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So confused about trains

I am planning a 2 week trip starting in London, then going to France, then to Italy. I am so confused about how to travel from one country to the next, and then also within the country. Which pass is best? Once in a city, can I use that pass to take local busses or subways around the city? Will I need reservations in addition to the pass? How far in advance? I've read everything here, but it's so confusing! Please help.

Posted by
8700 posts

One more thought: Booking a plane ticket on a budget airline from Paris to somewhere in Italy after you get to Europe will cost more than booking now, but it might not break the bank to do so. Use those search engines I listed in my previous post to see which airlines fly where you wish to go, visit each airline's site, and then compare last-minute fares to advance fares.

Posted by
11432 posts

Victoria...you need to get a copy of "Europe Through the Back Door" which has a whole section on train travel in Europe as well as lots of information on public transportation.

Where are you going in France and where in Italy? A pass may not be a good idea as it may be cheaper to buy point to point tickets. Usually a rail pass cannot be used on the local public transportaion. Reservations are only needed on certain trains.

Have you looked at this website with all the information it has on train travel and railpasses?

Posted by
31510 posts

Victoria,

I definitely agree with Frank II - it would be a really good idea to have a look at Europe Through The Back Door, paying particular attention to the "Rail Skills" chapter. You may also want to download the free PDF Rail Guide from this website - click the "Railpasses" link at the top and then look in the lower right corner.

Travelling from one country to the next is very easy! It would help if you could provide more detailed information on your Itinerary, as that would allow us to provide more specific tips on transportation. When will you be taking this trip?

For the trip from London (St. Pancras) to Paris (Gare du Nord) you'll be using the EuroStar. Once in France, the Metro is by far the easiest way to get around (buying a "Carnet" of 10 tickets is the method I usually use).

For the trip from Paris to Italy (which city?), using "fast" trains (TGV) would be the best option to save time, since you only have 2 weeks. Compulsory reservations will be required and if you're travelling with a Rail Pass, you'll need to pay separately for these.

A Railpass may not be the most cost effective method. Using P-P tickets may be less expensive if you're only taking a few rail trips.

You might want to pack along some of the Guidebooks (England, France, Italy), as they have lots of information on local transportation within cities.

I'm assuming you're using open jaw flights - into London and return to the U.S. from somewhere in Italy?

More information would help......

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks for your responses! I have already ordered the "back door" book, and a few other of Steve's guide books, but they have not arrived yet.

I read all I could online, but it's just so overwhelming and confusing, I could not figure out if I should just by tickets for each trip as it comes, or a pass, or what... and if the passes cover local busses or subways or whatever to get around in the city.

My rough plan is to fly into London, from there go to Paris, then either Nice or maybe Milan, then Rome. I am flying out of Rome. If I end up getting a pass, then I may also go into another country or 2. I am not making reservations so that I can be free to wing it. (I am going alone. I have cancer, and so am doing this for the risk/adventure/"live now" thing that happens. Please let me know if this is totally stupid!!!)

I don't know what an "open jaw flight" is.
You say reservations are required, how far in advance? do I need to plan the entire itinerary before I get there? I'm overwhelmed.

Thanks so much!

Posted by
1315 posts

Deep breath! This sounds wonderful and not stupid at all. You just need to take it one step at a time and do your research (we can help!). Open jaw is when you fly into one city and out of another. If you fly into London and out of Rome, that's open jaw.

Pre-booking reservations is a personal preference. Winging it is easier in the off-season (such as Nov or Feb) when the crowds and prices are less.

My concern with your plan right now is you have two weeks, which is really only 12 days since you lose a day to travel on either end. That's barely enough time to cover one country, let alone 3. I understand your desire to pack in as much as you can, but the broadness is one reason why you are feeling overwhelmed.

If you really want to visit London, Paris, and Rome (you probably won't have time for more than that), consider using budget airlines such as Easyjet to fly from one to the other. This will be more time-efficient, and possibly cheaper than the train. I'm not an expert on railpasses, but generally it is cheaper to prebook air/train travel between countries.

In very general terms, most cities have a transportation or some sort of combination pass which is separate from any railpass for the larger train network. Rome, for example, has something called the Roma Pass which is a 3-day transport pass for the subway (Metro) and busses, as well as free admission to 2 attractions covered on the card (such as the Colosseum).

