College Graduation Europe trip

Old Apr 9th, 2024, 07:37 PM
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College Graduation Europe trip

Hello Everyone,
  • It has been quite some time since I have posted, or even visited, this website. I hope that everyone that had responded to my earlier threads is in good health and enjoying a fruitful and happy life. I am currently graduating from the University of Michigan, and before venturing into Biotech, I would like to spend at least two weeks this summer traveling around Europe with a couple buddies before becoming an actual "Adult" and stepping into the real world. I realistically would like to make this trip 16-17 days to spend an actual 14 days in Europe as 2 days would be lost to air-travel. We also had the idea of renting a car and driving to different cities, but I am not sure if this is a feasible option for us. We are also not certain on the cities we would like to visit. However, I know that Munich is a requisite for this trip as I never grow tired of visiting that city. While we are not dialed in on the cities we would like to see, in terms of countries, Italy/Scandinavia/Germany/France/Spain/U.K all seem to be general interests of ours. I guess what I am asking for is opinions on cities that are either well-known or unheard of that would be a must-see on our trip, a planner for how and in what order we would see these cities (road trip??), and other good suggestions. To give some extra information (if this helps), I am a sucker for hiking, small towns, authentic experiences, chatting with locals (especially because I am mostly fluent in German now) and nature-related activities. My best friend is more into cities, clubs, fashion, etc. While my other friend is indifferent and sort of lazy. I don't have set preferences on where we visit, I provided this information as more of an aid for you all in giving me trip suggestions. I just despise being stagnant during vacation, which is why all-inclusive resorts do not serve me well. I apologize if this may come off as a sort of tangent, I just forget how specific or broad I need to be when writing these. So just to summarize into some bullet points:
  • 2 weeks of travel (16-17 days total)
  • No budget (but keeping it under $4,000 would be nice)
  • Considering a road trip
  • Touristy/Authentic experiences
Please let me know if there is anything else I could provide that could help. I also want to thank everyone who responded to my previous threads. It still makes me happy knowing there are people across the globe that are eager to sit down and help others with fun tasks such as trip planning. It makes the world feel a bit smaller than it really is.
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 08:17 PM
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Just a few things to get you started...

With only 14 days on the ground, I would limit it to 2 countries. Running around to a bunch of countries leaves you with little time to see anything. Remember that to get 3 days anywhere you need 4 nights.

Definitely look for a multi-city flight, into one city and out of another, so you don't waste time and money getting back to the first place.

Train might be more efficient, depending on where you're going, or a combination of driving and train.

With such diverse goals, and considering that Munich is a must, maybe France (Paris and something smaller east of Paris, others can help with this better than I can) and Germany, or Germany and Italy (Milan for fashion). Lots of options if you want to stay in northern Italy, or even more choices if you go further south.
Have fun planning!
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 08:22 PM
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Just very quick -- If you are mostly going to cities, driving really doesn't make sense. Trains and budget airlines are much better for traveling between far flung destinations.

$4000 would cover what all?? Airfares? accommodations? Intra-Europe transport? Meals? Rental car? Where are traveling from (airfares now may be a lot higher than you are used to)?
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 08:23 PM
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was posting the same time as SusanP
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 08:24 PM
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Yeah I guess I can scrap the driving idea. Trains/multi-city flights are the way to go.
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by butterfingers
Yeah I guess I can scrap the driving idea. Trains/multi-city flights are the way to go.
Glad to hear this, because I forgot to mention that if you rent a car in one country and drop it off in another, you will pay a big drop-off fee.
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 08:54 PM
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If you're just graduating I'd guess you're under 25 which would make even finding a rental challenging in some countries.

If you're going to Munich add Prague. Consider Berlin. Budapest. That's more than two weeks. You can take trains between them all. Budget should work.

Fly into one end. Say Berlin. Fly out of one of the southern cities.
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 10:15 PM
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How about asking your friends to each pick a location? Once the top three have been decided, it will be easier for you to formulate a plan and decide what day trips/nearby locations can be added.
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 10:30 PM
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Summer with hiking and parties and a must for Munich. I'd avoid the south of Europe just because the whole of Europe will be there. I'd head north slowly to Berlin passing through Prague and Dresden with some hiking in the area south east of Dresden the party life of Berlin, all you need to do is choose a small real village somewhere along the way (anywhere along the Elbe will do).
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 12:53 AM
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Originally Posted by butterfingers
Yeah I guess I can scrap the driving idea. Trains/multi-city flights are the way to go.
i only drive unless there is a significant prohibitive reason not to... eg crossing oceans or significant time constraints. So I'm only going to talk about driving. My intent here is not to change your mind about not driving but to give you more insights into driving so it can possibly reinforce your intent to not drive or to help you realise that driving does suit you.... either way is good.
but to be clear, i love driving generally and its my preferred way to travel in almost every circumstance

when driving in Europe I like to get as small a car as I can because it's easier to park and occasionally you'll be on narrow narrow roads with no road shoulder (hopefully that word makes sense). In your case something like a small SUV would be about as small as you could do. 2 bags in the boot, 1 on the back seat (assume you'll fold 1/3 of the back seat down) and allowing one passenger in the back.

