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Reasonable itinerary?

Hi all. I’d like to start off giving thanks to everyone posting and offering advice. I’ve been reading a lot of your ideas.

I am planning a summer 3 weekish long trip for my fit mother and me. I say weekish because time really isn’t a concern. I am a teacher with summer vacation and my mother is retired. I believe costs can be reasonably within our budget. I have 6k in spending money and another 1.2k for airfare. My mom has a similar budget.

She’s never gotten to travel for leisure and her dream has been to visit Europe. She has stressed she’d like to see it before she is unable to enjoy walking around comfortably .She has thrown out places places she’s like to see—some specific and some just vague descriptions.

She has specifically mentioned she’d like to see Paris, Venice, Rome, and “Germany “. Recently she’s expressed interest in “Switzerland”, too.

I’ve bought and read two RS guidebooks: “…Through the Backdoor” and “Best of Europe”. They have been a great help and I’ve mapped out an itinerary. I was hoping to get feedback on its logistical nightmare or soundness. In other words, I am curious whether getting to each place would be reasonably possible and would the time given to each place be a reasonable enough time not to feel rushed.

If you that managed to make sense, here is an outline of our June trip:

-4 nights London ( first day to manage jet lag from LAX. )

-3 nights Paris (Taking the Eurostar. Is this too short a time considering we are spending part of the day traveling from London. I know it is a quick train ride but when everything else is considered, it seems like this could turn into having really only two full day and nights in Paris).

-3 nights Berber Oberland (by train. I believe that is about a 7 hour trip. This is one area where I am not sure about. I’ve drive from SF to LA often and have never had a problem with that 7 hour drive, so this seems reasonable. It also seems like a straight forward train ride with one major train transfer in Basel before reaching Interlaken OST).

-3 nights Munich (by train. This is another part of the trip I am not sure about. The train ride seems reasonable. Admittedly, I understand one day would be lost to travel. Is two full nights in Munich a good amount of time? I’ve considered Munich as a place to visit in Germany because I’ve read there is a Night train to Venice and heard that it is a nice place based off RS’s guidebook. If we take a night train that would also mean we’d get a an extra half day in Munich while we wait for a Nighttrain )

-2 nights Venice. (Not including Nightrain Travel from Munich. Should flying be considered?)
-4 nights Rome (By train. My mom is a devout Catholic so visiting the Vatican is a must as well.)

—fly back to LAX after the fourth Night. Put different, fly back the 5th morning in Rome.

I am open to suggestions for adding a day here and there, especially around travel between Paris > Berner Oberland > Munich > Venice. I am not sure if my itinerary is logistically capable without feeling wary. Does that leg feel rushed?

I apologize for any typos. I have written this out on my phone. Thank you for any help you can provide.

-Guillermo

Posted by
1316 posts

I would start in Rome and reverse your plans. Rome gets really hot and crowded in the summer. Start there and work your way north.

Next, find out what about Germany appeals to your mom. Is she hoping for cute half-timbered buildings? Then Munich is not the best stop. I would swap out Colmar, France. This would be an easy stop between the Berner Oberland area and Paris. Plus, a night train is not always the best option for getting any sleep.

So I would look at this itinerary:

Rome 4-5 nights
Rome to Venice
Venice 2 nights
Venice to Lauterbrunnen area (consider flying to Zurich, then train to Lauterbrunnen. Or train from Venice to Tirano. Next day, take the Bernina Express, one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. End in/near Chur, then continue to Lauterbrunnen the next day.)
Lauterbrunnen (or Wengen or Murren) 4 nights
Lauterbrunnen to Colmar
Colmar 2-3 nights
Colmar to Paris
Paris 4 nights
Paris to London
London 4 nights

Posted by
3661 posts

Your plan is certainly doable, but I would recommend adding an extra day to Paris, Switzerland, and for sure in Venice. Your pace, as is, really doesn't allow for any rest days, and each of your travel days will eat up a lot of time. The suggestion to start in Rome and end in London makes a lot of sense for a summer trip.

Posted by
2286 posts

Actually, London deserves five nights. On day one take it easy and on day two begin your sightseeing adventure. I recommend Westminster Abbey (rent the audio guide unless you’re fluent in British history), the nearby Churchill War Rooms (buy tickets before leaving home), the British Museum (great place to visit if it rains since you don’t have to buy tickets and is the world’s greatest museum in my opinion), Tower of London and the Victoria and Albert Museum (another good option if it rains).
You may also want to take the hop on hop off bus tour but will spend an entire day on the bus but do get off at the Tower of London. Make sure you get a snapshot of Tower Bridge before getting back on the bus. I also recommend going to the theatre one night. A friend of mine saw dames Maggie Smith and Judy Dench and said everyone’s eyes were glued to the stage.
A good day trip from London is Bath (1h 30m). I recommend a minimum of five nights in London.
Do not plan on sight-seeing in Paris on arrival day. Instead, take this evening tour on the day of arrival: https://2cvparistour.com/; reserve in advance.
In Paris you need to take a walking tour and self-guided tours are difficult than hiring a guide. You want to explore Ile St Louis (Paris’s birthplace 2,000 years ago) and the left bank (south of the River Siene). If there’s one museum you want to see is the Orsay. The Louvre is too crowded and if you’re short you won’t appreciate it. You also want to visit Pont Alexandre III bridge, the world’s most elegant.
To get from Paris to the Berner Oberland there'sa train from Paris Gare de Lyon: https://www.sncf-connect.com/ to Lauterbrunnen and requires two connections. One in Basel and again in Interlaken and will take 6h 15m. If you want to sleep in the mountains which I suggest it'll take longer and most likely involves another connection.
While in the Lauterbrunnen Valley (Berner Oberland) take the Schilthornbahn cable car and the Jungfraubahn train. If your mother is up to it also hike from Männlichen to Kleine Scheidegg: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/switzerland/lauterbrunnen-valley and click on the + sign on the At a Glance line. You need to spend one night per day activity and if you have bad weather well, that’s what staying in the mountains is notorious for. This itinerary requires a minimum of four nights, otherwise, why go.
What makes Munich great is it’s a good jumping off point to explore Bavaria. Munich itself deserves two nights and that includes a morning tour of Dachau by direct train (30m). However, if Salzburg is on your itinerary you can day trip by direct train (2h); I liked it more than Munich. I would take a direct train from Munich to Venice and rent a sleeper car (9h 15m); this way you kill two birds with one stone.
Venice deserves three nights, one day to see the must-see sights and the second day getting lost; you won’t regret it. Rome definitely deserves all four nights.

