3 Months of Travel in the Fall...

Jun 3rd, 2014, 06:48 AM
  #1  
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3 Months of Travel in the Fall...

My husband and I are planning to spend about three months traveling through Italy, France & a bit of Spain. Our original plan was just a couple weeks in Italy so we bought tickets for the first two weeks in October. We're trying to avoid paying a change fee on our ticket, plus the difference in airfare (which would likely total about $1,000) and instead just keep our outgoing flight on Sept 28 from New York.

However, since we'll now be gone a lot longer we end up traveling during some "off" months from what I understand. At this point we are going to be there for October, November & December. The plan was Italy for October and then start to head toward southern France in early November, dip into Spain and then make our way north toward Loire/Paris in December. We knew this wasn't going to be sunbathing weather, which we're just fine with (Autumn is my favorite season). However, what I hadn't realized was that November was not just chilly but also particularly rainy, windy and dark.

I guess the question is... is the weather bad enough that we should pay $1,000 to change our ticket so that we're traveling Sept/Oct/Nov or is it not that bad and we should just keep our current ticket?

For what it's worth our very general loose overall itinerary is:
Month 1
-Bologna
-Tuscany
-Rome
-Piedmont

Month 2
-Lyon
-Provence (unsure where to base)
-Barcelona
-San Sebastian

Month 3
-Bordeaux
-Loire
-Burgundy
-Paris
-Amsterdam

Thanks so much in advance!
JTPC is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 07:00 AM
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It can be fairly OK in December in Paris - I've been there several times then - rarely gets really cold - expects weather in 40s or even a tad higher but days are dark - I would start in Paris and work my way south - Spain and Italy - especially the Rome/florence area and below can be really nice at that time of year - I've been there in January and temps were in 60s - of course the weather is variable but tolerable IMO - I would not change ticket - but reverse order of travel.

Are you going by train or car or plane or whatever - if going by train tell us as that makes a big difference than by car. Note that cars picked up in one country and returned to another can have steep drop-off fees so plan on returning car to same country you rented it in if that is so as it often is.

If going by train check out these IMO superb sources: www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com. Since you are traveling so much check out railpasses - the more days you travel the cheaper per day they can be - like France-Italy Railpass or Spain-France pass or Eurail Select Pass valid in any four countries you chose, etc.
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 08:19 AM
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Thanks for the response!

I guess my concern in particular was Southern France in November and hearing about the mistral and very short days...

Our current flight lands in Milan, which in part dictates the order of the trip. Though I guess we could get from Milan to Paris and head south from there.

We were planning to take trains around mostly. When in certain regions (ie Provence or Tuscany) we'll rent a car for that period of time, but otherwise, plan to stick with train travel. If necessary, and depending on the order of things, we aren't opposed to hoping on a RyanAir flight (or something to that effect) at some point if it financial/travel-wise makes more sense.

Thanks for the link to those websites, as well.
JTPC is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 09:09 AM
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Once you get into November you will want to stick with cities rather than countryside. This is not only a function of weather (chilly, damp and dreary), but also that many places (loire valley chateaux for example) are open shorter hours and fewer days, but also short days due to the very early dark because of how far north you are (Rome and Madrid are on a line with NYC - many of the places you want to see are much further north).

None of these places is likely to get really cold (as in northern US cold) but countrysides will just be very dreary.

So it depends on what you want to focus the trip on.
nytraveler is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 09:19 AM
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What you want to do is alter your schedule to suit your clothes. Start with the places that will cold the earliest and finish with those which get cold the latest, as best as it will allow.

We rarely travel after Oct 15, but we were just in The Netherlands two weeks ago and needed our jackets until the last two days. Barcelona should be your last stop.
IMDonehere is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 10:15 AM
  #6  
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I guess the focus of our trip is really both. However, in France in particular we are definitely interested in countryside.

It sounds like we should be considering changing the ticket or at the least altering the order of things. No one seems to be coming to bat for Provence in November...
JTPC is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 10:26 AM
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Of all the places listed we have never been to Provence, so no opinion one way or another.

San Sebastian/Donostia is a wonderful beach resort but I would imagine it will be basically desolate during that time. It is the best eating town in Spain and maybe someone else can jump in and tell you what will open and closed during that time.
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Jun 3rd, 2014, 11:12 AM
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Are you planning on staying in apartments along the way? This is what we did for our three month trip and we loved it. I love your approach of one week in each place. It makes such a relaxing trip. Have a great time!!!
michele_d is online now  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 11:47 AM
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I would have to think about it a lot, but my first inclination would be to put Italy at the end of the trip, and tweak the order for Italy.

Flying into Milan, I could make the trip work for me by splitting the first week between Torino and Lyon.

