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Our First Trip To Europe

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1. Posted by Luv4God (Budding Member 18 posts) 10y

My children (ages 19 and 14) and I will be travelling to Europe for the first time this year. Here are my plans:

Arrive in London May 27th and visit the various sites. My niece lives in London so she will be a bit of our guide there. I found a website called lhslondon.com that referred me to a "bed and breakfast" in London in Lanhill Road, W9 (Zone2. I'm a bit leary of using this service versus staying at a hotel but it is only 300 pounds for 4 nights.

On May 31st we will take a train to Paris and stay at the Relais de Paris République for 3 nights. We will see the usual sites and attempt to soak up the local color.

On June 3rd we will fly (via Ryanair) to Venice (are the flights really as cheap as they look or is there a catch?). I'm still trying to find reasonable accomodations in Venice.

We will be in Venice for 3 nights and will return to London on the 6th to catch our flight back to the states on the 7th.

We are doing this completely on our own so I have a few questions. Can you recommend a good, inexpensive day tour in each destination?

I'm confused by the European rail passes. What kind should we get (if any at all) and how much will they cost each?

If we can actually fly roundtrip to and from Venice for less than $100 per person -- will that be cheaper than taking a train?

I keep reading about pickpockets in Europe. Should we really wear money-belts or is that overkill?

Not knowing French or Italian -- will the language barrier be too much for us travelling on our own? I've purchased books and CD's on both languages.

My kids want to visit Disneyland in Paris. What's the verdict on the park?

I've dragged my kids all over the US each summer for vacations and they are adamant about not wanting to visit a dozen museums and not having to see every single tourist attraction.

With that in mind -- what are some of the must sees? If we had to visit 1 museum, 1 castle, 1 monument, etc. in each destination.

Is it true that just people watching in Venice is entertaining enough to fill a full day?

Thank you so much in advance for any insight you experienced world travellers can provide.

2. Posted by Peter (Admin 5789 posts) 10y

Sounds like a good trip :)

I found a website called lhslondon.com that referred me to a "bed and breakfast" in London in Lanhill Road, W9 (Zone2. I'm a bit leary of using this service versus staying at a hotel but it is only 300 pounds for 4 nights.

Bed and Breakfasts are generally a great way to stay in Britain. I would recommend staying in B&Bs over hotels any day. Though the full English Breakfasts can be a bit much after a while.

Not knowing French or Italian -- will the language barrier be too much for us travelling on our own? I've purchased books and CD's on both languages.

Lots of people visit both places without knowing a word of the local language. If you can learn some key phrases, your life will certainly be easier, but you can get by without it. Hands are usually a good option. And of course, the translation for 'do you speak English' is a useful one :) In Italy, I found people are very willing to speak English and almost seemed to prefer it over bad attempts at Italian.

With that in mind -- what are some of the must sees? If we had to visit 1 museum, 1 castle, 1 monument, etc. in each destination.

Can't speak for Venice, but in Paris:

1. Museum - the Louvre or Pompidou (if you prefer modern art)
2. Church - Notre Dame or Sacre Coueur
3. Monument - Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe
4. Castle - for some reason, no castle comes to mind in Paris. Versailles is a day trip.

There is no way you will run out of things to see in Paris in 3 days!

3. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 10y

I'm a bit leary of using this service versus staying at a hotel but it is only 300 pounds for 4 nights.

  • Blink* That is 25 British Pounds per person per night. Not bad, that is only 4 pounds more than the official IYHA youth hostel price for a bed. Not to mention that in England B&B definitely is the way to go. You could do it cheaper with a family room in a private hostel, though. Check accomodation at the top of this page for suggestions.

(via Ryanair) to Venice (are the flights really as cheap as they look or is there a catch?).

Ryanair gives you only their price without the surcharges like airport taxes, security fees, sales taxes, booking supplement, etc so that in the end the price is twice as much as the original quote. But they're still great value, especially if you book well in advance.

I'm still trying to find reasonable accomodations in Venice.
See above: "accomodation" on the top of this page. Alternatively try to find something in Mestre, the industrial town opposite of Venice - decent hotels for a fraction of the price. And Venice is only 20 minutes away by train.