Posted by
399 posts

Drop Munich, add those nights to Paris and London. Do Germany on a different trip, but when you do get there, the top city to visit in Germany is Berlin, and that would not work well with this itinerary.

So many people here seem to love Venice, and I get it, but I believe your time would be better spent visiting Florence instead. If you insist on Venice, make it a single night stop. It may make sense to fly from Venice to Switzerland, not sure...

I also would reverse the order of the trip, start in Rome, move north - Florence for a couple of nights, Venice for at most one night - then head to Switzerland. And on to Paris, and finish up in London. Consider flying from Switzerland to Paris, that is otherwise a really long train ride...

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you for everyone’s input! I look forward to digging deeper into your thoughts and suggestions. I didn’t even think about the summer heat in Rome. I went once over a decade ago but that was during the fall. It didn’t even occur to me this experience would be different.

I agree with the other feedback as well—it does seem like my initial plan lacks rest days. I’ll revisit my plans.

My mom doesn’t have any interest in Germany besides experiencing a different culture and part of the world. She’s had a pretty rough life and is finally in a place to enjoy her retirement years so spending time with family on vacation is what she is looking forward too. I have been to most of the places she wants to go as a young adult, but I have not been to Germany myself so it seemed like a good place to go based of RS guidebooks and geographic location to our other destinations. I’ll definitely look into the other France location between Paris and Switzerland that was suggested.

Again, thanks for your time and insights. I will consider it all from the alternative beautiful train routes to the museum’s in Paris.

Posted by
1316 posts

I’ll throw out another suggestion: instead of Switzerland AND Germany, consider Austria. Specifically the Salzburg area. You’ll find stunning mountains and lakes, a beautiful old town with gorgeous gardens, a fortress, and all the Sound of Music sights. Easy day trips to Werfen, Hallstatt and Berchtesgaden (Germany) for half timbered buildings and some of the cutest towns you’ll find. Salzburg is also a shorter train trip from Venice, and has an airport so you could fly to Paris.

Posted by
22593 posts

I completely disagree with the idea of going to Venice for just one night. That is shortsighted and nearly assures that you won't much like the place. You'll end up spending most of your time (less than a full day!) along the path between the train station, Rialto Bridge and San Marco--where most of the many thousands of other visitors will also be. Venice is not magical if you're surrounded by throngs. You need time to see Rialto and San Marco, yes, but it's along the back canals where you'll find real Venetian atmosphere. To me it doesn't make sense to travel across Italy to spend just one night in a world-class city like Venice.

Posted by
1316 posts

I agree with acraven (as usual). We’re planning our 4th trip to Venice (each time bringing different people with us). We stay 3 nights. Last time was in early July, when it was hot, humid and crowded. The poor tour groups being rushed through the top sites looked like they were melting before our eyes and just longing to sit in some shade.

But in the late evening, after dinner, with the orchestras playing in St. Mark’s square- that’s when it is magical. And in the morning, with a coffee and pastry, watching the city wake up.

If you find yourself caught up in the stream of bodies traveling from Rialto to St. Marks (and you will), just take a right or left and explore a bit. Venice is a place where you really must get lost to find the best parts. It’s amazing how different it is just a block or two from the main streets.

Posted by
5679 posts

I agree that starting in the south and moving north makes more sense for a June trip. And that you're trying to see a lot of places in a short time, which means a lot of time moving around, which means you'll be tired and see less of the places you flew across the ocean to see. Many of your memories will be of trains, stations, and/or airports. Is there reason to think your mother won't be able to return to Europe in the next few years? Age, health, finances? If so, then by all means fulfil her wishes, the cities and countries she wants to see. If not, you might suggest saving Venice for another trip, since it will take awhile to get there between Rome and "Germany," and the city is especially unsuitable for whirlwind visits. And you might try to pin her down a little more about what "Germany" means, since it's a big diverse country. Salzburg might be a good "proxy" for both Germany and Switzerland, as another poster suggested, if she's looking for mountains and lederhosen.

And if "time really isn't a concern," then by all means maximize it. London, Paris, and Rome are worth all the days you can give them. Venice would be a great addition if you can spend a few full days there instead of just one. I hope you both have fun planning this trip. You've read the right books to start with!

Posted by
548 posts

For Germany, consider something on the Rhine river. Cologne or Koblenz are very doable by train from Paris, the scenery is very pretty and the wine is good. You could then fly from Frankfurt to Venice.

