Europe vacation, family of 5

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Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by psteinx » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:07 pm

We're in the early stages of planning a family vacation to Europe in 2018. Either ~9 days or ~14 days, depending on the time window chosen (March versus summer). We're a family of 5, with 3 kids currently aged 12-18.

Various travel options sometimes get trickier as a result of traveling as a family of 5, wanting to stay together (i.e. prefer not to separate in cabs, not to book 2 separate hotel rooms, etc).


How hard is it to find (and how pricey) hotel rooms (or similar) that allow 5 to stay comfortably?

Am I correct to assume that cabs, Uber, etc in the main cities (London, Paris, maybe Munich or Vienna) won't be able to handle the 5 of us, without splitting across multiple vehicles? How good are the train/subway systems for shuttling among tourist locations? How realistic is it to use a rental vehicle (minivan or large sedan, probably) to travel intra-city? inter-city?
Last edited by psteinx on Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by psteinx » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:14 pm

Also, would it likely be a good idea to engage a travel agent for this trip?

I know its the internet age and there are all kinds of travel sites online. But given a likely complex travel plan, I wonder if a travel agent would likely add much value or not. How does a travel agent typically get paid for such a thing, nowadays, and, if its partly/mostly/entirely via commissions/rebates, am I correct to assume that significantly impacts what the agent will typically book, versus what we might do on our own?

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Re: European vacation, family of 5

Post by KlingKlang » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:21 pm

The Root of Good family of five took a nine week trip to Europe, although his kids are younger than yours. You might want to read his account.

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by bubbadog » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:29 pm

My family of four did a two week trip to Europe last summer. We flew in and out of Paris.

Uber was readily available everywhere we went and you can request Uber XL for larger parties for a little more $. (London, Paris, Italy, and Switzerland)

Trains were used for intercity travel. (High speed trains were very cool!)

We did not use a rental car

We used AirBnB for accomodations.

Have a great trip!

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by Rupert » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:41 pm

In general, European hotel rooms are smaller than American ones, and suites are unusual (as are king-sized beds, which Americans are used to). So I second the recommendation of AirBnB. You could save money on food that way as well as avoid booking two rooms. I don't think motoring around will be a problem. Even an ordinary London cab (an iconic black cab) would accommodate 5 plus luggage (so long as you pack reasonably). I would not rent a car unless there are no other options. It'll just add a layer of stress to the trip that is completely unnecessary given the availability of Uber, etc., and good public transportation across Europe.

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by » Wed Oct 18, 2017 5:28 pm

We just did this trip with our family of five. We had good luck using, found some lovely places!

We did subways within the cities, which was fun, efficient, and good learning for the teens.

We also have, in the past, done a rental car that seated 6-7 (we had 5 people but the extra space was useful for luggage, handbags, etc). Easy to rent but they do want your US license.

We have also done trains between large cities, which is my favorite way to travel in Europe—allows you to view scenery, talk with family, use electronics, read (novels, or read about the next place you’re visiting!), journal, etc.

Didn’t use a travel agent, but it took time to research things. I suppose a travel agent would reduce the amount of time that you yourself have to spend doing research.

Have fun!
Start by doing what is necessary; | then do what is possible; | and suddenly you are doing the impossible. | -- Francis of Assisi

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by MathWizard » Wed Oct 18, 2017 5:44 pm

I just got back from London, and was in Paris a few years ago, just my wife and I.

The subway system, the "Tube", in London is not the greatest, Paris, Rome and Washington DC have it beat by a mile.
They are very crowded, especially at rush times. There seemed to be lots if construction going on, and lots of lines to
keep track of.

The buses were actually pretty nice in London, which might be an alternative to cabs.
For either the subway or the buses, I would get "Oyster" cards for everyone. You put money on them
and redeem the balance when you leave. These made it much easier navigating the system, everyone
uses them.

