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First Time To Europe Itinerary. Thoughts? Suggestions? Please

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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:06 PM
  #1
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First Time To Europe Itinerary. Thoughts? Suggestions? Please

Hi all,

My wife and I are planning a trip to Europe for next September. It is our first time visiting and we of course want to see as much as we can but realize it will not be our only trip to Europe (although it seems the world could end at any day) so I don't want to get caught up in trying to do too much, a seemingly common pitfall on these forums. I've sort of constructed a rough first draft of an itinerary, I'm just wondering if anyone can offer me any advice or thoughts or whatever. It seems fairly reasonable to me, I would be okay with changing it however. At this point we are thinking of going to 5 cities in 22 days. I thought it might better to skip Germany altogether but my wife really wants to see Berlin. I do too but I also thought it might be better to save Germany for a different trip. For me Paris and Rome are definitely important My wife is half-Italian so Italy is important for her too. I really want to see the UK (my roots) but am saving it for another trip as I think it would be better that way. Though I could see doing a couple of days in London as a starting point b/c it's so easy to get to Paris from there. It's just that other than Amsterdam it seems like a pain getting to anywhere from Paris with only 3 weeks.... Though to be fair the distances in Europe are nothing like we are used to here in Canada or the States, for that matter. Anyway. here's my idea right now, I would love to here yr suggestions, advice, tips, insults, whatever. Help me out here!...

Day 1 Arrive in Paris (pretty long flight from Vancouver, BC)
Day 2 Paris
Day 3 Paris
Day 4 Paris
Day 5 Paris
Day 6 Paris-Amsterdam (4 hours by train)
Day 7 Amsterdam
Day 8 Amsterdam - Berlin (6.5 hours by train
Day 9 Berlin
Day 10 Berlin
Day 11 Berlin
Day 12 Berlin-Munich (9 hours by overnight train)
Day 13 Munich
Day 14 Munich
Day 15 Munich-Venice (Night train 9 hrs)
Day 16 Venice
Day 17 Venice-Rome (high speed train 3hrs)
Day 18 Rome
Day 19 Rome
Day 20 Rome - Day trip somewhere close?
Day 21 Rome
Day 22 Going Home

What do you think of that?? Too long in any places? Not enough time? I mean that is subjective I suppose. BUT It's frustrating to hear someone say 'oh you must stay in Paris for AT LEAST 3 weeks to immerse yourself in the culture" Sorry, time is short on this earth and I work too much so I can't just go backpacking for a year at this point! I'm not a rich man, or retired and I'm also not 18. Maybe someday I'll go live in another country and really immerse myself but not now - this is a getaway - so don't tell me something like that please. I've seen it in other forums.... ok please help me out here, want to have a nice trip, get a sense of these cities without totally immersing myself but not have it feel like a whirlwind exhausting, annoying trip (sorry i can't think of a different word than 'immerse' right now). Thank you in advance for your useful advice.
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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:09 PM
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Also this version is reliant on some sort of eurail pass. Are those worth it? They're on sale until dec 31st. Flying would also be an option. I like the idea of taking a train but also is it worthwhile? Should we just fly? Should I skip Amsterdam? Munich? Different options?
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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:20 PM
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A Eurail Pass won't help you much. And I would avoid the over night trains myself. You arrive - maybe sleepless - in the early AM and can check in to your hotel until mid to late afternoon so it is a hassle w/ the luggage.

You really only need trains between Paris > A'dam, A'dam > Berlin (and could fly that route), and Venice > Rome. Budget airlines (or even legacy carriers) between Berlin/Munich and Munich/Venice would be more convenient and cheaper.

If it was me -- I'd somehow add a day to both Amsterdam (as it is you only have 1.5 days there) and Venice. I'd do that by taking a day from Munich and maybe from Rome.
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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:22 PM
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Meant to add -- point-to-point train tickets are generally pretty inexpensive, especially if you book ahead so a Eurail pass would be overkill
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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:28 PM
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For loads of info on trains, and whether a pass is worthwhile (often not), see https://www.seat61.com/index.html

Where are you seeing a direct night train from Berlin to Munich? The day train is only 4 1/2 hours.

