Europe in winter

Apr 1st, 2007, 02:02 AM
  #1  
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Europe in winter

Hi there! Am new to this site, never travelled to Europe (I have limited travel experience) but keen to get as much advice as possible.
My husband and I would like to take our boys, 16 yrs and 21 yrs to Europe, first time for all of us - two major problems, we wont have much time there, only about 3 weeks (work commitments back in Australia) and the only time we can make the trip within the next 12 months is December 2006/ January 2007.
We have plenty of stamina, quite happy to cram in as much as possible (husband and I can come back later and do it at a more leisurely pace!!) The boys would like to see as many "landmarks" as possible - just to say they've seen them! England, France, Italy, Germany. Besides the tourist haunts, 16 yo definitely wants to watch a soccer (football?) match in England. Husband has also expressed interest in Mercedes and Porsche factories/museums, and Amalfi Coast (anything to do with boats!). I would like to see a bit of the countryside, visit Bath in England etc etc. Wont worry about too many musuems, performing arts on this trip.
Would prefer to travel by ourselves or in a small group for designated tours.
First big question - are we mad to even contemplate doing the trip in the northern winter? We can handle the cold but are we likely to be snowed in, face traffic chaos, closure of tourist haunts etc etc?
Secondly, any suggestions on how I can achieve as much as possible in this short time? If necessary, the boys might stay on in Germany with friends (21yo wants to visit Berlin Wall, etc).
I will work with a travel agent here in Perth, Australia but would love any advice from Fodorites.
Regards
Susi
seasidesusi is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 02:34 AM
  #2  
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Ooops - reply to self - of course I meant December 2007/Jan 2008 (the years are flying past!) If I can't get the years right - how on earth am I going to get the whole trip sorted?? Help!
seasidesusi is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 02:43 AM
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Hi we are from Brisbane (2 adults, 3 kids) and planning the Euro thing same time as you. Currently booking on-line as flight centre was way too expensive. But I di get my air fair there - we got the Finnair RTW ticket for $2,159 plus tax - cheapest by a long way but had to stop in Helsinki - which we thought was pretty cool (we are doing BNE to LAX to JFK to helsinki to london to Paris - overland to ROME by hire care then home via Hong Kong - awesome airfare see travel.com.au) Use tripadvisor.com for hotel reviews. we booked car from driveaway.com.au - way cheaper than anyone else I could find. Book hotels direct if you can..Re weather I suspect it is more of a problem the more north you go. This will be first time for us but we are planning to stay as close to mediteranean as possible to avoid too cold...and am not keen on driving on ice..
jedistar is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 02:58 AM
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Thanks jedistar, you are obviously WAY more advanced than me on this travel planning! Who would have thought - Helsinki? But as you say, very cool! Will try to think more creatively or laterally! If you don't mind my asking ... how long are you planning to be away? And what are the must-do's on your itinerary?
seasidesusi is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 03:44 AM
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If weather delays are really worrying you, you might want use train services as much as is feasible. Naturally, the Eurostar is by far your best option for London-Paris, but also to go from Paris to Germany, the TGV-Est will have been in service for 6 months already, putting a lot of Germany only 3 1/2 to 5 hours away, scenery included, with very little likelihood of winter snow disrupting the train. And of course, if you book far enough ahead of time, you will get unbeatable fares on www.voyages-sncf.com.
kerouac is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 03:48 AM
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Check out www.bestflights.com.au (who are actually located in Perth). I have found them very good in the past, particularly with combinations for RTW trips, which can be a lot cheaper than direct to and from to Europe in December/January. The airfare that jedistar is talking about is amongst those listed.

We took our family to Europe over December/January in 2005 and didn't find it too cold to handle at all - just make sure you take appropriate clothing and you will be fine. We did the "white Christmas" bit in Bavaria and it was absolutely wonderful - everything we hoped it would be.

I know you want to cram a lot in, especially as you haven't been before, but do make sure you allow yourself enough downtime. Even if you can physically handle moving every 2-3 days, you don't want to spend most of your holidays sitting on planes/trains, waiting at airports etc. rather than experiencing things. When working out your plans, be realistic. For instance, you might say it is only a one hour flight from Paris to London but in reality, it means a good half day is lost by the time you have packed, booked out of hotel, gone to airport, waited, caught plane, stood in lines for baggage, customs etc and then got transport to the next hotel. If you have only allowed for, say, a 3 day stay, that only leaves 2 1/2 days before you start all over again.

