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The Forum's Go More Slowly Bias

A few prefatory comments. I am not trying to be a provocateur. I readily concede that many who visit this forum have a knowledge of Europe that is superior to mine. And so many of you have been extraordinarily helpful to me in recent months by addressing questions I have posted or answering messages I have sent--and I remain extremely grateful for your help.

However, I cannot fail to notice the view of many veteran travelers to the less inexperienced to slow down, to visit fewer cities and countries, to reduce long-distance travel inside Europe.

Again, all would concede that some balance considering time and travel wishes needs to be struck. But it seems to me that an argument for an ambitious itinerary can be made. First, unless someone goes to different places, he is not sure what he will really like. The spend-more-time approach seemingly suits more the veteran and frequent traveler who has visited many of the top sites and who for that reason has a better feel for what he will like and who has the luxury of spending much time in a small region.

Second--and more important and a response to those who say "wait until the next trip"--there may not be another trip: Hence, the need to visit more places and places separated by some distance.

Again, all would acknowledge the need for some balance: London, Paris and Rome in six days is absurd. But I did want to offer just a somewhat different perspective with regard to an itinerary for the first-time traveler.

Posted by
113 posts

Jo, A great comment about getting responses from the first/second timers after returning from a trip. I personally have only recently started reading the postings here (thanks to retirement) and have seen a few post-trip comments, but not as many as there have been people asking for help. Let's hope that maybe a lot more of these first-timers will get back on and let the rest of us know what their experiences were like.

Richard, Could it be that the view of so many veteran travelers to slow down is pretty much what RS tries to teach all of us that follow his style of travel. And since we "veterans" (or as was pointed out on CBS or ABC a few years ago, "Ricknicks"), want to follow his advice, slower travel is a much richer experience.

There will always be those travelers who just want to do the blitz trip for whatever reason. I hope they think it is/was worth it.

Posted by
10344 posts

This discussion involves definitions. I'm going to stop using the word blitz because some people understandably read blitz and think blitz = bad (Rick made me do it, he uses the word blitz in his books and not in a disapproving way). Proposed New Definitions: There are at least 3 types of itineraries we see on the Helpline:1. slower paced2. faster paced but doable because the trip planner had knowledge of facts such as travel times between European destinations 3. impossible because the trip planner lacked knowledge of certain facts.IMO most of Rick's itineraries given in his books and website are blitz itineraries, too fast for many of us. But Mr Tom, above, makes a good point: there is a side of Rick, that comes out in his videos, emphasizing the slower/more relaxed trip, however, Rick's suggested itineraries in his books are faster than many veterans would like their trips to be--go figure. We do see impossible itineraries proposed here. A common example is the question: "is this a good day trip?" and then they propose a day trip that is not reasonably doable, and when they are apprised of the facts regarding travel times, they commonly reply "thanks for explaining the facts to me, what would be a better day trip."

Posted by
850 posts

Kent wrote: <"I find myself agreeing with everyone who has posted above, including the original poster".>

I too, agree with parts of what everyone has posted. I also think Richard brings up some good points. We all have different travel interests, styles, pace and modes of transportation. It usually takes a couple of trips or more to find our own travel niche and we often try to convince new travelers to do it our way because it is the best way. Maybe best for us but not necessarily for someone else. Sometimes I think we discourage travelers by telling them not to go someplace or do something that we did not like yet it is a place or thing they have their hearts set on going or doing and they very well may enjoy those places or things. As Kent said, we are all different. That is why some continue to go back to Italy, some to Germany while others want to experience many places and plan subsequent trips to different places. If we enjoy doing it our way and come away from our trip with enjoyment, satisfaction and an overall positive experience then we have had a successful trip. Self Post-trip debriefing helps to plan future trips by eliminating the mistakes we made and keeping things that worked. One mistake we made our first trip and that many make is with packing. We have gotten better about packing light as we get more travel experience and this is good advice to offer new travlers but convincing them to go light is another matter. Sometimes they just have to find out the hard way. I cringe when I see folks with 3 or 4 pieces of big suitcases pulling them along cobblestone streets. Ugh.

