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Why does everyone recommend a "base" city?

My trip to Italy is already set, not trying to change anything. But I have to say I don't quite get the point of having a "base" city and doing tons of day trips 2 and 3 hours away from that base city. However, since everyone recommends it, I'm clearly missing something here. I see so many people saying, for instance, they will make Florence their base, and then drive an hour and a half down to Siena one day, and to Pisa and Lucca the next day. Why not just stay in Siena, and enjoy the evening quiet when the tourists are mostly gone, or savor the time in Lucca, and live like a local for one or two nights?

To me, it's so easy to pack up my bag and move hotels. Far easier than driving back to, say, Rome, after a day of visiting Umbria. Why not just stay in Umbria since you're already there?

My husband and I were in the Napa Valley and we moved around three times in a 7-night stay. And that was Napa, much smaller than Rome. But we didn't want to deal with traffic driving down the two-lane road back to the city of Napa, so we opted to break up our vacation in three different areas of the Napa Valley, from Calistoga, down to the Oakville area, and then the city of Napa. It took us an extra 10 minutes to pack our bags to move hotels, and another 10 minutes to check in, and that 20 minutes saved us 45 minutes of driving in traffic. And obviously in Rome/Tuscany/Umbria it's even more of a time savings since the distances are farther.

So, please tell me why a lot of people do this, and the benefits. I really want to figure out if I'm missing something here. I swear I'm not trying to start an argument, just really, really curious.

Posted by
4696 posts

"To me, it's so easy to pack up my bag and move hotels."

To YOU. That's the point. Some people hate changing hotels, for various reasons. It's a personal preference.

I do tend to change hotels often, too, but sometimes I'll pick a base. Sometimes it makes sense to me. Some cities are really nice at night and it's nice to come back to them after doing a day trip somewhere. Some places aren't nice at night but worth visiting during the day. Sometimes a place I'll day trip to is not in the direction I'll be headed next anyway, so there's no benefit to changing hotels to stay over there.

If you don't mind changing hotels often, you aren't "missing" anything - just travel in your own style and don't worry about choosing a base.

Posted by
314 posts

Everybody has their own style. Many people like to pack a lot of different things on their vacations. I prefer going to just one city and spending 3-5 days there. It gives me plenty of time to see museums & art (my #1 thing) and also time to browse shopping streets, sit in cafes and people watch, and just wander around. But, perversely, I skip major tourist sites. I would feel I'd cheated myself if I just stopped at the top 3 postcard sites and didn't go into the obscure, hard-to-appreciate contemporary art museum. That's what I like. My vacation, my choice. :)

Posted by
6392 posts

Sometimes moving to a new hotel every day or so works, but sometimes the distance "math" just works better by choosing a single base and minimizing distances (and times) from that base. I'm flexible and have no issue moving hotels, but only if it saves time/money...I actually calculate it out to determine the best option. If there is a large city from which you can make several easy side trips (all of which are in somewhat different directions), then it doesn't make sense to keep moving from one to another because you'll waste time backtracking at the end. It's sort of like the hub and spoke system that airlines use - it's a time and money saving measure for certain routes. It helps to smooth out the time spent in transit so that no one day has a major "spike", so to speak.

I don't think there is one general answer because each decision is very route specific...in some cases, your approach works great and, in others, it may not.

Posted by
490 posts

I don't use base cities.
I move every 2-4 days.

Pack light, keep moving in one direction try not to back track, sometimes it is necessary for major airports or flight deals...

I like to go back to my hotel in the afternoon and regroup...I don't understand paying high prices say in Florence or Rome to go travel 2-3 hours away just to return to sleep in an expensive hotel! :)

Anyone who has ever gone away for a weekend...all of us...can deal with packing and unpacking every 2 days or so, no big deal.

Happy trails!

