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Traveling Throughout Europe

My friend and I, both mature women (one a senior) are travelling to Europe in September. Neither of us has even been out of the U.S. so this is all new to us! We are planning for two weeks. During that time we want to visit London, Paris, Rome, Venice and Heidelberg. What is the cheapest, fastest, most effective way to travel? We are considering a Eurail Pass, but frankly I can't make heads or tails of the routes! And if I'm reading it right, a Eurail Pass could cost us over $1,000 each! Sorry, but you're dealing with old folks here who have never travelled! Essentially, we are flying to London and from there we want to go to Paris. From Paris we want to go to Rome and then to Venice (or vice versa) and finally to Heidelburg. Then back to London for our flight home. We are planning to fly back to London, unless the train is an option. I just can't figure it out! We had considered renting a car for part of the trip, but the drop off charge for a one-way rental is very high. Someone please help! What are our options?

Posted by
21260 posts

You first consideration should have been an open jaw tickets but that is too late. Second, you are covering an enormous amount of territory and will spent about time in a train, in a train station, checking in and out of hotels. Way too much lost time. With your lack of European travel experiences you will encounter a lot of frustrations simply because you are not familiar with how things function. With a two week schedule you really only have about 11 or 12 goods days of sightseeing and travel. General rail passes are not good deals anymore. Besides the price of the pass you have to pay reservations fees for the trains. I would suggestion a much simpler schedule - maybe London, Paris, Amsterdam with a couple of side trips to smaller cities. I will not make other suggestions unless I known you are receptive to making major changes to your schedule.

Posted by
12384 posts

If you haven't already bought your air tickets then consider flying into London and out of Rome. Otherwise, you can fly from Rome to London back to Rome. The order ov travel, to eliminate backtracking, would be London to Paris to Heidelber to Venice to Rome. That is 5 cities in 2 weeks, which does not leave you much time in any one place, especiallybif you factor in travel time. Four would be more reasonable, so could you consider dropping either Venice or Rome? If you were to visit London, Paris, Heidelberg and Venice you train time for each transfer would be readonalbr, and you would get a nice sampling of the four different countries. Rome itself is worth a week, as are the other places you want to see. Consider quality time over quantity, and think hard about limiting your trip to 4 cities. (Every time we go to Europe, whichnis almost once a year, I have to omit places from the itinerary that we really want to see. But one cannot do everything in one trip.) Think about that and report back. People here will be very happy to helpmyou make the train plans. You do not need a rail pass; you will do better with individual tickets. For one thing a rail pass does not cover the Eurostar from London to Paris. Better to buy discount tickets in advance. For this journey.

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi, Since you aren't leaving until Sept, you have the option of getting a senior discount ticket for the Euro-Star from London to Paris. Booked in advance, 120 days out from the date of the ride to Paris, your senior ticket is $46.50, the absolute lowest for an adult, depending on the choice of your departure time. I am a senior and for a r/t senior ticket it's $94. 00. This can be done on the Euro-Star website. In your case, it's not worth getting a Eurail Pass, first because you're not zipping around enough, and, secondly, you are over there for two weeks only. As pointed out above, the Eurail Pass isn't valid for the cross-channel ride. I use only a Select Pass for just France, Germany and Austria for the max of ten days. Read The Rough Guide: Europe to get the information to help you prepare for this 2 week trip. London is a good place to start.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you, Frank. You are right. The more we think about it, the more we realize we're trying to do too much within the alotted time and budget. We have decided to completely eliminate Paris. Since our plane reservations are already made and paid for, we are definitely flying into London. We're focusing more now on going from London to Heidelburg to Rome, and spending maybe a day and overnight in Venice on our way to Rome. My friend still wants to rent a car in Heidelburg and drive to Rome. We haven't quite ironed that out yet. I guess it depends on how much the car rental is going to cost us. I appreciate your input. I feel a little overwhelmed. But I'm also excited! I never thought I would have to opportunity to visit Europe, and now I will. Thanks for the advice.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks for the information, Fred. As I stated in my last post (before I read yours), my friend and I have decided not to go to Paris. What's your advice on travelling from London to Heidelburg? She has her heart set on renting a car in Heidelburg and driving to Rome, so I think we'll only need transportation out of London. She has done a lot of research on this, bless her heart, and I believe she wants to fly back to London from Rome. So getting from London to Heidelburg now seems to be our only dilemma. I'm still concerned about the drop off fee for the car, but one hurdle at a time! Thanks again for your response!

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks Everyone! Your suggestions have been so helpful and well thought out. Donna has her heart set on driving, so I guess that's what we're going to do. She said she has compared car rental vs train fares vs airfares, and for what she wants to do, she feels that driving will be our best option. I wish I had her confidence! She's the younger one (I'm the senior), and she seems to think everything is going to be fine. She has volunteered to do all the driving. In fact, she says she prefers to drive. Fine with me! I guess I should just let her "take the wheel" so to speak, and just enjoy the ride! This whole trip was her dream in the first place, and she asked me to go with her, which is why I'm content to just tag along. I figure however it turns out, I have an opportunity to see Europe that I never thought would happen. I don't have any real expectations, and however it turns out, I'm sure it will be splendid. Warm regards to all! Keep those suggestions coming in. Every new idea helps and you guys have been great!

Posted by
23 posts

Hi Lola! I tried to send a PM but for some reason it wouldn't let me send it. Something about being unable to process my request. Odd.... Just wanted to let you know I read your message and appreciate your feedback. Thanks again,
Christine

Posted by
9 posts

@Russ. Here's the thing with trains. We can't stop in a small town and have lunch or enjoy a little out the way shop. This is most likely our ONLY to trip to Europe. The major tourist traps are not our cup of tea. We want to embrace the culture and see hidden gems of the little towns. I just don't think we can do that from a train. In addition, I've prices some of these rails and they are crazy money. The other tid bit missing is, my mother is from Heidelberg. Growing up, i've heard countless stories of the city. I MUST go there. Rome has always been my desired city to visit. Thos cities just don't happen to be close to each other. All the other cities-just going because they are there. Would I prefer to kick back and enjoy the ride, heck yes, but I don't want to miss the experience. Does that make sense? It's not easy trying to balance finances and the experience.

Posted by
9 posts

@Ken. The international license is less than 25 bucks and I can get that pretty quick. By looking at the map, I think i'm only going to need a VET stick in Austria and that's around 10 bucks. As far as tolls, I will map that out sometime this week. I think we'll be ok. I do appreciate everyone advice. Thank you @ Christine. If you want to take the trains and fly. It's ok. we will just meet up in the cities or back in London when we fly in and out. You have a budget too so if you think those fit your budget better please by all means follow your heart. or should i say pocket book hehe.

