Please sign in to post.

33 Nights in Europe 2nd trip to the Continents Please Help

Hello (:

I will be spending 33 nights in Europe at the end of July this year to the end of August. I have been once before to London and Paris a few years ago with my family, but now I think its time for a solo trip. I am a college student with lots of energy, and I don't mind the "journey" aspect of traveling. I have watch Kenneth Clark's Civilization BBC over ten times, so I am mainly interested in experiencing what makes the western world so unique, which I aim to achieve through religious sights, art, museums, and natural beauty. My current itinerary (which is very rough indeed), seems like a whirlwind of locations, and includes over 45h of traveling time alone, which does not included the all the other time associated with it (checking in/out, boarding, locating trains, etc.) I will only be traveling by train, as I have to fly in and out of Paris.

I don't know how I feel about this, and I would like all of your advice.

Minus airfare, which I got for next to nothing due to credit card rewards through delta, would 4K be enough for 33 nights?

Here is my plan (needs work):

1st Night: Paris
2 Paris
3 Paris
4 Paris
5 Bruges
6 Bruges
7 Amsterdam
8 Amsterdam
9 Amsterdam
10 Cochem, Germany
11 Cochem, Germany
12 Bacharach, Germany
13 Bacharach, Germany
14 Baden-baden, Germany
15 Baden-Baden, Germany
16 Colmar, France
17 Colmar, France
18 Colmar, France
19 Zurich, Switzerland
20 Zurich, Switzerland
21 Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
22 Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
23 Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
24 Bern, Switzerland
25 Bern, Switzerland
26 Lausanne, Switzerland
27 Lausanne, Switzerland
28 Annecy, France
29 Annecy, France
30 Annecy, France
31 Beaune, France
32 Beaune, France
33 Paris, France

Posted by
27441 posts

The nine nights in Switzerland may be a problem, budget-wise. I suggest looking at a convenient room-booking website (I use booking.com, but there are others) to see what the lodging costs look like in your Swiss cities.

What you pay for trains will depend in many cases on how early you buy the tickets. Wait until a few days before a trip and you're looking at the full base fare. Buy as soon as tickets go on sale and you may pay 50% or even 70% less than that. But those bargain tickets will be non-refundable and non-changeable. You can scope out rail fares on the trainline.eu website.

Swiss trains are very expensive per mile. The cost can climb even higher if you want to take trips up into the mountains. You might benefit from buying a Half Fare Card. You can check the rail fares on the SBB website (which defaults to what you'd pay with the Half Fare Card).

Do check the Swiss expenses right away, because I suspect you're going to decide to set Switzerland aside until a later trip.

Posted by
26 posts

I just looked up ticket prices for Switzerland, and they are way beyond the budget I had in mind. Thank you for pointing this out. I think I will keep it to France>Belgium>Netherlands>Germany. It seems like trying to travel through Switzerland would eat up half of my budget! Would a rental car be a cheaper alternative?

Posted by
6670 posts

This is an ambitious itinerary for a high-energy solo traveler with no one to slow him down. You're wise to give yourself at least one full day in each city. The sequencing is logical. Of your cities, I've been only to Paris, Amsterdam, and Beaune, all of which are worth at least the time you give them. Most of the others are popular destinations on this board so I'm sure they're worthwhile too. Your chances of good alpine weather are probably better than any other time of year.

Your budget of about $120 a day means hostels and picnics. I don't know the ins and outs of rail passes, but your plan might be a rare good candidate for one. See the related "Travel Tips" on this website and try the "Transportation" forum if you have specific questions or concerns. Transportation cost may be the toughest nut to crack for this plan. If you stayed more nights in fewer places, you'd spend less on moving around (time as well as money).

As for experiencing what makes the Western world unique, you might consider slowing down to improve the quality, if not the quantity, of your experiences. You will certainly become an expert on train travel, which after all is one of the West's contributions to civilization. Hopefully you'll have many other chances to travel in Europe as life goes on, each more rewarding than the next. Good luck.

EDIT -- While I was waxing philosophical, acraven was talking you out of half your itinerary with practical advice. As for rental car vs. trains, you'll have to do that research. Be sure to return the car in the same country where you rented it, to avoid a big drop-off charge.

Posted by
26 posts

Thank you both for your responses, I really appreciate your expertise and time. I will do more research into the rail-pass at the other forum, as $800 might be worth it for 15 travel days. I would love to see Switzerland, but it might be more beneficial in the short and long term if I focused on fewer cities and few countries. Switzerland might have to wait for a trip of its own. However, I feel a magnetic pull towards the Alps. If you were in my shoes, would either of you leave Switzerland in or out on the condition that I nailed the transportation aspect down?

