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45 Day Trip - Greece, Italy and Switzerland

45 Day Trip - Greece, Italy and Switzerland

Old Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:03 PM
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45 Day Trip - Greece, Italy and Switzerland

Hello experienced travellers and fellow newbies!

My boyfriend and I are currently in the progress of planning a 6 Week trip to Europe to visit the following countries: Italy, Greece and Switzerland. The first two being my choice and the last being his.

The first thing we've done is tried to outline our budget for the entire trip which looks like it will ideally be $8000. My first question is, is this a reasonable budget?

I've read a few articles on "Slow Travel" which seems very interesting to us. The reason we've only chosen three counties is so we can really experience different cultures. We both enjoy adventure, museums, architecture and scenery and food! My boyfriend is a professional photographer so seeing breathtaking views is a must. We plan to travel as cheaply as possible by opting for staying in hostels rather than hotels.

My other question is, how many weeks would you assign to each country?
Ideally we would like to spend the bulk of our time in Italy as there are many cities we would like to visit i.e. Rome, Sicily, Venice, Florence, Naples, Verona and the list goes on and on...I don't know as much about Switzerland and Greece so I am very open to any suggestions as to what places we should visit.

I would also like any suggestions on where to start our trip, and where to end. We would like to go between the months of April and June. Ideally, April as it won't be as busy and hot but this would mean less money that we would have saved up. We are flying from Canada if this helps.

Thank you in advance to anyone who is able to help!
donnaandspence is offline  
Old Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:39 PM
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Hi Donna! What a wonderful trip to be planning!

However, no one can answer your question about an $8000 budget because — although we may be experts in a country you've selected -- we do not have the power to read minds. Do you include in that amount your roundtrip airfares? And if so, from where in Canada? West coast or Montreal makes a big difference. Also, cost vary greatly from country to country -- for instance, lodging & meals in Greece are 1/3 to 1/2 less than Italy, off-season, so how much time you spend in each place, and in which month, will really matter. Too many variables!!!

BUDGET - You're likely to get a more useful response if you say: we're budgeting xx per person per day for running expenses -- food, lodging,transport, admissions, incidentals. Is this do-able in Switzerland in (dates)? in Italy? (dates) in Greece (dates)?.

SEQUENCE: My suggestion would be first of May through mid- JUne. I have not been to Switzerland but available info shows it is one of the more expensive countries in Europe I would not give it more than a week, and take it first or last. Italy isn't cheap either.... give it 3 weeks, then Greece for 2 weeks. I am a greece nut, as a click on my name will indicate. I would take it last because it is still "off-season" in Greece (although the weather wlll be perfect absolutely an EDEN) ... the lodging rates, and the crowds are good until nearly July. (All of Europe descends on the Greek Isles in July & AUgust). In june, things are just pleasantly populated, and you can swim any time after Mid-May as well as photograph.

As for "Slow Travel," don't spend your time thinking about it... that is for people who have been to many places and are content to stop in one village in Spain for a week. They can take several trips a year, year after year. That's not you. This is your first trip, you are young & energetic, with a lot to see and do. No, you won't go on a tour bus and whiz by famous sites --- but you also won't hunker down in one place for long.

In Greece in 2 weeks you can see the Athens area (3 days) the Argolid in the Peloponnese (3 days -- the best cluster of famous ancient sites PLUS great scenery) and about 3 islands if you plan it VERY carefully... the trick is managing the transportation via intercity bus, ferry and limited use of rental car or scooters. In Switzerland & Italy you can do most of your travel via trains, but in Greece you CANNOT use trains ... they barely exist. You will need to understand the ferry system -- water is not like highways. It is a LOT slower.

For a good overview of Greece I suggest going to your local Big bookstore and browse. For a quick visual overview I suggest the 2 H-K "Eyewitness" books "EYEWITNESS: The Greek Islands" (also includes Athens) and "EYEWITNESS: Athens & the Peloponnese". The flyleaf shows the main ferry routes. ALSO look at "GReek Island Hopping" by Thos. Cook. THis will help in being realistic about which islands link together. NOTE: you should be able to get all these thru a good library (if it doesn't have it, it can do interlibrary loan). And it doesn't matter if they are older editions-- they're about Sites and landmarks, which don't change. Once you get your priorities figured out, come back for specific advice.
travelerjan is offline  
Old Nov 22nd, 2010, 09:43 PM
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I think that's a pretty low budget and I'm assuming it doesn't include your airfare. That's only 130€ per day. Switzerland is very expensive compared to the other countries. The more you travel between places, the more expense.
kybourbon is offline  
Old Nov 22nd, 2010, 10:45 PM
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The best overview is obviously a good guidebook (for each country). Much of the info from Fodors, Frommer's and Roughguides is available to download from their websites, but sitting down first with guidebooks is best idea to help decide where to go. Once you have the itinerary, the on line sites are great for what to see in specific places.

