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Coop202067 Apr 9th, 2012 04:01 PM

6 Week Post-College Western Europe Trip: Please Critique!
 
Hello All,

My girlfriend and I are about to embark on a 6 week trip of western Europe. We will be departing in early May and will return in late June. We are looking to see as much as possible while still maintaining a fairly restricted budget. We plan to purchase rail passes as our predominant mode of transportation and plan to stay in youth hostels the majority of nights. Below I have included a VERY rough itinerary of our plans. We are looking for comments on the following topics:

-What cities to add and which to remove?
-Does our trip seem too spread out/ should we condense it?
-Is the rail pass the most cost effective choice for us?
-Any other glaring errors we have made (we are 1st time travelers)

ROUGH Itinerary:
London 5 Days
Brussels 2 Days
Amsterdam 3 Days
Berlin 3 Days
Munich 2 Days
Prague 4 Days
Rovinj 3 Days
Venice 3 Days
Florence 2 Days
Rome 2 Days
Monaco 2 Days
Marseille 3 Days
Barcelona 3 Days
Paris 3 Days
London 1 Day

Thank you for your advice and please let me know if you have any questions because I plan to monitor this thread very closely!

Aramis Apr 9th, 2012 06:21 PM

You asked it this way, so I will respond this way.

First, you lucky dog. Rip it up some and come back and share your stories with us older travelers.



---What cities to add and which to remove?

Maybe none if you have a real desire to see all these places, but some suggestions to tweak your itinerary;

London 5 Days
Brussels 2 Days - Not one of the most interesting cities - Brugge or elsewhere?
Amsterdam 3 Days
Berlin 3 Days - I would give Berlin more time than Prague, especially at your age.
Munich 2 Days
Prague 4 Days - Trade a day with Berlin
Rovinj 3 Days - Interesting choice - not on may lists. Why did you choose it for 3?
Venice 3 Days
Florence 2 Days
Rome 2 Days - Deserves another day at least - take from Monaco perhaps
Monaco 2 Days - Meh...more of a "name" than an interesting place.
Marseilles 3 Days - A gritty place - maybe something smaller in Provence; Aix, Arles
Barcelona 3 Days
Paris 3 Days
London 1 Day

Did you want non-stop metropolises, or maybe a couple of slower paced stops to toss in; Brugge, Aix, Arles (Rovinj qualifies, too)?


----Does our trip seem too spread out/ should we condense it?

It's spread out all right, but I wouldn't call that bad. You want to see this much so do it, just be as judicious in your distances to travel between places and in your locations selected as much as it suits your desired travel style.

You should travel Berlin - Prague - Munich, in that order or you have a huge backtrack from Munich and then a trip from central Europe to the Croatian coast.

You have some long day journeys in there Munich - Rovinj, Rome - Provence, and Barcelona - Paris, are the big three. Plan those carefully or consider breaking them up somehow.


----Is the rail pass the most cost effective choice for us?

For this long route, the train is almost a must.


----Any other glaring errors we have made (we are 1st time travelers)

There are no errors, only choices. If you know what you want and understand the impact on your plans, physical energy, etc., you travel the way you want. Someone will always be willing to tell you that you are doing too much. For them you probably are - but you are not them.

Coop202067 Apr 10th, 2012 05:43 AM

Aramis,

Thank you for your quick reply. Here are some answers to your questions:

-Brussels: We are visiting a friend there but perhaps we will just stay one night on our way to Amsterdam.

-Prague/Berlin: Good idea. We will definitely look into switching a day.

-Rovinj: We want to spend some time in Croatia and I found this spot on Rick Steves Website. I have only heard great things about Croatia and I like to think of it as our 'out of the ordinary' stop. We are not very familiar with Croatia and would love some suggestions on other great cities there. Since my original post I have been leaning towards taking away a day from London and adding it to Croatia since Croatia is a bit out of our way.

