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Europe with Teens
Is it still possible for middle class america to visit
Europe? My husband and I are hoping to take our 13 year
old daughter and 15 year old son on a 2 week trip to
Florence, Venice, and Paris (maybe Rome, too) in late
Any suggestions on how to eat, sleep and travel without it
costing a fortune?
One way to travel around Europe relatively cheaply is by
camping! That how the European middle class does it. Europe
is full of wonderful relatively inexpensive camp grounds
that most Americans never visit. My wife, then 14-year old
daughter, and me brought our camping stuff, rented a car and
spent 3 weeks driving around France 4 years ago. We were
always the only Americans but the campgrounds were full of
European families with kids. At one place my daughter made
friends with a bunch of Irish kids and we hardly saw her
because she was having so much fun with them. Another piece
of advice is to stay away from the big cities if you can't
Yes, home exchange! We're big fans. We've stayed in two
different houses in Europe now with home exchanges. It's a
great experience and so much cheaper than any other option.
We even exchanged cars, so our only expenses were airfare,
food, gas and entertainment. You could take a look at
www.homeexchange.com for an idea of what's available.
Home Exchange Fan
Peruse the Travel section at Barnes and Noble and buy a
few books on Europe. I always found the Frommer's Europe
From $__ a Day to provide all the information you are
asking about. The last version I saw was Europe from $85
A Day. I don't know if they've continued with updates in
this series, but the books are great--they give very
specific details about how to save money. There are
other ''cheap travel'' books--see what appeals to you.
Your desire to visit the famous capitals with your kids is
admirable and understandable, but those places are most
expensive, of course. One good option is to go to
www.vrbo.com, a listing service for vacation rental by
owners, so that you can kick back, make your own meals,
etc. But though cheaper than hotels, the places within
the cities themselves will be very expensive. You could
try the suburbs; there was a listing in St. Ouen just
outside Paris for a little over $125 per night that would
house all of you: http://www.vrbo.com/185916
Or one just outside of Rome for $825/week:
Or one near Florence:
But it might be fun to try a different kind of vacation.
You could choose a base out in the provinces (for
instance, there was a listing for an entire medieval stone
house in Tuscany for 500 euros/week), rent a car (which I
just did with my son for not too much money in Britain),
and use the provinces as your base of operations. This
introduces you and your kids to village life and allows
you to get to the big city fairly easily (the car can be
parked at a nearby rail station for city trips -- the
national rail companies have great deals for families,
railpasses are too expensive now). On such a short time
frame this would probably mean that you would need to
select one country, but the experience could well be
deeper and richer (and not so exhausting) and cheaper.
Feel free to write to me directly to chat about European
travel if you like. It can be done!
Bon voyage/Buon viaggio
We went to Paris in August and it is expensive to eat. Add
maybe 30% to restaurant prices here. No problem to find a
$40 nothing special hamburger. We took the time to find
restuarants that students would typically eat at and were
pleased with both the cost and the quality. We were able
to keep costs down by shopping at markets and bakeries
every day. I would do it again.
In answer to your first question, no it isn't really
possible. We recently spent two weeks in France--2 adults
and 1 teen, and it cost $12,000, including airfare. We
didn't scrimp while we were there, but we didn't indulge
either. So you may want to go elsewhere.
To make it cheaper, try a home exchange--we did for one
week, and definitely rent ap'ts if you can't--more
comfortable, about the same price as hotel, and you can eat
one or two meals a day in the apt, which saves money.
It was fun, but we won't be going back soon!
Hi. I am travelling to Europe for the first time in my life this
summer - hopefully for 3 weeks - with my two teens, a boy 13 and
a girl 15. I'm a single parent so I am looking for any creative
ideas to do this trip on a tight budget. We're thinking of
Paris, train to Avignon and see the Pont du Gard, Provence, over
to Cinque Terre, amble through parts of Italy (still to be
determined) and fly out of ?? to take advantage of ''open jaw''
airfares. Any advice? Anyone know of flats, hotels, that are
reasonable and clean that you can recommend? I'm willing to do a
home exchange if anyone knows of friends in Europe who want to
come to the Bay Area. Any places appealing to teens? Any advice
I took my 14 year old son to Europe a few years ago (just two of
us). I wanted to keep it simple so we went to Paris, Normandy
and London. They were all great spots for us. He especially
liked taking the train on day trips in France(which was easy and
economical - I found we could just buy the tickets at the train
station). In Paris we stayed at Hotel Leveque on Rue Cler which
is a pedestrian only street with a great produce market plus
bread, cheese, wine. My son was able to go out by himself and
get crepes at a stand on Rue Cler. Web-site says 125 Europs for
a room with 3 beds. In Normandy we stayed in Bayeux at le Lion
dC"b"Or, took the train, walked to the hotel, then rented a car
there. Lion d'Or is beautiful and reasonable and a good central
spot for the Caen Memorial, WWII beaches, cemetary and other more
rural site seeing (eg Calvados, dairy cooperatives). In general
my son liked taking the subways, trains, eating, climbing all
monuments with steps (e.g., Eiffel Tower, Arc de triomphe) street
performers, not museums. I found one sight-seeing event a day
was all he was usually willing to do. PS - the sewer tour in
Paris is great and only takes an hour or so, English speaking
guide. Can't seem to talk anyone into doing it but it was very
interesting, only a slight odor!
