We are a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kids) and wanted to know the approximate travel cost for around 3 weeks whirlwind tour through Western europe? The following is one of the sample itinerary of a group guided tour and it's going to cost me around US $25000 including everything (Visa, travel tickets, food, accommodation, attraction tickets you name it). Will it be cheaper if I did this myself and drove through from France to Spain myself in a rental car for example? Any ideas/pointers? Thanks.
England: London 3N, Windsor, Oxford
France: Paris 2N
Belgium: Brussels 2N
Netherlands (Holland): Den Hague, Amsterdam
Germany: Titisee,Cologne, Mannheim 1N
Switzerland: Schaffhausen, Zurich, Lucerne 3N Engelberg, Lauterbrunnen, Jungfraujoch, Interlaken
Austria: Wattens, Innsbruck 1N
Italy: Venice, Padova 1N, Modena, Florence, Rome 2N, Pisa 1N
Vatican: Vatican City
France: Nice 2N, Eze,Cannes
Monaco: Monte Carlo
Spain: Barcelona 2N, Madrid 1N
Firstly, I would perhaps rethink your trip in terms of the number of places you want to see. With an itinerary like that you will spend most of the time travelling between places and hardly see anything of them when you are there. For example, you have Florence - not staying overnight, Pisa one night - do you stay in Pisa and visit Florence? - in which case you won't have much time in either, then Rome two nights, which is only one day in Rome, Vatican city which you would see whilst in your one day in Rome presumably? Sorry if I sound a bit harsh but the majority of the trip will be spent travelling, and with 2 children, is probably not something you want to do. If you have three weeks and you want to really see something of the countries you will be visiting I would think of staying in 3, possibly 4, places and seeing as much as you can around those areas. Where you stay obviously depends on your family's interests, the main things you want to see, and more practically on travelling between the 3/4 bases, but I would really cut it down. You may 'see' the sights on a whirlwind tour but you won't really have time to truly see the cities/towns that you are staying in (and you will probably need another holiday to get over it!).
Regarding the cost, that converts to 18,500 euro - that really is to me an extortionate amount (although perhaps it is usual for a trip of that type). I live in Italy, just outside Rome, and we have a holiday apartment near to Cannes, south of France. I have just been there for 4 weeks. One way flights with Easyjet from Rome to Nice were 141 euro in total, for three (we drove back). Car hire for the first 5 days was 130 euro. To drive from Nice to Rome (not recommending you do that but just for the price), costs around 150 euro for petrol and motorway tolls. For accommodation, we didn't pay as we have our own apartment, but to rent somewhere the same (3 bedrooms) would cost around 3,500 euro for 4 weeks. We spent around 2,000 euro for the 4 weeks there, which included food, a few meals out (we eat at home most nights), attraction tickets, etc. In August I am going to Paris with my son for 4 nights, our return flights are 251 euro, and 416 euro for the hotel. we will spend around 100 euro for entry into museums etc. So, our 4 week holiday, including accomodation, flight one way, hire car for part of it and driving back would have cost around 6,000 euro . Obviously for your trip you would have to add on the costs of flights from your home, and travel between cities, but I still think it would be cheaper (especially since the area we have just been to is very expensive).
I am sure if you decide where you would really like to go, look at the travel costs between those places, hotels or apartments to stay in, price of attractions you want to visit you will find that it will be cheaper. Also, if you book yourself you can control some of the cost, e.g, you don't have to eat in restaurants all the time, some places you will find cheaper accommodation that is suitable. If you book yourself you can also go to the places you really want to, rather than being restricted by an the tour.
I hope this is helpful, as I said before sorry if I sound a bit harsh but you do seem to be looking for cheaper alternatives.
Hey there, Thank you so much first of all for the prompt and great/detailed response. It is definitely useful and not harsh at all. That itinerary is of course not set in stone but I just copied over from the travel planner who gave me/us that price. We have lived in the US for more than 15 years and now live in India and hence we can drive. To tell you the truth, I am going to use this site to build my own itinerary and show it to you if you do not mind. Also, from whatever I have seen, we may need to spend 4 weeks in Europe which tentatively are distributed as London 4/5 Days, Paris 2/3 Days (yes, even with Kids we are not visiting Disney since in the US we lived in Orlando, FL and love Disney world better than Disney Land even), Amsterdam 2 days, Munich may be a day, Zurich/Lucerne 4/5 days and finally Rome and vicinity (Basically Italia) 4 days. Spain will be "optional" depending upon the length of the drive, our own enthusiasm left after such a long and exhaustive trip and so on. My wife wants to instead visit Berlin for 2/3 days too and hence I am not sure if we will be replacing Spain by that (of course not from Rome to Berlin but it between). So in short, that itinerary is not at all mine but copied from whatever pamphlet I got from the travel company.
What I am initially looking for is whether we should do it on our own (since we have traveled extensively in the US with rental cars pretty much), as a family and for a little cheaper than US $25K that we have been told it will be if we accompany their guided tour for around 22 days. If Europe is pretty much like US as for the ease of car rentals and accommodation (we usually book in advance) and fast food (pastas, pizzas and burgers are great) etc., I believe you are saying we should do this on our own.