You might also want to take a hop-on hop-off bus tour. It goes to the major sites, and you get commentary.
You buy a ticket good for 24 hours, and just hop off to see whatever tourist site you want to see, then get back on
when you leave.

Be careful in the subways, my wife had a pickpocket take about $500 US from her purse in the Paris metro.
We were just getting into town, and were burdened with luggage. In retrospect, a cab would have been much cheaper.
You are going to be more concerned with watching your kids than your wallet (and rightly so).
I highly recommend a money belt, especially for passports, but also all but the money/cards you'll be needing
for the day.

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by jayk238 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 5:47 pm

Look up rick steves asap.

It wont answer specific questions about large groups but it will make your travel prep enormously easier.

My wife and I have the travel bug and went on mediterranean cruise last year germany this year and ireland next year. We love it. Rick steves made enjoyable and fun and cost effective. Use his guide and forum.

There is a robust bogleheads like forum there and they are far more knowledgeable-more than me-about these things. No offense to bogleheads -but i doubt anyone goes to that forum for financial advice!

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by 3504PIR » Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:01 pm

Generally, European hotels have strict limits on how many can stay in one room, like 3 maximum. Recommend Air BNB or something similar if you want to stay together. That will certainly complicate your trip somewhat if you've never been to Europe, but you will be hard pressed to find a hotel that will allow 5 to a room, even in the biggest suite in the hotel.

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by curmudgeon » Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:59 pm

Think about where you want to go, to narrow your focus a bit. Some locations will fit certain styles of travel better than others. Don't spend too much time travelling between cities, as the process of moving around and finding/checking in to your hotels will chew up quite a bit of time.

London is a great starting point for US travelers, as it has the convenience of (sorta) speaking the same language while still having a great sense of history and difference. Paris isn't quite so easy, but it pairs up well with London for travel connections. If you are going for hotels, you most likely will have to settle for adjacent rooms, as large family rooms are rare for city hotels. Apartments are another option, but they won't have the services and ease of hotels for a first trip with the family. When we rent apartments, I prefer to rent from established agencies that have an actual physical office in the city. I figure they are less likely to be playing fast and loose with the city lodging laws versus the typical AirBnB. I do search on AirBnb and VRBO, though.

Using a car is great for exploring scenic villages and countryside, but not so great in the cities. Most rental cars will be stick shift, and smaller than typical US cars (and country roads/lanes are smaller too). Whether you rent a car or not, stress the "pack light" mentality with everyone; life is just more pleasant when you aren't dragging big bags around over cobblestone streets.

It will often make sense to fly "open-jaw", that is, into one city/country and out of another. Look for that under the "multi-city" part of the airline booking pages. Typically open-jaw is not much more cost than simple round trip, and it may save valuable vacation time. There are also lots of discount European airlines (like RyanAir or Vueling), which can get you between cities, but read up on the fine print of extra fees and baggage limits for each one.

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by enebyberg » Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:30 pm

There has been some great advice given here. We have lived in Europe for more than 20 years and have traveled quite a bit. I second (or third) the recommendations of AirBandB and hop-on hop-off bus tours. London would be the cheapest place to arrive in Europe from the States. Traveling light is the key to success. Most AirBandB's have a washer and dryer or atlas a washer. Bring packets of detergent with you, it solves a big problem. It is fairly easy to find cabs and Uber that will work for five. I don't believe it is worth renting a car to get from city to city. Parking in places like Paris are beyond difficult for a larger vehicle. Look into trains and even cheap airfare. You have plenty of time to research and plan a good trip in 2018. Best of luck.

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by stan1 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 8:48 pm

Yes to AirBNB for a group. Hotels are smaller in Europe than in the US. A room with two queen size beds will be rare. A rental will probably also give you a washer and dryer as well as kitchen which you won't get in a hotel. Location matters, though. Don't get an AirBNB that's a 60 minute commute from the areas you want to visit.

