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1-month Europe trip for a family of 4 (2 kids 10-11) by Eurail

I plan our VERY first trip to Europe for a family of 4 from mid July to mid August, 2016 with the following itinerary. I haven't bought any train or flight tickets within Europe as of today May 13 except for our flight tickets between USA and Berlin. I booked most of the hotels (cancelable) using rewards points or Cash.
We have travelled extensively in Americas and Asia, so our objectives of this trip is to visit as many places as we can within reasonable expenses.

We will fly to Berlin then stay in Berlin to visit relatives for a few days so our trip only counts (or starts) when we leave Berlin. I have a full 4 weeks excluding time in Berlin.

Day1-3:train travel from Berlin to Prague stay in Prague for 3 nights
Day 4: train travel to Budapest stay for 2 nights
Day6: train travel to Vienna stay for 2 nights
Day8: fly from Vienna to Venice or may take a train to Venice, stay in Venice for 2 nights
Day10: train to Florence stay for 3 nights
Day13: train to Rome stay in Rome for 4 nights
Day17: fly to Paris and stay in Paris for 4 nights
Day21: train to Brussels and stay in Brussels for 3 nights (will have a friend to provide day trip to Bruges)
Day24: train to Amsterdam and stay for 3 nights
Day27: train to Berlin spend 1 night in Berlin before flying back to US

I was wondering if anyone can help to comment on the above itinerary on

  1. Should we buy a Eurail Global Pass with 10-day flexible? (Kids below 12 years old are free but need to pay for each reservation) Or should we buy a shorter and fewer countries pass at a much lower cost then combine with point to point train tickets in certain countries where the train tickets are low to save cost.
  2. We kind of prefer to fly from Rome to Paris and from Budapest to Rome as Ryan air tickets are inexpensive and these are longer distances to travel by train (overnight train costs more than flight tickets plus hotel) but we are open to any suggestion on what is the best combination of tickets and routes to save time and cost? Again, other than the 4-week window, we are flexible to adjust the length of stay at each location.
  3. I wanted to add one night in Luxembourg. Is it possible and is it worth to visit using Eurail pass?
  4. There are reservation fees (from $18 to almost $100/per person, kids pay these fees too) on every single trip I mentioned above with Eurail pass except for Brussels to Amsterdam (free with Eurail pass).

I am open to modify my itinerary to visit more location (if doable) and to book the best combination of train pass/flight/other means of transportation so save cost and best utilize our time in Europe.

THANK YOU!

Posted by
5281 posts

Regarding Budapest to Venice on RyanAir -- just note that this is NOT a daily flight, so make sure your days work with the schedule; Treviso Airport is further from Venice than the main Venice airport, but doable with bus.
Price our point-to-point trains, especially in Italy.

Posted by
12040 posts

The only way to answer your question is to do the math yourself, unless some really kind soul out here in Ricknik-land volunteers to do it for you. You will need to go to the websites of the various national rail companies and plug the numbers. Be aware of the various discounts available for advanced booking. These can be substantial, sometimes up to 75%. And do NOT rely on the prices quoted on Eurail or RailEurope for anything other than the passes they sell. They quote only 1st class ticket rates for the most expensive trains plus their own mark-up. The website mentioned earlier (The Man in Seat 61) offers a great tutorial with minimal commercial bias.

For most travelers, third-party passes are probably the single most expensive method of rail travel, and with the limits and supplements many of the national companies require for pass holders, the convenience factor has plummeted. However, for a minority of travelers, such as people taking several very long train rides between major cities who can not commit to an exact schedule, they may represent a good option. Looking at your itinerary, a pass might be a reasonable option for certain portions of the propsed trip. But you'll need to do the numbers to find out.

Posted by
3580 posts

If you want to see other places or stay longer at some of the earlier ones, I suggest you cut Brussels and Amsterdam from your list and spread those 6 nights to Venice and others. In the middle of your trip you may be ready for a few days of a more relaxed nature, maybe in the Florence area. There are good day trips from there and walking around is easy. In Italy it is generally agreed that point-to-point tickets are cheaper than rail passes.