Posted by
223 posts

I would give a 2nd thought to the train... If you want to embrace the culture, travel how the locals travel and the train plays a major role in that. Some of my favorite memories of different trips involve chats with locals on the train. The train is also my primer time to prepare for the next destination. (More than once the train will pull into a town that catches my eye and I will just bail out and walk around for a few hours if I have time) Awesome.. No parking hassles... Planned well, the train cost is almost always less then driving. I have been made several trips now and I at this point would be surprised if I ever rent a car there again. It simply is too expensive and the hassle of a car is too great besides not wanting to sequester myself from the very place I came to visit. All the places you want to visit are wonderful... You will have a trip you will never forget no matter how you do it but do consider the advice of those who have done similar trips in the past.

Posted by
9834 posts

Christine:
Heidelberg to Rome is an 11 hour drive. Even to Venice it is over 8 hours. You will have a better experience flying or taking a train, IMHO. It's better use of your time to use plane or train. Driving 8 to 11 hours in the US is stressful enough. In Europe there is the added stress of unfamiliar laws and language. Plus renting a car and taking it into Italy is expensive. Good move on limiting your stops to 3 or 4. Happy planning and buon viaggio!

Posted by
5206 posts

Sounds like a fun trip, Christine. Driving Heidelberg to Rome really is NOT such a great idea, especially from the perspective of cost. Gas is around $9/gal, extra vignette fees for driving in Switzerland and Austria are required, and dropping the car in Italy will cost you hundreds of $ in extra fees. Railpasses once were the answer, but you will probably find air travel cheaper and easier overall. I just checked one of the cheap carriers - Ryanair - for Frankfurt Hahn airport (not too far from Heidelberg) in Germany to Rome and found tickets in September for 43 Euros. Flying from Karlsruhe (even closer to Heidelberg) to Rome on Ryanair is cheap too. Prices between Rome and London-Stansted, or between London-Stansted and Frankfurt-Hahn are about the same. Check other carriers at www.whichbudget.com . If the point of driving is to enjoy the countryside and visit some small towns, I'd suggest you do this while you're in Germany, and do it by train. Rail travel there is excellent, and near Heidelberg, there are a lot of interesting destinations. The Rhine Valley villages and castles lie just to the northwest between Mainz and Koblenz. The Black Forest lies just to the south. You can get daypasses costing around 30 Euros for 2-5 people traveling together to explore these regions.

Posted by
23 posts

Russ, you are awesome! It's like you were reading our minds! We are well aware of the distance between Heidelburg & Rome, however, as you said, we really wanted to soak up a little of the countryside, not just fly over it. Your suggestions are an excellent and I'm going to pass it on to my girlfriend. I agree about the car rental fee. Having to pay hundreds of dollars just to drop the car off seems wasteful. Somehow, you don't mind paying for the car while you're using it, but paying not to use it just makes me mad! Thank you for your response!

Posted by
12384 posts

Russ beat me to it. If you want to do a bit of driving in the countryside, Germany (Black Forest, Romantic Road, etc. would be a much better place than Italy, especially for first-time visitors to Europe. My first driving experience in Europe was a weekend trip to Heidelberg. . . 40 years ago! I was the designated driver for a groups of girls as I was the only one who could manage a stick shift. (Something to keep in mind if that is an issue for you and your friend-rental cars with automatic transmission are scarce.) My most recent driving experience in Europe was last summer in Italy. It was VERY stressful and I wish we'd just used the train for that part (an overnight trip to Siena.) In Italy you will see the same countryside from a train window as you will from a car, and be able to enjoy it in relaxation. Also, you do not want to deal with a car while in either Rome or Venice. There are fast trains that connect Rome and Venice. Fly into one and use the other as your departure point back to London by air. And be careful when you that flight; some airlines or flights from Italy use Gatwick instead of Heathrow and the transfer, while possible, is not fun. (Specifically, our flight from Venice to London on British Air used Gatwick and we had to take a bus between the two.) You have a wonderful trip ahead of you!

Posted by
23 posts

Hi Lola! Wow! You guys are great! When I signed up on this forum, I never expected such wonderful support and suggestions. Thank you so much! I still would like to know the best way to get from London to Heidelburg. Any feedback on that issue? Much love to all of you! Christine

Posted by
9 posts

Hi all. I am the second person accompanying Christine on this journey. I appreciate all the advice, but trains are out of the equation. The whole point in driving is to see the countryside and stop when we want to. You can't get that from a train or airplane. The only reason Paris and Venice was in the mix was because we were going to be in Europe and to say "hey we saw that" Now that we revamped the plans. My thought process is (tickets already purchased to London and out of london) After visiting London, take a train to Paris-rent car, drive to heidelberg, then down to Rome-sightseeing inbetween. Then drive back to Paris from Rome-drop off car and take train back to London. I know gas is expensive over there so I booked a deisel engine. I do have one question that i would love to know. The reason I plan on renting car in Paris is because of the wheel on the opposite side of what I'm used to driving. Does anyone know if you can rent a car in London where the steering wheel will be the same as the USA? Because that would save us on the train fares if they did.

Posted by
31303 posts

Christine, The others have already covered a lot of the points I was going to mention, however I have a few additional thoughts. As this is your first trip to Europe, I'd highly recommend reading Europe Through The Back Door prior to your trip. Read the "Rail Skills" chapter carefully. I agree with the others that driving from Heidelberg to Rome is NOT a good idea. To begin with, this is not an efficient use of your very short travel time, and of course there are the other issues with fuel costs, tax stickers in some countries, tolls, parking, etc. In addition, for driving in Italy, each driver will require the compulsory International Driver's Permit (you can be fined on the spot for not providing this if requested) and you'll also have to deal with the dreaded ZTL areas - each violation will result in a €100+ fine! Fast trains would be a much better choice! One thing to keep in mind with a Railpass is that these don't include the reservation fees that are compulsory on some trains. You'd have to pay separately for those. For the few trips you'll be making, P-P tickets are a better idea. I also would have recommended open-jaw tickets, as that would have maximized your touring time. How were you planning to get from Rome back to London? For travel from London to Heidelberg, the quickest method would be one of the budget airlines. It's unfortunate that Paris has been cut, as it's an easy rail trip from there to Heidelberg (about 4H:47M, with at least one change). Note that Euro airlines usually allow only ONE carry-on of the approved size and weight! I might consider also cutting Venice, as it doesn't fit well with the route after Heidelberg. You could use a Euro airline from Frankfurt to Rome, and then back to London. I'll try and look at this in more detail later today. Cheers!

Posted by
5206 posts

"I appreciate all the advice, but trains are out of the equation. The whole point in driving is to see the countryside and stop when we want to. You can't get that from a train." Of course, you CAN see the countryside better from the train, generally, especially if you're the driver, who is watching traffic, and you can stop almost as you please in places where the trains run frequently. I've done so several times in the areas I suggested. But it's very clear from your response that you prefer driving. If you drive back to Paris, you will save drop off fees, but the cost will be much like the cost for driving from Paris to Rome and Venice. Ouch. You'll still need to buy train or flight tickets back to London. If I were in Venice and wanted to get to London, I'd fly. If you found a left-hand-drive car in London (good luck) you'd still have to pay heavily to use the Chunnel or ferry your car over and back. I wouldn't want a car in Rome or Venice, or in Italy at all for that matter, and I wouldn't want to drive out of or into Paris, or all the way back to Paris from Venice, but you do, so I will just wish you an enjoyable journey and make the final suggestion that when you leave Venice, drive to the closest major French city (Lyon?) and fly from there to London. That should save you some $.