Posted by
1939 posts

Between Venice and Munich TAKE THE DAY TRAIN, NOT THE NIGHT TRAIN. Enjoy the scenery, we certainly did.

In Italy stay at the places run by nuns. I think this would be great for your mother and is budget friendly. Even though we are non-Roman Catholics, my wife and I wouldn’t consider staying elsewhere. We booked thru www.monasterystays.com. In Venice we stayed at Istituto San Guiseppe, located on a canal conveniently located midway between the Rialto Bridge and San Marco.

In Rome we stayed at Casa Maria Immacolata. Walkable to the Vatican and convenient to a subway. For the Vatican, consider taking the early morning tour by Walks of Italy so you can see the Sistine Chapel when it is opens.

In Germany consider the middle Rhine valley between Mainz and Koblenz.

Posted by
399 posts

To me it doesn't make sense to travel across Italy to spend just one night in a world-class city like Venice.

Since I was the one with the temerity to suggest one night in Venice...

It makes less than zero sense to me to travel across Italy right past Florence and not spend any time there, yet (and maybe I missed it) I think I was the first person to suggest Florence. And this is my own opinion: if forced to choose between Florence and Venice, I would choose Florence - that is what I was conveying, my personal preference.

The OP and her mother are aiming for a 3 week grand tour of Europe, and sometimes choices must be made if you intend to cover ground from Rome to Paris to London and multiple destinations in between. In her original post, she listed their $ budget, and I think that the proposed itineraries will test that budget over 3 weeks. Ideally they would extend the trip they envision to 4 weeks, but then the budget really gets challenged.

Frankly, they could spend the entire 3 weeks or most of it in Italy and have a grand time, maybe jet to either Paris or London for the last 4 or 5 nights of their trip for a nice change of scenery.

Posted by
3424 posts

Unless you are certain that both of you can sleep well on a night train, don’t do it. My one experience was nightmarish. The only good thing about it was that we were flying back to the U.S. the next day. I was so exhausted I was able to sleep on the plane.

Re: your budget. I know things may be more expensive now; but in the past, my husband and I have done 3 week trips for around $10k total. We stay at nice, though rarely (actually never) 5* accommodations; and eat well. You should be okay. When you have set your itinerary, people here can give you lots of recommendations for lodgings.

Posted by
1122 posts

I know this will sound bad but one of Rick Steves' mantras is "travel like you will be back" which in this case is probably not realistic but it helped me in my first trip to Europe make a better plan. I never thought I would return. I would highly recommend you contact one of the RS travel consultants to help with your plan. They are great. And they helped us focus our trip which was 14 nights boots on the ground to accomplish our main objectives. We here all have our itinerary and travel style opinions - my experience with the RS travel consultants is that they helped us create a good itinerary and asked us questions that helped us begin to figure out our style. (Like no night trains).

Some of my thoughts.... three weeks is really a long time for this adventure so make sure you plan rest days are - even it's just a couple afternoons or evenings with nothing on the agenda. Since you will have a few travels days built in maybe those are your rest days,

I think Rome (4 nights) , Venice (4 nights), Salzburg or Vienna ( 3 nights), Paris (4 nights), London (4 nights) in three weeks is perfect. I am concerned about the budget but IF you are planning to share rooms lodging $12,000 total could work but you might find you need to cut down from 21 days to like 17 days on the ground as London, Rome, Venice are not inexpensive cities.

Flying from LAX in the summer should be more than $1200 I think. We fly from PDX and it's usually closer to $1400.

Posted by
399 posts

I am concerned about the budget but IF you are planning to share rooms lodging $12,000 total could work but you might find you need to cut down from 21 days to like 17 days on the ground as London, Rome, Venice are not inexpensive cities.

Switzerland and Paris are not exactly cheap, either. This will be an expensive trip for them as proposed, and their budget is pretty tight based on personal experience with similar trips we have done. Something may have to "give", as you suggest, maybe a shorter trip, or a trip with fewer moving parts?

Posted by
7 posts

I’ve been sneaking a peak at everyone’s feedback while visiting family this weekend. I appreciate the honesty and insights.

Seems like several people have cautioned against a night train so that point is taken. My mom has always wanted to travel by train so I thought that would be an interesting experience, but I am sure the other train rides during this planned trip would do more than satisfy her day dreams.

In response to an earlier question, yes the both of us would be splitting the costs of shared lodging. I also broached the subject of why Germany and I got the response I expected—I just want to see what’s over there. My mom is quite content with just being able to be on a holiday.

The other overall consensus I am hearing is that either of the two things needs to happen: 1) Something’s gotta give—whether that is Munich or overall days or 2) Somethings need to be added—specifically more days for rest and travel and/or an increase in our budget.

These points are all helpful. Our original budget is based off the recommendation in RS travel guide for a month of travel, so hearing your own experiences with costs is a boon for our planning. I guess I’ll have to use this year’s Christmas bonus to supplement my budget.

sad public school teacher face

In all seriousness, thanks again. This trip was originally planned for 2019 but a combination of my dad passing away and then the pandemic the year afterwards has delayed these travel plans a bit. A silver lining from all of that is we have been saving money for the past few years so we feel comfortable adjusting plans as necessary.

I ’mma map out a new plan. I revisited my notes from “through the backdoor” last night and I was inspired to draw out a visual itinerary like the examples provided in that book.

