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Please review our one month dream vacation itinerary... booking soon

For two adults, teenager, and 6th grader. Kids have never traveled overseas. The trip will stretch us financially but we're not getting any younger! :) I'm trying to fit a lot into 30 days... husband (me) wants to visit Germany and Switzerland, wife wants to visit England, and kids only want to go to Italy... a good compromise below? We rent a car for three days in England and 13 days in continental Europe... then train to Cinque Terre, then train to Venice (tried to put those two destinations at the end because cars are inappropriate for those places!) In the cities will stay in single hotel. On the road, however, wife not happy with staying in different motel every night. 8-Jun F {overnight flight from states} 9-Jun S London 10-Jun S London 11-Jun M London 12-Jun T Cottwalds (rental car #1) 13-Jun W Cottwalds (rental car #1) 14-Jun R Cottwalds (rental car #1) 15-Jun F {Travel London to Paris, chunnel? fly?} 16-Jun S Paris 17-Jun S Paris 18-Jun M Castles & Wine south of Paris {START RENTAL CAR #2} 19-Jun T Castles & Wine south of Paris 20-Jun W Castles & Wine south of Paris 21-Jun R Bavaria, quaint towns 22-Jun F Bavaria, Rothenburg ob der Tauber 23-Jun S Bavaria, quaint towns 24-Jun S Switzerland, quant towns 25-Jun M Switzerland, Lauterbrunnen valley 26-Jun T Switzerland, alps 27-Jun W {DRIVE TO ITALY through Milan} 28-Jun R Pisa, leaning tower 29-Jun F Tuscan hill towns, Volterra? 30-Jun S Tuscan hill towns 1-Jul S {RETURN RENTAL CAR #2 Firenze, TRAIN TO CINQUE TERRE} 2-Jul M Cinque Terre 3-Jul T Cinque Terre 4-Jul W Cinque Terre 5-Jul R {TRAIN TO VENICE} 6-Jul F Venice 7-Jul S Venice
8-Jul S {Venice to states} Pete

Posted by
10330 posts

Hmmm...well, you will be doing a lot of traveling around. You have only 2 days in Paris, but 3 in the Cinque Terre. That isn't much time in Paris. Bavaria is a region and Switzerland is a country. Specifically what were you thinking for those areas? You have left some days blank. Are you looking for suggestions for those days? Are you aware of the fact that if you rent a car in one country and return in another you will likely incur a hefty surcharge? You might want to consider using London and Paris as bases where you can rent an apartment, then do day trips to the countryside by train or other public transportation. That will save you time from changing lodging.

Posted by
11507 posts

Well if kids are boys,, please look up the Catacombs in Paris, both my teen boys considered it a highlight of their visits.. And two days for Paris is rushing,, its worth more, really, take the kids on a Fat Tire Bike Tour,, they will love it and so will you,, its a fun quirky way to see Paris or take a side trip to Versailles or Monets Gardens.. look up the website , I have
taken all their tours over about last 5 visits and they are fun . Take the Eurostar from London to Paris( don't call it the Chunnel , they hate that), buy it 120 days in advance they can be pretty cheap. I am not sure about this "english country side" ,, where exactly? Does wife want to see places like Brighton and Bath,, then take train. What exactly do kids want to see in Italy?? The Leaning Tower is worth an hour in my opinion,, you could cut that one out,,

Posted by
32241 posts

Pete, Your Itinerary looks reasonably well organized, however I have some of the same thoughts mentioned by the others. > Where are you planning to visit in the "English countryside"? Travel by train or Coach may be an easier method. > I'd also suggest adding at least one day to Paris, as there's so much to see! > Using the EuroStar for London - Paris would be the best method. Travel under the channel is not too spectacular, but it's a unique trip and better than the airport hassles. > Where are you planning to visit in the "French countryside"? Again, public transit may be a better option. > Where are you planning to visit in "Bavaria"? > Where are you planning to visit in "Switzerland"? As the others mentioned, renting a car in one country and dropping-off in another usually comes with VERY EXPENSIVE fees! Another point to keep in mind is that for driving in Italy, EACH driver will require the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. Failure to produce an IDP if requested may result in fines on the spot! You'll also need to be aware of ZTL (limited traffic) areas which are increasingly prevalent in many locations in Italy (especially Florence). EACH pass through one of the automated Cameras will result in a €100+ ticket! Rental agencies in some countries may have "issues" with cars taken into Italy, and the CDW charges may be steep. Be sure to consider that in your planning. Travel by train is usually faster, more efficient and more relaxing, although I realize that the train fares for a family will not be cheap. If you plan ahead and take advantage of discount fares (ie: Mini fares in Italy), costs are more reasonable. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
167 posts

