Hello everyone! I'm new to this forum and this is my first post, so I apologize if this is answered elsewhere. This is our first trip to Europe from the US WITH our children! We are making plans for the first 2 weeks of June 2013. We are very excited and hope that our children enjoy the trip. First, let me say that I realize that our 11 y/o and 9 y/o daughters are not going to "appreciate" the trip as my spouse and I did last year, nevertheless, we would like to make it educational and fun for them! In my mind, I feel that we will want several days in each place, hoping that it will break up the monotony of being in one place for too long. With that being said, I also don't want to wear them (or us) down moving from place to place. We will be packing light and I am making sure that each B&B we will be staying at will at least have a washing machine. I hope for each person to only have one carry on bag...wishful thinking??? Maybe I will add that we love walking, our kids are good travelers as well... We love to be with the locals and always steer clear of Hotels, usually opting for B&B's. We love budget friendly trips, allowing us to travel more often. Here's our itinerary in a nutshell with my current mode of transport included. Any and all suggestions or changes are welcome!! I am willing to rearrange the order of stops, totally eliminate or add new destinations!! Bear with me please, this will be lengthy!! As of right now, this is what I have:
Fly into Rome, spend 4 nights. Here we plan on doing the typical: Colosseum, short version tour of the Vatican mainly to see the Sistine (due to their young ages) and then on the St Peters, Castel Sant'Angelo, the fountains, Spanish Steps, Borghese Gardens, Mouth of Truth photo and lots of pizza and gelato!! Maybe a bike rental afternoon at the aqueduct park?? We will be doing self/audio-guided tours and will purchase all tickets in advance to avoid lines. From Rome, take Sena Bus from Rome to Siena (approx. 3 hour trip)
Have our Tuscany base in Siena, spend 3 nights in Siena. Arrive first day, walk around to get our bearings, check out a few sites, have dinner. Day 2 take 1/2 day trip via train (1 hr, 45 min) to Pisa (my husband and I have been there, done that, but this is the ONE thing the girls have asked for, so I feel that we have to do it again), return to Siena and do more sight seeing that evening. Third day, take bus to Florence (1 hour ride) site see for the day in Florence which I realize is not enough time. I just feel that by this time, our girls are going to be all "church'd" and "museum'd" out!! At least we will get to say we saw it, ate there, etc. On the fourth day, wake up and take the train to Cinque Terre via La Spezia to catch a local train (about 1.5 hours total) to Monterosso.
Spend 4 nights in Cinque Terre...my husband and I only had one day there last year and can't get it out of our minds!! Also felt this would allow a little rest time for the girls in between big cities and also some beach time, as we will be there in June. We think our base will be in Monterosso only due to it having the largest sandy beach for the kids. Having 4 full days there, we hope to do easy hiking, lots of eating, some beach time and possibly at day trip to Portofino if not too tired?? Then on to Venice...
Take train from Cinque Terre (Genoa vs. La Spezia??) to Venice with a train change in Milan. Spend 3 nights in Venice (or less??) Do the main sites and then this is where I start to flounder around Is 3 nights too much?? Is it worth visiting the other islands: Murano, Burano, Lido with the kids??
Then on to Paris..
Take a Thello night train to Paris. This just sounds fun to me, has anyone taken this train?? It leaves Venice around 8:30 pm and arrives in Paris at 9:20 am and costs approximately $300 US total for all 4 of us to have our own private 4 berth cabin with bathroom. Just thought it a cool/different/fun option for the kids and maybe a bit easier than arriving at airport 2-3 hours early for international flight, transports to and from airport with kids, etc. Plus, they get to sleep while traveling and not something we get at chance to do in the States. I realize there are also cheap flight options with RyanAir and EasyJet for something like $50-70 each.
Spend 3 nights in Paris and do the typical sight seeing with kids. Any suggestions of best neighborhoods for families and within walking distance to major sights/restaurants?? My husband and I have been to Italy, however not Paris, so my research on Paris is just beginning.
To all of you who have taken the time to read through all of this, I truly appreciate it!! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!!