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holm0594 Nov 1st, 2008 12:07 PM

2-3 Week European vacation for two 25 y.o. girls
My friend and I are looking to travel through europe for two to three weeks in May of 2009. We are slightly overwhelmed by the amount of choices and places to go. I was wondering if anyone had any good suggestions. We were thinking of traveling to 3-4 different countries and considered including Spain, Germay, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. We want to arrange it so we have all of our travel (air, train, etc.), hotel, etc. booked before we leave. It would be nice to do it through a tour company, but they are too structured for us and we want to do more of our own thing within the countries. Any advice for us novice European travelers?

ira Nov 1st, 2008 12:19 PM

Hi H,


No less than 2 nights in one place.

Usually, no more than one country per week.


Train schedules:

>Spain, Germay, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.<

Why that grouping?

Why are you leaving out France?


janisj Nov 1st, 2008 12:26 PM

I agree w/ ira's guidelines. Those 4 countries are spread over a huge area - too much for 3 weeks and waaaaay too much for 2 weeks.

I'd pick 2 countries and one or two places in each country, one add'l destination if you stretch it to 3 weeks

flanneruk Nov 1st, 2008 12:41 PM

You've got at least 60 years of active travelling ahead of you (one 93-yo friend of mine happily commutes between central London, Iberia and California almost monthly), and most of Europe has fierce conservation laws.

So there's absolutely nothing worth seeing that won't be there when you can afford First or Business Class travel and will have all the time in the world that isn't taken up by your gt-grandchildren, learning Cantonese and writing a novel.

Personally, I can't even begin to imagine why you want everything organising beforehand. Do you really believe your minds are so closed you won't discover things you want to see when you're there? Because if you do think you're that handicapped, why are you wasting time and money on foreign travel?.

But if limiting your options is something you value, limit yourselves to a max of two countries. No-one can advise you which: why are doing this trip, and what is it you want to see? Right: that's where you want to go to.

cmeyer54 Nov 1st, 2008 12:54 PM

One idea might be to fly into paris, spend some time there; do a loop out to normandy/bayeux and up the coast north into the belgium (bruges/brussels), netherlands (Amsterdam) and into Germany to heidelburg, rothenburg, down to baden baden, strasbourg and back to Paris for the return flight home. You could also do spain/portugal or switzerland/italy.

holm0594 Nov 1st, 2008 01:16 PM

Both of us have already been to Paris... that is why we decided to explore other areas. Don't get me wrong.. I would love to go back, but there is just so much more to see! I think we picked those because most of the guided tours have 3-4 countries in a two week trip!

cmeyer54 Nov 1st, 2008 01:34 PM

Are there other cities you've already been to and don't want to return? Keep in mind that a city can be used only as the entry and departure point if the airfare is a concern. One option might be to do amsterdam, heidelburg, berlin, prague and vienna. Or, you could spend the full time in italy top to toe. Our family spent 2 weeks just doing spain - madrid, seville, malaga, barcelona and we would have added portugal if we had the additional week you have.

KayF Nov 1st, 2008 02:05 PM

I don't think having flights, train and hotels booked before you leave home is such a bad thing. It means you have less to worry about while you are away and you won't spend precious holiday time searching for a room you can afford. You'd be surprised how much time that can take up and if you multiply that by every place you stay, that's a lot of wasted hours. Use for hotel/B&B ideas and contact the hotels/B&Bs directly. Take a printout of each booking with the price you have agreed on, dates and address/contact phone numbers.

We just had a week in Switzerland and it is an expensive country to visit but has truly stunning scenery. One of the places we stayed was Lauterbrunnen and you might enjoy that if you like gorgeous mountain scenery and walking. Do a search on this forum for some good ideas in the area.

Amsterdam is an interesting city and we loved Brugge too, which is not far away by train, in Belgium. Brugge is gorgeous and compact so a couple of days would be enough there.

I would suggest a minimum of 3 nights in each place, so it's not just a blur when you return home, unless you need to stop overnight somewhere to break up a long journey.

Can I drop Venice into the picture? It's my favourite place in the world, very picturesque and quite unique. For 2 weeks, can you pick one country each that you particularly want to visit and if you have 3 weeks, add another country.

I usually find our trips evolve with time, I start out confused and with too much (or too little) information and read things on the net and guidebooks from the library and gradually the trips take shape. Good luck, half the fun is the planning!


hetismij Nov 1st, 2008 02:45 PM

What do you like doing? Do you want history? scenery? museums? nightlife? beaches? Do you want to stay only in cities or are you looking for other things to do, villages to visit, adventure type things to do.
All this would affect where to go.

If you can get an open-jaw flight then you could fly into say Amsterdam, then work your way down through Germany to Switzerland.

janisj Nov 1st, 2008 04:21 PM

&quot;<i>most of the guided tours have 3-4 countries in a two week trip! </i>&quot;

Yes, they do. And on a tour you have to put your luggage in the hall every morning by 6:30 AM and be on the bus by 8:00AM. Then you'd ride <u>all day long</u> viewing the wonderful sites from the coach windows. The tour brochure will boast if you get whole 1/2 a day free to explore a city on your own.

So I wouldn't want to try to duplicate that experience. Plus when they do 3 or 4 countries - they are usually contiguous ones, not spread across all of Europe from Spain to Germany to the Netherlands. (Though there are some that cover 10 countries in 20 days - which is nutty beyond belief)

nytraveler Nov 1st, 2008 06:00 PM

In 2-3 weeks you can do parts of 2 countries - or you can hit 3/4 major cities. Trying to do any more than that will waste a large amount of time getting from one place to another - and money on the transportation.

