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30s Women, 4-mo Vacay - It's Time, Please Help!

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hi fodors!

3 females traveling together for 4 months (3 months in schengen with 4 day cushion getting out) and 1 month in uk (possibly ireland and edinburgh)

we are 34, 35, 36 year old women who spent a lot of time in grad school, then careers, blah blah, you know how it goes. you look up and 10 yrs passed! so 2 of us bit the bullet and 1 is about to (so close!). its time. please help us logistically do this because were a little confused. traveling at this length of time is an art form and who better to ask than the experts whove done it.

-carry-ons only-

This is our plan:

Departure: we all live in different parts of california but we all plan to fly out from LAX. open jaw tickets, nothing zero nada booked.

Timeframe: depart mid-late august, flexible but weather is high priority (therefore north-south)

Lodging: prefer apartment rentals versus hotels. we all use vrbo, airbnb for our mini vacations and they work out great (cheaper, more space, terrace). hotel is fine if its under $150 total.

Food and wine: splurge at least one very nice meal in every city (michelin caliber $200 each), the rest will be cheap/moderate because we have a budget ($10-50 each/meal)

Neighborhoods: we love great walking cities like venice and paris. near enough to center but far enough from the thumping crowds.

Guidebooks: michelin, rick steves, eyewitness (any recs?). self tours prefered using guidebooks unless its a unique tour.

Interest: architecture, food and wine, some museums, unique tours/experiences, no stress activities, fun in the sun in greece (bathing, not snorkling). this trip is about exploration and relaxation. we need a break from everything and need to retreat to fantasy land. no one has been to any places listed below.

Transportation: im embarrassed to admit we all dont like public transportation. weve been to europe before and our least favorite parts were the train rides and schlepping from one place to another. so this time, it will be a slower pace, more relaxed, and the consensus is to pony up for taxis, car service, flights (instead of overnight trains), to make it as stress free as possible. max 4 hr train rides or fly, daytime trains only, prefer direct flights, no driving if possible unless maybe to see castles in ireland after dublin.

the train passes are so confusing. do you suggest point to point ticket or a multi pass? since 2 of us are sure, i read theres a discount in a shared pass? we need help with the trains please.

places to visit on our lists, will most likely end up with 8-9 cities so its more relaxed.
7-10 days in each city. greece 15-20 days.

1st tier: (must go)


2nd tier: (in importance)

st petersburg

how would you arrange this logistically in an itinerary? weve been friends for years and traveled together so we know how we blend. minimum drama allowed.

please help us!!! thank you so much.

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