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First Time Backpacker Overwhelmed


Aug 12th, 2013, 06:08 PM
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First Time Backpacker Overwhelmed

Hey Guys,
I was hoping I could get some help fine tuning my itinerary. I will be going backpacking in May of 2014 with two of my best friends. Now I know a boys trip most of the time ends up as just a piss up in a pub but it is really important to me and my mates that we experience the culture of the different places we go to and immerse ourselves.

We will be going for 34 days so just under 5 weeks.

I have found so many amazing places that I would love to go but have somewhat narrowed it down to these 10. Here are those places and the amount of days spent.
1)London (Arrival city) - 3
2)Amsterdam - 4
3)Prague - 4
6)Venice-2 (or do you suggest the Cinque Terre instead?)
7)Rome - 3
8)Palma de Mallorca-4
10)Paris-4 (Departure City)

My first question is 10 places to many in 34 days? My feeling is yes. I want to have a good mix between feeling that Ive accomplished all that I want as well as not feeling rushed.

Also, do you suggest any alternatives to the places I've chosen?

Some places that also interested me where Dubrovnik, Salzburg, Vienna, Barcelona, San Sebastian, Marseille, and venturing into the little towns within Germany.

I will be using a select eurail pass for 5 countries then traveling by cheap flights for the rest. Is this a good idea?

I want the romance of hidden cobble stone streets, the discovery of castles and beautiful views as well as some kickass nights with my friends. I think these cities accomplish this.

I am really looking forward to your advice. Please help me make this the trip of a lifetime. Thanks
alexballingall is offline  
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Aug 12th, 2013, 07:01 PM
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I always wonder what people mean by "backpacking." Is it just that you'll be carrying a backpack rather than traditional luggage?


The way you've listed the destinations seems to indicate the number of nights, not the number of days, in a place. That means, you're staying in London 3 nights and will have 2 full days for sightseeing, 4 nights in Amsterdam with 3 full days for sightseeing, etc. (You will lose a half day or more traveling from one destination to the next.) Only you can decide if this is enough time everywhere to see/do what you want to see/do. It is a lot of moving around, and the old lady in me has to ask, "When do you plan to do laundry?"

Before you buy that train pass, you need to so some homework. Add up all the train fares you would pay if you bought point-to-point tickets and then compare to the cost of the pass. The pass may make sense. I just don't know.
Jean is offline  
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Aug 12th, 2013, 07:12 PM
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"I want the romance of hidden cobble stone streets, the discovery of castles and beautiful views..."

You'll need to venture OUT of the heavily touristed Grand Tour cities you've listed for at least a couple of days to do a bit of this. Maybe between A'dam and Prague you can venture into some small German villages for a day or two. Routing through Frankfurt takes you near the Rhine Valley (40 castles in about 40 miles, several fine old world villages here like Linz am Rhein, Bacharach, Oberwesel.)


If you head to Prague via Nuremberg, Bamberg is a short detour, with its brew pubs and fine old town center; also, you'll pass through Würzburg too, and near there are Sommerhausen, Ochsenfurt and Marktbreit, all in the Main River valley:

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Aug 12th, 2013, 07:19 PM
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Yes, too many places.

You have not allowed for travle time.

You need to figure that 3 night in a city is TWO days.

Lay the trip out in a list of 23 days and put a location of reach places. You should list the city you will spend the whole day - or both the city you are leaving from and arriving in. That can;t be listed as sightseeing for either city.
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Aug 12th, 2013, 07:39 PM
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Are you from the Land Down Under? It will have been a long trip, and even if you’re from North America - by the time you get to London, you can write off that first day, you won’t be worth much, and whatever you do that day won’t stick in your memory much.

London deserves more than the two days you’d have with your wits about you.

For your entire trip planning, these two will help: www.skyscanner.net and www.whichbudget.com. Keep your backpack real light or budget airlines suddenly are not budget any longer - read the fine print about luggage restrictions and fees.

Then how will you get to Amsterdam? Look at these websites for fun suggestions: www.seat61.com/Netherlands.htm

To save on travel times, consider taking night trains. You can sit up, hoping that not all seats will be taken so that you can sort of stretch out a bit. Or for a bit extra (not included in rail passes) you can book a couchette which is a bunk - in a shared compartment, either four or six, no privacy, but your back will thank you. Or go swanky and book a sleeper. See www.seat61.com for good descriptions.

