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Family Europe Trip - 4 months - final stage itinerary suggestions pls! (warning - long)

I had wonderful feedback after I posted a while back and am hoping to get some more suggestions from the wonderful group here. Some background - we are a Canadian family of 4 taking approx 4 months next year and going to Europe (basically a sabbatical) Myself, my wife and two daughters (age 6, 10) Once we get to France we will have a car for the entire trip.

Current locked in itinerary looks like this:
Beginning trip April 23, 2020 (flying Toronto-London)
London, England - 7 nights
Nice, France - 1 night (flying in here to get lease buy-back car)
Montespertoli, Italy - 28 nights (30 min South of Florence) (the monthly discount was 60%)!! (Will be doing daytrips from here to Pisa, Sienna, Arezzo, etc)
Rome, Italy - 3 nights (these nights will actually be taken inside of the 28 nights of Florence)
Venice, Italy - 2 nights
Kranj, Slovenia - 7 nights
Zadar, Croatia - 7 nights (have a friend that lives here)
Split, Croatia - 3 nights (may have to skip this if Croatia manages to join the Schengen by June 2020)
Herceg Novi, Montenegro - 4 nights
Mostar, Bosnia - 2 nights
Sarajevo, Bosnia - 5 nights
Belgrade, Serbia - 4 nights
Budapest, Hungary - 3 nights
Various towns, Slovakia - 9 nights (we have family here that are meeting us in Kosice and taking us around ending in Bratislava)
Vienna, Austria - 1 night
Prague, Czech - 4 nights

If you've stayed with me this far - thanks!

Here is where we still have decisions to make. We will have approximately 30 nights left (depends on Croatia/Schengen). The only thing we had as a must were Munich (family), Salzburg, and ending in Paris where we will be returning the car and catching our flight home.

I'm looking for thoughts around potential itineraries - current points of interest are:

Zugspitze Mountain
Neuschwanstein Castle

The main challenge I'm having is trying to imagine what we're going to be feeling like after 3 months of travel - will we want to keep moving every 3-4 nights or will we appreciate a 10 night stay somewhere and treat it like a base.

Anyway - I'm open to any suggestions you all have,



Posted by
2361 posts

Why only one night in Vienna? It's lovely, lots of interesting sights. I assume the long stays in Bosnia and Serbia are because they're not Schengen or maybe they're inexpensive, but why not spend it in the UK instead? Even if you've been there before, there's an almost inexhaustible list of things to see there. I think the constant travel will be tiring-maybe Munich as a base for Salzburg and other burgs on list?

Posted by
16763 posts

What a lovely adventure! Just a few comments:

  • You will have at least 6 hours of driving time between Rome and Italy {I meant Venice!], not allowing for any stopping, detours, getting lost, traffic, or looking for parking. That's a full day. So you're going to have precisely one day in Venice. That is way too short.

  • I note the omission of Plitvice Lakes National Park, a place that should appeal to all of you. It would be my top recommendation in Croatia. You'd need a night near the park in order to see it outside of the painfully-overrun day-tripping hours, and you need to buy tickets in advance to be certain of getting in. More details are available in recent posts on the Croatia forum.

  • Both Sarajevo and Belgrade are probably going to feel more "foreign" to you than the preceding stops (except for Mostar, of course). That's not a bad thing, but just thought I'd mention it.

  • Three days is really short for Budapest. It is a large, very interesting city. I haven't spent much time in Sarajevo (and that was long ago) or in Belgrade--and I do like and recommend them--but I'd suggest giving serious thought to trimming a day off each city and adding it to Budapest if it doesn't cause Schengen issues. The country of Hungary is generally easy to visit (despite the utterly incomprehensible language), and there are many lovely cities and towns. I suggest throwing some of the days set aside for Germany to Hungary on the theory that it is simpler to return to Germany (flights to Frankfurt and Munich often being considerably cheaper than flights to Budapest). You could spend months in Germany.

  • The drive from Belgrade to Budapest takes you past some very attractive cities: Novi Sad (funky Old Town with a hippie vibe), Subotica (Art Nouveau architecture), Szeged (Art Nouveau) and Kecskemet (Art Nouveau). The first two are in Serbia; the last two, in Hungary. Szeged and Subotica are extremely close together, though with a border in between. Novi Sad is day-trippable from Belgrade.

  • It would be possible to detour to Timisoara, Romania (non-Schengen), rather than driving directly from Belgrade to Budapest. That would add about 2.5 hours of driving time. Timisoara is where the revolution began. It's a very attractive city, relatively westernized; I'd want 2 nights there at least. But perhaps you're already thinking about another trip that would include Romania? It is a lovely country and comparatively inexpensive.

I'm 68 years old and have taken four trips of about 4-1/2 months each over the last four years. I love having long stays, but the best I can tell, it's mainly because I hate changing hotels. That aspect of the trip may not be so bad for you, since you'll have a car to transport you luggage rather than having to roll it up and down sidewalks. I'm a big proponent of matching the length of a stay to what I want to do in the area. I do take a lot of side-trips (by bus or train) in order to justify spending 4 nights in places that have only about one day's worth of sights.

