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BOE 14 Days starting June 22 - Ideas for first trip with teens

My husband and I have signed up for the BOE in 14 days starting June 22 with our 18-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son. We are very excited to take our kids to their first trip to Europe. This will be our first RS tour. I would love to hear from all the seasoned pros on the free time on this tour. Should we plan in advance what we want to do on some of the free days/afternoons, or just wait until we arrive and get the recommendations of our guide? For example, tickets to a show in the evening, a special hike, dinner reservations? We are not sure what to expect in this area.

We are arriving a few days early to see some London highlights with a family member, then will take the Chunnel to Paris a day early to visit the Eiffel Tower. After the tour we are staying over an extra day and plan to do a food walking tour from 10:30-2:30. I've received the first (Paris) and last (Rome) hotel and have booked these at each end for our personal time as well.

I would love to get recommendations on key highlights & fun things to see and do while visiting these places that are not included in the tour.

Thank you very much for your input. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the posts in this forum!

Posted by
8586 posts

My recommendation is to have a general idea of what things you might want to see (i.e., read the guide book), but don't over plan. There is fun in spontaneity, and who knows what friends you will make among the group and want to hang with. Yes your guide will be able to make suggestions. Sometimes free time is rest time, and you may not all want to stick together every bit of it.

Posted by
8501 posts

Here is a London suggestion for you. The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London is an interesting experience. Tickets are free (at least they were when we went) , but you need to write for them in advance. A small group (around 30) of people witness the Ceremony of the Keys (Locking the Tower at Night) and spend time on the Tower grounds when it is not over run by hundreds of other people. We really enjoyed this and I think it would appeal to teenagers as well.

Posted by
809 posts

I'm seconding the recommendation of Ceremony of the Keys, and I believe starting in 2015 you can order tickets on their website instead of writing and enclosing an international postal order. My daughter and I did the Ceremony a few years ago, when she was in her mid-teens, and we LOVED it! So much that we went back to tour the Tower in the daytime, just so we could spend more time with the Yeomen Warders.

Another fun stop for Americans is Ben Franklin's house, on Craven Street. It's the only house he lived in that's still standing. And while you're in London, think about a play or musical [on your second or third night... NOT the first! I speak from sad experience.]

We have done one RS tour, and I wouldn't worry about trying to plan out your free time beforehand. Our guide was great about providing options, and that way you can let weather/your energy levels etc. guide your decision rather than being committed to something. My memory is that she organized a few things like the marionettes in Salzburg one evening for those who were interested.

Have a great trip, and I hope this is the first of many! Your kids are very lucky!

Posted by
14157 posts

First, know that I am a major planner. I enjoy it and it is my comfort zone. In spite of this, I am with the others on having a general idea on what you might want to see but then playing it by ear when you are on the tour. Your guide will have suggestions or you may decide to do something you researched. You may be pooped and decide to chill out in a sidewalk cafe or you might decide to do something with another family. You may be cathedral-ed out and decide you all need to find some green space.

I have not done the 14 day tour, but did the 21 day tour this Fall. I had general ideas for the big cities, but only actually followed thru on one item which was seeing the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

If your guide offers any optional activities (dinners, gondola ride in Venice, mountain hiking/gondola ride up a mountain in Switzerland) DO THEM!!! Especially in Switzerland. It will be a little expensive for the 4 of you, but just include it in the budget. I think I paid 120 Swiss Francs for the optional day in Lauterbrunnen Valley and it was the best day of the whole trip. Wow, I just get chills thinking about how much fun I had that day!

Posted by
656 posts

I highly recommend Paragliding in the Alps. It will depend on the weather of course. I did it in September and it was unforgetable!!

Posted by
16894 posts

I'd say that the free-time activities most of our tour members choose don't need reservations. You might make a restaurant reservation for Paris, especially on a weekend, but would rarely need one in Munich, for instance. The primary exception to that "rule" is if you want to visit Rome's Villa Borghese art museum, which recommends advance reservations. Your best opportunity for theater will be in London. Tourist-oriented concerts in Venice are easy to access on the spot; opera and other major performing arts in the big cities don't tend to run in summer.

Posted by
13 posts

I would recommend booking the Eiffel Tower in advance if you are interested in visiting since it is not something we cover on the tour and can sell out quickly during different entry times. To avoid the lines you can book tickets in advance at

Posted by
82 posts

Wow! Thanks everyone for all of the great suggestions! Thanks Kathleen & Carol about the Ceremony of the Keys recommendation; I had never heard of this and ordered my tickets online last night for our visit. We are looking forward to this! We will look into visiting Ben Franklin's house.