Posted by
9477 posts

We like to use a base city because we dislike moving around a lot and really like feeling like we are coming "home." We rarely stay anywhere less than 5 nights and try for at least a week. We rent an apartment both for space and economy and further that feeling of being local. I like being able to take an early morning walk through our neighborhood, stop for coffee at the same bar a few days in a row, patronize the same greengrocer, etc. I like that quiet post-daytripper evening time as well.

We do not rent cars (except rarely) and keep our day trip travel times to no more than 90 minutes one-way. I would never visit Umbria from Rome nor Venice from Florence, but I would go to Orvieto & Castel Gandolfo from Rome, Versailles & Giverny from Paris, Bassano del Grappa from Venice, etc. Sometimes it depends on if we have been somewhere prior. For example, having visited both Florence and Siena separately, I would stay on one or the other the next time and day trip between them.

Other situations lend themselves to establishing a base camp or two (or three) to allow exploration without too much daily driving. Having a base in northern Tuscany and then another in the southern part can be a good strategy for staying in an agriturismo and visiting lots of small towns, some wineries, etc. without changing locations every couple of nights.

Posted by
236 posts

And sometimes the lodging requires a minimum number of nights.

Posted by
1769 posts

I think a base is good if there are places you want to visit that are close by, say 30 min drive. I wouldn't change hotels for a distance that short. But, I'd never drive 2 and 3 hours and keep my base the same.

Posted by
335 posts

I have learned over many years of travel that I would rather stay in one area for an extended period than hopscotch all over the place. I like to get comfortable in one location.

Posted by
1669 posts

We used an agriturismo as our base in Tuscany. Most of our trips were an hour or less from base. We were just outside Greve and scooted into town several evenings.

At least half the fun was exploring the countryside. We'd head out on one road and when possible come back another. The other big advantage for us staying at the same agriturismo for the week was the opportunity to get to know our hosts and staff. We became fast friends with Isabella, Marco and Gino to the point that we exchanged Christmas gifts with Marco.

I've been to Napa/Sonoma/Suisun several times and I don't know if comparing driving the crowded roads in peak season from Calistoga to Napa is a good comparison to Tuscany and Umbria. But, as others have said, whatever floats your boat. I do see the charm in staying in Lucca, then Volterra, then Siena. As you mention, getting out and strolling the different towns in the evening would be fun.

I hope you and your family have a great trip! Be sure to report back.

Posted by
12020 posts

One has to weigh in the pros and cons of the alternatives.

Changing hotels requires you to do the following steps:
1 - repack your belongings
2 - checkout paperwork
3 - go to the hotel at destination first (at least to drop off luggage), rather than straight to sights.
4 - check in paper work
5 - unpack and put away your stuff in closets.
6 - go from hotel to sights in the new city
Also consider that the above transfer is done encumbered with luggage, rather than just a day backpack.

The time necessary for steps 1 through 6 will vary from person to person (for my wife packing alone is a Hollywood colossal production), but if the time necessary for a round trip on a day trip is similar to the time necessary for the above steps, then a day trip may be better.

I have come to the conclusion that if a day trip is about 2 hours round trip, and the place can be visited in less than a day, it is usually not worth for me to move from my base. Also one needs to consider how much time one needs at the new destination and how much time one has overall. If it's a small place that can be visited in half day, is one thing, but if it's a major destination that requires more than a day to see, then moving there is better than making multiple day trips.

So in your example, if I were based in Florence for 3 nights, and all I had time is for a day visit in Siena, I probably wouldn't split those few nights and move hotels, I'd do a day trip from Florence. But if I had extra nights available to spend in Siena, and my intention was to maybe use Siena as a base to visit Southern Tuscany (like the Val D'Orcia), then it's worth moving to Siena for a few nights.

Posted by
985 posts

We have used the base city approach to reduce time spent packing, unpacking and getting oriented to new surroundings. The more important reason is that the base cities have been places that deserve an extended stay in and of themselves. For example, we have used Rome, Florence and Paris as bases for exploring an area. Spending an extended time in one place gives us the feeling that we are more travelers than tourists.