If I were you, the first thing I would do is think hard about which places are most important to you. Figure out what it is you want to see there, and how much time that will take. If you do not want to prebook hotels, keep in mind you will lose time looking for a place to sleep.

Posted by
11432 posts

Take a deep breath and relax...it's not that difficult. Most of your questions will be answered in detailed in Europe Through The Back Door."

And Open jaw flight is just what you are doing: Flying into London and home from Rome.

For a two week trip: London-Paris-Nice/Milan-Rome is the max you should do. I'm not sure if you need a railpass. you're looking at 3-4 train trips and it may be cheaper just to buy individual tickets.(The railpass does not cover the train from London to Paris--just a discount.) You can buy those the day of travel. They may cost the most like that but it does give you the freedom. If you're truly winging it, and not traveling on major European holidays, you may not need to make train reservations until the day of travel. Nor even hotel reservations. Either bring a list of hotels you like or visit the local tourist office for help.

Railpasses do not cover local transportation in the cities. That's separate. However, each city does have their own type of pass that's only good on that city's bus/subway system.

Posted by
14 posts

OK, thank you again for sharing your knowledge. I actually have 16 days counting the weekends. I can leave on a friday night and come home on a Sunday night. I can go in either October, or maybe the first week of November if that would benefit me, being more off-season. I had thought that I could save some hotel money by traveling from country to country at night and sleeping on the train - at least on the trip from Paris to wherever in Italy. I could skip London, but the flights into London (and out of Rome) were a LOT cheaper than flying in anywhere else - do you have suggestions on that? I'm totally open - can fly into anywhere and out of anywhere, but am trying to go economical, since I'm putting my house up for this trip.

The main things I HAVE to see are Paris, Rome, and somewhere with a nice beach. Places I'd like to see are Venice, and maybe even another country like Austria or Belgium.

The hard part is I am clueless as to how much time I want to take at each place, so that's part of why I don't want to have to buy passes and make reservations until I get there.

I also plan on brining my netbook, so can search for and book sleeping places online. Also, I am planning on bringing just one backpack. I would like to experience everything from hostels to nicer hotels, but mostly economical hotels (under $100 per night if possible)

I so appreciate your help! If I get to where I'm asking too many questions, just let me know. It's wonderful to have this forum to get help from people who've done this!

Posted by
59 posts

Victoria -

We are doing a similar trip in a few weeks. One thing that really helped me was to put together a spreadsheet. I included all of the countries/cities/highlights I wanted to visit and then put down the number of days I had to travel. I then started crossing things off that I was just not going to be able to do. I came up with my must do list and then determined how many days/nights in each location would be the best for what I wanted to see and started looking at transportation between these locations. You don't have to plan your hotels or transportation, but since this is my first time to Europe and I have a pretty set itinerary I went ahead and booked my train and hotel reservations. I found I could save alof of money by booking trains point to point and well in advance getting some specials. Also, by booking hotels in advance I'm not going to be searching for a place to stay.

I know for some, winging it is the way to go, but again for my first time, I feel much more comfortable having things planned out. I've taken many US road trips and I like to have things planned out.

Figure out what your travel comfort level is and then take things one step at a time. Half the fun of a big trip is the planning!

Posted by
14 posts

How can you save money booking point to point? I didn't know they would vary. I was assuming the prices on Rick's "Direct Ticket Costs - Eurorail" were the set prices.

Posted by
59 posts

I found Rick's direct ticket prices to be a little high. If you do some searching on the train sites direct websites and are flexible as to time of day and date of travel you can get some specials and save quite a bit of money.

Posted by
14 posts

Will I pay a lot more if I just show up at the station and try to get a ticket?

Posted by
8700 posts

Victoria,

You said that you want to be flexible on your travel dates because you don't know how long you will decide to stay in each city you visit. Buying tickets as you go works fine in Italy because train fares are relatively inexpensive and there is very frequent service.

However, a last-minute ticket on the Eurostar from London to Paris can be very expensive. If you can commit to a specific departure date and time, you can get a discount fare at www.eurostar.com. Booking in advance at www.voyages-sncf.com can get you a discount fare for a direct night train, either Paris-Venice or Paris-Rome. There are tricks to booking on those sites. If you want to know more, just ask.

