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3 months in Europe. We really need help here.

My wife (26) and myself (30) are planning a 3 month trip to Europe from March 1, 2020, to June 1st, 2020. We have done a decent amount of travel (Central American, South America, and some western Europe) so we are pretty open to suggestion about where to go, ie both eastern and western sound exciting. That being said we are strong believers in taking it slow, we were thinking at least 3 days per location. Our budget is between 20-30k. As far as countries we want to see I was thinking the following:

  1. Austria
  2. Czech Republic
  3. Spain
  4. Portugal
  5. Italy
  6. UK
  7. Ireland
  8. Switzerland
  9. Netherlands
  10. Greece
  11. Sweden
  12. Germany
  13. Scotland

Obviously, I do not think we will get to all of those but that is currently the list. If you think we are missing countries that we should include please do not hesitate to say so. I really appreciate any help you guys can give. Honestly complete itineraries would not be a bad thing. Thank you in advance for both your time and effort.

Happy Travels!

Posted by
772 posts

No need to go further than the first country on your list. Renting an apartment up in the hills around Alpbach for three months will give you the peace and quiet to dream up another question.

Posted by
2521 posts

Ah, you know we aren't paid travel planners, right? This is your trip, each of us will come up with our own country priority list that might not suit you at all.
Some things to consider is the 90 out of 180 days in Schengen region which includes arrival and departure daytes. Ensure you know the rules and which are your schengen countries.
Some think travel guides are outdated vut it never hurrs to buy a second hand copy of LonelyPlanet Europe on a Shoestring.
Websites of value
Seat61 for train info
Wunderground for actual historical temperature and precipitation data
Rome2rio for plotting logical sequence of countries. It gives some transport options, but know scheduling and pricing may not be exact or current. It at least lets you see which providers to co firm on their own website. It is a first kick at the can big picture sort of thing.
Assume every move is going to take 1/2 to 1 day, so that eats away at your time.
I would start in the south where it is warmer and head north.
Switzerland and Sweden will ve your most expensive countries
Consider Couchsurfing
Oh, and none of these countries are actually Eastern Europe

Posted by
20031 posts

I know some people get offended when we ask this question. Are you are aware of the Schengen zone visa limited of 90/180 days? If you are arriving on March 1 and departing June 1. That is 93 days -- obviously that is 3 days over the limited. Personally I would not plan 90 just in case something goes wrong and your departure is delayed. I would plan on about 85, 86 days just to give yourself a small pad. Or you need to plan to spend more than 3 days in the UK. Maybe a week? Also with that much travel, I think your budget is a little tight. Should probably bump to at least 40,000.

Posted by
832 posts

Assuming 90 days, you're at about 7 days per country - 2 locations if we use your 3 night thinking and allowing travel time. So although there are some countries that I might be tempted to suggest you add, I'm more inclined to add days for each country, rather than countries to your days.

Anything that doesn't make the first cut can be the beginnings of a plan for trip #2.

But since you're asking, Hungary and Poland stand out for me as places to add to a grand tour such as you're planning. Especially since you mention having traveled in Western Europe, so I'm assuming that is why France, for one, is not on the list.

Posted by
3029 posts

Also note that Scotland is a part of the UK, as is Northern Ireland. The currency is pounds sterling £.

The Republic of Ireland is not. The currency there is the Euro €.

You have a lot of research and priority-setting to do. You can start with the information right here on this Rick Steves website, especially the Travel Tips --
https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips

And the Explore Europe section --
https://www.ricksteves.com/europe

As others have said, you need to sort out which countries follow the Schengen rules and which don't, the currencies used in them and much, much more to make your trip go smoothly. Don't be surprised if it's cold and wet in any of the countries north of the Alps all the way through May.

Posted by
4034 posts

For three months, I suggest spending some time thinking and talking about the pacing and rhythm of the trip. Which should vary.

So maybe a week of athletic sightseeing followed by a week in one daytrip-rich place. Some cities but also some mountains and beaches. Some rural times with a car (a different car for each time), to help you explore.

Talk about those places. Think of where you might spend some longer stretches, and build your trip around them.

There is a big conspicuous hole, to my eye, in your map of Europe, but if you just do not like the French it is your call. It's a big and varied country, though, with many different cultural identities.

Posted by
4817 posts

My first trip to Europe (age 25) we had a similar wish list for a similar length of time, except in the fall. When we finally travelled, we went to FOUR countries (England, Netherlands, France and Italy) plus one day in Germany to pick up a VW at the factory and one night in Belgium driving between Amsterdam and France. Sloooow travel, but we loved it.
On later trips I have been to all but four of the countries on your list --Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Sweden still elude me -- and Croatia, Poland and Romania have been put on the wish list.
I don't see Hungary -- Budapest is great (and cheap!) and only a short train ride from Vienna.
Get your hands on Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door for "how to travel" suggestions and tips. (Library copy, even a few years old, is fine.) Then enjoy your planning!

