Lately we've seen some Italy itineraries proposed that don't consider travel time between destinations.We see 3 basic kinds of itineraries here: Slower/More Relaxed ItineraryFaster But Do-able ItineraryImpossible/So Fast You Don't Get To Do What You Went to Europe To Do ItineraryRelaxed and Faster but Do-able itineraries both work, it's a matter of personal preference, there's no one way to travel. However, if you don't make a realistic estimate of travel times between your European destinations, you can think you're doing a Faster but Do-able itinerary, only to realize on day 2 or 3, when it's too late to change it, that you ended up with the Impossible/Too Fast trip, which probably wasn't how you wanted your trip to be. Many first timers to Europe or to a country understandably prefer the Faster but Doable approach, and some experienced travelers prefer the Slower/More Relaxing approach. Understandably, first timers often want to see more in less time. Even in the Faster but Do-able approach many experienced travelers have come to see that at least 2 nights for most destinations, and more for major destinations, creates the kind of trip they want.To avoid unknowingly turning your trip into the Impossible/Too Fast itinerary, use the websites below to make realistic estimates of the travel times between your destinations. These travel times within Europe are an unavoidable fact; it doesn't matter that "we're young and energetic," you still can't get from point A to B faster than anyone else.Click here to estimate rail travel times:Bahn Rail Schedules Click here to estimate driving travel times:GoogleMapViamichelin.com
Kent! Thank you for taking the time to post and update this information--it's excellent--Bravo!
I was talking to a friend in the travel business today about a possible itinerary that was a little ambitious--her advice was to "be where you are" as opposed to trying to be everywhere and not getting much out of any one destination. It made me stop and rethink my plan!
Kent, an excellent and very timely Post! I definitely agree that unrealistic Itineraries are a common tendency of many travellers to Europe, especially first-timers.
A few additional comments on the topic...
Trains are generally very reliable and "on time" although in some countries (won't mention any names), strikes and other unplanned events can affect travel times. Generally speaking, trains in Switzerland, Germany and Austria are almost always on time.
As others have noted here, driving times listed on the Michelin or other sites are only a "guideline". DON'T treat them as "gospel"! I've found that driving usually takes longer than planned, in some cases twice or more than what I've estimated. Causes vary but can include traffic, MVI's or getting lost. I much prefer taking the trains as I find it's usually faster and less hassle.
Regarding Itinerary planning, Europe Through The Back Door is a great resource for those that are new to travels in Europe (although I find some of Rick's suggested Itineraries are a bit "ambitious" too, especially for first-timers to accomplish - while they may work for more experienced travellers, they're not as useful for newcomers). I'm not sure if the "Itinerary" section is available on the web?
Ken, thank you for adding your comments. Your last comment reminded me that some travelers here have discovered the itineraries of the professionally operated tours offered by Rick's organization, which are posted elswehere on this website, and make an assumption that they, on their own, can do the same destinations in the same number of days. Probably not a valid assumption in most cases: there's a difference between the destinations that can be "hit" when professionals are dropping you off at the destinations, doing the driving, finding the hotels--versus what most travelers can do on their own when they have to find the parking lots, the hotels, etc.
We used viamichelin 3 years ago to estimate our driving times and we were consistently behind schedule...viamichelin overestimated the number of kilometers we could travel in a day. So be sure to pad your estimates with another hour or so just to be safe and relaxed.
We had a reservation at a B&B in Fresnes Mazancourt driving there from the beaches of Normandy. Viamichelin said we could do it. We almost gave up and almost missed our checkin deadline. But we regrouped and put the "pedal to the metal" and just barely made it to checkin by 11:00 pm. I will NEVER do that again.
Amen! Most itineraries posted lately just seems so unrealistic and even more importantly - not enjoyable. My husband's first trek to EU was in college and it was whirlwind. Nice, Lucern, Venice, Florence and Rome in like 10 days. The entire trip was run, point, get out of the bus, look, get back in and go.
We took a trip together once we got married that focused just on Italy and what a difference.
He would never recommend a fast blitz trip to anyone - you miss SOOOO much!!!
To supplement some of Kent's comments; I also use a minimum night rule, but relax it further. A major area or larger town (something in which I will probably visit 2-3 sights) is a two night minimum. A minor sight, something that I am going to see one specific thing, I may reduce to one night. I do couple this with a travel time consideration. Rarely do I travel more than 4 to 6 hours. If I really think I need to, then I consider flying to reduce the time. I suppose an overnight train or ferry might be an exception, but I have grown to dislike both those modes of travel. In the very rare event I do exceed my 6 hour rule, that warrants two nights at the next stop regardless of where it is.
Tour itineraries can be a good thing to follow but I suggest adding at least 50% more time on to them if you do them on your own.
Kent excellent topic. For some "the big trip" is something they've been dreaming about for ages. Remember being a little kid and wanting that huge piece of birthday cake--- only later you realized you ate too much and now feel awful and didn't really enjoy it.We've been on the blitz trips and we've been on the leisurely temporary locals trips. We've enjoyed both but in different ways. Some have the good fortune to know that this next trip won't be the last--- while for others, this might be the one trip of a lifetime. If it's your one shot at Italy I can see wanting to see all you can---- but on the other hand if it's your one shot at Italy don't you want to spend your time seeing and experiencing Italy instead of checking in and out of hotels?I've seen a lot of great advice here and on other travel boards to help maximize your travel experience--- almost universally they agree that less is more.
This is an excellent post. Thanks! I am one of the guilty person who wants to see it all in a rush. I realized that it is not going to be possible because I don't know the language and will definitely not know where to catch the buses, etc. I will be better off just touring Rome and take several days trips close to Rome. Thanks again for your great insights!
Kent, this is an excellant thread, it really should be posted on all the boards, at least the General board too.
I can see why when one is sitting at home with a map it might be easy to just "connect the dots" and add places to a persons itinerary,, but one really has to consider how much time it takes to get from point a to b. And using a tour itinerary is great for ideas, but usaully not realistic time wise for independent travellers as others have pointed out.
Kent excellent thread as most people seem to forget it is a vacation. It is impossible to see everything, so go with notion that I will be back someday!
I'm in the fast but doable category, mainly because there is so much world to see and only limited time. I prioritize visits to new places over returning to places I liked.
To make it work. I try to spend at least two nights at every stop with only occasional one night stops so we aren't constantly packing and unpacking.
I also limit my legs on travel days to 3 or 4 hours of driving or riding time. Travel days include packing, checking out, getting to the station, making your train and connections, getting off at the right stop, getting to your lodging, checking in and unpacking. Add meals and even 3 or 4 hour legs take up an entire day without seeing a single site.