I suggest you do some reading and look at a bunch of guided tour brochures - not for itineraries - but for the places that you decide are must sees.

If you have 3 weeks you each get to pick 2 must sees. If you have 2 weeks you should stick to a total of 3 must sees. If they are big cities you can do a day trip out of each one. If they work together in a line you can start in one and train (or car if you want to see small towns or countryside) between them.

For a major city (Amsterdam or Berlin) you need no fewer than 4 nights. For smaller towns you can do 3 - but do day trips from them rather than constantly switching hotels.

Of those 4 countries Spain is a definite outlier. You can do parts of the others in 3 weeks - Spain would be a logistical problem - esp since the most interesting part of spain IMHO is the far south (Andalusia: Seville, Granada, Cordoba, white towns etc).

Do not think you can see what they do on a tour. If you want to trvel like that (lots of 7 am starts, ahours per day on a bus, lot of time shopping for souvenirs) - then take a tour. If you want to really see and do a lot more of what you want - then plan a trip tht allows you to spend a little time getting to know each place.

We allow a new major city at least 5 nights, sometimes more. And we have done aalot of road trips - but never with one night stops. For instance in Switzerland we would stay in Lucerne or Interlaken and see that, then take day trips to various mountains, cute villages, lakes etc.) Or, if you want ot do hiking, stay in a mountain village - and do day trips from there.

Just don;t waste a lot of time and money jumping around from place to place for little purpose.

Loveling Nov 1st, 2008 06:33 PM

Do you have any spesific interests, like food, art, shopping, sun and beach, party, hiking etc?

If you have any prefrences, its easier to guide you in the right direction:)

I'm no personal fan of Germany. Why not try the France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland option, if you really have to move that much?

Then you could go to places like Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Genova, Milano and the alps. Then you can have the sun and beach in France, shopping in Milan, and hiking in the Alps.

Milan is not my favourite city, but I do know a few girls who do:)

suze Nov 1st, 2008 08:07 PM

Guided tours can move faster and cover more ground than an independent traveler.

I would not do more than one country per week. So two countries in 14 days, or three max. in 21 days.

Rather than entire countries I think it's better if you start thinking in terms of the cities you are interested in and want to see.

I think it's fine to have air and hotels all booked in advance. For train travel you can do it ahead, or as you go along.

ira Nov 2nd, 2008 03:33 AM


&gt; I think we picked those because most of the guided tours have 3-4 countries in a two week trip! &lt;

The guided tour people are geared to whirlwind visits, covering a large area and seeing little or nothing, except the inside of the bus and the shops that they take you to.

Plan your own trip.

OK, you've been to Paris once.
You've checked it off your list.
(You'll get wiser as you get older, and go back.)

My suggestions are:

Bavaria and Austria
Spain and Portugal
Northern Italy and Switzerland
Northern France and the Netherlands
Alsace and the Black Forest
Barcelona to Provence
Burgundy and the Dordogne

Enjoy your planning.


suze Nov 2nd, 2008 07:53 AM

Here's a couple three week trips I have done and enjoyed.

5 days in Amsterdam &amp; then flew to Switzerland Lac Leman area (Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey, Montreux) for the remaining time. Flew British Air thru Heathrow, w/ connections London/Amsterdam, then Amsterdam/Geneva, and Geneva/London.

10 days Lac Leman (I have a friend there is why it comes up on my own itineraries so often), overnight train to Venice for 5 days, overnight train to Paris for 6 days. Flew into Geneva and out of Paris.

My best suggestion to you at this point is to try and pin-point your own areas of interest. Spain alone would make a great 2-3 week trip for example. But if Germany is really more your interest... just entirely different experiences.

dutyfree Nov 2nd, 2008 08:46 AM

The key here is that they are 25 years old!!!!
My kids are 23 and 26 and have traveled extensively throughout the years(both with me working for the airlines and also living on their own while studying abroad).I would add these cities as some of their favorites for your age group. They both love the outdoors and are very interested in historical/political things that are relevant for those areas of visiting.The following suggestions are based on things to do,people to meet,good eating and decent prices based on your age.

Berlin(be sure to go to the&quot;blind restaurant&quot; where you eat in total darkness) and Munich

Barcelona(lots to see and do) and the coast-Madrid was not a fav!

Amsterdam,The Hague,Utrecht and the northern coast of the North Sea along the Netherlands (lots of outdoor activities such as biking,walking on the beach,boat trips on the canals,etc.)

Brugges and Brussels-not in their top 20 as they really did not enjoy much there except the beer and fries!Brugges is picturesque but I think that one day would be more than enough unless you are older or on a honeymoon.

Prague(son lived there for 6 months) is terrific and has alot of great places to eat and things to see.

Switzerland is gorgeous and expensive!

If you could give us an idea as to what you like to do or see it would help promote more suggestions?

suze Nov 2nd, 2008 09:27 AM

I really like that city list, dutyfree!! It gives a much better feel for what a trip could be like, when you are talking specific city destinations (instead of entire countries).

Switzerland does not have to be horribly expensive depending what you do. Trains, hostels, weekly farmers markets, and grocery stores are all fairly priced. And it IS stunningly beautiful.

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