**I updated my original question above ** We want to see quaint little villages in Germany and the alps and green valleys. I'm considering converting a day south of Paris for another day (making 3) in Paris. We want to see the countryside more than the cities so renting flat doesn't seem the best option. I'm researching the catacombs--cool! We want to see the quaint Cotswolds homes. I think we'll only spend a couple hours at the leaning tower... good suggestion. How much time do we need to tour the wine country south of Paris? Maybe three days is too much. Thanks for all your input so far!!!

Posted by
1986 posts

"Wine country South of Paris'- how much are you into Wine? Loire Valley- 1 day for the wine, 2 days for the chateaus' Botdeaux: not very secnic- but wonderful wine, I could spend a week and still not be satisfied; St Emillion town is most scenic Burgundy- pretty scenery, great wine- two days say. Alsace; wine 1 day, scenery 2 days; Rhone- 1 day wine, 2 days scenery- Roman remains etc Lesser regions- wine - incidental; scenery fantastic Champagne (technically not South) two days

Posted by
10330 posts

It is good to see a little more specific information about your itinerary. I think you need to look further into renting the 2nd car. Both the added cost to return in a country other than the one you rented it in, and whether you would be able to drive it into Italy at all could be problems for you. Another issue you may not have thought of is lodging. Most hotel rooms sleep only 2 people. Sometimes you can find a triple room. I would guess that quad rooms are much harder to come by. You should definitely book well in advance if you are trying for a quad. You may find you will need to book two rooms in each location.

Posted by
635 posts

I'll be the wet blanket and say I think you're trying to do way too much. I see you zig zagging all over the place to try to meet everyone's objectives. I suspect when you're finished no one will be happy. Your Great Britain visit is too short and there's way more to see. Spending three days in the Costwolds is too long based on what else you're trying to see. It would also be more efficient to go there first from the airport. This would be less hectic than going into London for a too short visit and then heading back out only to return for the Eurostar. Two days is Paris? Why bother if you won't give it four days? Versailles is the granddaddy of all chateaus. See it and skip the rest on your mad dash. Do you realize how far Bavaria is from "south of Paris?" I suspect you'll be driving 8 or more hours without stops and there is much to see enroute. You could easily do 10 to 14 days in GB followed by Paris and vicinity. Alternatively, do GB and fly to Rome for a good time in Italy. Save Bavaria and Switzerland for later or fly to Frankfurt and tell the kids to suck it up. Ok, Ok, I'll stop. My suggestion is for you to get real specific about where you'll be and when. Go to ViaMichelin or Google Maps and plot your driving distances. Check train schedules when appropriate. You have a very complicated itinerary. It will be difficult to put together in any cohesive way without way too much travel time (IMHO).

Posted by
33123 posts

Ken from Katy's not wrong. You say, I think we'll only spend a couple hours at the leaning tower You may find its only 30 minutes to an hour unless you dawdle. You say, Castles & Wine south of Paris Most French chateaux are west (by southwest) of Paris not south. Best German castles are generally along the Rhine. French wine, as said by Brian, is everywhere in a country the size of Texas, and the great German white wines are on the Mosel and Rhine southeast of Paris. You really need to think of gaining more focus. I know you have done so, well done, but you need even more.

Posted by
788 posts

I think it's a lot of ground to cover in 30 days, though all the destinations are great. But you'll spend a higher percentage of your vacation time traveling than actually experiencing where you are. One thought: you're the parents, you pay the bills and make the decisions. They can go to Italy when they're adults and paying for it themselves. Cut out Italy. That being said, you want them to enjoy the vacation. Talk to your kids about why they want to visit Italy. Do they know about the Cinque Terre, and have always wanted to go? (Somehow I doubt that.) Same for Tuscan hill towns, Volterra, etc. It's possible that some of the places they want to see, or things they want to do, can be found in England, France, Germany or Switzerland. Plot out your travel times/distances for the entire family to look at and consider. When you tell your family that (for example) that it will be a 6-hour drive from Lauterbrunnen to Pisa (excl stops), they may be less interested. We've taken our kids (now 16 and 13) to Europe several times (incl England, France & Italy), cities and rural areas, but the rural areas we've gone to have always included things they were interested in, such as castles or Roman ruins. My kids are very interested in history and art, but I didn't/don't think they'd be interested in the more-adult activities that I associate with rural Tuscany, like drinking wine and enjoying the view. (I'd feel the same way about taking kids to the Cotswalds, except for the wine part.) Enjoy the planning, and it will be a wonderful trip!