Posted by
27441 posts

As a solo traveler who cannot drive a car with a manual transmission, I've never considered renting in Europe. In general, driving will be a lot more costly than taking the train as long as you don't buy your long-distance rail tickets very late in the game--and even then, the car might be more expensive. Now, whether throwing Switzerland into the mix would change that calculation, I do not know. Most people who go to Switzerland dstrong texto so primarily for the scenery, and they want to take one or more high-elevation trips. You can't drive to tops of those mountains; you have to use things like cog-wheel trains, so some of the public-transportation expense would remain even if you had a car.

Parking in a convenient location in one of the popular cities in Europe will not be cheap. Some highways have high tolls. Switzerland is one of the countries that uses a vignette system rather than tolls. There is no short-term vignette, so a tourist on a brief trip pays the same fee as someone living in the country.

Basel and Geneva are two major Swiss cities sitting on the border. You could visit each for a day from a nearby French town without incurring Swiss rail fares or hotel expenses.

I'd apply some of the ex-Swiss time to Paris and add an extra day or two for the Netherlands. If you're interested in art, Rotterdam has an interesting modern-art museum and The Hague has the Mauritshuis. The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo is a place I haven't gotten to yet; not sure how easy it is to reach by public transportation. You might also be interested in the way the Dutch reclaimed areas from the sea to expand their living area.

The Swiss Alps are beautiful. So are the vastly less expensive Italian Dolomites and Austrian Alps (perhaps a bit far afield for you on this trip). I haven't gone up into the French Alps, but from descriptions on this forum, Chamonix has marvelous Alpine scenery and a walk-through-glacier. You can use Alpine lifts to cross the border into Italy.

There are always more places than a traveler can hit on any given trip, whether the limiting factor is time or money. I spent 89 days in France last year, basically just in eastern France. I didn't have time for Paris (or Chamonix). Focus on choosing a collection of destinations that makes sense, given your constraints, not on the hundreds/thousands of great places in Europe you are not going to be able to see on this trip. In other words: I've have no problem setting Switzerland aside.

I doubt very much that you'd save money with a rail pass. It's a very rare traveler who does. Don't forget that many of the fast trains require seat reservations. Rail pass holders pay extra for those, but those fees are included in the point-to-point ticket prices you see online. For example, these are the second-class reservation fees on the Thalys:

Netherlands-Belgium: 15 euros
Netherlands-France: 25 euros
Belgium-France: 20 euros

There may be quotas for rail-pass holders on those trains; I'm not sure about that. Such quotas do exist on some international trains.

Rail fares in Germany can be extremely low because of some great deals on regional tickets.

You could currently buy a June ticket from Annecy to Beaune for 47 euros. I found an evening train from Beaune to Paris going for 15 euros; others were 23 euros, 35 euros, etc. If you're in a position to lock down your major travel legs soon after the tickets go on sale, you'll do far better than with a rail pass. I didn't buy any of my French rail tickets more than a very few days in advance, and I didn't run into exorbitant costs. It helped that I traveled to a lot of smaller towns, which often involved use of regional trains (TERs). Fares on those are relatively inexpensive and do not increase as the date of travel approaches.

Posted by
26 posts

Acraven I think you are right. For my budget, which is probably not enough for the itinerary above anyways, I should stick to above Switzerland, and focus more on the goal of my trip which is visiting hotspots of civilization and not just natural beauty. I must assume I will be back someday to Switzerland. Holland sounds fantastic, hopefully it won't be too crowed.

Posted by
16894 posts

I'm trying to guess how old you are. If you're pricing "$800 for 15 travel days," then that sounds like you're considering the youth rate for under age 28. Currently, a Eurail Global pass for 15 travel days in 2 months costs $768 or the one-month continuous version costs $787. You only listed 13 potential rail travel routes, so you also might consider a Select pass to cover just your 10 longest travel days in France-Benelux-Germany-Switzerland for $518 (or for $478 without Switzerland).

If you decide to keep Switzerland in the mix, you might still drop Zurich (nobody's particular favorite) to add flexibility or breathing room elsewhere. If you skip Switzerland, then you'll probably want to sleep in Chamonix, in addition to Annecy, and Lyon would be another worthwhile stop.

