Travel to Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria with 17 & 18 year old children
Has anyone taken their older teens on a several week vacation to Europe. My husband and I would like to take our daughter, 18 and our son, 17 to Europe this Summer 2012 for 3 to 4 weeks. Tours are great but the two I went on years ago were mostly older people and I do not want to be rushed. We could fly to Germany to start from (Cincinnati) USA and eventually fly back from Rome. Some of the cities I would like to see with my family are, Salzburg, Vienna, Venice, Heildelberg, Milan, Assisi, Capri, Florence, Lucerne, Lake Como, and Rome. Any sugestions on the path we should follow would be great. We are very active . We love to walk and hike. We want to see quaint towns as well as important places like Florence and Rome. Castles are a must as I want them to see Neuschwanstein, the Heidelberg castle and the Chateau de Chillon in Switzerland.Thank you to anyone with ideas I am excited about this trip of a lifetime with my family.
Yes, many of our members have taken their teens to Europe - it is a great age for them to visit!! However, parents with younger children have also taken great trips that kids loved! Most importantly, there is no shortage of castles along your trip!!
I can also guarantee plenty of chances DAILY for walking as this is THE BEST way to enjoy Europe. For me, it's always been a way to not worry about what I ate, which was certainly different from home in a GREAT WAY wherein I did what I could to keep it healthy but indulge my love of sweets! The clothes always still fit!!
I think it is a trip you can plan on your own and we can help you work on that here! Were you thinking of driving with a rental car or traveling by rails? There are many places on your list and in 3-4 weeks (closer to 4!) you can likely see most of them though I warn that Capri will be *insanely* crowded in summer and it requires getting down to the Amalfi Coast, nearest to Naples which is south of Rome. I do suggest visiting the island of Burano whilst visiting Venice as it is more interesting and quite pretty - many folks visit Murano instead and pay too much for the glass creations. Shop around in Venice, in the back streets!!
Here's an idea of what route you might take if you wish to start in Germany: I know you mentioned Heidelberg which is very nice, but it might be easier to fly into Berlin - it has a lot of history and yet is a very hip modern city now which the kids would probably love. (I was NOT crazy about Berlin but I visited during the very long renaissance that has taken place over the years and so it wasn't quite "ready" yet; there was also still a strong vibe of the Iron Curtain years in the former east Berlin) Then head on down to Munich which is also fun in a different way (Schwabing) historic and not too far from Neuschwanstein. The Bavarian countryside is gorgeous and where I stayed during my time in that area. From Munich, it's just over an hour to Salzburg, Austria and from there, to Vienna. It's a slight bit of backpeddling but then travel from Vienna to Switzerland..........you mention Lucerne, which is very pretty but you might also consider Lausanne or Bern - it's such a beautiful, dreamy country!!
Southern Switzerland of course is where the Italian Lakes region begins - Como is breathtaking but so is Lugano which might be more easily accessed by train. After Como, Venice, then over west to Florence and south to Rome. Elsewhere in Italy? Cinque Terre - *fantastic hiking* and gorgeous. Also, Siena, Assisi, Verona....many possibilities!! There are also more ideas for destinations in all the countries on your agenda......
What I suggest is this: get an Atlas, guide books and along with the internet, you can see the routes and what else is located near the places you mentioned or discover an alternate you might not have thought about. While the internet brings much information to us, I still find that using maps and guidebooks is indeed very helpful. My Grad School Professor actually planned my first European itinerary but after that, it's been all me, friends and family - no tours, except maybe a day thing on occasion.
I am very excited about your summer travel plans and believe it will indeed be a dream trip!! That I can guarantee.........I'm excited just to think about all the places you'll be going.
Hope to hear back from you soon. This will be a process, but quite fun and the results will be a memorable trip for everyone in your family!
I concur with the idea of driving at least the Germany and Vienna portion of the trip. There are many wonderful places and things to see in Germany and they are best accessed by car. Be sure to include some time driving on the Autobahn, but also drive at least part of the Romantic Road (easily accomplished at several spots b/w Munich and Newschwanstein)--given the option I'd spend at least one night in one of the Medievil villages to really take it all in (can't recall the name of the place we visited with my kids 9 years ago)--It is amazing how well preserved they are.
While in Switzerland I think a visit to Interlaken is worth the side trip (easily accessed via a wonderful train ride)--great areas for hiking and just as quaint a little swiss village (if you ignore the tourists) as one could hope for--take the kids for a hike with a picnic basket and a bottle of wine (if you're game for letting them "be European" and partake a bit) to share with the family.
Can't help you too much with Northern Italy, but Florence is fantastic. Unless you MUST see the Last Supper Milan, IMO, is a good place to skip. It is expensive and has few sites worth lingering over. If it's on your route then maybe take one night there (be sure to reserve a tour of the city that includes your Last Supper tickets--otherwise you'll NEVER get in).
I can't say enough about Florence--plan on as long in Tuscany as you can justify, just so much history, it feels older. There are a ton of places to stay right in the middle of town (avoid the tourist hotels on the outskirts of town near the train depot) and it is very accessible--you'll want to wander the streets until the wee hours. We didn't have a chance to see the Tuscan countryside but I dearly hope to do so on our next trip.
Rome is a must see, IMO. Plan on a minimum of 2 nights and 3 is probably better to really start to immerse and not feel so much pressure to cram it all in. Plan your visits to the major sites to avoid the crowds as much as possible.
I've not done Venice, but have repeatedly been advised to not bother unless it is very easy to include--it is stinky and offers little other than the canals and a bit of art. The Cique Terre, however comes highly recommended.
