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HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

Melbourne, Australia
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HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

We would like to travel Europe with our children, who will be 10-12 at the time of travel. We would love to drive a campervan and stay in caravan parks? Or hire a car and stay in cabins and B&B's? we have never travelled so far abroad, but have camper vaned our way around NZ? In a combined effort we would love to see London, Paris, Italy and Switzerland? is this all to ambitious in the one trip? and how long would we need? sorry we are travelling Europe virgins? any help would be gratefully accepted.

cheers Shannon.

Oregon
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1. Re: HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

I sense your enthusiasm. Italy is a country, not a city, so depending on how many places you want to visit will influence how much time it takes.

Paris is a city where you do NOT want to have a vehicle. Getting around is easy on public transportation or on foot. I don't know of any places in Paris where you can camp. You would NOT want to camp in the Bois de Bologne, a large park on the west side of Paris. There are unseemly goings on there at night. Perhaps someone else knows if camping is allowed in or near Bois de Vincennes or anywhere else in Paris. If you have to camp outside of Paris and take the train into Paris, you are looking at having your schedule controlled by train schedules and times and they eat into your money and the amount of time you have in the city. My son and I stayed in a pensionne in Vaux-sur-Seine (25 min. northeast of Paris) one year and we both found the train to be a real hassel. In addition, the day we were to go to the airport the train ran over and killed someone and stopped running. It was a nightmare to call a cab and get to the airport in time to catch our flight--which, luckily, we did do.

Realistically, how much time do you have available for this trip?

I recommend that you move slowly enough so you feel like you are actually getting a feel for the places you go. Otherwise, when you are finished traveling, you very possibly won't remember where you were when you saw the various sights (It's Tuesday, it must be Brussels). Hurry up and get to the next locations ruins the fun--especially with kids but even without them. Therefore, I'd say visit fewer places and relax into them and explore them. Perhaps visit London and Paris. Or visit Paris and Florence.

If you want to visit cities, why are you doing a campervan trip. I don't know of any cabins in Paris and I don't know about whether London has anything like that.

Costwise, I'd suggest that you stay in London for a week and rent an apartment (so you can do your own food) and then do the same in Paris--or something along those lines.

New Hampshire
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2. Re: HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

Highly recommend you search this forum for the trip report posted by Indygirl2003. (Or, you could try sending her a PM). She did considerable research and planning ahead of the trip she and her husband took last year and they covered an amazing amount of territory (though not London). Her homework really paid off as everything went quite splendidly. Her trip report on her blog was positively splendid and chock full of details. (I don't have a link to the blog handy at the moment.)

Agree that the logistics involved would probably suggest that it would be better to visit London first, pick up your camper at a logical starting point on the continent and then, perhaps, conclude your journey in Paris having turned in the camper first. (They spent a week or so in Paris in a fantastic apartment that may be perfect for the four of you.)

I'm sure she could counsel you regarding the economics of the camper versus renting a car and booking accommodations.

As mentioned above, much will depend on how many days you will have and your travel style. Obviously, your final itinerary would depend on whether you prefer to move about leisurely or move along quickly.

If you really want to visit London and Paris and drive around a couple of other countries, and have the time for all that, I'm sure you can figure out how to do it.

London, United...
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3. Re: HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

Having campervanned / driven around most of NZ in 2013 I can tell you that there is little comparison between the roads in NZ and those of most of Europe in terms of traffic. NZ is wonderfully quiet outside of Auckland and the roads are clear. Not so in the countries you wish to see. Time of year will have some effect on the traffic of course.

That said, you will see lots of caravans and motor homes heading for scenic areas,and driving through France to other countries, but they are not at all useful in cities. Bear in mind also that you don't want the same van in the UK as in France etc as the steering wheel will be on the wrong side.

I'm not aware of any network of the sort of cabins that are easily found in NZ although there are some reasionably priced chain hotels.

Limerick, Ireland
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4. Re: HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

When my kids were younger we spent several holidays on campsites in various areas of France, Italy, Spain etc. Most of these sites have on site restaurants, bars, shops etc and would also have areas for camper vans to park and plug into electricity etc. The parks I stayed in were coastal however there are many in the interior also. This website may be helpful http://www.campingeurope.com

Limerick, Ireland
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5. Re: HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

OP, this site may also help. http://www.eurocampings.co.uk/en/europe/

6. Re: HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

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7. Re: HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

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New York City, New...
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8. Re: HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

When I think oh Paris I don't think of cabins or camping or any kind of camper/vehicle.

Perhaps fly to Paris and rent a car when leaving. Aren't there high costs in renting a car and retuning in another location ? Is it your own car?

Sydney, Australia
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9. Re: HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

First, when and how long for? It will make a difference to recommendations.

Second, you don't want a car or campervan in major cities such as London, Paris, Venice (no cars allowed), Florence, Rome. That sort of means that you order your trip so these places are at the beginning or end of the trip. I have noted a few posters in the past who were desperately seeking parking without a height restriction as well, something to be considered with a van.

In addition, vans have problems in small or narrow streets, such as around the Italian lakes or through older villages. We had difficulties with a six seater around the coastal towns of Normandy.

I have not been a camper, but I think you might do better with at least a partial use of B&Bs and travelling by train between cities, hiring a six seater when exploring the countryside. Again, time comes into it. If you have 3 weeks, no way can you see all this. If you have 3 months (the maximum allowed in Schengen) then you can see and do lots and travel in a number of different and more leisurely ways.

We plan like this.

1. What main countries do we want?

2. What do we want to see there (broad brush, areas like Provence or the Dordogne)

3. How will we travel between them?

4. What towns are reasonable distances apart for staying in?

5. What sort of accommodation can we find? Do we need to rethink the town?

6. Where will we put down anchors for at least a week as a base? (We do this each few weeks)

7. Are there any special things happening that would dictate being in a certain place at a certain time (festivals, height of summer, flowering lavender or poppies or tulips, etc)

8. Draw up Itinerary 1 and map it out. Laugh, screw it up and move to Itinerary 2 etc. Our final was version 10.

9. Plan everything on a grid. We write in accommodation as it is booked, costs, travel arrangements. See www.nickbooth.id.au/Europe2011.pdf

10. Start talking to the travel agent about airline bookings (ours always does a better job than we can do for prices)

11. Begin refining accommodation. We book the anchor points as soon as we have the air, but we often have an agreement before that. (For our next trip our anchors are a river cruise, Bayeux, L'Isle sur la Sorgue and Paris)

12. Arrange car hire.

13. Book train travel at the maximum window of opportunity to get the cheapest fares.

14. Pay what must be paid in advance (Ouch for the rivercruise)

15. Look at side trips or tours (we will do one on the WW1 battlefields and another at Bayeux)

So you need time to do all this. We began about a year out.

10. Re: HELP! where to start planning trip of a lifetime!

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