Posted by
768 posts

Acraven and others are right in saying that Switz. can be a problem, budget-wise.
That is true for the average tourist. However, since you are young and adventurous, you may want to do what I did when I was younger, poorer, and took each of my teens to Lauterbrunnen. We camped at Camping Jungfrau. If you walk in with a "backpacker tent" it is only about $20 a night!

www.campingjungfrau.swiss/en/camping/sommercamping/default.asp

Then if you don't eat out but buy your food at the camp store or Coop store in town, that's also a money saver. They have a common kitchen available.
If camping is not your thing, check out Valley Hostel or Ey apts.

Now looking at your itinerary, I'm curious as to why you are taking nights in Zurich and Bern. Are there museums or other you wish to see there? Otherwise, I would add those nights to Lauterbrunnen. I've been there a dozen times with 5 nights barely enough and 2 weeks just right. I say that to let you know there's plenty to see if, as you say, you seek "natural beauty". For example, just Google image "Mannlichen" or "Bachalpsee". If you want to our dozen favorite hikes (maps and pics) around Lauterbrunnen, send me a private message. (Click on my name to send and your name to read.)

Posted by
26 posts

I am 22 years old. I will dump Zurich, and Lausanne and add those days to Lauterbrunnen (: I want to keep one day for Bern to swim in the river after all the hiking in the Alps, I think I would be a nice finish. Laura, $518 sounds like a great deal! If thats the case I will keep Switzerland, but I will consolidate my itinerary by adding more days to Paris and the Netherlands.

Posted by
168 posts

If you decide to visit Switzerland, I'd drop Zurich and spend a few days in Lucerne or Basel. Don't stay in Lauterbrunnen but in the mountains (Murren or Wengen). Murren has the wonderful Chalet Fontana which won't break the bank. Instead of Lausanne, try smaller but close by Vevey. I'd skip Bern. You can do a daytrip from Murren or Lucerne or Basel if you choose. I'd trade Bruges for Ghent. We spent 6 nights there with a daytrip to Bruges and once we visited, we were thrilled we had decided to stay in Ghent. Switzerland has a four day pass that could help with your time there.

Posted by
6113 posts

If you are under 25, you will struggle to hire a car or if you do find a provider willing to do so, if will be expensive.

Allow up to half a day every time you change location and I think you will find you are short changing most locations and spending too much time in transit.

Posted by
15686 posts

Given your focus on religious sights, art, museums, and natural beauty, I'm a bit surprised at your choices. For instance, I might have suggested Cologne and Trier in southern Germany, even Frankfurt (so underrated), and Strasbourg rather than Colmar. To save money, instead of Switzerland, consider Chamonix which is cheaper than Switzerland, beautiful Alps, and closer to Annecy.

Before you commit to Switzerland, note the cost of gondolas/cable cars to the mountains. They ain't cheap anywhere but in Switzerland they are super-not-cheap.

Are you planning to use Airbnb? Hostels? Some hostels are closed for several hours from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. If you plan to arrive or leave then, you may have a problem with storing your bag. Some hostels in popular spots may be full or nearly full, so you may have to book in advance, especially if you don't want to stay in the least desirable rooms - the ones with higher bed counts.

Posted by
26 posts

I just finished revising my itinerary. I will be stopping off in Cologne for an hour or two to see the Cathedral there. What are your thoughts on this? It will cut my travel time by half, and removes a lot of locations.

1st night Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Rothenburg, Germany
Rothenburg, Germany
Rothenburg, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg, France
Nancy, France
Nancy, France
Nancy, France
Paris, France

Posted by
12193 posts

My first thought is to go through and figure out your transportation. How to get from place to place, how much it will cost and how long it will take? That will give you a better idea how much time you will have to spend touring rather than moving.

From a budget perspective, Switzerland is always problematic because everything is expensive. In other countries it can be expensive in the big cities but gets more affordable outside of the main areas.

July and August are the most expensive times for lodging because they are busiest. Hostels fill up so you need to learn techniques to get a bed when others are turned away. For me it's calling ahead in the morning, so a local SIM for your phone is a good thing.

Posted by
3050 posts

The new schedule is looking better and a lot cheaper. Keep in mind that Germany is the cheapest country you want to visit. Amsterdam and Paris are probably the most expensive places outside of Switzerland (but there are lots of budget tips, hostels, etc so neither is as frustrating as Switzerland which it just feels near impossible to escape the high prices).

I have a few nitpicks, though: Rothenburg is much beloved by tourists who are unaware that Germany literally has hundreds of towns with medieval centers, many untouched by the war. it's also on a "spur" train line, meaning it's inconvenient. It's not really "between" Amsterdam and Munich in a functional sense, because I can guarantee you that you'll find a cheaper flight from Amsterdam to Munich than you will a train ticket.