Click the link to our family's blog, it has some good bits about our time in Italy (Should be in the March or April sections). Our visits to Switzerland were over 20 years ago and our most recent to Germany and Austria at least 9 years ago (probably 10), so unless you come to my house to see the scrap books I can't help you too much there!
Good luck, sounds like a great trip. I suspect your kids will want to go back, without you, to do some backpacking during or after college.
My friend and I did the same type of trip with our 15 year old daughters a few years ago. (Rome, Florence, Venice, Bavaria area, Lucerne, Paris and London). One thing that we had the girls do was to come up with 5 places that they wanted specifically to go to. This had them research and learn about places we were going to. I thought the trip should be as much about learning about the world, without me pushing it too much, as anything. (And we did a lot of research about places before we left, so we could know about what we were seeing). While you may want to see rural areas and such, I would really try to hit the "tourist" stuff for a first trip. There is so much, and there will be such a variety with all those places. It was so different for them to see things that they have only ever seen in books, so up close and personal. While we did museums and such, we didn't spend days at them, we only stayed until they started losing interest, so it didn't get overwhelming or boring. We hit the highlights first, then stayed until everyone lost interest, then found another place to go to that was a different type. If your kids are really into something, then plan a little more time. We planned a lot, but went at the pace we were in the mood for each day.
About places: I would look at guided tour groups on the internet and see what and how they do it. Gets you started on time frames and what to see, without having to do it their way. I would definitely use the trains as much as possible. Except in southern Germany at least, you really need a car. We did trains through Italy, then rented a car from Venice/Bavaria/Lucerne, then trains the rest of the time. 2 bad experiences in Switzerland, would skip. Plan several days in Rome. The Hotel Julia in Rome was a great place/area, Hotel Olimpia in Florence is the only place we’ve stayed. Perfect locations. We like to stay in local/funky hotels (Not American chains or such) and in the city center areas, if safe. Easy for walking. (Venere.com is great) Pisa a must. Along with the typical places/things along the way, Salzburg is one of our favorite places in Europe. Visit the Triberg Falls and the romantic road in Germany. Dacchau a must. There are actually 4 Castles of Ludwig’s (Neuschwanstein), try to see them all. And the Werfen Ice Caves in Austria. I would do some City Tours, as some places are so busy to get into, the tours get you ahead of the queues. Could discuss for hours how much fun Europe is. Have a great trip! (I’m jealous)
We went to Italy and France last April. We have 2 sons ages 13 and 16. Their favorite part of the trip was the hiking that we did at Cinque Terre, Italy. We took the train from Pisa to La Spezia. We spent the night in La Spezia and took the train to Riomagiorre (the first city of the Cinque Terre). We are from Colorado and enjoy hiking and biking. We hiked all 5 cities and spent 2 days in the Cinque Terre area. We then took the train from La Spezia, through Pisa, and onto Florence. We spent our 3 days in Florence at Residenza Bette. We also spent time in France. Their favorite part of the trip was the hiking in Cinque Terre. Have a great trip!
I am glad to see there is much agreement in hiking the beautiful towns of the Cinque Terre as it is often overlooked on many trips but so very worth a visit as it is such a very lovely and special place. I think that maybe not everyone has the time to go or, just might not know about it. It's a great Italian destination!!
Another member made some great suggestions too and while I agree that Dacchau is a significant place of interest for obvious reasons as a former concentration camp, it might not be for everyone - most specially young children. I've got adult friends who visited before having children and the visit was by far the most difficult thing they ever had to witness. Bearing witness is indeed a way of honoring and attesting to all who were tragically lost during the Holocaust. I would simply suggest that in contemplating such a visit as a family, that there be an awareness of the ability of all concerned to process the emotions that undeniably arise from the visit.
There are so many Holocaust museums in the States, in Europe and throughout the world, thankfully so that people can gain awareness AND learn more in addition to honoring the victims. Exploring the works of Shoah Foundations and the landmark film are both great testaments to the "calamity" (shoah is the hebrew word for calamity, which might be an under statment but perhaps the only word that "worked" in context) is another great resource to explore, perhaps before visiting a concentration camp.
Recently I was visiting with my family in Cape May and had the distinct privilege to attend a lecture at a church where 3 Holocaust survivors spoke (each had written a book and all were available for sale) of their individual experiences. I have to say that it was probably one of the most, if not the most, significant event I have or will ever attend. There was not a dry eye in the room but also, there was a joy in meeting these survivors and hearing their testimony. I could never have imagined I would experience this in Cape May, NJ with my family, and I know we were just meant to have that experience.
Likewise in stumbling across the Paris Holocaust museum which was dedicated to exiled Parisian Jews and is at both times somber but an extremely beautiful, thoughtfully designed structure. Borrowing from the Jewish tradition of leaving a pebble or small stone at a grave, indicating that the visitor will return again and never forget, the museum walls are comprised of a single stone for every lost soul of the Parisian Jewish exile. The visit remains a prominent memory in my heart and mind.
Sometimes I feel "wrong" in that I was emotionally unable to make the visit to Dacchau while I was in Munich, but there is no part of me that is unaware of what happened there and in every other camp. I will NEVER FORGET.
My own father was overcome with extreme sadness in visiting the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam but of course it meant a lot to him to be there. All I'm suggesting is - and by no means am I saying don't go - but just consider whether visiting a concentration camp is an event all members of your family can manage.
With all respect and deference to the member who posted in the thread, I might not call Dacchau a MUST, but instead a profound visit to select on a family by family basis.
The awesome thing about travel is the vast and varied opportunities there are to experience history, to learn and perhaps change in ways we never imagined. The french word "souvenir" implies remembrance; through experiences in travel we can remember so much and unforgettable memories are indeed the best "souvenirs" we can bring home from a trip. Magnets are nice, memories are forever.