Posted by
10344 posts

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. A reading of my recent post on this subject (below) will show that you and I agree. What you call an ambitious itinerary I called a blitz itinerary. As I have said here many times, I am not against blitz itineraries. Rick Steves may be one of the originators of the Blitz itinerary. Here's my recent post:"Lately we've seen some Italy itineraries proposed that don't consider travel time between destinations.We see 3 basic kinds of itineraries here: Relaxed/Slower ItineraryBlitz ItinerarySo Fast That You Don't Get To Do What You Went to Europe To Do ItineraryRelaxed and Blitz itineraries both work, it's a matter of personal preference, there's no one way to travel. However, if you don't make a realistic estimate of travel times between your European destinations, you can think you're doing a Blitz itinerary, only to realize on day 2 or 3, when it may be too late to change it, that you ended up with the Impossible/Too Fast trip, which probably wasn't how you wanted your trip to be. Many first timers to Europe or to a country understandably prefer the Blitz approach, and some experienced travelers prefer the Slower/More Relaxing approach. Understandably, first timers often want to see more in less time. Even in the Blitz approach many experienced travelers have come to see that at least 2 nights for most destinations, and more for major destinations, creates the kind of trip they want.To avoid unknowingly turning your trip into the Too Fast itinerary, it's suggested you use the websites below to make realistic estimates of the travel times between your destinations. These travel times within Europe are an unavoidable fact; it doesn't matter that "we're young and energetic," you still can't get from point A to B faster than the transportation system allows."

Posted by
18301 posts

Long distance travel takes more time and costs more money. So a blitz trip costs a lot, and you see less, and you end up exhausted and conclude that touring is Europe not worth all of the time and money, and then you never go back. On the other hand, if you limit your travel and spend more time actually seeing things, you might conclude that Europe is fun and interesting, and not that expensive, and will to go back.

It is a common misconception that everything worth seeing in Europe is concentrated in a few well dispersed places, as if the only things worth seeing in the US were NY, Miami, San Francisco, and Yellowstone. This is partially the fault of travel writers, who want to sound very informed, and only cover the already well known places.

If all you want to do is brag to your friends that “you too” have seen all of the important sights in Europe, then I guess a Blitz is the way to go, but if you want to enjoy a trip, I think it is the quality of the sights that counts, not the quantity.

As for doing a Blitz trip because you don't really know what you want to see, it is a lot less costly (money wise) to do some research.

While she was in college, my wife took two trips to Europe. One was an organized Blitz trip, a different city every day. She returned without the slightest idea of anything she had seen. Her next trip, about the same length of time, was just to Greece, which had not been included in the Blitz. Looking back today, she has much fonder memories of the Greece trip than the "Bird's Eye Tour".

Posted by
6898 posts

I'll bite. Any first-time traveler that we are certain will see as much or more from the train or plane window than they will in the location they are visiting will get this kind of advice. We know that seeing the coliseum in Rome isn't seeing Rome - it's back to the train. Seeing il Duomo in Florence isn't seeing Florence - it's back to the train 4 blocks away. Seeing the Eifel tower isn't seeing Paris - it's back to the train. Seeing the Cinque Terre as you whiz through at 60MPH or better as you train from Rome to Nice isn't seeing the CT.

But, I'm betting we did that also in our youth in our rush to absorb the world. We see travelers on this site wanting to sleep on the night trains to save every precious moment of daylight to tour. They are on another night train the next night. We see young couples trying to squeeze in as much as they can before the children come along. And finally, we so often see travelers trying to fit in more places than they can possibly see in the time they have to travel (and we know it) and they are asking us on the site how to do it.

As an experienced traveler and a senior citizen, I can tell you that there is no such thing as a trip of a lifetime. But, if you are young, you don't understand that yet. Plus, the next time you get to do it, it could be with children or a different wife or girlfriend and it will be different. As you travel, the great trips just keep on coming. If you enjoy traveling and experiencing the different languages and cultures, it just doesn't stop.

In summary, we realize that you are going to do this anyway no matter how we caution you. But, you do post on this site to solicit our thoughts and advice. So, you are just going to have to put up with us. We can still be friends.

Posted by
473 posts

Richard, I can see where you're coming from and understand it. Having said that, I would still have to advise people to slow down. If a trip resembles the Amazing Race, then all that's been accomplished is to collect frequent flyer miles and passport stamps.

My wife and I don't reminisce about seeing the Eiffel Tower or St. Paul's Cathedral. We reminisce about the people we've met and the encounters we've had. Such as the ice cream shop owner in Athens, where we went every evening for dessert. By the 3rd night, he knew we wanted the mango ice cream and didn't even let us order. He just scooped it up as soon as he saw us and handed it to us with a big smile. On the 4th night, he cheerfully upgraded our cup by one size, at no charge.

My wife and I realized after our first 2 trips that they were rather antiseptic. We were in our own little bubble, rushing from one sight to another, seeing lots of THINGS. Starting with our third trip, we started to slow down and interact more with people. Talk to the shopowner and ask for a restaurant recommendation (or his views on American politics - ALWAYS interesting). Talk to the waiter and find out about the beautiful church down the street that's not in any guidebooks. Help the fellow traveller who can't figure out where he is because his map doesn't have some of the smaller strets.