Posted by
12384 posts

I don't know where you looked for your train prices, but here is what you can pay if you purchase in advance from the national websites, bahn.de, SBB.ch, and Trenitalia: Heidelberg to Zürich, 34 euro Zürich to Milan, 30 CHF (about 21 euro) Milan to Venice, 15 euro Venice to Rome, 53 euro Total 123 euro each. And there might be cheaper ways, through Austria for example, but I didn't take the time to check. Of course you lose the flexibility of being able to wander at will, but if your goal is actually to see Heidelberg, Venice and Rome in the most economical way, then those prices are hard to beat. You could rent a car at Heidelberg and poke around that part of Germany if you want to explore the countryside, then drop the car and continue on down to Italy by train. I don't know anyone who thinks driving in Italy is their idea of relaxation. It is nice to have a car if you have a base somewhere, like Tuscany, and want to drive the back roads at a leisurely pace, and get lost. But a car isn't the best way to go from Venice to Rome if you want to have any time left to explore the city whan you arrive.

Posted by
4362 posts

OK - to say this trip is in a state of flux is an understatement LOL, but here are some rail prices to consider (knowing full well that many of these legs will be driven...but here they are, anyway, 'cause I have them!): London > Paris: €42,50 and up (2 1/4 hrs) Paris > Rome: €130,00 - 180,00 - Night Train - price depending on accomodations Rome > Venice: €46,00 and up (3 1/2 hrs) Venice > Heid: €39,00 and up (10 and up hrs)
Heid > London: €49,00 and up (8 hrs) These prices are all: (1) advance purchase discount tickets, and (2) 2nd class, with exception of €180,00 N/T for 2 in a comp. (vs 4 in a compartment = €130,00). Typically these discounted tickets need to be purchased 3 months before date of travel; in fact, they usually aren't available for purchase until then, but they can go FAST. AND they are often non-refundable, and/or have severe restrictions on exchanges, etc. But when you get your dates firmed up, these represent HUGE savings if you are willing to buy them. Do the best you can to minimize the car drop-off fee; many pick up a car in (say) France, drive it to the border, then train across the border into the city that makes the most sense over the border (say) of Germany and continue their touring. Your trip will be in flux for a while...that's the way it goes! It will settle down eventually!

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you, Eileen! Good information... and food for thought! I appreciate the research you put into your response, as I do all of those who wrote with actual facts and figures, etc. I know this didn't all come right off the top of your head and I am grateful for your efforts on my and Donna's behalf. As you said, it will all come out right in the end no matter what mode of travel we choose. Bless you all!

Posted by
12384 posts

wow, Eileen-you did better than I did on the prices, using night trains, etc. Good job. Another thing about the car: if you pick it up in Germany, you "can" decline the CDW. But if you were to rent the car in Italy, you must include it. It has something to do with credit cards not insuring cars in Italy, or something. All I know is rental rates are higher if you rent a car in Italy. You "can" avoid that by picking up a car elsewhere and driving it into Italy, but hat does that do to your insurance situation? And if you want to include CDW on the car you pick up in Germany, it will be even higher. Here is the quick comparison I ran on AutoEurope for a 10-day rental on a Ford Focus, pickup and dropoff the same place for simplicity: Germany, no CDW: $510 Italy, incl. CDW $704 Germany, incl. CDW, $849

Posted by
9363 posts

Before you make your final decision about renting a car vs. train, you really need to take a hard look at what it will cost to rent in Paris (or wherever) and drop in Italy. With gas, insurance, the drop fee, etc., it will not be cost-saving or time-saving to drive. And the driver, if they are being suitably cautious, will see virtually nothing of the countryside. But Donna appears to only hear what she wants to hear, and to argue with the experienced travelers who are trying to help, so ultimately there is nothing we can do to advise her.

Posted by
23 posts

Nancy, I think your last remark was out of line. While I know that everyone here is doing their best to give us good advice, and most have gone out of their way to be helpful, no one has made a personal attack on anyone. I think everyone on this forum allows for the fact that we can "agree to disagree". This is just an exchange of ideas. I know most of you have advised against driving, but in the end it will be a personal decision on our part. That is not to say we don't greatly appreciate all the information and advice we have received here. Haven't you ever had a dream of what your ideal vacation would be like? Can you honestly say that your idea of perfect is everyone's idea of perfect? Thank you all for positive feedback.

Posted by
12384 posts

Of course it is a personal decision, and it is yours to make. People here are just trying to help you realize your dream, not match it with their own. But you say you have never been to Europe before, or indeed outside the U.S. This is an ambitious driving trip for anyone in that position. There are aspects to driving in Europe that are different, and in some cases your dream may not match up with reality. The hidden costs of driving include butare not limited to stress, costs for tolls, parking and vignettes, tickets for transgressing ZTL zones, possible scams/theft/accidents, insurance issues, and more, all of which are especially an issue in Italy. Just so you know.

Posted by
2128 posts

Christine, Do you enjoy long driving trips in the US? If so, you will probably be fine with all this driving. If not, please don't think that just because it's Europe it will be magical. It is likely to be more stressful than in the US.

Posted by
839 posts

I am going to agree with most of the posters in saying that you may want to revisit your transportation plans. Think about it, you only have two weeks to basically cross an entire continent. If you are planning to spend any time at all in any of the cities you visit (not to mention having to backtrack from essentially the southernmost point to the northernmost), that doesn't leave you much time to wind your way through the countryside. The scenery and stop-offs that it seems you are looking for are better found on the slower, windy-er country roads, and taking these roads will eat up a lot of time/gas/etc. If you DO want to actually spend time in your chosen cities, what you are left with is a lot of freeway driving. Unless you are a seasoned road tripper who just enjoys looking at long stretches of multi-lane road, you might find yourself a bit disappointed. Europe is, after all, not a magical fairytale land and the freeways don't look all that different from the U.S. Nor are you likely to see many side-of-freeway attractions. Perhaps what you might want to consider is a combination of trains and car rentals? Train/fly to Heidelberg, set up a home base there, and then rent a car for a couple of days to explore the surrounding countryside. Fly/train to Rome/Venice and do the same thing. Again, no one is trying to dictate your trip for you, but as first-time travelers, you might want to create some sort of compromise between what you picture in your head and the reality check offered by these seasoned travelers.

