We're off to on a Family Adventure to Europe & the UK in December/January - coming from summer in Australia (very hot, very dry Western Australia) to what I'm expecting will be a very, very cold indeed (for us, anyway!) winter . Regarding travel through France & Italy - what are the pros and cons of Eurail OR hiring a car & driving? Still undecided as to what option to take, and would be keen to hear other people's experiences/thoughts.
The con of Eurail is that it probably is. Eurail is an agency which will mark up ticket prices. Or are you thinking of the likely foolish purchase of RailPasses? Each country you mention has it's own national rail company where discounts might be found with pre-planning or the normal purchase of point to point tickets will likely eclipse the cost of any purchase from Eurail.
Without knowing what kind of 'adventure' this will be, i.e. where and what you wish to see, whether you will pre-plan, 'wing it' or a mixture, for journeys on public transport, it is not possible to advise what transport will work. Probably, train, car, bus (read coach) and maybe flight will all have a place. A car will be wasted in many cities, costing extra in parking fees, but you will not see much countryside without one.
Here is a huge resource for train travel - http://www.seat61.com/
Thanks so much for that - seat61.com is a great resource; cheers. We're going with a mixture of plan it/wing it...Once we leave Paris, we're aiming to see the countryside in France, but in Italy it's mostly Rome/Florence/Venice, so I'm not keen on having a car there. UK is definitely car hire (once we're outside of London). I hadn't considered the national rail companies in France and Italy as an option, and it's a good idea...I'll look into that.