Posted by
399 posts

Our original budget is based off the recommendation in RS travel guide for a month of travel,

Not sure when that book was published, but it is probably out of date. Costs for travel in Europe have gone up quite a bit since pre pandemic and since the reopening in the last year. Particularly this inflation is felt in hotel costs...but costs across the board are higher there than they were just a few years ago. Add to that your itinerary is almost entirely in the most expensive cities and countries in Europe, and you have a budget crunch ahead of you.

It is possible to stretch your dollar if you stay out of the major capital cities (Rome, Paris, London...) and avoid Switzerland which I find is extremely expensive, particularly if you head for the mountains where everyone wants to go. Central and Eastern Europe are much cheaper, for example Hungary, which is one of my favorite countries to visit, and the lower cost is a big bonus. On longer trips to Europe to stretch our money, we spend about half our time in the less expensive countries and locales and then we splurge in our favorite big cities like Paris and London.

Good luck, do more homework on the costs and don't rely on an older RS guidebook for budgeting.

Posted by
7440 posts

We used to travel as fast and as far as our rental car would take us in 2 weeks and 3 weekends. And often our trip was a blur. Sometimes we would simply run out of steam and have to stop and rest a couple of days. Now we travel slower--and better.

Remember that your first and last days of a European trip will be wasted days. And every time you move from one city to another you will lose a day. It'll often take you two days to figure out where your hotel is, what to see and how to get around the city on mass transit. While you have many days to spend in Europe, time will fly if you choose to move around so much.

Every great European city is worthy of 4-5 days at a minimum. And your planned itinerary has you going to some great cities. Do you really have time to visit so many cities and regions? Execution of your planned itinerary would be very difficult.

A good itinerary would be to hit Rome, Florence and Venice--traveling by train. Then take a day train from Venice up to Innsbruck which is in the incredible Alps. Spend a day or two resting and take a 2 hour train up to Salzburg--to get the "German" experience. You're 2 hours from Munich which is a great big city to visit. From Munich, I would suggest flying on EasyJet (cheap) over to London Gatwick--and spending the remainder of your time there.

Save Paris and Switzerland for your next visit, and I promise you there will be another trip to Europe. It's just not possible to see everything in Europe on one trip.

Posted by
1939 posts

I would try to stick to the places your mom really wants to see. Your lodging costs are the biggest variable. I remember many ( many ! ) years ago when I was talking to a business associate who also toured Germany that summer. He complained about how expensive the hotels were. I responded that I found plenty of nice places for about $10 per night ! “Well, “ he said “ I stayed in fancier hotels “. Well, duh ! In Germany my wife and I usually spend about 150 Euro per day. For everything! Some places I stayed with my family in 1970 now cost over $600 per day but I would rather stay where I do now.

Posted by
329 posts

It looks like you are pretty intent on planning your own trip. But have you considered one of the Rick Steves Best of Europe tours? Both the 21 day and 14 day tour seems to hit many of the places you want to go to with the bonus that someone else figures out all the logistics for you, and the travel and organization will be much more efficient than you can do on your own. The cost appears to fit your budget. You could do the shorter version and then add time somewhere on your own (London?) Just a thought to consider.

Posted by
1394 posts

Three weeks of opportunity to create wonderful travel memories while hoping to avoid creating memories of travel.

I am going to present you with a challenge, do you desire a journey of "seeing there" or "being there"?
"Being there" requires the investment of time and allowing both travelers to peel back several layers of each destination.

I believe there is a natural tendency to believe we have to "see there" to help justify the time and monetary expense invested in a journey. Our personal experiences find "being there" offers richer rewards.

You will find excellent counsel on this forum to help select destinations enriching your journey. Please consider each destination offers a vast and deep layer of experiences upon which the investment of your time is required to explore the menu. So I am providing a second challenge, select only three destinations to spend one week in each. Sit back and consider the extent of enjoyment you can experience with your Mom by traveling less and experiencing more.

Posted by
13540 posts

Hi,

If you are considering this option: you did read it correctly, ie, from Munich to Venice a night train connection does exist. It's a direct shot from Munich on Night Jet. No first hand experience with this particular route on Night Jet, haven't done it yet. The other Night Jet routes I found quite satisfactory...no problems.

Posted by
553 posts

Guillermo I just want to say how awesome it is that you are taking this trip with your mom, particularly since given that you say she's had a bit of a hard life that means she has sacrificed a lot for you.

You are a good son!

And an East Bay teacher to boot. Good for you, hope you two have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
553 posts

My Oakland born and raised wife and I are blessed to travel to Europe often. My parents went once. My grandma and great aunt once. They all had less means and more humble beginnings.

There's a generally correct attitude on this forum that you should travel to Europe with the attitude that you are going to return to Europe. That way you end up building the most pleasurable itinerary with less pressure that you need to see everything and get everywhere on one trip. Some people though go once, and I think for those people it is nice to do more of a grand tour and see some different places and cultures.

Your impulse about longer train rides not being so bad is good. It's much easier and more pleasurable to sit on the train than to drive. What you need to think about though is how many of your days you want to be spent on a train. A long train ride can be a relaxing break with pretty scenery and the nice picnic. It can also be crowded and feel like a waste of time depending.

Posted by
553 posts

Think about how much time you want to spend in big busy urban areas. Lots of sights in Europe's big cities, but they are still big cities, with all the big city downside too. There are many many exquisitely charming small cities and big villages with worthwhile sights in Europe. Think about pacing your trip with some small places between the big places.

