Unrealistic planning expectations?

My husband and I are traveling to France from June 10 to the 23rd. In spending 12 days in France, we had 4 cities that were absolute to visit: 1. Paris 2. Nice 3. Arles/Avignon 4. Giverny and Rouen. I have been to Paris but my husband hasn't. As these towns are spread out we intend to rent a car and make some 1 day stops along the way.

Here is the itinerary:
June 10 - 13 - Paris - stay in Paris - over the course of 3 full days we intend to see Louvre, O'rsay, Norte Dame, and have an early day trip to Versailles but that evening we are doing the Eiffel Tower. We arrive on the 10th pretty early in the day (10:00am) so we will do Notre Dame that day.
June 14 - 8:00am train from Paris to Vernon - visiting Giverney then Rouen - Staying in Rouen and pick up rental car
June 15 - D-Day Beaches - Staying in Bayeux
June 16 - Bayeux then drive to Amboise - pm Chambord tour - Staying in Amboise
June 17 - tour Chenonceaux in Amboise in AM and drive to Lyon (we intend to return to Lyon on a different trip and are using it mainly as a stopover for the long drive to Avignon)
June 18 - Drive to Avignon (unless train system works out!) - stay in Arles but arrive to hotel late (return rental car)
June 19 - Arles and Les Baux - stay in Arles
June 20 - Train from Arles to Nice - stay in Nice - spend entire day in Nice
June 21 - Train from Nice to Monaco & Villerfranche-sur Mer - stay in Nice
June 22 - Train from Nice to Antibes (this is in question but a possibility) - stay in Nice
June 23 - Fly from Nice to Berlin (where we will spend a day visiting friends) to America

Is it wishful thinking to think that we can do this all in 12.5 days? It's an intense trip but we want to make the most of our holiday vacation! If this is too much, what are some suggestions to cut out?

Posted by Adam
2925 posts

I think your very tight itinerary is feasible. Whether it is optimal or not is obviously your call.

However, I note that it exceeds your stated priorities by adding destinations in Normandy and the Loire that complicate your trip. If these are not priorities I think you could have a better trip by leaving them off and spending more time at your stated priorities.

If you decide to keep this plan, I have one specific suggestion. Do not spend 2 days driving to Provence from Amboise. Spend 1 day taking the train. This will save you a day and a lot of time on the road.

However, if you stick to your original priorities, you can visit Giverney and Rouen as a long day trip from Paris. (Get an early start.) From Paris the trip to Arles is easy. With the time you save you can see more of Paris and Provence. If you want to see more Renaissance chateaux there are several close to Paris.

Only you know what you really want, but I think you might weigh these options.

Posted by shawn
28 posts

Sounds ambitious to me. Traveling from place to places, hotel to hotel, takes up so much of a day. I'd day give yourself more time to relax and enjoy fewer stops. We enjoyed Les Baux and Avignon. Good luck!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
6030 posts

That's a lot of moving around in short time. Giverny and Rouen are a bit out of the way from your other desired destinations. If I was going to cut something it would be that. If you do cut Normandy out you could take the train from Paris to the Loire and pick up your car there. Or cut the Loire too, train to Avignon and get the car. Sometimes making the most of a vacation is not to check off a lot of boxes to say you've been somewhere, but to spend enough time to really experience what you traveled so far for.

One question - what do you plan to do with your luggage on June 14th when you arrive in Vernon? To the best of my knowledge they do not have a place to store luggage at the Vernon train station and it doesn't seem feasible to take it around Giverny with you. You may have to rent the car in Paris.

Posted by janettravels44
1971 posts

This is a trip that is all about getting there and not at all about being there. so much time is devoted to logistics, always for me the least desirable part of any trip. IMHO it is ludicrous to make any major destination a one night stop. It takes two nights to get a full day in a place. Virtually any place you would visit would take a full day to appreciate. I would suggest with so little time that you limit yourself to 3 destinations and then actually spend some time being there.

It is also very costly to do all this moving around -- gas, tolls, flights without the payoff of actually seeing and doing anything in the places visited.

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

One word: Ludicrous.

Cut either the northern or southern lobe and it might barely work.

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
505 posts

I think you'll be happier if you just stuck with your absolutes: Paris (with day trips to Giverny and Rouen), Arles/Avignon, and Nice. If you do this, you won't even have to rent a car, and can travel solely by train which will be fun and relaxing.

