Very Late Planning Help!

Hello! My sister and I are traveling throughout Europe for a month July 24- Aug 22, 2013. I have never been and she is currently studying abroad in Trier, Germany so our trip will start out there. We have already purchased our return tickets from Madrid, Spain as we have friends in that area. We currently each have a budget of $2,500 and are planning on staying in hostels and traveling with just a small backpack each. We have been looking at Ryan Air for some of the travel as well as by rail. I am 26 and she is 19 so we are interested in some night life but not on a nightly basis. This is our rough draft itinerary. I welcome all thoughts on destinations/time frames, travel advice, anything really! Arrival: July 24th @ approx. 11:30 Departure: August 22nd @ 11:00 Total number of days in Europe: 30 Total number of places: 15 Approx. number of days in each place: 1 day in Trier 1 day in Luxembourg 2 days in Cologne 3 days in Berlin 4 days in London 4 days in Paris 4 days in Nice 3 days in Milan 2 days in Rome 3 days in Venice 2 days in Pompeii
3 days in Barcelona 2 days in Madrid

Posted by Kira
Seattle, WA, USA
954 posts

Michael makes a REALLY good point. :-) I am scary frugal, so it didn't hit me - and then I read Michael's reply and did the math. And I agree that you will need to adjust either your budget and/or the number of days you are there and/or your expectations, plus perhaps limit the number of wildly expensive cities you plan to visit. I was just in London a few months ago and even though I try to get there once a year, I was amazed at the prices! On the other hand, I am seeing London hostels from about $21 US per night for a dorm space, so... could be do-able. But it will be tight.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4859 posts

Try to think of your destinations in terms of how many nights you will be there. At least for me it's easier to plan that way. As mentioned, you are planning some expensive cities. Also you want to go to many places, so you will have to factor in the cost of transportation to get from place to place. The more you move around, the more it will cost you. I hope you have not listed your destinations in the order you plan to see them, as you are literally all over the map. Get a map of Europe and mark each place you want to go. Try to see them in some sort of order and not backtrack. You have friends in Madrid. Can you stay with them? If yes, maybe you should allot more time there to save on lodging costs.

Posted by Jamie
USA
6 posts

Thank you everyone for your replies! This is a rough plan and I do know that I will need to cut it down a bit not only for the sake of time but as you all said money is going to be very tight. As for order we were looking at flights to see which cities fly to each other at the lowest cost. I know with Ryan Air not all flights go to all cities. Most of the flights we found would be cheaper and faster then going by rail but we would need to purchase them in advance which would tie us down a bit. As far as destinations do you all have any advice on cities that I could skip or which are must see? Thank you, sometimes it just takes another set of eyes to help you figure it out!

Posted by Beth
Boulder, Colorado, USA
74 posts

Great fun! You may want to sequence to avoid back tracking. You have allocated more than 30 days in this plan. Consider trimming back the number of cities - what are your top priorities? Then budget for those and fit in a few extras if time and money remain. Figure in the cost of tickets for your top places and events.
Plan a rest day in the middle of the trip. Have fun planning and traveling!

Posted by Kira
Seattle, WA, USA
954 posts

Excellent notes from Beth. My two cents'-worth: don't get too hung up on your itinerary. If you don't like Milan, feel free to blow outta there after one night. If you adore Paris, stay longer! To find nightlife, head for a pub that serves younger people. Ex-pat pubs that cater to English-speaking Brits and/or Aussies are especially good. You'll meet folks who are locals-because-they-live-there and who can give you great tips, invite you along on nights out, etc. A great place to network is at your hostel, especially in the kitchen and at dinner. When I was backpacking I always got recommendations that way - someone would have been someplace amazing the day before, and I'd pick their brain. On longer overnights between cities, save money on lodgings by sleeping on the train. Picnicking is another great way to save money. So is, sorry, fast food. Doesn't have to be McDonald's... there are local joints that will be inexpensive and still have non-American atmosphere and food. Street food is a great - cheap - way to really experience the flavor of a place. Check Chowhound. Ask for the student discount! Carry your college ID (if you can find it) and you should be good to go. Your sister will definitely be able to take advantage. Use train station lockers if you'll have a long day in town before the hostel opens. This is likely safer in many ways than lugging your backpack around while sightseeing, and it's easier to get around without luggage, even if it is small! Mail souvenirs home as your travel around, so you don't need to carry extra stuff with you. Above all, keep open minds and hearts - don't be afraid of anything (well, except knives and fire) - and have an AMAZING time! You will remember this for the rest of your lives, I guarantee it. :-)

