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Itinerary check, need suggestions.. :)

Hello eveyone! I am planning a one month trip to Europe w/ my best friend. Even though the thought of cities crawling with tourists is not my idea of heaven, we are planning this trip for 6/22-7/22/10, or about those dates. I know this is the extreme peak season but this is the only time we can go. We will just have to deal with it. Here is what I'm thinking:

Paris- 4 days (originally I wanted to fly into London because it seemed cheaper, but since the Railpass does not cover London and surrounding areas, I decided it would be easier forget England and to start and end at Paris, my #1 location) We will probably couch surf here.
Brussels
- 2 days
Amsterdam* - 4 days :)
Germany - 4 days (Now here is where I need help: any opinions on where to go in Germany? I have researched a bit, but I can't decide. I was leaning towards Frankfurt or Munich... I want at least one castle, loads of fun, and possibly less tourists)
Prague*- 4 days
Zurich- 3 days
Venice- 3 days
Milan- 3 days
Spain- 3 days (again I need help, where should I go in Spain?)

1.) The places with stars are musts, but feel free to offer suggestions about changes I could make. Does this itinerary sound okay?
2.) I added up the costs of train tickets going on this route and it is about the same as if I bought individual tickets. So should I just get the railpass to save time and stress?
3.) Not counting airfair and railpasses/tickets, do you think $100 a day per person will be okay for this trip? I am planning to stay in hostels, possibly couch surf, plan rail trips so we can sleep on trains, picnic from grocery stores, usual attractions/museums, some beer/wine, cafes, possibly only one maybe two sit down restaurant meal per-country, I don't mind walking, rugged... I plan to be very frugal in transportation/hostels, but I still want freedom to spend when I want.
4.) Do I need to lug around a coat? Windbreaker? Heavy sweater? Light sweater? Will it be cold out at this time of year?

Thanks,

Posted by
8760 posts

For Germany, I would see some castles along the Rhine and then go to Berlin. Just about the cheapest big city in Europe and because it is so spread out, you don't get the "eek I am surrounded by a zillion tourists" feeling. Also the most fun city too!

I would drop Spain. It is too far away from your other destinations.

Why Milan? I like Milan a lot, but feel Rome is much more interesting. Any place in Italy will be hot, and most cities will be jammed with tourists.

Perhaps if you told us why you have picked the cities you have chosen, like Zurich, Milan, Brussels, we can assist you. What are your interests? Are you going for the artwork, the architecture, the churches, or have you simply always wanted to see these particular cities?

Posted by
9 posts

One of the things to take into consideration is what is your goal - are you looking to have fun? to see the historical sights? are you wanting to see the artwork? or just to do the "I've been to Europe" experience? I haven't been (yet) to all the locations you mentioned, but when we took a 3 week trip we found it worked great to do big traveling by train only a few times. We started in Bavaria. In Germany you can save a lot by using the regional trains (28 euros for a Bayern ticket that takes you as far as Salzburg) which makes Munich a great base city. From Munich you can see Neuschwanstein (the Disney castle), Dachau, the Alps, Austria, etc. Since Munich is in the mountainous regions you need to layer clothing because when the sun disappears so does the warmth.

Paris has a great metro system and you can do a lot of day trips from there. If you really love art, you can spend days and days at the museum. Plan ahead for the Louvre - be specific about what you want to see. The museums are pretty busy on the free days. We like the Orsay artwork better than the Louvre, but architecturally the Louvre itself is a piece of art. It is huge and after three trips during our week there we still did not see it all. Our day trip to Versailles was great and when we were there in '08 they were doing a major facelift to bring it back to its original splendor.

Venice - we just got back from there (spent 3 nights). It was just a 6.5 hour train ride from Munich (we live in Germany) and I think that if I was doing a vacation to Europe I would instead stay in Verona and take the train to Venice for the day. You can get a good feel for Venice in a full day. Staying outside of Venice will save a lot and you can explore that region of Italy more. You will also find it easier to shop for groceries and essentials outside of Venice.

Have fun planning your trip!

Posted by
522 posts

I think the advice you have gotten so far has been very good. I agree that Spain is a bit much to throw in at the end. To who said to pick Rome over heading into Spain - I wholeheartedly agree. It just makes more sense for your path. And other than a quick look at the "Last Supper" painting, I have never heard anyone say that you just "have to see Milan".