Pam - I am a major planner too, but I will do my best this time to gather the family feedback of general areas of interest but not over-schedule our free time in advance! Thanks for the tip about the Switzerland optional day - we will budget for that accordingly, as this sounds wonderful.

Chani - I will check out the scrapbook sites you mentioned - thank you!

Steve - I'm not sure my family will be up to the Paragliding in the Alps, but it sounds amazing!

Laura - thanks or the tips - we are planning on purchasing tickets for a theater event for one of our London nights.

Tara - thanks for the link on the Eiffel Tower tickets; definitely plan to do this. I was looking into the "EasyPass" type tickets - are they worth it for skipping the line & small group tour, or will the advance booking direct will be just fine?

My family and I are so very excited - it will be a long 7 months awaiting our dream trip!

Posted by
3 posts

Just made deposit for Best of Venice/Florence/Rome with my husband, 18-year-old and 17-year-old sons. These are fabulous tips, thank you! How are you handling the rooming situation since the policy is children under 18 must room with a parent?

Posted by
333 posts

In London, my daughter and I really, REALLY enjoyed our "Jack the Ripper Walking Tour". It wasn't scary, but had just the right amount of "creep factor" for my daughter (who was 19 at the time). It takes place shortly before sundown and has a lot of interesting information and "theories" about the JTR murders. We booked that through viator dot com and it wasn't too expensive. We also booked a day tour to visit Stonehenge/Lacock/Bath, also through viator. We paid a bit extra to tour Stonehenge at sunrise and to be able to walk among the stones. Most Stonehenge tours keep you behind a fence that circles the stones, so you're about 30 feet away. Our bus drove through the morning fog and then, POW, there was the stone circle. It was a great atmosphere! A guide was there to tell us about the stones and answer questions, otherwise, we were on our own. It was quite spectacular to watch the sunrise and the fog lift as we walked around. Highly recommended! After time in the gift shop we drove to Lacock. Lacock is a perfectly preserved English town that looks like it did in the 1700's (and earlier). It's the town where scenes from Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice were filmed (among other movies). We did a tour of the town, stopping at the building used for Hogwarts School, Harry's childhood home, etc. We stopped and had breakfast at the George Inn, which dates to the 1500's. The charming pub houses it's original dog wheel, where special breeds were put to run and turn the meat on a spit over the fire! Out back is a reproduction stockade, perfect for that wacky family photo. In Bath we saw Jane Austin's house and then were turned loose to explore the Roman Baths and the attached interactive museum. Very interesting for all ages! We tasted the terrible Bath water (it has steam coming out of it, lol!) and took lots of fun pictures. We had just enough time for a quick and tasty scone with clotted creme before catching the bus back to London. A great day! Other fun, kid friendly London things: the Hard Rock Cafe (London has the original), the theater, walking around near the London Eye, you can visit Jubilee Gardens there, there's a park, carnival rides, characters walking around, people selling their art or charming snakes or performing illusions- all on the street and bridges. Take a cruise on the Thames, or walk around Buckingham Palace and explore.

In Paris, take the kids to the Catacombs! The underground burial tunnels are fascinating! Just be sure to get there about an hour before opening (opens at 10 I think) to secure your place in line, as the line can get to 2-4 hours long! It's very cheap to get in though, about 10 bucks per person.

Have a great time!

Posted by
82 posts

Thanks rankster for the added tips!

mmrentrop - in response to your question, RS has a waiver that we signed to allow our 13-year-old to room separately with his 18-year-old sibling.

Posted by
11507 posts

In London my kids loved the Tower of London.. the Victoria and Albert museum ( it has the old clothes and stuff they used in every day living.. not just rows of paintings,, which can bore kids)
Absolutely recommend the Imperial War Musuem.. its literally the most moving museum in London ( to me) .. the Holocaust section the "how the Londoners lived during the war" sections were amazing.

In Paris I second the Catacombs.. I don't love it.. but my kids did.. and yes arrive BEFORE it opens.. the lines can be long and slow.

For Eiffel Tower go on the official website and try and buy timed entry tickets. If you don't get them ( most folks can't , they sell out fast.. do try for second floor too though) then take the line up for the STAIRS.. the line there may be 30-45 minutes long.. but the line for the elevators can be HOURS long.. no kidding. The stairs are doable.. I did them and I am old and fat.. just take your time.

Posted by
795 posts

@Rankster- those are some great suggestions. We've done them and they are all perfect for both teens and adults. You have wonderful taste in travel.