For more small-town charms you need to give Southern Germany more time than just 3 days/four nights in Munich. There are dozens of quaint towns in that area (called Bavaria), read up on them and pick some - trains go to most of them. www.bahn.de

Venice or Cinque Terre - can’t compare, totally different, roll the dice and pick one.

Your best bet for the multi-country railpass is probably Holland-Germany-Switzerland-Italy, although in Italy itself trains cost a lot less than in the countries north of the alps, so be sure you’ve done your sums before you buy the pass. Look at www.railsaver.com and at Rick Steve’s ready-reckoner to compare individual tickets to a pass - www.ricksteves.com.

I don’t see you using the train in France, it’s too long and too far from Valencia (gateway port to Ibiza) by train.
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Aug 12th, 2013, 07:53 PM
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"To save on travel times, consider taking night trains."

There aren't many true night trains anymore. Yes, you can ride trains overnight to get from place to place, but you often have to change trains once or twice (or more), sometimes in the middle of the night, often with time gaps. You might "save time" in some sense, but you'll lose sleep and will have to be very careful with your backpack/luggage. I've heard many stories (including my brother and a nephew) who had items stolen while they slept on trains.
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Aug 12th, 2013, 08:36 PM
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Im sorry guys I didn't go into much depth just to save all of you guys the hassle of reading it. I was meaning "3 nights" for example, my mistake.

My travel plans are as follows:
Fly into London- spend 3 nights
Fly to Amsterdam early the 4th day- spend 3 nights and 3 1/2 days
Night train to prague- spend 4 nights
Train to munich- spend 3 nights
train to Interlaken- spend 4 nights
train to venice- spend 2 nights
train to rome- spend 3 nights
fly to palma- spend 4 nights
ferry to Ibiza- spend 3 nights
fly to paris - spend 4 nights
fly home

A question for someone who has been to Italy.. How similar are rome and venice? The reason I ask this is if I am going to see rome forsure then would it be better to see the coast instead of venice? I really love the thought of the canals as well as the rich history which lies within venice but the thought of 5 fishing villages stretched upon a hillside seems somewhat irresistible.

I worry about giving in to the online top 10 lists. In no way am I one of those guys who thinks its lame to conform to whats popular, but I do want this trip to be about getting out of the big cities. That being said I worry about missing cities like paris or prague because they must be doing something right to be so popular. As I digress I think what I am trying to ask is this...Is there anything im missing within the reach of my route that would be a crime to pass up?

about the rail pass, seen as I am going to be using rail through Switzerland I have heard that it will eat up your whole budget unless you get a pass because rail within Switzerland is so expensive. True?
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Aug 12th, 2013, 09:40 PM
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I did a similar trip when I was younger. The best advice I can give is Do Not Overplan.
Yes you want to be well prepared, know how to get around and know your options. A list of must see and some nice to see.

Example: you are "scheduled" to leave Amsterdam and see a poster for a huge outdoor concert/festival in 2 days. Do you stay or leave?
Maybe another backpacker tells you about the amazing(or terrible) time they had in village A or city B.

There are only 2 places you must be on time. At the airport the day you leave and the airport the day you return. Everything else in between should be about having a great time.

Oh and the usual boilerplate advice: Pack half as much and take Twice the money!

Good Luck,
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Aug 12th, 2013, 10:48 PM
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Rome and Venice don't even compare, except that they are both within Italy. Not even close. Nothing from the old Roman days in Venice, nor the catholic overkill (Vatican etc) of Rome, just the usual assortment of churches like everywhere else. But Venice is unique in ways Rome isn't - so no comparison.

