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10-12 Days in Europe September/October 2015

Hi everyone!
I'm surprising my husband with a vacation to Europe this fall (end of September-first week of October. I am ready to purchase our flights (Open Jaw) and begin the process. I have NEVER been to Europe so I'm a little overwhelmed as there is SO much information out there. I'm looking for suggestions from people who have done it before. I know it'll be impossible to do it all -- there is just so much I want to see, but I want to try to see London, Berchtesgaden (my husband has mentioned the Eagle's Nest before so this might be a good surprise), Paris and Rome. We will be flying from IAH in Houston, Texas and just want to know where we should fly first. Perhaps London and work our way south or vice versa? I'd would appreciate any feedback/help/opinions. Thanks in advance.
UPDATE: I've searched for airfare to London (Heathrow) from Houston (IAH) and it's $1300/each one way. Does this seem reasonable to you? I was hoping to pay $1500-2000 total (for both of us). Any feedback on this would be appreciated.

Posted by
4637 posts

In the fall start with London and work your way south. In the spring vice versa for obvious reason. Logistically it makes sense to fly from Houston to London, from there by train Eurostar to Paris, from Paris to Berchtesgaden then Rome and back from Rome.

Posted by
15573 posts

My thinking is that in order to get non-stops on a single code share airline, fly into Heathrow and out from Munich on United/Lufthansa. Prices look pretty good in your time frame (about $1300 pp). Since your destinations are far apart, mostly you will need to fly internally. From London, take the Eurostar train to Paris. From Paris, fly to Rome on a discount carrier like Easyjet (but NOT Ryanair), then from Rome to Munich and train to Berchdesgaden. Finally home from Munich. 12 days should be a minimum, 14 to 15 days would be better IMHO.

Posted by
13925 posts

Take into account the time it takes to get from place to place. London to Paris is about 1/2 day. The train takes about 2.5 hours, but it takes at least 1/2 hour to get to the station, and you should be there about an hour ahead of time. Then 1/2 hour in Paris from the train to your hotel.

I am not familiar with Berchtesgaden but a quick internet search shows it's 180 km from Munich and 30 km from Salzburg. The best train connection from Paris to Munich is about 6 hours and one train change. Add to that the time to get to/from hotel to train station. A flight might shave a couple hours off that, but take into account how long it will take you to get to/from the airports, which are some distance away (train stations are in city centers) and the time to check in, go through security, etc. and then wait for your luggage on landing. Any way you go, the better part of a day will be used just to get from Paris to Munich (or Salzburg).

You are likely to be jetlagged on your first day. If you spend 3 full days in London and 3 full days in Paris (minimum to experience them), you've barely time left for a day tour to Berchtesgaden and perhaps a day or 2 to see Munich or Salzburg.

Do your 10-12 days include the days for flying trans-Atlantic or are you only counting days on the ground in Europe? If you have less than 10 days on the ground, more than 2 destinations is losing too much time in moving around. Even with 12 full days, I'd stick with 3 destinations. I'd start with London and Paris because they are classic destinations and it's very easy to go from one to the other by train (Eurostar). If you want to add a third destination and decide that Berchtesgaden is too far, you can add Belgium or Amsterdam.

Posted by
10846 posts

Great surprise and mid- September to early - October are the best times to go in my opinion. Why 10 - 12 days. For us Monday to Friday working stiffs a week off work is 9 days (2 weekends and 5 between) and two weeks off work is 16 days (10 days of work and 3 weekends). The airfare is going to cost you at least $1100 (I know because I fly out of Houston too) so you might as well capitalize on ever dollar it takes to get there and back by making the trip as long as you can.

I think London and Paris and Rome are like carrots, celery and onions (a mirepoix). Every good recipe starts there but Rome makes such a good part of a week or two exploring Italy that I think its best as a part of a different trip.

This gets you a pretty varied and interesting cross section of places and cultures. If Berchtesgaden interests your husband than Budapest probably will too. You could also substitute Budapest with Vienna or Prague. Prague is a little more touristy and attracts the younger crowd, Vienna a little more highbrow and an older crowd and Budapest a little more “Bohemian” which attracts both spectrums of the age group. I didn’t check but I am pretty sure that Lufthansa / United code share will cover this entire route and that makes life easier. Rome is magnificent and if that’s your interest, change out Budapest/Vienna/Prague with Rome.

