5 Week Europe Trip (first time)

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Oct 6th, 2016, 09:01 PM
  #1
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5 Week Europe Trip (first time)

Hi all!

I'm a female college student planning on taking a 5-6 week trip to Europe in May and June. I've never been to Europe before, or off the North American continent for that matter, so I'm incredibly excited. I've heard about taking travel slow, and not trying to squeeze in as many countries as possible, so I'm trying to pick one or two areas of focus. It's so hard - there's so many places I want to see! I'll be traveling solo for the most part, though my mom and aunt might join me for a week or two. I love culture, food, adventure, scenery, and history in my travel experiences.

So basically I'm trying to figure out a semi-concrete itinerary. So far it's pretty vague (I've only been trying to decide on countries so far, not cities/towns/etc.) I'm for sure starting in Sweden, and I want to take a stopover in Iceland on my way there or on my way home, then going from there:

Stockholm - 3 nights
Gothenburg - 3 nights
Copenhagen - 3 nights
Edinburgh & Scotland - 8 nights
English Countryside (vague, I know...) - 7 nights
London - 5 nights
Paris & Northern France - 9 nights

This would be 5 countries in 6 weeks. Would I be moving too quickly? Or would it give me enough time to appreciate each place while also giving me lots of unique places? I'm also considering going to Rome & Tuscany/Florence instead of Paris & Northern France, so I would like to hear opinions on that.

Thanks in advance for the help!
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Oct 6th, 2016, 10:16 PM
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Congratulations on your decision, especially on recognizing that slowish travel is more rewarding.

You’re young, you’ll get back across the pond many more times - just subscribe to fare alerts (www.airfarewatchdog.com - no spam, no sales, just good heads-up info) and you’ll grab a bargain now and then.

Iceland Air, Wow, and Norwegian currently are the unbeatable ones.

About the Iceland stopover: Do it on the way to Europe - you’re still fresh, interrupting the trip will do you good. On the way back, with all those memories from 6 weeks filling up the hard disk called human brain, Iceland will just be a blur, you might be antsy to get home and feel that the stopover is more of a burden than a joy.

Overall, your plan sounds good to me. You have that young energy; the two days in Stockholm (possibly with jetlag if you don’t know whether you’re likely to be affected by that since you lack that experience) might not get you to all the places you might wish to go; you might wish to allocate a Gothenburg day to Stockholm as a trade-off.

Other than that, I think your plan is great.

If you manage to get a lot of sleep, even in short increments, on the plane to Iceland and then on the remainder of the trip to Stockholm, your jetlag may not be a big deal. Avoid the tv screen, clear your mind, and find a position you can hold for 15 or 20 minutes at a time before adjusting your body. If you add up all the naps of that length you get a decent total amount of sleep, enough to carry you through the day on arrival.

Forget Italy for this time; even going to France is - in my opinion - questionnable. I would prefer to go to Cornwall, to Wales, and over to Ireland instead. That’s already three cultures and language groups - the Scandinavian, the English, and the Gaelic.

Enjoy your prep time, and plan to travel light! No more than a carry-on wheelie and a smallish day pack that straps onto the wheelie. Be tough on yourself about that!
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Oct 6th, 2016, 10:36 PM
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Welcome to Fodor's, isibaker, and to the community of solo female travelers!

Kudos for making some of those really difficult decisions about what to skip for THIS trip -- very wise!

This itinerary would let you see some wonderful things; whether it matches your particular interests is hard to say. For example: 3 nights in Stockholm really gives you only 2 days in that city, which I think easily merits 4 or 5 full days -- and if that's your starting point, you may lose the better part of a day to jet lag. So you might want to consider adding time to Stockholm; your call.

Cities like London and Paris can take as much time as you are willing to give them, but FWIW, I tend to think a first visit of about 5 days not unreasonable -- so, from my perspective, you are shaving each of those magnificent cities a tad close to the bone.

And as you already noted, your ideas for time outside the cities is a bit too fuzzy for comment at this point -- what parts of Scotland, other than Edinburgh? What parts of the English countryside, or northern France? I think you'll be better positioned to make these decisions once you (a) finalize decisions about your time in cities and (b) decide what, exactly, you want to do with this time outside of cities. For example: Are you looking to hike? to see particularly scenic areas? to visit a few small cities or towns? Are there specific places you are hoping to include? etc.