Posted by
5206 posts

donna writes, "...with trains. We can't stop in a small town and have lunch or enjoy a little out the way shop. ... The major tourist traps are not our cup of tea. We want to embrace the culture and see hidden gems of the little towns. I just don't think we can do that from a train." You have based your conclusions on faulty or insufficient information. Germany, for example, has nearly 6,000 train stations; the vast majority are in small towns. Now, it is indeed impossible to get off an express train in some small town at nearly 200 mph between, say, Paris and Rome. But that is why I suggested a train alternative that could possibly work for you. "In addition, I've prices some of these rails and they are crazy money." You no doubt priced them at Rail Europe or some other agency before asking smart people on this board how to find cheap tickets. You decided up front that driving is better for you, and that's fine. It's your trip. But the original question from Christine - which way is best? - is what we've responded to. I'm confident that nearly 100% of the well-traveled on this board would NEVER recommend a car for a London-Heidelberg-Paris-Rome-Venice-London itinerary. For most of us, it borders on insanity. But if you and Donna feel that you can actually visit all these well-separated cities in two weeks to your own satisfaction and still have lots of time to hang out in small towns in between, and you think the highways of Europe are the best way to embrace the culture, then perhaps you are right. My dad thinks a good vacation always involves at least 400 road miles per day. But then, he's never been to Europe. "Heidelberg... Growing up, i've heard countless stories of the city. I MUST go there." Right, and you should. I don't think anyone told you not to go there.

Posted by
23 posts

TO ALL MY NEW-FOUND FRIENDS: I don't know how all this is going to turn out, but I will say this... Anyone fortunate enough to stumble onto this thread is going to be blessed with a wealth of information and options for their travel plans. You guys are amazing! Donna is at work right now and so is unable to respond to these posts. I'm sure when she gets home tonight she will go through them and at the very least, if we opt to drive anyway, we will know what we are up against. The last time I spoke to her, which was shortly after she posted her last comment, she indicated that she had come up with a plan, but was unable to elaborate due to being at work. Thank you all for sharing your knowledge and views.

Posted by
31303 posts

Christine, I have to agree with a lot of the thoughts Russ posted in his last reply. Driving and having lunch in small towns is certainly nice if you have the time, but in a 14-day time frame I really don't think you'll have the luxury for that approach. Keep in mind that you'll lose two days in travel, and will arrive in Europe the day after you depart and the last day will be spent on the flight home. In your original Itinerary, you listed five locations to visit in a 12-day time frame, which is an average of 2.4 days each with NO allowance for travel times. I'm sure everyone will be interested to see Donna's revised Itinerary. Hope you'll let us know how the trip turns out after you return. Cheers!

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you, Ken! And to all who so willingly and generously gave of your time and expertise. Your input and suggestions are invaluable. As far as I know, the trip has been revised and is pretty much down to three countries... London, Heidelburg, Rome. Now it's just a question of how best to navigate between the three and get the most "bang for our buck" in the alotted time frame. I will most definitely keep you all apprised of our final plans, and be sure to let you know how it all went down when we return. If anyone thinks of anything further to add, please do not hesitate to do so. Warm regards to ALL!

Posted by
9363 posts

Christine, I apologize if you felt that my comment was out of line. I was merely trying to express, as Russ did so much better, that you asked for options but had already made your decision, and nothing anyone else said was apparently going to change that. It is always a struggle here to inject a little reality into a first-timer's plan, and sometimes posters do get a little defensive about their plans when they are questioned or criticized. But you asked for options, and people gave them to you. I don't see any comments here that support driving all that way, and everyone who has responded to you has actually driven in the various parts of Europe that you intend to see. To do the drive in the best possible time you will have to stay on the freeways, which look remarkably like our interstates - you don't see towns along the way, you skirt around them. To be able to see the little towns you talk about, you would have to take smaller, more time-consuming roads and you just don't have that kind of time. I hope you can find a plan for your trip that allows you to have the experience you want.

Posted by
23 posts

No need to apologize, Nancy. I understand everyone's frustration with us "newbies" to the travel world!
It's just that Donna has worked so hard on this, and has really put forth a tremendous amount of effort, while I get a headache just trying to read some of these websites! She has really done the lions share of the work, no doubt about it. And I just felt bad when you said that. Here's where I believe the general misconception comes in. We really aren't interested in doing the standard tourist thing. For instance, going to the Sistine Chapel, which I'm told you couldn't see all of, if you spent the entire two weeks there! Sure, we will probably try to see part of it, as well as other major sights along the way, but what we really want to do is drive around like a local. If I remember the itinerary correctly, I think the plan is to spend a day or so in London when we arrive, 3 - 4 days in Heidelburg, and 3 - 4 days in Rome. Based on what I have read here, I think that's doable. Maybe not, but we can always revise our schedule when we get there (I hope!) Anyway, thanks so much for writing back. I appreciate you doing that, and it makes me feel good to be in the company of such nice people. As my grandkids would say "You Rock!"

Posted by
9 posts

WoW! Here's what I've found. Rental car from Paris and dropping off in Paris is 313.00 total-USD. I figured we are doing about 1600 miles(rounded up) with an average of 7.00 USD a gal for gas(part of me thinks that might be low but I ran out of time and couldn't find an d price) It came to about $700 in fuel cost(rounding up) So roughly a grand for transportation-which is about 500 a piece. It's gonna cost us about a grand a piece if we go trains/planes. So unless I am way off on my figures, it's still the cheapest and the funnest way. And to the lady who said I only hear and see what I want to see-and wants to argue. No one is arguing, i'm just trying to get my thoughts across so people can understand why I don't want to take a train. I'd appreciate you not jumping to conclusions and making assumptions about me. I have thanked everyone for their advice and imput. This isn't something I planned overnight. I been reading and studying this trip for 2 years. I've known many people who have visited Europe and wished they had rented a car to see more of the country instead of flying into city after city. I have several more months to finalize everything and no matter what our desicion we will still have a blast.
Arrivederci

Posted by
12040 posts

Changing the subject slightly... if you do decide to drive in and around Heidelberg, let me offer some advice so you can avoid getting a speeding ticket. On A656 (the autobahn connection between Mannheim and Heidelberg), as you approach the city, when you see the city limit sign, lower your speed to 50 km/hr (many travelers to Europe don't realize that besides announcing what town you're in, they also obligate you to drive at city speeds). There is no speed limit sign to indicate otherwise, and there's a speed camera just beyond the sign. If you're not paying active attention, it will nail you. When you decide exactly what you want to do and how many days you want to spend in Heidelberg, I can chime back in with some ideas of what to see in the area, most of which you won't find in any English language guidebook.

Posted by
2349 posts

Please read over this older thread about driving in Italy: http://www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm?fuseaction=readtopic&topicID=11269&page=3 You may need to adjust your car budget accordingly. Also, have you factored tolls into your budget? Parking fees while you are in Rome? To me, the appeal of having lunch in a small town on the way pales in comparison to the likelihood reality of being tired of driving while still having hours to go, the frustration of finding my way around a city like Rome, etc. Before you make a final decision, put it all down on paper. Not the costs, the time. How long will it take to get to the rental agency? Look up drive times online, and add good cushions to the estimates. How long to find parking. How long to get from parking on the outskirts of the city to your hotel near the center. And after all that, how long does that leave you for actual fun? Are you going to Europe to drive, or to see things?