Posted by
457 posts

Agree with the posters above. I think you need a few bases and then plan some day trips from these. When you say your children want to go to Italy, what are they interested in seeing? If they want to see the leaning tower that could be done as a half day rail trip from a base in Tuscany (eg Florence), its in a similar area as Lucca so with planning could probably be combined. Agree with Nigel, not much time needed in Pisa. If you want to climb the Leaning Tower you would need to book a slot in advance (+I think there are some age limitations). Would also recommend basing yourself in London for the UK portion of the trip. There is so much to do in London that I think your children will be spoilt for choice of what to do. If you want to go to the Cotswolds look for a day trip, London Walks - walks.com - do a one day trip by rail and coach. I can highly recommend their one day Cotswolds only trip (they sometimes combine with Oxford which is too much in a day IMO - OK if pushed for time and not expecting to return I suppose). You could also do other day trips from London to other locations depending on your interests. Could therefore dispense with car in UK.

Posted by
4132 posts

Pete, I think you'd be better off spending less time driving and more time in museums, castles, and mountains. Also, your wife is right. To me it looks as though you could save Bavaria for another trip. Also you do not need a car in Switzerland. So consider this. From Paris, drive east (not south) and tour Burgundy and/or Alsace. Dramatic hill town and cathedral in Vezeley, charming towns along the Serien valley and in Semur and Beaune (which makes a great base), a wine scene that is both friendly and world renowned, and they are building a castle at Guedelon using medieval methods. Alsace has many charming small towns and a German feel. Then turn in Car No 2 (avoiding drop-off fees) and take the train to the Berner Oberland. Get about on trains and lifts. Towns are mostly of the resort type but there is magnificent scenery and Gimmelwald is undeveloped. Train to Italy, and rent Car no 3. There are many charming small towns on or near this route, no need to drive to Bavaria. Read about these areas and you will be able to decide how to spend your time.

Posted by
813 posts

My suggestion is to streamline 'castles outside of Paris' with Bavaria and onto Switzerland. Add a few days on Paris, it's really fantastic. You should head east from Paris, to Strasbourg. Spend a few nights there, driving through the Alsace wine route to towns like Soufflenheim, Riquewihr and Eguisheim. You can leave the car in Strasbourg, or take it through Switzerland to Milan, that's up to your expense threshold. This section is France is a great sense of German and French beauty. You're really better off going this way than heading all the way over to Rottenburg odT, Munich, or elsewhere in Bavaria. Traffic can be horrific from Strasbourg to Munich and in the surrounding areas, you're better off taking the train or skipping it entirely. If you want off the beaten path castle to stay in, look at: http://www.chateauderosieres.com/mainuk.html It's so fun staying in a real castle out in the boonies. Head through the towns you want to hit in Switzerland, down through Milan, on to the Italian towns. Pisa is a total armpit of a town, you won't need long there.

Posted by
15640 posts

One more thing that I didn't see anyone mention. Most European cars are pretty small. Renting a large sedan or a van will probably be very expensive and a gas-guzzler and hard to find parking spaces large enough in towns. The smaller cars probably won't hold the 4 of you and your luggage too. Also, 2 kids cramped into the back seat of a small car for hours on end doesn't sound like a fun time. Friends of mine have rented villas quite cheaply in Tuscany for a week and rented a car to take day trips - Pisa, Lucca, San Gimignano, Siena and of course Florence. That might work for you if you drop the CT - it is scenic but not that interesting for kids, I think. The kids would probably enjoy climbing up the Leaning Tower in Pisa - you will probably have to reserve places in advance. The Rhine/Mosel area might be closer to drive to than Bavaria and has much to offer, quaint towns, great cathedrals, wonderful Roman ruins.