As for Paris/ northern France or Rome / Florence / Tuscany, you might consider opting for France for several reasons: (1) It will likely cost more, in money and time, to get from the UK to Italy than to get from the UK to France; (2) IMO, Rome, Florence, and Tuscany merit more time than you would be able to give them on this trip; and (3) in May / June, the weather is different enough in these regions that I, at least, would end up having to pack a bit more to include Italy. (Yes, I layer wherever I go, and keep to the minimum under any circumstances, but for travel at this particular time of year, I don't think a woman would want as many sleeveless options for Scandinavia and the UK as for Italy, and conversely, you I wouldn't pack as many layers for cooler moments in Italy as in Scandinavia or the UK. JMO.)

Hope this helps, and again, good job for the planning you have already done!
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Oct 6th, 2016, 10:45 PM
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I was still preparing a response while michelhuebeli posted! Just one quibble -- jet lag reflects both (a) sleep loss and (b) shifts from one's normal diurnal rhythm, so no amount of rest can fully compensate. michelhuebeli's advice is, IMO, very good, but please realize that you can't count on recovering from jet lag easily or quickly no matter your age or energy levels. And FWIW, if you assume you'll lose time to jet lag, and find you have energy, it's a bonus!; if you assume you'll recover, and don't, it's a loss. Your call!
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Oct 7th, 2016, 01:03 AM
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Stockholm - 3 nights
Gothenburg - 3 nights
Copenhagen - 3 nights
Edinburgh & Scotland - 8 nights
English Countryside (vague, I know...) - 7 nights
London - 5 nights
Paris & Northern France - 9 nights


Ok, I'd start with seat61.com to get an idea of how the fantastic train system works. You'll get best prices on most tickets about 90 days out. Skyscanner (data not always up to date) gives you an idea of cheap flights in the area and rome2rio (also data not always perfect) gives a good idea of how to get around

One area that gets tricky is Scotland north of Edinburgh, public transport is poor, but there are tours that might well suit your needs.

Northern France (I like it but it still covers a big area, from Brittany to Normandy to Champagne there are lots of different things to see, so research is required.

London is the big city in Europe (by far) so you may like to up it to 6 nights, note how small Stockholm, Gothenburg,
Copenhagen are.

Finally UK countryside. Try http://www.traveline.info/ to link up all the public transport. Depending on your interests you might like Jurassic Coast, Salisbury/Stonehenge, Bath and the Cotswolds, York/Lincoln, Cambridge/Ely, Oxford

I'd hit the books and then come back
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Oct 7th, 2016, 01:07 AM
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Oh, yes, I'd have no problem ditching France for Italy, but equally I'd dump France for the Netherlands with a side order of Germany and Belgium. Each area is interesting. The critical things are going to be

1) What are you interested in?
2) What you can afford. Speaking of which Scandenavia and Switzerland can be pretty expensive. What helps if you adapt your life style to those of the area you visit.

For instance, have lunch as you main meal in France at E13 for 3 courses in the many lunch time restaurants who feed happy workers. Don't drink booze in Sweden, but do drink jug wine in France, avoid bottled water everywhere etc etc
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Oct 7th, 2016, 02:24 AM
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I support the suggestion to limit this trip to Scandinavia and the British Isles. Concentrating your time on a limited number of destinations gives you the chance to do more than the usual highlights, and to have some daytrips out of the big cities to smaller, but no less interesting places around. It will make your trip more rewarding.
You can easily put in some stops between Scotland and London. You'll love cities like York, Oxford, Cambridge and other places mentioned by Bilboburgler.
As for Scotland, the west coast has the most impressive landscape. Man in Seat 61 has a page dedicated to this rail route: www.seat61.com/WestHighlandLine.htm
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Oct 7th, 2016, 06:25 AM
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I think your first stop should be 4 nights to accommodate jet lag if your first stop is important to you. What are you interested in?