Posted by
2780 posts

Hmmmm. Where did you get your mileage? I found this question fascinating, as we visit France and Italy as a family of 4, so driving "might" be cost effective for us. But I'm quite sure we still do better by train, all things considered. Google maps says it is 1400 km (840 miles) just from Heidelberg to Rome (one way). So it must be considerable more than that if you start in Paris, and use the back roads. You'll end up driving most every day, but if that's the kind of trip you want, go go it.

Posted by
9 posts

@Tom. Thanks for the heads up. My idea really is to get to the hotel and park the car. The hotels we've choosen have either free parking or atleast on site parking. Once in the city, we plan on walking or using public transportation-maybe a taxi or two(not many if we can help it) All the hotels are in the city centers so i'm hoping to walk most of it. @Karen and Sasha
We aren't driving straight shots. It will be broken up into segments. And my numbers may be off slightly. It was just a quick look while I was at work. I did price the VET, but I have not GPS'ed the route yet to see how many tolls I will need to pass through-so those have not been taken into account yet. In my head, I'm thinking the toll fares would be close the cost of tolls in the USA(3-5 dollars). Hopefully that's the case. also, the tolls I'm used to are one way tolls-is that true for Europe?

Posted by
12384 posts

"the tolls I'm used to are one way tolls-is that true for Europe?" The only place I'm familiar with for tolls is Italy on the autostrada. You go through a toll booth and they hand you a ticket that shows where you entered the system. You pay when you exit, according to the number of kilometers you have driven on that road. We never loked up the cost per km so it was always a surprise. But some were in the 7 to 10 euro range.

Posted by
12040 posts

I haven't been following this thread close enough to see all your details (like where you're picking up the car)... but there are no tolls in Germany or Austria... although you need to purchase a vignette sticker to drive on the autobahn in Austria. France does have tolls, although I don't recall any sense of shock after paying them, so they're probably fairly reasonable. And I wouldn't have a clue about Italy.

Posted by
9363 posts

www.viamichelin.com will give you an idea of the true toll costs along a particular route. You can't assume they will be anything like here. Though I know you're not going there, tolls in Spain, for example, were upwards of 11 euros for an hour-long stretch of autoroute in the north.

Posted by
9 posts

Ty all for the input-it really helps.
@Nancy thank you for the site to look up tolls. I'm on my way now to check it out.

Posted by
9 posts

@Nancy. WOW! Thanks again for the site. It calculates everything-even the fuel cost.

Posted by
638 posts

Christine and Donna, do you plan on stopping in French villages from Paris to H-berg? Are you still going to Paris, I'm so confused :) Anyway, if not, fly from Paris to H-berg, as the scenery is boring. I've made that trip lots of times-yuck. Or train it, which is nice, and then rent a car in Germany. If driving, you might want to think about getting off the main toll roads and going to Dijon, and some of the other little towns. If driving/Chunneling from London to Paris, think about Normandy. Personally, you can spend 2 weeks easy in England and France, and come back another time to Germany and Italy. As Rick says...assume it won't be your last trip. The only extra expense really will be the plane ticket, and if you come later in the fall, or early in spring, it will be cheaper. Just a thought... Jo on the Western Europe site lives in Frankfurt and will have LOTS of ideas of things to do in Heidelberg and surrounding areas, esp F-furt! Heidelberg is really nice, you'll like it. There's a fest in September where they light up the castle at night and shoot fireworks, not sure of the date or the name of it, google it. Great sight/fun from a boat--think you might need reservations. Jo or the other guy who said he knew the area will know. Start increasing your drinking tolerance now if you drink-you'll want to sample lots and lots of beer and wine! Sept is fest season! Keep us updated please!!

Posted by
638 posts

Duh, just re-read your last post. OK,so much for Normandy!

Posted by
23 posts

Hello Again, Everyone! Lola... yesterday, at 1:21PM you posted this..... I don't know where you looked for your train prices, but here is what you can pay if you purchase in advance from the national websites, bahn.de, SBB.ch, and Trenitalia: Heidelberg to Zürich, 34 euro Zürich to Milan, 30 CHF (about 21 euro) Milan to Venice, 15 euro Venice to Rome, 53 euro Total 123 euro each. And there might be cheaper ways, through Austria for example, but I didn't take the time to check. Please tell me where you got that information and those prices. We are now considering taking the train to Rome from Heidelburg (just to see how that would work out financially and time-wise). I am so bad at trying to search for this information. The only thing I came up with would cost us over $1,000! Just to go one-way, one day! I KNOW I'm doing something wrong, but I don't know where to look! Also, I read somewhere that a train ride like that would take 14 hours! Is that right? I was able to find a flight from London to Frankfort (don't know how far that is from Heidelburg) for $100. We thought we might rent a car at that airport and tool around Germany, then return the car to Frankfort and hop on a train to Rome. I also found a flight from Rome back to London for $115. But the train thing has me stumped! I know you guys are probably over this whole debacle by now, but if you could advise me on this one last thing I won't bother you anymore. Well, maybe, but not much! Thanks,
Christine

Posted by
12384 posts

No worries, we are happy to help. My trips usually go through several iterations before we decide. You have lots of time to figure this out. I chose that particular route based on good discounts that I know are available ( like Zurich to Milan for 30 chf instead of 86). There may be others and better ones. I chose a date about 58 days in the future as that is most likely to still have discounted fares. Heidelberg to Zurich for 39 euro is from the German website, www.bahn.de. This is a " Europa Spezial Schweitz" fare in 2d class. Journey time is 3.5 hr. Zurich to Milan for 25 CHF is from the Swiss rail site, www.sbb.ch. We used this Sparangebot fare last year. Journey time is 3.75 hr. Milan to Venice for 15 euro is a Mini fare from the Italian website, www.trenitalia.com. Travel time is 2.5 hr. Venice to Rome price of 61 euro is also a Mini fare. Journey time is 3.75 hr. Note that bothnthis and the Milan to Venice run are on the fast and direct Eurostar Italia trains, so no change of trains involved. Allmof these fares are limited and must be purchased in advance. They are non- refundable and most cannot be changed. I was listing these thinking you would stop along the way, in Venice for sure and maybe another. If you did it straight through it would be a long daybook 13.5 hours on trains plus waiting time to connect at Zurich, Milan and Venice. There is also the option of a night train if you want to go from Heidelberg straight to Rome. The train starts at Munich so you would drive there and drop the car. The Europa Spezial fare from Munich to Rome is 119 euro per person for a private 2-person Economy Double sleeping compartment. That is on the Bahn.de website. That is a total of 238 for the 2 of you so better than the total of the special daytime fares I found, plusnyou avoid the cost of one night's hotel. On the other hand, you miss a lot of scenery.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you, Lola! You are a gem! Quick question.... Are these websites you mentioned written in English???? Also, you mentioned that you thought we would be stopping along the way. Can we do that? Get off the train, tour around a little and then get back on another train? Can we do that even if it's the next day? That would be awesome! I agree with you about the night train. Nice idea, but we would miss seeing everything in beween, which is the whole point, really. We will definitely explore these websites you mentioned. Thanks again.... for everything!

