Paris for family of 5

Any family travelers out there? We are planning a trip for May 2013flying into Paris and out of Rome (or Napleshaven't decided yet). Looking for affordable place to stay with so many people. We would prefer an apartment instead of two hotel rooms. Any thoughts? Also, any thoughts on length of stay in Paris? Tentatively thinking three daystoo few? Starting in Paris, going to Switzerland, then onto Italy. We have three weeks in total. Many thanks!
Becky

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

As a huge fan of Paris, on the one hand I am obliged to say that of course 3 days is too few for the world's greatest city. On the other hand, with children, and with 3 countries to see, it may be just right. What are your interests? And by "your" I mean the children's as well as the adults. That's the only way to determine the "correct" length of your stay in Paris (or anywhere else on your itinerary). Do remember a few things: 1. The first day(s) of arrival is/are often a jet-lagged haze, and if Google is correct and Woodinville is near Seattle, the problem may be even more severe than when coming from the US East Coast. If you have a lot you really want to see in Paris, allow enough days of full alertness to enjoy it. 2. A group moves at the pace of its slowest member, and the larger the group, the slower it moves. With five people, someone will be slowing you down, often (whether it's one of the kids or the adults). A forced march schedule won't work - so turn this into an advantage, and see fewer things, but enjoy them more. 3. Even in three weeks, you will only get a taste of Europe, particularly if you are seeing three countries. In other words, you can't do it all, so don't try. Assume you will miss something, and assume you will return.
4. Traveling between even close cities (say, Florence and Rome) takes a half day, and further travel uses even more time. You have to subtract this from actual sightseeing time. I like the apartment idea, but have no direct info on this; there are many threads on this board and other travel boards about this.

Posted by Claudette
huntington beach, ca, usa
471 posts

I used vacationinparis.com to book my Paris apt for early May. Their site is well organized plus theyre based in the US. I'm using airbnb.com for my London and Barcelona stays. The only reason I didnt use them for Paris is because their site took awhile to get used to and I tend to be impatient but once I went back and figured it out, I had no problems with it. I found that apts were way cheaper than renting 2 rooms.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
675 posts

An apartment is probably a better idea than hotel rooms for several reasons. You can share a living room but sleep separately, so people can keep different hours. You can save money and meet different food preferences by eating some meals in rather than out. We've used homeaway.com for Paris and elsewhere, there are other good websites like vrbo.com, airbnb.com, and others specific to Paris. I agree with Harold that three days is a mighty short time for Paris, but might be all you can manage in three weeks for three countries. Depends on how many other stops you want to make. Each time you move, whatever distance, eats up travel time and budget. If you can minimize the number of different places you spend nights you might have an easier time.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

VacationInParis is great for short-term rentals. You can rent by the night, no weekly minimum like many of the apartments on VRBO, etc. Plus you are dealing with a reputable agency that has lots of apartments to choose from, they take credit cards and charge in dollars. No need for a direct deposit into an owner's French bank account which many vrbo owners want. For your family of 5 you probably want ao 2-bdr. apartment with an extra bed in the living room. You can search the website by arrondissment. number of bedrooms, etc. and find out about availability righ taway.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
969 posts

With 3 weeks total I would definitely recommend at least 5 days in Paris with an apartment, 4 days at the least. Of course it depends on how long you want to spend in Switzerland and how many places in Italy you intend to see. Myself, I would say at least 4 days in paris, 4 days in Rome and the other 13 days split between Switzerland and other cities in Italy. Depends of course on ages of children and what you want to see in each city. I think apartments work well in Paris and Rome for anything of 3 nights or more. It also depends on your method of transportation.

Posted by Carl
East Providence, USA
28 posts

My family, 3 adults and 2 children, stayed at this apartment(http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p54936) in 2009 and LOVED it! Many great reviews, and you should stay as many days as you can in Paris. We stayed 8 days and wish we could have stayed longer. The calendar is already filling for 2013, so try to check ASAP if it might work for you...Good Luck!

Posted by debbie
phoenix, az, usa
29 posts

My gal pal and i are in Paris now and having the time of our lives. We would highly recommend without reservation without reservation vacationinparis.com. We are staying in the Marais district our apartment would easily accomodate four. We were able to pay via us dollars via credit card no problems whatsoever. Perfect apt. Wonderful location. Highly recommend.
Patrick and Domenique are outstanding, an apt is absolutely the way to go. Enjoy.

Posted by JHK
Palo Alto, California, United States
106 posts

We used TripsEurope when our family of four vacationed in Paris for a month and they were very good. I could be biased in favor of Paris but 3 days is too few. I think that you will lose the first day because of jet lag which I find is even worse on children. You need 4 full days in Paris meaning really 5 days because the arrival day is a bust. Harold is absolutely correct, especially about the speed at which a group moves and the amount of time lost in moving from one destination to another.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
648 posts

I'm piling on here. By all means, rent apartments wherever you can. You don't say how old the kids are or how you are getting from Paris to Switzerland to Rome. Those details, along with the weather in May, will affect where you go and for how long. If your 3 weeks are a maximum of 21 days for the whole trip, keep in mind that the 1st day is lost due to the time difference and the 2nd is very low energy due to the jet lag. And of course the last day is a travel day, so you actually have 18 days to do and see stuff. If you haven't done it already, and you are planning to take the train between destinations, check the DB website for routes and times. You won't be able to buy tickets but you will be able to see how long it will take and maybe pick a route that would be entertaining for everyone as well as transportation. Why should it be fun? The trip from Paris to Switzerland is likely to take about half a day including checking out of where you are staying, getting to the station and on the train and doing the opposite when you get to your Swiss destination. Going from there to Rome will probably take a full day including all those logistics. If it were me, and not knowing what you want to see or do in Switzerland, I would spend more time in Paris and Rome and less in Switzerland taking those mostly travel days out of the time there.

