First time Europe- Honeymoon by Train?

Hey all. I'm trying to plan my Honeymoon, which will also be my first time to Europe, and my fiancee's first time. We'll have about 11 days total, including travel time from the states. I was hoping to do an abbreviated highlight tour by train if possible. Land in Paris, spend ~3 days there, take the train to Zurich, mostly just to take the train through Switzerland, then stop for a couple days in Vienna and finally a couple days in Budapest. Is this a crazy idea, or have I spread myself too thin? I was thinking the train would be nice because we'd have time to just hang out while still seeing some sights, with stops in major places we've always heard about and wanted to visit. Any tips at all would be helpful. Many people are trying to convince me to use a travel agent, for example, to mitigate any disasters since the Honeymoon should be "perfect." I'm not sure about that, and I wouldn't know where to start anyway. Thanks!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

If you follow your proposed itinerary, you will indeed have a "honeymoon by train." Unfortunately, that's most of what you'll see - the inside of trains. To start, use http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en to look at train times. (Here's Rick's tips on how to use this invaluable website: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/db_tips.htm). This will not have prices for trains outside of Germany, but will have schedules for all of Europe. You'll see that some of your trips are VERY long, and you won't have much time at each stop before you have to get back on the train. Yes, the scenery from a train can be nice (in some cases, very nice), but you can take scenic train rides in North America too (the California Zephyr, in particular, is always mentioned as one of the world's greatest). If you're spending the time and money to get to Europe, and you only have 11 days, you should be focusing on what you can't do here. Particularly on a honeymoon, unless you and your fiancee are train buffs, you want to spend time at places, not between them. Also, night trains get very mixed reviews. Some like them, but many loathe them (search this Helpline for stories). If you don't sleep on a night train, you arrive unwashed, tired, and cranky - none of which says "honeymoon" to me. In your situation, I'd pick two, or at most three, of these places, and then figure out how to connect them (for some, cheap flights may work better than trains). If you want more information on trains in Europe, you can't beat The Man In Seat 61. Spend some time poking around, and you'll know more than just about any travel agent.

Posted by Bob
Minneapolis
589 posts

Hi Tim. - your itinerary is doable; it's a lot to cover; but possible if for some reason you definitely want to see those four cities. - of course there are 50 other places in Europe that people will recommend, all with pros and cons. So your choices depend on what YOU think you will enjoy. -planning your own trip without an agent is easy and fun, and will make the trip more rewarding, but only if you enjoy the planning and have the time. - if train sounds like fun, definitely do it; but not necessarily for every leg of your trip. Most people find 1 to 4 hour train trips pleasant; after that it can get old. - The train from Paris to Zurich won't really go thru mountains, so it may be less scenic than you are picturing. - Are you looking for advice on your cities? Or are the four you mention locked in for some reason. - Since it's your first time to Europe, I would suggest you get Rick Steves Europe Thru Back Door book; even skimming it will give you a wealth of info.
Enjoy your trip!

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

Remember that you'll essentially lose the first day of your trip to jet lag and transferring to your hotel. The last day of your trip will be spent getting to the airport. You're trying to take on an itinerary that's just not going to be possible with such limited time. You should consider flying from Paris de Gaulle Airport to Budapest on the budget air carrier, EasyJet.com. Then take a train up to Vienna (150 miles) and fly home from there open jaw.
These are all great European cities, and you will have a fabulous time.

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

Lets see, 11 days. Arrive Paris day 1 Paris day 2,3 Train to Zurich is only 4.5 hours, day 4 Zurich day 5,6 Train to Vienna is 8 hours, day 7 Vienna day 8, 9 Train to Budapest is 3.5 hours, day 10 Budapest day 11, 12
Return home, day 13 Its a great trip you just need two more days then I think it would be fantastic. I say that despite the fact that I am not a great train fan. With 11 days you will need to cut something; either Budapest, Vienna or Zurich. You can probably make the trip work with any of the three cut so it becomes personal preference and maybe cost. Zurich is the most expensive and Budapest the least expensive. My preference would be to skip Zurich. I've got a London Budapest flight in April that is about $150 and I think you can do the same Paris to Vienna or Paris to Budapest. Or, if budget is no problem you can just stay in Switzerland for a week.