Posted by
553 posts

Germanic cultures are unique and interesting, well worth visiting. Bavarian culture and Alpine culture specifically are iconic and memorable to American visitors. There's nothing like it, so if your mom want to see it don't cut it out.

The rail corridor between Munich and Venice is a great area to visit. The trains are fast and frequent, and the entire trip is shorter than most people would think. And along the way there are many beautiful, interesting, an easy places for tourist visits. Verona and Trento are on the route north from Venice, worthy of at least a quick stop getting off the train and seeing some major sights. And then you get to Alto Adige, which I think is the most beautiful wine country in Europe. Bolzano is a lovely small city, as are Brixen and Bruneck, both also on or near the rail corridor. You have easy access to the Dolomites, a spectacular and unique part of the Alps. This whole area is within Italy's borders, but the culture is Alpine and the people speak German first.

From Alto Adige area you can divert quickly and easily up to the Swiss border by train, and visit one of Switzerland's only national parks by the excellent, clean, efficient Swiss Post Bus. Big mountains and glaciers if you want to see those.

The rail corridor passes from Italy into the state of Tyrol in Austria. Tyrol is the absolute center of cozy Austrian Alpine culture, geranium window boxes, hearts carved out on anything made of wood, pink pillows on burley banquets where you eat delicious hearty hot Alpine meals, everything so clean you could lick the grout of the floor tile and it would taste like bottled water. Cowbells ringing, green fields mountain peaks, cutesy garden gnomes festooned about bucolic farmhouse yards.

Going farther you can visit Germany's tallest mountain if you want, a rocky outpost that is beautiful on a clear day. You can visit King Ludwig's fairytale castle in Fussen, a stately and pleasant little Bavarian tourist city.

And then Munich. Munich is a wealthy and good living city, lots of amenities and things to do. Good food, fun places, huge parks. It's an expensive baby carriages kind of city and an easy pleasant place to be a tourist. Munich has good museums. The Alte Pinakothek is probably my favorite art museum in the world. It has the world's largest collection of Peter Paul Rubens paintings, and then it just goes on from there as a catalog of Baroque and/or Counter Reformation (the Catholic empire striking back against the rise of Protestantism through art propaganda directed at the masses ) masterpieces. A little bit of learning about the art ahead of time in the place blows up into a super rich experience.

Munich is a solid transportation hub, easy to get a plane out to the US or other places in Europe.

You mentioned the Berner Oberland. It's a wonderful place. But also a bit of a cul-de-sac and kind of interruptive of flow in your trip. You can see a lot of what you would see there by taking some time with the corridor over the Alps from Veneto to Munich. For much cheaper too.

Whatever you do have a great trip! (and visit a smaller place or two :)

Posted by
38 posts

I would agree with other posters that say add more time in Venice. I have been 3 times for about 10 days. Still cannot wait to go back.

Also agree to travel south to north.

As to cost of the trip, I think your budget will work just fine. Mind you will not be staying at the Ritz or eating at Michelin star restaurants. On most trips I figure about 250$ per day each. That will include food, hotel, transportation, and tickets/activities. So, I see your 6k divided by 21 days comes to 285 per day. I think you can make a great trip on that number. The airfare for 1.2k from here in Missouri would be a little low.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
7 posts

Checking in real quick. I’ve been mulling over what every said and looking over a RS planning map. It is really becoming clear that trimming a destination is in order.

I am still working out a new itinerary. It was asked if I had considered signing up for a RS tour to help with this process. I did briefly, but my mother’s native language is Spanish, so I don’t think having access to tour guides in English is helpful for our family travel.

I am grateful for the outpouring of this community. Thank you. I am feeling assured that seeing less will not take away anything from this trip.

Posted by
29324 posts

Xholo, seeing that you are in the East Bay, you might like to come to one or more of the East Bay meetings.

We have one on Zoom this weekend (that's how I attend from England) and there are in-person meetings too, where you can get face to face input from lots of really experienced travellers.

The link for this weekend's meeting is at https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/travel-meetings/san-francisco-east-bay-travel-group-meeting-dec-3-2022 ... I'd love to see you there, but you do need to RSVP....

Posted by
137 posts

Throwing another idea out there - drop London entirely and put those days elsewhere. It's not on your mom's list and will be hard on your budget.

Spend a little more time in Paris and be sure to set your mental expectations that you won't see much of it, and thats ok :) and also - that you will likely be exhausted trying to juice the most of your days there.

Totally agree about starting in Italy and working north.

Austria may be a perfect stand in for Germany and Switzerland as mentioned. Lederhosen, schnitzel, mountains and fluffy down beds. Generally I'd try to find some balance in my itinerary between cities and more pastoral surroundings but that may be just my preference.

It's making me smile just thinking of you having these planning conversations with your mom. What a great experience to plan and travel together.

Please report back, I can't wait to hear what you and your mom get up to, and what her impressions will be :)

Posted by
1939 posts

Rome - Venice - Train to Munich - Wurzburg - Boppard - train Koblenz to Paris - London

Posted by
341 posts

Scrap London. It's a big ugly city. Are there things to do/see? Yes, and well worthwhile. But make London part of a more meaningful future visit. Visit Wales, the Cotswold's, Scotland, Ireland.