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
439 posts

So you have 30 days of travel with a 2500.00 budget that is $83.33 US dollar which would be about 65.00 euro. You are going to fly, use trains, eat, drink and be merry. You are going to london, Paris, Milan, Rome, Venice some of the most expense cities in Europe. I would think you increase the budget or lessen the days. Your not going to make it. Please this is IMO I don't think this is a serious post. Again IMO

Posted by Barry
San Diego, CA
587 posts

Just looking at the cities you have listed you'll be eating up quite a bit of your funds on flights, and one thing to keep in mind and check closely is where the low cost airlines land. Though they may say they fly to a certain city the airport may be very far from the city and the cost to get into and the time factor too will need to be taken into consideration. The one thing that will happen when you ask others what places you should eliminate is you will get a plethora of answers. That is what one place someone enjoyed another might not and in the long run you will be getting no where. What you need to do is go to the library and get some guide books, peruse the internet on sites in various places and last but not least go with what you've always wanted to see. look at it this way, say you traveled to California, went to San Francisco for a day, flew to LA for a day or two, then down to San Diego for a day, in the long run you did visit those cities but one thing about traveling in Europe and really any travel in general is connecting with the place and the people that live there, spending a day or 2 won't accomplish that, as the old saying goes stop and smell the flowers. It'll be much more fun if you go to a place find a little café you and your sister can go to each morning or afternoon for 3 or 4 days, a place that becomes yours, those will be the memories that will last a lifetime, not a checkmark that says you've been to Pompeii, and with the Schengen agreement you won't be getting stamps in the passport anyway. You will get a bigger bang for you buck in Spain, since you're definitely going there concentrate on there. a day trip out of Madrid to Toledo for example. Personally I think you need to narrow it down to about 4-5 places, anyplace you plan on only 1 or 2 days will probably not be worth the expense of getting there.

Posted by Matt
Washington, DC, USA
566 posts

IMO, you need one less day in Venice, one less day in Pompeii, and add at least one of those days to Rome. I agree with the others that you'll need to scale back to reduce time and money expenses. Personally I didn't like Milan. I certainly wouldn't spend three days there. Four days in both London and Paris are sufficient, if just barely. I'm afraid I have no experience traveling in Germany. Have fun.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3576 posts

The more you move, the more €€€ you spend. You're still paying to sleep somewhere, and paying to eat...now you're adding transportation costs on top :-( Unless you buy your airline/train tickets online ASAP, they will be very expensive. Look at a map, and put your destinations in a better order as already recommended. But... ...First of all, what is your airline arrival city? And 'ditto' to everything above.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7670 posts

@Eileen, she said they are starting out in Trier because she is meeting her sister there. You already have 34 days in your 30 day plan, not sure if you are counting arrival and departure days as part of your 30. Every time you change locations you use up a good half-day at least. For example, just today I booked an AVE train from Barcelona to Madrid for a trip in mid-August. Even by high speed train it is a three hour trip, plus getting to the station in Barcelona 30 minutes ahead, and getting out of the station in Madrid (not to mention finding my hotel, etc.). There goes my whole afternoon. Booked this far ahead, I got my ticket for 38 euro, but those promo fares have to be booked ahead and can disappear at any time. And even if you get that fare, that takes up two thirds of that day's budget and you have to sleep somewhere. I don't think you would find anything in Madrid for the money you had left. For the sake of your budget and your time, you really need to cut down the number of destinations and pay close attention to how long it takes to get somewhere from somewhere else.

Posted by stan
Kansas City, Missouri
213 posts

Jamie is that $2500 for both of you, or each? Either way, its not enough. I would cut out the following cities: London (next time), Berlin, Luxemburg, Nice, Milan, Pompeii. Too many long trips in different directions. The travel time, even with air, will eat up too much of your time and pleasure. You'll still be in jet lag three days into trip. Seems like a trip made for railpasses (not Eurail, but country passes).