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

Oh, and Paris and Budapest make a great pair because it enables you to see why they call Paris the Budapest of the west.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2633 posts

Tim, congratulations.This is a lot of time on the train, obviously. I'd just ask, are all of these cities equally of interest? Because you could spend more time in any of them with great pleasure. (Well, I don't know about Zurich. Maybe.) Sometimes when you spend a good deal of money and effort to get to, say, Paris or Vienna, it's a good idea to spend a little time there before moving on. So if, say, Zurich is there more as an interesting stopover enroute to Vienna, fly to Vienna from Paris and add a day to each of your remaining destinations. For instance.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4877 posts

Congrats on your upcoming wedding! You have an 11 day trip. That really means 9 days/nights in Europe. Most people don't sleep well on planes, so expect the first day you will be tired. On Day 1 in Europe I just keep moving, spend as much time outdoors as possible, and stay up until bedtime. By Day 2 I'm good to go. I find it's easier to plan by how many nights I will be in a location. Keep in mind that 2 nights allows one full day, etc. With the schedule you have in mind you will be spending a lot of your brief time in Europe traveling from one place to the next. It takes a minimum of a half day to check out of your hotel, get to the train station, catch the train, get to your next destination, find your way to the next hotel, then check in. Longer if your train takes more than a few hours. If that is how you and your future bride want to spend your 9 days/nights in Europe, go for it! If not, you can revise your schedule. You can definitely plan this yourself. Someone already suggested reading Europe Through The Backdoor. Also research and read guidebooks for the cities you are interested in seeing. With a 9 night trip I would skip Zurich, since you don't really care about the city anyway. You could spend 3 nights each in Paris, Vienna and Budapest. I personally would give Paris an extra night and take one from Vienna or Budapest. Buy an open jaw plane ticket (called multi-city on many sites). I always buy my airline ticket directly from the airline. Fly into Paris, fly a cheap European carrier to Budapest or Vienna, train to the other and fly home from there. That keeps you from wasting time backtracking to your original city. There are many people on this Helpline that can help you plan the honeymoon of your dreams.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, Your trip can be done with one/two modifications. To get the max out of your trip, I suggest that you skip Zürich and take the Paris-Munich CNL night train, then chnage to Vienna on the RailJet train. You'll be in Vienna before noon. OR, if you rather avoid a night train: skip Zürich, spend that day getting from Paris to Vienna, but taking not the Paris-Munich route but rather take the early Paris-Frankfurt ICE train, change there to another ICE for Vienna. You'll arrive before 2130.

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

Here is something else to think of when traveling by plane or train. Plane: Check in 2 hours before flight time. Plan on an hour and a half getting luggage and getting from most airports to most tourist zone hotels. So a 3.5 hour flight is 7 hours of traveling. Check the discount carriers. They can be a little basic but no more so than a sleeper car across Romania. http://wikitravel.org/en/Discount_airlines_in_Europe Train: If you feel real comfortable with train travel and if you are traveling within the EU then you can get to the train station 45 minutes early and most train stations are within 45 minutes of the tourist zone hotels. So a 5.5 hour train ride is 7 hours of traveling. Night trains: Unless you are cut from special cloth you aren't going to get much sleep. If it's a 6 hour ride then I might imagine that I would get 4 hours of sleep ........... Maybe. I would be more inclined to take the night train in England, France, Germany, Switzerland and less inclined to take it in any part of the old Eastern Europe. If all else fails spend 5 nights in Paris and 5 nights in Budapest. You will be glad you did.

Posted by Tim
Baltimore
2 posts

Thank you all so much for your very helpful replies. It seems clear that the consensus is I need to narrow things down, and Zurich is the thing to do away with. I will do this! There's also some great recommendations on what to research next. I will do that as well, and I think I will probably come back with more detailed questions later once I've refined my plan based on the feedback so far. Again, thank you all for the great advice. If anyone has any additional suggestions based on the original question, I'd still love to hear them, but for now I think I've got a much better, more experienced view from you guys on what changes to make so far.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2901 posts

Assuming that Paris, Vienna, and Budapest are musts, I'd skip the Alps if you want to see these three cities. I'd suggest: Fly into Paris Fly Paris to Budapest on easyJet Train Budapest to Vienna
Fly home from Vienna

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

If the best or only flight is Paris to Budapest then do that; but if you can swing it where you go Paris to Vienna and then take the train down to Budapest that would be my preference. Budapest is pretty laid back and a good place to end a trip, cheap, good food and beautiful environs. Oh and if a major carrier is anywhere at all in my budget i avoid the European discount carriers. I havent had great luck with them. My $150 London to Budapest flight is BA and thats a deal.