Go straight to Rome. Spend at least 5 days there. Lose the idea of a layover getting used to it day. That is unnecessary. Jump in with both feet and enjoy yourself. Don't try to do too much on any given day, but do as much as you can enjoy.
Next head to Venice. Blast right by Florence on your way to Venice. You will already have had your fill of Renaissance art and "experience" in Rome so do this 100% guilt free. If you want to immerse in this region of Italy on a future trip make sure that you plan for at least nine or ten days not simply Florence..... there is so much more to the region.
Enjoy at least 2 nights in Venice and possibly 3. Take in the silence that a motorless city offers. You'll not find that anywhere else.
If you need a Germanic stay consider Vienna and Salzburg. Rent a car and drive. It's easy going and wonderful countryside with a motor. If you need more Germany, it's a hop and a skip. A night in Munich will probably be plenty but if not, consider some of the other regional areas of interest before you go straight to Paris.
Paris needs at least 4 days and more if you can give them. Visit the museums, shops and neighborhoods. Do the touristy things guilt free and do so knowing you are not the first one to take pleasure from that. Use the subways to get around. Go to Versailles and get the dose of Renaissance you skipped in Florence.

Drink lots of wine and enjoy yourself.
Then, start planning your next trip.

Posted by
99 posts

Guillermo,

4 or 5 countries in 3 weeks sounds like an awful lot. And, Jojo Rabbit is right that these large cities could be expensive for hotels ... and more. Switzerland, too, is on the spendy side.

I encourage you to consider small cities in addition to larger ones. If you travel by train, you can spend a day or more on the way from point A to point B in a smaller city. On our second trip to Italy, for example, we spent a couple of nights in Orvieto, on our way from Rome to Florence. Slower, less expensive and yet we enjoyed wonder art in the Duomo, there, as well as the Gelato Festival that we happened on, by sweet coincidence. With Rome, mountains and Germanic culture high on your list, you might re-imagine your trip ...
Rome, (Orvieto?) Florence, (Bologna?) Venice, (Padova?) Verona, through the Dolomites into Austria and on to Vienna or Munich, via Innsbruck and/or Salzburg.

Mack says to blow right by Florence. While Florence was more crowded and less clean in 2015 than in 2003, the soul of the Rennaissance is in the churches throughout the city. In the altars, Frescoes, sculptures and other non-movable art. By folks like Michelangelo, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Masaccio, the Della Robbia Family. So, I disagree with that recommendation ... but this is your and your mother's choice to make.

Yes, this suggestion leaves out London and Paris, but this slows your trip down and you may find that more enjoyable.

Posted by
7 posts

I spoke with my travel partner, and we have decided to reserve Munich for another trip. That feels slightly relieving to say. One must celebrate small gains.

My mom communicated she’d really like to see London, Paris, Venice, and Rome; so those cities have been penciled in as must see.

I hear what everyone is saying about trying to see smaller towns, which was the reason behind visiting Switzerland’s Berner Oberland area.

Along those lines, now my thought process has gone to the following:

1) Stick to the four main places that have been determined must see. Use the extra days at each place as a means to slow down, rest, and enjoy ourselves. Possibly day trip outside of the larger cities?

2) Travel to the main four and include one other stop, such as Switzerland or Salzburg, as others have suggested. Berner Oberland calls to me more because of its mountainous beauty. I also feel more comfortable with its planning because it’s included in one of the two books I bought for this trip: “RS Best of Europe”. Salzburg is unfortunately not in that book, which means I can’t make an informed decision about going there presently. I can go out and buy the appropriate Salzburg book to read and study, but I am trying to push myself into etching plans into reservations.

As always, thanks for everyone’s input. I acknowledge I’ve only made a small revision to my plans (Munich scratched) since I started this thread. Your patience and kindness is not unnoticed.

Posted by
1122 posts

I recommend #1 Stick to the four main places that have been determined must see. Use the extra days at each place as a means to slow down, rest, and enjoy ourselves. Fly into Rome and home from London

And you can totally day trip outside of the larger cities from Venice you can day trip into the Dolomites and get your mountain fix or take the train to Lake Garda for a day or even two. From Paris you can take the train to Reims and visit the Champagne region which is quite lovely.

Posted by
13875 posts

You have made a wise choice to focus on the four main cities your mother wishes to see, and not getting distracted by suggestions for substitutes based on other people’s preferences.

Rome, Venice, Paris and London can be connected in a logical and reasonable path, especially if you add a stop in Switzerland on your way between Venice and Paris. I believe it is a better choice than Salzburg, which would take you far to the east, off the more direct path.

The Berner Oberland can be the slow, relaxing part of your trip; a refreshing break in pace between the first two cities of Venice and Rome, the last two, Paris and London. You will both enjoy this break there.

I will make a specific route suggestion that will help make that journey between Venice and the Berner Oberland scenic as well as relaxing: take one of the trains that follows the high Gotthard Pass route over the Alps, instead of zipping under the Alps in a long deep tunnel. The trains that follow this route connect the towns of Lugano or Locarno in Switzerland ( each a short distance north of Milan) with the charming lakeside city of Luzern. You would spend a night or two in Luzern before continuing on to the Berner Oberland via the very scenic Golden Pass route over Brunig Pass and along the Brienzersee. Then spend at least 3 nights in a Berner Oberland village.

https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/experiences/treno-gottardo/

Posted by
22593 posts

"3 weekish" says about 21 days to me--quite possibly fewer full, non-jetlagged days. With four heavy-hitters (Rome, Venice, Paris, London) in the mix--not to mention the hope of taking day trips to one or more smaller places--I question the idea of trying to include Switzerland. Most people who head to Switzerland want to get up into the mountains, so peeling off just a couple of days for that country seems risky; transportation up the mountains is not fast and weather issues could mean very poor visibility.