-Monaco/Marseille: I like the idea of eliminating these two in favor of another day in Rome and some time in a smaller French town. What would you suggest?

Thanks again for your valuable insight!

C

StCirq Apr 10th, 2012 07:27 AM

Not enough time in Paris

Too much time in Monaco (just skip it)

Too much time in Marseilles

Not enough time in Rome

No time at all in the "pleasure centers" of Provence: Arles, Aix, Nice, etc.

I have no idea whether the rail pass is the best idea for you; I've never used one (always rented a car and drove all over or bought point-to-point tickets), but it might well be. You'll just have to price it all out and compare. Depending on your ages, you may qualify for discount tickets anyway, and there are always discounted rail tickets available if you plan and buy in advance.

Coop202067 Apr 10th, 2012 07:55 AM

StCirq,

Thank you for your response. Out of Aries, Aix, and Nice which is your favorite?

Thanks
c

StCirq Apr 10th, 2012 08:39 AM

That's tough, Coop. They're all different. And I don't spend much time in cities in Europe, anyway. But if you're young, I think you'd enjoy Aix a lot.

AGross Apr 10th, 2012 12:03 PM

Hey so actually been to quite a few of the places youre planning on heading to so thought i'd throw my opinion in.


-What cities to add and which to remove?
-Does our trip seem too spread out/ should we condense it?
-Is the rail pass the most cost effective choice for us?
-Any other glaring errors we have made (we are 1st time travelers)

ROUGH Itinerary:
London 5 Days- think you could take a day off here and spend it somewhere else, really cool city but dont think youll need 5 days to see
Brussels 2 Days
Amsterdam 3 Days- one of my favorite cities, think youll especially like it- stayed at the flying pig hostel uptown, had a good location and really friendly people
Berlin 3 Days
Munich 2 Days- the huge park is great and i'd check if there are any beer festivals going on while youre there, i went to a smaller one but it was still really cool
Prague 4 Days- also a great city, agree with the guy above though that you would probably be alright doing it for 3 days though
Rovinj 3 Days- i was in the city of split, which is pretty far down the coast so cant be much help on specifics- as a country though really liked croatia, things are cheap which is good if youre trying to save money too because theyre not on the euro. The tour i went on went krka national park which is pretty amazing for a day trip too if that works in your schedule. Overall, like you said making the trip there so might spend more time in the country.
Venice 3 Days
Florence 2 Days- been in florence in for the past few months so can definitely give some ideas on where to go here. if you like museums its definitely worth going to the uffizi gallery and to see michelangelo's david.. if not so much into museums i'd say things to try and do include San Lorenzo market, climbing the duomo, piazzele michelangelo in the evening, and the ponte vechio bridge.. there are a lot of clubs too that are good. my favorite bars are called kakuya and red garder and a good general club in the area is twice, but the best bet is to ask americans at the bar because may be different over the summer
Rome 2 Days- definitely would spend more time here
Monaco 2 Days
Marseille 3 Days
Barcelona 3 Days- awesome city, would definitely recommend going inside la sagrada familia even if there is a long line if you like cathedrals at all
Paris 3 Days
London 1 Day

Other notes: since youre kind of in the area would throw out the idea of going to budapest, again things are cheaper than most places in europe, and it was one of the favorite cities of people i know who have been there

Not sure how much the train is costing you but think thats probably the cheapest option for how many places you are going. if do decide to look for flights i use skyscanner.com to find mine.

Looks like an incredible trip! Hope all this helps at least a little bit.

Aramis Apr 10th, 2012 02:56 PM

Good feedback.

Amending a recommendation to;

London 5 Days
Brussels 2 Days - 1 for your friend and 1 for a trip to Brugge before going to AMS.
Amsterdam 3 Days
Berlin 4 Days - I would give Berlin more time than Prague, especially at your age.
Prague - 3 Days
Munich 3 Days
Rovinj 3 Days
Venice 3 Days
Florence 3 Days
Rome 3 Days
Aix - 2 days (spoiler alert - read below - change of recommendation)
Barcelona 3 Days
Paris 3 Days
London 1 Day

Switched a Berlin/Prague day

Added 1 day each to Munich, Florence, and Rome, with 3 days taken from Marseilles.