Posted by
7917 posts

I do two three month trips per year. From my experience, your trip sounds ambitious.

For the UK, remember, that includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You could spend three months just in these places. I recently spent a month in Scotland and it wasn't my first time there.

Pace yourself. For long term travel, you need to plan rest days. It will catch up to you. Three days in each location is not traveling slow. It's actually very fast and tiring especially on a three month trip.

Travel in one direction. Try not to backtrack.

Go to http://www.timeanddate.com and you can print out a calendar. Use the month format and plan out your trip to see just how much you can fit in and what you want to do. It will give you a different perspective. You list countries in your questions but countries have lots of places to visit. Where in those countries do you want to go.

Now it's time to look at some guidebooks and to search the internet. Narrow your trip down.

As for budget, it can easily be done for 20-30 grand. You just have to watch your budget and save where you can. Four or five star hotels or gourmet restaurants every day will kill your budget.

Posted by
11898 posts

I would suggest saving the UK for last.

Set aside 87-88 days (max) in the Schengen zone, ( a little time cushion helps in case of unexpected contingencies), then you need not worry about any possibility of violating the 90 day limit imposed by Schengen.

Posted by
11898 posts

Hi,

How are getting from Sweden to Germany? There is the Malmö to Berlin night train [edit: in summer]. Another option is the ferry connection from Malmö to Travemünde. It's overnight. I took that route once.

Unless you have in mind to fly, from where in Sweden to which city in Germany? Frankfurt, Berlin?

Posted by
1192 posts

@OP: a list of countries does not mean much in Europe because there are very local cultures, e.g. you will find Austria and German Bavaria more similar than German cities Munich and Hamburg.

What are your interests? or
What do you want to experience?

Guess that France is not on the list because you had been there already?

Why Sweden but not Denmark or Norway?

Some general info traveling Europe you can get on official tourism website.

Posted by
3416 posts

Three days per location is not taking it slow, it means the whole trip will be a blur. You need a week in whichever major cities you opt for, such as London and Rome and 5 full days for Amsterdam, Berlin, Lisbon etc. Plan on losing at least half a day each time you change location, even within a country eg London to Edinburgh or Venice to Rome.

March to me would be Spain or Portugal, as the weather in much of Europe will still be cold and/or wet. Greece is wet at this time of year.

You have plenty of reading and watching vlogs ahead of you to narrow down which places appeal to you. I would opt for 3 countries and have a month in each, subject to the number one of nights in the Schengen Zone.

Posted by
14509 posts

Traveling for that long is tiring. I cope by moving much, much more slowly than you apparently plan to do. The countries you list are each worth many weeks, not just a few days. Shortening your list of countries greatly would allow a more in-depth trip with a lot of variety--cities, villages, coasts, lakes, mountains. If you spend just a few days per country, you are likely to have an all-city trip, which will be more costly and have you surrounded by other tourists nearly all the time. That gets old after a short time.

I would start in southern Spain and--unless there's a family connection--would not go to Sweden as early as this. I don't like cold, damp, weather, so I've made sure not to go north of Andalucia before May. You may have a lot more tolerance for winter and early-spring weather than I do, but be sure you know what you're likely to encounter. Days will be rather short at the beginning of your trip, and some less-than-major sightseeing attractions may either be closed or have limited hours of operation.

Factors affecting long trips that you don't have to worry (much) about on shorter journeys:

  • You're more likely to get sick (and it will be flu season). Treat your body well and take your favorite remedies with you. High-zinc lozenges and Pepto-Bismol are not available in Europe.

  • Your clothes and shoes (I'd want waterproof shoes) will take a beating. If they aren't new when you start out, they may wear out before the end of the trip and need to be replaced. I travel with a homemade mending kit that includes heavy-duty white and black thread. I've had to re-attach buttons, mend seams, fix zippers, etc. Socks are a particular problem. When I take something other than new socks, I always regret it.

  • Figure out how you're going to deal with your mail; the Postal Service has a 30-day limit on hold mail, I believe.

  • Arrange to have all your monthly bills paid automatically by credit card. I have my credit card bills paid automatically by a debit to my bank account so i don't have to log on and pay them individually.