Budget airlines offer cheap tickets for Paris-Venice and Paris-Rome, but the longer you wait to book the higher the price. Use these search engines: www.flylc.com, www.whichbudget.com, and www.skyscanner.net. The Skyscanner site lists national carriers as well as budget airlines.

Posted by
14 posts

OK, I can do that... book the train from London to Paris before I leave. And yes, I absolutely want to know more about the tricks to booking! Feel free to share as much knowledge as you will!

So you are saying that if I book the london-paris trip, then the rest I should be able to do last minute for not too terribly expensive? And when I get to a city, do I get some sort of local pass for the local around-the-city travel?

Posted by
8293 posts

Victoria, you mention you have to go somewhere with a nice beach, but be aware that October/November is not really beach season in France and Italy .

Posted by
8700 posts

Victoria,

Somehow I missed your reference to having cancer in your second post. I'm truly sorry that you are fighting that battle, but I'm glad that you've decided not to let it stop you from going to Europe!

For the cheapest London-Paris ticket, go to www.eurostar.com and register as a resident of the UK. If you've already visited the site and registered as a resident of the US, clear the cookies on your Web browser and register again.

In addition to direct Paris-Venice and Paris-Rome night trains, there is also a direct Paris-Milan night train. Since SNCF, French national rail, doesn't mail tickets to the US, their Web site bumps you to the Rail Europe site if you want to book in English. But Rail Europe's timetables are incomplete because it only lists routes for which it sells tickets. And it doesn't offer discount fares. If you want to get a discount fare for a night train from Paris to a point in Italy, you'll need to book in French on the SNCF site. If you want help doing that, just ask.

For travel on the tube and bus in London, buy an Oyster card, load 20 GBP on it, and use it as a pay-as-you-go card. The Oyster computer will automatically give you the best fare and you will never pay more than 50 pence less than the cost of a 1-day travelcard for the zones in which you travel, no matter how many rides you take that day. You can top off the card if your money runs low and you can get a refund of any unspent money, plus your deposit.

In Paris buy a carnet of ten t+ tickets which will be good anywhere the Metro goes, on the RER in zone 1, and on the bus. Each ticket provides unlimited transfers on the Metro and/or RER until you exit the system. Each ticket provides bus transfers up until 90 minutes after boarding the first bus. However, you cannot use a single ticket to transfer between the Metro and the bus.

In Nice you can buy a pass for the city bus and tram system.

Posted by
14 posts

Norma: Is it very cold, or just cool? I am VERY hot natured, and hate the heat anyway. BTW, my Mom's name was Norma. She just died last year. Her dream was always to go to Italy. She never did. Another reason I am going. Just thought I'd share that. I love your name!

Tim: Thanks for SO much help!!! How much would I save by booking in French? Enough for it to be worth the trouble? I don't speak french.

Will all this seem easier to understand and navigate once I get there, or am I going to feel lost and stranded? The major confusion is trying to figure out the BEST way (read: cheapest) to do all of this.

Lastly, if I buy the london-paris trip online, would it be early enough to do it the day before, from my laptop, while in London? Or do I need to book it earlier than that?

Thanks again!

Posted by
14 posts

Oh, and is it cheaper to fly from Paris to Rome, or train?

Posted by
8293 posts

Victoria: Well, according to a website I just checked with, in the South of France in October the average high temp. is 70 and low is 55 degrees F. I was in Nice for a day last October and we sat at a cafe on the beach (all pebbles, by the way, not sand) and had a drink in the sun but I must tell you that no one was sunbathing and no one was in the water. A few years ago we were in Sicily in October and while it was pleasantly warm it was just that, pleasantly warm, not for lolling on a beach weather.

I am so sorry about your mother, Victoria.

Posted by
31510 posts

Victoria,

I'm truly sorry to hear that you have cancer and sincerely hope it can be easily treated.

Regarding your trip, I'd suggest going in Oct. as the weather will probably be better. Starting in London is a good idea (rather than the other way) as you'll be moving south as the month progresses.

As a woman travelling alone, I wouldn't recommend sleeping in "open cars" on night trains. Reserving a Couchette or Sleeper will cost more, and probably won't be much/any cheaper than a budget Hotel.

Reading the criteria you mentioned, I have a few thoughts on how you could structure your trip and see everything on your "must see" list.