We will be in Venice for 3 nights

3 nights in Venice? That's too much, one night will do nicely if you arrive in the morning and leave with a night train in the evening. You could easily add Verona or Florence.

Can you recommend a good, inexpensive day tour in each destination?
Murano for Venice.

I'm confused by the European rail passes. What kind should we get (if any at all) and how much will they cost each?

You could buy
-Eurail Saver for you and Eurail Youth for your kids or
-Eurail Select Saver and Eurail Select Youth or
-Eurail France 'n Italy Pass Saver for you and Eurail France 'n Italy Pass Youth for the kids
but it would only be worth it if you travelled by train all the time. (= no flights, taking long distance night trains more than once and travel by train during the day)

Three people is also about the limit at which a car can become more cost effective than buying individual rail tickets. Look into renting a car.

If we can actually fly roundtrip to and from Venice for less than $100 per person -- will that be cheaper than taking a train?

If you got only that trip, yes. But if you need to make several such hops (going to Florence), a rail pass might be a better idea. You just need to compare prices, that's all. Flights vs Railpass vs individual rail tickets.

Usefullinks:
http://www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html
http://www.eurail.com/
http://www.voyages-sncf.com/

I keep reading about pickpockets in Europe. Should we really wear money-belts or is that overkill?
Always wear a moneybelt when travelling. It's safer and one less worry. You stick out as a tourist in most places and attract attention. It's only an investment of 10 dollars for a cheap money belt, and can save you so much trouble. (Just like international health insurance - I would never leave without it.)

Not knowing French or Italian -- will the language barrier be too much for us travelling on our own? I've purchased books and CD's on both languages.
In Venice? Are you kidding? The tourist guides there are fluent in every language possible language including Estonian and various dialects of Chinese. And the average French or Italian will try either their best to string a few words together or look guilty if you gabble at them in English, because they know they should be able to understand you after all those lessons in school. In hotels, restaurants and the touristy sites you will get by without a word of another language. (Paris Hilton didn't even know that people spoke other langugages than English in Europe. That's telling, huh?)

My kids want to visit Disneyland in Paris. What's the verdict on the park? I went there and I loved it, but then I was 14 and my siblings 12 and 5. There is plenty for older folks too, so if you haven't been to a Disney outfit before, go there.

what are some of the must sees? If we had to visit 1 museum, 1 castle, 1 monument, etc. in each destination.
Piazza San Marco and the Cathedral San Marco in Venice. London: The Tower of London, the British Museum and maybe a musical. The London Dungeon is not the best sight, but popular with teenagers.

4. Posted by amanecer (Respected Member 203 posts) 10y

to check the real price you've to pay with low cost airlines you've to simulate to buy a ticket.
london gatwick -venice with easyjet (round trip) leaving the 3rd of june coming back the 6th cost about 100euros per person(I try today, but the prices changes very quickly.)
the same route with ryanair cost today 63 pounds per person (90 eur)but you leave from london stanted and you'll land in Treviso, 40min far from venice.
(bmibaby is definitely too expensive..352 eur per person..).
I don't know the cost of the train, from london to venice by train you have to travel for 19 hours and 30min......

if you stay only 3 days in venice I wouldn't suggest you to reach florence, which add other 4 hours by train to your travel, but instead to visit the surroundings. Murano/burano islands by boat,treviso, padova, verona, by train are good options, easy to reach and not too tiring.

I agree with maia about the accomodation: search in mestre, because venice is too expensive.

A moneybelt where you keep money, cards and documents is a good idea (to travel everywhere, not only in europe!)

As for organized tour, I think local tourist offices can provide you a lot of references in that sense..in Paris I remember a nice night tour on the boat along the river.I was 12 and I really appreciated (so maybe your sons could appreciate as well).

don't worry about the language.if someone don't understand you just ask another person..usually people speak a little english, and try to help you (hand language:) )

5. Posted by Luv4God (Budding Member 18 posts) 10y

Thank you so much for your replies. You have been very helpful. If anyone else has anything to add -- that also will be appreciated. What a wonderful resource this is!! Thanks again.