And now this is where my opinion may differ from others - but I was just in Prague in October. That was a crowded city! I did not think anything of it because I had been to Paris and Rome and thought - how bad can it be. But I was glad to escape it after 4 days. I think Prague is a bit off course from your path (Prague to Zurich is a long haul). But if it is starred for you - there is likely a good reason that I won't argue. Just putting it out there in case you need that side of the coin to consider it.

Would you consider: Paris/Rhine/Munich/Lucern/Venice/Rome?

Posted by
32103 posts

Chloe,

If this is your first trip to Europe, my first suggestion would be to have a look at the Guidebook Europe Through The Back Door.

In looking over your proposed Itinerary, one thing that stands out is that you haven't allowed much (any?) travel time between cities. You'll probably have to drop at least one of your cities to make the trip fit a more realistic travel schedule. Dropping Spain would be the first choice, as it's not too close to your other stops. Also, keep in mind that you'll lose the first day in travel times and time zone changes.

Depending on costs and flight availability, you might consider starting in Amsterdam. Schiipol is a major airport so there should be lots of flights available from your area.

Would something like this work:

Amsterdam (4 days, incl. flight day)

Brussels (2 days - you might consider Bruges instead)

Paris (4 days - if you'll be visiting lots of Museums, a Paris Museum Pass would be a good idea, esp. at that time of year to minimize queues!)

Prague (4 days - that will be a long travel day from Paris; you might consider a budget flight - be sure to book early and pack light!!!)

Munich (4 days, with a day trip to Neuschwanstein - although it's not a Castle that was "lived in", it's quite impressive, and was the "model" for the Disney Castle)

Venice (3 days - you'll use part of a day for travel)

Milan (3 days - I'd highly recommend changing this to another spot, perhaps Florence, Siena, Rome or the Cinque Terre)

Zurich (3 days - you might also consider visiting the Berner Oberland instead, which is a big favorite here, esp. the small village of Gimmelwald)

There are a couple of different ways to arrange the order of cities, depending on which ones you decide on. This will have a bearing on travel costs.

I have a few comments on your numbered questions also, but running out of space here.

Continued...

Posted by
18932 posts

I think 4 nights in Zurich is more than enough. Research it and see how long it will take to do the things you want to do. The Swiss National Museum is there by the Bahnhof. Two days should be enough.

Definitely go to Bavaria and Munich. Besides Neuschwanstein, there is Burghausen castle in the town by the same name, a couple of hours away by train (on the Austrian border). There are also castles in Nürnberg and Würzburg (Marienberg).

Except for Munich, I stay away from big cities, stay in B&Bs (Privatzimmer), eat at least one sit-down meal per day, make full use of discount train fares and regional passes, but don't go to a lot of museums. My cost per day, including transportation, for three trips (40 days) in the last 2+ years has been €74 ($102 at the then-current exchange rates, $110 today).

Posted by
32103 posts

Chloe, Part II....

Regarding your numbered questions:

1.) My suggested changes listed in previous post.

2.) It will be easier to decide between a Railpass and P-P tickets once your final Itinerary is set. I find that sometimes a combination of a Railpass and P-P tickets on cheaper routes is a good combination. One thing to note is that Railpasses do NOT include the reservation fees which are compulsory on some trains, usually the "fast" trains such as the TGV in France. You'll have to pay those separately.

3.) Your estimate of US$100 per day PP should be fine, but the exchange rate at the time will be a factor. You might want to try and build a "cushion" into your budget so you'll be able to adjust to changes. Having a credit card for "unexpected expenses" is a good idea. Some days you'll spend less than budgeted, but there may be some that you spend more. Regarding "sleeping on trains", were you planning to just sleep in the open seating, or rent a Couchette? If you're both sleeping, you may find your Backpacks missing when you wake up. Couchettes will have to be reserved, and these will add to your costs (using day trains and staying in a Hostel is another option).

4.) From June 22 to July 22, I doubt that you'd need a heavy coat or whatever. It will probably be quite warm/hot at that time of year. A lighter coat to cover the occasional rainy day is probably all you'll need, but others on the HelpLine may have some thoughts on that. I usually travel "shoulder seasons" (May/June, Sept./Oct.) and it's often warm even at night (although mid Oct. in the Swiss Alps, the mornings were a bit "brisk").

At that time of year, pre-booking accommodations would be a good idea. You might consider taking out a membership in HI Hostels as that provides preferred booking over non-members.

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
14208 posts

Chloe,

Keep in mind that in the summer---the dates you're going to be over there---it does rain epecially in Germany. I always travel to Europe in the summer from mid-June to July/August, and it has both advantages and disadvantages.

