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10-12 weeks in Europe, first time travel to Europe

Hi fellow travellers,

Im hoping you can all give me some ideas on travel from
Australia to Rome to Croatia then travelling up through Central Europe to end our trip in Amsterdam :)

Hopefully May to July 2020.

My self and husband,
I know this is a very large trip and am possibly thinking

Not always to major cities, we like off the beaten path as well.
Any known amazing music festivals would be a bonus.

Would it be better to fly to different locations? Or train it? Or both?

I have seen driving is not a great idea so have decided not to attempt it on this trip.

I realise we are never going to see all there is to see but just want a small snap shot in each place.
Any country we should cut off itinerary and focus on a particular place?

Maybe its a ridiculous itinerary and i need to reevaluate?

cheers for any kind comments you all may have

Posted by
7606 posts

These are great out door music festivals in July for many years

Umbria Jazz Fest Italy
Ravello Music Festival
North Sea Jazz Netherlands
Ghent Jazz Festival Belgium

And they are not limited to just jazz.

Posted by
6855 posts

The famous Salzburg Festival is in July. Mostly opera and classical music.

Posted by
1273 posts

That would be a great trip and I don't think you need to fly and could do it by rail or coach. But it does depend which places you choose in each country. Italy to Croatia is different if you're leaving from Sicily compared to leaving from Venice.

A few random thoughts -

Firstly, I wouldn't necessarily dismiss driving especially as you are not planning only to cover major cities. It can (will?) be expensive to pick up a hire car in one country and drop it in another. But within a particular region, occasionally hiring a car to explore for a few days might give you more options to get off the beaten path. Just to note, though I'm sure you know this, all those countries listed drive on the wrong side of the road compared to Australia.

Secondly, you still have lots of time to plan and might I suggest you review what you mean by getting a snapshot? Currently you will get a snapshot of each country but only one limited part of the larger countries. Alternatively, you could get several snapshots of different parts of the same country, but see fewer countries. What I mean is don't only plan based on countries generally, but also the specific places within those you want to see. For example, in tourist terms, I think Venice and Rome are every bit as different as western Austria and southern Germany, similarly Berlin is very different than Munich. You don't necessarily have to change country to get variety.

Thirdly, whilst you have a lot of time, you are also covering a lot of area. There is a risk you might, by default, end up only seeing the major cities in some countries because practicalities of travel mean that is where you inevitably end up. I'm not sure this works as a comparison, but several years ago we spent about 3 weeks in Australia. We visited WA, Vic, NSW. It was great, but in reality what we principally saw were Perth, Melbourne, Sydney (and briefly ACT and day-trips). No regrets at all (and admittedly we were there to watch the Ashes so hadn't much choice!), but this was a great city snapshots tour not a snapshots tour of each state.

Posted by
24823 posts

Nick makes some excellent points.

I spent the summer of 2015 (4-1/2 months) covering a good bit of the ground you've listed with some additions: Italy (including Sicily), eastern Germany, Slovenia, Croatia. Serbia (in transit), Romania, Bulgaria and Montenegro. But I had been to some major tourist cities in the first four countries on earlier trips, so I didn't feel the need to go to Florence (or Siena or Lucca), Venice, Munich, Split or Dubrovnik. That freed up time to include new/smaller destinations in those countries. I ended up with a trip that was a good mix of urban areas (full of museums) and smaller town (more about just walking around). On a long trip like this, I wouldn't want to just hop between major cities.

I do recommend starting in the south, more or less as you have the trip laid out. Italy can be very hot in mid-summer, whereas the Benelux countries can be chilly and damp in late spring.

Posted by
6087 posts

Read Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door for lots of good advice on how to plan a trip and travel in Europe. It's more about planning and travel techniques than specific sights, but it includes brief descriptions of major sights in the countries you want to visit (or most of them). You can use this information to help you decide how much time you want to spend in which places. As suggested above, Italy and Germany have a wealth of things to see and do, but your timeframe will give you many choices. (Some people try to plan itineraries like yours in just a couple of weeks, usually a big mistake.) Try to minimize one-night stays anywhere, give yourselves at least two nights with at least one full day between so you're not changing hotels every day.

Use a map of Europe to plan a route between the places you want to see, then use the train planner link above to research rail connections and costs. Another good resource for train travel is The Man in Seat 61. For some of the less urban areas you may want to visit, driving may work better than trains. Via Michelin is a good planning tool for road trips, Generally you can rent a car in one place and drop it off in another without an extra charge, as long as the dropoff is in the same country. Dropping a car in a different country brings a hefty extra charge.

You're smart to start in the south and work north as spring turns to summer. Another suggestion -- build in some down time every week or so, where you park yourselves in one place for a day with no sightseeing agenda, just a break to sleep late, do laundry, sit in a park or on a beach, maybe go to a concert or movie or play, and recharge your batteries.

All the above is in the book, and a lot more. Have fun planning this trip, you're off to the right start.