Even RS recommends home-basing in one location and doing day-trips from there. This is an excellent technique for maximizing one's time. Everybody has different tastes. People are free to heed or ignore our advice. But for those of us who have been to Europe a few times, we've learned that more personal encounters and less zooming around make for a far richer trip.

Posted by
10344 posts

I find myself agreeing with everyone who has posted above, including the original poster. My own preference is the slower/more relaxed itinerary, but I understand why some people prefer the blitz approach. The Blitz approach can be a sensible approach if the traveler chooses that approach with knowledge of facts such as travel times. This kind of question is interesting to some of the regular repliers, because it's a think-type question that raises bigger picture issues. Probably most first-time or low-time posters here just want help with train schedules, lodging recommendations, and we try to do that for them--perhaps it's our most useful function here. But the posters who ask us to review an itinerary, are really asking for advice based on the exercise of judgment, sound judgment based on knowledge and experience. The regular repliers here almost always manage to give accurate, candid advice on itineraries in a tactful, polite way (big compliment intended for the Regular Repliers)--unlike the case on some boards out there. Itinerary questions require work to answer. On some boards, the answers to itinerary questions seem to be based on off the top of the head reactions at one of two extremes: either the unhelpful "are you an idiot?" or the saccharine but also unhelpful "any idea you can come up with sounds good to me, I'm sure you'll have a great trip." (it's not expressed in those words but...). Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but everyone is not entitled to their own facts, and itineraries involves facts on the ground. If they didn't know that their "day trip" involved 12 hours of travel in one day, they may not have a great trip.

Posted by
8108 posts

Wouldn't it be nice if some of the posters who asked about doing blitz trips and who then changed their trip to slow down a bit, would come back here on the forum and tell us what they thought. Were they glad they slowed down or did they regret it?

My own personal thoughts are, if they come on here and ask, then they must want to know what we think. If someone is set on their plans of seeing one city a day for 2 weeks, then they should go for it. But since they asked us, we tell them what we think. The poster can take it or leave it.

Posted by
357 posts

Your responses are extremely thoughtful. And to some extent, we are indeed on the same page.

Two matters prompted my original post, which may give you some additional insight into the reasons I wrote it.

First, there is a thread currently running by someone seeking itinerary help. The poster will be spending a limited number of days in Europe and will basically be in France, but wanted to fly to Prague. There were several responses--and the reasons make some sense--to visit Prague another time.

Second, I intend with my family to go to Europe in two months. We will basically be in Europe for 15-16 days. (The first 10 days or so we will be in London and then Paris, and frankly we are still struggling over where we want to go and how ambitious we want to be for the final third of the trip. But that's a different matter.) I have been to Europe before. That was 32 years ago. I had always planned to go back, but for any number of reasons--work, children, finances--I never did.

A number of people will be traveling to Europe for the first time, and there may not be a second trip, or that second trip may be decades later.

Again, there is too much civility on this forum for anyone to pose something disagreeable or provocative for the sake of argument. And that was not my intent. But for those who are going to Europe for the first time or who go every 20 years or so, there are reasons for a fast-moving itinerary.

Posted by
12040 posts

I'll agree with the others here on most of the points. It's really just a matter of experience. Most of us who have been over the pond more than a few times have attempted the blitz approach at some point... and for all the reasons we listed above, it was not as satisfying as the go-slow method, even in the flower of our youth. The real joy of European travel is taking time to discover the sublte little quirks of cities, architecture, food, cultures, languages, etc. That (and family connections) is why I keep going back, not to see yet another art gallery or cathedral. Doing the blitz method, you end up just seeing sites and the insides of trains that start to blend together after a few days.

Posted by
357 posts

Jo, on both counts, you are absolutely correct.

It would be a great if those on a blitz itinerary for at least part of their trip wrote about their experience. Too fast. Too slow. What they would do again if they had to do it all over. (But such a retrospective assumes an experience that is highly personal, such as, say, I would spend less time in France and more time in Italy because I didn't care for France but loved Rome. Without the ambitious itinerary, the person may have stayed in France the entire time or visited only France and a region nearby.)

And when I ask for advice--and you have been one who has been most helpful in providing information and answering questions--I definitely want candid opinions.

