Europe vacation

Hi, I'm a soldier station in Afghanistan. I have 18 days to spend on vacation in May. My wife and I would like to visite Italy, Croatia (Split, Makarska and Dubrovnik) and Santorini Greece. She will be traveling from Montreal Canada. Do you think this is to much? Can you help. Thank you for your time. Alex

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

Hi Alexander, for me personally I would choose Santorini and Croatia , OR Santorini and Italy ( probaly Rome and Venice) . I would not choose all of them, its too much moving about. From Rome you can get cheap return flights to Santorini on several cheapo airlines, I would check out Easyjet first ( and tell wife to pack light!) lol From Montreal she could fly into Rome on Airtransat and fly out of Venice( so wouldn't have to back track!) , so that would be pretty easy for her.. the prices are ranging at about 1100 dollars for june dates, not bad. If you have extra money have her book the Club Class, its not first class its just economy with a bit of extra legroom, but it really makes the long flights a bit comfier. You could even arrange to meet her in Rome, spend 4-5 days, then fly to Santorini for 4-5 days, then return to Rome, then train to Florence and Venice to finish off trip..
Book airfares well in advance for best prices.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17779 posts

Alexander, First of all, thank you for your service! Some of the members of our local Regiment (B.C. Dragoons) have served in Afghanistan. I tend to agree with Pat that focusing on Italy and Santorini might be better on this occasion. Travel to and from Croatia can be a bit challenging at times, and with only 18-days you'll want to minimize travel times. However, a short visit to Croatia may be possible (but not to all of the places you mentioned). Could you provide some information on which city in Europe you'll be flying inbound and outbound from Afghanistan? It might be better to start in Santorini and end in Italy, as that will make it easier to connect with your flight back to Afghanistan. Which city were you planning to meet your Wife in? Are there any cities in Italy or specific sights that you or your wife are especially interested in seeing? Have either of you been to Italy before? For your trip to Santorini, you could stay in Fira or Oia. Fira is at the centre of the island and has more hotels, restaurants and shops. You might find it helpful to have a look at THIS excellent website, which has lots of good information on Greece. For travel in May, I'd recommend pre-booking Hotels. That's the "spring shoulder season" and it can be busy, especially in Italy. Pre-booking Hotels will allow you to choose both the price range as well as which part of each city you want to stay in. The group here can provide Hotel suggestions once we know which cities you'll be visiting. With some further information, it will be easier to provide more detailed suggestions to make your trip go well. Happy travels!

Posted by Alexander
Sainte-Julie, Québec, Canada
5 posts

First, thank you all for the prompt response, very appreciated. My wife would travel out from Mtl on the 2 May and meet me in Florence the next day, that was the plan anyway. Could be Rome instead of Florence. The most important thing is that we want to visit Santorini for a couple of days. Croatia is extra if we have time only. we do not have any place in Italy in specific. My wife and I we say bye on the 20 may.
tks Alex

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1560 posts

I personally think three places is too much traveling, you want to spend quality and leisure time together, not rushing from one place, one airport to another, would vote for Greece and Italy.

Posted by Alexander
Sainte-Julie, Québec, Canada
5 posts

Thank you, so I guess starting North of Italy and travel down south and then jump to Greece. one question I have is what is the best option to go to Greece Santorini from Italy, Ferry, plane ??? and from where?. I would like to visite Naples, so maybe from there to go to Santorini?.
thank you.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17779 posts

