First Time Trip to Europe

Jun 12th, 2007, 03:49 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2007
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First Time Trip to Europe

Hello All,

I am 19 year old female who is planning a two week long trip to Europe with her partner in spring of 2008 (Early May). We are planning on spending three weeks and traveling mostly by Eurorail. So far, we've decided on:

Chicago to Florence, Italy via Pisa
Spend about six days in Florence with a day trip to Rome
Spend three days in Venice
Overnight to Paris FR via train from Venice
Spend about five days in Paris with day trips to Versaille and Giverny
Overnight to Madrid via train/or flight from Paris
Spend last five days in Madrid
Fly back to Chicago from Madrid

Neither of us has ever traveled outside of the United States and we hear its best to plan your own trip as opposed to doing a tour. I'm really doing most of the planning at the moment just trying to figure out how doable this is and how much it'll cost us before we begin to set dates in stone. As we are both artists, its important for us to hit all good museums and anything of architectual/artistic interest.

Being as though this is our first venture outside of the country, I have a lot of questions:

Which guidebooks are good, especially for student/youth? How safe is travel for young women? People of color? Could we afford to do rental apartments/studios over hotels or hostels? How do three week vacations to Europe cost? (We're estimating maybe 5000 or 2500USD for each of us)

What are good ways to save money and get the most of each city we visit?

Any tips and help is appreciated and I look forward to hearing from all of you

chasingskirts is offline  
Jun 12th, 2007, 03:58 PM
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Europe is a great adventure. I hope you enjoy. Always be aware of your surrounding and you will be safe. You might want to visit my web page on yahoo i have several agendas of our stay in Paris (5 trips) and Rome (4 trips). Have fun.
Oscar_James is offline  
Jun 12th, 2007, 03:59 PM
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What about spending 3 nights in Florence, 3 nights in Venice, 3 nights in Rome (you need more than a daytrip) and fly (intra-Europe flights are cheap) from Rome to paris then follow the rest of your plan?
sandi_travelnut is offline  
Jun 12th, 2007, 04:08 PM
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We did a day trip to Rome from Florence and it was wonderful (better than not going at all). Obviously we had to be very selective in what we wanted to see. We visited the vatican museums, St Peters, walked from there to the Colosseum, via the cat sanctuary, viewed the Forum, did a tour of the Colosseum, got a taxi from there to the trevi fountain, had dinner nearby and walked back to the train station. It can be done, so don't let people put you off.
amandab is offline  
Jun 12th, 2007, 04:13 PM
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I'm not putting her off, she asked for suggestions, and I offered one.
sandi_travelnut is offline  
Jun 12th, 2007, 05:12 PM
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Would three days be enough for each of those cities? We are planning to visit Rome again soon and since it's so close, we figured we might as well drop in for a day and see the big sites as opposed to not going at all.
chasingskirts is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 03:18 AM
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Download a good guide to Madrid:
Revulgo is online now  
Jun 13th, 2007, 03:29 AM
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I agree with sandi...3 days in Rome would be much better. I can't imagine spending 6 days in Florence but I guess it just wasn't my favorite place. I'm sure you'll get lots of suggestions.

There is so much to see in's a wonderful city. I know 1 day is better than nothing but since you have time you could allocate, I would suggest giving it more than a day.
CRAZY4TRAVEL is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 03:37 AM
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Which guidebooks are good, especially for student/youth? >>>

Either Rough Guides or Lonely planet are best for younger travellers

How safe is travel for young women?>>>>>>

As safe as anywhere in America. Just keep your wits about you. Also be aware that there aree different cultures at play here and you may find italian men rather too flirtatious (if indeed this is a drawback for you!)

People of color?>>>>>>

Europeans are well aware that americans come in various colours. Too us youu willl be Americans first and anything else second. In tourist areas alll they will see will be a walking wallet.

Resident black people can have a hard time of it in France, but you should't fall foul of that (but bear in mind I'm a white male so have no direct expreience)
audere_est_facere is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 03:38 AM
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IMO six days in Florence may be a bit too long but that depends on what interests you and your travel/sightseeing pace.

I would definitely re-think those six days if you are only going to spend one in Rome which deserves more IMO.

Re the trip Paris-Madrid. I've done this trip twice by overnight rail. I enjoyed it and didn;t mind paying the price for the best accommodations but I would strongly urge you to consider flying between the two cities.

Unfortunately, to get a budget flight you may end up having to fly out of the Beauvais airport.
Dukey is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 04:33 AM
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Please check out 'tours'. They are usually well done and you get 'more bang for your money'. Chicago has many really good travel agencies that specialize in your kind of trip. You are a year off, there is plenty of time to research your plans.
GSteed is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 05:38 AM
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I agree with the above; I think six nights in Florence is a little much. Granted Florence is definitely not my favorite place in Europe, but I would break it up and spend more time in Venice or Rome. I haven't been to Venice (yet) but have been to Rome three times and love it, but I couldn't imagine trying to see it in one day as I think part of the pleasure of being in Rome is taking the time to enjoy it without rushing from one big sight to the next. If you do decide on 6 nights in Florence, I think a better daytrip option would be either somewhere in Tuscany (perhaps Siena or San Gim) or maybe Orvieto or Assisi in Umbria.