By the way - does everyone think 3 nights in Venice is too long?

6. Posted by Luv4God (Budding Member 18 posts) 10y

Forgive my multitude of questions but I wanted to run another thing by you experts. . .

I've received 2 responses to my inquiries regarding Bed & Breakfast facilities in London. One from athomeinlondon.co.uk and the other from www.lhslondon.co.uk. Has anyone ever used either of these services?

Below are the proposed accomodations. Please let me know what you think. I must confirm or decline within the next day or so. Thanks in advance.


  1. 1


CHISWICK, Pleydell Avenue, West London [on website: Zone 2, Ref 47]. Victorian house in quiet residential street, a short stroll to the River Thames with its traditional pubs and riverside walks. Shops and restaurants within 3 minutes walk. Owned by a friendly couple. He's a lawyer and she works in administration in the Health Service. No smoking in the house as owner has mild asthma. 2 minutes walk to Stamford Brook tube station [District Line]. Approx 15 minutes to Knightsbridge & 20 minutes to Piccadilly Circus by underground. Own keys so you may come & go as you please. Parking permit available for £4.00 per day.

MAP: Go to www.multimap.com and type in the hosts postcode W6 0XX

ACCOM: Second floor overlooking the garden a spacious family room [brass double bed 5 feet/152cms wide], further single bed [2 feet 6 ins/76cms wide] and sofa bed suitable for one guest or 2 small children. Cot available for child up to 2 years. En suite bathroom with bath & shower, toilet and basin. TV/video, refrigerator, trouser press, tea & coffee making facilities. Generous continental breakfast served in attractive conservatory.

NIGHTLY ROOM RATE: £82.00 for 3 guests including breakfast, reservation fee & tax

TOTAL £328.00 inclusive

Reservation fee on booking to At Home in London £88.00

Balance to hosts in cash within 24 hours of arrival £240.00

HOW TO RESERVE: When we receive your reservation fee of £88.00 full details of this home and directions will be emailed to you. You may pay the reservation fee by Visa, Mastercard, UK Maestro ONLY, Delta, or Solo, or by sterling cheque drawn on a UK bank. Email us your details with confidence using our secure messaging service at www.athomeinlondon.co.uk/secure quoting Host Reference above. Let us know your card number, expiry date, valid from and valid to dates and name & address of cardholder. If you prefer, fax us these details. Our office hours are Monday-Friday 09.30-17.30 hours with 24-hour voicemail, on which you may safely leave credit card details. Receipt sent on request.


  1. 2


Thank you for your enquiry. We have made the following provisional bed & breakfast booking for you . If you wish to confirm, the deposit and booking fee can be paid now by Bank Transfer, by Registered Post in £ Sterling or Euro. OR by Visa, Mastercard or Access credit card, (if paying by Credit card, it is safer to telephone or fax. your Details or send in 2 separate E-mails).

Full address and telephone number is only supplied after receipt of Booking fee. If you wish to accept, we need to know where and when you arrive (which airport or station).

Number of nights
4

Type of room(s)
1 Twin + 1 Single

Bathroom(s)
Private

Street
Lanhill Road, W9 (Zone2)

Nearest tube station
Maida Vale (Nr.Paddington)

Approx. minutes from station to home
7

Approx. minutes from station to centre
12-15

Rate per person per night (pounds)
£25

Total accommodation cost
£300

Additional booking fee
£11

Amount payable now to secure booking
£41 = 30 + 11 (Deposit+fee)

Balance payable to host in Cash on Arrival
£270

Arriving at: ????????? Time: ???????????
Bed linen + towels are supplied

Self-service Continental breakfast included

DESCRIPTION:

This quiet flat is situated in a good residential area of London about 7 mins.’ walk from the tube station, with a journey time of about 12 -15 mins. to the centre. Bus 6 (2 mins. walk) takes you to Oxford Street in about 10 mins. and also goes to Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. The flat is self-contained with two twin/double bedrooms and a bathroom. The living room has a pullout double sofa bed and a TV. There is a kitchen recess (NO COOKER), but, there is a microwave, toaster, kettle, egg-boiler and refrigerator. The flat is well equipped and has a payphone for incoming and outgoing calls and a hairdryer for guests’ use. There are no pets. Continental breakfast is provided on a self-service basis. On-street meter parking nearby.

