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First time in Europe - does this itinerary work?

Hi, My wife and I will be visiting Europe for the first time in Aug and we came up with an itinerary using Rick Steve guides and online research. Do you think it makes sense? How to improve or change? Aug 08 - arrive in London Aug 09 - morning train to Brugges, spend night there Aug 10 - Brussels, then take overnight train from Cologne to Prague Aug 11 - Prague Aug 12 - Prague Aug 13 - Take morning train to Vienna,spend day there then take overnight train to Venice Aug 14 - Venice Aug 15 - Venice, then take overnight train to Paris Aug 16 - Paris Aug 17 - Paris Aug 18 - Paris, then take noon train to London Aug 19 - London
Aug 20 - London, and then take evening flight back home

Posted by
19171 posts

If your objective is to spend as much time and money as possible without really seeing very much, this is a great schedule.

Posted by
5688 posts

Have you already bought your ticket? If not, instead of a round-trip consider buying a multi-city ticket where you fly into one city and home from another (for example into London and home from Venice or Prague). You will be in London right in the middle of the Olympics. Expect to pay a lot for a hotel. If you do stick with this R/T to London, I'd suggest that you cut out Brussels/Bruges. Fly from London to Prague. Distribute those two nights to other cities or add a night in Vienna. Have you taken an overnight train before? Overnight trains are tough for many people. Some people sleep fine on them, others (like me) hate them and get no sleep. You've got three overnight trains in a 6 day period. That would be very tough for anyone who can't sleep on a train.

Posted by
4132 posts

No. You will be miserable. To maximize the stuff you can see, reduce your time on trains, fly open jaw, and allow for jet lag. This will entail fewer destinations. Choose wisely, plan to return, and be happy.

Posted by
23473 posts

Just to soften the tone - which I started. You cannot use a Rick Steves tour as a guide for what you can do for a couple of simple but critical reasons. He takes care of all transportation and lodging. All you have to do is get on the bus and go. His guide is holding your hand the whole way. You don't have to find your hotel or worry about transportation. It is fairly stress free and is a good reason why tours can be an efficient way to see a lot of territory quickly. When you travel by yourself, self include, you are not as efficient in the utilization of your time. His tours will cover 50% more ground that you or I can by ourselves. You really need to rethink your plans - extensively as I think it would be nearly impossible to accomplish.

Posted by
23473 posts

NO !!!! Personally I think it is an awful schedule. You are not taking into account the travel times and the time lost to changing a location - checking in and out of hotels, packing, unpacking, finding a train station, waiting for trains, finding new hotel, getting oriented to new location, eating, sleeping. We plan on losing a half day PLUS travel time when we shift locations. All you are seeing is the insides of lots of trains and train stations. Second, you are the perfect example for how an open jaw ticket would have saved time and money. I assume you have already purchased your tickets. With only eleven days, I would focus on (Amsterdam, Brugges, Brussels as one) and then Paris and London. You really do not have enough time for anything else.

Posted by
209 posts

This looks like all travel and more exhaustion than sights to me. I would spend more time in fewer places. You are only going to be gone 13 days and 6 of them will involve traveling from place to place. You've also got not one but three overnight trains. At the very least I suggest flying into London and out of Paris which will save you one travel day and make your arrival more relaxing because you could stay in London a couple days before heading to the continent. But really, I would cut things wholesale and consider doing either Italy or Germany, but not both. For example: August 8 Arrive London August 9-12: 3 full days and nights in London August 11th take Chunnel to Paris August 13-15: 3 full days and nights in Paris August 15: fly or overnight train to Venice on the evening of the 15th August 16-17: Two full days and nights in Venice August 18: Train to Rome
August 19-20 Rome. Take evening flight Home. You could make a similar itinerary involving London, Paris and parts of Germany. You could also just do London, Paris and Prague or Paris, Prague and Venice and skip London.

Posted by
1064 posts

Frank nailed it. If you want anything approaching a Rick Steves Tour, sign up for one and leave the stress to your tour guide. You could spend the entire 12 days in London and vicinity or Paris and vicinity -- or both -- and still not do and still leave a lot unseen.

Posted by
1503 posts

My first thought is - WOW! - that's a LOT of ground to cover in 12 days! I don't really think RS has any tours that take that route. It would be even too much ground to cover on a tour - with everything taken care of for you! With just 12 days I would focus on London - Brugge and Paris. You might consider adding Amsterdam into the mix. At least you wouldn't be spending all of your time traveling!

Posted by
32273 posts

Alvin, I definitely agree with the others! Your proposed Itinerary is FAR too ambitious, especially for travel in peak season in August. Jenny provided one example of a more workable Itinerary. My suggestion would be to reduce the number of cities. When planning which cities to visit, consider the travel time and distance between them. It would help to have a few further details.... > Have you already purchased air tickets? > Have you booked any Hotels? > Have you purchased any rail tickets or Railpasses? Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, You plan on doing 3 night trains within this short period? I would drop the night train Cologne-Prague, stick with the other 2 night trains. Good choices for the night trains since they're direct, long and arrive after 0600. For this itinerary you need another full week, otherwise I suggest dropping Belgium completely, stay with London, Paris, Vienna, Venice. Add the extra days to Vienna. If you take the early train from Paris via Frankfurt, you can be in Vienna by 2100. Rearrange the days so that you have a bit less zipping around.

Posted by
9436 posts

11 full days is not very long for a trip to Europe... I would split those days between London and Paris, possibly with some day trips. It will be less expensive and a lot more enjoyable and rewarding.

