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1st Europe trip...
s3sfamily
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I’m taking my 2 teenage boys to Europe in September. This is our first time there and so am trying to make the most of our time while making a memorable trip. I’ve looked around the internet alot and have found alot of info. I just thought I’d try to get some personal input, people on this site seem to be very kind and helpful from what I can tell.
 
We are flying into Frankfurt on the 16th and leaving from Paris on the 30th. We want to see Auschwitz while we are there, although, it’s far from everything else we plan to do. Amsterdam is the highlight to my boys and we plan to stay there 5-6 days. I want to see Heidelberg.
 
Here is roughly our plan at this point.
Fly into Frankfurt 17th then Krakow.
Auschwitz on the 18th and spend one more night.
Fly back to Frankfurt and take the train to Heidelberg.
From here things are foggy. We want to go to Amsterdam and then we fly out of Paris on the 30th.
 
Should we stay in Amsterdam 6 nights and take day trips out of there? Then spend a few days in Paris before coming home? Should we have another overnight stay anywhere else? Should we stay less time in Amsterdam and go somewhere else?
 
I know I probably sound like an idiot to some of you. Please be kind…[Smile]

oldlady
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First, I’ve travelled to Europe with a teenage boy — my son was 14 on his first trip and 17 on his second.  Second, sorry for the attitude, but I’m not sure I can “be kind” with this….

Quote:
Here is roughly our plan at this point.
Fly into Frankfurt 17th then Krakow.
Auschwitz on the 18th and spend one more night.
Fly back to Frankfurt and take the train to Heidelberg.
  I think you’re nuts — what is it that you like about airports?  You’ll be spending the better part of the first 3 or 4 days of your trip in airports, at luggage carosels, going through security check lines, waiting in check-in lines (I’ve been in line 3 hours in Frankfurt…), sitting on airplanes, spending 45 minutes – 1 hour each way getting between anything you want to see or do and the airport, etc.  All this with the possibity of having all your luggage and two jet-lagged, sleepy teenagers in tow.  Do you have the potential for one late, cancelled or missed flight in this whirlwind start creating a serious (and potentially very expensive) logisitics problem for your whole trip?  If so, I’d plan an extra day of wiggle room at the beginning.
 
What is it you and your teenagers want to see/do in Heidelberg?  

I like Amsterdam and recommend it with teens, but I’m not sure you’ll want to spend 6 nights in Amsterdam — what is it that interests you???  If it’s the sightseeing and museums, Amsterdam is pretty compact from a sightseeing standpoint and a couple of days, plus a day or two for day trips is plenty.  If it’s the marijuana scene, cafe/night life and red light district, how long do you think you’ll want to be there?

Since Auschwitz is your only “must see,” I’d skip Western Europe all together.   Spend your time in Poland, Czech Rep, Slovakia and (because you fly from there and “everybody ought to see Paris at least once”) spend the last few days in Paris.  While in Paris, arm your sons with all day transit passes, a phone card, the address and phone number of your hotel, a map and a Metro Map.  Turn them loose to explore on there own for a day.

Finally, I’m going to give you some (unsolicitied, I know) advice from my Mother, which has proved to be very wise.  Do not plan this trip to try to impress, entertain your teens.  Take the trip you want to take.  Take their wishes, opinions into account, but plan a trip for yourself, not for them — they’ve got a lifetime to see what they want to see.  Your teens will either have a good time or not have a good time and your planning, effort, whatever will have little, if anything, to do with that.   

s3sfamily
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This is exactly the kind of input I was hoping for actually. You’ve given me some stuff to think about. Thank you.
It actually didn’t even occur to me to spend time in eastern europe, I don’t know why. I love the idea of letting my boys explore on their own for a day in Paris.
 
I’m not sure I want to spend 6 nights either. What do you like about Amsterdam for teens?

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Alternatively, unless you have personal reasons for being absolutely committed to visiting Auschwitz, you certainly do not have to leave Western Europe in order to see a concentration camp. (Example: We visited Natzweiler-Struthof in France near the German border.)

In terms of Amsterdam and teens, yes there is the red light district—but also, Amsterdam feels so walkable, the canals are colorful (you could do one of those canal tours that lets you on/off), and there is a nice energy from the diversity of the inhabitants. Rent bikes. Of course, there is the Anne Frank House, the Van gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. If the boys are into soccer at all, maybe they could see a football match.
But I agree with Oldlady that 6 days is a bit much. Maybe 3 days in Amsterdam, and 3 in Paris? One of those would be a travel day, though.