Switched Aix for Monaco (agree with St. Cirq. on Aix)

Love the Rovinj idea - it shows you are adventurous. It won't be an easy trip from Munich - check the planning involved. Munich to Venice is a snap - overnight train is possible, so maybe you could do that then head straight out to Rovinj before returning to Venice, but I don't really know about Venice Rovinj connections. I think other places in Croatia are too far south.

I just investigated the Rome to Aix travel leg via train. It is 13-14 hours, with a ton of changes! This leg looks to really suck. Even Rome to Nice is about 9 hours with 2 changes. The nice to Barcelona leg is just about as awful. I am going to suggest something radical. If you are in Rome and want to get to Barcelona, without taking 5-6 days to do it by making multiple stops along the way (avoiding the 14 hour Rome-Aix leg) and cutting other places you have picked to stay in to make it work, you could fly. The Rome to Barcelona route is under two hours and is very competitively priced. You may be able to make the one-trip on Iberia or Vueling for around $100-$110 each. I can see 88 Euro fares all through May right now. It would mean dropping southern France but you could add the 2 days to Barcelona and Paris (or elsewhere) - a decent compromise.

Coop202067 Apr 11th, 2012 09:18 AM

Thanks Aramis and Gross,

Your suggestions have been incredibly helpful! I did a little bit of updating based on your suggestions and overall I'm liking how the trip is getting more condensed to fewer cities with more days in each city. That being said do you think skipping southern France is going to be regrettable? Here's the most up to date game plan:

London 4 Days: Knocked 1 day off. Take off another?
Brussels 1 Days
Amsterdam 3 Days
Berlin 4 Days
Prague 3 Days: Switched Prague and Munich for better logistics
Munich 3 Days
Rovinj 4 Days: This may give us time to venture further south for a day.
Venice 3 Days
Florence 3 Days
Rome 4 Days: Plane from Rome to Barca? (awesome idea aramis)
Barcelona 4 Days
Paris 4 Days
London 1 Day

Looking good guys keep the suggestions coming. If anyone has any hostels or specific bars/restaurants they like in these cities chime in!
Thanks again! -C

xyz99 Apr 11th, 2012 09:46 AM

Coop,
Not a city, but see if you can add Plitvice Lakes in Croatia into your itinerary, it is absolutely beautiful.
Have a great trip!

BKP Apr 11th, 2012 10:02 AM

Is your last single day in London because you're purchasing round trip tickets? Look into open jaw -- flying into one city and out of a different one. Often the same price and will save time and money not backtracking.

kgriff01 Apr 11th, 2012 11:11 AM

Good for you. My now-husband and I did the same thing after graduating, and I think it's more important to get to travel and see the world rather than immediately dive into work. You have the rest of your life for that...

Two thoughts:

#1) On our trip, we had a very similar looking schedule with lots of 2-4 day stays. We mistakenly believed that when the distance between two cities was long enough, we could simply take an overnight train to our next stop, but that was NOT always the case - nor was an early AM train always available. We made some itinerary tweaks to avoid that as much as possible, but it was always kind of a bummer when we'd have to spend 1pm - 7pm on the train, especially if that counted as one of our "days" there. As you finalize your trip, I suggest reviewing to the train time tables to make sure you're not going to spend half of your days inside a train car.

#2) So Rovinj...I'm just speculating that since you have 4 days dedicated to it, adding MORE out-of-the-way destinations might be of interest. The big cities are all great, but - and this coming from a NYer - they're all big cities. It might be kinda cool to switch it up a bit more and see some of the smaller stuff. Unless you're super into cities - the museums*, the architecture, the McDonald's on every corner - maybe break it up a bit more. I know there's this urgency to "see the big things" when you go, and I think that's important, but I think a lot can be gained from checking out some of the smaller destinations, too.