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello Richard. I think all the replies here (including yours) are good. We are not commanding you to plan the same kind of travelling that we do. This is a discussion of how to plan a trip that will be enjoyable. Different people will have different opinions. At the beginning of this discussion thread you said : "The spend more time (at one place) approach seemingly suits more the veteran and frequent traveler who has visited many of the top sites, and who for that reason has a better feel for what he will like". That is true. But that is not all of the reason for advising people to spend more time at places in Europe. Many people who did a few trips (or many trips) to Europe, believe that spending more time at a place (staying at one hotel for two nights, or three nights, or more) causes a person to have a more enjoyable trip. And that applies to a first trip to Europe. A reason for
our saying : do not rush through Europe, is because we did rush through Europe, and we regret having done that. The experienced travelers here have been giving the advice : quality time in Europe is better than quantity (going to many places in a short time). And, I think an important aspect of this topic is : when people are on vacation, they need to rest, and have experiences that will help them to have a better feeling of physical and emotional well being. Rushing through Europe will have the opposite effect. I think that is why some of the repliers here advised people to stay at the Cinque Terre (at the Mediteranean Sea coast of Italy) for two or three whole days, not one day, not a half day. Rick Steves said he has a "vacation from his vacation" at a Cinque Terre village. And some of us need to stay at a quiet Alpine lake for a few days. I think a person can know, before going to Europe, what kind of environment he (or she) will like being at in Europe.

Posted by
11238 posts

I'm a firm believer in helping people travel whichever way they want. It's their trip, their vacation, their money. Let them do as they please.

Everyone's desires and experiences are different. My first trip to Europe, in the days of Thomas Jefferson...was more than a blitz, it was a tsunami....London-Paris-Lyon-Nice-Florence-Sorrento/Capri-Rome-Venice-Vienna-Innsbruck--Lucerne--Heidelberg--Amsterdam--and back to London in 3 weeks.

Contrary to what others are thinking...it was fabulous. I wanted to see everything. And afterwards, I couldn't wait to go back to some of my favorite places and skip those that didn't thrill me.

By going slower, you can see more things in depth. But when I hear of someone taking their first trip and want to see everything, I understand. They don't want to wait until the next trip to see Paris. They don't want to wait until the next trip to see Rome. They want to see it all now.

I usually suggest for someone's first trip to see what they want to see but be realistic in regards to traveling times. It will also help you decide which areas you want to go back to and spend more time, and those you don't.

For many, that first trip to Europe is like an appetizer...they get a taste of everything. On subsequent trips, they slow down for the main course.

And whatever they decide, even if it's different than the way you would travel, is right for them. We need to respect taht and not tell them they're wrong or take it personally because they are doing something different.

Posted by
8108 posts

The one thing that really does make me sad, is when someone posts that they only have 4 -5 days in Europe, their husband or wife or kids has made them a gift, its an anniversary, or birthday or whatever, and people jump all over them. You need to stay longer, it isn't worth it to just come for 4 days, can't you get an extra day, you wont be able to see everything, your jet lag will be so bad that you will only have 2 days to visit, and so on and so on. Talk about dashing someone's excitement and joy! I can just see their faces as they read these posts. They are happy, they have come on here for a few hints and instead get cold water thrown on them.

Perhaps we can all be a little bit more thoughtful when it comes to such posts.

Posted by
12040 posts

"You need to stay longer, it isn't worth it to just come for 4 days." I would disagree here. Although who wouldn't love to stay longer, I have made a few trips that only lasted a few days. But, I usually stayed in one place and thoroughly enjoyed that area.

Posted by
1717 posts

Richard, in your reply (2/28/09 11:40 AM) you said a person who traveled to more than one country in Europe could know which country he likes the most. Yes, but that does not negate the value of the advice of avoiding a high speed trip through Europe, or avoiding a multiple country trip in which the traveler says : "If today is Tuesday, this must be Belgium". Those words imply that the only thing the person will remember from that day is the fact that he was in Belgium.

Posted by
18301 posts

most of Rick's itineraries given in his books and website are blitz itineraries

With all due respects to our benefactor, RS, his tours are not designed for experienced travelers, but are designed by experienced travelers. I think most of us who have been to Europe multiple times would rather plan a trip ourselves, spend a third to half of the cost of a tour, and use the money saved to come back once or twice. But his tours are good for the novice.

And, speaking of his tours, yes, they are of the Blitz variety, but you have to realize two things. One, they are organized by VERY experienced planners, and they do these trips every week (or two) all summer long. No first time travelers have that kind of experience. Second, they are marketing these trips to the inexperienced traveler in a competitive market. The have to show that the tour taker will see the most for his buck, even if that is not really the best scenario. If they didn't, there would be no tours.

