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4 week itinerary

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Hi Guys,
I've been reading some of the past discussions and your responses seem to be honest and informative and that's what I need!
We are planning a holiday to Europe in May and I'm really struggling with the itinerary. Our time frame is 4 weeks (less travel time) and our budget is about $9000 (NOT including airfares) and although we are from Sydney, we will be flying to Europe from Tokyo, Japan. We can fly into London, Paris or Frankfurt as a starting point and leave from any of those destinations to come home. We are hoping to do England, Scotland and Ireland, Paris (and perhaps a bit more of France?), Germany and Switzerland - italy was on our list but i think thats being unrealistic with our time frame and we decided to leave the entire Mediterranean area for the next holiday. We have family in London, Cashel (Ireland), Germany and Zurich who we would like to see (not stay with for long but at least drop in and see - perhaps stay overnight with each). We were planning on hiring a car so we can just plod along from place to place as we please. I'm a bit of a history buff and would love to see the historical aspects of the major cities and both myself and my boyfriend are very active people who love the idea of getting out into the country side as well. We enjoy hiking and thought it would be a nice idea to explore a city or two by bicycle.
What do you think - is it possible?
What can't we miss and is there anything in those areas of Europe that I haven't mentioned that we should take the time to see/do (Austria, Belgium etc)?
Any suggestions will be much appreciated...

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    Just a VERY quick comment just now --others will jump in . . .

    Sorry, but 4 week less travel time (or even PLUS travel time) is not nearly enough for London, other part(s) of England, Scotland, Ireland, Paris, other part(s) of France, Germany and Switzerland. Just isn't . . .

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    ON your budget, assumming the $9000 is in AUD, then your flights are going to be around AU$2000 each, which means you'll have AUD5000 or Euro4000. Not a whole lot to play with for 4 weeks.

    If you're a history buff, pick "must see" places in order of most to least and that will help you whittle down your destinations. If you stick to B&Bs, Pensione and Hostels (many have double/twin rooms now) you'll save on accommodation.

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    Um....yeah. I'm from NZ and did a 5 week trip to Europe with my grandmother last year in May and it covered way less countries/locations than your current plan. Just to give you an idea:

    We had:
    Arrive London
    2 days/nights Oxford (including arrival day)
    5 days/nights London (saw Westminster Abbey, Parliament, and the Tower in one day, wouldn't recommend it! Too rushed!) One of those days was spent visiting relatives in the Cotswolds, but they arranged the train tickets etc. before we left.
    11 days in Italy (including arrival day) with Globus Tour (one day without tour at the end)
    3 days in Grindelwald, Switzerland (Jungfraujoch, Thunersee lake cruise and Thun village, Ballenburg Museum) including arrival day.
    2 nights in Luzern (day spent travelling with half-day spent in Bern, one full day exploring Luzern old town )
    5 days in Paris (including arrival day). We saw/explored Notre Dame, Snt. Chappelle, The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, and did multiple hoho bus tours.

    That's exactly 28 days on the ground, the other five/six were spent on the international flights and a stopover in Singapore.

    In order to achieve what you want you would not be spending any time in each place. Why not narrow it down a bit. If you are dead set on visiting every single one of your relatives in Europe then I think you'd better just stick with their countries. Maybe give 5-7 nights to England, Ireland, Germany and Switzerland. You could probably squeeze Paris in if you were diligent.... As for plodding along, I think you'd need to be driving top speed just about everywhere! It's much more fun exploring and getting to know a place a bit than simply whizzing by and saying that you've been there:). It also depends on exactly how much of each country you would like to see, for example, if you aren't really interested in either England or Ireland on the whole, you could spend three days in each with a travel day in between. But I think that you need to reevaluate which countries interest you most. You could in fact spend the whole trip properly exploring the UK. That way you would be able to get to see some really unique and beautiful places that aren't on everyone's agenda. You could just plod along getting a magnificent taste for England, Ireland, and Scotland!