But the conventional wisdom is that when you're traveling with children, less moving around is to be preferred. I do not have children. I suspect something like a 10-day base might be a very good thing.

Edited to add: Research driving rules very, very carefully. I believe Austria and Slovenia both require windshield vignettes for the car, and possibly some of the other countries do, too.

Posted by
3978 posts

Even without children, I would opt for two x one month stays at each end of the trip, with shorter travelling in between.

Your children will probably be bored in Venice and having a car there is a pain. Allowing for getting there from Rome will take half a day, which leaves little time to actually explore Venice.

Split through to Slovakia is particularly busy. The longest trip I have taken is 7 weeks, which was 4 non-city bases with day trips, which was enough moving for us, but each person is different.

Posted by
9409 posts

At the end of the itinerary you have defined it will be August and HOT everywhere except the mountains and the UK. How about a break in the Italian Dolomites or Austrian alps? Lots of outdoor activities, pleasant temps, gorgeous scenery. And I mean stay at some altitude: 3000+ feet to get the cool weather. If that appeals, many of us can give specific recommendations.

I do believe you will be tired of bouncing around and suggest at least a 2 week base location to catch your breath and really explore.

Posted by
868 posts

How are you getting around the Schengen visa requirements? I believe most of your countries are in the Schengen area, aren't they?

Posted by
16763 posts

I see 58 nights in the Schengen countries, excluding Germany/Austria at the end. Serbia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Montenegro and Croatia are non-Schengen. CJ and family will have to be very careful and take note of the fact that both arrival days and departure days from the Schengen Zone count. That means the travel day from Kranj to Zadar counts as a Schengen day. That makes 59 if I haven't made a mistake somewhere.

Hi CJ,
I just want to say that I am sooo jealous and I wish you the best of times!!!
PS Venice deserves a day or 2 more...

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all so much for your thoughts and suggestions! Couple of general updates and points of clarification:

Schengen - I am definitely confident on the rules here and know that we can only spend 90 days in a 180 day period (including travel days in and out). This is one of the reasons we chose to spend time in Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia. I am keeping an eye on Croatia as it will cause me to adjust some days if they join prior to our trip!

Rome - I didn't make it very clear. We are actually going to take a sidetrip down to Rome during our 28 night stay in Montespertoli. Plan is to drive to Orvieto and then take the train in - grab an airbnb for 2 or 3 nights and then head back to our airbnb in Montespertoli.

Venice - we are actually staying in Mestre and then will just take transit into Venice.

Vienna - I hear everybody loud and clear - more days! :) We are actually looking at possibly taking Prague out of the itinerary (and adding it in a future trip) and then focusing on Austria a bit more. One thought was to find a place midway between Vienna and Salzburg and grab a place for 10 nights allowing us to either drive or train for daytrips but also let us catch our breath.

From there I think we would continue on to Germany staying mostly South.

Keep those thoughts and suggestions coming - I am really appreciative of them all!

Posted by
829 posts

If at all possible stay in actual Venice rather than in Mestre. Mestre is not that great (OK, residents of Mestre, I apologise) and is your average industrial and commercial centre and a rail hub.

On the other hand, Venice in the early mornings and evenings is really special. Just being in a city where the only transport is either water busses (vaporetti = steamers) or by foot is a unique experience. And Venice will reward you if you spend a few nights there.

Posted by
6128 posts

You will have at least 6 hours of driving time between Rome and Italy,

Is traffic in Rome so bad that it takes 6 hrs to get out of town?

Posted by
503 posts

Aren't sabbaticals lovely? Your trip sounds great and I will offer only a couple of suggestions. While in in Slovenia, if at all possible, a few days in Ljubljana would be fantastic. And, yes, I agree with those who recommend more time in Austria. If your daughters at all enjoy "The Sound of Music" film then Salzburg and it's various sights where the movie was filmed should delight them. I think a long, permanent stay somewhere at the end of all this traveling would be very beneficial to all and help ease you from your traveling life back into your "real" life back home. Have a wonderful time.

Posted by
4128 posts

You will need an International Driving Permit to drive the places listed.
Also, driving in Italy may cause you to receive tickets after you return home. My advice is to not exceed the speed limit and take care where your drive.
Visting Bavaria and neighboring Austria is a good idea. Stuttgart is not much of a tourist destination unless you want to visit the Mercedes-Benz or Porsche factories. Stuttgart is known by the Germans as stau city. A stau is a traffic stop.

Consider the Romantic Road from Wurzburg and Rothenburg on the Tauber as well as Dinkelsbuhl and Donauwurth before Augsburg and the castles in Fussen/Garmisch. You should plan on two weeks to see all that you listed.

While in the Balkans, consider visiting Dubrovnik, it is a must see.
Also, near Split, visit Trogir.

Vienna deserves more than one night.