It’s been a couple months since our last summer trip to Europe. That was probably one of our best family vacations. We let loose and immersed in the culture, the environment and the moments completely. We played, we ate (a lot), we laughed and we rested. No arguments allowed!
First stop was Rome. We were a little jet lagged when we arrived so we were up very early in the mornings and roamed the empty streets. Afterwards we would take our siestas like the locals and got up just in time for dinner. We loved our late dinners at the restaurants by Campo de’ Fiori. The friendly people in Rome and the wonderful Italian cuisines were the highlights of our entire trip. We walked everywhere during the two and half days that we were there; The Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant’Angelo, Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Venezia. Along the ways we also consumed plenty of gelato, pastas, pizzas, pastries, breads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, and mozzarella.
Next stop we embarked on an eleven-day cruise on board of the Celebrity Reflection . We cruised around the Mediterranean visiting Greece (Santorini, Athens, Mykonos, Chania and Rhodes) and Southern Italy (Naples and Sicily). We visited quite a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites during this part of the travel including the Temple of Apollo, Acropolis of Athens, Ancient theatre of Epidaurus, Medieval city of Rhodes, Mycenae, Amalfi coast and Pompeii. Seeing all these places in person was amazing. They came alive and were no longer just pictures in books and postcards. We all have our favorites. Ethan loves Rome. He cannot stop talking about living there, making film in that beautiful city and of course, eating pizza every day. Kaitlin’s favorite is Mykonos, Greece. It is a picturesque town with the whimsical streets and white houses. Danny’s favorite is Athens and Rome a very close second. He loves the histories and cultures of those cities. I loved eating fresh grilled fish by the ocean in Tolo, Greece but it was a walking tour on those quiet streets of the Sicily mountainside that had inspired me to start writing.
Our final stop before heading home was London, England. It was a place for us to cool down, mentally from all the ancient histories and literally since the weather in London was much cooler than the scorching heat of Greece and Italy. We did the usual tourist spots in London and had a chance to meet up with Danny’s cousin. We ended our trip feeling energized, happy and well rested.
As a family we like relax and stress free trips and we don’t do well with large group organized tours. We like to stay in vacation house or apartment instead of hotel room. Here are some of my tips preparing for this trip:
- If possible, take your kids on this trip when they are older. Mine were 16 and 18, they both agreed that they enjoyed this trip more because they had learned about these places which made it more meaningful. Since we did not join organized tours, we also did a lot of walking and exploring with public transportation. It may not be fun for some young children.
- I plan the itinerary ahead of time so everyone is on the same page. There will always be some must see/do things and also alternatives depending on our mood at that time. Some days we just want to do nothing and that’s perfectly fine.
- For this trip, I knew that we would not have much internet access so I read up on all the places before heading out. Rick Steves’ travel books and guides are must reads. I had also downloaded apps for walking maps into my phone.
- I booked our accommodation through Airbnb and VRBO for Rome and London. Most of the time you won’t find that perfect place, you just need to make your decision based on your top must-haves amenities. I recommend reading through all the reviews so you know the pros and cons.
- You won’t have internet or phone access on the cruise unless you cave in and buy the internet packages. Same for international travel. Discuss with your family and decide what the best course is for you. We brought our smart phones and were able to use free WiFi in a lot of places.
- The tours offered by cruise ships will be very expensive. I did lots of research and read lots of reviews on the internet and made my own tour arrangements in most cities and probably only paid a third of the prices compare to the cruise tours. All my self-arranged guided tours were also private with a driver which saved us a lot of waiting time and we could actually spend more time at each site.
Planning trips for my family is fun and rewarding. If that’s who you are, following some of my tips will ensure that you and your family have a stress free and unforgettable trip. Happy planning!