Posted by
1488 posts

Pete, You don't say if it's a first trip for you and your wife so I'll assume it is. Agree with other posters that your kids will find it hard to run out of fun things to do in London. They may get bored with 3 days in Costwolds. Having taken a few trips with teenagers I have found that they enjoyed exploring Castle Ruins, biking, and hiking much more than museums so be sure to get a good mix in. With all of the ground you want to cover have you looked into the possibility of rail passes? The other thing you might look into is Rick's 14 day Family tour of Europe which starts in Rome and ends in Paris. We ran into a "RS Family" tour group once in Bavaria and it seemed everyone was having a great time. Kids had made friends and were enjoying each other's company and parents seemed to enjoy having other adults to hang out with. You could consider doing the tour and then doing Great Britain on your own.

Posted by
8 posts

Sounds like a great trip! However,.... 1. not nearly enough time in Paris, the city cannot be done in 1 day. 2. Skip Pisa entirely. The leaning tower in interesting for all of 10 minutes until you're overrun by other tourists. Spend a day or two instead in Florence. (I know it contradicts my reasons for skipping Pisa, but..) Instead, take one of the double-decker tourist buses in Florence. You will get to see the city itself and all it's beautiful attractions, the home of Galileo, the Piazza de Michelangelo (best view of Florence by far), as well as the nearby mountain town of Fiesole. Apart from that, I'd bet your family would thoroughly enjoy this trip! Good luck!

Posted by
676 posts

Agree with others, add day to Paris. Take Eurostar London to Paris, kids will think it's cool. You want to visit quaint towns, is that what the kids want to do too? I know when I was a kid that would have bored the heck out of me....quaint villages, chateaus and wine is great for adults but for kids...??

Posted by
167 posts

In case your interested, here is the final itinerary: day-by-day spreadsheet Google Maps Route I really sought a balance between big city vs. small city, dry vs. wet, high vs. low, etc., with a ping-pong between rural and urban. With four passengers, car rental was a clear winner on flexibility and cost. On the mainland: rental car: 2,600 km (30 hours). I really tried to work rail into the equation but the rental car rates from London to Rome seem to be discounted (only a $250 drop feehard to believefrom Hertz). I really appreciated everyone's input and I heavily researched and contemplated everyone's feedback. Pete

Posted by
11507 posts

Did you figure in the gas and highway tolls, gas can run as high as 8 dollars a gallons.

Posted by
12040 posts

Based on your route, I'll repeat a recommendation I made in an earlier post. Stop off for lunch at Lindau. If you didn't plan for it, you're driving right by anyway.

Posted by
524 posts

Peter I have been following your Month Long Europe Trip threads. I have eye balled your initial itinerary and then your latest one. Yes, you have changed the order of your destinations but not the number of destinations, it seems to me. IMHO, you have too many places on your final itinerary and not allowed time to give yourselves a long 4 or 5 night stop in the middle of your trip. And I will be very interested in your wife and kid's post trip report in addition to yours. Bobbie

Posted by
96 posts

Wow, 30 days...nice! I noticed others suggested more time in Paris and I agree that you could definitely enjoy more time there, but I noticed France wasn't on any one's "must see" list so maybe 2 days is enough this time. I say, go with the thought that you will return some day and it is a city that you can fly into or out of on another European trip and see the sites that you missed the first round...something to look forward to. I also noticed that some have suggested you skip Bavaria to loosen up you schedule, but I think since it was on your "must see" list, maybe you should just go from England to Germany...skip France for another trip. Fly London to Munich...do some of Bavaria (use public transit), then head into Switzerland.

Posted by
167 posts

Because of you guys I discovered viamichelin.com. It's great! It says my trip will cost 450 euros (~$600?) for tolls, gas, and stickers. With parking, etc., I'm still expecting the car expenses to total around $1,700 for 17 days. I'm still exploring taking trains but it seems very very hard. Pete

Posted by
3696 posts

I think your trip sounds like a wonderful adventure and the balance of city and villages and traveling between them would work for me. My 9 year old grandson wanted to see the tower in Pisa, so we went...he loved it. The only way to learn how to travel is to simply follow your instincts. Everytime I read an itinerary that goes from big city to big city by train I realize that kind of trip is not for me (I have done it) Spending some quiet time with family in the Cotswolds just exploring sounds perfect. I think travel is as much about learning how to enjoy the subtle moments as it is the 'must sees'. I have taken 3 different grandkids on European trips and along with seeing the sights it was as much about the experience of travel and the unexpected sights as it was the planned events. I always bring art supplies (they love to sketch & paint) as well as a trip journal that is a must for them to fill out. They bring a book or two but no video games. I don't think kids need nonstop activity... It will have a lasting impact on their lives. I also make sure each child has their own camera. I can send you a link to see the journal I made for the kids and now they are so glad I made them do it each night. With a trip like yours they are likely to forget what they did the day before unless they write it down. It is really more like a trip log to remind them of what they did and it is a kind of fill in the blank with some places to write their own thoughts or sketch. I would also keep the car for when you have suggested. If you are bored in the Cotswolds...you just hop in the car and there is a new delight around every curve...just be sure they still have the experience of a train for part of the trip.