Taxi/Uber will probably be cheaper in some cases than transit tickets for 5 people but I'd use both because subways in London and Paris are an adventure your kids will remember for the rest of their lives. As with New York City parts of the London and Paris subways are over 100 years old. An interesting tour for your kids would be a guided tour of the subway that explains how they were built and operated. In all these cities the subways are part of its modern character and history. Tube stations in London were used as bomb shelters in WWII and saved thousands of lives. As the Soviets approached Berlin the Nazis deliberately flooded that city's underground tunnels.

If you go for 9 days I'd focus on London or Paris with a few day trips out to the surrounding regions. Minimizing the number of moves will keep the stress down and let your family integrate into the neighborhood you are staying in. You'll shop in the local grocery store, bakery, and coffee bar and dine in the local restaurants. The kids will find that to be fun. Since your kids are pre-college age they might enjoy a trip to Cambridge and punting along the river Cam. If you go for two weeks I'd spend one in each with a trip through the Chunnel half way through. Another advantage of London is that there are many free or low cost museums and sites.

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by delamer » Wed Oct 18, 2017 9:00 pm

Have you considered doing a cruise?

The upside is that the logistics are much easier then traveling on your own, including the huge advantage of only having to unpack and repack once for the entire trip. (Although you'll probably spend at least one night prior to sailing in a hotel in the city where the cruise begins.)

The downside is that generally you don't get to explore any one city in depth. But you can decide to what extent you'll explore on your own or use a ship-sponsored tour or independent tour.

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by Watty » Wed Oct 18, 2017 10:52 pm

You can have a fine trip in any month but March will likely not be very springlike in most of Europe so you should be prepared for that if you go then.

You should also consider Hostels since you can often book a multibed room with a private bathroom but I would probably avoid them in large cities since there can be more issues. You do need to read the reviews since they vary so much.

I did that in Ireland when traveling with my wife and teenage son and it worked well. In rural Ireland they were very acceptable and often in an excellent locations.

In southern Europe hotels are generally much less expensive so hostels did not make sense for us there.

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by jodydavis » Thu Oct 19, 2017 11:05 am

Echoing what others have said:

1. Transport for 5 - Uber, etc., often have options for vans and larger cars that can fit 5. You pay a bit more, but can all fit in the same car. Very easy to use, just like in the US. Subway in both London and Paris is also very easy to use, and will put you at most all of the tourist spots. For inter-city travel, use the train - convenient, fun, and typically puts you right in the middle of the city. I wouldn't rent a car, unless you intend to do some touring in the countryside (e.g. Provence, Normandy, outside London).

2. Housing for 5 - few if any hotels will have standard rooms that fit 5, so you would likely need to book 2 rooms. Even better would be finding an apartment via AirBnB, VRBO, Homeaway, or an agency. You will save a lot of money and typically get nicer accommodations. There are lots of apartments available in both Paris and London, often in great locations.

Have fun!

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Re: Europe vacation, family of 5

Post by btenny » Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:11 pm

I suggest you take a guided bus trip. Companies like Globus provide the hotels and buses and tour guides and all the arrangements. It is a wonderful way to travel with teenagers. I took my kids and wife for a 20ish day Globus bus trip all over Europe when my kids were 14 and 19. The bus made it very educational as we got a continuous tour guide who explained everything we were seeing as we drove around Europe. Then each time we stopped in a new town we had our own tour guide and tickets to get into the next place. We never waited in lines. We visited London, Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, Rome, The Vatican, and several other cities and countries. Plus with the bus we had our luggage picked up at our door every morning and delivered to the next hotel room every evening. No corralling kids stuff and no arguments on time to leave or sleeping arrangements and trying to figure out foreign road directions and so forth. In our case we always had two hotel rooms, one for us and one for the kids next door. It worked out great and they still talk about that trip a lot. They saw the real Pope and the real Mona Lisa and the real St Marks square in Venice and so forth. It was just great and the method of travel was good as well. Yes the bus was very structured but that is what made it work with the kids. ... tyear=true

Good Luck.

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