Posted by Becky
Woodinville, WA
75 posts

Thanks for the excellent advice! Just to answer a few questions (and hopefully get more advice), the kids will be 16, 13, and 9. We have been considering renting (or leasing?) a car, but I've heard that having a car in Italy is a nightmare. And, the more research I do on tolls, etc., the less certain I am that a car is the right choice. I did an internship many moons ago in Bern, Switzerland, so I would love a chance to show my little people where I lived. That being said, I'm worried about having enough time (and the added expense of Switzerland to boot). Still, I think a short stop through would be fun. We will definitely rent an apartment in Paris. Thanks for the ideas! Keep them coming. With Rick's books and the Graffiti Wall, planning this trip is getting more doable by the day!

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

Do you know your two younger kids will travel for free on Swiss trains and boats with a free Family Card? That should help with expenses. And you can find vacation apartments all over Switzerland that are much cheaper than hotels. For Italy train travel, buy your tickets in advance (like 60 daysor so) to get the Super Eonomy fares as low as 9 euros. They also have family deals.

Posted by Peter
Medford, Oregon, USA
15 posts

Becky: having a car in Italy is not that big a problem. You do have tolls on the freeways, but that is also true in France (and, I think, most countries in Europe). The hassle with having a car in Italy (or France) is that when you get to a major town, it may be hard to get around (one-way streets, unfamiliarity with the town, etc.) and finding a place to park. But perhaps this does not seem a major problem for you. It is less of a problem if you are planning on staying in smaller towns. I definitely would not want to have a car in Rome, but perhaps you are an adrenaline junkie. Peter

Posted by Debi
Sherman Oaks, CA, USA
257 posts

I disagree, having a car in Italy is a nightmare! With a large family renting a villa in Umbria, we needed 3 cars. Two had accidents and a trip to pick up my niece in Florence was quite scary. Even in the right lane, trucks were honking and flashing their lights on us, because we were not driving fast enough!! We were moving pretty fast too! I say avoid driving in Europe at all costs, except in areas like the France, other than Paris!
Trains will get you almost everywhere!! Happy Travels!

Posted by Pam
SF Bay Area, CA, USA
77 posts

Becky, I'm also in the midst of planning a trip for my family of 5 for this June/July to the same countries you're considering, plus Germany. I've been to Paris twice on my own, and for this family trip we are planning for 6 days there because there is so much to see and do. We are opting for an apartment to have easy access to a washer, and for the kitchen for some eat-in meals. I booked an apartment via vrbo.com for Paris, Rome, and the Interlaken area in Switzerland. Some other info that may be useful: (1) the Swiss Family Pass gives free travel for children ONLY IF you have certain Swiss Train passes...check out http://www.swisstravelsystem.com/en/home.html for more info. (2) you may find it cheaper (and less time) to fly from Switzerland to Italy. Do a price comparison on www.skyscanner.com and be sure to understand all the airline fees, etc. before you book. We ended up booking on EasyJet.com.
(3) if you train it between countries, www.seat61.com is a good website that lays out your options and how to book Super Economy tickets. Feel free to PM me if you want more details.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2612 posts

You will find some people who encourage you never to drive and others who feel differently. I have driven thousands of miles in Europe and UK and never had an accident or a ticket. I have driven everything from a small little car to a 9 passenger van and while I am fairly brave I will not drive in Paris, Rome or London. Thousands of tourists drive all over Europe, same as here in the US. If people honk, you are doing something wrong, and if you're not...just ignore them (same as you would here) It can be a big benefit to have a vehicle if you like to travel and sightsee on your own schedule, especially for the countryside.

Posted by David
Dallas, Texas, USA
16 posts

I'm with Pam on mixing in a short flight for time and money saving. In June I am doing 2 weeks of train travel from Geneva, Switzerland to Veinna, Austria after 4 days in Rome. My flight from Rome to Geneva is only $65.

Posted by courtney
London, UK
68 posts

Becky, sounds like a fantastic trip. In my opinion I think driving in Italy can be avoided. You can fly on low budget airlines or even take over night trains to get to Italy from Switzerland. Once you are in a place like Rome getting around on public transport is really easy. You can easily get a taxi or limo service to pick you up from the train station or the airport and take you to your accommodation. There are services such as www.take-taxi.com (Office number: 0034673308684) The quotes were €48 for the Airport or you can try www.romecabs.com. Then once in the city I would say take the metro, a hop on hop off bus or walk to get to major attractions. If you are looking for an apartment in Rome I would have a look at Nextaway. I stayed in an apartment close to the Spanish steps that had internet and was perfectly located. http://www.nextaway.com/italy/rome/babuino-italy-1238-2

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

You can get a free Family Card for the children with any of these Swiss passes and cards: Swiss pass, Flexi Pass, Swiss Card, Half Fare Card, and Transfer Ticket. Depending on how long you will be in Switzerland and what you wish to do, one of these should work for you. If just passing through and stopping in Bern, you might do better with discount tickets bought in advance on SBB, but then the two younger children will not be free. As for flying from Bern to Rome, there are a few flights a week from Bern on SkyWorks Airlines. I checked prices in late may for 5 and it came to 615 CHF, but it could well be differenton another airline or different day of the week. If you want to take the train, the travel time Bern to Rome is 6 hours, including transfer time in Milan. You can get Special Offer tickets from Bern to Milan on SBB for 27 CHF, and buy Super Economy or Economy tickets on Trenitalia for Milan to Rome. Economy fares for 3 adults and 2 children (the 16 year old counts as an adult) came out 197 euros for all.