    • Have at least two ATM cards linked to two different accounts and at least three different credit cards. Stuff happens when you're traveling.
    • Check with banks and credit card companies on the fees they will charge you for overseas use of your cards. On a long trip like this, you can spend a lot of extra money if you have cards with high fees.
Posted by
2284 posts

In March I’d start with a cluster of the warmer countries (Portugal/Spain, fly to Greece, ferry to Italy) then I’d look at another cluster of countries to fly to (Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, southern Germany, Switzerland) then I’d go to Amsterdam take the Eurostar to the next cluster of countries (U.K., Scotland, Ireland) then fly to Sweden and home.

I actuality I’d eliminate the outlier country and one of the “clusters” and slow this trip down to something more relaxing. The cluster I’d eliminate would be the one group that least excites me after doing some research. If you think about clusters and connecting them by an inexpensive flight or short train ride you may see some possibilities that appeal to you.

PS, I only added one location to your list that a previous poster had mentioned, Budapest. It’s a stunner and if you do go to Austria, CZ, Germany and Switzerland you shouldn’t miss Budapest, IMO.

Now that I look at the countries clustered I’d only choose two clusters for 3 months...

Posted by
3257 posts

We did a 4 week drive tour of S. Wales and England in Nov. 2017.
Here is my detailed review
https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=599139

Three months is a lot of time, but you have quite a lot of Europe listed. I would not leave out Italy, make sure you do the big three, Rome, Florence and Venice at a minimum.

Bavaria as well as Vienna, then Prague and Berlin would be another great choice.

Consider doing a cruise that leaves Venice and stops in Croatia then several Greek Islands as well as Athens.

You left out Paris, I would add that back in to your trip.
Also consider Portugal and Spain.

Save Scandinavia for later, unless you want to do a Baltic cruise that stops in St. Petersburg, Russia. Also, a cruise up the coast of Norway is wonderful.

Posted by
8981 posts

I would pick three countries and spend one month in each, (about) one week in each of four locations within each country. Gives you a base to explore from, cuts transportation costs, and creates memories. Rent apartments and do some meal prep. More of a local-living experience and cuts costs.

Also, alternate city with small town and more rural locations (the latter are often more economical). For example, a week in Rome followed by a week in a Tuscan hill town with good bus connections. Or a week in Paris and a week in Bayeux. These are simple examples. You need to focus on what activities you enjoy (museums, history, hiking, wine tasting, gastronomy, etc.) and what the season will allow. For example, March and April are lovely in southern Italy but not a great time to go hiking in Switzerland.

You’ve got some reading to do. Have a look at Rick Steves’ “Europe Through the Back Door” but slow the pace down. It’s a journey, not a race.

Posted by
11898 posts

Hi,

No problems with doing a 3 month trip, as long as the days permitted in the Schengen zone are counted accurately, leaving a couple of cushion days.

My first trip was a three month trip, sort of, 12 weeks, ie 84 days to be exact. Aside from the Schengen aspect, I would suggest some exact planning, which helps in maximizing the the trip duration.

Keep in mind that starting the trip in March you could encounter very nice weather in the beginning, then in April experience some pretty cold weather...all depends. I prefer starting the first week in May and going through the summer. Weather ( ie, the heat) is just one factor, not the main factor.

Posted by
3350 posts

That being said we are strong believers in taking it slow, we were thinking at least 3 days per location.

That's not taking it slow, that's a burnout!

Posted by
647 posts

Hi. You've already seen that most folks here don' think this is taking it slow--3 days per location and about 6 days average per country you've listed. Something to consider is to list the cities or regions you want to visit and see how many locations that produces. Then you might want to ask yourself how many days you want to spend in each of those locations and how many days of travel that will take. That count may give you something more realistic for your three months. Have a great trip.

Posted by
1958 posts

I would allow at least 3 weeks for Italy and at least 5 for the UK/Ireland. As mentioned save the UK for last to avoid Schengen problems.

Posted by
16358 posts

"At least 3 days per location" is not necessarily too fast and works fine as an average. You might want more time in London or Vienna, if you're museum goers, but don't need as much in small towns. On my second trip to Europe, 6 months in 13 countries, I followed Rick's guidebook timing fairly closely, but also had full flexibility to add a rest day or an extra stop where I wished. I would probably trim the number of countries to allow more stops in each. At the same time, some corners where these countries meet up do allow you to see bits of each without traveling too far.

A typical planning strategy is to cut off the "outliers" that don't fit into a neat plan with the others and require more travel time. For instance, Rick recommends cutting Greece from the first grand tour, since it takes longer to reach. It also seems a bit unusual to add Sweden without more of Scandinavia, so perhaps you save that for another trip. Of course, budget flights have also brought these destinations "closer" than we used to think of them.