Posted by
703 posts

first off, good to see you are going for a long time. great! your 'wish' list seems doable to me, given the time you have.
we generally go for about 8-9 weeks ( would go longer if retired) its a good amount of time. our first european trip was about 10 weeks and we covered a huge amount of distance/countries and most importantly things of interest, without 'flitting' around like most people try to do. we leased a car and combined it with fast train travel. having been to most of the countries you have listed ( not croatia yet) there is a lot to see and do plenty of research ( try doing a word search in the tab at the top of the screen)
we generally go in May/june, its a great time of year. we start 'low' and then head 'up' as the weeks go by and weather gets warmer.

things to consider.
have a stop over in another country and enjoy it as part of the trip ( if you don't like long flights or jet lag etc) particularly on the way back to australia.
we prefer to travel via asia ( ie singapore etc) as the flight times are 2 x reasonable length flights. if you go through UAE then one flight is long ( we had a 16 hour flight once) and the other is short.
we also like the larger planes A380 they are so smooth and just seem to have more room? this can limit the destination, however you might find Rome is not a readily available first stop. we flew to Milan and then fast train to Rome etc.
we have found driving not as 'scary' as some people make out. but this is very much a individual thing. IF you do decide to hire/lease a car don't think you have to stay right in the cities to enjoy them. we deliberately look at places to stay just outside the cities where we can easily get into the major cities, by public transport or park and ride etc.
in general we have found off the beaten path and the smaller cities can be 'better' than the larger cities which can be a bit global
hope this helps.

Posted by
14018 posts


Hopefully, you do have the 12 full weeks, ie, 84 days, to do this trip. The itinerary is not at all ridiculous...very doable. I would drop the Netherlands or Belgium for Paris.

My first trip was also in the summer when I was 21 and a college backpacker lasting 12 weeks, 7 of which I spent in traveling in Germany. I would suggest using all modes of and night trains, discount air carriers, buses, a rental car if you intend to go out into the villages surrounding big cites....just depends where you are and want to track down pertaining to the sites.

You have the night train option too...Austria, Czechia, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, Italy are all well served by the Night Jet and EN night train routes, such as between Berlin and Vienna, or Vienna to Venice.

Posted by
32051 posts


To begin with, it's great to see that you're getting an early start on the planning. That will give you lots of time to work out all the minute details.

As this is your first trip to Europe, I'd highly recommend reading Europe Through The Back Door before you get too far in the planning. You should be able to find a copy at local book stores or perhpas your local Library. I'd also suggest using the Rick Steves guidebooks (or other if you prefer) to plan the details for sightseeing, hotels, dining and transportation in the places you'll be visiting. Many of the books can be downloaded as E-books in several formats (Kindle, etc.), which may be easier considering your location. If you'd prefer paper copies, they may be on Amazon or you should be able to order from this website - .

For getting to Europe and back, open jaw flights are usually the best option, especially with the many locations you're visiting. There may be times when travelling within Europe where a budget flight makes the most sense, but in most cases it's easy to get around using the excellent rail networks. There may be occasions when a short term car rental may be an advantage, but trains (or buses) are often the easiest. Croatia may be a bit problematic, depending on where you're visiting. As I recall, the rail network doesn't extend south from Split, so you'd have to use a Bus or flight if you want to go to Dubrovnik. That can all be worked out once your Itinerary starts to take shape.

As your trip will be about 84 days, you won't exceed the 90 day limit of the Schengen Visa. If you were planning to make the trip a bit longer, that would be a concern.

Have you seen any of Rick's shows on PBS? If not here's part 1 of the travel skills series to get you started - .

It would help if you could provide a bit more information. For example.....

  • what prompted your desire to visit Europe? Are there particular sights or cities you want to see?
  • which city are you flying from? Some of the group here may know of good flight options from your area (there are some forum members from Australia).
  • what type of accommodations do you prefer? I typically use the hotels listed in the guidebooks, but some of the group here prefer Air BnB type accommodations.

With more detailed information, it makes it easier for the group to provide more detailed replies.

If your budget will allow, one option to consider would be to take a guided tour along with some self guided travel (ie: in Italy). Taking the tour at the beginning of the trip is often a good idea, as that helps to get up-to-speed on travel skills which makes the latter part of the trip easier.

It appears that you haven't finalized the list of countries you want to visit. Is there a possibility you might add countries to the list? As it stands now, seeing eight countries in 84 days will allow about 10 days per country.

Regarding music festivals, are there any bands (from any country) that you especially like? What genre of music do you most enjoy? Famous bands often have European tours and one of those may be happening during your trip.

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
14018 posts

Any top priority, must -see cities or museums? Any particular country you intend on spending more time relative to the others?

In doing the research, I would suggest too "Rough Guide: First Time to Europe. " Their books on individual countries and cities in which obviously more depth and details are provided can also reinforce, enhance your research.

Posted by
613 posts

Driving may be problematic in some of your destination countries but not in Austria Germany Belgium Netherlands where it is the best way to travel. But, you may be from a country that drives on the worng side of the road. Are you ready to take on the reversal?

If driving, get Michelin maps & Green Guides (specifically designed for sightseeing by car).
Take 2-3 weeks to drive around Austria.
Drive the Deutsche Alpinstrasse & the Deutsche Romaticstrasse in Germany.
Approach Benelux by the Rhine Valley detour into France for the Route de Vin Alsace. Then side trip thru the Mosel Valley to Trier, once the capital of the Roman Empire and the oldest city in Germany.

Reply if you decide to drive as suggested & I'll list more places to see by country.

Music Festivals: Prague Spring Festival; Prague Folk Festival

Best big cities; Rome, Vienna, Prague, 4-7 days each. Unless you are into museums, there are no notable big cities in Germany.

Posted by
703 posts

as far as booking travel, we find it much easier to book our flights via a local travel agent. they seem to have access to more information than doing it yourself. (flights and car lease etc can be less expensive when booked as 'early bird' which can be 6-8 months before you depart.) we do however book everything else ourselves on line, often many months in advance. if you are visiting a popular venue or city etc then booking well in advance is good insurance, IMO. over the years we have been amazed at how early things get booked out.
hope this helps.