  1. Depart Houston on Lufthansa (yes, my choice too)
  2. Arrive London
  3. London
  4. London
  5. Train from London to Paris
  6. Paris
  7. Paris
  8. Fly Paris to Munich
  9. Munich
  10. Munich day trip to Berchtesgaden
  11. Fly Munich to Budapest
  12. Budapest
  13. Budapest
  14. Return Home

Another option is through Istanbul on Turkish Air. If you do that then you limit your exploration to Hungary, Austria, Romania, Slovakia; which is my favorite part of the world outside of Texas.

Posted by
1826 posts

Noticed you state prices are about $1200 one way each for a total of about $2400 each total. I think you are not searching correctly. When you go on a website for airfares, be sure to check multiple destinations. Dallas to London to Rome to Dallas according to United website is $1286 in September. Does have a change on the way over and back but no where near price you have found. Just realized you said Houston but prices should be about the same. As others said, would start in London, then train to Paris then cheap air fare to Rome and home. Every time you change location, you lose about a half a day or so. And don't count departure and arrival days. Hope this helps. Also get Europe through the Back door as it has many tips for first timers. Well worth the weight in gold! Then get country or city specific books and for further help, come back here and post on each countries help sites. Good luck.

Posted by
10846 posts

Sorry, I didn’t pick up on the $1200 each one way. I fly out of Houston to Europe 2 or 3 times a year and I can generally get round trip tickets for about $1200; and that’s to Budapest which tends to be a tad more expensive. You should be able to find fall season open jaw round trip tickets for $1200 to $1400 tops. There are cheaper as well, but the cheaper tickets tend to come with too many disadvantages to make it worth my while to pursue. Disadvantages like very long flights, an extra connection or very short layovers that require every plane to be on time and then you still have to run. I am getting too old for that. Oh, and some flight plans that you buy from the internet companies are “Multiple Airlines” which might mean that if you miss your flight because the previous flight was late, you are stuck buying a new ticket or paying a charge to change your flights. “Multiple Airlines” is different than Code Share airlines which is fine as code share airlines work together to get you where you are going.

As for where to purchase the tickets, I may use orbitz or TA or Kyak to check flight schedules and options but then I always go to the airline for the tickets. It doesn’t cost more and I only have to deal with the airline if there is an issue. An interesting point on code share flights; often, you cant reserve seats on the code share partner of the airline you are booking through. I really only care about my seat on the long haul international leg so if it’s a Lufthansa flight crossing the Atlantic I purchase the tickets from Lufthansa even if I can save $50 by booking through United. You may face the same issues when booking AA and finding yourself on their codeshare British Air.

When I land in Europe I want 2 hours between flights and when I return to the US I want 2 hours at the port of entry before the next flight.

The itinerary I suggested or any itinerary that requires some European city to city flights (Paris to Vienna for instance) you should check both as a multi-city flight and as individual flights to find the best and most convenient prices. The Lufthansa flight from IAH to Heathrow to Paris to Budapest to IAH might cost more than a flying one carrier from IAH to London open jaw returning from Budapest and then you fill in the London to Budapest on another carrier. As for the discount carriers………you get every bit of what you pay for and absolutely nothing else. I have flown Ryan and Wizz and don’t care for either.

Posted by
904 posts

Erica, as stated above, knowing what you want to see first in each location is important. Here is a basic breakdown on transportation from the timeframe you gave, estimate of cost based on departing 26 Sep with a return flight on 6 Oct:
Lufthansa website:
26 Sep IAH - LHR, United plane: 18:30 - 9:40
2 Oct CDG - MUC, Lufthansa plane: 9:00 - 10:25
4 Oct MUC - FCO, Lufthansa plane: 9:05 - 10:35
6 Oct FCO - IAH, Lufthansa & United planes: 10:15 - 17:55
Total Cost for Two: $4,411

London to Paris transportation would be the EuroStar speed train.
London - Paris - Munich - Rome
I'm sure there are cheaper flights and other carriers to go through. I looked for the most direct routes to all your locations.

Posted by
16761 posts

You said "one way" airfare, but maybe you did not mean that. In any case, one way airfare is usually the most expensive. To fly into one city and home from another, look for a "multi-city" itinerary option, or "advanced search."

There is a lot of info out there. To make your research more efficient, I'd use Rick Steves' guidebooks for each major city, London, Paris, and Rome, since they will cover just about every detail you need during your stay.

Once you are ready to buy train tickets, long distances can all be cheaper to book ahead, available starting 3-4 months out. To search for budget flights within Europe, try www.skyscanner.com.