I'll put this in point form:

  • Day 1: Depart US

  • Day 2: Arrive London (which airport?)

  • Day 3-4: Tour London (I suggest 2 days as it can be expensive)

  • Day 5: EuroStar to Paris

  • Day 6-8: Tour Paris (buy rail tickets/reservations for outgoing journey) A 2-Day Paris Museum Pass would be a good idea.

  • Day 9: TGV to Nice (beaches will be "cool" but beautiful - this will be a good intermediate stop) Trip will be ~5H:30M at 300 kmH!

  • Day 10: Tour Nice (although I don't usually like 1-night stops, spending longer would take time from Rome)

  • Day 11: Train to Rome (this will be a FULL travel day - the shortest time I found was 9H:27M with 1-change in Milan - reservations compulsory which you could do at Nice Ville when you arrive)

  • Day 12-14: Tour Rome (you might choose a Hotel somewhere in the Termini area, so you're close to transportation)

  • Day 15: Flight home from FCO (take Leonardo Express to the airport - very easy!)

  • Day 16: Rest, try to get over jet lag (which is often worse on the trip home)

There are many ways this could be arranged, but I thought this would provide everything you wanted. I can add to this and expand the information if it looks like it will work for you.

Relax, the helpful group here will get this sorted!

Cheers!

Posted by
11432 posts

Ken' suggestions are good. I'm going to take his itinerary and add a few things--[in brackets]:

  • Day 1: Depart US

  • Day 2: Arrive London (which airport?) [Spend the day outdoors to help with jet lag. London is a great walking city]

  • Day 3-4: Tour London (I suggest 2 days as it can be expensive)

  • Day 5: EuroStar to Paris [take a morning train as this will put you in Paris around lunchtime. Use the rest of the day to explore.]

  • Day 6-8: Tour Paris (buy rail tickets/reservations for outgoing journey) A 2-Day Paris Museum Pass would be a good idea.

  • Day 9: TGV to Nice (beaches will be "cool" but beautiful - this will be a good intermediate stop) Trip will be ~5H:30M at 300 kmH!

  • Day 10: Tour Nice (although I don't usually like 1-night stops, spending longer would take time from Rome)[Actually a two night stop since you travel on Day 9 and leave on Day 11]

  • Day 11: Train to Rome (this will be a FULL travel day - the shortest time I found was 9H:27M with 1-change in Milan - reservations compulsory which you could do at Nice Ville when you arrive)

  • Day 12-14: Tour Rome (you might choose a Hotel somewhere in the Termini area, so you're close to transportation)

  • Day 15: Flight home from FCO (take Leonardo Express to the airport - very easy!)

  • Day 16: Rest, try to get over jet lag (which is often worse on the trip home) {If you don't have a job to get back to and can get over jet lag on your own time, add an extra day in Europe and fly home on Day 16.]

[FYI--there is a non-stop flight on American Airlines from Raleigh/Durham airport to London. From Rome, you'll have to change planes on the return but could then fly back to Greensboro.]

[We don't know your condition or strength so go at a pace that is comfortable for you. Travel can be stressful and it might be a good idea to plan someplace to rest. Nice would by my choice as it's approximately halfway through the trip.]

Posted by
31510 posts

Victoria,

One suggestion for a Hotel in Nice. You might have a look at www.hotel-suisse-nice.cote.azur.fr/page_en_1.html (it's very nice and is right at the end of the Promenade des Anglais). I believe Room 10 has an awesome view down the beach, which is especially great at sunset and sunrise (hopefully my memory is accurate on the room no.).

Let us know how your planning is coming along?

Posted by
8700 posts

You can save 50-75 euro or more by booking well in advance, both for trains and budget airlines. For example, the best discount fare for a bunk in a four-person couchette on the Paris-Rome night train is €45. The fare for a flexi ticket is €127. Is going to the effort of booking in French worth it? I think so.

If I were to fly Paris-Rome on easyJet next week, the fares would range from €92 to €261. If I booked a ticket today for travel on 10 December, I could get a fare of €37.

You probably won't save anything by booking a Eurostar ticket only a day or two ahead of time. The allotted number of discount seats will most likely be long gone by then.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you all so much for all your help!!! The proposed itinerary sounds like EXACTLY what I want, and I am going to start planning using all of it!!!