Totally happy to offer some thoughts if you do want to fit in more small places!


*I was an art history major, so I'm not knocking art! But not many people want to spend day after day looking at "Important Art" in museums.

ggreen Apr 11th, 2012 01:24 PM

Wow, looks like a great trip! And great advice so far. You were asking for input on hostels, so I want to mention one that may tweak your itinerary a bit.

A couple of years ago, we stayed at the Centre Charles Peguy in the Loire Valley town of Amboise. It was probably the most charming hostel I've ever experienced, located on a small island in the middle of the river. Amboise is known for its Leonardo da Vinci museum and a chateau. If you're looking to split up your time between Barcelona and Paris and want to see some of the country outside of Paris, it might be worth considering. However, it's only on a local train line, and I'm not sure how easy it is to see the more well-known chateaux via public transportation.

Here's a link for the hostel: http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldet.../Amboise/29163

Aramis Apr 11th, 2012 02:43 PM

Your Achilles heel here is getting to Rovinj. It is 8:30 hours from Munich to Trieste, which might be a better routing that going to Venice and on to Rovinj. But then it is 1:40 from Trieste to Rovinj, and you probably have to take a bus to do that. That can be done leaving Munich at at 11:30 or 13:30 with one train change, but you arrive in Trieste after 20:00 or after 22:00, so connecting out to Rovinj would be hard to impossible that night. Or you can take an overnight train from Munich at 23:40, change in Salzburg at about 01:30 and arrive in Trieste at about 06:30 where you can find a connection to Rovinj, I presume.

As usual, I do more research as I am writing my response and I see that there is a ferry from Venice to Rovinj as well as Venice to Pula, which would work easier that going to Trieste and taking a a bus, but the dates of sailing look pretty sporadic. I think something is funny on the site I am looking at;

www.directferries.co.uk

Check it out yourself or try Googling "Venice to Rovinj" and Trieste to Rovinj" to find other possible options.

For any rail investigation go to Holy Grail of European rail investigating - the German Rail site;

www.bahn.com

Rovinj is on a peninsula and somewhat isolate logistically (surprise!) so the extra day won't help much in getting farther south. Plitvice Lakes which is spectacular is about 3:30 away, driving, and Split, the most "popular spot along the Dalmation coast is quite a bit farther. There is Pula, on the tip of the peninsula which would be similar to Rovinj, but closer.

Trieste, which is a fair bit larger is another option. I know there are some fans of it, I know little about it myself. Staying there for a couple of days would allow you to day trip to Rovinj or maybe do 2 nights each. You would have to get from Rovinj to Venice if you did it second in the series. It's about 2 hours by direct train from Trieste to Venice, so maybe more than 4 from Rovinj with a bus to Trieste as part of the mix.

So, if you want Rovinj, you are going to have to work for it.

I think you will want that fourth day in London, especially with the first being a jet lag day.

I don't know if you will regret skipping the South of France. You can't do it without dropping one of your other stops and it is still difficult to get to from Rome. You would probably want to consider doing it between Barcelona and Paris if you really want it. That would be much easier logistically if you like the idea of flying to Barcelona from Rome.

Maybe this comes down to whether you want Croatia or the south of France more?

FrenchMystiqueTours Apr 11th, 2012 03:30 PM

Not related to your itinerary but I did my solo backback trip around Europe in the mid 90's for 2 months and I did mostly cities with a few smaller places. You're going to have the time of your life because I know I did. I was really interested in meeting European travelers and making friends. This has two benefits, the first being that you make new friends. The second benefit was being invited to stay at their houses (which means free accommodation and some meals) and going out to meet their friends. I had about 2 weeks worth of free accommodation in Prague, Vienna, Mallorca, Barcelona and Zagreb. Unlike you, I had no itinerary, hadn't pre-booked any lodging (just showed up at hostels), had done zero research or planning before I left (I had a Let's Go Europe book that I hadn't read) and didn't know where I was going the next day. I just used to go to the train station and get on the next train to wherever. My whole plan consisted of landing in Europe and then see what happens. If I had it to do all over again I wouldn't do anything differently. It was the most perfect adventure I could have imagined.

