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Published: Sunday, 9/21/2003

Grandparents should plan trip with teenager carefully

A Toledo couple has a wonderful treat in store for their 13-year-old granddaughter next summer. They're taking her to Italy for a holiday!

Donna and John E. tell us that they're planning a 7-to-10-day trip. Florence and Rome primarily. But they'd like advice as to appropriate tours, activities, etc.

Well, we don't actually have any teenage grandchildren ... yet. But when we do ... and if we're still vaguely mobile ... this is the way we'd go about organizing such an adventure.

First, we'd plan our own independent trip (perhaps in conjunction with a friendly travel agent) rather than joining up with any of the standard, heavily advertised, “Best of Italy”-type tours. Mainly because injecting a teenager into the rigid, hectic schedule of an adult package tour wouldn't be much fun for anybody ... and would probably turn her off international travel forever.

Much better to put the trip together yourselves using her input ... and accommodating some of her interests. She'll also enjoy the trip so much more if she's been involved in the planning and research.

We'd also try, if at all possible, to make the trip a two-weeker, at least. So much of the cost of a trip to Europe is swallowed up in airfares that a few extra hotel days will not break the bank, and will allow for much more leisurely sightseeing. And some important idling. A 13-year-old needs a lot of sleep ... and a good ration of personal time.

We would also schedule the trip as early in June as possible. Traveling in Italy in peak summer months - July/August - can be a real hassle, especially if there's a youngster involved. You've also got a better chance of finding appropriate and affordable hotel rooms, getting in some profitable sightseeing without the crowds, and avoiding the intolerable mid-summer heat.

If this all works out, then we would suggest a trip that spends the first four nights or so in Venice. Flying into Venice's Marco Polo airport and then taking a water taxi along the canals right into the city proper is a truly unforgettable introduction.

From Venice, we'd take the train down to Florence, an easy three-hour run, and spend about five days there.

Aside from all its well-known, world-class historic, architectural, and artistic attractions, Florence also makes a super base for touring the Tuscan countryside and those picturesque surrounding towns like Sienna, Pisa, Assisi, and San Gimignano.

Rome is just another easy two-hour train ride away. And a great place to end up the tour, because by then you'll already be in full Italian mode and won't be too overwhelmed by the size of this big, noisy city, which is at the same time irresistible, vivacious, vibrant, and very high on the “Wow Factor.”

We would suggest, however, that before the trip, you and your granddaughter try to inhale some basic Roman history. If all else fails, there's always Julius Caesar, Gladiator, and Roman Holiday on video.

WE'VE HAD lots of positive feedback from our Beaver Island columns.

Jeff T. from Toledo, who owns harborfront property on St James Bay, wrote us about a recent family reunion, and included some photos and T-shirts. And Steve Chase, who runs the Beaver Island Chamber of Commerce and edits the monthly newspaper, Northern Islander, said he thought we had “captured the spirit of the island.”

In answer to some other Beaver Island questions: General info on the Island is available at www.beaverisland.com or from the Beaver Island Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 5, Beaver Island, MI 49782, 231-448-2505. Ferry boat details are available from Beaver Island Boat Company at www.bibco.com or phone 231-5472311. Beaver Island Lodge phone is 231-448-2396.

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