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Aggressive 3 Week Itinerary?

Hope I'm posting in the right forum. I plan on backpacking with my family (two teenage boys) throughout Europe this summer for three weeks. Here's my rough itinerary. 1 London 2 London 3 Brussels/Dusseldorf 4 -7 Germany (Bavaria) 8 Salzburg 9 Vienna 10 Venice 11 Venice/Florence 12 Florence 13 Pisa 14 Rome 15 Pompeii 16 Rome 17 - 19 Switzerland
20 Paris 21 Paris

Posted by
9110 posts

Agressive: Yep. Workable: Nope. Look at any place. Look at the time it takes to get there from the last place. How much time to you have to look at anything when you get there? Not much. Look at the track. London and Paris are two hundred miles (a couple of hours) apart. You're going to start at one and end at the other but go all the way down to Pompeii in the middle. Not sure what backpacking is, or why the term was intruduced. Certainly you're not planning on.........? You need to rethink just a tad.

Posted by
56 posts

Absolutely mad, IMHO. At the very least you should consider an open jaw flight with the return airport at the furthest destination, i.e., into London, out of Rome or Vienna. You are getting good advice when you are told you are neglecting travel time. It will take you a half of a day to get from one place to the next, check into your hotel, etc. You will then have a few hours to rush about before getting ready to scamper off again. Sounds more like a marathon rather than any sort of vacation.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks. We do plan on traveling some at night. I have a friend that did something similar a couple of years ago and it seemed to work for him. I was planning on locking in lodging for London, Rome, and Paris. I would leave the inbetween open for flexibility.

Posted by
1986 posts

Unless you have a time machine or are going tobe "beamed up" by Scotty, you are going to have to get realistic about the time it takes to travel between locations- not just the train or airtime, but also the time to get to the station, wait for the train, get to your hotel and check in. Very unrealistic- even if your friend "did something similar". Day 3 for example- check out of London hotel, get to the station, wait for train (minimum 30 minutes prior to departure for Eurostar) change trains, get to Brussels- no time for sightseeing, get on another train, get to Duesseldorf, check into hotel- no time for sightseeing or meals, sleep a little, check out for next location. Wouldnt wish it on my worst enemy. Now where does the backpacking come in? where does the fun come in?

Posted by
23472 posts

Go for it. It is obvious you think it is workable. In my opinion when you added the element of night trains it became less workable. You will see the insides of a lot trains and train stations. And you will need conditioning that approaches that of a marathon runner.

Posted by
8 posts

Backpacking is traveling light, no luggage. Wash one set of clothes while wearing another. Thanks for the train schedule website. I plug in some cities and check out the travel times. As far as the London comment. I'm staying across the street from the Chunnel train station. Brussels by 10:00 a.m., spend a few hours, then off to Dusseldorf to see some friends for supper. Then off the next day to Ulm, Germany.

Posted by
9436 posts

When will you have time to wash clothes? At a laundromat it will take at least 1.5 hrs, in the sink you will need enough time for your clothes to dry. I don't see how either will be possible with your schedule.

Posted by
4132 posts

"Brussels/Dusseldorf"? That's not aggressive, its schizophrenic!

Posted by
1525 posts

Troy, The folks here are repeat travelers to Europe, so the idea of trying to "see it all" as if you are never coming back seems absurd to us. But we also want folks to enjoy themselves and come home with positive memories. Your plan is full of potential for exhaution and trouble with missed connections - coming home with little more than some impressive looking photos of famous places. You only have PARTS OF two days in London, Paris, and Rome, and in each you will begin the experience in these great, but intense cities already exhausted. You have yourself going from Bavaria to Salzburg to Vienna to Venice on CONSECUTIVE DAYS. This doesn't seem absurd to you? I applaud your desire to expose your teenage boys to Europe. That's an admirable gift of experience to give them. But you don't have to show it all to them for it to be valuable. Give them a smaller taste (in terms of distance) and then when they are in college they can see more on their own. And while it's great to travel light, if you change places every day you have no time for the magic "wash yesterday's outfit in the sink so I can wear it tomorrow" trick. You need 2+ day stays for that.