Looking at Rick's 14 day, Best of Europe, tour, they spend 13 nights, only one of which (Beaune) is a single night. The rest are two nights in one place. And the average travel per day (over the entire trip) is only 2½ hrs. There are only 6 travel days, out of 14, and the average amount of travel per day of travel is just over 5 hours.

This trip is essentially Paris to Rome, in 9 days. I have been saying for a long time, don't just go from Paris to Rome in one jump; there is a lot to see (like Switzerland) in between. He spends a lot of time, 2 nights in the Berner Oberland, 2 nights in the Tirol, 2 nights in Venice, and 2 nights in Florence, getting there.

Posted by
9363 posts

Jo, I agree completely. Like it or not, people have only so much time for their vacations (and/or so much money), and it bothers me when they are criticized for not having "enough" time for their trip. It's not something they can control, and they are trying to do what they can with the time that they have. I'm sure they would add a day or two if they could, but they can't. We should all be a bit more understanding of this kind of trip and try to help people maximize their time to get the best experience they can in their limited time.

I have mostly taken trips on what many here would consider the shorter side, and even though I don't have as much time as I might like, at least I'm getting out there. I do tend toward the blitz itinerary, but I'm not one who sits still well anyway -- I want to be out doing things.

Posted by
63 posts

I was the one who posted the suggested itinerary that Richard referred to earlier. My itinerary was originally:

3 nights in Nice (day trip to St Tropez), 3 nights in Beaune, 3 nights in Paris (day trip to Versailles, flight to and 3 nights in Prague. Flight back to Paris, flight home.

My reason for this itinerary was as follows: I have lived in Spain and traveled to 12 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America. My wife has been only to Mexico and Canada.

We are in our mid-twenties and will likely have children soon. The idea was to enjoy two weeks in Europe while staying within a fixed budget. We thought of France for obvious reasons, but then considered Prague as well since I'd always wanted to go and it was different from Western Europe. And it's only a cheap, two hour flight from Paris, which at the time seemed reasonable enough.

However, when I posted it, I received a number of responses right away that suggesting we omit Prague entirely as it would waste too much time on travel and we would not be able to soak France in with only 11 days.

Now, my hunch is that at this point, most seeking itinerary advice would not to change their itinerary that drastically because they have already become emotionally attached to it. They would rather hear something little like, "spend one less night in Nice and one more in Paris."

However, I try very hard to approach trip-planning with my head and let my heart loose once I get there. So I carefully considered the advice I was given and decided to omit Prague, and spend 6 total nights in Paris.

While we likely won't have another similar trip for a while, I do believe there will be other chances to travel when we get older. And I would rather create memories of people we met then of the airports we trudged through.

So with the assistance of the Helpline (especially Kent), we feel like our itinerary has been refined through the fire and will create amazing memories.

Posted by
63 posts

On the topic of the 4 day trip:

I whole-heartedly agree that some of us may have a short or otherwise limiting trip come up due to whichever circumstances. And I also get upset when I see someone put a pin in their balloon and bum them out completely.

But from my experience, the majority of the posters seeking advice on this trip have already traveled at least a little and aren't going to feel too deflated. The culture on this page seems to be that of frank honesty with a little tact for good measure. I think this culture is shaped by the fact that extremely novice travelers would rarely find their way to the Traveler's Helpline.

I appreciated that I was given honest advice that might have been offensive to some.

I guess the advisors on the helpline have the difficult challenge of determining what are the true limitations of the advice-seeker and THEN proceed with the best possible advice.

Posted by
468 posts

my two cents worth on the "wait until the next trip" point. If the issue is money, take a trip during the off-off season. For instance, Paris is great in February. I have done it twice now spending four nights each trip. I've never spent more than $1500 TOTAL. That's airfare and hotel and everything I spent while I was there. Even if four nights might qualify as a "blitz," you can see a lot in Paris in four days without wearing yourself out. I'm hoping to expand my horizons with similar trips to London, Prague, Dubrovnik, etc.

For longer trips, we travel in March, April or October. Much cheaper and less crowded. We have friends who spend every Christmas in Italy, usually in the Cinque Terre. They hike the trails and enjoy themselves. They have had some wonderful experiences where the locals have gone out of their way to make them welcome since they would be the only Americans there.

Posted by
3102 posts

Sherry makes a great point--my first trips to Europe were short--4-5 days. People thought I was crazy for going for such a short time but it was the time I had available and what I could afford--my attitude was that I'd rather go for a short time than not at all. I usually stayed in just one city. Once I made travel a priority, I was able to go on longer trips at a more leisurely pace and even now, we also often travel off-season to save money.