Look at it this way: Venice needs at least 3 nights; it's by far the smallest city on the list and extra days there would give a small-town experience if you got away from the path from the train station to the Rialto to San Marco. But let's suppose you jusy allot 3 nights to Venice; that leaves about 18 nights for 3 very large cities from which you're really interested in side-trips (an idea I support). Six nights in Rome is only 5 days. One day for a side trip to (perhaps) Orvieto. That's just 4 days in Rome. The same pattern holds for Paris and London. Where will the days needed for Switzerland come from?

Posted by
13875 posts

If they are traveling by train, the logical route to Paris takes them right through Switzerland. They will be ready for a relaxing break from busy cities at that point. Why not stop there for a bit, especially since it was on the original “wish list”? I believe it is important to listen to the OP and help them reach their goals whenever possible.

With 3 weeks, assuming that means 20 nights on the ground, they have time to do that. Especially since they have not mentioned an interest in daytrips from their major cities. That came from others—-a suggestion to daytrip to the Dolomites from Venice (both places I love and know well, and I would never recommend that), or daytrip to Orvieto from Rome, or to someplace I can’t remember from Paris. None of these were in their original plans. They might well be valid suggestions for some people, who have different goals. But I don’t think they fit well here.

So let’s say 4-5 nights for Rome, 3-4 for Venice, 3-4 for Paris, and 4-5 for London. Adjust according to their own interests to make it average out to 4 nights each in the cities, 16 total. That still leaves 4 nights for Switzerland.

Posted by
399 posts

Switzerland, like Munich, should be saved for another trip altogether. Switzerland really doesn't fit in a 3 week trip that covers the 4 cities. Train between Rome and Venice, train between London and Paris, connect Italy to England or France via plane.

Posted by
2879 posts

Jojo, did you read all their wishes and hopes? Guillermo said they like to travel by train, and also to visit Switzerland.

To fly from Venice to Paris takes time and can be less comfortable than train. Starting in Venice: an hour from the city to the airport ( Alilaguna time, other options available but more complicated); 2 hours at the airport for security etc., one hour or more +flight time ( I did not look this up but guessed at the minimum), then another hour to get from CDG into the city. So at least 5 hours which are not fun or scenic. And many transfers shlepping luggage. A train ride through Switzerland is so much more relaxing , if you have the time, which they do.

Instead of flying they could have a pleasant and scenic journey involving a place they want to visit, right on their way between Venice and Paris. . In Switzerland, “the journey is the destination”.

Posted by
399 posts

Jojo, did you read all their wishes and hopes? Guillermo said they like to travel by train, and also to visit Switzerland.

IMO they are jamming too many overnight destinations and lengthy travel days into this 3 week itinerary. I am not the only one on this thread suggesting they drop Switzerland on this trip if the primary goal is seeing Rome-Venice-Paris-London. Acraven has posted a similar misgiving about adding Switzerland to this itinerary.

If they really want to include Switzerland, I would say spend more time in Italy and include Florence, then take in Munich as originally proposed, and allocate more time to Switzerland. They will get plenty of train travel in this more geographically centered itinerary.

Posted by
22593 posts

A straight-shot train trip from Venice to Paris takes at least 11 hours. Some of the routings go through Lugano, I think. Others just hit Basel and might give you less exposure to the Swiss Alps. (I'm not sure; I haven't been to Switzerland for about 30 years.) If you opt to take the train instead of flying, I think you should allow a bit of extra time for a diversion from the direct route so you get a better look at Switzerland.

We have some folks here who are really knowledgeable about Swiss train routings. They can tell you which routes give you a lot of time in tunnels (those are usually the fastest, but obviously least scenic) and which allow you to see more of the mountains. I'd suggest posting a separate inquiry in the Switzerland section of the forum, asking about a scenic route between Venice and Paris. Specify how many nights you are willing to spend along the way for the most helpful responses. Note: Swiss trains cost more per mile than most other European trains.

Posted by
13875 posts

One can use the German train site to figure out routes from Venice to Paris, but it will only show the fastest, most direct routes, all of which involve tunnels, unless you “force it” to show a route over the Alps by including a stop or transfer that is not in the tunnel. The fast routes shown on the bahn.de website will not indicate or mention the tunnel; you have to know about it .

One can also use the Swiss train website,SBB.ch, but it is not quite as user-friendly or intuitive. It will, however, mention at least the long Gotthard Basistunnel between Bellinzona and Arth-Goldau (both in Switzerland).

There are trains on this route from Venice tomParis that stop in or connect in Lugano, in Switzerland. But they will all use the Gotthard Basistunnel after Lugano, unless you force the website to do otherwise. In other words, you will see little or no alpine scenery as you zip under the Alps even if you board the train in Lugano,inside Switzerland.

There are various ways to find the trains that go over the Alps between Milan and Zurich or Luzern instead of under them. I recommended one of them above in my original post—the Treno Gottardo which connects Locarno (rather than Lugano) with Luzern or Zurich. There is also the Gotthard Panorama Express which uses the Gotthard Pass route to connect Lugano with Flüelen on Lake Lucerne. There one can board a boat for a lake cruise the rest of the way to Luzern, or change to a regional train that completes the journey via Arth -Goldau.

Any of these trains over the Gotthard Pass instead of the tunnel will extend the total journey time beyond the already-eyeglazing 11 hours of the tunnel-facilitated trains. I cannot imagine doing that in one day, which is why I suggested the stop in Switzerland in the first place.