Posted by
337 posts

I dunno. I like to unpack a bit and stay in a place to have a feeling of being somewhere. The evolution of my travel to Europe over three trips is like this:
Italy 1 - Rome 2, Florence 3, CT 2, Milan 2, Venice 3, Rome 2. Saw so much. Felt so tired by Venice that I really didn't see or do much there, or really enjoy it at all.
Paris-Amsterdam: Paris 7, Brussels in transit, Bruges 2, Amsterdam 5. Day trips to Reims from Paris on TGV, and to Keukenhoff in Netherlands. So much more relaxed. Got deep into our Paris hood, and really loved our Amsterdam host. Loved the Bruges place as well, but small town, short visit.
Central Western: Munich 4, Prague 4, Vienna 5, Day trip to Zugspitze from Munich, Day trip to Kutna Hora from Prague..

With the day trips I've learned to build it, it's not places I want to spend more than a day. While Garmisch-Partenkircken is charming, I don't want to spend the night there. And while I might be able to string together the Zugspitze with a relocation as a stop in transit, I dunno that I want to trudge my bags around a big mountain, even though we pack light. I could have spent a night in Kutna Hora (which would have avoided a HUGE fight with the wife over the train schedule), but it's way the hell out and doesn't chain with anything else. Same for Reims, and Keukenhoff.

It might be different in Tuscany where you might want to go see a bunch of stuff, but really, it's how you want your plan to come together and how you want to spend your time. I see your point and I think it works well for how you roll. Others will roll differently and do different things.

PS- that trip to Napa sounds great. We did a base camp style in Sonoma for a week, and I can concede your point on dark two lane highways. Going over the mountains to get back from a dinner in Yountville was a bit nuts.

Posted by
17793 posts

that 20 minutes saved us 45 minutes of driving in traffic

So you saved 45 minutes but you spent 20 minutes to do it, so you really saved only 25 minutes. I will change hotels to save 2 or 3 hours, but probably not for 25 minutes.

I've done both. When I did the Romantic Road, I moved every day for 5 days. There were days that I only traveled 2 hrs, but if I had gone back to my starting town, I would have had to go back through the ending town the next morning, so moving made sense.

However, when the places I wanted to see were in divergent directions from my base, and staying in one place allowed me to stay in a 40€/nt vacation apartment that wouldn't rent for just one night, using a base made sense.

Also, using a base allows some flexibility. If some day trips are weather dependent, you can do them on a day when the weather is good.

Posted by
17 posts

I am a base-city gal... It takes me and my family a lot longer than 10 minutes to pack especially if souvenirs (like pottery) were purchased along the way and finding the new hotel and checking in rarely takes 10 minutes before we are out and exploring again. Sometimes we purchase bottles of wine -- this will give us a couple nights to drink it. I would do up to 2 hours away -- but that is rare... it is more likely a guided tour of the countryside, a bike tour or an easy day-trip a hour away or so. I like having a "home away from home" it is less stressful to me.

Posted by
17630 posts

I think Lee's point about flexibility to handle varying weather conditions is a significant one. I'd add that I hit the tourist office as soon as I can and sometimes learn of something special going on nearby that I can work into my schedule. That's easier when you're spending more than one night in each place. It can also be helpful to get the TO's input on what to do on Sundays and Mondays (in countries where many museums are closed that day).

Posted by
2660 posts

It's not an all or nothing proposition. We've done a few trips that incorporated a lot of only 2 night stays before moving on to our next place. This was usually when our itinerary was a relatively linear one, and backtracking didn't make sense. And usually the places were more than a couple of hours apart.

