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Planning Itinerary

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I am planning to travel Europe once I've graduated from Uni and I am currently planning a rough itinerary that will allow me to estimate how much money I will need to save/figure out my budget (mind you, I don't graduate for another 4 years but I save better when I know exactly what I'm working towards). I'm aware that prices very well may fluctuate between now and then but I mainly want to figure out where I want to go, what I want to do there, how I will travel between places etc . How long I end up staying in Europe will depend on how much money I have at the time of booking etc, so as of now i'm basically drawing up an ideal itinerary which many need to be adjusted in the future.

Ideally, I basically hope to go (almost) everywhere - Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands. I would love to go to Iceland as well but I've heard it's super expensive.

My main questions are:
- the cities to go to in each country (I've already got my eyes on quite a few, probably the "obvious" ones to many avid travellers but feel free to suggest others),
- the best things to do (typical touristy and hidden treasures also). In particular, I'd like to know what is and what isn't worth the extra money required for many attractions, whether it's to get full access or for a guided tour etc
- how long an ideal stay in each city would be.

In terms of my ideas of what I want the trip to be like, I'd love to visit historic sites, e.g. I have an interest in WW2 but also want some "high energy" or "unique" activities (I've heard you can paraglide in Switzerland, but even things such as hiking/water activities I'd love to do) and I'd love to see some breathtaking scenery as well. This sounds like a lot, but once again, this is my ideal trip which may very well be a few months and I'll definitely adjust if needs be.

At this point, I'll most likely be staying in Hostels with a kitchen, -maybe- a hotel every now and then. is it advisable to take overnight trains when possible when travelling between cities to save money + time? I've also never stayed in a Hostel before, are you able to leave your luggage there during the day (safely), or are you required to take it with you?

Thank you all for reading. I could definitely use the recommendations of people that have travelled Europe themselves.

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    I think over the next 4 years your interests will change, and Europe will change too, so it is too early to be assembling lists of which paid attractions to skip on an imaginary itinerary. If you want to begin saving now, figure out the most money you can comfortably save each week or month, put it aside for your trip, and in the meantime, start reading not just guidebooks, but books about Europe.

    Read about both its origins beginning with Greece and the Roman Empire, but also read books about its present day situation, not just newspapers. The creation of the European Union was and still is very much an outgrowth of World War 2, so hopefully you will find this very

    The Europe of tourists is very often very different from the Europe of Europeans, which is true for anyplace you go in the world as a traveller. While there is nothing wrong with touring as a tourist, seeing the spectacular and highly unusual, it's pretty limited and so much of it is commercialized to be an entertainment and a distraction rather than a way of understanding the whole world you live in.

    I hope your university has a foreign language requirement and some foreign exchange programs. I hope you have classmates who are from Europe. If you do more than save money, but also invest some of your time over the next 4 years learning about Europe, you'll know more than most people here about what makes Europe a great travel destination.

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    In addition to sandralist's valuable and important suggestions you may also want to inquire the maximum duration you can stay in the Schengen area (typically 3 months max in any 6 mo period as a regular tourist.

    If you followed you imaginary itinerary, all those countries border one of the other. So the distances in between your destinations may be too short for night trains.
    Alternatives: regular day trains (saver fares exist), intercity buses.

    If you can commit yourself to stay a week in one place, it can be cheaper to rent an apartment than to stay in a hostel.
    Especially when you steer away from the uber-fashionable neighborhoods.

    Check high season vs. low or shoulder season at your destinations. And the typical weather.
    With your mix of countries across climate zones, I'd probably NOT want to travel November-March and avoid July-August.
    Or arrange the countries South-North, and start in the South early in April to end in the North in late June.

    The BEST cities and BEST destinations? Depends on your interests, of course. You find WWII history not only in the major big cities, and hidden gems like palaces or castles are often scattered anywhere in the countryside.

    Regarding affordability, I'd rank
    > Switzerland and major destinations in Italy or France (esp. during high season) in a top tier of "can be rather expensive"
    > most of Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium as somewhat more moderate (as well as not so overrun destinations, i.e. the largest chunk of each country) of Italy or France
    > and the remaining countries as moderate to "can be really inexpensive"
    Nevertheless, a lot can change in four years.