I'm going to pause for a moment and come back and edit this
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 02:07 AM
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CONTINUED
we did some travelling as 3 people in CITROEN C3 or similar which was adequate but on the small side. We currently are driving a C5 aircross because my wife demanded an automatic (i prefer manual/stick shift) and it is super comfy with leather seats better tech and no too much longer or wider although much more space for luggage - but this is as big as I would like to go
Next week we are picking up another car in Essen and dropping off to Frankfurt. I had originally booked for Amsterdam pick up and drop off to frankfurt but doing it this way we add about EUD30 for an extra 4 days of rental. Also picking up in essen was cheaper than dusseldorf - so have a play around with a range of options because you can jag some cheaper prices for inexplicable reasons.

THINGS TO CONSIDER
driving gives me control and flexibility to see stuff that I didn't previously know about and skip or shorten stuff that I care less about now compared to when I was researching it.
For example; we will be in Vienna on the night of the 27th, 28th and 29th - 3 nights. So the auto repsonse to 3 nights is "well that's only 2 full days". But because everywhere in europe is so much closer to what I'm used to then Vienna can look like this for me (IF I CHOOSE)
27th arrive in vienna before 9am - either drop off bags to hotel for them to store or just keep them in the car then sightsee vienna
28th sightsee vienna - leave car at hotel
29th sightsee vienna - leave car at hotel
30th sightsee vienna until around 6pm then drive to Salzburg
So that's 4 days of sightseeing or down to 2 depending on how i feel at the time AND I don't have to load my bags up onto a train or plane by a certain time and then sit and wait for departure - in fact, I can be seeing the outskirts of vienna and in between things because I have a car. It also allows me the option of staying OUTSIDE the city centre and commuting into the city. We did this for Florence to great effect because part of the magic of Florence is the countryside - not just the city. which meant that we actually saved money because the extra cost of local transport or parking was less than the money we saved in accommodation - because you are 3 its harder or more expensive to get hotels for 3 lads - but you might find something suitable on airbnb for cheaper so having a car to get to this cheaper and better airbnb place is helpful. (personally if I were you guys I would be looking as much as possible at bednbreakfast rooms - one rom per guy and just stay in dirt cheap places)
Also, I feel like I see more by driving. PLUS its easy to go hiking when your driving.

You fellas are young enough to expect to visit these places again when you're old and married. So spending 2 hours in a castle or 90 minutes in a cathedral and an extra hour waiting in line to get into said cathedral might not be your preferred vacation this time around - you might want to do that with your wife and not the lads. So you don't HAVE to do the MUST DO things. The thing to consider here is that you might spend less time in a place than what the guidebooks tell you that you have to do if you're not interested in everything. You have a mixed bag in your trio so maybe you're best bet is planning on generally checking out a city knowing you'll be back again some day rather than thoroughly exploring it. So this means you can get to more locations than the average bear (showing my age by giving a yogi bear reference here).

For context of cost of hiring;
I have a 24 day car rental pickup essen drop off frankfurt for EUD850. I expect to do 2500kms or 1500miles. I expect to use 150 litres of fuel at a total cost of around EUD270 add an extra 180 for parking. If we upgrade the car again then that'll be another 300 for the whole 24 days so 1600 total - divide that by your 3 guys and driving is a pretty good option for me when it comes to the other reasons why I like to drive.

Possible ideas
1) Do Sweden / Scandinavia as one segment, add in a flight then do Amsterdam to Munich via whatever as a separate segment (or in reverse)
2) Pick up from Munich do a round trio then drop off in Munich (there are multiple directions you can take to make a great vacay
3) Pick up in frankfurt go to italy via munich and austria drop off in italy

Traveler nick identified eastern block cities eg prague and budapest - these are great options for a lads trip and easy to combine with munich and poland is also a consideration and you might choose to add in a stop over to pilsen too.
As a german speaker you may be more leaning towards spending time in germany so munich up to amstderdam stopping off throughout germany could work - then back through germany to pilsen and prague could also work but I found it hard to drop off a car in prague so you may need to make an adjustment to that driving plan by either using alternate transport or keeping the car then driving back into germany again.
All of these thoughts might sound a lot and it might be a lot to be honest depending on you guys really
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 06:42 AM
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For someone whose first choice would be anything but a car unless I have to, which is much more a choice of a European, let me compare bhuty’s example. For a 3 night stay in Vienna Bhutto is going to hire a car but not use it for 2 full days and large parts of 2 more. And either not staying in central Vienna to get free parking or staying central and paying a lot for parking something he’s not using. And suggesting that means 4 days of sightseeing will only work for Vienna and not for either of the places before or after.

Setting off from Vienna at 6pm will mean a 4 hour drive with no doubt a stop to rest/eat. The train will take 60/90 minutes less and you can eat and drink during that time.

