Europe Itinerary... First timer

Feb 23rd, 2015, 12:57 PM
Join Date: May 2003
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"If someone told you they planned to visit Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto and Boston in 16 days, would you say to them that that was a good idea?"

Now I'm not good at geography, but something about this analogy seems just a little bit off.
Bitter is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 01:06 PM
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bvlenci is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 01:33 PM
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7 countries in one month. 6 countries in 18 days. The latter is significantly more packed.

OP may want to do something like this. May end up doing something like this. It may give her some thoughts on future travel and how she wants to do it. Or maybe she does not expect to ever be back in Europe.

A lot of issues for the OP. I'd compare going to a buffet and eating 6 plates similar to this trip. Sure, I CAN do it, but if I came asking for advice with descriptions of what I would fill each of my six plates with, I'd expect some comments about eating WAY too much. So long as no one said hey fatso, quit eating so much, (and no one here has approached that tone, IMO) then all's fair.
apersuader65 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 02:02 PM
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Thank you everyone for your time and replies. I did get a little intimidated by all the negatives, but I do appreciate the honesty.
I guess I would like to see as many places as I can, because I am not sure when I'll be able to take a trip like this in my entire life. My company is sending me to a conference in Stockholm and paying for my ticket. I will be in Stockholm until June 27. and this is when my trip starts.
I don't really enjoy museums or art that much. I am actually looking for more of a cultural experience.
lina_atehortua is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 02:05 PM
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Let's shorten Sojourn example up. Here's a trip in just the US that is roughly the same mileage between cities:

Start in Sanfransico for a couple of days
Then train or fly to LA for 4 days.
From LA, take a train to Hurley New Mexico for the day, and that night, travel on in to Albuquerque.
Spend a few more days there.
Then head out of Albuquerque and travel to Kansas City for a day or so, then travel to Chicago, where you'll be departing from.

Mostly one language here in the US, no less than three on this trip in Europe.

I can't think of a way to nicely, and effectively identify how bad I think this first draft itinerary is.

OP posted last night at nearly 7 pm. I suspect she may be back this evening to tell us all to kiss off, or to ask some more details.
apersuader65 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 02:08 PM
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I will take the train from Amsterdam to Paris instead of a flight.
Also, I am backpacking!!!
I only decided to stay one day in Venice, because a friend told me a day is more than enough in Venice. I guess she didn't find much to do there.
lina_atehortua is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 02:11 PM
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apersuader65 I will never be rude to tell people to kiss off when I know I'm getting real advice. I've been working all day, couldn't reply earlier. But look above your comment, I just replied.
lina_atehortua is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 02:13 PM
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bvlenci thank you for not scaring me off!
lina_atehortua is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 02:20 PM
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>>because a friend told me a day is more than enough in Venice. I guess she didn't find much to do there.<<

That is sad that your friend couldn't find anything to do in Venice. It isn't a place you can see in a day. Now, you can see the general St Mark's Square/Basilica/Doges Palace area and maybe ride a vaporetto or two but that is about it. I'd think 3 days at minimum would be needed to see just the basics.

Your friend must be bored easily . . . .
janisj is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 02:48 PM
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Glad you have the opportunity for this trip and that you are doing it. You will have some great memories.

There are a few people who actually do not care for Venice, but many consider it one of the most beautiful places in the world and return again and again. I have been seven times, and hope to go again some day.

Summer heat can be a problem for some, but another is going for only a day and rushing around trying to see a few highlights without experiencing the culture and seeing local life, without experiencing any of the surrounding lagoons and islands, and without getting any understanding of the importance of Venice as a center of world art and trade, and how it was built.

There are places where a quick pass gives you a sense of the place. IMHO, Venice is not one of them.

Venice is not a place to rush. It is not to see things. It is a place to sense and feel. It is a place to breath and absorb. It is romantic, mysterious, etherial, wet. It is like a mirage because once you leave, it is hard to believe it was real.

I fear your one day, especially as planned, will not give you any of that.

You could:
June 30, take very early train from Amsterdam to Paris
(takes a half day from Amsterdam and gives it to Paris)

July 3, take an early flight from Paris to Venice (Takes day from Paris (but you gained part of it back from Amsterdam), and gives extra afternoon and next day as a whole day in Venice.

OTOH, if it does not sound at all appealing to you, and you think that you and your friend think alike, consider skipping Venice altogether.
Sassafrass is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 05:05 PM
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I'm confused - wouldn;t a "cultural" experience include a lot of time in museums and looking at local art and architecture history?

We had another poster not too long ago who who defined "culture" as beer.

So I guess it depends on what you mean by "culture". To me a lot of it is at least a small understanding of how the locals live their lives and differences in habit - eating times, sitting in a cafe watching the world go by for an hour or so, less work and more relaxed than a lot of places in the US.