What is the approximate cost of a museum pass? and does it include entrance into the Louvre? Are there additional charges? Where do I buy one?

What website are you using to compare the prices of booking early vs. late? or more specifically, what is the best way for me to book the flights/trains?

You say the train to Rome stops in Milan; would I be able to spend a few hours looking around there before continuing on, or do I need to transfer right away?

Thank you so much for the advice not to sleep in the open cars. I had thought that I could just somehow lay on my locked backpack, but if you say it's really that dangerous to sleep, I will definitely take your advice and book a sleeper car.

On the subject of safety, I had wanted to spend one night in a hostel somewhere, just to say I've done that. Is this really too unsafe, or are there some that are OK? I want to experience everything, but I don't want to be stupid either. I did buy some locks for my stuff, and planned on using my backpack as a pillow, but maybe I am being naive about the safety.

Also, I had thought about sending a package home from each city, with stuff that I buy in that city. I had read that France has some postal boxes that are flat rate for whatever you fit in them, for around 30-50euro... is that a good way to get stuff home?

I really appreciate the time that all of you are taking to answer my questions and help me plan. It really means a lot to me, and I appreciate it greatly! If I am asking too many questions, I apologize! You all are just so knowledgable, and obviously know what you are doing when it comes to Europe travel!!! :)

Posted by
11432 posts

When is "Europe Through The Back Door" supposed to arrive? It will answer just about every question you've asked and then some.....

Posted by
2070 posts

ETBD 2010 is already available. See Travel Store, then Guidebooks, then near the top of the page, "See when 2010 books arrive".

Posted by
11432 posts

Darcy, In a previous post, Victoria said she had ordered the book. I was referring to when she was supposed to get it, not when it going to be released.

I've had a copy of the 2010 edition for a few weeks.

Posted by
31510 posts

Victoria,

Some answers to some of your recent questions....

The current cost for a 2-day Paris Museum Pass is €32. Note that this must be used on consecutive days. Once you've activated the Pass, the "clock is running". You can check Their Website for the details, including points of sale. One of the biggest advantage of the Pass is that you won't have to worry about queues, as you have preferential access.

You mentioned the Louvre. On such a short visit, you WON'T have time to see all three wings - it's massive! Focus on what interests you. I'd suggest the Denon Wing where the Mona Lisa is located. I'd also recommend the Musee d'Orsay as it's an elegant old building with a great collection of impressionist art.

I normally use the German Rail website to plan trips but Tim, Lee or one of the other Rail experts would have better knowledge on the pre-booking savings. I usually buy P-P tickets a few days in advance of travel, whatever the cost.

The train from Paris to Rome often stops in Milan, but might depend on which train you choose. You could arrange the change of trains so that you could stop for a few hours. I believe there's luggage storage at Milano Centrale, but have never used it? What do you want to see in Milan? A caution though - Milano Centrale is CHAOTIC and there are thieves at work - watch your belongings! You'll need small change if you want to use the WC.

You could certainly use a "Sleeper Car" if you take a night train, but these are generally expensive. The other option is a shared Couchette. Keep in mind these are not always completely "safe" as I've heard of a few cases where people have visited the WC at night and found items missing from their luggage when they returned.

With night trains it's also important to choose a run with no changes or you won't be getting much sleep!

Continued....

Posted by
31510 posts

Part 2.....

On the subject of Hostel stays, there are some good Hostels and some "dodgy" Hostels. I often stay in HI Hostels as they're a "chain" and the properties are fairly consistent from one country to the next (with some exceptions). However, there are good independent Hostels also. I can provide a link to the HI Hostels website if you're interested.

Hostels these days are offering more private rooms, but these are quite popular and generally book up early. That leaves the option of Dorm rooms, which have 4-6-8 or more beds. Some of these are separated by gender and some are co-ed (you'll have to decide whether you're comfortable with that). Some have shared ensuite facilities in each room, and some have a shared WC down the hall. I've stayed in both types and haven't had any problems with either.

The best place for you to try the "Hostel experience" might be Rome, as there are some good properties there that are quite close to Roma Termini station. A few that you might have a look at are The Beehive OR Alessandro Palace. There are also some good budget Hotels in that area. NO, you won't have to use your Backpack as a pillow! The pillows in the rooms are quite comfortable. However, taking small locks for your luggage is a good idea, and be sure to keep valuables like Passport and credit cards with you at all times (wear a MONEY BELT!). Most Hostels have Lockers for guests to store valuables, but in most cases you'll have to provide your own Padlock. Be sure to take a good quality unit (not too large). You might want to visit a local Locksmith in your area for suggestions.

