Does anyone have an opinion about driving from Plitvice to Ljubljana on Sunday July 28 in time for a 3 pm flight to the US? Thank you!
I've driven some of the roads that you are likely to take from Plitvice to Ljubljana when I drove to and from Plitvice and from Ljubljana to Zagreb. In general, I found driving in both Croatia and Slovenia to be quite easy, not stressful. I used Google Maps (with maps downloaded "for offline use") in Croatia (including to/from Plitvice) and Slovenia (including to/from Ljubljana) and found it to be just as precise as in the US. (I downloaded the maps onto my active phone and an old one that I carry as a backup.)
We drove out of Plitvice on a Thursday evening in early October and there wasn't a notable level of traffic. I can't say what that would be like on a Sunday morning in late July.
If you're renting the car in Slovenia, it should already come with the "vignette" for highway tolls. If you're renting in Croatia, you'll want to purchase one for driving in Slovenia.
You mean, drive from Plitvice to Ljubljana to catch your long international flight to the US the same day? Hmmm...
It's not a difficult drive, the first part would be on small roads, then a lot on highways. But still...it's risky. What happens if you are delayed significantly on the road and you miss your flight? A hundred things could go wrong (eg: your car breaks down, a road is closed due to weather, etc.).
If you miss your flight, I assume you would have to buy a replacement ticket on the spot, which could be stunningly expensive (as a test, go check to see how much a ticket from Ljubljana to your destination in the US would cost if you bought it the day of travel - today? I think you might find it pretty expensive).
Personally, I'm not comfortable with that kind of risk. I would be inclined to change my plans so I arrived in (or at least near) Ljubljana the night before my flight to the US. Others may be comfortable with it, since the flight is in the afternoon.
As an aside - assuming you are renting a car, be aware of potential high drop-off fees if you rent in one country and drop off in another.
I don't think you'd have enough time to see much in the morning before driving off to Ljubljana. I assume you'd have to be back at the airport by say 1PM at the very latest, maybe noon to be safe? (Drop the car, etc.) So you'd be leaving Plitvice by about 9am.
Based on that, i don't understand why anyone would stay over at Plitvice the night before just to drive off the next morning. There isn't a town there - there's nothing to do at night. I'd probably want to be in a city, at least in Zagreb or something (drop the car there? Would do that if the car was rented in Croatia?), then maybe catch an early train on to Ljubljana. Of if you haven't actually spent time in Ljubljana, it would be a nice place to end your trip - you could enjoy a few hours wandering around Sunday morning before heading off to the airport.
Out of curiosity, what kind of flight leaves Ljubljana at 3PM to get back to the US? There are no direct flights from Ljubljana to the US that I'm aware of, are there? I assume you are spending the night in Paris or London the same night and flying on to the US the next morning from there?
I agree with David's advice. I always stay in my departure city the night before regardless of what time my flight leaves. When you least expect it you have a flat tire and oops, there is no spare, jack is missing, etc. It is possible as someone has said, especially if you leave early. Besides, do you really want to do all that before flying half a day back home?
Thank you for these replies, all very valuable. To clarify, we would have arrived at Plitvice the afternoon of Friday the 26, spent the day in the park on Saturday, then leave first thing Sunday for Ljubljana. It is an AirFrance flight that stops in Paris for a quick connection to Boston. I, too, have reservations about doing all that the day we leave for the US, but of course we are trying to pack as much in as possible.
The long story is, if anyone cares to weigh in, is that my friend and I will have been on a tour in Slovenia the previous week, and will strike out on our own from Sunday the 21st until Sunday the 28th. We have narrowed the trip to include Dubrovnik, Split and Plitvice, but we have to fly home out of Ljubljana unless we want to incur exorbitant change fees and uncharges, as that is where we originally flew into with the tour. So from Ljubljana, we are determining whether we should do Dubrovnik - Split - Plivice or Plivice - Split -Dubrovnik. No flights from Dubrovnik to Ljubljana.
That would certainly be a mad dash from Ljubljana all the way to Dubrovnik and back! I might be tempted to rent a car in Zagreb, drive to Plitvice, Split, and Dubrovnik, drop the car there, and fly back to Venice for the final evening, then take a bus in the morning back to Ljubljana airport. You could even use a service like GoOpti to get from Venice to the airport in Ljubljana directly - might be worth it, and you could enjoy a more leisurely last morning in Venice without needing to get up super early and change modes of transportation several times. It's probably a 2-3 hour shuttle ride to the airport but they'll factor that in when arranging the pick-up time I believe. There are some cheap flights from Dubrovnik to Venice.
Given that clarification, here's what I would do:
Don't spend two nights at Plitvice, spend one, and spend your last night relaxing in Ljubljana before flying out.
I would aim to arrive in Plitvice on Friday, mid-afternoon (3:00ish). Check in to the hotel in the park (stay at that hotel in the park - you don't have time to waste coming and going). After check-in, get out and do half the park that afternoon. Midsummer, long days, you can easily knock out half the park that afternoon, and you'll enjoy it more in the last few hours as the crowds disappear. Just time your arrival carefully - if you are late that would blow half your time in the park. Hit the sack Friday night, get up early Saturday. Charge out and do the other half of the park in the morning (again, relatively crowd-free). Check out of the hotel on Saturday, linger in the park until it gets crowded, by late morning (11:00ish) jump in your car and move on. Enjoy a stress-free drive to Ljubljana. You'll have enough time to stop along the way at one of the caves or something else en route (there's plenty of worthwhile choices for a short stop). Arrive in Ljubljana sometime Saturday afternoon. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon and evening there, heck, you could even sleep in a bit on Sunday morning, knowing that all you need to do is get to the airport.
The above would give you a nice, low-stress way to end your trip, and wouldn't really require you missing anything. One full afternoon followed by a full morning in Plitvice is enough to see it all (assuming you stay in the park itself, and you are disciplined about managing your time while there), and doing it that way lets you dodge most of the crowds, which will be considerable in July.
You'll sleep better knowing you are not risking having to pay for a stunningly expensive replacement ticket to get home. FWIW, I just did a quick 'n dirty search for a flight today from LJU to BOS, and I'm seeing prices starting at over $3000. Not a risk I'd like to take.
Wow! Ljubljana - Split - Dubrovnik - Plitvice - Ljubljana in 1 week! You will spend most of your time driving & looking for parking. IMHO you would be better off renting the car in Ljubljana (in 2013 dropping off in Croatia was outrageous), check out a cave in Slovenia if not part of tour, visit Istria/Rovinj/Pula/etc for a few days, drive to Plitvice as David recommends and back to Ljubljana the night before the flight. The main roads are good - designed by Swiss (tunnel thru) & Germans (bridge over) I think. Don't forget the paperwork to drive in Croatia.