When we travel around Switzerland, or travel between Switzerland and Italy, I try to limit “train time” to 4 hours, or 5 at the most, even when the scenery is great. We are happy to go a bit out of our way to avoid those long deep tunnels. And I enjoy seeking out out pleasant places to overnight to break up the journey. We have made some nice discoveries that way.

I will mention that there is a slightly shorter route from Venice to Paris via Torino, which avoids Switzerland altogether. The route uses a TGV from Torino Porta Susa to Gare de Lyon in Paris, via Modane in France. The total travel time from Venice to Paris is reduced from 11+ hours to 10h 28 minutes. There is a tunnel on this route as well, but it is shorter, and maybe there are views of the French Alps after exiting the tunnel. We have never been that way so I would not know.

Guillermo has not been back for a long time, and I imagine they are looking at options and making choices. They have been given lots of ideas, information, and opinions, and now it is up to them to sort it out and decide what works best for their trip. And then maybe they will be back with more detailed questions that people can help with.

Posted by
7 posts

Lola put it perfectly—I am looking over the options laid out and putting in more detailed planning before seeking feedback.

Currently I have focused my planning towards visiting the Big 4. I’d like to visit Switzerland, but that can wait for another trip. I thought about adding extra days to our trip in order to fit it in, but I honestly don’t think I have the bandwidth to plan for more. I still gotta plan a summer backpacking trip with friends and a holiday with my partner. Not that any of that is anything to complain about. It’s all a blessing.

I’m mapping exact days spent at each place. I’m also figuring out where rest days would make sense. When I have this mapped out I will definitely seek more feedback to hear about your experience or any recommendations.

As before, small progress is being made, but it is progress nonetheless. Thanks.

Posted by
7 posts

It’s been a while since I’ve circled back to everyone’s thoughts. Thanks again for everything. Since I last messaged there have been moves made on my end.

I’ve bought our airline tickets. As recommended we are flying into Rome and returning from London.

Our itinerary is more set, although there is just one last thing to finalize. It looks as follows:

Rome: 6 nights
Venice: 3 or 4 Nights
Paris: 6 nights
London: 5 or 6 Nights

For all of the encouragement to slow down and trim from our original plans, thank you. This new plan feels more manageable.

For those who advocated for longer stays in Venice, what are your thoughts when it comes 3 vs 4 nights, especially when it comes at the expense of a day in London.

Currently, I’ve been thinking of embracing Venice with a 4 Night visit. My complete amateur thinking is that our first day there would be spent on travel from Rome by train and getting to our hotel. Afterwards no real site seeing except for being there and enjoying a dinner. Day two could be dedicated being a tourist. Day three I imagine could involve wandering around, getting lost, and taking pictures of my mom around town (I am an amateur photographer, but nonetheless I like taking pictures). Day four could be used to visit a nearby island or whatever we please (more of Venice, chores, or a day to recharge).

Anyways, that’s my little day dream, but 4nights in Venice would come at the expense of losing a night in London (5 nights instead of 6). So for those of you in favor of Venice, would you make that trade off?

I know there is no right answer. I know I will be happy either way, butI am curious what you like to do with your time in Venice if for nothing more than to have another daydream. Put differently, why do you enjoy your repeated visits?

As mentioned earlier, our plans are moving ahead. I have a long list of hotels in each city except for London. I’m getting ready to write emails to these places to make confirmations. I’ve gotten all my ideas of where to sleep from other postings on this forum and RS guidebook so thanks to anyone who’s responded to someone else’s questions. I probably read your response. Also, I believe someone recommended Hotel Smeraldo earlier in this post. That place looks like it’s a good value. As a heads up for future readers, Hotel due Torri was frequently recommended in Rome but I don’t think it is in business anymore (2022)—I hope I am wrong. That’s a shame because it seems like it was loved by RS and the community.

-G

Posted by
2286 posts

After three visits to London that add up to about a two week stay, I still have a lot more of London to see. During the day there are neighborhoods to explore, world-class museums to browse, walking tours to take, parks to roam, markets to enjoy, a day trip to Bath and the theatre at night. Venice only needs three nights (two full days).

Posted by
22593 posts

There's a great deal to see in Venice, so I disagree with Mary Pat. But the fact is that it's rare to have as much time as we'd like for any trip, so there are always trade-offs. In this case, I'd rather short-change London, because you're a lot more likely ro make multiple visits there. Fares to London are among the very lowest you'll find to Europe, making it an ideal starting point for future multi-country trips. And there is so much to see and do in London that you'll almost certainly plan a return visit pretty soon even if your first visit is for seven nights or more.

Posted by
1216 posts

With 3 nights in Venice, 2 1/2 days, I was able to see what I wanted to see. So as with every location it comes down to are you able to see what you want, at a reasonable pace so as not to burn yourself out.

Enjoy your trip/

Posted by
139 posts

Guillermo, You've done a great job making changes along the way, editing a wealth of divergent forum views to plan what is a much more manageable trip, tailored to your interests, seriously well done! AND it's so great you've left time to 'get lost, take photos, wander', which is the best part of travel IMO. I agree with another poster that you may well get back to London in the future, less likely to Venice perhaps? I might look at it from that perspective. I don't recall how much walking you both want to do, but scheduling a walking or walking food tour the first full day in each place would give you a good feel of some areas & where to go back for meals. Good luck and it would be great to hear how your trip goes when you're back home.