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21 days in europe

Three of us are traveling to europe the first part of May. I am trying to figure out which is more reasonable, money and time wise. Using the global pass or renting a car. We will start in Paris France, go down to Barcelona Spain, back up to the Riviera, over to Florence, then to Rome. We will head back up through Switzerland an back to Paris for our round trip flight home.

Posted by
12040 posts

"trying to figure out which is more reasonable, money and time wise. Using the global pass or renting a car." Let's approach this question step by step. 1) Is your itinerary even feasible in 21 days? Probably, but it will be pretty rushed and involve a lot of long distance travel days. Others will probably recommend cutting back, so I won't steal their fire. 2) Next question shouldn't be "car vs. global pass" but more generally, "car vs. rail" or maybe even car vs. rail/air. What kind of stops will you make? Is your itinerary mostly cities or does it include rural exploration? 3) If you decide on rail, before even considering a third party rail pass, thoroughly investigate advanced price discounts and regional transit passes, which can provide you with substantial discounts. You'll have to crunch the numbers yourself, unless someone here is nice enough to do all the work for you. A global pass is rarely economically competitive.

Posted by
4 posts

Our trip would consist of most of the time spent in Paris, Rome and Barcelona. Visiting major museums and historical sights. Most of the other areas mentioned in prior post were sight seeing as we went through and maybe a night sleep over? One of my concerns is the lack of participation by France in the eurorail. The reason we were going back to Paris was to get a better round trip airfare price. It was pretty expensive to fly one way from Los Angeles to Paris and then out from Barcelona. I am open to limiting our destination. We just want to experience as much as possible once we are there. Thanks for your reply!

Posted by
12040 posts

"It was pretty expensive to fly one way from Los Angeles to Paris and then out from Barcelona." You will have to factor in the cost of getting back from Barcelona (or wherever else) to Paris, which will likely be substantial. I know next to squat about rail travel in France, Spain or Italy, so perhaps the SNCF, RENFE and Trenitalia veterans on this forum can enlighten the both of us about smarter uses of your money on these rail carriers than using a rail pass. Like I said, think rail passes as your next-to-last option, the last option being buying full-fair tickets on the day of travel.

Posted by
4125 posts

If these really are your priorities, I think you want to fly. Specifically, start in either Barcelona or Rome, and fly to the other and then to Nice. (So either B>R>N or R>B>N.) You can work in Florence by rail from Rome, either as a day trip, an overnight, or by flying into or out of Florence. Flying in or out is logistically most efficient but may be pricey. Or the train from Florence to Nice is about 7 hours. After that it is a tossup between flying to Paris or taking the train (about 6 hours), unless you plan to stop off enroute (Provence, Lyon, Burgundy) in which case your choice is rail or car, or some combination. Once you get away from Nice, the trains are really fast. I think this is logistically feasible, if a bit choppy, as long as you can fly. Connecting these disparate dots by land would be too much in such a short time however. You may wish to reevaluate this itinerary versus one in which you trade off Barcelona for more time on the ground in France and Italy, or save Italy for another trip and visit some of the highlights of Eastern France on the way to Paris from Barcelona. Those trips might imply different transportation choices. May is a great time to go, have a blast!

Posted by
265 posts

This situation (the high cost of one way fares compared to a roundtrip) comes up fairly often on this site. However it has been a while so here is a Basic Travel 101 course for newbies to this site about "open jaw travel". It is my guess you are looking at two "one way" fares rather than "multi destination" fares on the airline web sites. I did a quick search with the multi destination feature on Expedia and came up with a $1250 round trip fare LA to Paris with a return Rome to LA. Which seems in the reasonable catagory. I picked Saturday May 4th outbound and 3 weeks later Sat May 25th as the travel dates. This is called an "open jaw" ticket...into one city and out of another.
Once you know this trick to getting the best fare it will save you from having to back track on your trip thus giving you more sightseeing days in your available time.