Posted by Adam
Boston
2624 posts

As others have said, you've got to cut back. What are your priorities?

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
653 posts

Not to pile on, but keep in mind that you're both young and will have many more chances to return to Europe if you want to. A trip this year that results in good experiences and memories will motivate you to come back for more. You'll want to return to places you came to know and love, and explore new places you've heard more about. If I were you, I'd pick three or four places, not necessarily all big cities and not necessarily far apart, on some logical sequence from Trier to Madrid, and spend your very limited funds there. I don't know much about bus travel in Europe but there are intercity buses and it might be a low-cost way to handle a lower-key itinerary, see a lot of countryside, and meet fellow travelers. Here's a link from this website: http://www.eurolines.com/en/.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7817 posts

CAREFUL .. ryanair looks cheaper sometimes, but they use some remote airports with longer commutes to the cities and of course cost.. ie, for Paris they use Beauvais airport. Beavais airport is 100 km from Paris and it takes 1.5 hours to get into city and there is no one direct way, you must train and bus.. and then metro.. Look at Easyjet and Vueling too. Also look at not moving so much, that's a huge expense right there.. Ok now for your spots. Venice ,, three days is too much , you don't have a lot of money so that's an expensive place , food is $$ , and its not like you can shop much.. so what have you actually figured on doing in Venice for 3 days.. think about it , hanging out in cafes sipping 5 euro cokes or coffees.. Rome is worth more then 2 days.. I mean come on there is more to see there then Nice for goodness sake!
I love London , skip it this time its out of the way.... you are young you'll get there another time .

Posted by Jamie
USA
6 posts

All of the input is great! Thanks! After reading all of your replies I agree that we have too many places! I have been able to up each of our budgets to $3,000 which might help us out a bit. Also, this is a newer list of priorities 2 days in Trier (Staying with sister) 4 days in London 4 days in Paris 3 days in Berlin 2 days in Venice 4 days in Nice 3 days in Milan 4 days in Rome 1 days in Pompeii
2 days in Madrid (Flight Leaves from here) This is our trimmed trip which I still believe to be too many destinations, so I am doing more research on what to cut out. I am concerned about what we want to do in each city, this was such a quick decision to go that I really haven't been able to thoroughly research!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4859 posts

With your budget I would definitely drop London. It is costly to get to and from there from the continent and it is an expensive city to be in. Remember that many low fare flights have hidden costs and are often to and from outlying airports that will cost you more time and money to get there. You are young and you will have plenty of time in your life to go back. What are your plans for spending 3 days in Milan? That seems like 2-3 days too many to me! You might consider spending more time in Spain. It is less expensive than the other countries on your list.

Posted by Susan and Monte
Granite Bay, CA
677 posts

It helps when you are planning to think in terms of nights, not days. When you say 4 days in one location, is that 3 nights or 4 nights or 5 nights? Don't forget that a 3 night stop is actually more like 2 1/2 days of site seeing. Since you pay per night, budgeting is easier when you think in those terms. You will arrive afternoon (probably) find your hotel, get settled and explore. Then the day you leave you are up early and out, so that day doesn't count for site seeing. So, what may seem like more time is really less. So, plan your time based nights and how much time you will need for site seeing in each location. It takes far more time to move than you'd ever imagine. So if you are thinking you will have 4 days to see London...well, more like 3 1/2 or less. It may make you rethink the shorter stops and if the cost is really worth the short time you'll have there.

Posted by Ann
Sunnyvale
49 posts

2 days in Trier (Staying with sister) 4 days in London 4 days in Paris 3 days in Berlin 2 days in Venice 4 days in Nice 3 days in Milan 4 days in Rome 1 days in Pompeii
2 days in Madrid (Flight Leaves from here) I would trim Milan to 2 days and either add another day in Paris, London or Rome. Or maybe take one of your Milan days and take the train to Lake Como, it's only an hour or so via train from Milan and it is absolutely beautiful. I think it's definitely worth the trip!