If you can organise it, that your getting to the next destination is part of the sightseeing that is good, e.g. driving through Bavaria down the Romantic Stasse, allows you to accomplish seeing the sights and getting you to the next destination at the same time.

I have no doubt that you will all have a wonderful time.
shandy is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 03:56 AM
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We are away 1 Dec return 20 Jan so a long break. Am trying to keep the budget down so if you want cheap hotels that score well on tripadvisor I can help for London (Holiday Inn Express Park Royal North Acton - 15 minutes out but right on top of tube station, Paris - Hotel Muguet, Rome Hotel Paba). problem with 5 people is 2 hotel rooms. With 4 you can share a room in many places (if you want to). I am into ancient history so for me the must dos in France are paris of course, Pont du garde (aqueduct) Italy - Venice, Pompeii/Herculaneum and Rome, Amalfi coast. The Hotel Paba ranks very high in Rome and is only 200 metres from the Colloseum etc. We are doing a one way car hire which costs 300 Euro extra but means we don't need to back track...Germany is a maybe but I am worried about weather..
jedistar is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 05:15 AM
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Traveling to Europe in winter is fine - but trying to cover 1/2 the continent in 3 weeks -- not so much.

Some issues to consider:

* In Germany, and especially in England, the daylight hours will be very short.

* The amalfi coast is so far off the tourist path in Dec that many places will be closed. It is not a winter resort area and it will not be beach weather. I definitely skip the AC.

* Don't plan a driving tour - the trains and flying will be faster, easier, and probably cheaper.

* Jet lag can be pretty shattering the first day or 2 so you need to take it slow at the beginning.

* You need to check if any of the factory tours are offered over the holidays

You don't say want you want to see in France - but I'll assume Paris.

W/ 3 weeks the basics would look something like: Fly open jaw into London and out of Munich or Frankfurt. 1 day travel. 6 Days in London (really only netting you 5 full days for sightseeing). Eurostar train to Paris staying 4-5 days. Cheap flight to Munich 2 days in Munich or better - 4 days w/ a couple of day trips to any of a number of great nearby sites. Train to Stuttgart for 1 day and the Porsche tour (assuming the tours are offered then). Travel day home.

This totals about 17 full days -- giving you 4 days to "play" w/. You can then plan backwards and decide what other place you want to visit for 3-4 days.

janisj is online now  
Apr 1st, 2007, 05:17 AM
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Menat to say "In France, Germany, and especially in England, the daylight hours will be very short.
janisj is online now  
Apr 1st, 2007, 06:01 AM
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We (2 + 18-yr-old daughter) spent two fine weeks in Italy and Germany right after Christmas. It was great. I can't praise global warming enough for the mild weather we had.

To save time, try flying open jaws - into London and out of Rome - or the reverse. If you need to fly, check www.whichbudget.com for cheap flights between European cities. But be sure to think about airport shuttling, arriving early for check-in, waiting for your luggage to appear on the baggage carousel, etc. when you compare planes and trains on price and time consumption. Trains often win this battle.

Generally, you should stick with trains, which will be faster, more comfortable, much less trouble than a car (who wants to drive in a major European city, or between them, if the weather is foul?) and will take you to the center of whatever metropolis you plan to visit. For a journey over the Alps, consider a night train sleeper/couchette etc. to save more time (though perhaps not $.)

Late December and early January constitute a sort of off-season tourist season in Italy. We found hotel prices went up a bit near the first of January and through the first week or so. Florence was packed.

If you arrive prior to Christmas, check out the German Christmas markets. Nuremberg's is the best known, but they have become commonplace almost everywhere and are mostly very enchanting. But if you arrive after Christmas, all may not be lost. In Speyer, not terribly far south of Frankfurt, we visited a bustling, festive Christmas market on January 7. Seems that town has found a "market gap" for late arrivals.

Have a great trip. I'm sure you will.
Russ is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 04:27 PM
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English football tickets are very difficult to get. You will most likely have to buy from a broker, and they are generally quite expensive.

If you are in Germany, you may want to consider catching another football game there - check out Bundesliga schedules. When we were in Bamberg this past Thanksgiving, one of our trip highlights was watching a football game in Nurenberg. AWESOME. We bought tickets online and picked them up at the stadium.