Another place to get ideas is trip reports - there are tons of the here. If you click my name it will bring up all my trip reports - I have been to Switzerland (one week), Greece (two weeks) and multiple trips to Italy. I try to include prices of things, and there are links to my photos. Looking at other people's photos are often how I decide where I want to go.

If the $8000 doesn't include airfare then I think it will be no problem. If it does include airfare then you might be a bit tight. In Greece we averaged around 50 euro a night, whereas Switzerland was probably twice that. Italy is in between. I'm talking about double rooms in 1 or 2 (occasionally 3 star) hotels. Hostels will be less of course, but check around cause not always and when you add in breakfast which is usually included it's often not much saving. Once you have your itinerary outlined you can pretty much figure everything except food cause prices for trains, buses, ferries, car rentals, hotels, site admissions, etc are all available on line. How are you planning to get from Greece to Italy. Try whichbudget.com for cheap airfare.
isabel is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2010, 03:18 AM
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I think a lot of "Slow Travel" is a commercialized crock, appealing to travel snobbery and support group sentiment with the hidden agenda of selling you on renting apartments and cars, who are the website's advertisers. But that said, for a 45 day trip with a limited budget, and in culturally rich and complicated places where lingering really pays off, I wouldn't dismiss the value of staying in one place for longer than the typical touirst stays, (I.e., 3 days) even though you are young and have energy. If you want to experience the culture, you have get beyond sightseeing. You have to add time to a destination if you want to get beyond the sightseeing spots where only tourists congregate.

Also, moving around a lot inevitably costs more money.

If you go to Greece and spend only 3 days in Athens, the galloping around the Peloponnese and 3 islands three days each move-- you'll just be a tourist. You won't get any kind of grip on today's Greece. If you enjoy adventure, go to some less touristy areas of Greece -- no less enchanting -- instead of trying to squeeze in all the tourist "must hits."

I'm going to suggest that you ask your boyfriend to take a close look at visiting the Dolomiti in Italy. I have been Switzerland -- it is beautiful and breath taking -- but, incredilby, the Dolomiti surpasses it for scenery. If you go up into the Alta Badia area of the Dolomiti, where German is spoken, you will find a unique culture and towns pursuing a life of their own beyond skiing and tourism. Most of the areas of Switzerland famous for scenic beauty are like national parks, filled with swarms of international tourists, and tourist hotels. Not much contact with Swiss culture.

So I would suggest you consider splitting your time evenly between Italy and Greece. Were it me, I would begin in Greece, and then I would fly to Naples. Even with 20 days in Italy, I don't think you have time to visit Sicily. After touring the Naples area, including the beautiful coastal scenery nearby, start moving north, through Rome, Florence and Venice, then head over to Verona, and then head up into the Dolomiti. Tour the Dolomiti and come back down and enjoy some vistas on the Italian Lakes, and fly out of Milan.

Many photographers enjoy photographing the wine country of Tuscany. It is not easy to access without a car, however. If you can drive stick shift, a car can be affordable, because rural accommodations, on farms, can be quite cheap in Italy if you know where to look. But your budget is fairly small for such a long trip, covering so many miles, so you might have to skip it, or find a way to get a glimpse using public transportation.

Have a great time, whatever you do, and if the idea of traveling slow appealed to you, it probably did for a good reason, and it's more important that you love the trip you take than that you see a lot of stuff, or live up to other people's agendas or recommendations.
zeppole is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2010, 07:30 AM
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Zeppole voices my feelings about Switzerland... I think his suggestion of substituting a visit to the Dolomites is brilliant. And he obviously knows the area.

WHEN you visit each country will be dictated by your priorities ... travel & viewing sights only, or an add-on of swims & breathtaking beaches in Greece as well... as said before, Mid-May on is great for that. You could try starting greece in Athen say May 10... then to a couple of islands, then go on to Italy, then Dolomites at the end.

For your photog guy, here are some scenes from an Island that's very nontouristy up thru June: http://www.milos-island.com/Milos-Ph...nd-photos.html
travelerjan is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2010, 08:30 AM
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If your hubby wants some inspiration for his images merely click on the trips reports from Isabel above and follow the links to her photo galleries.
I agree about the Dolomites--also much less expensive venue.
Start in Greece and end in north Italy.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2010, 09:18 AM
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Probably Italy first, Greece second and Switzerland -- if you do it -- last. Doesn't make much sense geographically, however. In April and May Switzerland is still in between the ski season and the summer season, repairing lifts, etc. Don't know if this is true for the Dolomites.