Mary in Oakland
In Paris, your teens will probably like many of the regular attractions -- the Eiffel
Tower, touring Notre Dame, climbing the old, old stairs leading to the top of Sacre
Couer. I would also recommend La Samaritaine (wonderful view if you go all the way
up to the roof). Thursday food markets and Sunday morning flea markets are really
fun. I'll bet your teens will like touring the Catacombs and seeing what was done
with the bones when Paris cemeteries were moved as Paris grew + they'll get to
learn a bit about the resistance movement during the war. Maybe get a book about
Paris art & museums and let them each choose one or two works that they really
want to see in person -- the Mona Lisa or Venus de Milo in the Louvre, Van Goghs
or Seurats in the D'orsay, really old tapestries in the Cluny. The three of you will
have a terrific time.
Check out Fodors.com and go to the talk section, Europe forum. It is an incredible
website, very active and detailed. Look at other posts, do some searches and then you
can post yourself and get some great advice. Have fun.
We did Europe last spring break & it was fabulous. We got tix
on travelocity for $310 roundtrip (could have been $255 if we
were flexible on dates). We rented a gorgeous 2 bdrm apt in
downtown Paris, 4eme quartier for about $60/night. We had our
own kitchen, bath, etc and were able to eat-in most meals since
the restaurants weren't appealing (and cost $50-60 for
a ''cheap'' meal). The grocery food was plenty adventurous for
We also skipped taking taxis. We walked all over Paris. It
takes only a few hours to walk the entire length of downtown
Paris. (The taxi drivers are beyond rude.) You can take other
public transportation if you want to get out to the Loire
Valley, etc. but our two weesk were plenty full with Paris
We got our appt through www.parisianhome.com They spoiled us &
made it all so easy. I can't believe it's the cheaper option to
go through them (or a similar company). Even the scummy hotels
cost more than they do. Actually, the youth hostel was the same
price as our apt. (Hostel price is per head so if you have
three people, which I did, it added up to $60/night.)
Incredible what you can find when you shop a bit.
Specifically for teens: The internet cafes cost a fortune,
about $10/hr per terminal, so let them know ahead of time that
they won't be online much. Also, there is an amazing
rollerblading night (every Monday??) where they shut down a big
chunk of paris & let bikers & rollerbladers take over. We
didn't do it, but saw it. Amazing. We also got headphones for
all of the museums (rental about $5) and it deepened his
experience. There's probably more. check out a guidebook or
email me if you have questions.
I am taking my 14 year old son to Paris and London. I have 4
days in the middle. Any suggestions? Normandy? Amsterdam?
Other parts of France?
mary in oakland
This is not a recommendation of another place to stay,
but I thought since you'll be in Paris, you should know
about Parc Asterix, located 30 km north of Paris. It's an
amusement park with a European flavor, vastly different
from Disneyland. The rides are not nearly as wild as
what kids are used to here, but if your son is open to
new experiences, he surely will enjoy it. You can learn
more at their imaginative web site:
Traveling with a 14 yo in Europe can be delightful as long
as they have a voice in what you do. Bruges, Belgium, is a
wonderful, medieval city. Also, Beaune, in the Burgundy
region, is delightful and very manageable.
If you are interested in a place to stay in Paris, contact
me. I can tell you about a reasonably priced centrally
We took our 14-going-on-15 year old son to London & Paris last summer, and
had a great trip.
The best thing I did when planning the trip was ask him what he wanted to
see. His answer: Castles. That led to some of the choices we made.
We had two additional excursions - 3 days in Bath at the beginning of the
trip, and an adventure in the middle of the Paris stint, out toward Dijon,
to a wonderful town called Chateauneuf. It was small, with an old castle
right in the middle - the town (and the castle) was not all "restored" and
fixed up for tourists yet, still "off the beaten path" but had several
places to stay & eat. We rented a car to go there, and were just 2 days out
in the country (Paris--Chateauneuf--Dijon--Paris), but that was quite
I just asked my son what he would recommend, and he said he liked both Bath
and Chateauneuf, but his first reaction was "make sure things aren't too
rushed, so that they are not just spending a little bit of time in each
In London, he loved the trip to Greenwich, he loved going to the top of St.
Paul's, he loved the huge expanses of parks in the middle (we did a lot of
In our Bath visit, we spent a day on the Mad Max tour, which took us out to
Stonehenge and other areas. http://www.bath.org/tours/madmax1.htm The guide
books say Stonehenge overrated. I kind of thought so too (plus it was
POURING rain), but he loved going there (to say he'd been, as much as
anything, I think.) We also spent a day going to Avalon, which we all
enjoyed. Took local buses to get there from Bath, wandered out to the Tor,
relaxed in the Chalice Well garden. Our son has always loved the Arthurian
legends, so that was a hit. Also in Bath took an evening walking tour, which
Have a great time!
