Asia vs Europe (The Final Countdown)
January 13, 2012 12:24 PM   Subscribe

We live in the USA. My family of five, two adults and three kids (youngest 11, oldest 17), are planning a trip for this summer (July/August). We have friends who have invited us to two very different parts of the world and we're trying to decide where to go. We can either take a France/Italy trip, or go to Hong Kong (and maybe make our way up to Japan or down to Thailand if the price is right). Looking for experiences, advice, stories, from those of you who have traveled the world that will help us make the choice.

My wife and I have been in a few countries around the world. I lived in South Africa. She has been to Paris (no one else in the family has). We have been to northern and southern Mexico. With our kids we have traveled to Denmark, Holland, and the UK. None of us have been to Asia, Italy, or France-outside-of-Paris.

We want our trip to be as amazing as possible, but practical considerations are also important (e.g., jet lag, weather, cost, etc).

Please keep in mind that we are a family of five, with teenagers. Which destination would you choose and why?
posted by crapples to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd go to Hong Kong, for the simple reason that a France/Italy trip is easier for an American to plan/execute at a later time, for a wide variety of reasons. If the opportunity to go to Hong Kong is presenting itself now, with someone to help you with all the logistics and show you around, I'd take it, knowing that I could do France and Italy the next time around without too much hassle.
posted by brainmouse at 12:31 PM on January 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

How long will you be able to spend on the trip?
posted by mskyle at 12:46 PM on January 13, 2012

Seconding Hong Kong. Asia, even Hong Kong, can be overwhelming for a first-time visitor and it's always helpful to have someone who knows the language and the culture. France/Italy are great, but they're also much more manageable solo.
posted by Tamanna at 12:49 PM on January 13, 2012

Hong Kong is a ridiculously fantastic truly world-class city. But it's in Asia, and its full of really good Asian food that can be tough on an untrained palate. There is a fair share of western food there, but if you're there for a prolonged period of time (how long is the vacation for?) you might have some unhappy tummies eventually. I hope this isn't an issue!
posted by jabberjaw at 1:02 PM on January 13, 2012

If you're on the east coast, go to Europe. On the west, got to Hong Kong. In the middle, flip a coin.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:13 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

...I should just add that 'm not trying to be glib. I just think that adding a transcontinental flight (times 5) into the mix will only increase costs, levels of exhaustion, and decrease relaxing vacation time. Both sound super cool.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:21 PM on January 13, 2012

I'd say HK, but with a giant proviso; HK is always frantic. It's a big city, with everything that implies, bustling streets, crowds and little downtime.

Europe will be more crowded with tourists, but there will be more time to relax, sit in a cafe having a drink.

I could waffle back and forth all day, they are both great places, in the end, let the cheaper airfare destination determine where you go, unless your friends speak Cantonese, then HK for sure. My family was in HK earlier this year with a Cantonese speaking friend, and the city is waaaayyyy better with someone that speaks the language.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:22 PM on January 13, 2012

I think to give a good answer to this question we need to know how long you are going for and what kind of holiday you want (i.e are you staying at your friends primarily or do you want the freedom to grab a tent and rental car and move far away from them - are you going to be going through an agent or are you going to be doing the organisation yourself).

Both are fantastic places - but there are huge variances that would make a huge impact on my ability to make a valuable recommendation.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:28 PM on January 13, 2012

I don't think Hong Kong is a particuarly difficult city to navigate. That said, I live in New York, so I'm very comfortable with a big metropolis. I was there in August, and had no trouble getting around, finding things to eat, negotiating the subway system. (I did have the benefit of my work colleagues taking me to lunch and dinner a couple days, but for the most part I was on my own.)

There are tons of malls to walk around. There's Lantau Island. There's the peak. Food can be as exotic as you like. I had everything from expensive western type food in Central to a classic dim sum lunch to a little locals-only diner in Kowloon. I think it's up to a personal preference and/or airfare price considerations.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:28 PM on January 13, 2012

To me it all depends on how long you have. If we're talking about the standard US "ten days in July" type of vacation, Europe, no contest. It seems pretty intense to drag your whole family on two 24hr+ flights to be in Asia for all of... a week, once you factor in jetlag?

If you're talking more like two weeks or a month, I'm leaning toward Hong Kong if only due to the fact that July and August are high season for travel to France and Italy, and also some of the least comfortable months to be there, climactically speaking.

Definitely also look at what the weather in Hong Kong/Japan/Thailand is like at that time of year. If it's going to be monsoon or 100F in the shade, Europe will probably be preferable.
posted by Sara C. at 1:28 PM on January 13, 2012

Response by poster: Answers -

Time of vacation: Probably two weeks

Where do we live: Midwest, we would probably fly from Minneapolis

Our hosts: In HK our hosts do not speak the language but they have been there for about two months. In Europe our hosts speak both French and Italian (two different people).

Other details: In both cases we would probably be with our hosts for half or about-half of our time, and on our own for the other half. This would be largely by choice just because we would want to see some other places while we were there.