Posted by
3696 posts

Just a thought as you now seem to be changing plans a bit... I am definitely a 'car person' and have driven thousands of miles in Europe, but when I saw your original plan even I felt it was a disaster. But, I am also a very independent traveler and totally understood your idea of wanting the freedom to stop when and where you want. I love the little towns and cafes and allowing for serendipity to guide me...I even love the Italian, Germany and French rest areas along the freeway. If you make the change to fly from London to Frankfurt or Heidelberg and rent a car there and just travel Germany with your vehice I think you will be so much happier. I have driven in so many cities, but would not want to drive in Rome if I could avoid it. Sometimes people who do not like to drive in Europe cannot understand those of us who have done many trips this way and would not change a thing. I sometimes use trains when I feel it is warranted, but I can tell you that if I travel with a friend and we split the cost it was cheaper than the train, given our itinerary.
Plus, I do not like to plan it all out.... I really just prefer to wing it most of the time.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you, Terry! You are the first person who really seems to understand our desire to drive. Your advice is excellent and just plain makes sense. But someone please tell me... WHAT THE HECK IS IT ABOUT ROME? Almost everyone, without exception, has advised us not to drive in Rome (or the whole of Italy, for that matter). What's the story? Are these people all crazy drivers? Or is it so congested that it makes driving from point A to point B impossible? What? Thanks again for your input. I'm so glad I found this forum! You guys are great!

Posted by
12384 posts

To answer your questions, yes, the websites are available in English. For Bahn.de, look along the top near the right side for a little flag. There is a drop down menunof flags representing various languages. For Trenitalia, look along the top again. If it says Italiano, click there and you can choose English. Fornthr Swiss site. Www.rail.ch will take you straight to English. As for stopping along the way where you chose, unfortunately you cannot do that with these discount tickets, which go from citybto city in one straight journey. I was thinking you were following your original plan of stopping in Venice, and then suggested a route that would also include a stop in Zurich to breakmup the journey. But a better way would be a Europa Spezial ticket from Heidelberg to Luzern (49 euro) which is a charming city on a beautiful lake, nice for an overnight. Then you can get a special ticket on the Swiss site from Luzern to Venice for 52 euro. Another option would be to use the Zurich to Milan ( or luzern to Milan) route and get off the train one stop early, at Como on Lake Como. Overnight there or catch a ferry to a lakeside town nearby. The point is just that taking the train gives younlots of options for wayside stops, but it does take a bit of research and planning tomdomit economicallynwith the discount tickets.

Posted by
23 posts

Great Information, Lola! How did you get so smart? :>) I certainly think we have all the information we need now, thanks to all of you. Now all that remains is to weigh all the pros and cons and make a decision. THANK YOU.... THANK YOU..... THANK YOU!

Posted by
638 posts

Hi ladies! Yes, Rome is horrible to drive in, really all the big cities in Italy. They drive fast, run certain lights/stopsigns, motorcycles and mopeds zip around, in between, and HONK! I thought I would have no problem with Rome when I drove there the 1st time, I'd lived in Europe, Japan, driven lots of places. I was shaking by the time we got to our hotel. So much that I couldn't even get into the tight parking space and the hotel owner had to do it. DO NOT drive in Rome. You'll see what everyone means when you try to walk around there-keep your eyes open!!

Posted by
12384 posts

Here's another option. Fly to Frankfurt, pick up the car and drive in Germany, seeing Heidelberg and finishing in Munich. Train from there to Venice, breaking up the trip with an overnight in Bolzano and maybe one in Verona. Pick up another car when you leave Venice and drive to Rome. Drop it off outside Rome. You really do not want to drive in the cities in Italy. I'll let others explain why.

Posted by
9 posts

Ok Christine -here's an idea. Let's trade our tickets in for tickets to Hawaii, 7 Mumu dresses and all the Maithai we can drink. Maybe rent us a sexy islander to fan us with Palm leaves. hahaha

Posted by
9 posts

@Nancy. Please forgive my snippyness. This has been an emotional roller coaster. I thought I had everything figured out and now it's all a shambles. If i was 18 years old agian, i would just backpack and hostel it.

Posted by
129 posts

Not sure if this was mentioned, but I think it would be best that you fly back to London. Check out easy jet as well, they have great deals and fly all over Europe for cheap. You can also try eurocheapo.com. OR consider changing your return flight. I'm sure there's plenty of flights from Europe to LA. Yeah, 2 weeks is not much time. Probably try to pare down the cities, maybe London, Paris, Rome. Or cut out Paris, and save it for another time.

Posted by
23 posts

Donna... YOU PROMISED ME EUROPE AND WE'RE GOING TO EUROPE, DAGUMMIT! I don't care if we travel around by car, train, plane or rickshaw! We're going!

Posted by
4362 posts

from Donna: "I thought I had everything figured out..." OK - raise your hand if you DON'T know this feeling. (I don't see anything...) Don't worry - it'll shake out; you've got some time...

Posted by
2349 posts

Just for fun, go to youtube.com, type in driving in Italy, and spend a few minutes watching the various videos.

Posted by
26079 posts

Ron in Rome can give lots of great information about Rome and the vicinity. A number of his gems of wisdom can be explored here , and be sure to follow the various links. That may help answer your questions about why we counsel you to consider very carefully before you try it, and yes as a European, I do drive and do drive in Rome. I would never recommend it to somebody who has not already become very familiar with European and Italian driving.

Posted by
638 posts

I have to chime in on the driving in Europe. One thing you asked about, a website in english, the street signage is totally different in Europe than you are used to in the U.S. Not only (obviously) in the language of the said country you're in but the location of the signage is sometimes difficult to find, often times on the side of a building. Last summer while driving in Germany my most stressful moments were trying to find my way around a town and trying to find a particular street. Many of the streets were designed and layed out long before cars were ever thought of, to understand that one has to experience it. To arrive in Rome and try and navigate to a particular hotel will be a nightmare IMHO. Also, by being in a car you'll be isolating yourself from a unique opportunity of meeting the people who live there. One of my favorite Rick Steves travel clips is him attempting to walk across the street in Naples, head on a swivel, looking every which way, his point being, the drivers in Italy have different rules of the road than Americans are used to. As others have posted get a car in Germany but leave it in Germany. This also goes without saying the posts on this board by people who thought it was a good idea to drive in Italy only to get a special letter from Italy after returning home and finding out they broke a traffic law, entering an area off limits to cars, simply because they couldn't read the signage. And it wasn't just one ticket they got, it was multiple and expensive!

Posted by
4362 posts

"Just for fun, go to youtube.com, type in driving in Italy, and spend a few minutes watching the various videos." Noooo! You can't make me, Karen LOL !!! Too scary !!! It's scary enough to WALK in Italian cities...on the sidewalk LOL!