Re Europe...my 16 year old son and I visited Paris and London last summer.
We took the train from Paris to Amsterdam and really enjoyed the contrast of
a smaller, easier to navigate but very interesting city. We had the luxury
of staying with a friend so I don't have a hotel to recommend. But
definitely visit the Resistance Museum in additon to Anne Frank's home (go
at 6 p.m., open until 8 and much less crowded).
I'm thinking of taking my 12 year old son to Europe in
August, probably Paris and London. I've only been to
these cities in the spring or fall. Is August an OK
time in terms of weather and crowds to go to these
cities? Any specific recommendations for kids beyond
the obvious tourist sites?
European Trip for 12 Year Old: Make certain to check whether anyone will
be "home" in France in August. I remember someone telling me that August
is the official vacation month there, when most of the country takes
vacation and many (shopkeepers, restaurant owners, etc.) leave for their
vacations outside of France. I'm not sure it's true, but it might have an
effect on your trip. anonymous
As a native of London I would recommend anyone to travel there. However, the
school year for the UK tends to end at the beginning of August so if you
want to find less crowded kids attractions, I would try to go in July, or at
least avoid the last long weekend in August which is a national holiday. As
to kids attractions, there are two websites which have sections for kids:
Www.thisislondon.co.uk or www.timeout.com/london/
Good luck and hope you have a lovely holiday. If you have any other
questions, please feel free to email me directly (email@example.com).
We were in London and Paris this past August 2001 with
our 13 and 8 year old boys. It was a fantastic trip
and great weather (60s and 70s in London) 70 - 80s
in Paris - intermittent but warm sprinkles - Favorite
activities included: London - Cultural: Westminster
Abbey (really - my son had read the David McCauley book
"Cathedral" and was able to relate to the architecture
- ("flying buttresses" have now become a family joke)
and had fun trying to decipher the latin on all the
crypts. The Bishop of the Abbey give a 2 minute
secular welcome during the midday - and then walks
around talking with the visitors. He was delightful
and told my sons great stories of kings and battles
and politics of Church and state. The Old Tate \
Gallery Turner paintings are action filled and also
a great beginning to European galleries. My 13 year
old like the action of Leicester Square and Picadilly
stores, and also liked the boat trip to Greenwich and
the Royal Maritime Museum ( a must!!) and Royal
Observatory - as well as the steet flea and book markets.
In Paris we especially enjoyed the climb to the top of
Norte Dame, playing tennis in the Luxenbourg gardens,
biking at Versailles, and watching the finnish of the
Tour de France on the Champs Elysee. The Louvre and
D'Orsay were great and my sons "got into it" - just
have to take it in small chunks and balance the day
between cultural and physical activities..
In reply to what to do with a 12 year old in Paris --
there is a book called "Around Paris with Kids - 68
great things to do together" published by Fodor's.
We are living in Paris for a year with our 12 and 4
year old and this book has been a great resource.
Some of my kids' favorites -- Invalides (and the Musee
de l'Armee with Napoleon's tomb), the Natural History
Museum, Cite des Sciences et Industrie, and, in the
summer, all of the parks are great -- both the Boulogne
and Vincennes are huge. Also, if you rollerblade,
there is a group that organizes roller blading around
Paris on Friday night and Sundays (probably more low
key) -- we have not done this yet (because of the
weather) but have seen them and it looks really fun.
There are also groups that organize bike tours of Paris
-- one meets on the Ile de la Cite (behind Notre Dame)
-- this also seems like it would be fun (although again
we haven't done it!). Both of these (and contact
information) are listed in the Fodors book. Both my
kids loved Notre Dame -- not the inside, but the climb
to the top. Finally, (and maybe as a special treat)
Parc Asterix, while maybe not exactly what you are
envisioning as a Paris vacation, is right outside of
Paris, and is a lot of fun, especially for a 12 year old
who might be tiring of museums.
The main thing I found in taking my kids (aged 10 and 12)
to London last summer, was that they like to be consulted
before you go - I'd drawn up a plan of what I wanted
them to do, but I'd failed to do what I usually do,
which is go through it and discuss it with them, read
stuff about it, show them pictures and so forth. Because
I didn't discuss it, I didn't realise that they would
prefer to go to the Test Cricket match at Lord's than
go to any cathedral whatever, they loved going up the
Monument, hated the boat cruise on the river - just ask
and at least he'll have some sort of investment in enjoying
it. Get a good guidebook and go through it together
looking for ideas - 12 year olds really are a pain when
they decide what you want is boring. NB coming from the
US in summer is really useful, because the jetlag means
you're ready to get going early in the morning, before
the rest of the (endless) crowds.
Europe at twelve sounds great! You may want to check to
be sure attractions you want to see are open. Most of
France goes on vacation in August -- which means some
things will be open, but some things will be closed.
I assume most museums and tourist attractions would be
open. The weather should be fine. Warm, occasionally
with rain (like the real world as opposed to the Bay
Be sure to allow lots of time for people watching.
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