Have a fabulous trip.
beanweb24 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2007, 04:46 PM
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Hi seasidesusi, Guess where I am from? We went to Italy in Dec/06Jan07 for a month. We were not cold at all and except for our ski week we did not see snow (unfortunately not much that week either but that is another story). Of course you can be unlucky and get a cold winter but this winter was not. My boys even swam on the Amalfi Coast and the sea was actually warmer than it was on our return to Sydney in late January. However we also travelled in Vermont one winter when it was -35 degrees. An experience you don't get in Australia so it was well worth it. I think we are lucky travelling in the northern winter. The are few crowds so you rarely have to wait in lines. Christmas period can be a little more crowded as it is holiday time over there too. The only problem with travelling in winter is that some places are closed so you need to check that out first. But all the main sights are open all the time. The only other problem might be the lack of daylight but then again darkness at 3pm is an experience! Have fun.
aussiefive is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 02:23 AM
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I'd suggest avoiding North Europe as much as possible. The weather is unpredictable, and days are short. London sightseeing in grey drizzle loses its attraction after a short while.

You may now think Helsinki is cool. If you arrive in a cold spell (say -25C), you might change that to ***** cold !

Peter
mpprh is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 03:01 AM
  #14  
 
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I second the bestflights suggestion. We booked them for our honeymoon in October. I'd received numerous quotes from travel agents - Harvey World, Trailfinders, Flight Centre, Escape Travel and bestflights beat them all easily.

I also second the tripadvisor suggestion. I find them to be a reliable source of reviews. You need to use your nous though. Some people have unrealistic expectations and this can result in some overly aggressive reviews.
thegilbeys is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 07:04 AM
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We took our two teens (girls) to Europe twice for 2 week Christmas/New Years trips: December 2002/January 2003 and December 2005/January 2006. We were in Germany/Austria and Prague both times. We used the trains exclusively between cities on our itinerary. Snow doesn't affect trains the way it does planes or driving, so that is a bonus. We all enjoy riding the trains; the scenery out the window is a big plus for me.

The weather was cold, especially the second trip, where it snowed nearly every day. In fact, our flight out of Vienna was delayed about an hour because of the snow, and we missed our connection in Paris, leading to an unplanned 24 hours in Paris (without luggage!) We were prepared for the weather, though, and the cities and towns were so beautiful with the snowy coat!

The Christmas markets in Germany are fun - you can check the dates online; many finish a few days before Christmas. Munich has a few markets in the downtown area, and Munich itself is quite enjoyable.
noe847 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 10:13 AM
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Thank you all for your generous input. I am being "transported" everytime I read a contribution - I have started my holiday in my head!
BeanWeb24 can you please point me in the direction of a website which will have English football fixtures for 2007/08. Also the web address of any ticket sellers and what I could expect to pay.
Do you know if the most senior league teams will be playing over Dec/Jan? Of you dont brrack for either side,
Cheers - and thanks again everyone (my screen name should in fact me NOVICE!
Cheers
seasidesusi is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 12:49 PM
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This is a good place to start:

www.premierleague.com

Two sites for tickets are:
www.topticketshop.com
www.theticketbay.com

You might also want to read this thread - I was looking for help for Football tickets at the end of 2006.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34912365

beanweb24 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 01:05 PM
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I've spent mid-december in London, Paris and Rome and wasn't put off by the weather much. Paris & Rome were on one trip and certainly cold, but not too bad. I'm from Seattle, so the London weather was just fine by me since I'm used to grey drizzle. In all three places it was warmer than I had anticipated.

Have a great trip!
bubblywine is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2007, 01:44 PM
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Hi Susie. I'm from NZ and can understand how you want to squeeze in as much as possible. It was our first trip to Europe too - we went just this last Christmas/January. Weather was amazing. Italy was warm - even had 16deg one day when we visited the Cinque Terre - I felt the water at the beach and it was incredibly warm - much warmer than our waters around NZ and I swear if I had had my togs, I would have been in. It was cooler in Germany and Austria, but once again, very mild compared to normal conditions. We had snow fall twice - once in Prague and another day while visiting Hallstatt - that was it. There are no queues in winter - great. In Italy, we used only the trains. In the UK we hired a car. I wouldn't hesitate to go again at this time of the year.
amandab is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 05:29 PM
  #20  
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Thanks to all who posted replies, much appreciated - I have made the first step (met with travel agent)and was able to utilise the advice received online. Thanks again!
seasidesusi is offline  

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