But we've also done many trips that were hub based. Interestingly, none of these were based in a large city. We rented a cottage in the Cotswolds and day tripped to different places every day for a week (driving). We rented a flat in Chateau d'Oex and spent several days exploring as far away as Montreux, Gruyere and Gstaad. We've stayed in a gite in the Provence countryside and explored the towns and smaller cities from there. And an agroturismo in Tuscany, from which we would visit a different town every day. As I said, none of these were based in a major city, so our accommodations cost much less per night. And we either had our car or the area had excellent rail service. None of the day trips involved more than a couple of hours each way, and usually involved scenic drives that were part of the fun.

Posted by
4723 posts

The Napa valley story is not very relevant to a European trip. I don't know if you cared about the spa services or thermal pools at some of the places in Napa, or if one hotel was the same as another to you. But most posters on this site don't stay at the Four Seasons or Hyatt anyway.

Since it would be CRAZY to bring a car into a European city for later foot tours of the city, we're not talking about parking our giant SUV against the wall of our hotel and rolling three bags around to the elevator. Hotels often have checkout by 10 or 11AM, and checkin at 3. You can store your bags if you get there early, but it's not a luxurious as having an established room to use the facilities and put your feet up after a strenuous visit somewhere. And if you add in a metro to the rail station, a wait for the train, the same in the next city, and a wait at the counter to check in, it's silly to talk about how easy it is to change hotels in the US.

There are lot of European cities where you can spend days and days making very local daytrips - obvious examples are Paris and London, but Brussels-Bruges and Amsterdam-Den Haag or Berlin-Leipzig come to mind. Even in Tuscany or Provence or the Jura or Basel-Zurich, staying in one place can be productive and practical. It also can help you avoid missing things you didn't learn about in advance, that other travelers, the Concierge, or posters or newspapers reveal to you. If you're constantly pushing on, it's more like "If this is Tuesday, This must be Belgium" packaged tours!

Other factors are more personal. I've wasted so much time finding and using laundromats Rick recommends that as a financially comfortable adult now, I'm just happy to use the hotel's overpriced laundry - which means multiple day stays to get the stuff back. I also (another poster mentioned) enjoy feeling at home in a new place, and maybe going to the same bar for the local stand-up breakfast and being recognized.

Please tell us where you've been in Europe or abroad and used your Napa system?

Posted by
131 posts

Okay, cool, was looking forward to hearing responses, so this is great!!!!!

Posted by
16807 posts

Everyone does not recommend it, especially the farther the distances in question. You'll find that Rick's itinerary suggestions move on every couple of days, on average. He doesn't avoid one-night stops, but tries to minimize them.

If several attractions are grouped closely together, you may not even think of them as daytrips. For instance, a home base in Varenna allows you to easily reach other mid-Lake Como towns. The Cinque Terre is five towns, but you don't need to sleep in each, and you can also easily reach a few more in either direction. On the other hand, at two hours each way, a day trip between the Cinque Terre and Lucca is not everyone's idea of a good use of time. Depending on location, some side trips that would be easy by car can take longer by train and vice versa.

In your example, I have always slept separately in Florence, Siena, and Lucca, not "day-tripped" them. Same for Venice, Padua, Vicenza, and Verona, which are all within one hour apart (though I didn't necessarily see all on the same trip). The most likely reason to day-trip these is that you don't have two nights to spend in each and too many one-night stops gets wearisome. Alternatives would be to cut one so that you have two or more nights in the other, or to see one on a transit day, which is a common strategy for a stop at Pisa.

I also hate to see some travelers plan a trip around big-name destinations that may be rather far apart and ignore great, smaller towns that may be "so close" to their city base or their transit route. They could find a lot of cool things within a smaller radius and save some travel time and expense. But it's all about balance and choosing your sightseeing priorities within the time you have.

Posted by
11845 posts

Like some of the others, the flexibility piece is key for us. Staying in one spot allows us to adjust plans by weather and other unpredictable factors.