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Quote:
ORIGINAL: s3sfamily

This is exactly the kind of input I was hoping for actually. You’ve given me some stuff to think about. Thank you.
It actually didn’t even occur to me to spend time in eastern europe, I don’t know why. I love the idea of letting my boys explore on their own for a day in Paris.

I’m not sure I want to spend 6 nights either. What do you like about Amsterdam for teens?

Amsterdam for teens? Probably nothing special, except they can brag to their mates in high school that they have visited the city where dope is legal. (But, unless they are over 18, it won’t be legal for them anyway. Same with drinking and red light district. But I’m sure your kids are not that shallow, I was just joking.) Of course, Amsterdam is a lively, lovely and vibrant city with its special easy-going no-worry aura. If you are interested in the history of European Jews, you may also want to visit Anne Frank’s museum on Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.

If you don’t want to visit Eastern Europe (although Cracow and especially Prague are very beautiful cities, worth visiting!) you may also visit some other concentration camp instead of Auschwitz. True, Auschwitz was the largest one with the largest number of victims, but, you can also visit Dachau, which was the first CC built by Nazi Germany ever. It opened in 1934 and served as a model for all the other concentration camps. And it’s conveniently located on the outskirts of Munich, a large, rich and beautiful Bavarian capital in southern Germany, so you can explore more than just dark pages of European history while there.

If you have any questions about Prague or Czech and Slovak republics, ask me.
If you only want to search train or bus connection within Czech&Slovakia and/or to neighboring countries, use www.cp.sk or www.idos.cz search engines. For domestic transport, they also show prices.

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Some reasons I like Amsterdam for teens and first-timers…
1.  From a tourist standpoint it isn’t a big city and it’s way different from home.  You get around by walking (or at least above ground on the tram or canals) and the architecture is unique.  At some point all huge cities are similar and many tourist destinations are see-the-cathedral, see-the-palace, boring for teens. 
2.  I wanted my teen to see that a lot of the rest of the world was culturally different from his fairly tame suburban/rural life style.   
3.  The Anne Frank museum is perfect for teens.  They’ve probably read the book, seen the play, discussed it at length in lit class.
4.  It’s very “user friendly in English.”  My teen’s first experience in Europe was well off the beaten tourist track (at the time at least) in Eastern Europe.  He wasn’t particularly comfortable in the “nobody speaks English” world.  Everybody you’re likely to deal with as a tourist in Amsterdam speaks English.

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True, Auschwitz was the largest one with the largest number of victims, but, you can also visit Dachau, which was the first CC built by Nazi Germany ever. It opened in 1934 and served as a model for all the other concentration camps. And it’s conveniently located on the outskirts of Munich, a large, rich and beautiful Bavarian capital in southern Germany, so you can explore more than just dark pages of European history while there.
As I learned from my teenager when we were visiting Dachau…  Dachau and the camps in Germany were concentration camps, Auschwitz and the other death camps were outside Germany.  Thousands died in Dachau of disease, overwork, starvation, mistreatment and thousands more were executed and died in “medical experiments.”  The crematorium was a busy place, but the gas chamber at Dachau was never used.  Auschwitz and its sister death camps were in the systematic business of efficiently killing millions.  Dachau is a chilling experience and you can certainly feel the horror, but it is not the same as visiting Auschwitz.  If I had my choice between visiting Munich with a day trip to Dachau and visiting Krakow with a day trip to Auschwitz my choice would be Krakow — but how it fits in with the rest of the trip would be the deciding factor.  

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Being Dutch Ive been to Amsterdam quite a few times. Renting bikes is definitely good advice but the trams also provide easy transport.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the 18 as the weed age, some coffeeshops check, some dont. But then again do you really want to smoke weed with your own children? The drinking age is 16, not 18.

3 days 2 nights would be enough. You need 1 night to see the red light district. You only need a day for the museums, 1 day for just biking around. If you are on a very tight schedule you can leave early the next day. However this is just for seeing everything, just being in the atmosphere is something you can do for a very long time Wink

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Wow! I hope I could get some 1st trip to Europe. I’ve been meaning to do it for the longest time.