There are plenty of night trains still operating, real night trains - www.seat61.com will inform you, and you can look them up at www.bahn.de and www.oebb.at and www.sbb.ch and www.trenitalia.com and - for the Czech Republic - https://www.cd.cz/eshop/

I guess you saw this regarding the Amsterdam-Prague night train? http://www.seat61.com/train-from-ams...m#.UgnV7RZYUsw

About the cost of a rail pass - did you look up railsaver.com and ricksteves.com? And did you look up some fares on the Swiss train website www.sbb.ch? That'll tell you how much it will be - depends on how many trips within Switzerland you have planned, and how long these trips are. The local mountain trains and funiculars and cograils and such don't honor the passes, not fully, some allow a 50% discount or so - look up the individual websites.

When relocating by train, even when it's not long enough a trip for an all-night train, plan on doing it with one of the last trains of the day. By then you're tired from your day's activities, you might as well relax, get to the new destination in time for a drink and bed, and spend the energetic morning and daytime hours on better things than sitting on a train.

For example, take the 17:15 train from Prague that gets to Munich by 23:05 - without the need for a change en route, it goes all the way. It's not the fastest (none are on that particular route), stops in about ten places, but you can relax, it ends in Munich so if you doze, no problem, as long as your stuff is secure.
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Aug 13th, 2013, 12:21 AM
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We are 19 year old university students looking for the trip of our lives. Do you think paris and venice fit that? The reason I ask is because I feel I want to go (or maybe its that I feel I have to go) yet it doesn't really fit the theme of our trip. Maybe we would be better off seeing Barcelona instead?

Also I never really got a solid answer. Is 10 places within 34 days to much, perfect or not enough? We want to see as much as possible without draining ourselves physically and mentally, but we are also young and energetic and might be able to handle a more high paced schedule.

I am just at the point in planning where I feel some what overwhelmed because there are so many amazing places to see.
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Aug 13th, 2013, 12:22 AM
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To better explain my point about paris, it is known as the "city of love" correct? I obviously hope to return in the future so maybe is it worth saving it till then rather then go to it on a trip with my buddys?
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Aug 13th, 2013, 12:44 AM
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<< Also I never really got a solid answer. Is 10 places within 34 days to much, perfect or not enough? >>

You did get an answer - way too much.

<< We want to see as much as possible >>

Does this mean that you want to go to a lot of places and see them superficially or that you want to see as much as possible in the places you visit. Two completely different things. You need to decide which type of trip you'll take. An overview trip where you spend a lot of time getting from one place to another or a trip where you see more in each place you visit and go to fewer places so you don't spend your vacation time in airports and train stations.

<< How similar are rome and venice >>

They are not at all similar. I can't think of any place in Europe that looks at all like Venice. Even other cities with canals look different than Venice.

Before you spend 4 nights in Interlaken, make sure it's a place you want to go to. I can't see 4 nights/3 days there. You're spending more time there than London and Rome. What's the attraction?

<< I am just at the point in planning where I feel some what overwhelmed because there are so many amazing places to see. >>

Yes, and because you're 19 you will have a lifetime to see those places you've missed on this trip. You can't see it all in one trip so choose places that interest you and enjoy them.

You can get some solid information on this board but you should also be posting on the Thorn Tree forum which has a much younger crowd and can answer some of your questions from a 19 year old perspective, such as Paris/Venice or Barcelona.

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Aug 13th, 2013, 02:07 AM
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Plan away - but be prepared to be flexible once you get to Europe, as others have already said. You may change your minds, or decide to split up for a few days and meet up somewhere else, or take longer in some cities than already planned and drop others. It's all good. Seat61 is a good tip, likewise thorntree. A lot more backpackers use the latter site than Fodors. Lonely Planet and Rough Guide guides give a lot of information that is extremely helpful for the kind of trip you are proposing, including useful stuff on hostels, clubbing etc. as well as the things to see that are on most people's bucket lists.

Four days in Interlaken does seem a lot. And Switzerland is expensive. Does one of you have family ties with the area, or is it to get up close to mountains and a glacier? If you are prepared to miss out on the mountains in Switzerland you could go by train from Munich to Venice (personally I think Venice is more "special" than Rome) and stop off on the way in Austria to do some looking at mountains and maybe even walking. That route also has the advantage of taking you through Verona, which is definitely worth a visit for a day or so.