Posted by
17642 posts

To help you make the comparison (pass vs P-P tickets), there are ECs from Berlin to Prague via Dresden in 4½ hours. Right now, on the Bahn website, I see advance purchase ticket for late July at 58€ for 2 adults and 2 children under 15. For 9€ extra you can get family seat reservations. That's 9€ for all four seats, not each. But you'll pay that for seat reservations with or without a rail pass.

I see almost the same thing for Amsterdam to Berlin for 78€. So 136€ for those two days, or 68€ for each day for all of you. How does that compare with 2 days of the rail pass.

I saw eight days of rail travel on your original post, but it looks like one or two of those days can be replaced with point to point tickets. And several days of travel in France, Belgium, and Netherlands are on Thalys, and you can probably to as well with point to point tickets on Thalys vs a rail pass and the high cost of passholder reservations (actually a surcharge). Plus consider that passholder reservations are sometimes sold out for a specific day on Thalys.

Posted by
904 posts

Ricoppnv, you may get more response if you post your question under General Europe in the Destination Q&A drop down. This section is mainly for persons that have already traveled and are providing information or their Trip Report of what they did, liked, disliked & recommendations. Or even the Transportation section.

Posted by
7165 posts

Forget the Eurail Pass - overpriced and seat reservations are EXTRA. Don't know why people even consider those things any more. Just buy point to point and save a boatload of money. Glad you haven't bought them yet.

Flying Rome -> Paris is the right thing to do. EasyJet also flies that route, and I would much rather fly EJ than RyanAir.

Posted by
16761 posts

Rail Europe does not quote only first-class ticket prices; anyone selling tickets will offer both. Also, the fastest trains are good choices for this trip.

Half of the trains on this itinerary do not require seat reservations. The DB train schedule link is the best place to get this info. No seat reservation is free in any of these countries but also none will approach anywhere near $100 per person. A bunk on an overnight train is usually under $50 per person in a 4-passenger couchette. Paris-Brussels by Thalys is the most expensive daytime reservation at $25 in 2nd class or $35 in 1st class (whether your pass covers Benelux or France or both). Others (whether required or optional) cost $12 through Rail Europe and €4-10 at train stations.

Rome-Paris train reservations had some online issues in the past two weeks, so that might have been a reason you saw higher numbers (reflecting separate tickets, not reservations). I agree that flying to and from Italy sounds better than 10-13 hour train rides with the kids. But that still doesn't get you down to a cheaper 4-country pass.

If you chose a Eurail Global Flexi pass for 7 travel days within a month, you'd pay $550 per adult for 1st class travel, plus a few seat reservation fees, and kids free. That's about the same amount that I estimate for an adult buying 2nd class tickets as you go at full fare; kids would travel free on some or half-price on others. Advance purchase discounts can reduce these ticket costs if you're ready to lock in dates and times. So cheapest is to fix the itinerary and book 2nd class tickets soon, at least for the longest train rides and the flights. [Edited] The pass has the advantage of covering 1st class, with most reservations available on short notice (except that Thalys has a more limited number).

Posted by
15573 posts

Do not fly Ryanair from Rome to Paris. They fly from Ciampino Airport near Rome, not too bad but a bus ride from Rome. But they fly to Beauvais, which is a long way from Paris. A long bus ride into town. Better would be Easyjet to Orly (or CDG if you get a better deal).
Brusssels to Amsterdam is free on Eurail because you are taking the slower IC train, maybe with a few connections on the way. The Thalys does it much faster, but the Eurail reservation can be more than the cost of a separate advance purchase ticket.

And yes, I thought this was a review of a completed trip initially.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you all once again for your wonderful inputs. Yes, even with the free passes for our 2 children, we found that Eurail is not a good option for us. I revise the trip a little by switching to go to Budapest prior to Vienna to take an overnight train to Venice afterward. Seat61 is a very good website. I have no clue about what Rome airport to take so your advise on Ryan and Easy Jet is just great.

I still don't know whether I can take a day trip or spend a night in Luxembourg since I haven't found a good train from Paris to Luxembourg then to Brussels. Also, I look for your recommendation on decent but affordable lodging in Venice near the St Lucia station.