Number of available nights we have to work with figure into the plan. I'd rather spend more nights in the base which deserves some time + take a day trip than move to that 2nd location for just 1 night. We personally dislike having to pack up and move for only 1 or two nights: we can hit the ground running, right off the train, on a day trip. As with Laurel, we also like the feeling of coming "home" to a place we've settled into.

We also would not do a day trip that is 2-3 hours one way, and we don't drive in Italy.

The Napa valley story is not very relevant to a European trip.

Thinking the same, here. That's not a place we'd spend a week's worth of time to begin with, and it's an entirely different animal by car versus train where you're not rockin' right up to your accommodation and have to deal with the bags either in hotel storage or in a storage locker at a station if it's too early to check in.

No right or wrong as long as it works for you but for us, longer stays in fewer places makes us more relaxed and feel like we get to know/understand those places better than trying to do more with fewer days.

Posted by
131 posts

Kathy, so funny you say that about a week in Napa being longer than you'd go there. We said exactly the same thing on about Day 5. "What were we thinking?!!!" We actually got sick of wine! And that's just crazy talk. Always before, we'd limited wine country visits to 3-4 days. And so that will be our plan in the future, too!

Oh gosh, Tim, I didn't mean to suggest I'd done that in Europe. I'm so sorry you were confused about that and thought I'd done it in Europe! I gave Napa as an example, we do that kind of stuff a lot in various cities, but in the US, not in Europe, so that's why I was asking why some people seem to recommend it. I knew I was missing something - turns out it was the train aspect with bags and needing to stash bags at the hotel when arriving at each new city. I had totally forgotten that piece of the European puzzle!!

But yeah, we do pack pretty fast. Mostly because we don't totally unpack and are very limited in souvenir purchases. If it's an option, we shop at stores that will ship everything back home. I use packing cubes, two for each person, and just have to stuff the clothes back in those, put away our toiletries, and we're done with unpacking. Whenever we buy bottles of wine, even in Italy, we've bought a least a half case and had it simply shipped back home to enjoy later on. The shipping costs aren't bad, it was about $50 to ship six bottles and olive oil from Tuscany last year, so that's better for us than trying to deal with packing wine bottles, etc. One of the nice things about being a middle-aged adult and being able to afford to spend money to make our life easier than schlepping a bunch of stuff around.

We are doing day trips while in Tuscany, staying in one town near Siena and driving each day to different villages around the area. But we wouldn't dare try to do a day trip UP to Florence and deal with parking issues and such. We are only renting a car for Tuscany and Lake Garda, and we are taking the train otherwise.

Posted by
131 posts

Emily, oh, we're traveling with kids on our next trip. But I am not asking about a home base for my upcoming trip to Italy, just asking about home bases in general as I think about vacation possibilities for next year. I saw that a lot of agriturismo places in Tuscany, for instance, require a week-long minimum stay, and I wasn't sure if that would work for us at any point and the potential benefits if it would work out. Didn't mean to confuse you! That's why I put in the original statement about not trying to change anything in my current vacation plan. We are totally set and happy with our upcoming arrangements and because we have the kiddos in tow, we are actually staying three nights in each of two of the places we visit, to better accommodate them.

It's good to know that some of the reasoning behind moving around is simply personal travel preference. I wasn't sure why some do it and why it's often recommended in travel guides.

It's clearly dependent on what people like to do. I do enjoy moving around and experiencing entirely new cities. And while others enjoy settling in for a week or two, I thrive on change. To the point that it would drive tons of people nuts. I've lived in 22 different homes in my adult life, and I've had 17 different jobs (all very good ones, at least since college)! When I take personality assessment tests, it says that my personality type most fears predictability. So change makes me happy. Changing hotels, easy for me to do, and gives me a thrill when I slide my key into the lock and open the door and see an entirely new place to stay.