I've done it myself in the past when I was a lot closer to your age, and I know plenty of young people who do it these days - sleeping overnight in the train on the way from one place to another. That works well on quite a few routes in Europe and saves the cost of accommodation, but be extremely careful of passports/bank and credit cards etc. if you are all likely to sleep at the same time. It saves money and it is magical to go to sleep in one place and wake up somewhere else where the landscape/townscape, people, language and food are completely different. Not the same experience at all if you fly.

I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time, wherever you go - all experiences that you'll collect on the journey are good, even if they aren't always what you expected. And I wouldn't worry about planning for all the places you have listed. Just make sure you agree between the three of you which one or two cities each are non-negotiable, and keep the rest of your time flexible.
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Aug 13th, 2013, 04:30 AM
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>>How similar are rome (sic) and venice (sic)?<< are you seriously asking this......??? you DO need to travel...

Italy isn't going anywhere. Pick based on logistics, be prepared to be flexible and go. More likely than not, you will be back to Italy and explore some more. I personally would program into this itinerary a sort of low-key break mid point; pick a small town by a lake and chill for a couple of days. That is also part of the European experience.

Remember the rule of thumb when it comes to backpacks weight; max 20% carrier weight. Pack earplugs and take a passport-money belt with you. This advice could save your vacation. Enjoy, but don't let your guard down.
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Aug 13th, 2013, 04:35 AM
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>>Do you think paris and venice fit that? The reason I ask is because I feel I want to go (or maybe its that I feel I have to go) yet it doesn't really fit the theme of our trip. Maybe we would be better off seeing Barcelona instead?<<

There is not one reason I could fathom choosing Barcelona over Rome or Venice....unless you want to be entertained by MAJOR pickpocketing action, that is. If that is the case, then there is no place like Barcelona for that.
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Aug 13th, 2013, 08:49 AM
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When we were your age, we did a similar trip, but we had 70 days. In that time, we were in London, Paris, Madrid (Toledo), Barcelona, Nice, Geneva, Zurich, St. Moritz, Vienna, Florence, Rome, Athens, Munich, two Greek islands, Israel for 10 days, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Was it exhausting, yes. Was it the trip of a lifetime, yes. Like KevinDallas said, we didn't make too many advance plans -- only the flights were pre-planned. Sometimes we'd get to the train station and just go whereever the next train went.
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Aug 13th, 2013, 09:39 AM
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It would be too much for me. I would keep in mind Rick Steves' advice: Assume you'll be back. You don't have to see EVERYTHING on this trip.

I don't understand why you'd go to both Palma and Ibiza. I'd think they were too much alike, though I haven't been to Ibiza--just to Palma. I think I'd leave out Lauterbrunnen, unless hiking is a major interest for you. Instead of going there you might use that time to explore some smaller towns.

In re: Barcelona, I think Viajero is right on all counts.
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Aug 13th, 2013, 10:51 AM
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Ok all this information is incredibly helpful! I realize now how somewhat stupid of a comment it was comparing rome and venice, the only thing I was trying to ask is whether it would be better to see the coastline rather than another city however different they may be.
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Aug 13th, 2013, 11:59 AM
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One issue which wasn't remarked on: you decided on some of the most expensive places in Europe.

I suppose you go to Ibiza and Palma for the beach and the party. There's little reason to go to both places.

If you throw out some places, keep in mind that you won't experience Ibiza as a 40-year old as you can as a 19-year old while Venice and Paris are still impressive.

Interlaken certainly offers a lot of things but as long as you aren't outdoor freaks, I'd add some days in a place as Prague instead of going there (and Switzerland is expensive).

If I can offer some advice: put in a few days in your planning which you can use to lengthen stays in whatever place you really like. Cheap flights are a good way to travel but they have fixed dates, so don't use too many of them or you have no flexibility. There's nothing worse than meeting some great people on thursday evening in a phantastic club and having to leave the next morning at 7:10.
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Aug 13th, 2013, 12:14 PM
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The reason we want to visit Interlaken is to get close to the alps and to try canyoning. We would like to do at least one awesome hike or some mountain biking. From my perspective the beauty of Switzerland is found within the smaller villages in the alps rather than the bigger cities. I think I only need 3 days at most there though.

So from what I have read its not necessary to see both Mallorca and Ibiza? Could you suggest another awesome place for beaches as an alternative?
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