And Greece is more oriented to summer visitors, so more is open then, especially in the islands. Whereas the cities of Italy are used to year-round tourism.

Easter, both Christian and Orthodox, is April 24 next year. It gets very crowded in Rome around Easter, so you probably want to avoid Rome then.

In Italy you can stay cheaply in convents, in Rome and other cities. Here's a link for you to help you get started: www.monasterystays.com. The only catch is convents often have relatively early curfews.

You might want look at the Thorn Tree, Lonely Planet's forum. Lots of young budget travelers there.

I'm not sure why travelerjan assumes younger travelers want to hop from one place to another at high speed -- in opposition to your expressed preference. Usually younger travelers have less time and money. On a low budget, it's expensive to stay in a city for any length of time. But cheaper rentals in the countryside tend to require a car.

All together, it's time for you to do more research and prioritize your destinations. The more research you do ahead of time, the more you'll get out of your trip.
Mimar is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2010, 09:30 AM
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Also check out www.eurocheapo.com for budget accomodations.
jamikins is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2010, 02:16 PM
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Mimar, don't misquote me please. What I said was "This is your first trip, you are young & energetic, with a lot to see and do. No, you won't go on a tour bus and whiz by famous sites --- but you also won't hunker down in one place for long." By that, I meant they probably wouldn't want to rent an apt for 10 days and hang out in a village (which BTW also usually involves a car, which I don't think they can afford on this trip). If you would ever check out the attitude of the "Slow Travel" website you would know what I mean. I did NOT say or mean, "hop from one place to another at high speed."

Mimar, 2011 will be my 10th trip to Greece, for about 3-4 weeks each time. if you'd like to know how I travel, what we see, and how my travel companions (all newcomers) like the way we do it, please check out my web page... http://www.techforecast.com/janet.htm
travelerjan is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2010, 04:22 PM
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hi donna,

travelling in May/june and with just the two of you, you could probably get away with not booking very much at all, just starting and finishing places.

for example, say you wanted to start in Greece and end in Italy, you could book your first few nights in Athens, and your last in Rome/Venice [depending on where you want t ofly home from - you are going to fly "open jaw" aren't you?]

you have a huge advantage over travellers of even 20 years ago, in that you can call up ferry schedules and train/bus timetables on the internet whenever you want to move on. [some prior research into what your options might be would be useful there]

IMHO you could do a very nice trip starting in Athens, then a bit of island hopping, [perhaps up the coast of croatia as well] crossing the adriatic to Italy, and endng up either in Rome or Venice.
annhig is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2010, 06:57 PM
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travelerjan~ I don't know why someone wouldn't want to rent an apartment for 10 days just because they are young, if that is the kind of travel that interests them.

donnaandspence~ I love the french-speaking part of Switzerland along Lac Leman outside Geneva. Particularly the towns of Lausanne, Vevey, and Montreux are wonderful. www.montreux.ch 'Riviera Lodge' in Vevey is a very nice hostel right on the lake and near the train station with reasonable rates and would make a good base for this area.

I think you can make it on 130euro a day for two people, as long as your airfare is not in that amount and you eat modestly. As others have mentioned, the more often you move place to place, the more you're spending on transportation, so the less you have for daily spending and meals. Staying in each place a bit longer will save money, simply by doing that.

happy planning, happy travels!
suze is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2010, 08:48 PM
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First off, I would just like to say how grateful I am for each of your comments! I admit that it is quite a lot to digest so I can't give as much input as I would like. I do realize how much research I have ahead of me (not complaining) and hopefully when I've educated myself a little bit more on these wonderful places, I will be able to come back with some more thoughtful questions. However I do have a few notes for right now.

Slow Travel - I've only read a few articles about this so I can't say that it is something I would want to do for sure. It was really unique to hear everyones different opinions on it though and I will definitely take them all into consideration. I would like to do some of the major sightseeing of course, but I just thought as a way to save money and really experience these different countries, an alternative would be to stay longer in one particular area rather than jumping from city to city. I realize that 45 days is far too short...

Budget - I have included my airfare in this budget (now I see that this was a major error on my part). However, we are hoping to have $8000 budget PER PERSON making the total budget of our trip to $16, 000 (including our airfare) I realized I did not make myself clear at all. Obviously, how much we have put aside will determine how many places we go, for how long, etc...

Switzerland - To be completely honest, I would love to convince him to stay in Italy. Not that I have anything against Switzerland, I've just got my heart set on so many other places. I will definitely look at the pictures everyone suggested, this will help.