Posted by
337 posts

So, as someone planning a trip with a 5 day stay at an agriturismo, I suppose I can explain that... we're staying at a winery/agriturismo. We're gonna hit 3-4 different viticultural areas around the agriturismo... The Langhe, Monferrato, and Roero, and possibly drive a bit for a fourth, the name of which escapes me. We're gonna see some sites or some smaller towns in each of these, and they're all close to our base.

Our interest in spending a longer time in a place is based in wanting to do more in a place. And the day trips, as I said earlier, are a good way to hit something interesting in the area, but in the wrong direction to chain with something else you want to see.

Posted by
1774 posts

I dunno. I like to unpack a bit and stay in a place to have a feeling
of being somewhere. The evolution of my travel to Europe over three
trips is like this: Italy 1 - Rome 2, Florence 3, CT 2, Milan 2,
Venice 3, Rome 2. Saw so much. Felt so tired by Venice that I really
didn't see or do much there, or really enjoy it at all.
Paris-Amsterdam: Paris 7, Brussels in transit, Bruges 2, Amsterdam 5.
Day trips to Reims from Paris on TGV, and to Keukenhoff in
Netherlands. So much more relaxed. Got deep into our Paris hood, and
really loved our Amsterdam host. Loved the Bruges place as well, but
small town, short visit. Central Western: Munich 4, Prague 4, Vienna
5, Day trip to Zugspitze from Munich, Day trip to Kutna Hora from
Prague..

Max obviously learned on his first trip, with being so tired by Venice that he couldn't enjoy it. As long as we're talking 'evolutions', here's mine, like Max over three trips, ours 2010-2017:

Oct 2010: Taormina (Sicily) 4, Florence 4, Rome 2
Mar 2015: Paris 4, Lucerne 2, Florence 5, Salerno 5
Mar 2017: Rome 6, Sorrento 5

FYI Lucerne was a halfway point by train between Paris and Florence, the hotel was right across from the station, and two days was enough because although quite beautiful, Switzerland is also quite expensive! Only hiccup has been that Florence in 2015 was a day too long, got claustrophobic with all the tourists--even in March. Salerno was a true logistical base, in that we ran around to Sant' Arsenio (geneological), Pompei, Amalfi...and Salerno itself was very cool as well--a real gem.

And this year in Rome, 6 nights was not enough, which told me we finally did 'it' (whatever 'it' is) to perfection. Only daytrip was to Orvieto--magnificent--but longed to back in Rome by nighttime. It's a stroller's paradise, we took the bus & Metro everywhere, and sitting in our tiny apartment on our last morning, grazing over morning coffee, fruit & prosciutto, we discussed how long it would take for us to get 'sick' of Rome. The answer was a good, long time.

No idea what's next, probably in two years whilst I save up funds. Tempted to fly into Milan, tour the Dolomites and as far north as Innsbruck for a few days, then catch a plane back for a return trip to Sicily for something completely different for the rest of the trip, although it's difficult to have a 'base' in Sicilia, so we'd be moving around, requiring a light pack for this trip.

Almost time to start planning!

Posted by
131 posts

Honestly, I might do the very same next trip, after taking three kids to Italy and visiting four cities in 12 days! I like to keep my options open. And I'm always changing my mind and wanting to try a different style. It's been very insightful hearing about everyone's planning and vacation styles.

Posted by
11613 posts

I have never visited a city on a daytrip where I would not have wanted to spend the night. I love waking up in a city I visited the previous day. In some places, I will pack up and move to someplace 50 kilometers away, just to experience all the times of day and night. Sometimes on the third or fourth day in a city, I decide I want a change and will daytrip someplace nearby (that's how I found Bergamo).

But, sometimes I recommend base cities for people with kids, or for people with shorter vacations, who will be "sampling" locations for the most part, anyway.

And like Jay, I can spend weeks in some cities and never go anywhere else for the day.

Posted by
12020 posts

I like the multiple hubs approach.
From each hub I take day trips within a 1 hr radius.

For example in Sicily I would have bases in Palermo, Scopello, Piazza Armerina, Siracusa, Taormina. I would stay a few nights in each and visit nearby locations.