For the Munich-Venice leg see:
https://www.seat61.com/international...m#Munich-Italy

You won't know whether you can sleep on a night train until you try it and this should be a good one.

For cheap flights in Europe see EasyJet, Ryanair and skyscanner.com.

Personally I would skip Amsterdam or Munich in exchange for more time in Venice, but it depends on your interests.

Sure, you could spend three weeks in Paris with day trips, but you are allotting a perfectly reasonable amount of time. You can't see much of London - Europe's largest city - in a couple of days, especially with one of them jet-lagged. I'd be inclined to keep it simple: Paris, fly to Berlin, train or fly to Venice, train to Rome. Rail pass not needed, but buy your train tickets ahead of time (see seat61.com for details).
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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:36 PM
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I agree, more time in Amsterdam and Venice. You mention that your wife is half Italian and it is important to her yet you are only giving it 6 nights. I would save Germany for another time. Would you consider a countryside stay in this itinerary such as Normandy or Tuscany?
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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:38 PM
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If it were me I'd add a day to Amsterdam too. Eurailpass would only be a good deal IF

you want first class travel - which has its perks and a more relaxed ride in many ways though most find 2nd class OK - just that first is much more OK - especially more room for luggage and nice isolated seats with just one in a row -aisle and window seat both - two can face each other with a table in between - no hassling anyone or being hassled to get out to loo, snack wagon, etc.

and if you want to chose which trains to take once there -full-fare tickets in either class may be more than a pass (especially if you nab the ubiquitous specials like a free day that periodically pop up)

But cheapest way would be by discounted 2nd class tickets that are limited in number so must be booked far in advance and typically are non-changeable non-refundable and also cheap air fares if you can find for Amsterdam-Berlin. And Paris-Amsterdam Thalys trains charge an oscene IMO $35 or so supplement to pass holders whereas discounted tickets could be had for nearly that much - and in Italy you pay $12 or so supplement for mandated seat reservations.

So if going first class and train all the way or want flexibility to chose which trains to take once there the discounted 2nd class tickets would be cheaper by far I would think.

Night trains are great unless you have sleeping problems -I've taken a zillion and rarely had any problems not did others in my compartments seemingly but some folks who are sensitive to noise should avoid them as there will always be a modicum of noise from inside and outside the train. Otherwise get a private compartment and bring and food or drink aboard (as on all trains) and chill - multi-person couchettes are much cheaper but obviously not so cool being in with strangers and unisex. Passes pay for train fare but not optional sleeping type compartment.

Anyway for loads on trains check www.seat61.com - adroit advice on booking your own online discounted tickets *which usually come in first class too - www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com.
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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:52 PM
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And I would avoid the over night trains myself. You arrive in the early AM and can check in to your hotel until mid to late afternoon so it is a hassle w/ the luggage.>

Naw not a problem as you arrive at hotels when others are having breakfast and hotels IME will store your luggage until check-in time. NOT a factor but ask hotel in advance about it - nearly all of mine have done this.'

And with smaller hotels if you arrive in mid-afternoon the desk could be closed too until some time later.
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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:53 PM
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I agree, more time in Amsterdam and Venice. You mention that your wife is half Italian and it is important to her yet you are only giving it 6 nights. I would save Germany for another time. Would you consider a countryside stay in this itinerary such as Normandy or Tuscany?

Thank you yes, I would certainly consider that. My grandfather was at Normandy in WWII. Could stay there and do some sort of tour... of the beaches that is. I realize they are BIG. The Mont-Saint-Michel? Has anyone here checked it out? Thoughts?
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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:57 PM
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Thank you for all of the advice and info on the trains!
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Nov 24th, 2017, 03:57 PM
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Hi MG,

For my travel preferences, and based on experiences, I would cut two destinations. I like to have longer in places in relation to travel time between destinations. Personally, I would NOT be willing to do two 9 hour train trips, especially overnight.

Also, I would highly recommend planning some time in the countryside/smaller towns for a nice mix on your first trip. Europe is much more than its great cities. I like both, but like a mix on my trips.