Posted by
1353 posts

Even though I am a somewhat frequent poster on this board I am one who back in 2005 and 2006 when planning our first "big" trip asked for advice on my itinerary on this board. I can't remember for sure, but I think I did make a few changes based on the advice I received. I did have a lot of people telling me we should slow down, but I knew our plan was to see many places in the 5 weeks we had. If I remember correctly we did eliminate a few one night stops based on recommendations from posters like Kent, Frank and Ron..etc. but like I said in another post today - this trip was perfect for us. 3 days in Rome was actually too much for us. For that matter we can only take Paris for about 2 days at a time. We really enjoy small towns much more than the larger cities (with the exception of London!)

Anyway, my point is that everyone has different tastes, needs and plans. When asking for advice on this forum it helps to know what your own desires are so that you can sort through the advice and glean information that will be helpful to you! I know I wished I had asked for more advice on my 2008 itinerary!

I greatly appreciate all of the different points of view and advice people on this forum have so willlingly shared!

Posted by
4125 posts

One thing I respect Rick Steves for is his advocacy for the needs of American travelers. Including the need to cram a lot into a short time, since we are traveling far and don't have much time off.

My advice "bias" is to find the optimal trip, given constraints of time, money, reality, and personal preferences.

That last is key. One size does not fit all. But the reality part is important too.

My sense is that the commenters on this list overwhelmingly get that. If there is a "slow down" bias, it reflects questions and plans that do not seem to have thought about all the tradeoffs involved. I suspect that this advice, if respectful, is some of the most useful.

If there is a flaw here, it may be overidentifying with those who come here for advice, and generalizing too much from one's own personal preferences and experiences.

In your optimal itinerary, there is no change you could make that would make that itinerary better for you. If the pleasure you would gain from adding a day in San Gimignano would exceed that lost by taking a day from Paris, that's good, otherwise not. Lots of people seem to have trouble thinking about that.

Similarly I think first-time travelers often underestimate the time and work involved in shifting venues, which include packing, checking out, going to the station or airport, traveling, finding a hotel, checking in, etc. Too much of this really dilutes a good trip. How much is too much? Know thyself.

Newbies often do get good advice here on how to speed things up and cram more in, when they are told to fly open jaw. I think the aggregate effect of this list is more about finding your optimum than going ever slower.

Posted by
10344 posts

Sharon: As I understand Frank's position, if someone proposes an "impossible" itinerary (because of the facts of travel time), Frank agrees that they should be advised of that but, hopefully, not in a way that is not a put down.

Posted by
11238 posts

I agree with what Kent wrote hoping he wont' delete the previous post as he has before.....:)

If someone proposed a physically impossible itinerary because they have no clue as to travel times, then yes, say something.

But to insult or put someone down because they don't travel the way you do is inappropriate.

Posted by
10344 posts

Correct Answer to Frank's Question:Both are traveling correctly. "I'm a firm believer in helping people travel whichever way they want. It's their trip, their vacation, their money. Let them do as they please. * * * Whatever they decide, even if it's different than the way you would travel, is right for them. We need to respect taht and not tell them they're wrong or take it personally because they are doing something different." (per Frank, USA) edit: this is the post I deleted but it's back by popular...I mean by Frank's...demand :)

Posted by
3102 posts

I agree Frank--what might seem nearly impossible to me might work perfectly for others.

Posted by
934 posts

My first
trip was 3 weeks and we started in Frankfurt to Bavaria,Salzburg,Hallstadt,Venice,Orvieto,Rome,Florence,Pisa,Siena,CT,Switzerland, Black Forest,Rhine and back to Frankfurt.I never dreamed that I would return and wanted to see a lot.We did, but drove too much,stayed in places too short a time and while we enjoyed the trip it was a whirlwind tour.Ive been back many times since and now pick trips to fewer places that are not too far apart.2 nights in a town is not bad if you arrive by noon giving you a full day.By the way my first trip was by far the most expensive.

Posted by
33 posts

As a fairly new traveler with the luck to be spending a year in Europe studying, I've been taking my first real trips around Europe. At first I was more ambitious too, and imagined that I might be able to make it to many more countries this year. However, right away I found that it really is nice to spend more time in a place and not have to feel the constant rush and stress of dealing with trains, packing up, etc. It also really depends where you're going to, since I've spent one day in smaller towns and feel like I've gotten a good overview. However, to go to a large city, it requires much more time to cover everything. My experience so far has led me to believe that larger cities with a lot to offer deserve at least 2 full days, and I try for 3-4, even though of course there's more I could've seen. However, since I do want to see as much as I can, I don't do more than 4 days in a place. I think that RS's advice to schedule in days of rest is also important. On my last trip I missed my train and ended up staying an extra 3rd day in Krakow. Since I had already seen the sights I had wanted to see and was feeling pretty exhausted, I just went for a walk and found a bookstore/cafe where I spent a few hours and that in itself was enjoyable, though even without that extra day, I could've been happy with what I'd seen in Krakow. Overall, for me it seems like a mix works best - smaller places in a day, larger cities for a few, alternating a few busy days with a day of taking it easy. It depends how much you are able to fit into a day too - by the end of the trip I was moving a lot slower and needed more time!

