Paris, Loire Valley, Dordogne, Carcassonne, Provence (Il sur la Sorgue home-base), Cassis (Calanques!), Cinque Terre (Monterosso home-base), Florence, Rome (Trastevere home-base), Amsterdam, and back to Paris (totally serendipitously, for the FINAL DAY of the TOUR de FRANCE!) -- June 19-July 26 2017-- mom (me), dad, and kids 14, 12, and 9 --
I came to these forums throughout the Spring of 2017 to get advice and fine-tune. The trip was flawless (if you discount the incessant sibling bickering and the sweltering heat). We hit every major site we wanted to see with plenty of room in our schedules for spontaneity and rest.
We got advance tickets for:
Vatican (did an early tour w/ Roman Guy)
Colosseum (reserved a tour through coop culture)
We waited in line for:
Cave Paintings in the Dordogne
Miscellaneous chateau's and castles
We rented a car in France, but took trains and buses for the rest. We stayed mostly in airbnb's throughout (2 B&B's). I am a penny-pincher, and we couldn't afford this trip otherwise - my goal was to spend an average of $125/nt for the 5 of us, and I did, and the places were all great. Kids were free at many venues. I got a very cheap airfare RT to Paris. And lastly, we did not eat out for the 4 months before we left. Literally, not once. This is how we were able to take this trip (and because my husband was able to work every day of the first 18 days of June and the final week of July to make up for time off).
I can offer details about many of these places if you want details. For example, we stayed in an amazing B&B in the Dordogne L'Oustel de Vezac - that was inexpensive, slept 5, had a pool, and delicious breakfast! Also about our luggage - Osprey backpacks for 4, and a small backpacking pack for the 9 year old.
Thanks to all who responded to queries about waiting in line for the cave paintings, and how to get tickets through coop-culture (which we did successfully in the middle of the night in a hotel bathroom - so as not to wake the kids - the night before departing for Europe), among others.
Next dream: Greece (and Croatia) ;)