We are a kiwi family consisting of two mid thirties adults and two pre teen girls 10 and 12 who
are selling our house and planning a trip to Europe in 2009 around May - July.
Any advice would be fantastic as we have never been out of New Zealand!!!!!!!!!
I have a brother who lives in Belgium so will definately be visiting there but also
want to travel to France, Italy, Greece and anywhere else recommended.
AT the moment our travels will only consist of 7 weeks but if we can figure out another
plan longer would be great.
Look forward to hearing from any similar families who have embarked on such an
I am not a Kiwi and do not have kids, but here is my advice regardless.
Try to go as early as possible as prices skyrocket in July. Flight tickets as well as prices for accomodation, sometimes even food in restaurants in very touristy places.
Cheapest way to travel with a family like yours is either with a campervan or with a car and 1-3 tents. Note that you cannot bring any used tents back into NZ, so unless you got a good spare tent lying around somewhere renting a campervan is your best option. (Normally travelling with car and tents is cheaper, but the potential cost of buying tents would eliminate the savings. Good tents that are rain proof aren't cheap, you cannot pick them up for 25 dollars at a home depot store.)
Try to plan on spending 2-3 weeks per country and 4-7 days in big cities like Paris, London, Rome. So in 7 weeks you got a decent chance of seeing France, Belgium and some of the Netherlands.
[ Edit: Edited on Nov 7, 2008, at 4:54 AM by t_maia ]
I would add Spain to the list and start there first as weather is normally very good in May. Weather elsewhere in Europe can be very hit and miss throughout summer. Distance are such that you might consider flights. There are a number of cheap airlines which can be booked from an internet cafe. Maybe hire a car, see what you want to see, then fly elsewhere?
As has already been said, prices go up noticeably in July but equally important, everywhere becomes full of tourists and holiday makers, so detracting from the experience. Accommodation is expensive though that too can be booked on the internet. One way car rentals are expensive and towns of any size are often not friendly to campervans. Traffic can be a bit hectic and rush hours are to be avoided.
Do watch out for petty theft at tourist sites and don't leave anything valuable in your vehicle when not in it. Do not leave any apartment windows open when not there. Do buy some good road maps/atlas and in large towns, street maps are often cheap and helpful. Collision Insurance is expensive but should be considered. Be careful where you park as in some areas, they tow away. Also be careful of speed cameras.
Each country in the trip needs a lot of planning, deciding on where you want to go and what you want to see. Filled baguettes in France are a good snack and better than spending a fortune at a pretentious bistro. Buy fuel at supermarket stations when possible as motorway fuel is a lot more expensive. You can also stock up on food and drink while there.
My suggestion is that you plan to do most of your travel by van (as previously mentioned) or car. Whether you want to do much camping or stay in lodgings depends on how much of a camper you are.
For a vehicle, I would check out the various short term lease programs offered by various European manufacturers. Although I am most familiar with that of Renault, others have it too. Leasing is much less expensive than renting. In fact, some renting companies let you use the vehicle for only 3 weeks. Then you have to return it to the same country from which you picked it up, or you have to pay a heavy droop-off charge.
Generally, I would pick central locations (cities) in the various countries you want to visit and stay outside of the city in a place close to a commuter rail line. This way you can take inexpensive day trips into the city, using some of the heavily discounted tickets available. Having a car in nearly every European city of some size is a pain and expensive for parking.
For the location, I would pick a place that is in the direction to where most of your day excursions will be. Take Munich, Germany: There I would stay along a rail line that goes south, southeast or southwest from Munich , the direction you would most likely take to get to the Alps or places like Fuessen (Neuschwanstein castle) or Lindau (Lake Constance. For some of the trips, I would leave the car "at home" and take the train. For example, for a day trip to Salzburg, a car would be a nuisance in that city. You and your family can ride all day on a single Bayernkarte ticket for EUR 28. There are many such regional day tickets available all over Europe. To check train schedules, go the websites of the various national railroads. My favorite is www.bahn.de, the site of the German Railways (Bundesbahn). It covers not only Germany, but many of the adjoining countries.
As for places to stay, other than campsites, look into vacation apartment rentals. They are usually available for one or more weeks at a time. Contact the tourist office of the town where you plan to stay. They usually can be of great help.
If you have access through a library check out the Green Michelin Guides (touring and sightseeing information) and the Red Michelin Guide (for hotels, but more importantly the addresses, phones and fax info. of the various cities or towns you want to visit)
If you want more info., let me know. I am particularly familiar with Belgium( I lived in Brussels several years) and southern Germany, Austria and northern Italy, the area near where I grew up.