Continued.....

Posted by
31510 posts

Part 3.....

I don't often send things home, as this is usually expensive. I've never mailed anything from France, but have sent items back from the U.K. and it was REALLY expensive and REALLY SLOW! You'd also have to locate the nearest postal facilities, make sure the parcels were properly packed and labelled. The staff at Hotels usually have good information on that. For a cost of €30-50, I'd probably consider using FedEx or UPS as well.

One other point to mention. When ETBD arrives, it will answer a lot of your questions, but be sure to note the chapters on ATM cards and accessing cash and also Rail skills. Your travel funds must be in a chequing account with a four-number PIN. I'd suggest taking at least two ATM cards and one (or more) credit cards.

A final point - try to "pace yourself" when you're touring, as some cities can be very tiring. Plan your touring carefully in terms of which sights, Museums, etc. you want to see.

You don't need to apologize for asking questions. That's why we're here!

Cheers!

Posted by
14 posts

Frank II, how did yo get the info on the non-stop flights, (Rome from Raleigh?) I'm wondering if my method of finding flights is not good. I had used Travelocity (and similar sites) to find prices from Gso to Rome, then Gso to London, etc., and then tried all different combinations of departue airports and arrival airports, to determine the tentative plan of flying INTO london and OUT OF Rome, but I wonder if you know a better way to find the best flights, direct flights, and best prices?

I got my books this weekend, so have started on the "Packing" sections and hope to get through a lot of the books this week. I am glad to know that they are so highly recommeneded, and will answer a lot of my questions.

I am not sure what I wanted to see in Milan - have not done any research yet, but heard there is GREAT shopping there. I beleive the cheapest and most direct p2p train ride is from Paris to Nice, and then to Rome, though, so that would fit PERFECTLY with the itinerary suggestion you all gave, to stop in Nice for a few relaxing days, so I will most likely skip Milan.

I'm glad to hear some hostels are OK. Everyone here is saying I'm crazy to want to stay in one, but I figured they could not all be so bad.

What do you all normally do with things you purchase, if you want to limit yourself to one bag? I am not a huge buyer of touristy-type stuff, but want to visit resale shops and flea markets for personal things that will be nice, usable reminders of my trip.

Posted by
3428 posts

Victoria- Have you checked the flights from Charlotte to London on USAirways? Sometimes you can get really good rates. They also fly to Paris and Frankfurt. Feel free to private message me with any questions about London- we have been a lot of times.

Posted by
14 posts

Toni, I believe I did check that, and found the cheapest was Gso to London, then Rome to Gso, but I may be wrong. There are so many combinations to try, and it varies so much by dates, etc., that it's difficult to know if I am getting the best deal.

Posted by
59 posts

Victoria - I did a search for international flights on expedia and then went directly to the airlines website. I ended up getting a better deal by booking on the airlines site.

Posted by
11432 posts

No, Victoria, I didn't say there was a nonstop flight from Rome to Raleigh.

There is a non-stop flight from Raleigh to London on American. Returning from Rome, you'll have to change planes somewhere but could return to Greensboro rather than going back to Raleigh. (It may be easier for you just to use GSO as your home airport rather than anywhere else.

Once you find a flight combination you like on Travelocity, go directly to that airline's website to see if you can get a better deal.

Posted by
14 posts

I am spending hours and making spreadsheets trying to find the best flight combination... is there a better way? I can fly out of either rdu, clt, or gso, and into either paris, venice, milan, or rome (though I am leaning towards leaving rome out now). coming home I can leave from any of those, and fly into any of the 3 north carolina airports. Is there an easier way to find the cheapest combination?

also, does anyone have advice on what to do with items purchased duing the trip, if sending them home is not economical, and I am limited to one backpack?
thanks again all!!!

Posted by
31510 posts

Victoria,

Regarding the difficulties finding flights, you might find it useful to speak with a Travel Agent. They can sometimes find good flight combinations very easily, saving you many hours of internet time. If you book a flight through a T.A., there's often a small fee charged ($50?), as they're not compensated as well by the airlines these days.

