First time posting on any travel site. A friend and I are planning a trip to Slovenia and Croatia from Sept. 1-14 2018. We arrive in Ljub from Washington, DC late night on Sept. 2, and we depart Dubrovnick early am on Sept. 14. That gives us 11 full days to explore. We plan to spend the nights of Sept. 2 and 3 somewhere in Ljub with a hotel reservation. Next public transport to Zagreb, where we will spend a day or two, pick up a rental car, and basically take it day by day from there. We plan to visit Rovinj/Pula, Zadar, Split/Hvar, Dubrovnik and Mostar, making hotel reservations on the fly as we see how much time we want to spend in each location. Any and all reactions to this plan would be much appreciated. For example: are we crazy to not make reservations in advance; where should we stay in each location; what should we do in each location; how long should we spend in each location; have we left anything out that we really should see; are we planning too much; what's the best way to rent a car; etc. etc.
In addition to hotel reservations for your arrival, you will want them for your last night. Unless you can afford to change your plane reservations at the last minute, you know you'll need to be within striking distance of Dubrovnik airport the night before you leave. Whether that will be in Dubrovnik itself, or somewhere nearby, make sure it's close enough that you can get to the airport on time, for sure, without excess stress.
I count thirteen nights. So you might do something like:
Ljubljana (2 nights)
Zagreb (2 nights)
Istria (2 nights)
Zadar (1 night)
Split (1 night)
Hvar (2 nights)
Mostar (1 night)
Dubrovnik (2 nights)
This would be a VERY fast itinerary. I think many would recommend cutting something out and slowing it down, even if you do it "on the fly" and reserve as you go along. You could do Mostar as a day stop between Split and Dubrovnik. And you could do Hvar as a day trip from Split (so add one night to Split, one night elsewhere instead of overnighting in Hvar). I'd probably urge three nights in Ljubljana - even though it's a small city easily explored in a day, with three nights (and a late arrival the first day), you could sneak in a day trip to Lake Bled too. Plus I love Ljubljana. Some people might skip either Zagreb or Istria on such a short trip, too, and try to squeeze in a few nights overnight on an island.
I have been to Croatia twice. My second trip was in mid-May a few years ago, and I winged it with hotels as you plan to do. Sometimes I booked the night before; sometimes I booked the morning of or not even at all, just walked up to a hotel front desk. I did use Booking.com much of the time. You can book things ahead of time there many with free cancellation, so you can book stuff guessing which nights you'll stay but cancel near the last minute if you change your plans. Obviously it would be a whole lot more practical to do this if you travel with an internet-capable device like a phone, tablet, or laptop.
Use the map feature on booking.com to figure out where to stay; read reviews. Booking.com can be very helpful even if you wind up not booking with them. I try to stay in town centers. Other than Zagreb, these are all fairly small towns or cities. In Dubrovnik, assuming you drop the car as you arrive, stay in or close to the old town.
I think early September might be a tad busier still along the Dalmatian coast than it was in mid-May for me, so you can probably manage but might find some places booked up near the last minute. YMMV.
Many people would add a stop at Plitvice Lakes National Park, between Zagreb and Zadar. It's an amazing park. Although you can see the gist of it in about 6-8 hours, having a night there is easier because you can enter the park first thing in the morning when it opens - it gets quite crowded with tour groups by mid-morning - can be quite unpleasant. Plitvice was one of the highlights of Croatia for me - I visited twice.
Great point. Will do. Thanks.
I believe you have too many planned stops. I have been to and liked all of your destinations, but you're not going to have enough time to really experience them.
I would not go to Istria for just two nights. It needs more time than that, and removing it will allow you a bit of breathing room.
Definitely don't try to see Plitvice after spending the night in Zagreb (or Istria). You'll get there the same time as an awful lot of other day-trippers, and you will not see the park at its best. (I am the voice of experience.)
As for what else to see and do, you need a guidebook.
Sorry, but for me, to squeeze in all your destinations wouldn’t be a pleasant experience, if would be a whirlwind tour with too much time in transit and not enough time experiencing the country.
Write off your first full day to jet lag and remember that 2 nights somewhere is only one day there, so you may want to add a night to Ljubljana. No Lake Bled?
Here on, you need to work out what you want to see. You could easily spend a month just in Croatia and not see all of it. Work out where you want to go and plan it out, allowing for travel time between each location. Use Google maps for timings and add a third, as they usually underestimate.
There is plenty to see in Zagreb and you could easily spend 2 full days here.
It would be a pity to visit Istria and not have time to see the hill towns, so 4 full days minimum would be a sensible time allocation.
Zadar can be covered in a full day. Plitvice has been mentioned by a previous poster.
Early September in Dalmatia is still very busy, although tourist numbers start dropping off from the middle of the month. May, as others have posted is very quiet in comparison.
Hvar town can be covered from Split as a day trip. Early/mid September is still full partly season in Hvar town, so if you want to stay on the island, I would recommend Stari Grad or Jelsa, as they will be quieter at night. Many places on Hvar have a 3 night minimum booking.
Trogir is worth a half day side trip from Split and Split itself is a full day.
If you are going to Hvar to stay, you need to consider what you are going to do with your car. Check that your hire company will permit you to take it on a ferry. Parking in Hvar town can be difficult, so another reason for staying in Stari Grad. Getting a car onto the islands is expensive and slower, as you have to take the 2 hour ferry plus it’s advisable to be there an hour ahead of sailing.
You may want to consider returning your car in Split and taking the catamaran to Dubrovnik, although this means that you won’t be able to pick up Mostar en route (assuming your car hire company is happy about you taking the car there).
Dubrovnik itself needs at least a full day to see and longer if there are many cruise ships in port. Mostar can be done as a day trip from here.
At a pace that’s quicker than I would like, I would need 19 full days on the ground to cover your itinerary if staying on Hvar and seeing Lake Bled and Trogir.
Are your flights booked? You may want to consider flying into Zagreb and dropping Slovenia.
With so much ground to cover, sorry to say, but you don’t really have the luxury of being able to add another night somewhere en route without the end part being rushed, so you may want to consider booking your accommodation before you travel, otherwise you will be eating into your holiday time trying to find accommodation on the hoof.
Hi there, We spent a long weekend in Ljubljana with a quick trip over to Croatia. (Really, I was just interested in SEEING Croatia and ended up loving it there. So pretty.) Are you going to go to the Skocjan Caves? Not exactly in Ljubljana but they were GORGEOUS and I've seen plenty of caves.
Do spend some time on the beach in Croatia. We had our GPS and drove until we found a spot. Had an absolutely lovely afternoon playing in the Adriatic Sea just north of Umag.
I know you're trying to fit a lot in, but do remember that traveling from one place to another is tiring. People on here have some good advice (much better than mine), so definitely pay attention to what they suggest!