As for seeing Venice in a day - of course you can see a couple of things. But not have any real knowledge of Venice.

Like people who come to NYC, stay in Times Square - and think they know about NY.
nytraveler is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2015, 05:35 PM
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Hi Lina,

Good to see that you are reading the advice here and taking it in stride. I'm glad you will be taking the train to Paris... much cheaper and easier. Which is a helpful reminder for the rest of your trip. (1)The more you move, the more money you will spend. So if budget is at all a consideration, limiting the number of stops will help stretch that budget. And (2) keep in mind that airports are typically located about an hour or so outside the city center in most larger cities. Plus you need to arrive 1-2 hours before departure. So you always need to add 3-4 hours of "travel" time onto the flight time.

I think an easy way to modify your trip would be to drop Barcelona. You could then allocate those days to Paris, Venice, and/or Madrid, flying directly to Madrid from Rome. But that's just what I would do. Perhaps Barcelona is particularly important to you for some reason?

You might also find it helpful to get a guidebook to determine the sights and activities that you'd find enjoyable in each city. You might find, for example, there are five days worth of stuff you'd like to do in Amsterdam, or only in two in Rome, or whatever. It's important that you plan what will be personally most enjoyable to YOU, not what the rest of us might think. And you also might find the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum helpful to you, since that tends to draw more of the backpacker crowd.

The planning is half the fun of a trip like this. Enjoy!
msteacher is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 03:03 AM
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I think you are smart to take the train from Amsterdam to Paris. It really takes a minimum of 4-5 hours for even the shortest flight (including getting to/from the airport, security and flight itself). So if the train ride between two places is 4 hours or less I always take the train. That is the case with Amsterdam and Paris. It is not the case with Paris and Venice.

I think the idea of taking a half day from Amsterdam and going to Paris earlier, but then flying early in the day that you go to Venice makes sense. Venice is best early and late in the day when the day trippers are gone. If your friend was there for one day, mid day, and just went along the main tourist route (train station to Rialto to San Marco) then I understand why she didn't like it. You need to walk around in the early morning hours, in the evening when the day trippers (especially including the cruise shippers) are not there, and also to get off the main route and just let yourself get lost for a few hours. I would also switch your train to Rome for slightly later in the day. That way you can enjoy another morning in Venice - plus you can't check into a Rome hotel that early anyway. And you still have over three days in Rome.

And even though if I had to choose Madrid or Barcelona I'd pick Barcelona - in your case you have to go to Madrid for the flight so I'd skip Barcelona in this case, add the days to Madrid and use them to do day trips to Toledo and Segovia. Both are easy day trips from one base in Madrid and both are so worth while. Plus you don't have many smaller towns in your itinerary so this would give you that (they aren't small villages, but compared to the larger cities they are quite small). You could even do another day trip to Cordoba. You'd see three great places in Spain and still have time to see a little of Madrid which is enough if you aren't going to the museums.
isabel is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 06:10 AM
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Another suggestion is to have your hotel or hostel's reserved ahead of time. You won't have much time to wander around looking for where you want to stay. I do think you need to pick up a good guide book or two and start learning a bit more about your destinations. You may find one or two have more for you (and may want to stay longer). Better to find that out now.
Bitter is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 06:51 AM
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"I guess I would like to see as many places as I can, because I am not sure when I'll be able to take a trip like this in my entire life."

The common phrase used lina is 'to see as much as possible'. You have actually used the word 'many'. Obviously, they are not synonymous.

If you want to see many then a 'list ticking' itinerary will indeed achieve that. The only question is how much will you see? You could visit a different city every day but obviously you wouldn't see anywhere in any depth at all. You certainly would not have enough time to 'experience local culture'.

If you want to see as 'much' as possible, then you need to think about what much means. It does not mean 'many'. The way to see as much as possible is to spend your time IN places, not in BETWEEN places. People comment on travel time because the reality is that every time you move you more or less lose most of a day. That time is better spent IN a place. In travel as in many things, less is more. The less you move the more you see and do.

So the idea is to try and achieve some kind of balance between a desire to see 86 places of interest to you and the limited amount of time you have. Most people start out by coming up with a list of places. Then they try to fit that list into the time available. That invariably results in trying to cover too much in too little time.

You would do better to start the opposite way. Decide first how many places your time will allow you to visit and then come up with a list of places limited to that number.

To do that you can use the Rule of 3s which in terms of travel says, 'never spend less than 3 full days/4 nights in a place unless it is just an overnight stop between A and B.'

Note the 'less than', it is a minimum. Most people would say that places like Paris, London, Rome,etc. need more than 3 full days. Also note the '4 nights' this allows for a travel day between places.