Month 1
-Torino4/Lyon3
-Provence
-Barcelona
-San Sebastian

Month 2
-Bordeaux
-Loire
-Burgundy
-Paris
- Amsterdam (?)

Month 3
-Piemonte (take the train from Paris)
-- Bologna
- Tuscany
-Rome


If you must fly out of Amsterdam, you can catch a flight from Rome to do that. But I would be tempted to cut Amsterdam from this trip.
sandralist is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 11:51 AM
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I would start in Amsterdam and work south.
hetismij2 is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 11:56 AM
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PS: In the way I suggested, you could easily flip Tuscany and Bologna, which would actually be better since you could get rid of your car sooner.

Piemonte
Tuscany
Bologna
Rome

I would probably do an overnight somewhere between Piemonte and Tuscany, probably around or in Parma, and a great countryside inn with a notable restaurant (if you aren't too stuffed from eating truffles and cheese in Piemonte).
sandralist is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 12:13 PM
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Amsterdam tends to be cold, rainy, and dark in December. I would suggest totally reversing the order of your trip, and starting in September. November is usually not bad in Italy, but even there, I would try to minimize countryside time, or at least base yourself near enough to a city that you could find things to do if it rained all day.
bvlenci is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 01:01 PM
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Wow! Thank you all so much for the thoughtful responses. Amsterdam is definitely not a must. We're much more interested in Italy/France/Spain. We don't have our return ticket home booked, so part of the thought with Amsterdam is that we would stop there on the way to London and fly home from London. However, we by no means must do Amsterdam or London, nor is there any particular place we have to fly out of...

I'm wondering if maybe we do Italy, France, Spain and then maybe fly out of Lisbon... Ideally I would prefer to keep the ticket we have and cater our itinerary to the weather.

We plan to stay in apartments or with winemakers on vineyards for the trip. We want to see enough to take advantage of the time, but we want to be places long enough to feel like we've gotten to know them...
JTPC is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 01:33 PM
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Lisbon is a wonderful city, but are you flying back to the US? Last time I looked, there were few direct flights from Lisbon back to the US (especially once summer was over), but that was a couple of years ago, so maybe things have changed. Or maybe you don't care if the flight makes a stop in Europe.

I'm not sure you'll be able to cater your itinerary to the weather that much, especially if you rent apartments.
sandralist is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 02:03 PM
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What is your departure flight? Since you are flying into Milan, you could head to southern France first. Next work your way to Paris (via Lyon/Burgundy). From Paris, you could fly to Italy. Easy Jet flies Paris Orly to either Venice or Rome. After Italy, head to Spain.

For budget flights:
www.whichbudget.com
www.skyscanner.com

There are quite a few trip reports for Dec/Christmas in Rome so read a few of those to get an idea of what it's like weatherwise at that time if that appeals to you.
kybourbon is online now  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 02:13 PM
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We will be flying back to the US. I'm able to find a direct flight from Lisbon to NY using miles! What do you mean regarding catering the itinerary to weather with apartments?

We don't have our departure flight booked yet.

I'm on the fence about France or Italy first... I'm most excited for Tuscany and am inclined to see it during our "best" weather month. Also, latitudinally it doesn't seem that much farther south than Provence (so I imagine we would just end up catching our potentially mediocre weather there instead of southern France) if we do France first. I'm significantly less concerned with weather when we're in Paris, or really any of the other major cities...

It does seem that Spain/Portugal will have the best weather so that seems like the obvious last stop...
JTPC is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 02:22 PM
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If you choose to see Tuscany in October and France last, you have the Christmas season in Paris!
Judy is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2014, 02:32 PM
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Ah...Christmas in Paris.
michele_d is online now  
Jun 4th, 2014, 06:28 AM
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Christmas Markets in the weeks building up to Christmas are also a great treat - any German city will have a fun market where locals come at night to drink hot gluh wine and socialize more than to buy IME - really neat things.
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Jun 4th, 2014, 06:51 AM
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I've visited the countryside in Provence in November twice and enjoyed it. Some days were sunny and warm, some cold and rainy, and everything in between. The weather didn't bother me unless it was super windy with rain. On those days I still visited towns and I sometimes just had a relaxing day in the town I based (Lourmarin), shopping, eating, doing laundry, reading and napping. With four weeks, you will need a few down days anyhow. The huge advantage to visiting in November is the lack of crowds.

I always stay in an apartment, which provides more living space than a hotel and also the opportunity to shop the local markets and try cooking at "home".

I highly recommend this guidebook to the Luberon region, which is only available by ordering online-

http://www.provencebyways.com/guides.htm

Tuscany in October is fantastic. I love the food and weather in October. In November, there is a great white truffle festival in southern Tuscany during the first two weekends of the month. The festival is in San Giovanni d'Asso. It is my favorite area to visit in Tuscany.
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