Posted by
11805 posts

My advice isn's so much about slowing down as keeping your travel time to a minimum.

Four hours by car or train in a day will end up being an entire day. You have to pack, check out, get to the station, make your connections, make sure you get off at the right station/on the right train, get to your lodging, unpack and eat something before any site seeing is done that day. By car is similar taking the right exit/find the address, find gas, find parking. If you fly, the air time is the least of your concern. You also have to allow time for the inevitable missed train, exit or late flight.

I see several mistakes often made by people who aren't regular travelers. One is not appreciating the time spent moving from one place to another. As Lee said, a whirlwind tour is more expensive and less satisfying. Our advice is given to help you avoid wasting time and money.

Plan to visit a lot of sites rather than a lot of cities that are far apart. I try to cut a logical swath through a region rather than jump around from city to city.

I've seen trip reports (on another site) where people scheduled their trip so tightly that it ends up being, "We wanted to go to _, but by the time we got there it was closed. By the time we got to our hotel, all the restaurants were closed so we ate at McDonald's. We took a train to _, it took most of the day and we didn't get any lunch so we were starving and ill-tempered when we finally arrived."

At the end of the report, they have been constantly moving, arriving late at lodging, grabbing American fast food because they missed opportunities to eat elsewhere and saw very few sites which were presumably the reason for coming in the first place.

Posted by
11805 posts

As far as how long to spend in a certain place. My approach is to first study what there is to see. I divide the sites into four categories based on my own preferences: must sees, want to see if I can, good to see if I have spare time and really don't want to spend time on it.

A visit to a place should at least allow reasonable time for my must sees and hopefully most of my want to sees. I usually try for two must sees in a day (unless I know they need more or less time than a half-day) then sandwich in some other sites if I can. If your review of, say, Paris yields only two must sees and no want to sees, you may be able to accomplish it in a day. My list is longer and would take more time.

Posted by
2349 posts

Brad's last comments "they have been constantly moving, arriving late at lodging, grabbing American fast food because they missed opportunities to eat elsewhere and saw very few sites which were presumably the reason for coming in the first place." really amused me because that has happened to us so many times here in America where we should know better. I cannot count the times that we drove around, cranky and hungry, looking for a place that would have food for the kids and a drink for us. Too many times, that place has ended up being Pizza Hut.

Posted by
11805 posts

Karen,

Maybe it's the American way to travel. LOL

I must be different because when my family moved West they settled about 30 miles west of St. Joseph, MO, the starting point on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails.

I often wonder why they stopped where they did. Was it the kids in the back constantly asking, "Are we there yet?" Maybe it was an argument about which was the right turn to take (no GPS then). Or, most likely, they went thirty miles and said, "This isn't so bad, no desserts, no hostile tribes, no mountain passes, let's stop here."

Posted by
875 posts

My 1st trip to Europe was with my mother on a guided tour -- 7 countries in about 17 days. It was wonderful for me since I was able to see so much in such a short time. Of course I wanted to stay longer in some places....but it was a good way to see what places interested me and which didn't. Luckily I've been able to revisit the places I was very interested in.
IMO, for the newbie who is trying to visit many places on one trip, the tour eliminates the stress of trying to coordinate all the transportation issues, hotels, entertainment fees/passes, etc., etc.
I do think it is important for those who are more experienced travelers to point out the difference between a "blitz" itinerary and a doable itinerary. It's easy to forget to figure in travel time in looking at the itinerary. I've received very valuable help from this site which has prevented travel problems from occurring.
Thanks!

Posted by
11238 posts

Here's a question for you....two travelers...

Traveler One has just spent a week split between Rome and Florence. He now wants a few days to rest and see the Meditteranean. He chooses to spend 3 days in the Cinque Terre hiking the hills and sitting in the harbor watching the sea.

Traveler Two has just spent Two days in London, two days in Paris and is now headed to Nice for 3 days for a mixture of rest, some sightseeing and spending time by the Mediteranean. He plans to take the train to visit towns between Monaco and Cannes, exploring the streets and markets and spending a good deal of time in outdoor cafe's watching the world go by.

