It is both of my parents dreams to take a Danube River trip. We have been looking up cruises, but seem too expensive and we don't want to be around lots of people. I am thinking about taking them for thier Anniversary somedau and suprise them. I don't know what countries to see or how long to go. I Would like to see most of the countires on the Danube and hit the major cities, like that told me the same. We have already been to Germany and Austria. Would love to see the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. What cities can we see and how long should we go for? Thanks!!
I'd start by working out an itinerary based on the river cruise itinerary. You will have to change hotels pretty often and get to/from train stations. Or you can rent a car - or cars, as you may not be able to take a rental car from one country and drop it off in another in some of those places. If you go with car rental, you can stay in small towns or villages away from the crowds, but if you want to see the major cities, you will be with lots of other people just about everywhere. There isn't much difference between eating in a restaurant or hotel dining room and eating in the ship's dining room. One of the reasons river cruises appeal is that you don't have to pack and unpack and arrange transportation. It does make sense to travel in a "straight line" flying to one "end" and from the other. What cities to see and how long you go for depends on personal considerations - how long can you all get away? How much do you want to spend? What level of accommodation is your minimum? Are you okay with staying in budget hotels? Also, how much planning are you willing to undertake? For every destination, you will - at a minimum - have to arrange transportation, book a hotel, do enough research to know what there is to see and do that will interest all of you and thus how much time you want to spend in each location.
If your parents' dream is to take a Danube river trip, I wouldn't give up on the boats completely. Check out this website ... you'll see lots of options for daytrips by boat, or even multi-day ferry trips. http://www.gotocentraleurope.com/getting-there-around/by-boat.aspx Depending on how adventuresome you and your parents are, you could also check out drive-it-yourself barges in this area. How long you should go for depends on your budget and your available vacation time. Then, the amount of time you have will determine how many of your desired countries you can see. Have fun planning!