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Three weeks, five countries - Part 1

I recently completed three weeks in Europe (July 15th – August 6th) covering five countries living out of one carry-on bag. I thought I would share lessons learned and maybe provide some hints and tricks that might help someone else in planning a trip. Travel is personal, what works for one person would never work for someone else. We all know that there are several very opinionated frequent posters on this forum that want to try and tell you how you should travel. Not me, just sharing my adventures and miss-adventures. I hope maybe to help at least one person.
Itinerary: Florida, Washington DC (Dulles), Paris France, Munich Germany, Lindau Germany, Schaffhausen Switzerland, Bregenz Austria, Vaduz Liechtenstein, Oberammergau Germany, Salzburg Austria, Vienna Austria, Berlin Germany, Newark, NJ, Florida.
We had the option of a tight one hour connection Florida/Dulles or Five hour layover. Flying business class on United we opted for the five hour layover knowing we could relax in the Polaris lounge in Dulles. Given flight delays, etc. this was a smart move. The Polaris lounge has very good food, drinks and wi-fi. They even have showers so you can get a fresh shower before the overnight flight.
General Tips:
Tip: You want to try and get some sleep on the overnight flight so if you can fly business class even in one direction do so or at least get a bulkhead seat for extra room to try and get some rest to enjoy a full day in Europe upon your arrival.
Tip: Prior to arrival find a laundry mat near where you are staying, many have drop off service or long operating hours. Pack lightly and just do laundry.
Tip: Pack wrinkle free clothes as much as possible
Tip: Locate a local grocery store if even just for drinks and snacks.
Tip: Make an itinerary and note the sunrise/sunset times to help plan your days
Tip: If you take daily med’s, vitamins etc. use plastic pill packets (mini ziplocks) that you can write the date on. Place them a sandwich size ziplock, this saves some nice space.
Tip: We used rail Europe to book train tickets. Try and avoid making tight connections, get direct if you can. I highly recommend booking first class in advance.
Tip: Camera of choice Canon Eos Rebel
Tip: Carry on of choice “Genius Pack”
Tip: Need a quick/fast cheap meal check out the train stations
Tip; Be honest with yourself about type of tourist you are, do you read the information as you go through a museum or exhibit say at Dachau or do you just look and walk through. There is no right answer, but it helps determine time needed.
Tip: If you are going to rent a car and have time turn off highway, vignette, etc. so that your directions stick to secondary roads for a scenic drive
Tip; Carry a few Euro coins for paying to get into the toilets where needed
BIGGEST MISTAKE MADE: I purchased a sim card through, they have the world’s worst customer service and rip you off on data. I am not a heavy data user yet even with their packages they constantly are saying I ran out. Avoid them at all cost!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Covid: Leaving US just had to upload documents to United site, upon arrival in France no one asked about documents. France – No restrictions of any kind anywhere, Germany – Masks on public transportation and in some tourist sights, Austria – Mask on public transportation, Switzerland and Lichtenstein no restrictions.
Customs in Paris: It took ten minutes at best, very easy!

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Part 2
Paris, France:
Tip: I pre-ordered a 1-5 zone metro pass online for the number of days we were in Paris. No hassles or worries just hop on and hop off any metro, RER, etc. including going outside the city to the airport or Versailles. It is well worth it.
Tip: Even with a metro pass you will walk and walk, so get comfortable CLOSED toe shoes. Many places you will be walking on either dirt (Versailles Gardens) or have tiny gravel such as parks. Sandals etc. your feet will get filthy.
Catching the RER into the city and transferring to the metro is very easy from Charles De Gaulle airport. That said you walk about a mile in Charles De Gaulle airport from customs to the RER.
TIP: Order/book as many online tickets as possible ahead of time and try and get the first slot. See below for more info.
Paris: OMG this was my first visit ever and I am in love! We stayed at the Marriot Champs-Elysees, great location and hotel but Paris has a fantastic metro so staying on the out skirts of the main city is no issue to get a far better rate.
- Walked the Latin Quarter and Mouffetard market, highly recommend for great wines, cheese and pasties.
- Dinner cruise, I know many say no way but we did the cruise on Bateaux Parisiens which we caught right by the Eiffel tower. The food, service and wine were top notched and then we went to the Eiffel tower.
- Eiffel Tower – Book as far in advance as possible see their website. I booked 30 minutes prior to sunset to the top. We got some amazing sunset pictures. I know Rick S. says 2nd level is ok, for me if I am there I am going to top. People were still trying to buy tickets at 11PM on a Saturday night! Book ahead!!!!
Versailles Palace: Book your tickets as far in advance as possible and try for the first slot of the day. Note the gardens open early and are FREE until the palace opes so get out to Versailles as early as possible. Remember comfortable closed toed shoes.
Louvre: Book tickets as far in advance as possible and early in the day. We were within the first 50 people in and you have people who literally run straight to the Mona Lisa. Tip: If you want a picture with the Mona Lisa go as soon as you get in and then go to other areas. Tip: For a nice breakfast prior to the Louvre try Boulangerie: Bo&Mie Louvre Rivoli Address: 91 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris right next to the Louvre.