Posted by
495 posts

Ambitious list for sure. Only you can narrow it down. Think about each country and the cities you want to see. I would consider Poland and Croatia as additions to your list to choose from. I have done several 3 month trips and I build in 2 days every 14 to be low key. Traveling for that long can be tiring. Enjoy. You have a great list.

Posted by
20031 posts

Unless isaacpswan returns and engages in a little discussion we are just shooting into the dark and maybe wasting our time.

Posted by
42 posts

I would add Budapest, Hungary and parts of France.
I find selecting only 3 countries in that time frabe offers more relaxation since you want to take it slow- I’m slower than most travelers though and prefer to relax on vacay!

Posted by
11898 posts

Hi,

As you're doing the planning, consider what the top priorities, the lesser priorities and those places with the least priority.

Which place would you be willing to drop in order to travel more effectively time-wise. I would suggest dropping Switzerland

Posted by
516 posts

If you want to see countries, rent a car and hit the road. Avoid big cities. If you want to see cities, some deserve more than 3 days and take the train

Posted by
8260 posts

Further to Frank’s post above, you do have to wonder about first time posters with grandiose ideas for travel (3 months in Europe, $30,000) who never return to the forum to comment, or even thank those who advised. Just having a bit if fun perhaps?

Posted by
11898 posts

Hi,

Which cities in Sweden, Austria and Germany have you decided on seeing?

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all so much for all the feedback. I am reading everyone's comments. Sorry to not respond sooner, I am simply soaking it all in and trying to create a more concrete plan. I was then going to repost and get another round of feedback. I think at first I was overwhelmed by just how unprepared I am. Again thank you all so much, your advice has been invaluable so far and I am really excited to my next post to get another round of feedback and continue to refine my plans.

Posted by
2521 posts

Thanks for coming back and acknowledging you need to do some off line planning. No harm there, and sometimes people get impatient when no replies. That being said, there are plenty that ask something and never respond whether it was of use or not.
Glad you recognize it needs some work. Feel free to come back when you have some next steps to review.

Posted by
1742 posts

Instead of a list of countries, I would focus on sights, activities and cities that you are interested in and then figure out how to connect the dots with the best logistics. For example.....Hike the Cinque Terre, see the David and tour a winery in Tuscany as opposed to "Italy". Start with a random list go from there.

Posted by
4549 posts

You probably need to pare back the list a bit, the logical observation is that Sweden and Greece really interrupt the flow, and will chew up some travel time to get there and back, do you really have a strong interest in those two areas?

From there, start to list potential stops in each country, rather than country, since most of the others are fairly compact, stops are what will determine what can be accomplished. If 6 places in Italy interest you, but only one in Switzerland, then you can start to apportion your time.

Posted by
3 posts

So I am working on paring back the list. I am nowhere near where I want to be to present a full plan to you guys.
Right now I am thinking of flying into Portugal (maybe Porto then work my way south insert town*) working my way through Spain (starting in Seville, then maybe Madrid and end in San Sebastion) Stop in France (the reason I left this out before is because I went there for a month when I was 17 and truly did not enjoy my time there. That being said after all you comments I will try it again.) I was thinking maybe nice and Lyon.) After France work my way across Italy (I recently did southern Italy, so I was thinking lake Como, Milan, and Venice) Take a cruise from Venice through the Greek islands and end in Athens. (I know Greece is out of the way but its something we really wanna do. Fly from Athens to Vienna, work my way up from Vienna to Prague stopping at Ceske Krumlov. Then from Prague go to Hamburg and maybe stop in Berlin along the way. Get to Copenhagen from there then go to the UK to explore before flying home. I definitely still need a ton of help and this is still ridiculously rough. I am trying to start in the south as suggested, then work my way north. I also tried to cut out a few places and take things a little slower, maybe 5 to 6 days per place depending on your guy's opinions on the cities. We are not super interested in art. We love activities. We were thinking, some cooking classes in Italy, surfing in Portugal, hiking wherever you guys say. Suggestions are very very welcome.

Posted by
2837 posts

One suggestion I'd make is don't worry as much about your trip making a "logical" route - because the best way to travel will be a mix of trains (obviously my favorite) AND budget airlines. You'll want to pack light for a trip like this anyway, and stay primarily in apartments with laundry available. So if you find a $19 flight from Madrid to Athens, it doesn't matter that it's "far", it's 2 hours in the air.

It is a jumble creating a trip this big but highlight the places you are interested in and see the connections between those places and other places by direct cheap flight and/or train to work out the travel. It's a lot of research. Skyscanner and GoogleFlights are my main tools and they are often invaluable. I agree with everyone else that longer stays in areas where you can go day tripping from is less exhausting than moving more frequently.