Sequence - My overall consensus is to start somewhere between the first 2 weeks of May and go from Italy to Greece. If we include Switzerland in this, than possibly going from Greece to Italy to Switzerland?

There is way too much to think about, and I can't wait to get started on planning my trip. Thank you again for everyones help! Oh one last thing, what does "open jaw" mean?
donnaandspence is offline  
Old Nov 23rd, 2010, 09:22 PM
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"Open Jaw" means you arrive in one Airport, depart from another. All airlines offer it, but you have to call the airline, not look for the ticket on a search engine that only does round-trips. It is a TREMENDOUS time-saver.

About Switzerland, you two need to have a talk. Do you find that logic is a help? Have you travelled much together? They do say that traveling together does truly reveal compatibility.
travelerjan is offline  
Old Nov 24th, 2010, 09:10 AM
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To book open jaws tickets, you don't have to call the airline. Pick the multi-city option on the web site. However, you might have to call the airline if you're using Frequent Flyer miles for the flights. (Some people don't realize you can book open jaws flights with FF miles, but I've done it a number of times with British Air.)

Open jaws flights cost about the same as round-trip flights. But you save time and money by not having to backtrack.

There's a web site for Slow Travel: www.slowtrav.com. Some of us are referring to the general principle of Slow Travel, some implicitly to thst website. You might want to take a look there. There's lots of valuable information: reviews of rentals and rental agencies, details about renting self-catering acommodations and about travel by car and train and bus. SlowTrav is especially strong on Italy.
Mimar is offline  
Old Nov 24th, 2010, 10:05 AM
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Oh, then that budget should be OK, if it is per person, even deducting the airfare. Too bad you aren't more excited about Switzerland. It's one of my favorite places. I think the Italy, Greece, Switzerland order would work. Buy your plane tickets into Rome and out of Geneva.
suze is offline  
Old Nov 24th, 2010, 10:25 AM
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Suze is right,if you decide to do switzerland instead of the Italian Alp area .... and you could pick up an el-cheapo one-way flight on one of those European Economy airlines, to get from Greece to Switzerland ... either from Athens or PERHAPS from an island (but usually those are round-trip deals).
travelerjan is offline  
Old Nov 26th, 2010, 03:19 AM
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With that budget you can certainly do Switzerland. That's somewhere around $300 per day for the two of you. I never spend anywhere near that and you were mentioning staying in hostels which will not be necessary on that budget. Unless you want Michelin starred meals every night. You don't have the budget for luxury travel, but it's not tight low budget either.

So while the Dolomites may be just as beautiful as Switzerland, Switzerland is another culture and is not much further to travel so I would not necessarily take it out of the itinerary. With 45 days and your budget you can easily afford a week or so. Look at the Bernese Oberland as an area. People on this board tend to hate Interlaken, but it makes a good base for trips up into the mountains as well as to the lakes, Bern, and other towns around there.

And by the way, May/June is NOT a low season in Italy, so while you may have more flexibility in Greece and Switzerland in those months, you should probably book things in Italy. I always book everything ahead regardless of when I travel. You get the best rates (usually), and you don't have to waste vacation time looking for places to stay. Most places have ability to cancel up to a couple of days ahead so you can still tweak your itinerary if you really want to, by extending or shortening stays.
isabel is offline  
Old Nov 26th, 2010, 08:56 AM
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Also know the part of Switzerland you choose can make for very different experiences, whether you go to the German-, Italian-, or French-speaking part of the country. Whether you are down at town on lake level or high in the mountains. In the cities or out in the countryside. It's an incredibly diverse country.
suze is offline  
Old Nov 30th, 2010, 08:54 PM
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I've definately opened my eyes a lot more to the possibilities of Switzerland. It's not that it doesn't excite me, it's just that my dream places to travel right now are Greece and Italy so my mind is a little preoccupied. I will definately buy some guidebooks or hopefully get some for Christmas (as well as some supplies).

However, we have made a few changes due to a family wedding taking place May 22 that we cannot miss. This will probably push our travel plans up to April. I have a few concerns about this. First, how will the weather be in Switzerland, Italy and Greece? Also, I have noted that Easter holiday is a big holiday in Italy. Will this dissrupt our travels? Any suggestions for getting around that?

I'm also a little dissapointed as this will probably put a dent in our budget to $5000-$6000 each. Is it worth waiting the extra month and going after the wedding in late May, June? Or will it be too hot and filled with tourists (in any of the countries).

I know I'm way ahead of the game but I am just nervous that I will have to shorten my trip OR eliminate one of the countries. This is my first big trip I am planning so I would like as many suggestions a possible!
donnaandspence is offline  

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