Thanks for all of the responses so far - very helpful!
posted by crapples at 1:40 PM on January 13, 2012

Hong Kong is a great, New York like huge city, but 2 weeks seems like way too much time to spend there. After 4-5 days, I ran out of things to do - you can only spend so much time walking around malls. I would suggest travelling somewhere else in the region for some of your time. You might want to consider Taiwan - easier to travel to than mainland China and easier to navigate once you get there (Americans get 30 day visas on entry, there are many more English speakers to help you if you get lost), some Japanese influence but much cheaper than Japan. It's known for hot springs and some very beautiful areas in the mountains where tea is grown. Thailand is wonderful as well, but I think it merits 2 weeks in and of itself.

Memail me if you have any questions about Hong Kong, Thailand, or Taiwan.
posted by asphericalcow at 1:54 PM on January 13, 2012

Let the kids decide. Whoever learns the most phrases for the countries of their choice wins. It's educational and healthy competition.
posted by myselfasme at 2:35 PM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Which hosts are still likely to be there next year / the year after and hence able to play host at a later time?
posted by finding.perdita at 4:19 PM on January 13, 2012

With less than 2 weeks available, I don't think I would even consider a trip to Hong Kong. It's a fascinating place but it's a long flight and from a kid's point of view, could be considered just another city full of skyscrapers and shopping malls. Europe has a lot more to offer in the way of historic architecture.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:01 PM on January 13, 2012

I would actually avoid HK just because of the Summer weather of Asia - It's extremely humid and hot. If you're not used to it, it can be very uncomfortable.

My parents took their American neighbors on vacation to Japan in August and the combination of extreme heat, foreign food, and long travel did not treat our poor guests kindly :( They still were gracious and enjoyed themselves, but I wish they had been more comfortable.
posted by xiadagio at 5:32 PM on January 13, 2012

With two weeks to spend, why not split the two destinations? A week in Italy, the other in Hong Kong? Treat Italy or Paris as the 'Layover' on your way to HK.

Having traveled the world (thank US Navy!) there's soooo much each place has to offer. I'm preferential to HK due to... oh too many things to list such as food, culture, history, tailored suits!, etc. Gotta give the considerations to Italy/Paris on the history though.

There's not just the 'city' of Hong Kong btw... lots of excursions out to the surrounding areas to be had.

Either way you go, each place offers great opportunities - but maybe the best consideration of all is how to showcase to your kids that the world is a really BIG place, and that the good 'ol USA ain't the only way of living. That's why I recommend going to both!
posted by matty at 7:44 PM on January 13, 2012

With two weeks to spend, why not split the two destinations? A week in Italy, the other in Hong Kong? Treat Italy or Paris as the 'Layover' on your way to HK.

Don't do this. That's a round the world flight, not worth it for this time. I love myselfasme's idea, but the weather is also an important consideration. I'd lean towards HK with side trips to mainland China or maybe Taiwan.
posted by jacalata at 8:22 PM on January 13, 2012

I will respectfully disagree with jacalata... cause a flight in this day and age, around the world or not, is still just a 'flight'. You can be anywhere and everywhere within 24 hours (mostly - cause not if you're going to Misool Eco Resort in Indonesia... that requires connections to small airfields and boat rides). Point being - it's just a flight, to major hubs no less. With a two week timespan, everything is possible.
posted by matty at 9:07 PM on January 13, 2012

Good lord, HK in summer will be ridiculously hot.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:07 PM on January 15, 2012

A flight is just a flight, sure. But some of them take 4 hours out of your day including airports, and some of them take up the entire day + a night to sleep it off. The round the world trip is three full days of 'travel' out of a two week timeslot, spending 8-15 hours on the plane for each of those days. Spending days on a plane is not likely to make the kids enthusiastic travellers for the future. Pick one area of the world and see it, saving an extra day (+packing/unpacking/jet lag time) for actual vacation. This is much more likely to make the kids enthusiastic future travelers than memories of 32 cumulative hours on planes in 13 days of jetlag.
posted by jacalata at 12:02 AM on January 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Don't do both. Way too much jetlag, particularly with teenagers.

I would go to Italy/France in your case, as local hosts that speak the language can show you a side of a country that you'd have trouble finding as a tourist.
posted by kjs4 at 2:30 PM on January 17, 2012

How funny - I, having just been made redundant at work, find myself with an abundance of time and a need for a head clearing trip. After narrowing down my options from "any place in the world" to the ones that have been on my list for some time I stopped when I got to these two places. For me the decision really did come down to what I wanted out of the trip.

I've had the benefit of having been to both Seoul and Tokyo so I at least have an understanding of how bewildering an Asian city can make a traveler feel, especially when traveling alone. Likewise I've spent a decent amount of time in many European cities, but in Italy I've only ever managed two, lackluster, days in Milan.

I've opted for Italy because my wants are pretty simple and they include eating good (familiar) food, drinking good wine, watching people and writing. Things that I know will be harder for me to do in Hong Kong because it can be so overwhelming.

Now to start the planning!
posted by FlamingBore at 8:23 AM on January 20, 2012

HK weather is pretty unpleasant during July/August. I like the suggestion above of spending 4-5 days in HK... Maybe spend the rest of the trip in Bali (about 4 hours from HK), which is pretty nice during July/Aug.
posted by clark at 6:00 AM on February 3, 2012

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