    With regard to diversity (not knowing if that IS important for you), several countries you mentioned can look pretty similar than their neighbors. Landscapes and architecture do not necessarily change dramatically just because you cross a border - especially not as cultural hemispheres are not identical with political ones.
    For example: Greece is far more visibly different from Italy or the Netherlands than Czech from Germany.
    And historic town centers in Northern/ Coastal Germany look far more different from Southern Germany's old towns than from those in the Netherlands or along the Baltic Sea up to Riga.

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    First off, I think it's great that you are so interested in Europe and European travel and that you have a lengthy trip like this as a goal.

    "I've also never stayed in a Hostel before, are you able to leave your luggage there during the day (safely), or are you required to take it with you?"

    Some hostels have staff-manned bag storage rooms with varying degrees of security. Some have dorm-room lockers. Some have nothing. Some hostels have small 1-person rooms with standard locks. It's impossible to generalize because there are so many different types of hostels that "hostel" tells you very little.

    My take: It's not a bad plan to make sure your frosh Gen. Ed. classes include some European history, art, lit, etc. But I'd also suggest that before you enter you finish your junior year, you should make a stay in Europe a formal part of your educational experience. STUDY THERE for a semester or two. Live in a dorm. It's the best way to get the local's perspective that sandralist appears to advocate. Nearly all universities will have some semester- or summer-abroad program (or an affiliation with others that have them.) You might be at a uni that offers scholarships for foreign study, or you might have to pay extra for the semester, but either way, it's a superb investment in yourself. Don't know any languages, or none well enough to take uni classes? Many US uni programs are language-learning programs that when combined with spending time in Europe help you pick up language skills much more quickly than you would in a classroom at home.

    When you live in a dorm or with local families for several months, as some programs require, you will become part of the "fabric" and will learn more than any tourist about Europe and Europeans. And you will probably meet some great people and can probably arrange some time before or after your studies for some preliminary trips as well.

    Then when you plan your return trip after graduation, you'll have some very solid ides of your own on how to put it all together.

    Besides UNI study-abroad programs, there are other organizations - Kiwanis for example, and in Germany the DAAD - that have an infrastructure for study abroad. I am not up to date on these myself.

    https://www.daad.org/

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    I'm sorry - but you are just being WAY too ambitious.

    Assuming you are american you are limited to 90 days in europe on the usual tourist visa. And getting any other type of visa will be very complicated and probably not doable (except student visa for those enrolled in university courses).

    In terms of planning my 19 year old DD and 2 friends did about 6 weeks and spent about $8K each. So for you to do a full 90 days plus transatlantic airfare you are talking a budget in the $15K plus range - assuming that you live VERY basically (hostels, lots of picnics, super discount train fares, no shopping and limited student nightlife.

    A few things to remember:

    In general prices in europe are higher than in the US - unless you live in NY or LA or similar.

    The more different places you go the greater the cost and the less you get for your budget. And "adventure" activities are likely to be very expensive - as are certain countries, esp Switz an Scandinavia.

    To try to do all of those places you would end up with a VERY expensive and probably frustrating blur rather than a memorable trip.

    Strongly suggest you start doing some basic research to narrow down what YOUR must sees are.

    Just remember that each country is a different language, a different culture, different meal times/habits, different transit systems and different unspoken rules. All of this is part of the reason to go to europe - to begin to get an understanding of the rest of the world. But doing this every few days is likely to be overwhelming after a couple of weeks.

    So I suggest you start on researching the places on you must list in depth and also focus on building a zero-based budget based on resources aimed at budget student travelers: Let's Go Europe student guide, Thorn Tree section of Lonely PLanet web site, etc. Just google and you will find a lot of info and can decide how much of a budget trip you want.

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    I applaud your ambition and desire to plan ahead. Those qualities will serve you well in everything you do.
    A study abroad will be so valuable. My daughter just got back from Copenhagen and loved it. She had the opportunity to visit many different countries. She is scheming on how to return.
    For now, save your money, make a plan, revise, make another plan mainly because it's fun and you will learn about the places that interest you. In 4 years, your interests and circumstances will have changed but you will have a lot more knowledge about the places you will go which will make all the difference.
    Good luck and have fun.

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    Thank you all for your replies + suggestions. At this point, I am viewing this trip based on ambition (I am a very ambitious person) and as I continue researching there will probably be cities/countries that may not interest me as much as others - then I can start applying my resources accordingly, or even just save some cities for a second trip one day. Perhaps I'll have to do Western and Central Europe separately, but I'll wait until the time comes to really decide on the specifics.

    Thank you again!

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