Posted by
23 posts

Nigel, I went to "Ron in Rome" as you suggested. What an amazing wealth of information! This guy explains everything in a sane and articulate manner (also scares the crap out of you!) I have passed the website information on to Donna, so she will know what to expect, and hopefully avoid the pitfalls. The first thing we're going to do is make sure our hotel is NOT in a ZTL! (if it is, we'll make the proper arrangements way ahead of time). We are not planning to drive IN Rome, just drive TO Rome and leave our car in the parking garage (the hotel has free parking). We won't be using the car again until we leave Rome, so that's one thing in our favor. Thank you so much for the tip!

Posted by
31303 posts

Christine & Donna, You may find that the trip will be much less stressful and more enjoyable if you travel mostly by train (preferably fast trains), and use cars "strategically" for short sections. In deciding the best method, consider not only the costs but also the most efficient use of your very limited travel time (you did ask for the "cheapest, fastest, most effective way to travel"). Cheers!

Posted by
26079 posts

You have asked about the tolls. Last year we spent €108 one way in tolls from Calais to Nice, just short of the Italian border. We used a Liber-T box which is itemized. From Metz or Strasbourg to Calais my memory is faulty but I think it is around €26 to €30.

Posted by
1064 posts

Christine and Donna, As you sort out your travel plans, here are some suggestions that will not require you sacrificing your dream of a European road trip. First, prioritize your objectives. London has to be #1 unless you change your airline tickets. What is your #2 objective: Heidelberg, Paris, Rome, Venice? Then pick #3, #4, etc., then reduce the list to three destinations. (Both 2 & 3 have to be either north of the Alps or south of the Alps for this to work.) Your original itinerary closely followed that of the Griswalds in National Lampoon's European vacation. And they did not have to drive back to London from Rome. On a trip of less than two weeks, your dream could turn into a nightmare, and the two of you may no longer be friends afterward. If you do include Italy, I would recommend flying into Rome from London, renting a car outside the city for three or seven days, returning the car outside Venice and flying back to London from there. That would require research on intra-European airlines, but you have the time. Personally, my choice would be train to Paris, renting a car for seven days outside Paris (or at one of the airports if you need an automatic transmission – that also goes for Rome), driving through Alsace to Strasbourg then across the border and along the Rhine to Heidelberg and exploring western Germany with that city as one stop or a base. Return the car in France and train back to London. But these are just suggestions. Set your priorities and plan from there, and you will have a great trip.

Posted by
188 posts

Donna and Christine, My husband and I have driven in Europe for different reasons: one was to enjoy the small towns and stop when we wanted. However, here are some lessons we have learned that you may find helpful. Signage is very different! When the road takes you to the town centre, keep going straight if your town or route is not listed. On a roundabout, if you don't see your destination listed, only go around 3 times max before turning off somewhere;-) Sometimes, when you are in a town, you can SEE where you need to go but you can't DRIVE there because of the one way streets. Do NOT drive in the fast lane on the highways-it's a quick in and out back to the slow lane. Small scenic roads in France: oncoming drivers cross the centre line around the corners. Yikes! Your trip may take a lot longer because you are stuck behind a truck. After taking a 4 hour not so scenic drive after all, we decided the next time to drive an hour on the freeway and then stop for 3 hours in a small town and discover it on foot! In Northern Italy: when a car is behind you, that is your signal to drive on the narrow shoulder so that he can get around you by making 3 lanes out of two - even with oncoming traffic! We never considered driving further south! Some of this may be considered tongue in cheek - but we experienced it all! You sound like you have done a lot of preparations for your trip. Check out the driving differences, too. Lots of good suggestions given above. You will probably enjoy driving in Germany. Gathering info and making decisions can be the hardest part of a trip. Have fun whatever you decide!

Posted by
23 posts

Hi EVERYONE! Well, the plans aren't final yet, but I thought I would let you know where we stand as of right now. We have taken all your suggestions (and we have listened!). We figure it's highly unlikely that EVERYONE on this forum is mistaken about the driving issue. And we're pretty sure it's not a conspiracy among you all to keep us off the roads in Europe! So here is what we've decided to do (tentatively) FLY from London to Heidelburg ((actually Frankfort). Rent a car there and drive to Heidelburg. Stay a few days, drive around, see the sights and tour a little of the countryside. Then return the car to Frankfort, and fly to Rome. MAYBE rent a car for a day in Rome and tour the outskirts of the city just to see what we can see. Still a strong maybe . Stay in Rome a few days and then fly to Paris for a day or two. Then take the train back to London and stay for two days. Then catch our flight back to San Francisco. What do you think? Nothing is hammered out in concrete yet, but we think this might be the best use of our time and money. As always, suggestions welcome! Warm regards to all! Christine

Posted by
2297 posts

Before I give you any "advice" let me explain where that's coming from. I grew up in Germany and got my driver's licence there - at the cost of $2K due to the number of mandatory driving lessons and theory classes required by law. I've driven many thousand km (you won't see any signage in miles!) and even when I go back to visit family we usually opt to take a car. Because most of the time we can borrow it for free and only have to pay for gas, parking and tolls. However, even with an almost free car I'd never do the kind of road trip you proposed at the beginning of this thread. Here's why: It's based on the following assumptions from reading Christine's and Donna's comments so please correct me if I'm wrong there. - your flights are booked arriving in and leaving from London - you're not really interested in big city tourist sites - the exception from above is Rome which is a life-long dream and has to be included - you like driving through the country side and stop in some smaller out of the way places
- time for the trip is only 2 weeks - you are on a somewhat limited budget though what that means exactly is not clear

Posted by
2297 posts

cont.: Some thoughts to keep in mind about driving in Europe: - The signage is very different but the vast majority do not require language skills as they are pictures. there are many websites out there where you can learn the signage here is one: http://german.about.com/library/blauto_traf.htm - Driving in big cities is a nightmare due to crowded streets and lack of parking. Here is a little video that describes very well driving in Italy and from having driven there (NOT in Rome!!!!) I can say it's not an exaggeration
http://youtu.be/nQWNGLv8w74 - Driving in the country or on highways (e.g. autostrada in Italy, autobahn in Germany) can be fun. Keep in mind, especially in Germany, that you do not drive in the left lane unless you want to pass. Passing in the right lane is prohibited!!!

Posted by
2297 posts

cont. soooooooooo, after I finally managed to post all this you come along and post a revised itinarary that looks exactly like what I would have proposed ;-) Great job!!! My only concern is that you might find that you'll run out of time at the end and might prefer to fly from Rome to London without the detour via Paris. That might depend on how much time you want to spend at each destination. London could deserve more than 1-2 days even if you're not into big cities. When I went we stayed in Greenwich which has more of a small town feel but with the underground you're in the heart of London in minutes. Or take a boat or train ride out to Hampton Court or .... it all depends on what you like. What I want to say is that you can spend a lot of time at each of your destinations exploring and savouring your stay. You don't need to cram in additional destinations to have a great trip.