Posted by
34 posts

like other posters have stated, get in &out of Pisa quickly. not worth it

Posted by
33123 posts

Peter about the costs of driving - I haven't gone back and checked your threads so if this has been mentioned forgive me. The cost of fuel is very high here. In the UK diesel is more expensive than petrol by about 6 pence per litre but diesel cars get better mileage. In mainland Europe diesel can be quite a bit cheaper - it varies by country. For example I fill up in Luxembourg, Austria and Belgium for less expense. I avoid filling up in Italy, Germany and Switzerland (although until 2 years ago Switzerland was much cheaper). Its worth it to get a chart detailing relative prices. At the moment I am paying £1.40 per litre diesel if I look around. That's about £75 to fill my tank on a midsize car for which I get between 400 and 550 miles per tank. That's about $117 a tank.

Posted by
167 posts

Nigel, I figured $500 for petrol. ViaMichelin.com is quoting me $400. Still cheaper than the train, but I'm seriously considering doing trains instead.

Posted by
7 posts

It certainly is a lot of traveling. That much moving around will consume a fair amount of energy, and can cause some stress, especially when things don't go the way you've planned (which they will from time to time). Every family is different, and you have to think about how each of you will react. You should also reflect on how memorable these places will be to them, if they're being exposed to so much without having a chance to settle in. We tend toward the opposite approach. When we took our 15 year old and 11 year old to Europe for a 10 day trip a few years ago, we decided that one change of hotels over 10 days would be enough. So we spent 3 days in London for the kids and then took the Eurostar (which I'd highly recommend) to Paris, where we spent a week for us, with day trips to Reims and Fontainebleau. This spring, we're spending 10 days in an apartotel in Berlin, and living like temporary locals on a staycation.
One last thought -- if Italy is the kids' dream destination, they should have 2-3 full days in Rome.

Posted by
7060 posts

Peter, You've probably already booked much of this trip so this may be too late but I'll throw it in anyway. You got a lot of information from the posters (most based on their own feelings and experiences) but only you know your family and how they're likely to react to the itinerary you have planned. I'm going to assume that you have taken some fairly long road trips with your kids so you know how they handle long periods of time in the car. If not, I would suggest that you look carefully at your "expected driving time" between destinations. Websites such as viamichelin, mapquest, etc. give you driving times based on mileage and speed limits and that's all well and good. However, I have found (based on mucho long road trips in the US) that you need to add additional time to those times given. My experience is that on a day trip from one place to another at least 2-4 additional hours need to be added to the times listed on the trip websites. Their time estimates do not take into account, stopping for meals, potty stops, or "side trips" that look too interesting to pass up. In Europe this is even more likely than in the US because everything is new and interesting.
All-in-all your trip sounds wonderful and I hope your whole family has an adventure that they will long remember. Good luck and bon voyage.

Posted by
167 posts

Nancy, thanks for your input. Yes, I can imagine it will take quite a bit longer than the Google Maps time duration. For the last three days I've been seriously researching trains and I'm contemplating cutting Germany out of the trip (which saddens me because I'm half-German and have always wanted to go) but that would make it much easier (it's hard to get to Fussen from Luzerne).

Posted by
12040 posts

About ViaMichelin... I have found their estimated total driving times EXTREMELY accurate. Their estimates are based on not just the actual distances, but they factor in driving breaks, meals, road construction, the inevitable stau or two, and known congestion choke points. If the website says it will take 3 hours to drive from point A to point B, you can be pretty certain that you will arrive at your destination about 3 hours after turning on the ignition.

Posted by
11 posts

Most replies have given you great information but most have also disagreed with your long itinerary in a short amount of time. I'm telling you to go for it all. I've "power traveled" in North America on several occasions. We went to Alaska in our motor home and back to Michigan within three weeks. Was there more to see? Probably. But we saw what we wanted to, have fond memories and people still ask us about the trip five years later. I could give several more examples. It's not an enjoyable rest in Cotswolds for three extra days but that kind of traveling is very enjoyable to me. Keep your important stuff in your money belt and have a great trip.