If you get a few moments, will you be able to tell me another "fear" we have in our mind as for the availability of vegetarian food options in Europe? I mean we eat meat except for my wife who does not even eat fish ... dairy is okay. We have been told she will go hungry for that long at least through France and Germany. Is that correct?
Thanks again for your great response and please, no need to apologize since for trips of this nature, real facts are important and necessary even if they are harsh (which you were not at all by the way).
Your wife will not go hungry in Germany and France - believe it or not there are Vegetarians and even Vegans in Europe too haha no but all jokes aside - you wll definitely find Veggie dishes for your wife.
Virtually every restaurant will have at least one vegetarian option on the menu, and if they don't, you can ask the waiter to just have the cook make one. Worst case it'll be just a large salad. In Germany this will definitely not be a problem; I have no personal experience with France since I've started paying attention to this, but I can't imagine it being otherwise.
For a bit more certainty, you can use happycow.net to scout out some vegetarian-friendly restaurants before going out for dinner each day.
WOW, great, thanks a lot for the re-assuring (for my wife's food choices I mean) responses. Since I can see one of the responses is from a moderator, again can I have a similar re-assuring answer regarding rental cars, accommodation and how (or rather) whether it may be indeed cheaper for a family of 4 than US $25K? Also, we are planning this in Apr/May of 2015 ... so we believe we do have time on our hands/side for booking everything ourselves and of course enough in advance too - right?
Do it independently, absolutely. Tours often try to include a lot on their itinerary and you rush through. On your own you can at least set a proper pace and do it fully.
Western Europe in general is pretty vegetarian friendly, even if you are in a place with not many veggie choices on the menu they will understand the concept and try to accommodate you.
FWIW, that I have a "Moderator" behind my name doesn't mean anything where travel knowledge is concerned; it just means I have some janitorial duties wrt cleaning up spam and stepping in if arguments get very heated. To judge how trustworthy people's comments are, you'll mostly have to just consider them rationally yourself; see if there's concurring opinions from other posters, and do your own research based on pointers you get here.
The car rental situation in Europe is not quite as good as in the US, since individual countries have weird quirks, while the car rental companies only prepare cars for the country in which you rent them. You're allowed to take them to most other European countries, but you're responsible for additional requirements yourself. For example, Germany requires your car to have a green environmental sticker before driving into many of their inner cities, and if you rent a car outside of Germany, it won't have that sticker. (Then again, you're almost certainly safe ignoring that requirement, as there's no checks done for it, and the fine for not having one is relatively low. Plus you can always play the "I'm just a stupid tourist, and I have never heard of this ridiculous requirement before" card, which should meet with understanding.)
Also, the distances you're talking about travelling here are rather large. Amsterdam to Munich takes 7 hours (count on 8 with rest stops and traffic jams), Zurich to Rome takes over 8 hours. That means you're wasting complete days just sitting in a car. I strongly echo starwizard's comment about how much you're trying to cram into the trip. Either stick to a geographically smaller area, or take significantly more time, and add in a whole bunch of halfway points. One long day in a car with children might be survivable, but multiple instances of that, just days apart, is not going to lead to good memories.
Maybe consider taking the train (of even an occasional flight) between major cities, and renting cars locally for just a few days if you want to see surrounding locations.
I don't have any experience with average accommodation costs for a family of four, but all the same I'd say €100-€150/night should find you very decent places. Car rental shouldn't cost you more than €40/day (excluding gas) - maybe €50/day in high season for a large-ish car (but even B category should be just fine if you're not bringing outrageous amounts of luggage) - assuming you manage to string destinations together in a loop, so you can return it to the same country. (I don't know if one way rental between countries is even possible at all.) Food costs could be between €100 and €200 a day, depending on the age of your children? If you find self-catering accommodation, it should be very easy to stick to the lower bound, there. Then do the math based on that and some searches for what flights would cost you. I suspect you'll come out to less than 70% of the cost of the tour. (Note: very rough off-the-cuff estimates here; expect a very large margin for error.)
[ Edit: Edited on 24-Jul-2014, at 09:57 by Sander ]
Great, Thanks a lot to everyone for their views. I believe we are going to venture it out and do it on our own Again, we are calling a couple of my friends in London and Munich and they also concur I believe.
As our travel dates are nearing and our plans are set in stone (well, if not store then at least a little flexible building material), I will upload my itinerary and may be ask specific questions regarding cities we plan to visit.
Thanks again everyone, best regards, Sunil.
This forum gave me great advice when we went on a three week European trip. Keep it simple. Choose 3, maybe 4, countries to visit. We did Germany, Switzerland and Italy (Rome, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terra). This was in December. We did rent a car and paid about 800 Euros. Overall, we spent about 7,000 US$. We booked our own hotels, made our own tours, did our own thing and it was awesome.