Munich, Germany:
We took the TGV high speed rail to Munich, very nice experience.
Hotel – Aloft Munich, Sleek modern hotel right next to the Hof Bahnhof making access to all public transportation easy
Dachau – This is easily a half to full day depending on how caught up you get in reading all the information displayed. Wear comfortable closed toed shoes
BMW Museum/BMW Welt – Well worth the time, get their early
Olympic Park – Total disappointment and in disrepair. It is across from BMW so if killing time a short stroll is ok but don’t make a special trip
English Gardens – Makes for a nice stroll or bike ride
Best meal – Haxnbauer
Residence Museum – Very nice

Lindau, Germany:
We rented a car and drove the back roads to many sight before ending in Lindau.
Ettal Abbey – The abby is beautiful, the brewery tour was closed (Covid), cheese shop is great
Zugspitze – Highly recommend, we went up on the Austrian side (Ehrwald, Austria)
Lermoos, Austria; Reutte, Austria and Fussen Germany all make for nice stops
Lech Water Falls – Not worth going out of your way for
Lindau itself is a nice little town for walking around
Hotel – Best Western Marina, nice hotel with an excellent breakfast but not near any marina

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Part 3
Meersburg, Germany:
Great little town to do some walking around before or after catching the ferry across lake Constance

Schaffhausen, Switzerland (Rhine Falls):
We took the ferry from Meersburg and drove to the falls. They are the largest in all of Europe, that said if you have been to Niagra, Yellowstone, Hawaii or a number of other falls in the US it is no big deal. They are nice if you have the time and do offer a couple of different boat rides.
Bregenz, Austria:
If you are going for the music festival on the lake the best parking is at the casino. The performance (Madame Butterfly) was excellent.

Vaduz, Liechtenstein:
Liechtenstein just lifted covid restrictions recently, the place is dead so many businesses are out of business. Don’t waste your time.

Oberammergau, Germany:
The passion play was well worth the wait from 2020.
Tip: There is a three hour break in the play let everyone go eat while you hit the stores and then after an hour or so all the restaurants are half empty
Hotel: Landhotel Larchenhugel, excellent little hotel with a fine breakfast, far enough from downtown for quiet yet close enough to walk into town. Perfect to use as a home point to tour surrounding areas
Wieskirche Church: This was the second best church we saw, Melk abbey is number one

Salzburg, Austria:
Tip: If going for the music festival when ordering tickets online select multiple categories to give yourself a best chance at getting a ticket for a specific performance.
Tip: If you have a ticket for a performance you get free public transportation three hours prior to the start time and then for the rest of the evening
Hotel: Sheraton Grand Salzburg right next to Mirabel gardens, excellent location
Hallstatt, Austria: This makes for a great day trip from Salzburg, but if you tour the salt mind given yourself plenty of time. I highly recommend the tour

Melk Abbey (Austria): Absolutely worth a trip

Mauthausen Memorial, Mauthausen, Austria: Not as notorious as Dachau, but worth the visit

Vienna, Austria:
Mozart concert – Very good musical presentation, worth the money
Prater park/Ferris wheel: It is nice but go early as this gets really busy
Hotel: Imperial Hotel, Top notch!

Munich, Germany:
Recommend one of the hop on/off tours if you have a couple of days
Museum island is well worth a day
Hotel: Westin Grand, excellent location and great food

Posted by
6457 posts

Thanks for sharing, Peter! Your statement - “ Travel is personal, what works for one person would never work for someone else. ” is so true. I’m glad to see posts that aren’t the same travel style as I do (which also differs from many here) and also to see comments for different cities. Thanks for the hints. I also enjoy attending music festivals or festivals in general during trips.