Alexander, Thanks for the additional information. What sights would you both be interested to see in Italy - Museums, Galleries, historic locations? That will have a bearing on which cities to visit. If you start in Florence, you could (for example) also visit Siena, Orvieto and then Rome. If your Wife is able to find a copy of the Rick Steves Italy 2013 Guidebook, that will provide lots of good information on places to visit as well as hotels, restaurants, transportation, etc. I'd suggest packing the book along. Regarding flights, it should be possible to fly inbound to Florence. However, that's a smaller airport so a direct flight likely won't be possible, and at least one connecting flight will be needed. One of the easiest options that I found is a KLM flight from YUL to AMS, and then Alitalia to FLR. There are of course numerous flight options. It would be better to use code-share flights so that checked luggage is sent to the final destination. Your Wife may find it helpful to speak with a Travel Agent in addition to checking internet sources. I suggested Amsterdam for the connecting flight from Montreal, as it's a single terminal airport, so is much easier for connecting flights than Paris / CDG (although lots of walking is required). Another big hub airport is Frankfurt, but I haven't checked flights from there to Florence. For the flight from Rome to Santorini (via Athens), you could consider either EasyJet or Aegean. I've used both and would certainly recommend them. I can provide more specific information after you've decided which cities you'll be visiting. It might be prudent to fly back from Santorini on the 19th, to a city which is close to where you'll be departing from. Your Wife could use a flight from there to Montreal. Cheers!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2501 posts

Alexander, another option would be to fly into Venice, then go to Florence, then Rome, then Naples/Amalfi Coast area, then over to Bari to take a ferry to Dubrovnik, rent a car for a couple of days for Croatia, then fly to Santorini (might be via Athens) and fly out of Athens (terrible airport the last time I was there, but that was a few years ago). Or, fly into Rome, go south to Naples/Amalfi Coast, back up to Florence, then Venice, and then you can take a ferry from Ancona or a bus from Trieste to Croatia, then a ferry or fly to Greece. Several posters suggest skipping Croatia, which you could save for another time, but if you want to see all three countries it's doable assuming you are both young and able to keep up a good pace. Personally I would go to Italy and Santorini, but I'm older now...

Posted by Alexander
Sainte-Julie, Québec, Canada
5 posts

Again thank you for your time. My wife would like to visite Florence, so I guess it would be a good idea to meet there and start travel south. places we would like to visit are, Florence, Pisa, Rome (Coliseum), Naples (Pompei). we would really like to spend a couple of days in Santorini after.
from there don't know from where to leave back home.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

1) Since you want to visit Pisa, you could check flights to Pisa Airport rather than Florence - I believe Pisa is slightly bigger and has more choices for your connections. After Pisa it is an easy regional train journey to Florence and from Florence you can catch fast inter-city trains to Rome and onto Naples 2) Italy to Santorini probably means flying via Athens. It is possible to do it by a mixture of ferries and bus, but it would be around 3 days travelling - I'm assuming you are not interested, but let me know if you want the route. Otherwise, by May Alitalia should be running their Summer direct Naples-Athens flight (but maybe not every day of the week so you need to plan around that). As there is not much competition prices are very high, so you might consider instead making your Italy trip Florence - Naples - Rome, and then flying from Rome to Athens since much cheaper flights are available (the low cost airline "eayJet" fly this route for example). From Athens you either fly to Santorini or take a ferry (several choices, including "Blue Star", though it is just easier to fly since you already at the airport).

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17779 posts

Alexander, A few comments on your recent post..... > Florence - this would be a good place to start. The flight I suggested earlier from Montreal is one to consider, as there's only one layover in Amsterdam. I'd suggest about 3 - 5 days in Florence, especially to allow your Wife to recover from jet lag and to allow time for day trips. If you're planning to visit the Uffizi or Accademia, reservations are highly advised for travel in May. From there you can easily visit Pisa on a day trip (travel time from Firenze SMN to Pisa Centrale is ~1 hour each way, current fare listed at €7.80 PP). You could also take a day trip to Siena, which is a beautiful Tuscan hill town, and the location where the famous Palio is held each summer (travel by Bus is the best choice on that route). > Rome - I'd suggest at least 4 days in Rome, as there's SO MUCH to see. For visits to the Colosseum, there are some "shortcuts" that you can take to avoid the long lines. For example, if you buy a Combo ticket at the office on Palatine Hill, that will allow you to tour the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill. I'd recommend taking one of the "official" tours inside the Colosseum, in order to get a good idea on the history. If you're planning to visit St. Peter's and the Vatican, note that there's a dress code so be sure you're both wearing appropriate clothing. I've seen what can happen to those that break the rules, and it's not nice! > Naples - you might consider staying in Sorrento, as it's a beautiful city and very convenient for trips to Pompeii, Ercolano, etc. You could easily visit Naples on a day trip from there. The trip from Rome will involve the Circumvesuviana, which will be an "experience". Continued......