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3576 posts

"@Eileen, she said they are starting out in Trier because she is meeting her sister there." @Nancy - I saw that; my question was concerning her arrival city. They aren't necessarily the same place. Jamie, I asked because if you were actually arriving in London, Paris, etc., your sister could meet you there and avoid a lot of (expensive and time-consuming) backtracking. You could then later on in your trip work in a visit to Trier so your sister could show you her life there :-) Susan and Monte gave you some good advice about how much time it takes checking into and out of hotels/hostels. Also, I didn't see where anyone suggested making Pompeii a day trip from Rome; that would save you lots of time moving around just for one night. Since you have friends in Madrid and that's your departure point, perhaps put some time from London/Milan/Wherever towards more time there. Except that your flight leaves from there, Spain is really the odd man out in this itinerary.

Posted by Liz
Spokane, WA, USA
30 posts

Jamie,
Have you looked into couchsurfing? www.couchsurfing.org. Amazing opportunities to meet interesting local residents -- and stay overnight for free at someone's home. Most couchsurfers and hosts tend to be young people in their 20s (although there are plenty of all ages). If you look for a verified host and trace back references etc., I think you can feel quite safe with this alternative. My entire family has been graciously received by couchsurfers, and we have only had great experiences hosting couchsurfers on several occasions (who stayed on living room couches in our home :-) We will even be staying with one of those couchsurfers on an upcoming trip to Europe. Check it out!!

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
701 posts

I'll second the couchsurfing - as both a surfer (about 15 times) and a host (over 40 since 2008) we've met some great people and made some great memories (and my husband and I are 48 and 39 respectively). We've had all ages stay - from 20 to 70! You may want to look into it - I always recommend people read feedback/references and profiles closely. And if you do decide - make sure you fill out your profile really well. Empty profile + no experience = no couches, but full profile + no experience can = couches (I've had maybe 3-5 new to cs stay with me, with no experience, but they filled out their profile, as opposed to some who asked that didn't bother, so I said no).

Posted by Nancy
London, UK
159 posts

London is a very expensive city BUT the museums are free. St Paul's, Westminster Abbey and Tower of London all have entrance fees but you can go to evensong in either the Abbey or St Paul's. There is not admission fee for evensong. You can spend days just walking around London and taking it all in. Look for Prets, Eats, Wasabi etc as places to eat. Or there are lots and lots of smaller Tesco or Waitrose grocery stores to purchase food for picnics. You can do it here in London but you will have to plan and budget carefully. You can PM me if you have any specific questions.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3487 posts

2 days in Trier (Staying with sister) - great 4 days in London - as others have said, leave it out, too far, to costly to get there 4 days in Paris - great 3 days in Berlin - again, it is far, far away. 2 days in Venice - good 4 days in Nice - not sure what you are looking for there in mid-summer 3 days in Milan - again, not sure what you want to see/do there for 3 days 4 days in Rome - great 1 days in Pompeii - fine, though maybe as a day-trip from Rome. 2 days in Madrid There's a lot of Italy to see between Venice and Rome. There's also a lot of Spain to see - Toledo, Cordoba and Seville are all near Madrid. Don't expect to sleep on trains, unless you can sleep through anything sitting up. The night trains make lots of stops, expect starting, stopping, whistles, bright lights on at every stop, really smelly toilets.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3487 posts

Start looking at train schedules to try to work out your itinerary. Use the German train site, bahn.de . While they won't give you prices, they do list all the trains for your destinations, so you can see how long the trip is, what times the trains are, how many changes on a trip, etc. That will give you a better idea of how much time the traveling will EAT UP. Remember, you need about 1/2 hour to get to the station from where you are, and you need to be at the station at least 1/4 hour before the train leaves - more in big cities. Then you need another 1/2 hour to get to your lodging from the train station. So a 2-hour train ride is more like 5 hours out of that day. You can optimize sightseeing by taking evening trains (get food beforehand and picnic on the train), but you will have to leave your backpacks for the day and then collect them when you leave town. You can usually leave them for free at hostels, but it will cost you to leave them at the train station.

