Ask Joan

Amsterdam, Rome and London for family fun

Trevi fountain in Rome. Photograph:  Thinkstock

Trevi fountain in Rome. Photograph: Thinkstock

Sat, Sep 14, 2013, 01:00

We have booked flights to Amsterdam for seven nights at mid-term. Can you recommend a tourist itinerary for us, a couple in our 50’s and our 12 year-old daughter? Also we need accommodation, with breakfast? UMD, Meath


The end of October is busy across Europe, many European schools will be getting a break then too so book accommodation as soon as you can. Amsterdam is also enjoying an increase in tourists due to the reopening of the Rijks and Van Gogh museums.

Hotels with breakfast for three will cost €90-€150 per night. Check out hotelfita.nl, hotelvanonna.nl and hotel-bellington.com. These hotels are all in good locations for exploring the city. See heemskerksuites.com for apartments to rent.

Amsterdam is compact, easy to get around and has good public transport. Apart from the Rijks and Van Gogh museums, (go early!), the Science Center Nemo is fun for children, e-nemo.nl.

A trip on a canal boat is fun. Winding through the canals, you can see the varying architecture, canal houses and quirky houseboats, canal.nl. The maritime museum is also interesting, hetscheepvaartmsueum.nl.

Take a guided cycle trip around the city and countryside with Mikes Bike Tours, mikesbiketoursamsterdam.com. Spend a day at Artis, the Royal Zoo and another in the Amsterdamse Bos or forested city park with miles of walks and cycle trails, amsterdamsebos.no.

Take a day trip to Marken and Volendam to see traditional Dutch houses, national costumes, dykes and windmills. Go on a guided coach tour (ask at the tourist office) or on the local bus which is cheaper. See iamsterdam.com for tourism information.

My sister and I would like to take our 74 year-old mother on a weekend trip to Rome. She is in reasonably good health and can walk short distances as long as it is on even ground. We would like to travel in October possibly during the school break and we
would like to stay centrally. Can you recommend the best way to book a short trip with good deals incorporating direct flights from Dublin with four-star accommodation? CC, Co Clare


Riviera Travel, one of the Irish Times travel partners, will have guided tour packages to Rome in October. This would be an ideal way to see the city as the tours include four-star hotel accommodation and guided tours each day of the main sites of interest including the Spanish Steps, the Trevi fountain, Piazza Navona and the Villa Borghese. Your afternoons would be free to explore on your own, shop and just enjoy the ambiance of the city. Prices for the four night trips, with Aer Lingus flights, are from €739pps, traveloffers.irishtimes.com, tel: 01-9056300.

Booking it yourself, the Aer Lingus weekend flights are around €250 and midweek about €150. Ryanair cost a bit less and use a different airport in Rome. Expect to pay from €250 to €350 per night for a triple room in a four-star hotel in Rome.

The small modernised Hotel Memphis is near the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, hotel-memphis- rome.com. Close to the historical centre of the city and decorated in an ornate Italian style, the Hotel Forum is also nice for a short break, hotelforum.com.


We are hoping to take our seven year-old to London for three days during the Easter holidays in 2014. Could you recommend any websites where booking well in advance may make it cheaper? Also our son would be very interested in seeing a show. Could you recommend the cheapest way to buy tickets for London shows? Any other suggestions on what to do would be most welcome. MMC, Cork.


January is a good time to book, when hotel companies usually have sales. Travelodge. com had a sale last January and family rooms were available for €60 per night. Premierinn.co.uk will also have a sale around then. These are budget three-star hotels. For four-star properties have a look at thistlehotels.com for nice, well-located hotels in London from £120 per night.

Have a look at visitlondon.com for details of events and theatres and also the theatre break offers which can work out good value, visitlondonoffers.com/theatre-breaks. I also like this site, londontown.com.