I found the https://www.rome2rio.com/ website helpful for getting an idea of commute times and options.

Iceland is expensive. If you are on a budget this stop could put a serious dent in your wallet.
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Oct 7th, 2016, 12:35 PM
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Not everyone suffers from jet lag. I never have, not even when I traveled between New York and Beijing, which I did a number of times.

An overnight trip without much sleep will leave me rather exhausted, but I have no trouble adjusting to a new time zone. I've thought maybe it's because I don't keep very regular hours at home.

One thing that might help is to shift your schedule by several hours towards the new time zone for a week before you leave. If going east, try getting up and going to bed several hours earlier each day for a week before you leave.
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Oct 8th, 2016, 02:42 AM
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Generallu Iceland is not expensive (since the crash) but... meat dishes are seriously expensive and vegetarianism is a bit of a new concept. Fish is, however, very good value. Hotels tend to be expensive but short rent appartments are everywhere and very good value.

The Blue Lagoon/Pool thing out towards the airport is very expensive but local pools are dirt cheap and just as much fun.
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Oct 8th, 2016, 10:19 AM
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Car rental is expensive.
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Oct 9th, 2016, 03:21 AM
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Generally I find that you can use local buses, or take a tour (with a small bus company rather than a packed giant one) or, in many cases if say you are going riding the riding school will pick you up. Internal flights are not expensive. I don't think I've ever hired a car in Iceland, but then it's not one of my cultural "need-toos" as it may be with the OP. Good point.
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Oct 9th, 2016, 03:40 AM
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5 Week Europe Trip (first time)
Posted by: isibaker on Oct 7, 16 at 1:01am
Posted in: Europe
Tagged: Denmark , France , Italy , Sweden , United Kingdom
I love culture, food, adventure, scenery, and history in my travel experiences.


Those priorities would favor France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Switzerland over Scandinavia and UK. You can get a youth flex rail pass and travel free as a bird. For an illustrated introduction to trains in Europe see http://www.enjoy-europe.com/hte/chap17/rail.htm. Stay in hostels and group with your generation. Get a copy of the Lonely Planet "Europe on a Shoestring" for a really good guidebook.
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Oct 9th, 2016, 06:29 AM
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i think these priorities are so general that experienced travelers would likely come up with a different group of countries. I think Italy and Iceland could cover all the priorities but so could U.K., France and Scandinavia. What a problem to have.

Personally, I'd try to keep in mind that minimizing commuting saves money and time allowing for enjoying the experiences you came for.

What a great problem to have. Have fun figuring it out. That's part of the experience.
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Nov 24th, 2016, 10:08 AM
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Nice ideas for a first trip. Of course you don't really know what you'll like and want to spend time on at this point. There was a good comment above about going back to Europe many times. You have to focus and not try to do too much in one trip.

In your itinerary I would take at least 3 or 4 days out of the Scotland and rural England time and add it to London. IMO you can overdo rural cuteness but not London. (I lived in Somerset for a year and London for 6 months.)

Paris is the same, can't overdo it. 9 days including a few excursions (Loire Valley, Chartres, Versailles) would be great.

Other good things about your itinerary: It's easy to get from London to Paris. Ending in Paris gives you a good airport to head home from. Or, if you have a round trip air ticket in/out of Stockholm, it's easy to get back there from Paris.

Don't try to squeeze Italy into this trip. Too much to add, it's another vacation. We spent 5 weeks in Italy and the south of France a few years ago and could have stayed longer. (Be careful, my pocket was picked at a bus stop in Nice.)

Likewise the German countries. The Rhine, Bavaria, Switzerland and Austria are another 3 or 4 weeks.

Enjoy yourself!
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Nov 24th, 2016, 10:19 AM
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So the thread is weeks old - OP's trip ain't until next spring- if under 26 check out various Eurail Select Youthpasses -can be as cheap as discounted tickets and lets you take about any train once there-fully flexible- good sources for rail info - www.ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.seat61.com.

check out Britrail Youthpasses too - I think if you buy a Youth Eurail you can bet the Brit version at 50% off making it very cheap for fully flexible travel. (Not sure of current status of that - check the sources I give above.
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