Who's traveling correctly? (I'll give you the answer later.)

Posted by
11238 posts

Kent...had the right answer but he deleted his post....a bad habit we have to scold him about. So I'll give you the answer:

Both answers are right: Each traveler is doing what he wants. And that's the right way to travel. Doing what you want. Not traveling the way someone else, or even a guidebook author, tells you to.

Posted by
3102 posts

Yes, yes, yes--everyone should travel the way they want but, if someone proposes an "impossible" itinerary--isn't it important to point out options--even if it seems more biased toward a slow travel philosophy?

Frank, both of the above options sound pretty good to me.

Posted by
18301 posts

If I physically prevented someone from traveling the way they wanted to, because it wasn’t the way I wanted them to, that would be one thing, but I can’t do that. On the other hand, if they ask me if, in my opinion, their itinerary is a good idea, should I just say, “Oh, of course it is, whatever you want to do”, just because that is Frank’s opinion.

If someone asks me, is it a good idea, I am going to tell them what I think, based on my experience. They asked for my opinion; giving them my honest opinion is not “putting them down”.

I find that, in most cases, when someone comes up with an itinerary that is far too rushed, and is told so by experience travelers on this site, it is not the OP who argues that he should do it his way. It’s Frank.

Posted by
11238 posts

There's a difference between giving your opinion and putting people down because they don't do things the way you do.

I'm happy to give suggestions to possibly make their itinerary better but I never mock or insult them because they don't copy my way.

Posted by
182 posts

This is one amazing thread!

As I've only posted a few questions over the past few months, I'm a newbe to the forum. But I can tell all of you that I have appreciated and enjoyed ALL the comments from everyone regardless of the bias! I believe they have all truly been insightful and helpful for consideration in planning my upcoming trip.

But this is what I had wanted from this site. Those of you who are the "regulars" on the site have the experience and knowledge from your many trips. I respect this and even though I have been to Europe a few times in the past few years, I still have alot to learn, even in how my wife and I like to travel (plus I don't always spell well, right Lee?).

I would say there are other bias' also, such as rail versus driving, but even though we have ultimately decided to drive, the frank comments were cause for thought and reflection. We wavered but stayed with driving. I didn't want some of the thoughts, I really wanted them all.

I truly have found that 99% of the comments I got were posted to help me and offer experienced voices. While I have found it unfortunate that a few could have been worded in a better way to helpful, once I got past the initial wording and really looked at what was trying to be said, there were valid points.

Yes, we all should ultimately travel in the way suits us best. And yes, I have also found that not only from this site but from friends too - slower is better. I think that if time and money weren't an issue, we'd stay longer and then not rush through our trips.

Jo had a good point and let's take it another step. Beyond the "slower" aspect, it's too bad there's no way to find out how the advice given works out in the end, but maybe when someone who received advice becomes a regular poster, that suggests that the wisdom imparted was good stuff!

Posted by
150 posts

Hi! Sorry to post this over a week after the last post, but for those looking to see quite a lot and over longer distances (as Kent put it well, “2. faster paced but doable because the trip planner had knowledge of facts such as travel times between European destinations”), can I offer a few tips regarding travelling between destinations. I am sure they have been covered in full and in part elsewhere on this forum but it is appropriate in this thread:

  1. From Paris, you can reach London, Lille, Brussels, Strasbourg, Lyon, Geneva, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence or Marseille in 3 hours or less using the high-speed rail lines. Germany and Spain also have effective high-speed rail networks linking major cities between each other (although I am less familiar with them).

  2. You can catch an overnight ferry to link destinations (more relaxing than overnight trains – weather permitting of course!). Examples include:
    Toulon (South of France) to Civitavecchia (Rome);
    Marseille or Nice to several places in Corsica;
    Sardinia is also reachable from Corsica and several places along the Italian coast (from Genoa in the North all the way to Civitavecchia);
    The south of Italy and Greece are linked between each other in several ports;
    Ireland (Cork) to France (Roscoff);
    Plymouth or Portsmouth (UK) to Santander (Spain) – I believe this takes about 24 hours, so may not be ideal…
    Southern Europe (mainly Spain and France) to North Africa – can vary between a couple of hours to 24 hours depending on which ports.
    … There are many other ferry routes of course.

  3. Budget airlines link up many cities all over the continent – few lasting more than 3 hours so you can basically hop from, say, the Mediterranean lands to Scandinavia or Eastern Europe in the space of a morning. Can be very cheap if you book in advance or for certain days of the week. Bear in mind that they rarely serve the main city airport but smaller ones that are a bit further away.