The method I normally use is to research flights on the airline websites and then book through the travel agent. On a couple of occasions, they've been able to find a better route or a better price.

I'm not sure what to suggest regarding any purchases you make in Europe? If you're only going to be travelling with one Backpack, your shopping will be "self limited" to some extent. The only option would be to ship items home. Using the postal system would undoubtedly be less expensive than FedEx or whatever.

You might want to take a small Daypack also for touring around cities. Rick's Civita bag works well and it packs flat. It's a "light duty" Pack though, so not capable of holding anything too heavy.

Cheers!

Posted by
1315 posts

As far as bringing goodies home, what I did was buy a duffle bag at a sports store (REI) that stuffs down inside a pocket. It's basically the same idea as Rick's pocket tote that he sells on this site -- though mine is quite a bit larger. When folded up, it takes up very little room in my carry-on on the way over and then I stuff it with dirty laundry and other unimportant items, as well as any liquids such as wine that I might be bringing back home, and check it.

Posted by
8700 posts

I follow the same procedure as Liz for getting home with my purchases, but I have the Eagle Creek packable duffel. You should be able to order it on either the Eagle Creek site or the Magellan's site.

On a different subject, for Paris I heartily recommend any of the three MIJE hostels. They are renovated 17th-century private mansions and are centrally located in the Marais. Both Rick Steves and Lonely Planet call them "the best budget accommodations in Paris."

And now here's more on booking train tickets. The most direct route from Paris to Rome does not go through Nice. To see for yourself, go to www.bahn.de which is the best detailed train timetable site for most of Europe. Click on the drop-down flag menu for English. After you get summary timetables for Paris-Rome, click on the arrow to see the connecting points (if any). You can can also click on a map link for each route or on a "Show intermediate stops" link for each route.

If you want to travel Paris-Milan-Rome or Nice-Milan-Rome, you most likely will have to book separate tickets for each leg because you will have a reserved seat good for a specific departure date and time for one or both of those legs.

To get discount fares for Paris-Nice or Paris-Rome, book on the French national rail site, www.voyages-sncf.com. For detailed instructions on booking in French on the SNCF site, go to www.seat61.com and read the section devoted to traveling from Paris to Italy by train. You can also read details on that site about night train service from Paris to Italy, including photos of the sleeping accommodations. While a bunk in a 6-person couchette is adequate, paying a little more for a bunk in a 4-person couchette is well worth it for the extra space and comfort. If you need more help after reading the information on the seat61 site, just ask.

If you go to Nice, the fastest way from there to Rome would be to fly Blu-Express.

Posted by
403 posts

Victoria-- There are millions, perhaps billions of possible combinations of cities, flights, etc....try to relax. You won't make the "perfect" choice...no one ever does. It is possible that someone sitting next to you will have paid half what you did (or twice). Ignore all that. Just focus on getting flights that are as short and convenient as possible and that fit your budget....then don't worry about whether a different flight might have been even 'better". Your trip is about having a glorious time, and you will.
As for lugging stuff around...the less the better, but somewhere on the web I found a fold-up suitcase that goes from about 6 inches by 4 inches fat to enormous. We put our dirty clothes in that and check it on the flight home, and save our carry on for stuff that can't be replaced. Mailing parcels has not worked for me....but there are UPS offices in Paris and in Nice. They are bound to be better than the Post Office.
Nice will be sunny, but breezy and chilly. Think Blue Ridge mts on a bright October day. Rome could be rainy, especially as you move toward December.
I agree that flying GSO to London and back home out of Rome (open jaw) makes sense. I can't believe that there could be much price differential between Greensboro, Charlotte, and Raleigh. (though my brother, who still lives in Gboro where I grew up, swears by Charlotte/Atlanta). There might be a difference in terms of flight duration, number of stops, etc.
I have never been able to sleep on night trains, in Europe or the US. A couchette is not at all private...think six people in a closet...but at least you can lie down. Personally I would think about a day train from Nice to a stopover in Pisa, and then the next day continuing to Rome.
Have a great trip and good luck with your fight against cancer!

Posted by
3428 posts

Victoria, are you a AAA member. Members can use AAA travel agents free and sometimes get special rates on flights. It could well be worth joining if you aren't yet a member.