Only you can say if you have the right amount of time in each destination. It completely depends on what you want to see and do in each place! One day in Amsterdam is enough if all you want to do is a canal boat ride and a visit to the Van Gogh, but there is a lot more to see there....

You need to put in some time with a few travel guides and check opening days and times, etc.
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Nov 24th, 2017, 04:04 PM
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All of these cities are well worth seeing. However, keep in mind they are all huge cities; I see many rookie travelers doing this, trying to squeeze in all of their top destinations into a single trip. In my experience, big cities tend to take a lot more energy to see than smaller cities or towns. It takes a while just to get your orientation...and then you leave for another one. It can be exhausting. Don't discount basic human limitations of attention span and energy.

For this reason, I suggest you do something more localized: a couple of big cities with smaller areas in between - e.g. Italy (Rome and Venice with stops in between) or Paris - Amsterdam (add some small towns and a few days in Belgium in between). You won't have to cover huge distances every few days, and you won't have to absorb multiple cultures in a blur. There are lots of day trips possible from Paris and Amsterdam and neat little spots in between.

You might even consider less than the three weeks you've allocated. Let your first trip be a learning experience. Learn your travel style. I tend to travel differently now than I did when I started. (I am less fixed in my itinerary and like to change it up on the fly and move pretty fast - but that's just me, maybe not your travel style.)
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Nov 24th, 2017, 04:04 PM
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Generally speaking, it seems you guys think Amsterdam is a wonderful city. I don't know much about it. What should we do there? All I really know about it is the infamous 'Red Light District' which could be cool to see but I could take it or leave it. Also I'm not that into bicycling. I know I sound totally ignorant and I am but is it up there with the other 'world-class' cities? Should we just skip it and save it for another trip. What about Munich? I don't know much about it either. Oktoberfest (which we'll be to early for) and the Bavarian 'fairytale' castles/villages or whatever. I realize I'm really oversimplifying and essentializing these cities but I'm a tourist and we won't be there long enough to 'go native' so will probably just be seeing the major attractions (excuse the expression, I know it sucks but you get my point).....
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Nov 24th, 2017, 04:06 PM
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Oh yes I forgot about the Van Gogh! Sorry!
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Nov 24th, 2017, 04:08 PM
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We took a 3 month trip to SE Asia a few years ago and mixed things up between cities and smaller towns, rural places, etc. But this time our trip is way shorter so I guess I'm feeling the urgency of less time to some extent.
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Nov 24th, 2017, 04:14 PM
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Also I think I made an error and it was meant to have 1 less day in Rome and another day in Venice. Might be better to just lose either Amsterdam or Munich...Soooo this will be controversial I'm sure, but which one is BETTER?
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Nov 24th, 2017, 04:14 PM
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I know its subjective but just if you had to choose
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Nov 24th, 2017, 04:16 PM
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I like to keep busy to. I'm not super into laying around and relaxing. Unless I'm reading.
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Nov 24th, 2017, 04:16 PM
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I've been back to Amsterdam after my first visit. It's a great place to visit but far from my favorite European city. My first time to Amsterdam came right after a visit to Paris (which I'd fallen in love with), and somehow Amsterdam seemed dirty and noisy in comparison. There is of course lots to see, which is a different aspect from how much you like the place.

I'd figure out exactly what you want to see in Amsterdam and base your time there on that, not on other people's preferences. But if you meant you have only two nights/three days, then I'd definitely add a third night. Three nights seems a good minimum if you aren't planning day trips. Adding a fourth night wouldn't be a terrible idea, if you have time. If you think you can cover everything you want to see easily in 2-3 days, don't add more times just because other people tell you, "You'll love it!"

If you think you have the energy for seeing all of those big cities in three weeks, then go for it. You wouldn't be the first person to try to do that and come back saying, "I loved it!" but I would personally find it exhausting.
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Nov 24th, 2017, 04:19 PM
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If you don't know anything about Amsterdam or Munich . . . look at some guide books and decide if they are what you want.

(If you don't know anything about them or what might interest you -- I'm a little curious why you included them in your plan)
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