Posted by
6 posts

Hi Everybody who took the time to reply - thanks! I really had a bad feeling that my itinerary was 'crazy' and all of you confirmed it. In fact my wife and I had a great time reading all the responses... I think we now have your 'permission' to just spend time in max 3 places instead of running a train marathon. So we're going to revise it to be less aggressive. We had really wanted to see Prague (heard so much about it) but it will have to wait for another time. One last question I have is that I noticed people were a bit surprised I had planned for 3 night trains. I thought that was the best way to travel since you save on hotels and you're not going anywhere at night. Are they really draining on your health/stamina?

Posted by
1503 posts

Alvin, night trains are sort of a fun experience and can help with time spent traveling, but I wouldn't do more than one in a trip. We've taken 3 different night trains (on different trips). Have never slept well on a night train. Usually arrive very early in the morning a little groggy, and spend most of that day fairly tired. So no - I would never schedule 3 different night trains in one trip.

Posted by
9436 posts

I did a night train once, never again. Could not sleep at all. Felt awful the entire next day. Not fun and not worth it imo.

Posted by
23473 posts

At one time night trains served a more useful functions because of the time/distance. But now with the high speed trains. Twelve hours trips have become six hours. Sleeping on the train is not the same as a hotel room. And sometimes every with night trains you have to change trains. For the most part night trains are over sold. Sounds good but ..... Have you purchased your airline tickets?

Posted by
32273 posts

Alvin, One other important point to consider with night trains, is that it's a good idea to have a look at the specifics of the route you're planning to use in terms of "changes". If there will be several changes in the "wee hours" of the morning, you won't be getting much sleep and may be so tired the next day that you don't get much touring done. I find it much easier and more enjoyable to travel during the day, using high speed trains where possible. If a rail trip is over about 7-8 hours, I'll start looking at budget flights as that's a more efficient use of my travel time. Cheers!

Posted by
38 posts

London and Paris are two fine cities to visit for your first time to Europe! Stick with those two places plus a day trip or two and you guys will enjoy it MUCH more than running around all over!

Posted by
6 posts

Hi Everybody This is a great forum. Everyone is so helpful. My wife and I really appreciate all the honest opinions and feedback here. We have gone back to the drawing board now. Our status is such Airplane tix booking - Done but I am seeing if I can change to open jaw without breaking the bank Train tix/pass, hotel and other arrangements - all not done yet

Posted by
951 posts

Aug 8 Lon 9 Lon 10 Lon 11 Lon 12 Lon 13 Take Eurostar to Brussels, spend a few hours there and then off to Bruges 14 Bruges 15 Par 16 Par 17 Par 18 Par 19 Par
20 Leave for home from Paris This is what I would do with your trip. Venice, Vienna, Prague are too far away from some of your destinations for a 2 week trip. Good luck and I hope you get to fly open jaw!

Posted by
11294 posts

If you really want to see Prague, you can, by taking a flight or a long train ride (possibly overnight). But you will have to give up something else. Unfortunately, as you're learning, you just can't see it all. I would decide what your absolute top three places are, and then ask here if they can be combined sensibly. Then, I'd pay whatever it took to change my flights to start in the first city and end in the last. Even if round trip to London is "cheaper" than, for instance, into Prague and out of Paris, you will save in both time and money by not backtracking or detouring (especially important on such a short trip). Of the places you mentioned in your first post, I love Paris and Prague, liked Venice and Bruges a lot, didn't like London or Brussels, and don't need to see Cologne or Vienna again. But that's my priorities, having already been there. Yours will be different. As you've heard about overnight trains, they inspire extreme reactions. People who can sleep on them love the convenience, and saving the cost of a hotel; people who can't sleep on them hate them. You don't know which sort you will be, so I'd limit this trip to one overnight train only - just in case.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi, I would also recommend flying back from Paris, if you decide on the open jaw option. But weigh all the factors involved. If departing from Paris, then you can rearrange the days, see London at the beginning, then take the EuroStar to Paris, either spend one night or take the Paris-Vienna night train, via Frankfurt (I've done that). Save Prague and Belgium for the next trip. Three or four nights in Vienna then take the night train Vienna-Venice. The last four days, including departure day, you set aside for Paris. You asked if the night trains are draining...well, that depends on you. I took 3 night trains on the last trip but within six weeks. I myself have no problems with them. Lots of locals take them. Other than Cologne-Prague your other night train routes are good. If you arrive between 0630 t0 0900, that's ideal.

Posted by
1633 posts

Alvin, you said you have plane tickets to fly into London on August 8, right? The closing ceremony for the summer Olympics is August 12th. If you decide to spend the first part of your trip in London, you may have a hard time finding accommodations and if you do, they will, most likely, be expensive. Even staying in Paris could be interesting because people may be staying in Paris and taking the Eurostar to London for the games. Considering the above, you may want to start your vacation at the furthest city. Upon arrival in London, maybe take a flight to Venice then go to Paris and London at the end. Then you could use your flights as they are currently booked. Or, if you are set on Prague, go there first. Just a thought...

Posted by
3 posts

Good advice from everyone above on limiting your itinerary, but just for the record, I love overnight trains - sleep like a baby on them. So don't entirely discard that strategy if it helps your overall plans. Have a great trip!

Posted by
180 posts

Alvin - We're also going to be in London at the same time as you. We've decided, due to the Olympics, to fly into London and go straight to Paris until its over. We are considering adding another city between Paris and London, but haven't made up our minds 100%. You might consider the same as you're going to spend a lot of extra $$ on hotels during the Olympics.