If you go to Munich, it's usually warm to hot. I too would definitely recommend BERLIN, skip Spain and Zurich. Another place in Germany, which you might want to do as a day-trip from BERLIN--it takes about 2.5 hrs--is DRESDEN, otherwise spend at least 2-3 full days there in Germany's most beautiful city and save the day-trip from BERLIN to go to POTSDAM. Compared to Paris and Munich as regards to expenses BERLIN is cheap!!

It all depends on what you want to see and experience...since this is your first trip, I would skip Frankfurt and Munich for BERLIN and DRESDEN, but that may not be practical for you.

Prague will be teeming with tourists when you are there at this time. From Calif. flying into London is much cheaper than a flight to Paris.

Posted by
689 posts

I'm guessing you haven't looked at train travel time in between cities, because you have some long journeys that will eat up whole days. So I'd pare it down, and actually, it's pretty easy (for me) to see what you should cut.

Cut...

Milan-The most disappointing city in Italy, to me. I cannot imagine picking Milan over, well, just about anyplace else in Italy. Maybe do one day if you're dying to see The Last Supper and that's why you've chosen Milan. Take the time you'll cut here and elsewhere and see Rome and/or Florence.

Spain-It's just too far from where you'll be. I think if you look at train schedules you'll see Spain really doesn't work.

Zurich--one day and two nights, maybe. But again, I can't imagine picking Zurich as the one place in Switzerland to see, especially for 4 days. I can't imagine what you'd do there for 4 days. Why not an Alps destinations? Or if you have no interest in mountain scenery or hiking, do a day in Luzern, or one in Lausanne (you can take the boat ride to visit Chillon Castle from Lausanne--if you are carless and want a castle, this one would work).

Do Munich over Frankfurt.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks everyone for the suggestiongs! And I already have a copy of Through the Back door, I reference it every few minutes in this pre-planning process. :) After research, I agree with most of what you all said! Your answers were very helpful. I've been reading and planning all day and this is what I've come up with: (without times in transit between countries, I will do that later)

Paris- 5 days,
Brussels
- 3 days,
Amsterdam* - 5 days,
Berlin - 4 days,
Prague*- 5 days,
Venice - 4,
Rome - 4.

What do you guys think? I'm loving it but maybe you see problems that I don't. I don't really want to fly into London, but I would consider flying to Amsterdam. Would flying to Amsterdam be cheaper than flying into London? I'm assuming that I should fly open jaw, if this is my permanent itinerary. What city would be best (cheapest/convenient) to fly out of?

Posted by
3 posts

Oh, and..

I wasn't plannin on forking over money for the coachette. I know it's not expensive but I was being frugal. Maybe I will have more money to spend now that I am going to less places. SO: I was thinking to sleep just in the regular seats, with my luggage attached to me. Would someone really try to untie it from my body?

Posted by
14208 posts

Hi Chloe,

Whenever I took a night train (solo) from Paris to Germany, I never reserved a couchette but sat in the general seating area, 2nd class. It's called a Ruhesessel in a this type of train: Grossraumwagen. Never had any problems, but that was only between France and Germany. Just be vigilant.

The cheapest city to fly out of is London, but that isn't convenient for you. Paris is the most expensive, but Frankfurt is cheaper than Amsterdam. If you're going to fly out from the continent, then I would say Frankfurt is the best going to Calif., presumably LAX

Posted by
32103 posts

Chloe,

Your revised Itinerary looks reasonably good, however you'll have to include travel times as some of the trips will be at least half a day.

You might consider dropping at least one day each from Brussels, Amsterdam and Venice and adding one day to Rome. This will also provide you with a bit of flexibility for travel times.

Cheers!

Posted by
15477 posts

I used a bike lock for my suitcase on the train.

The train from Paris to Brussels is 2 hours, so is the train from Brussels to Amsterdam. I can't imagine what to do in Brussels for more than 1 day, except to visit Bruges and Ghent. Again, 5 days in Amsterdam seems like a lot to me, but easy to do day trips to the Hague, Rotterdam, Delft, etc. Train service is good in Belgium and Holland. Each of your other destinations will take the better part of a day to get to.

Another thing to take into account is that Italy is hot (Florida hot, not LA hot) in the summer and many accommodations don't have AC. You may enjoy your trip more if you leave Italy for another time and stay further north. Also higher altitudes are likely to be more comfortable.