just be cold and miserable. lol i would not avoid CDG , you are not transferring through it, having to deal with changing terminals etc, just leaving from it, its not that bad.. I use it all the time. I would make my vacation plans based on what you want to see not worrying about the flight home.

Posted by
26053 posts

Its not clear if you are landing in London or Paris. If you start in London and end up in Amsterdam you will only need one Eurostar trip from London to Paris, and one Thalys train from Paris to Amterdam. If you start in Paris and wind up in Amsterdam you will need two Eurostar and one Thalys journeys. You wouldn't want to run to Amsterdam and back to Paris - too much train time. I've been at Keukenhof in bright sun; but I've also been there in light snow and falling rain. Enjoyed it each time. I'd only stay away in heavy rain or storm.

Posted by
318 posts

Just one more vote for not specifically avoiding CDG. We flew out of it last March. It was crowded and you want to give yourself plenty of time. We were there 2 hours early, were fortunate enough that we were able to skip the ticketing line (they let us go through a line we weren't really supposed to be in) and then waited for security/passport control. By the time we got through all of that we only had 15 minutes before we loaded. If we had to wait for the regular ticketing line we probably would have not made it. That being said, Amsterdam was awesome. If you really want to see it, it makes sense to start in London, go through Paris, and end in Amsterdam. Schipol is definitely less crowded than CDG. But if Amsterdam is just an after thought and you're not really jazzed about it, it might be more trouble than its worth. Four days in London and five days in Paris seems really reasonable. But only two in Amsterdam might be kind of short. Again, it's all about how much you want to see Amsterdam. If it's just to avoid CDG, it's not worth it.

Posted by
516 posts

Haven't had any trouble getting out of CDG. Amsterdam is a better laid out airport. Be sure and eat before you go to CDG. Food there at least in the Delta terminal is awful. Amsterdam airport you can eat and shop like a US mall. Amsterdam is a great city. Don't miss taking a boat ride through the canals.

Posted by
7996 posts

I agree with Debbie, I would only do London and Paris with day trips. Flown into and out of CDG 10+ times and never had any problems ever.

Posted by
11270 posts

The biggest problems with CDG are reported by people changing planes there. Arriving or leaving are not nearly as bad. You should still arrive 3 hours before any departure from Europe nonstop to the US, and I would do this leaving from both CDG and AMS. I think either London and Paris alone, or London-Paris-Amsterdam, would work fine, depending on your interests. If you want more variety, see all three cities. On the other hand, you specifically mentioned wanting to return frequently, so I'd recommend saving Amsterdam for another time.