I completely understand the temptation to add just one or two more sites/cities because they are so close by (I'm always having to reign myself in too! ), but with 12 days, I think it would be too rushed.

Whatever you decide, have a wonderful trip!!!!

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
1811 posts

I agree with everyone else...way, way, way too much for this short a trip. You'll be exhausted and the whole thing will be a blur. Focus instead on one or two geographic areas and cut out the outliers. Otherwise all you'll be doing is riding trains and checking in and out of hotels with a few meals in between.

Posted by Kim
1605 posts

You say you have four "must-see" cities -- but then you name six cities. And that's before you add in the Loire and other stops in Normandy! You have to really think about what are your priorities -- they may not be what you think they are (or maybe they WILL be!) -- but you've got to analyze!

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3553 posts

I have driven all these areas and could easily drive it in the given timeframe... but that is all you will be doing...driving. You really should take the advice of everyone and take a good look at your itinerary. Everything takes longer than you think and once you arrive in a new location you will have little time to appreciate it. All of the locations you have chosen are amazing and deserve some time to enjoy them and not be rushing on to the next. I do love whirlwind trips and have done many, but can't see the fun in this one. If it were my trip I would probably keep Paris , take the train to Avignon (get a car for Provence) explore this area at your own pace and you could drive to Nice and leave your car there. This means leaving out Normandy and Lyon, but if you are already flying out of Nice it would make sense.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9896 posts

My thoughts are more in line with Adam's. There is a direct TGV train departing from St. Pierre-des-Corps at 14:30 and arriving at Avignon TGV station at 18:45 June 17 (or 18, etc). You can buy it at http://ricksteves.raileurope.com/us/rail/point_to_point/triprequest.htm for $160 per person. (Voyage-SNCF still has a few very cheap fares available, but they are not "Prems" and I don't see the option to use PayPal. If your US credit cards does not work, then don't waste too much effort on it.)

Vernon train station doesn't have luggage storage, but you can leave bags at the Café-Tabac de la Gare, a block away, for 5 euros/each .

Posted by md_pieplow
5 posts

Thank you everyone for your thoughts! This is a lot to consider and now I have to figure out where to cut out things. Discussions with the husband are clearly needed to best decide what we can do!

Posted by md_pieplow
5 posts

Sadly, we had already started booking hotels with the crazy itinerary, so we already have a hotel in Rouen (which was hard to get and we really want to stay 1 night there), however we can modify other hotel reservations . We now intend to cut Bayeux and Amboise. Is this trip now feasible? If so, should we just add one day to Paris, Arles, and Nice? Any other suggestions are very appreciated!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
9473 posts

O have been to Rouen, and I enjoyed it, but I would cut it out of your itinerary in a heartbeat. I never book prepaid hotels,,,so I can cancel, did you prepay?

I thought Dawns plan made most sense

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1606 posts

This is way too rushed for me, and (like many others) think Dawn's plan would make for a more enjoyable trip. But you have to do what works best for you.

Am I correct that you are planning to fly from Nice to Berlin, visit with friends, and leave on a flight to the US in one day? That seems crazy to me. By the time you get out of the airport and back there and through security, there won't be much time for a visit. Unless the flight is somehow cheaper and faster than other more logical options, I don't know why you would consider this. But maybe I am reading this wrong.

Posted by Pissarro
Daphne, Alabama, United States
54 posts

Probably tooo late. If I were you I would book the Rick Steves Heart of France tour then add a few extra days for the South of France. On RS tour It is very relaxing being driven around France in a bus, being escorted to the Louvre and met my an excellent guide, staying over night on Mont St Michel!!

Posted by Rosalyn
1777 posts

Just back from the south of France, and I'll add one more piece of advice on cuts. There's plenty to do in Nice for more than a day. Don't try to go to Antibes. It's not that special.

Posted by dave
freelton, ont, canada
130 posts

As people have mentioned its a pretty ambitious 2weeks ,My wife and I spent 14 days in France ,paris nice and Versaille .You want to spend time in paris enjoying the sites you want to see but also enjoy the cafes and enjoying a glass or two of wine in the parks .we flew to nice and spent 2 nights and could have spent a day or two longer , you want to go to Monaco and come back to nice and enjoy supper in one of the restaurants on the riviera .fly back to paris and go to Veraiille by trainfor the day as you will spend most of the day at the palace walking around then go into town and enjoy supper , a beautiful city to stroll around then take the train back to paris the next day .....enjoy