Paris is a lovely city and three days is a good amount to visit, but I would make the daytrips tentative. We considered daytrips on our short (4 night) trip to Paris but enjoyed the city so much we couldn't imagine leaving for a day.

You shouldn't have to worry about safety as long as you are aware of your surroundings and use common sense.

Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door is a good book for first-timers because he offers solid, basic advice that is easy to comprehend. I don't follow all of his advice, but I read one of his books every time I go to Europe because overall I find them the most helpful. You may also want to look at Lonely Planet or Rough Guides.

tcreath is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 05:49 AM
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Early May is a great time to visit, and you will have no problem finding accomodations or booking trains. I would recommend that you purchase your open jaw ticket (into Rome and out of Madrid) and railpass and then be flexible in your travels from Rome to Madrid. You likely can fly direct to Rome, but would need to connect to Pisa.

Pick up LP Western Europe on a Shoestring. When you arrive in each city, there should be an information desk in each train station and they can help book affordable lodging.

PS -- I also think six days is too much in Florence, which is why I'd start in Rome and work my way north to Venice via Florence. There are hourly quick trains from Rome to Florence, and you can get your ticket shortly before departure.
thit_cho is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 07:07 AM
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I would chop stays in Paris and Madrid by a day (each) to fit Barcelona into your itinerary. Art & Architecture in Barcelona feature Picasso, Dali and of course, Antonio Gaudi.
There are hourly flights Barcelona to Madrid. Then you have the Museo del Prado, the Centro de Arte de la Reina Sofia, the Palacio Real, etc. Madrid,you'll want to take a full day to Toledo.
Sorry, I can't help you with costs. Most short term apartment or studio rentals have a minimum required stay and that wouldn't fit your itinerary. There are 'Tourist' Hostals and 'Youth' hostals. You're more likely to get a private room at the former than the latter.
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 07:54 AM
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I would repeat some of the advice already given: it may make more sense to fly between your cities, rather than train; 6 days in Florence may be a bit long, depending on what you plan to do there.

If you're primarily interested in art, consider what periods/styles in particular you want to see. If you will be visiting Rome on another trip soon, then I'd skip that visit on this trip - it's a lot of travel time for a one-day visit, especially if you'll be returning.

If you're interested in modern art at all, then definitely consider Barcelona. We just visited there, for the first time, and the amount of modern art there, plus the moderniste (art nouveau in the U.S.) architecture, is amazing: the Picasso museum (his early works); the Miro museum; numerous outdoor pieces, and then a couple of hours up the coast, the Dali museum (lots of fun).

In addition to the guidebooks mentioned above (which I find helpful too, as a 40-somthing, because they have lots of good facts), get several general guidebooks from your local library. They'll help you narrow down locations for your specific interests.

My husband and son are "of color," the "color" being Asian Indian, and have never had problems in Europe. In fact, I think my husband fits in more in Italy, France and Spain than he does here in the U.S. due to his skin and eye color. As husband and son don't look particularly Indian, people often can't guess what nationality they are - Italian, Greek, French, Spanish, middle eastern, etc. It makes it pretty funny sometimes.
Lexma90 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 08:00 AM
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Let's Go Europe is by far IMO the best guidebook for young low-budget travelers - the best by far on budget accommodations - hostels, budget hotels, etc. At any bookstore - written by young students from Harvard.

Lonely Planet is a good guide but really sucks on cheap accommodations.
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 08:11 AM
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Funny, I find Let's Go useless, at least when I can find it. Its much less prevalent in bookstores, and during all my journeys I have seen hundreds of people carrying the LP -- I have seen Let's Go on the very rarest of occasions (less than 10 times, I would guess). Plus, there is a single Lonely Planet that covers Western Europe. But, you should look at both of them and decide for yourself.
thit_cho is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 08:16 AM
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I use both and both are great but LP really sucks on budget accommodation, now covering more rather upscale places.

Let's Go is still very much around and for any 19 yr old travelers who are thinking about hostels, etc. they just won't find this coverage in LP though they will a wealth of other info.

Let's Go's great critique of dozens of hostels and pensions, etc. in each city is invaluable as is its recommendation for activities for that age group.

LP is graying along with Tony its publisher - again i love LP for practical info and use both.
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 08:20 AM
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I have yet to find that one perfect guidebook that covers all of my needs perfectly. I just use a selection (Rick Steves, LP, Eyewitness Guides for pics, etc.) and rip out the sections that I want to take with me.

tcreath is offline  
Jun 13th, 2007, 08:30 AM
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Hi CS,

Since you are planning to visit Rome in the near future, I suggest skipping it entirely on this visit.

With 5 nights in Florence, You can easily visit Siena, Bologna, and even Pisa, as well.

I suggest flying from Venice to Paris ORY instead of the train - unless you really want to sleep in a couchette on a train.

I suggest flying from Paris to Madrid. See

There is no Eurorail. There are only national trains - for France, for Italy,
for Spain

Do NOT buy railpasses until you have priced your tickets at the national sites.

Train travel in Italy is very cheap. France offers very low discount prices (PREMS) for advance purchases.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  

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