Of course a car is much more useful if you want to spend time in the countryside or taking more obscure routings but if your plan is to visit a series of larger cities then the train will win in Europe almost every time on both cost and speed.
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 06:59 AM
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It is fair to say I would always choose a car last especially in a foreign country, but almost equally at home.
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 08:07 AM
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"All of these thoughts might sound a lot and it might be a lot to be honest"

You can say that again! Wading through posts 10 & 11 I see a LOT of 'stuff' thrown out there. Quite a bit about their own trip with very little relevant to your initial planning. Don't let it overwhelm you.

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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 08:13 AM
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My 2 cents, thinking back 6 decades:

Aside from the "touristy sites" (museums, castles, Eiffels, etc), one big city (London, Berlin, Rome, etc) look awfully similar to other big cities (Detroit, Chicago, New York). Yes, the words you hear, and the signs you read, are different, but the "feel" is similar. Maybe it's because people bustle about in big cities, while villages are more conducive to savoring the local culture.

To me, London feels much like the US, albeit with different accents. I'd give it max 2 days, just so you can say you've been. Paris is more interesting, visually, maybe 4 days..
Towns/villages in the south of France seem a totally different, laid-back friendly culture than those in the north of France.
Frankfurt/Munich/Stuttgart, to me, are "big cities". The smaller German towns are more representative of German culture. Bear in mind, every thing there that appears "historic" has been restored, even Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Prague and Budapest struck me, in my 70s, as the kinds of town I'd like to have gone to when I was 22 or 23.
I've never had much interest in Scandinavia, so I'll pass comment. Other than mountains (seen one range, seen all), Switzerland is very pricey, with no apparent reason to be.


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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 08:23 AM
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See that shows how people are different and every different way is the best way for that traveller. I realise that not many people are like me. For example;
In my home country I would prefer to drive 9 hours than to fly 2 hours. By the time I drive to the airport, check in, wait, fly, collect baggage and then transit to where ever the 2 hours is no longer 2 hours and I have a car at my disposal. I just love driving and even when I'm driving in Europe on the wrong side of the road i still prefer a manual over auto because I like the driving aspect of driving.
To use my Vienna to Salzburg example, it takes me 3.5 hours to drive (actually a bit less from hotel to hotel) compared to 2.5 hours on the train plus check in time plus waiting time plus transit time to and from the 2 train stations. And if I stop along the way to do some sightseeing then I count that as a bonus for driving and if I stop along the way to eat then I don't count that as more time I count that as a bonus experience of eating somewhere independent and "local" or if winning on time only was the motivation then I can eat in the car something similar to what I could eat on a train and if i leave vienna earlier because I've seen all I want to see then i count that as a bonus for driving etc etc etc. In fact I haven't booked any accommodation in Salzburg and for the ensuing week of travel yet because I might change my mind and I want to be flexible - I have a plan but I may change that plan - that's highly i rate driving.

now the major major argument against driving is fines and crashes. Getting into nitty arguments about which is better, trains or driving is useless if you get fines and delays from crashes....or worse you have a crash. So if you decide to drive you have to decide to drive because its what you want to do - not because someone convinced you so I hope you don't think I am trying to convince you to drive because no one should do that. Accordingly, my posts are detailed and long to avoid the perception of making blanket statements of what you should do or what is the "best" way to do it. I don't believe that there is one best anything.

The other thing that traveller nick said is that if you're under 25 then this could be another factor against driving.
And another thing to consider is that in summer the roads will be more crazy so choosing your driving times wisely is important.
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 08:26 AM
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The major reason to stay off the car for me is to reduce Climate Change
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 12:10 PM
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I like Bilboburgler's idea. Split your time between Munich, Prague, Dresden and Berlin. Day trip from Munich south to the Bavarian Alps for a hike. Another excellent option for hikes is the National Park Saxon Switzerland south of Dresden - day trips easily possible or you stay in a smaller town like Pirna (or even smaller, like almost village size: Wehlen, Rathen, Königstein, Bad Schandau). Gorgeous bizarre sandstone formations, little canyons, (free climbing was first done here), hikes, cycling trips, kayaking but also castles etc.
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 01:19 PM
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As you seem to be focused on cities, the I think Prague and Krakow along with your must of Munch. If Munich is not really a must, then I would substitute Vienna.
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Old Apr 10th, 2024, 01:52 PM
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I realize the OP (original poster) speaks German, but these latter suggestions seem heavily Germanic.

He's graduating, dudes!!! He has a big, broad world in front of him, and it doesn't end at the Elbe and Rhine!!!

See Prague. See Budapest. See Paris.

Major qualification here: read some history books about each place you visit, wherever you go, before you leave the USA. You did NOT learn all there is to learn in the world, in college
Example: my 25 yr old grand-daughter (4 yr college degree, 3.8 GPA) thinks the TSA-type security (IDs, checkpoints, etc) is so that, if the plane goes down, the airline knows who to call.
And she knows it all; just ask her.
No DB Cooper, no 1972 Black September Olympics, no Arab hijackings,ad nauseum, none of these had any part to play with TSA security
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