Posted by Jamie
USA
6 posts

Okay we have narrowed things done a lot and wonder what you all think about this current plan. The order is mostly to save us money as these were the cheapest flights we could find and we have to leave out of Madrid as we had already bought those tickets. 1. Arrive in Trier 2. Train to Frankfurt for flight to Venice 3. Venice 4. Venice 5. Venice 6. Venice to Naples train 7. Naples 8. Day trip to Pompeii back to Naples for the night 9. Naples to Rome- Train 10. Rome 11. Rome 12. Rome 13. Rome to Nice Flight 14. Nice 15. Nice 16. Nice to Marseille- train (Flight to London leaves from there) 17. Marseille 18. Marseille 19. Marseille to London Flight-arrive in London at midnight 20. London 21. London 22. London 23. London 24. London to Paris- Eurostar at 8am 25. Paris 26. Paris 27. Paris 28. Paris flight to Madrid arrive at 8pm 29. Madrid
30. Madrid Flight back to USA at I think pretty well so far I just am thinking that I am going to regret not having more time in Madrid... any thoughts??? Thank you!

Posted by Charlene
Centennial, CO, US
905 posts

I think I'd take a day from Marseilles and a day from Venice and add those two days to Madrid.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
645 posts

Starting from your number 19 (above) I'd go from Marseilles to Paris, spend several days there, then train to London, spend several days there, and fly home from London. I agree Madrid is great, but I might leave it for another trip. Just as many people on this website do, promise yourself you will return. Another option is to go from Marseilles to Madrid, to Paris, to London. Consider that there are a lot of things to see in the area all around London. (as well as in London itself). You may want to go to Oxford or to Cambridge, both college towns with great historic buildings and pubs.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2595 posts

I agree with taking a day or two from somewhere to add to Madrid. Of all the places you are visiting I would say Marsailles is the least intriguing. I liked it but would not take it over your other locations.
@Rebecca... she has already purchased her ticket to fly out of Madrid, so part of her trip is not flexible.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3194 posts

I agree with Charlene, except I'd skip Marseille altogether and add those days + 1 from Venice to Madrid and Paris. You can never have enough time in Paris. Especially if you want to do any of the wonderful day trips.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8725 posts

I don't get why you are paying to cross the Channel two times... You should be able to get cheap fares from one or more of the 5 major London airports to Madrid. Then you could go Nice> Paris very easily by high speed TGV train in about 5 hours (the slow bit is alone the scenic Cote d'Azur coast) which would be as fast as going to Marseilles, two hour check in, flight, and the hour to get from CDG or Orly into Paris. Even more so a better deal if you somehow decided to fly to Paris by RyanAir which only flies to Beauvais which out and beyond in the middle of nowhere heading to the English Channel and which takes a very long time to get into Paris. Then you could cut out Marseilles entirely unless you know of "don't miss" stuff there that I've never found and share those days out between Madrid and Germany in which it seems all you do is collect your sister. It's a nice place to visit. Cheap, too. Then Eurostar across to London (be at the train station one hour ahead - you need to be through the check in line and checked in a minimum 30 minutes ahead or you don't go, and I've seen some properly healthy queues at Paris Gare du Nord, including a recent account here of somebody missing it that way). Fly to Madrid from London. On your recent plan you show arriving at an (unnamed) London airport at midnight. You don't say where in the 50 States you are from but I can only guess 24/7/365 NYC. London isn't like at home. While there are plenty of people who work at night - I'm one of them - the Underground and the trains and the regular buses pack up at around midnight. That leaves the slow night buses and the expensive taxis. If you arrive at midnight it may be nearly one am before you are through immigration. France to the UK involves Immigration and Customs because UK not in Schengen.

Posted by Robert
Tampa, FL, USA
271 posts

I would also drop London from the trip for costs. Some suggestions for your Italy part is drop Pompeii. It'll take a little while to get there, see the sights and back to Rome. Instead of 1 day in Pompeii add that 1 day in Rome and on that day visit Ostia Antica. Only 15-20 minutes from Rome, it was Rome ancient seaport. It was buried under a vokcanor but the ruins are better then Pompeii and more buildings are still standing. It's a easy half day visit from Rome and can see more stuff in Rome that afternoon. Also I would switch Milan for Florence.