Posted by
31255 posts

noble, Does your 21-day time frame include your two flight days? I would highly recommend using open-jaw flights for best efficiency, as described in the previous reply. There's no way I'd attempt that trip via car in 21 days! In addition to high fuel costs, tolls, possibility of photo radar and/or ZTL tickets, requirement for an I.D.P. in Italy or other countries, you'll also need to buy highway tax vignettes for some countries. You'd spend much of your trip looking at Europe through the windshield. Travel by train (fast trains) where possible would be a much more efficient use of your holiday time. The TGV and other fast trains travel at about 300 kmH, which no car can (legally) match. One thing to keep in mind with Railpasses, is that these DON'T include the reservation fees which are compulsory for some trains. You'd be paying "out of pocket" for those. Using a Railpass in Italy is definitely not a good idea, as trains are relatively cheap there (especially if pre-buying tickets). I'd have to spend some time working on it, but you might consider using more of a "regional" Railpass, (ie: France & Spain) along with P-P tickets in Italy. For the trip you've described, a combination of Railpass, P-P and perhaps a budget flight would be the best option (IMHO). DON'T be caught without valid reservations or unvalidated tickets for trains in Italy, or you may be fined on the spot and it's not cheap! Fines start at 50€ PP and increase from there. You may find it very helpful to get a Travel Consultation (via phone) from Rick's very knowledgeable staff. There will be a small charge, but given the overall expense of your holiday it might be money well spent. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
4 posts

I am revising my trip. Frome the info I am getting it looks like flying in to paris for several days then taking the train to barcelona spain will work. Then to switzerland and down thru Italy to rome? I am having a hard time getting train info from barcelona into switz and out to florence? I assume this is because I am too early to book in may? thanks for all the feedback.

Posted by
6554 posts

Noble: What you have here is essentially three different one week vacations. The most efficient way to travel is to group your destinations together. 1. Paris is worth six days and one day traveling to Italy by budget air carrier to Rome (preferably EasyJet.) 2. Rome and Florence will take a full week, and you should ride the fast train between the cities. I would suggest flying from Pisa (1 hr.west by train) to Barcelona on Vueling Airlines.
3. Spain is full trip to itself, as it's a very large place. Most would take in Barcelona and take the train to Madrid. You should consider skipping the Riviera and Switzerland on this trip. And flying open jawed is always the most efficient, and ultimately, cheapest way to avoid "backtracking." Few use global passes. With gasoline @ $9.50 per U.S. gallon, cars need to be reserved for taking day trips out of big cities. Cars have no business in Paris, Rome or Florence as parking is expensive and ZTL's can get you ticketed.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for all the good information. We continue to refine our trip. We are now limiting our travel to France and Italy. Taking advise to limit the amount of destinations to enjoy our trip more. We would like to start in Paris. Stay about a week and move towards Florence and finally Rome. Does anyone have ideas for the second week in France befor we get to Florence? We were thinking of taking a train to the Riviera from Paris and renting a car for a day or two to cruise the coast? Or, are there recomendations other than that? Lyons? Thanks again for all of your help!

Posted by
11450 posts

Noble, this past summer we took train from Paris to Nice, booked in advance we paid a 40 euros each for a first class tickets on idtgv.
We then flew on Vueling from Nice to Barcelona, that was 45 euros each, then we flew back from Barcelona to Paris on Easyjet , time 1hr 50 minutes and cost, for both of us, taxes and all , and pre paid one peice of checked luggage as 97 euros, much cheaper then train, and even with the added time getting to airport etc, it was much fast.. As suggested never use two one way fares for international travel, always choose multi destination or open jaw. And price out train and plane tickets, you can find great deals if you act in advance, prices tend to rise closer to date, so i would make an effort to nail down your plans and start purchasing your tickets( rememember to notify your bank and Credit card company you will be making foreign transactions, most will reject a transaction in a foriegn country as a fraud safety thing, but just call the number on the back of your card before you use it and let CC company know what you are doing and what countries they may see transactions occur in)