With that in mind, I suggest flying to Munich, then from there taking a train to a nearby city with an undestroyed center. Bamberg is beautiful. Regensburg is a little larger, but it's entire city center is a UNSECO world heritage site. And if you're interested in Western Culture, the Germanisches Museum in Nurnberg, an easy day trip from Munich, has the definitive collection of German cultural history from prehistoric times to the 20th century. And while in Nurnberg, you could also visit the National Socialism Documentation Center near the Nazi Party Rally grounds, to see the darker side of having too much reverence for one civilization above others.

My second question is, why Nancy? I mean, I've been there and it's a nice enough city, particularly if you're interested in art nouevau architecture, but it's not something I'd do on a highlights of Europe trip. I'd take those days (and maybe a day from a couple other places) and put it towards the Rhine, seeing the castles, the Cologne Dom, etc or the Mosel with a visit to Trier OR use it to visit another place in France with great cathedrals, such as Reims and/or Rouen (my personal favorite Cathederal in France besides Strasbourg, in a lovely setting, too).

Otherwise it looks like a good itinerary, totally agree about swapping Brugges for Ghent (you can day trip to Brugges, there's not enough to see to make it worthwhile to overnight).

With all of your travel in France, I don't think a Eurorail pass makes any sense at all, BUT for your travels in Germany you might want to consider a German Rail pass (especially if you decide to spend time on the Rhine). It's good for long-distance flexible travel so you don't have to reserve tickets in advance, and you can make even better deal of it by stopping somewhere on the way (for example, last time I used one we did Berlin to Munich but stopped in Nuremberg for several hours). It is possible to get cheaper tickets than what you'll pay per day with a German rail pass, so it's only really good if you want to do long routes on high speed trains, but for that it can be a great value, and you qualify for a youth pass: https://www.bahn.de/p/view/mdb/pv/deutschland_erleben/allgemein/tickets/pdfs_laender-tickets/2015/mdb_190311_streckenkarte_bay_2015.pdf

Another thing to consider if you don't mind moving slowly are Laender tickets in Germany (I believe previously mentioned) which allows you to travel within a federal state all day on everything but the fast trains. Some routes barely have a time difference between fast and regular trains, so that's always a good idea. There are also day tickets like this that cover all of Germany. More information here: https://www.bahn.com/en/view/offers/regional/index.shtml?dbkanal_007=L04_S02_D002_KIN0059_FLYOUT-ANGEBOTE-REGIONAL-ANGEBOTE_LZ01

Posted by
168 posts

I think your stay in Ghent is too short. Ghent is beautiful in and of itself and has a wonderful history. If you'd like to see Bruges, thats one daytrip, and you've said there's an interested in WW history. I'd suggest a daytrip with guide to Iper. We had a private guide and the day was fascinating. We visited the battlefields, remaining trenches, cemeteries, where John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields.

Posted by
26 posts

You guys are amazing! I would not have been able to put this together on my own. I agree with you all, and I will be taking the "home-base" approach to my travel as well, so many of the locations will be the home-base of surrounding places. Here is what I have so far.

1st nightParis, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Paris, France
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Ghent, Belgium
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Bamberg, Germany
Bamberg, Germany
Bamberg, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany
Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg, France
Strasbourg, France
Reims, France
Reims, France
Reims, France
Paris, France

thoughts?

Posted by
26 posts

And I just crunched the numbers regarding transportation if any are interested.

Paris>Brussels $40 1h
Brussels>Ghent $15 30m
Ghent>Brussels $15 30m
Brussels>Amsterdam $40 2h
Amsterdam>Munich $50 8h
Munich>Strasbourg $40 4h
Strasbourg>Reims $30 1h
Reims>Paris $30 1h

Total=around $260 if booked in advance

...The railpasses are a joke.

Posted by
27441 posts

Your time in Strasbourg is rather short if you want to see Colmar and one or two of the small wine villages. Based on your interests, I believe you'll want to go to the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar, at least. And the town is so pretty (squint your eyes and ignore the many other tourists) that it's worth having some walking-around time. The historic area is rather large.

There are things to see in Reims aside from the champagne houses--cathedral, surrender museum, etc., but I found it not as physically attractive a town as most other places I visited in France. Of course, I tend to select my destinations based on how pretty I expect them to be.

Posted by
7175 posts

I think you have enough time to find room for Berlin & Burgundy.

Paris, France -6 nights
Ghent, Belgium -4 nights
Amsterdam, Netherlands -4 nights
Berlin, Germany -5 nights
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany -3 nights
Munich, Germany -4 nights
Dijon, France -3 nights
Strasbourg, France -3 nights
Paris, France -1 night