Posted by
1446 posts

Hi Troy, Now that you have explained the Brussels/Dusseldorf day, it looks fine until Vienna. Between Vienna and Paris, you'll need to decompress what is a lot of travel time and very little actual visiting time. My advice: skip Florence and Pisa this time, add more time to Vienna, Venice & Rome, do Pompeii as a daytrip if you must. Skip Switzerland entirely this time or pick a combination of day trains through the Alps to Paris. Have fun!

Posted by
8 posts

Great advice everyone and well taken. I'll re-evaluate or leave my plans loose enough that I can make changes. This is a trip that is a great expense to us, so yes we do want to see it all. We only plan on seeing the main "touristy" things. Maybe we can come back another time and slow down to experience the culture. For the clothing questions, we plan to wear high end quick drying clothing. Wash in sink and let dry in the hotel.

Posted by
9110 posts

One reason it's a great expense is all the transportation.......decrease the number of places........decrease the expense.

Posted by
1446 posts

Also factor in that you will be traveling in high season, with mostly no advance booking for rooms. Even hostel dorm beds will be booked out! You will not only spend a lot of time just getting there, but then wasting a huge amount of time and effort in finding a place to stay on arrival at each place (a triple room, no less). You will be hostage to your immediate need; and your budget, I guarantee will be blown. Lots of stress in any case, which will inevitably rub off on your teens. Been there done that: teens can & do out-crank you when traveling, if things get bumpy. I strongly recommend NAILING your itinerary. For excellent, clean & very decent non-party hostels worth booking ahead: Vienna - Wombat's The Lounge (next to Westbanhof train station) Florence - Accademy Hostel (half block from the Duomo)
If you check out the availability for a 4-bed dorm, you can book out the entire dorm (book & pay for 4 beds). These two hostels have lots of pluses that hotels do not have, that would make this easier & more interesting for your teens. Added: I've stayed in both recently. I spend a lot of time in Europe and will mix hostels into my accommodation choices, if appropriate to when & where & how long I'll be.

Posted by
14580 posts

For day 3 you intend to arrive in Brussels in the morning, make it a day trip (that can be done unless you want to see Brussels more thoroughly) and get to Düsseldorf by about 21:00 just to spend the night, right? Then the next morning by 09:30 at the latest take the train to where in Bavaria...Munich? Spend these 3.5 days in Munich or just skip Bavaria totally. Take the night train Düsseldorf-Vienna, where you spend 2 whole days. On the way back from Vienna to Salzburg, spend one night in Salzburg. For Italy what you have is logistically not feasible. Spend the time after Salzburg in Florence and Venice...save Rome and Pompeii for next time, and skip Switzerland. From northern Italy...say Florence or Milano, take the night train to Paris to spend last 2-3 full days. As far as landing and almost immediately riding the train, it can be done as long as you know your energy level. On the 1989 trip I went from SFO-FRA, landed there in morning, spent one night and took a 4.5 hr. ride the next morning from Frankfurt Hbf. to Dortmund.

Posted by
9363 posts

"This is a trip that is a great expense to us, so yes we do want to see it all. " As a previous poster has said, a lot of your expense could be cut down by not doing so much running from place to place. Believe me, we understand the desire to "see it all", but having a lot of travel experience ourselves, we know how hard it is to do. If you have not traveled internationally before you can't imagine how difficult and tiring it can be just getting through the day in another language, finding housing, feeding yourselves, packing and repacking, etc. You have left yourselves absolutely no time to see anything but train stations. A railpass might or might not be a moneysaving idea, depending on whether you intend to take trains that require reservations (and additional fees). It's not like the old days where you buy a pass and just show up at the station to take the next train. You will have a much better trip if you cut out about half of your destinations and give yourselves time to actually enjoy what you spent so much and came so far to see.

Posted by
12040 posts

"I was planning on purchasing a eurail pass....." Which almost never saves you any money these days. Rail passes, like traveler's checks, are dinosaurs that only make money for the companies that sell them. For most of us, night trains do not free up extra sight-seeing time because getting a good night of sleep can be impossible. The two times I've used them, I ended up napping much of the next day. Dusseldorf to Ulm will take you all day... Please, listen to the chorus. We're really trying to save you from making a whole series of big mistakes.