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    I think m20miller mentioned 9000 AUD not including airfares, so maybe 7000 EURO?
    I still think s/he tries to fit in far too many destinations on a limited time frame. I access this thread through the Ireland forum and I thought 4 weeks are dedicated only for a trip to Ireland before reading...
    m20miller,is there any possibility for any of your relatives to travel and meet you in a different place than their resident city? For example if your family from Zurich could make it to Frankfurt on your dates, you could maybe fly from Japan to Frankfurt. You save expensive and far away Switzerland for a future trip, and you can then connect from Germany to Paris and onwards to London and end up in Ireland without backtracking (assuming you have no ties where to depart from after your trip). I understand that coming the distance you wish to fit in as much as possible, but honestly, even 4 countries in 4 weeks is far too much.
    Hiring a car within a country is fine, but I think it is not possible to use one car hire for multiple countries, and if so, it will cost an arm and a leg.
    I love history, sites and museums in cities and I have pleasantly spend 2+ weeks in London and 2+weeks in Paris without need to stray elsewhere. I love countryside too and I have visit Ireland many many times and sometimes spend one month there without getting bored. I realise that coming the distance you may not have this time luxuty, but I strongly believe that given your interests London and Paris deserve at least 4-5 full days each, maybe adding some more days for side trips such as Stonehedge,Versailles etc. If you plan to hire a car I guess you may use at least 5-6 more days to explore some of the the country side in England and France... I am not familiar with Germany, but concerning Ireland, Cashel does not have an airport so quite possibly you have to enter the country in Dublin, then hire a car or connect there on a bus. Plenty of historical sites and castles and stunning nature beauty, you can easily spend a week taking in some of the highlights there too. Note that distances seem small on a map, but there is a varied landscape and diverse road conditions. In Ireland you may often need to drive in less than 40 miles/hour on narrow road, and you may be found stuck behind a sheep herd for some time : )
    In a bones itenerary Germany-France-England-Ireland you have already 3-4 days lost just to connect among countries,so you see the time constrains....
    Personaly I would honestly try to organise a family meeting if possible in a major destination and limit my self to 2 or 3 countries at most. Note that many transfers on trains and flights will add significaly on the costs too. There are some great bargains on air fare among major European cities on low budget airlines. But you really have to travel light to avoid additional costs and really take advantage of those offers, and I assume this is not the case for you? Just my thoughts anyway.

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    Not everyone wants to spend a week per location. If you don't mind being on the go a lot, then this sounds doable. My suggestion, make an itinerary up front. Many people boo the idea of really scheduling vacations, but if you want to fit a lot in like you do, then plotting it all out is the only way to make it work (plus it saves frustration/time/money later). For example, distance can be deceiving and it make take you a lot more time to travel than you anticipate. You will already know in advance how much your transit costs, and will know if that really cool place you want to see is worth the investment of time.

    As far as transit goes, I don't think I would want to drive the whole time. The transit system is quite amazing, particularly in the regions you mention (unless you're thinking only countrysides). I would look at purchasing a rail pass for at least your long legs. Use bahn.de to see if your itinerary is even doable. You may think that nearby locations are easily connected only to be disappointed that they are in fact not.

    To save time, if you are going from one far-away city to another, take the night train. If you can sleep in a seat, it's a great way to save money. Otherwise, book a sleeper and wake up in another city. (This is obviously not for everyone...) Check out CityNiteLine (run by Deutsche Bahn) trains for a list of routes and schedules.

    Any time you'd like to go off into the country, I would rent a car. I think a mix of rail and driving would be good for you. You have to really imagine riding in a car for thousands of miles. Some people love the idea of endless road. Personally, I find that sort of traveling very tiresome. Also, don't underestimate the costs of the car plus the gas/petrol.

    So in short, do a one-way itinerary (i.e., don't cross the English Channel twice.) Look into a variety of travel methods (even consider a ferry to the UK to save money if you like), and make sure you make an itinerary that is workable. It doesn't mean you have to plan out every day to every detail, but you want to get an idea of what you are proposing. You don't want to be surprised when you get there that there is a major festival and your plans are drastically changed.

    Good luck!

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