Posted by
6542 posts

Flying open jaw from Houston to London Heathrow and from Rome FCO back to Houston--last Monday in September and returning 14 days later. The round trip airfare's $1163 each--not too bad. The times in the air are not too bad, either. I use MatrixITAsoftware.com to see the flight schedules/costs.

I'd suggest visiting London and taking the Eurostar fast train down to Paris. Then fly to Rome FCO on EasyJet, which is a very inexpensive European budget airline. You can fly home from Rome.

Berchtesgarden and Salzburg are right at 2 hours east of Munich, and traveling there is just too difficult and a long way from Paris.

When I'm looking for accommodations, I go to Trip Advisor and filter rooms for low to high prices. Then I look for the highest customer satisfaction ratings and read the comments. I often do the same with Booking.com, and all my hotels and B&B's have been very satisfactory.

Posted by
35 posts

While in Munich you must go see Dachau. The public transportation in Munich as else where in Europe is great; it takes a little to get use to but it is very efficient. Budapest is also nice; I also went from Munich to Budapest but by train. It was not that long of a trip but it was relaxing after being on the go for the previous 4 or 5 days. Seeing the rural area of Europe was really cool.

Enjoy your trip

Posted by
4 posts

I'm overwhelmed by everyone's willingness to help. Truly grateful for all these responses. This community is so awesome and patient. Before I was mistakingly putting ONE-WAY instead of MULTI-CITY so my tickets were outrageous, but thanks to you guys helping me fix that, it's looking MUCH better (thank goodness). I paid $10 bucks to British Airways to hold the following tickets at the locked rate. (Wanted to lock it because I got price alerts earlier this afternoon from Hopper saying the tickets were low priced today and I didn't want to miss out in case they sold out)

September 28 | Depart from Houston 4PM

September 29 | Arrive in London (Heathrow) 7:20AM

September 29 - October 7 (Timeline to be determined -- hopefully with your help)

October 8 | Depart from Rome 7AM (Fiumicino) to Houston :(

On British Airways, the cost for both my husband and I comes out to $2394.00 (536.00/each 661.04/taxes and fees each). Does this look reasonable to you guys? Please give me any updated feedback. I'd like to purchase soon and start the detailed planning phase. :)

Posted by
10846 posts

I think that's a very good rate
Congrats!

And yes, compared to that really, really large forum at that other site this place is remarkably more civilized and helpful.

Posted by
3399 posts

Be sure to check the opening and closing dates for the Eagle's Nest. It is not open all year round.

Posted by
12086 posts

Hi,

Since you are flying open jaw, check if the return flight is agreeable to you, ie, how many times do you have to change planes, where do you change, total hours of the return flight by the time you land at IAH.

Posted by
6026 posts

So, it looks like you have 9 days on the ground in Europe (Sept 29-Oct 7). As much as it would be a nice surprise for your husband, I don't think Berchtesgaden is a good idea - too far and too time consuming. With 9 days two places would be best - in your case London and Rome because of your planned multi-city flights. You could do London, Paris, and Rome but the travel time will eat up so much sightseeing time that you won't really get to see much, you won't even get 3 full days in each. Whatever you decide, do some in depth research before arriving regarding what you want to see in each place and the logistics of seeing them. You'll have to plan your sightseeing efficiently to maximize your time in each.

Posted by
15573 posts

You have your bookends set. Less than $1200 per person is a very good price for the air. Too bad you couldn't have squeezed a few more days in, but you know how much time you have. Now it is just a matter of filling in the gaps. If you want to do Paris, you should buy your Eurostar tickets now. There is a huge price break by booking early. I agree that 3 stops is the max, so if you do Paris, the next step is getting airplane tickets from Paris to Rome. Easyjet has flights from Paris Orly to Rome for 50 euro each. I am sure there will be baggage fees on top of that. Read the fine print.

Posted by
4 posts

This forum helped me book my first trip to Europe!!! Yay!!! I've decided to take the train from London to Paris. I've looked at seat61 and the options are London St Pacras, Ebbsfleet and Ashland. I choose the London one, right? I am going to be staying in central London. There are 6 different France options. I've looked through the forum but I haven't found which ones I should take. Any tips on the specific one? I'm on the EuroStar website. Thanks :)

Posted by
13925 posts

I just went to the Eurostar website and found that the cheapest tickets from London to Paris around Sept 30-Oct 1 are selling out. The price is about $59/ticket - these are non-exchangeable, non-refundable tickets. The trains from London to Paris leave from St. Pancras station (you should plan to be at the station about 45-60 minutes before departure) and arrive at Gare du Nord in Paris. From there you can take a taxi or the metro to your hotel.