Posted by
1035 posts

Europe is like a giant feast and upon going to the feast the first time, the instinct is to try to eat everything. Invariably, you will get really full early on and find yourself miserable at some point. I have done fast travel and slow travel. This is supersonic travel. You may find yourself pretty jaded if all your time is on trains and major tourist spots. Sometimes, you just need to find a lonely park, stretch of beach or old neglected church to get recharged. I agree with all prior comments about gutting some places. If you haven't already bought tickets, someone wisely suggested buying open jaws from your furthest desination (i.e. into London, home from Rome). Here's how I'd set up a fast paced trip: London -- first 3 nights. The first day really is a zombie day. Paris -- another trifecta of three nights Dusseldorf -- visit friend, one night Munich -- 5 nights, stay one place as a base, day trips, including Salzburg Night train Munich to Venice Venice -- 1 night Florence -- 2 nights Rome -- 4 nights (includes day trip to Pompeii)
Fly home

Posted by
3696 posts

Maybe you should consider just getting a car and driving as far as you can get...I did this on my first trip to Europe and we visited (waved to a few as we drove by) 9 countries in 17 days. However, it was so amazing that I have returned now at least 20 times, but would not give up that whirlwind experience for anything. It was just me and my 21 year old daughter and both of our first time to Europe. Without reservations anywhere we managed to find the most amazing places.. We landed in Amsterdam and did a big circle drive that took us to Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Italy, France, Belgium and back to the Netherlands... We saw Paris, Strousburg, Romantic Road, CT, Lugano, Munich, Salzburg, Portofino, Brugge,Venice, Lake of Konstanz, and stayed for 2 days with a Germany family...etc. If I put this out here everyone would say NO WAY....but we had the time of our lives and did not know if we would come back (she hasn't, but will someday when her kids are a little bigger, but our time together there was priceless) I am taking her son (my grandson) to Turkey in July and hope for a wonderful memory together. I don't know if I could do what you are trying by train however, as I have more trouble with that than I do just hopping in the car. Can always sleep in it if all else fails....

Posted by
14580 posts

Sorry, I missed where you wrote about going to Ulm. You can get into Ulm from Düsseldorf before 15:00. That gives you enough time to see the cathedral. Unless you have a specific reason for visiting Ulm, ie., seeing the cathedral, visiting friends, I would suggest gaining an extra travel day by taking the night train from Düsseldorf-Vienna, which is what I would do. As suggested above, the Wombat's Hostel is located across the street from Wien Westbahnhof. I stayed in 2009 and last summer too, well recommended. Aside from Wombat's two other hostels are very close by in Westbahnhof area, checked out both of them but Wombat's is the best. There are signs pointing to a hostel...West End Hostel. Either you skip Salzburg or pick it up on the way to northern Italy and limit the itinerary to two-three places. For all the sites listed for Italy, I would save that for a detailed Italian trip. Take the day train, the RJ, from Salzburg to Munich, transfer in Frankfurt where you can have an hour for lunch and get into Paris by 16:50. (This Frankfurt-Paris train reservation is mandatory) This way you have chance to see the lovely countryside in Austria, Germany and France. To me it's immaterial whether I arrive in Paris at 14:00 or 17:00. Taking the night train would require transfering in Munich That London-Brussels-Düsseldorf, (esp. with the help of friends) is very doable. You time it right, you'll be in Düsseldorf early afternoon.

Posted by
56 posts

The biggest problem to me would be your teenage boys. My experience with this demographic would be that after the first two days of such a frenetic schedule you would need a combination of wet towels, pitchers of water, and a bull whip to get them out of bed in the morning in order to catch the train. I speak from experience. Then they would nod off during the day and miss the fleeting glances your plan has allowed them of the important spots you so want them to see. Please consider making this a more leisurely, and enjoyable vacation; one from which your kids might remember historic sites, rather than having only memories of a "Trip Nazi" Dad hustling them from spot to spot.

Posted by
951 posts

3 days in London 3 days in Paris: still really not enough time to see all of touristy paris 1 day Dusseldorf 4 days in Munich: maybe side trip to Salzburg, but I would side trip in Bavaria 3 days Venice: you will need this down time and Venice lets you chill the heck out 3 days Florence: side trip to Pisa if you can get yourself out of florence...we had a sidetrip planned and just couldn't leave.
3 days Rome: no time for Pompeii. We had 4 days in Rome and could not fit in Pompeii This is how I would do your trip if I had to do your trip. Forget Switzerland, Austria, Belgium for now......