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2058 posts

Thanks for sharing. Great details! Your comment about falling in love with Paris made me smile.

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1346 posts

Enjoyed the report, I'm more of a stroll through a museum and stop at what catches my eye. Customs took 10 minutes, you had items to declare? How long was Immigration? wink-wink, nudge-nudge :). I felt the same way as you on my first trip to Paris and I try to make a point and return every other year.

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The 10 minutes for customs/immigration was with nothing to declare, maybe 25 people or so in front of me. Many who were not familiar with the process, had to look for passport, etc.

I cannot over emphasize how much walking you end up doing, we averaged 9.5 miles/day and that was using public transportation extensively. The day at the palace of Versailles was a 16 mile day.

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3798 posts

Be honest with yourself about type of tourist you are, do you read the
information as you go through a museum or exhibit say at Dachau or do
you just look and walk through. There is no right answer, but it helps
determine time needed.

Love that comment, and it is important. We spent 4.5 hours at Stirling Castle in June even though during our pre-planning, the RS Scotland guide book and many on this forum recommended 2-3 hours. Luckily we know ourselves, and consider guidebooks and other sources as friendly suggestions. I feel it's important to give explanations along with my advice, so people can decide for themselves if what I have to say is relevant to them.

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18940 posts

Prior to arrival find a laundry mat near where you are staying

When I first started to travel regularly to Germany, considering I had a carry-on for two weeks, I tried using laundromats. I could never find one in the small towns I frequented. A few times, while I was traveling nowhere near where I was staying, I did see one, but it was useless to me. The only time I ever found one I could use, it was in neighboring town, 15-20 min round trip (~10€ fare) by train from where I was staying. I eventually concluded it was just easier to plan on sink washing a few items each night.

Some Ferienwohnungen might have had laundry facilities, but I was traveling single, and a FeWo would not have made sense.

We used rail Europe to book train tickets.

I think most experienced travelers on this site would tell you not to use RailEurope. Most tickets should be purchased in Europe at the station. The few that need to be purchase in advance are better purchased from the national rail company, e.g., the Bahn in Germany.

For you trip, many rail legs (Munich to Lindau, Oberammergau to Salzburg, etc) could have been made using regional passes, like the Bayern-Ticket, in Germany. These passes, you buy at the station on the day of travel. Advance purchase regional passes are only valid for the specified date - no exchanges. If you change you plans by a day, you've lost you money.

Don't book anything in advance unless it saves you money (Savings Fare tickets in Germany)

I highly recommend booking first class

This recommendation, I guess, comes under the heading of travel style, but I never use first class.

On my first trip to Germany (1987), a business trip, I traveled exclusively in first class, because the company was paying for it and expected us to travel first class. My second trip was on my dime, and I got a good deal on a second class pass. Having tried both, I recognized immediately that first class wasn't worth the extra cost. Since then I've never bought a 1st class ticket.

All this summer, the Bahn has been having a special sale in an attempt to get people using the trains again after the pandemic. So they have been selling a pass good for a calendar month for all travel in 2nd class on regional trains in Germany, for 9€ per person. I'm not sure, but I don't think it is available online, only at a Bahn ticket counter; I don't see that RailEurope has been selling the 9€ ticket. I added up the cost of "tickets" for Munich to Lindau, Lindau to Schaffhausen, and Oberammergau to Salzburg from RailEurope. The total was $109.50. First class would have been almost $200 If purchased with cash from an ATM, two 9€ passes for August would have cost you 18€, less than $19.

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18940 posts

Lindau itself is a nice little town for walking around

Lindau is certainly on of my favorites. It's a cute little island city (walled in the middle ages); the harbor is a postcard waiting to be made (actually, it's been made many times). But, IMO, you should stay on the island. All the big expensive hotels (I mean hundreds of dollars a night) are on the island facing the harbor. BW Marina is NOT even on the island. Five years ago, we stayed here, at a hotel on the island, but on the side facing the mainland, for far less than you would spend at Marina or a harbor facing hotel. It was only a half km walk from the harbor and only 100 yds from In der Grub with a lot of restaurants.

Wieskirche Church: This was the second best church we saw,

Wieskirche was the second best church I saw, but I only saw two. Actually, it might have been the best church I saw too, because overly-ornate, Rococo churches basically make me sick.