FROM HEATHROW: Take Piccadilly Line tube Piccadilly then change to Bakerloo Line to Maida Vale. Or, take Heathrow Express to Paddington and either Bakerloo Line tube to Maida Vale or a taxi.

FROM STANSTED: Take Airbus A6 (4 per hour) to Baker Street then take the tube (Bakerloo Line) to Maida Vale.

FROM LUTON: Take Green Line 757 Coach (3 per hour) to Baker Street and Bakerloo Line to Maida Vale.

FROM WATERLOO: Take Bakerloo Line tube to Maida Vale.

FROM KINGS CROSS: Take Central Line tube to Baker Street and Bakerloo Line to Maida Vale.

FROM GATWICK: Take Gatwick Express to Victoria Station, then EITHER change to Victoria Line tube to Oxford Circus and Bakerloo Line to Maida Vale OR take Bus 16 to Maida Vale.

FROM VICTORIA: Take Victoria Line tube to Oxford Circus and Bakerloo Line to Maida Vale OR take Bus 16 from Victoria to Maida Vale.

FROM LIVERPOOL STREET Take Circle Line tube to Paddington change to Bakerloo Line to Maida Vale.

7. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7273 posts) 10y

In Paris, I took a one-hour tour of the Seine on a Bateau-Mouche (if memory serves, you embark on the quay across the river from the Eiffel Tower). A friend recommended it as a good way to get your bearings and get a tour of the city. I found it helpful to see where the main attractions were located, and you got a quick bit of history of the place, as well. Plus it's just a really nice way to sit back after a long flight.

In London, there's a walking path located along the bank of the Thames. It brings you by all the main attractions (Parliament, St. Paul's, The tower of London, etc.) and gives you a beautiful view of the city. It was a great way to spend a day (I only had 3 days there) and didn't cost a cent!

And for Venice, I've booked reasonable accommodations through Cross-Pollinate. I'm only leaving in May, so I can't recommend any particular attraction - although I hear a gondola ride is a must!

Enjoy your vacation! It sounds wonderful.

8. Posted by t_maia (Travel Guru 3289 posts) 10y

My favourite area to stay in London is Earl's Court, at the border to Zone 1 and 2. From my experience anything outside the circle line is too far for my taste from the city center. From that perspective, both your locations aren't that swell. Take a look at the tube map:

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/pdfdocs/colourmap.pdf

The more tubes stop in your area, the better. Since I know the District Line and its quirks I'm leaning towards the second option, but there is of course no guarantee that the Bakerloo line won't leave you stranded too. Best do your own research. Here are some sites to check upon the area you will be in - crime stats, shops, the people who live there, etc.

http://www.upmystreet.com
http://www.londontown.com/LondonPC

And this is for transport within London, if you haven't found it already.
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/

9. Posted by Luv4God (Budding Member 18 posts) 10y

I'm putting the finishing touches on our trip. Thanks for all the input and I will glady hear any additional thoughts/ideas about my plans.

Somewhere along this journey I wanted to take a scenic trek. I thought this would be by train from London to Paris (but silly me -- I didn't realize the Chunnel is underground) then I thought it could be by train from Venice back to London (but flying is by far the cheapest way to go), then I thought we would just take a train for a day from Venice to Verona and back (but I'm not sure if that will take too long).

Lastly, I was wondering would it be crazy of me to think that I could rent a car and drive from Venice back to London?

Every time I look at an option, I just keep going back to the conclusion that flying just makes the most sense economically.

Any ideas about half day jaunts in or around Paris, London or Venice?

Thanks in advance.

10. Posted by tway (Travel Guru 7273 posts) 10y

You can always take a day trip to Versailles, just outside of Paris. It's a short trip by train, and the gardens make for an absolutely amazing half-day's walk. Plus the palace is beautiful, so long as there aren't a throng of tourists squishing you like sardines. The gardens are always quiet, though, since they're so very big.