There are places where anyone might find they are ready to leave after a day. That's fine, if you're ready, leave and add the days on elsewhere. But don't plan 1 day stops. If you want to add a day trip to somewhere then you can but add another day and night in the base location, do not take the day trip out of the 3 days in X.

Arrival and departure days are always a write off. You have to count them but they're lost time. So for an average 2 week trip for example you end up with only 12 days/nights available to actually spend IN places. That means you should not be planning on visiting more than 3 places.

So using that rule of thumb, it's clear that your 16 available days is enough for 4 places. You won't get any real depth in any of them but you will get a reasonble amount of a taste. One lick of an ice cream cone doesn't really tell you anything. If you can't eat the whole thing, you need at least a few licks to tell if you like it. That's what 3 full days gets you.

Regarding, when you will have another chance to come back, that is yet another common thought. It is however entirely illogical. You are as likely to visit many times in your life as you are to never visit again. You have no way of knowing one way or the other so why would you ASSUME the negative rather than the positive? It is as easy to think, 'I'll get another chance to see more' as it is to think, 'I'll never get another chance.'
Sojourntraveller is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 06:58 AM
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I can justify the day in Venice because that's one of the two Italian cities to which you can get a direct overnight train from Paris. (The other is Milan.) And as long as one is in Venice, it would be a shame not to spend at least a few hours there. I really don't agree that you can't enjoy Venice in a short time. Just the first sight of the Grand Canal would justify a long detour.

The advice to skip Barcelona and stay in Madrid to make day trips to Segovia and Toledo doesn't make any sense. If trying to see too many places in too little time is the problem with this trip, why would you suggest dropping a place where she wants to spend three days, to replace it with two more cities? If there's no point in spending one day in Venice, what's the point of a day trip to Segovia or Toledo?
bvlenci is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 07:04 AM
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Sojourner, Lina is planning to visit just four places: Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, and Barcelona. To that she's added Madrid, where she's spending her final night to catch a flight home, and Venice, where she's not even spending a night, just passing through, but wants to spend a day there since she'll be there anyway on her trip from Paris.

By the way, the left-luggage facility at Santa Lucia station in Venice opens at 6 AM.
bvlenci is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 07:11 AM
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About ten years ago one of my sisters came to visit me with her husband and a son. We spent several days in Rome, and then the rest of their short vacation at our home in Le Marche. She had always wanted to see Venice, but they really couldn't spend more than ten days in Italy. She asked if it would be possible to go there for the day. Literally, it's possible, but it's a long trip by train. However, I told her I'd go with them for the day, if they didn't mind leaving early, returning late, and eating on the train.

I packed us some lunches to eat an early lunch on the train and we left not much later than the crack of dawn. When we got to Venice, we took a vaporetto to San Marco, but we didn't go into the Basilica. We also didn't go to the Rialto Bridge, or take a gondola ride. The only place we actually visited was the Ca' Rezzonico (which I highly recommend). We crossed the Canale Grande on a traghetto. We wandered around the little calli off the tourist track. For about half an hour we watched a family moving house, loading their furniture onto a goods gondola. We sat in a small square eating gelato and watching a festa di laurea (graduation party).

We didn't eat any meals in a restaurant in Venice, other than the gelato. Before catching the train home, we bought some panini near the station and ate them on the way home.

This was my sister's first trip to Europe, and she and her family really loved Venice. Even though it was a very brief visit, I think they did appreciate the atmosphere of the place, partly because we avoided as much as possible the tourist hordes.

A few years later, my sister became disabled and will probably not be coming to Europe again. Do you think she regrets her seven hours in Venice? Those of us who travel frequently have to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who literally doesn't know if this will be the only trip to Europe in a lifetime. Let's hope it's not Lina's only trip to Europe, but I would not discourage her from seeing all the things she's been dying to see.
bvlenci is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 07:39 AM
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I'm with bvlenci. This is fast-paced but not impossible.

Lina, you could of course drop Italy altogether and spend more time in France and Spain but on a first trip, you don't know what you are going to like, so why not see a little bit of each of these beautiful places?

Have a great trip!
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Feb 24th, 2015, 07:42 AM
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Part of the problem of moving frequently is the time spent checking in and out of hotels. She is going to be spending one night in Madrid anyway, so eliminating Barcelona and extending Madrid eliminates one hotel. It also eliminates the train ride from Barcelona to Madrid since she could fly there from Rome as easily as flying to Barcelona from Rome. So that was the main reasoning behind the suggestion. I don't find day trips as tiring as moving locations altogether. Plus Segovia and Toledo are smaller than the other cities she will be visiting so I though it might be nice for her to experience that slice of Europe.
isabel is offline  

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