In Tuscany, assuming I had many nights, I could choose 4 hubs:
Florence (for Florence, Pistoia, Fiesole, Certaldo, Chianti)
Siena (Siena, Val D'Orcia, Chianti, Monteriggioni, S. Gim)
Lucca (Lucca, Garfagnana, Pisa, Versilia, Apuan alps)
Arezzo (Arezzo, Cortona, Anghiari, Poppi, Lucignano, Castiglion del Lago).

But with few nights, I'd have to choose one only and make the best of it. In that case Florence would take priority, because connections from Florence are fast to many of those locations.

Posted by
20 posts

Not everyone likes to use a base city, but then not everyone likes to stay in hotels for 2 weeks - even if they are nice hotels. We recently split a 3-week trip to Italy into a 9-day tour followed by a 7-day stay in an apartment near Cortona. That was "bookended" by 2 days in Rome before the tour and after the apartment. On the tour, we stayed in 4 different hotels and enjoyed the late afternoons and evenings in the towns. During the apartment stay, we had a rental car and made short day trips - never more than 1.5 hours driving one way. I think we had the best of both worlds. Now that we are more experienced with travel in Italy, I think we would prefer
renting an apartment (in a "base city") and make day trips using the train system, if simpler, or a rental car if away from the larger cities. I think there is something very comfortable in being able to open a bottle of wine on your own patio and watch the sun go down over the same mountains each evening. Others may like a different plan - to each his own.

Posted by
792 posts

for me, having a base enables a long time rent on an apartment for a very good discount (60 days) . From my base I can spend a few days/nights somewhere else because the train station is just a few miles away. I also have a long term lease for my car. I can drive or train to anywhere in Italy. Works for me

Posted by
1774 posts

What about...The Opposite?

I don't know if I could ever make myself (or my wife) agree to this, but one time I'd like to travel really light--like backpack light--and stay a night at a time, traveling by rail and using my smartphone to book as I go. No advance reservations.

Now, it would have to be offseason, and I'd have to know a helluva lot more about the ins & outs of booking hotels this way, but there's something so tempting about spending a night in some out-of-the-way place I really enjoy and saying, "I think I'll stay another day or two."

Yes, it would have to be along the Trenitalia lines, and I'd probably be paying full fare, but so what? Regional point-to-point train travel is still a pretty good value even without a discount.

Perchance, to dream...hah!

Posted by
11845 posts

Loved the Bruges place as well, but small town, short visit ( 2
nights):

LOL, Jay, We spent 4 nights there, with a day trip to Ghent, and didn't cover everything we wanted to see! It's on the return-trip list. :O)

Posted by
337 posts

If I had not been so excited by Paris and 'Dam, we probably would have added a day for a Ghent trip. Pokémon tendency for the Ghent Altarpiece.

Posted by
1878 posts

I agree that not everyone recommends this approach, having a base city and doing day trips. My wife and I usually move on after 2-5 days, 5 days being for big cities only (Paris, London, Rome). We try to max out at one hour each way on day trips, maybe two. Cities that could serve as a 'base' tend to be big and expensive to stay in, because they are transit hubs and centrally located. Not a good strategy to day trip from such places because you are paying top Euro and not even being there during the day. Day trip strategy can make sense if you are short a day. For example, we spent a couple of nights in Nuremburg on the tail end of a river cruise in 2014, and day tripped to Bamberg. We day tripped to Toledo, El Escorial, and Segovia from Madrid in 2005 and came to regret not spending more time in Madrid. Although all the day trip destinations were awesome! When you follow the base/day trip strategy, beware of missing the city where you are staying. We did the same thing visiting Cinque Terre from Lucca in 2007 and darned if we did not miss spending more time in Lucca. We were short a day in our itinerary and it worked out o.k. but sigh, want to return to both Cinque Terre and Lucca.

