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Travel from Paris to Budapest

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In July, I will be traveling for a couple of weeks with three other people, starting in Paris and ending in Budapest. I am trying to determine the best way to travel from Paris to Budapest. I may have as many as six days to get there. It is unlikely that the mode of travel will be booked more than two weeks in advance. Of course, the lowest cost would be preferable, but all options are open. It appears that taking a train is considerably more expensive than taking a discount airline flight. Ease of travel would also, of course, be preferred, and time waste is also a factor.

The six days allocated for travel are not necessarily strictly for getting from point A to
point B. If we fly, then we would likely fly somewhere close to Budapest and tour there for the balance of the travel time. If we travel by train of bus, then we could visit someplace between Paris and Budapest, but I prefer it to be only one major stop. Something in the mountains or nature would be preferred. Possibilities could be flying to Crackow and taking a train/bus through Slovakia to Budapest, or flying somewhere closer in Austria and hiking from hut to hut and then a train to Budapest. Not sure if those are feasible, but that is the kind of thing I have in mind.

Any opinions on train versus plane? Is a bus an option? A rental car would currently be the least preferable mode. Would a combination of travel modes be realistic, or overly complicated or expensive?

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