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17779 posts

Alexander - Part 2... > Santorini - your best bet is to return to Rome, and use a budget flight from there. I checked Alitalia from Naples, but they appear to use a connecting flight in Rome as well, and the prices were "steep". I'd use either Aegean or EasyJet from Rome to Athens, as the prices should be comparable. You will most likely have to connect in Athens, so it's going to be a full travel day. As you'll be using Aegean to Santorini, it might be better to use them from Rome to Athens as well. You'll need to give some thought on which area of Santorini you'd prefer to stay. Fira is about in the centre of the island, and has the largest number of shops and restaurants. Oia is at one end of the island and a beautiful location to watch the sunsets. I used a Greek travel agency for my hotel, transportation and transfers, and it worked well. If you're planning to rent a car on Santorini, note than an International Driver's Permit is compulsory. Your wife can obtain that easily at any AAA office for a very few dollars. The IDP must be used with the home Driver's License and is valid for one year. "from there don't know from where to leave back home" Could you clarify whether you're both returning to Montreal at the end of your holiday? Here are some possibilities to consider: > Travel Montreal to Florence - KLM or code share partners, with plane change at either Paris or Amsterdam. > Travel Europe to Montreal - take a budget flight from Athens to Rome the day prior to departure and then KLM or code share partners, with plane changes at either Paris, Atlanta, Amsterdam or New York (Amsterdam would probably be the easiest). Good luck with your planning!

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

Alexander: I assume you're in the Canadian armed forces. Have you checked with your administration to see if European travel is permitted? I read the other day where an American soldier on R&R was wanting to go to Prague and Budapest. Ex-Eastern bloc countries require prior authorization from the Army. Greece and Italy would be okay for him, but Croatia may not be easy to get approved. Just a thought starter for you.

Posted by Alexander
Sainte-Julie, Québec, Canada
5 posts

As a military member, I haven't hear anything on restrictions for Canadian members, but thank you for asking. also, after reading all the good comments, we aren't going to Croatia anymore, not this time. Ken, I think we are going to do what you planned.
returning to Rome from Naples, how about TGV train? My wife will be returning to Montreal and I will be returning to Afghanistan at the end of our vacations. Thank you all for your time, I appreciate the time you put to answer my questions, very appreciated. Alex

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17779 posts

Alexander, If you decide to stay in Sorrento rather than Naples, you'll need to transfer from the Trenitalia train to the Circumvesuviana when you reach Naples. The station for that is on the lower floor of Napoli Centrale. Note that they have several rail lines, so be sure to choose the correct one. For the return trip from Naploli Centrale to Roma Termini, you'll be using the FrecciaArgento / FrecciaRossa high speed trains. There are also Intercity and Regionale trains on that route, which will be slower (and cheaper) than the Freccia trains. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) only operates in France or to cities that border France (ie: Basel or Lausanne). There are a few important things to know regarding travelling by train in Italy. For example: > When travelling on Regionale trains, tickets MUST be validated or you may be fined on the spot. The fines start at €50 PP. > The high speed trains and a few others have compulsory reservations, which are specific to a particular train and departure time. Those caught without reservations may be fined on the spot (again, €50 PP). As your wife is returning to Montreal, booking open jaw tickets inbound Florence and outbound Rome should work well. She may wish to speak with a Travel Agent to find the best options. As you're returning to Afghanistan, I'm assuming your departure will be from another European airport (ie: Ramstein AFB). You should be able to get a budget flight from Rome to somewhere close to your departure point. Was your Wife able to find a copy of the Rick Steves Italy 2013 Guidebook? I'd suggest packing that along on the trip, as it will be valuable reference for sightseeing and transportation. Cheers!