Posted by
23 posts

Hello Beatrix, I am a little confused by your post. Did you post it before or after I made my last comment? Are you telling us we should or should not drive? First you tell us that even you as an experienced driver in Europe you would not undergo a trip such as ours. Then you go on the say driving in Italy and Germany is fun ! In my last post, I thought I made it pretty clear that we have decided to severely curtail our original driving plans, and the only place we were definitely going to rent a car, was in and around Heidelburg. MAYBE Rome. We'll decide that when we get there and get a feel for it. But even then, we don't want to tackle the city of Rome. Just the outskirts. In any case, I greatly appreciate the tips on those websites and will check them out. Thank you for your comments.

Posted by
23 posts

Hi again Beatrix! Okay. Now I understand! We must have posted at the same time! I'm glad you think we are heading in the right direction. Paris is still a big MAYBE. The only reason we decided to squeeze in Paris at all is because Donna wants to ride the train through the tube under the water! She thought it would be cool! I am originally from New York, and have driven through the Holland Tunnel and Lincoln Tunnel more times than I can count. It's no big deal for me, but Donna has never been on a subway or through an underwater tunnel and she wants to experience it. As I said, nothing is finalized yet, but we're getting there! I'm sure this trip will be tweaked over and over again until we're both cross-eyed! Thanks again!

Posted by
31303 posts

Christine, Your latest Itinerary looks much more reasonable, however a few additional comments. As you're planning to take a couple of Euro flights, I'd suggest booking those as soon as possible. Some airlines use a "sliding scale", with the prices increasing as the flight fills. You might also want to do some research on which airlines to use, as some of the "budgets" operate from somewhat remote airports. Some advertise very low prices but have numerous additional charges (ie: luggage) so the costs can add up quickly. One other point to note is that many airlines in Europe allow only one carry-on item. That doesn't mean "one plus a personal item such as a purse or Laptop case", it means ONE ONLY of the approved size and weight. Be sure to check the "Terms & Conditions" and luggage rules on their website when you book the flights. Cheers!

Posted by
26079 posts

Christine and Donna I think you have really hit it now. I know we all stand around with menacing big sticks and keep hitting you until things sink it. Its all done with the best of intentions and I am so proud of the both of you for allowing us to, and listening. I really like what you two have come up with and it makes me confident that you will be able to have a happy relaxing trip, do what you have come to do, and go home with a smile on your faces. Who knows, you may pop up in a few months with advice for us. Well done, and happy trails!!

Posted by
116 posts

Christine, I live in Germany near the Czech border. Last year we drove to Italy. I am not a seasoned traveler - but I have been to some of the places on your list. We drove from Germany to Italy through the Brenner Pass - It was breathtakingly beautiful! Wow. I can give you a link to my pictures if you want to see them. You do have to stop and get your vignette - we stopped at one of the cute touristy restaurant stops prior to crossing the border. Also, have Euros on you - I recall the toll fees were costly. There are Esso gas stations along the way. I find that big rigs in Germany have to drive slower and stay in the slow lane unless passing - Staying in the 'slow' lane is a big deal here unless you are passing. I find drivers on the German autobahn mostly polite. Watch the speed limits because they will snap photos and send you tickets. It was IMMEDIATELY apparent when we entered Italy. Many of the drivers were aggressive and impatient. I live here in Europe and it scares me to drive in Italy! I do have friends who live or have lived in Italy and they are OK with driving there. Just try not to get flustered when cars ride up on the rear of your car and gesticulate.
I can not emphasize enough that you get a GPS - I would not drive without one here - ours has been a lifesaver. ... are you sure you want to cut out Paris????? ... why Heidelberg - have you considered the romantic road and seeing Rothenberg and Neuschwanstein? ... Venice is so surreal - worth the train trip out there. I am sooooo excited for you to be seeing Europe! I have found that a good way to end a day is a dinner-boat cruise :o)

Posted by
1064 posts

Congratulations. Your plan looks doable and should allow you to have a fun vacation. If you prefer Rome to Paris – I don't, but it is your trip – dropping Paris would give you an extra day for driving in Tuscany. If you do drive in Italy, get full CDW insurance coverage for the car; parking places tend to be very narrow and the rental car companies are notorious for using any ding or scratch to increase their profit margin. A trick some Italian agencies use is to charge you up to but not above the deductible. Also, for all your driving, buy or borrow from a friend a GPS loaded with European maps and practice using it before you go. Good luck with your planning. PS: The spelling police will soon be coming after you for misspelling Frankfurt (am Main), not to mention Heidelberg. But I have never actually heard of anyone buying a ticket for the German city and ending up in Kentucky instead. :)

Posted by
12040 posts

Now that I see you have come up with a plan for Heidelberg, allow me to make some suggestions in the immediate area. I'll just list the towns. You can research them and see which one's interest you. Any drive through the Odenwald will be stunningly scenic, no matter which route you take: Lorsch, Heppenheim, Lindenfels, Michelstadt, Erbach, Schwetzingen, Speyer, Bensheim, Hirschhorn, Ladenburg.

Posted by
23 posts

OMG Roy! I can't believe I misspelled Frankfurt and Heidelberg! I always pride myself on my spelling and punctuation, and try really hard to make sure it's always correct. And what's more, I KNOW the proper spelling of those cities! I'm so embarrassed! Well, that's what happens when you get old! It's not that we prefer Rome to Paris, it's just that Rome was a MUST SEE for Donna, and I'm okay with that. The truth is, we don't want to have any regrets about what we missed, and to say later on that we went to Europe, but didn't see Paris seems almost criminal! The same would be true if we went to Paris and bypassed Rome. So we're trying to squeeze in both. It may be unrealistic, but we're gonna try! As far as Tuscany is concerned, I personally would LOVE to see that area. I'm just not sure how far it is from Rome and if it's doable in a day trip. Again, more planning is needed. Thanks for the tip on the insurance and GPS. Donna has already decided to purchase a GPS for our trip, so that issue is resolved. to be continued..........

Posted by
23 posts

for some reason I had to post this in two segments..... Patty, thanks for the driving tips in Italy. Donna has also been reading up on all the requirements. The reason for Heidelberg is that it's her mother's birthplace and she has always wanted to visit there. I don't know anything about those other cities you mentioned and will have to check them out. Are they in driving distance from Heidelberg? Venice was originally on our itinerary, but due to time constraints, we eliminated it. Could we take a train from Rome to Venice for the day? How long a trip is it? What is the approximate cost for the train? And what's this about a "dinner-boat cruise"? That sounds lovely. Where do we find one of those? How much? (Oh dear, here I go again, adding more stuff!) Nigel, thanks for the thumbs up on our plans! I think it's finally coming together, thanks in no small part, to all of the wonderful advice and suggestions we've gotten on this forum. Love to All!

Posted by
2128 posts

Christine, I think your new itinerary is good. It's a huge improvement IMO, and I think you'll really enjoy your trip. Be careful about listening to every person who suggests another place to go. You simply cannot see everything in Europe that is worth seeing. You have good reasons for going every place you have chosen, so stick to your guns. If you decide to eliminate one (such as Paris) to allow for more days somewhere else, that's fine, but don't try adding anything more. For the record, I adore Paris. I hope you have a wonderful trip!