So the moral of the story is, for all your planning try and allow for some spontaneity in your schedule when possible. If you're in hostels you're going to make a lot of friends and learn things from other travelers that you didn't even know about. And maybe you'll get an invite somewhere to stay with some new friends. Have a blast. :)

StCirq Apr 11th, 2012 05:03 PM

Listen to what FMT has to say - it's all so true. At your age a rigid itinerary isn't necessary. Useful, but do be open to minor, and major, deviations.

And you're all about major cities (which is fine). I'm lucky enough to have been in many, of not most, of the major cities in Europe, but even when I was younger what I enjoyed most was ambling through the countryside, which is, frankly, just gorgeous in most of Europe. I'd mix it up a bit. Don't just hop from city to city - get out in the towns and villages, valleys and mountains, lakes and seasides.

nytraveler Apr 11th, 2012 05:33 PM

A couple of notes - you can save a couple of days by flying open jaws - into London and out of wherever - avoiding the need tomake a giant circle back.

You don't seem to allowed any time for getting from one plae to another. This will take at elast half a day and sometimes most ofhte day. So you actually have less time in ech place than you think.

I would cut back on places to spend more time in each - to see more than the top few sights and begin to get a feel for the various places.

I don;t know if a rail pass makes sense - you need to run the numbers versus the cost of individual tickets. Do note that rail passes don;t provide accommodations on night trains - if that is part of your plan - and they can be quite expensive.

FrenchMystiqueTours Apr 12th, 2012 05:21 AM

And I'll ditto what StCirq says.

Mimar Apr 12th, 2012 06:12 AM

Aramis, I have to disagree with you when you imply Rovinj and Pula are virtually equivalent. Rovinj is a charming small town; Pula is a not-so-charming small city. But I've got to think Istria (the peninsula/protuberance containing Rovinj and Pula) is too out of the way and hard to get to for the OP. Especially from Prague but also Munich.

To the OP, you can take the rather expensive ferry from Venice (www.venezialines.com), but what do you plan to do once you're in Rovinj? You could take bus trips to Porec and Pula. To my mind, renting a car and daytripping to Istrian hilltowns is the thing to do, but that doesn't sound like your kind of thing.

Have you investigated Slovenia instead of Croatia? It's another favorite of Rick Steves and very charming. Or, if you really want to go to Croatia (which I love), maybe arrive in Split, which has good transportation connections to the various islands.

I haven't read every word of this thread, but it's important for you to know you can't use a Eurail pass for the UK or on the Eurostar from London under the Channel to the continent. Though you may be able to get a discount on the Eurostar with your pass. Eurostar tickets can be very expensive; buy them as early as you can.

Also cheap European airlines are sometimes a better choice than the train, as Aramis suggested. Look at www.whichbudget.com or www.skyscanner.net for which airlines go where.

Coop202067 Apr 13th, 2012 09:50 AM

Thanks everyone for the help!

1. I strongly agree with all the comments about trying to spend some more time outside of major cities. My problem is, being a first time back packer, I don't really know how to plan for this. Do i plan to be in major cities and then venture out for a few days or do I leave a few days/cities out to be able to move around (if so which cities do I remove)? I'm concerned this will make evaluating my transportation options difficult. Is this a justified concern or no?

2. Our flight in and out of London is booked so no open jaw :(

3. Is Rovinj getting too complicated? Would I be better served by using these days to explore the Italian coast or other small coastal towns?

Thanks for the continued support everyone! This is so much more than I could have ever hoped for!

C


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