Posted by
13927 posts

I know you didn't ask about your proposed itinerary, but it is very fast-paced, especially for a family. When you visited America, did you also string together lots of 2- and 3-night stays? It can be more challenging in Europe, where you have a different language with every move (except Italy), different bus/tram/metro systems, etc. When you figure how much time it will take for each move (door-to-door), allow time to find your train, not just get to the station. Are your kids are fast packers and will they move quickly with their bags? You may find that you lose more than 1/2 day for a number of your moves. 2 nights in a city gives you one full day to see it. When are you going to do laundry? Shop for supplies (all the labels in foreign languages and the packaging may be unfamiliar). Is that going to be enough time for you to see what you want? 2 weeks at that pace is tiring, you're planning 4.

For flights on budget airlines, watch out for extra fees - carry-on limits are low and can be strictly enforced, add in charges for checked bags (and time to check them and collect them), are you okay with not sitting together on the flight? There may be a fee for choosing your seats.

Posted by
16761 posts

There are a few direct TGV trains per day from Paris to Luxembourg this summer, reservation required. But I don't recommend adding it. Any extra time that you feel you have can certainly be spent in Paris, or in smaller Belgian and Dutch towns that will give you a much different experience than all these big cities. You might also prefer to home base in a smaller city like Ghent instead of Brussels.

Posted by
4 posts

I agree on Luxembourg and that my itinerary is very fast-paced. So we remove Luxembourg out of the plan. In general, we have at least one or two full-day at most locations. We travel light and the kids are very efficient. I just need to get all the details on how to get to each location and book the hotels at convenient locations to minimize commute time. I saw flight tickets from Vienna to Venice is quite pricey and odd hour so we may try the over night train option.

It would be great if anyone can help to comment on hotel location that is convenient (not too pricey) to catch the train. I will be using some free nights on points with Marriott.

Thanks

Posted by
4073 posts

A hotel in Vienna with Marriott points? What are your options?

Posted by
4 posts

I can get free room at Courtyard Marriott Vienna Prater/Messe on points. I read reviews on Tripadvisor and it seems ok as most courtyards are not centrally located but with very easy access to main attractions.

I consider AC Hotel Firenze and Courtyard Rome central park or Rome Marriott Park hotel. They seem reasonable and I maybe able to take advantage of my Marriott Gold membership. But since I want to best utilize my limited time in Italy, I also look for non-chain hotels right at the popular area.

Lodging in Venice is still a big question mark for me.

Posted by
1 posts

What a fantastic trip you have planned. I hope I can help with some advice. My family and I (two children 16 and 12) have been travelling through Europe every summer since 2009. We live in Oxford, UK and every August we pack up our car and travel down through France, into Germany, staying in the very beautiful Black Forest, through Switzerland and into Italy. We have become 'old pro's' at getting our trip 'right'. If I was to offer any advice it would be to take into account the heat in Italy in July/August. Florence, in particular, can be unbearable and you will find that the only people out and about are tourists! Italians will keep to the hills during the day and then, about 5pm, when the heat dies down, they comes out of hiding. Remember, everything in Italy is open late. For us, the important, thing is always, to book somewhere that has a pool. This doesn't come cheap in Florence city, unless you can afford the Four Seasons! My advice would be to stay up in Fiesole up in the hills above the city. Seriously stunning views, they children will be happy (nothing worse than bored/hot children) and then in the evenings you can venture down into town. There is a great bus service connecting villages around Florence and taxis are also quite cheap compared to back home.

I would also suggest Verona (the home of Romeo & Juliet) rather than Venice in the summer. Venice will be over run with tourist and will smell. They have a terrible problem with their rubbish/garbage. February is the time to visit Venice during Carnevale and when you can see the mountains in the distance. SO beautiful.
Oh, and more importantly, you seem to have completely missed the italian lakes off you itinerary!

Loads more ideas/suggestions if you want them.

Posted by
4073 posts

The Courtyard at Prater/Messe is in a really weird location. Nothing of any interest in that area. If it is free, I guess I could understand, but....

Messe means expo hall, so this hotel is meant to cater to folks going to the various expo halls.