First timers!

For a Christmas gift, I'm giving my husband a trip to Europe in April. We will land at Heathrow and then ??? What are some of the must sees? How many countries can we realistically visit in 12 days? We're ready to hit the ground running, so give us your best shot!

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2014 posts

12 days is actually 10 days so for first timers I vote for a London/Paris combo. Seriously, April in Paris what could be better? As far as must sees YOU need to figure out what is of interest to you? Head on down to the Barnes and Noble at The Grove and get's Rick's Europe Through The Back Door guide, and read it. VERY informative. Practical insight that will help you decide sites to visit based on your interests.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Debbie, As this is your first trip, I definitely agree that starting with Europe Through The Back Door would be a good idea. It provides a lot of good information on "how" to travel in Europe. Could you clarify whether your holiday is actually 14 days, with 12 days "on the ground" in Europe? Keep in mind that you'll lose the first and last days in travel days, and will be jet lagged for a few days after arrival, so won't be up to "optimal touring speed". It would help if you could answer a few questions. Have you firmly decided to start in the U.K.? What prompted this desire to visit Europe? Which countries or cities are you most interested in seeing? Is there any possibility you could get more time? Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1562 posts

Yes, is it really twelve days plus flying or is it really only ten days? What do you like, cities, museums, etc. Plan on public transportation or car? I gather that you have already booked airline tickets so guess you will be in and out of Heathrow, right? You can certainly see London in four days, take a few day trips, say to Windsor, Bath, Stonehenge and then train to Edinburgh and spend four days there and back to London or take the four days to Paris and back to London, then you could just use public transport. As far as must see, you need to decide which cities you want to see and then maybe we can help with ideas on what to see. Always think you will be back so don't feel you need to squeeze many countries into your time frame.

Posted by Debbie
los ángeles
3 posts

Great questions, We actually have 12 days on the ground - 14 day total trip
We have always wanted to see Europe and have discussed London, Paris, Scotland. We did do Ireland a few years ago, so although we loved it and thought we'd go back, we'd like to see something new. London arrival was due to airfare prices, so we land there in the morning ready to hit the road. We want to see some museums but want to spend time outside as well, seeing the sights and countryside. We love taking pictures and just want to see and experience the most we can while avoiding the tourist trap things. Thanks!

Posted by Brian
Los Angeles, California
1986 posts

First timers who want to see as many Cities as possible- you can always sign up for one of RS (or othere comapny) tours that do a bunch of cities in 7-10 days. That is always an option, especially if you plan on returning and then cutting down to just a few favorite Cities. (you could also elect a similar tour around Britain from London). Otherwise you could choose London for 3 or 4 days, combined with 3 days in the Cotswolds (the typical english cute cottages), then eurostar to Paris for the remainder of your trip. There is so much to see in just these three loacations that you will not see anywhere close to all that is available.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4877 posts

I guess one question you have to ask yourself is are you are interested in quantity or quality? You ask how many countries you can see in 12 days. Are you interested in really experiencing places, or is it more important to you to check countries off a list? A couple of things to keep in mind - Traveling from one destination to the next will eat up at lot of time.
Every two nights in a location equals one full day. Are you more interested in cities or smaller towns? Or would you like a mixture? You could easily spend your entire trip in the U.K., seeing London, more of England and Scotland. If you are wanting to go further, a good trip in that time frame could be something like this: Land at Heathrow in a.m., then take the Eurostar to Paris in the afternoon. Allow for your plane to be delayed when booking Eurostar tickets. Or, just fly to Paris since you will already be at the airport. Spend 5 nights in Paris. You will lose the first day and will be jet lagged. Train to Amsterdam. Spend 3 nights. Eurostar back to London, spend 4 nights. Fly home. April is tulip season in the Netherlands, and April in Paris is legendary. Or you could do Amsterdam-Paris-London. Read some guidebooks and have your husband do the same. This is his gift after all, so maybe he already has some places in mind that he would like to see. Whatever you choose, you will have a wonderful time.

Posted by James
Frisco
1803 posts

A lot to consider here. A good balance for our interests would be to spend half the time in London with maybe a side trip some place like Bath and the second half in Paris by way of the Chunnel Train with a similar side trip in France. That would be an outrageously easy and beautiful trip and one we have done a couple of times. The only down side is London isn't cheap and Paris is just reasonable at best. If you want a first class vacation at second class prices that would be another set of recommendations. Another thing you could do is research festivals in Europe and head for some big celebration with smaller side trips. look for the once in a lifetime events.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2633 posts

For 12 days in early spring consider Amsterdam > Paris > London (or L > P > A). It will be cold and wet ("April in Paris" notwithstanding), but there is lots to see and do in those great cities. I would not try to cram in any more. These are big, word-class places and adding more will just dilute your experience with extra travel time to visit places that will not add to the quality of your trip. On the other hand you could make a strong case for just London > Paris, with day trips. What you should both do is read up and make lists of sights and activities in each place. Stack those up in order of priority and see what the trade-offs are for you and yours (of an extra day here versus there, of adding Amsterdam or not).

Posted by Debbie
los ángeles
3 posts

Thank you all so much! I'm encouraged by your willingness to share, and getting more excited about the planning as much as the trip. I'm heading to the bookstore today and starting my list. I agree, I will take quality over quantity any day and seeing the spring flowers sounds lovely. Thanks for all the suggestions! They are appreciated!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Debbie, For a time frame of 12 days, three countries / cities is a realistic number. It would help to know whether you plan on using open-jaw flights? That would be the best method for efficiency. Are there any places that you're especially interested in seeing? You could (for example) do a "loop" from London and Paris to Amsterdam. That would provide roughly three days in each spot (some time would have to be allowed for travel). Another option would be to stay with London and Paris, but include day trips. There are numerous possibilities. Cheers!

Posted by Judy
Adelaide, SA, Australia
802 posts

If you love Spring flowers, include Amsterdam in your 12 days and spend a day to take in the magnificent gardens at Keukenhof.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

To clear up misinformation in an earlier post, you can't increase you country count by going to either Scotland or Holland since neither are independent countries. With twelve days it might be better to think of places to visit as small, proximate geographic regions rather than cities or countries. You'll loose a half day with each major transition. Eg, London to Rome is not much worse than London to Paris - - both burn close to a half day getting from one to the other, hotel-to-hotel. Spending time within the city center or moving about its surrounds is not such a time-killer.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Holland is a region of the Netherlands. The BBC last night was full of stories on Scotland's movement for independence. There are maybe eight criteria for a place to be recognized as an independent nation, failing even one totally disqualifies. Both Holland and Scotland fail several. A half second on google found this| http://www.countries-ofthe-world.com/countries-of-europe.html Note two things that are absent.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

To be really pedantic, there are two Hollands within the Netherlands - neither of which rate as countries. Both North Holland and South Holland are highly populated parts of the Netherlands but neither are countries. It is much the same, calling the Netherlands "Holland", as referring to the United Kingdom as "England". Or "Scotland". You wouldn't refer to the United States as "Florida".

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Missed Part 2. Eurostar takes a bit over two hours, London to Paris. Rome is about a thousand air miles from London, probably a bit less. The average air carrier scoots along at about five-fifty per. Figure another half hour for departure, approach, and landing. Call it two point five for grins. Administrative times are a couple hours longer for flying. Both can be done in less than a half day.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

Ralph, don't be so sensitive. You asked the question. At 7:50am today you asked: Please tell us how you do not see Scotland or Holland as independent countries? I can't even discern the second part. London to Paris equates to London to Rome time wise? If you didn't want the answers why did you ask the question?