Posted by
1669 posts

That's [Napa] not a place we'd spend a week's worth of time to begin with...

This made me think of another example of approach to travel. I was in the area for work (it's a tough life) so after finishing up my work, my wife joined me for nearly a week. There are hundreds of wineries in the area so you can barely scratch the surface. Some visitors hire a driver or take the wine train and try to do as many tastings in a day as possible. My wife and I limited ourselves to just one or two tastings a day. We looked for smaller wineries. No Mondavi or Coppola for us! We did a wonderful wine pairing at St. Francis winery in Sonoma and stumbled across a great little winery in the mountains east of Napa, Nichelini, which is run by the fifth generation of the family that started it. One day we stopped at an outdoor market in Calistoga and bought locally produced, bread, cheese and fruit. We found a nice winery and just bought a bottle instead of doing a tasting. They had picnic tables and we spent a leisurely lunch in the California sunshine.

For us, it's the quality of the experience, not the number of experiences we can cram in a week.

Posted by
131 posts

Doug, I love going to the smaller wineries while in Napa. I also love St. Francis in Sonoma. We'll be back in November for a four-day weekend to celebrate my 50th birthday, so I'll have to look at the one you recommended. I'm thinking this time we will opt for Healdsburg or Howell Mountain. One of our favorite places is Spring Mountain. The mountain fruit is just magnificent. In 2015 we got engaged at Pride, on Spring Mountain, so our entire day on that mountain was just filled with magical experiences in the glow of our newly engaged status. However, the wine at Pride did not thrill us as much as it had in previous years, so we will check out other mountain wineries during our next trip.

That said, it reminds me I need to look into one family-friendly winery to visit in Tuscany, within a 45-minute drive of our lodging in Serre di Rapolano. It was recommended by the owner of the castle where we are staying that we visit Nostravita, but they only do tastings mid-morning or late afternoon due to the hot weather and that won't work with our schedule.

Posted by
3437 posts

I don't do the base thing.

But then:

  1. I don't unpack any more than what I need immediately. Meaning it takes less than 10 minutes to pack and be ready to go.
  2. I don't shop, so no piles of souvenirs to drag around.
  3. I travel alone (mostly) so when I am ready to go I go!
  4. I fit in as much sight seeing along the way as I can. When I get to the next hotel, I am done for the day other than dinner and maybe a relaxing stroll around before bed.
  5. My trips usually cover a large enough area that it would be nearly impossible to get everywhere I want to be from one point.

This doesn't mean I am changing hotels every night either. I can easily spend 3 nights at a single stop when there are multiple things I want to see around that location and the next stop would be too far away. Staying the extra nights also works well when it is laundry time as the laundry can be dropped off and picked up without rushing and then be given the extra time to dry properly as needed.

Posted by
2827 posts

I prefer to set up "base" locations as long as it doesn't mean 2h-each-way trips to different attractions every day. Day-hopping works best with a car that can be used for luggage storage. I do pack somehow light, but not ultralight (my usual combo is one small backpack and one cabin-size wheeled luggage). Some places have lockers or cloakrooms, many do not.

Traveling to and from a base with public transportation allows me to be very agile and mobile on my day trips. I can walk fast if I want to, climb up and down, do all of that unencumbered, only with my small backpack where I always carry my electronics, water and maybe something to eat along the way. The time on the train is useful to read about the place, organize photos and whatever, reason for which I will these days often pay for 1st class - it is just much less crowded.

With a car, that changes a bit: I leave my luggage properly secured in the trunk, and enjoy the sights along the way. It is easier to move along on that basis, or to make long linear itineraries covering places that don't have good train connections.

This all being said, there are things that outright make no sense to me, such as a person spending just 5 nights in Rome, on a first visit to the city, and then packing their 2 of their 4 full days with long-ish day trips to Pompeii/Sorrento/Ercolano and then Peruggia with a stop in Orvieto.