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Itinerary help for 6-week backpacking trip to Europe

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My girlfriend and I are 21-year-old Americans planning a 6 week trip to Europe after our college graduation. We would be leaving towards the end of May or early June of 2015. We are on a budget, so we are planning on “backpacking” (a.k.a staying at hostels, cooking from time to time, etc.). Our budget is around $5,000-$6,000 each, including the plane ticket.

This is our first trip to Europe, and we would love your help in planning our route as well as ideas for things to do. Here’s some additional information that could be useful:

1. We want a good mix of both urban and rural Europe. We want to go to the greatest locations, while also straying from the beaten path to meet locals and experience the “real” Europe.
2. We love great food, live music (classical, jazz, local/cultural), breathtaking natural scenery, beaches, local customs/traditions, meeting new people, and trying new things.
3. We are not big on art or religious sites for the most part.

Preliminary itinerary (based on a few recommendations and basic research):

Spain
-Madrid (3 nights)
-Toledo (Day trip)
-Seville (2 night)
-[Valencia?]
-Barcelona (3 nights)

France (Saving Paris for another trip.)
-Leucate (Day trip)
-Bordeaux (2 nights)
-Lyon (2 nights)
-Avignon or Aix (1-2 nights)
-Nice (2 nights)

Italy (a must-see for us)
-Cinque Terre (3 nights)
-Florence (4 nights)
-Rome (4 nights)
-Verona (2 nights)
-Venice (2 nights)
-[Is Sicily worth traveling to?]

Austria
-Vienna (4 nights)

Czech Republic
-Prague (4 nights)

Follow up questions:
1. Is our itinerary do-able? Should we switch around the order?
2. Would you suggest other destinations instead? Italy is a must for us but we have heard that Greece, Turkey, Eastern Europe (Croatia, Budapest, Slovenia), and Germany are very popular with college students. Please help us decide.
3. Should we get a Eurorail pass or buy individual train tickets?
4. Finally, what specific couple-friendly destinations/activities can you recommend?

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    For Italy, your choices will put you entirely within the tourist orbit with very little chance to get a feel for the contemporary life of italy. If you are not "big" on religious sites or art, you would do well to bypass Florence. Instead, spend that time in Napoli, where you will have a chance to encounter an Italian city not entirely given over to tourism, which has amazing things to enjoy, and is blissfully cheap. Regarding le Cinque Terre, if you would like to meet and be with Italians instead of other foreign tourists, stay instead in Sestri Levante.

    Of course Sicily is worth traveling to, but you are already moving through Europe at a breathtaking speed.

    As for Spain, I would keep Valencia in the mix if you would like an experience of Spain that is something more than what coach tours give. If you are not interested in art, you might want to skip Madrid in favor of an overnight in Toledo, but otherwise get one with seeing the other parts of Spain that interest you. I would try to include the Alhambra.

    If you are willing to save Paris for another trip, I suggest you do the same for Vienna and Prague, and just generally spend more time in all your other destinations. If it is that important to you see Italy, then give yourselves more time to enjoy it in ways other than the tourist experience.

    If you can afford it, I would suggest seeing Greece as part of your introduction to Europe. I would fly there first, then move on to Italy (by cheap plane flight, not ferry).

    I would hope most of Europe is very popular with college students, but Greece is one of the most affordable destinations and is a keystone to understanding Europe -- not to mention beautiful in many spots and historically amazing.

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    Taking that many trains to me a Eurail Youthpass (have to be under 26) is a no-brainer and would be even cheaper than a string of discounted tickets - full fare tickets cost a ton and the pass gives you the chance to hop any train once there not book in stone weeks ahead as you must to get discounted tickets, which are sold in limited numbers and to get often have to be booked in stone weeks/months in advance.

    You do need a seat reservation which costs a few euros in Spain, Italy and France to take high-speed trains but many of your say French trains are regional trains you can just hop on.

    Anyways for a lot of great info on European trains check these IMO superb sources: www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.rickstevees.com and www.seat61.com.

    For a pass for 6 weeks consider the Eurail Select Youth Pass - a flexi pass where you can use the days anytime within a 2-month period - use one of the ten max days to move between bases then just buy cheap local tickets for short day trips.

    If taking overnight trains - very viable you only use one day on a pass and thus can relocated over long distances = the so-called 7pm rule where if you board an overnight train after 7pm as most are you put the next day's date in as your unlimited travel day to midnight - thus take an overnight train to say Vienna and use the pass the whole next day too on just one day - say doing the fantastic Wachau Valley train and boat ride Melk to Durnstein or go to Budapest for the day, etc.

    anyway with that many trains that long strongly consider the Eurail Select Pass valid in Spain, Italy, France and Austria and then just pay the cheap bus or train fare from Vienna to Prague.

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    4. Finally, what specific couple-friendly destinations/activities can you recommend?>

    Take a night train and get a private double compartment - bring all the food and drink you want on board and have a romantic interlude while covering long distances - but note my friend said his first son was conceived on an overnight train to Venice - unintentionally I believe!

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    Leucate is a day trip from where? It seems a long way from any place on your list.

    You say you want rural settings but have not listed any on your itinerary. How will you get to rural places and what do you hope to experience once you're there? To meet locals in rural settings you would need to speak the local language. If you're really interested in rural areas and beautiful scenery, focus on a smaller area in Europe and allow time for rural pursuits. It will take more time to access rural surroundings than it will to get to and stay in cities as you'll be dependent on local bus service and walking. You need to ensure that there are accommodations as you may not be able to get to and back from rural areas in a day.

    You like beaches but most of the places on your list are inland. Hmmm.

    Sicily is well worth visiting but not with your itinerary and time limits. A good visit to Sicily is 2 to 3 weeks to see the island. It takes time (and money) to get there which would be prohibitive for you on this trip.

    If you're not much interested in art or religious sights, why are you spending 3 days in Florence? Given your interests, I would bypass Florence in favor of more time elsewhere.

    I count 37 days on your itinerary in a total of 42 days. That gives you 5 days travel time which I don't think is enough. Have you looked at how long it will take you to get from one place to another? This includes not only train travel time but time to pack/unpack and travel to and from train stations. You should add 1 to 2 hours to the train travel time.

    What are "specific couple-friendly destinations/ activities?" I can't imagine what this means. Can you explain please? I see Pal mentions a night train but you can do this if you're on your own or a family. A night train is not specifically couple friendly; it's friendly to everyone.

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