First Timer...HELP!

Jul 19th, 2010, 11:37 AM
  #1  
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First Timer...HELP!

I am attempting to put a trip together for May of 2011. I will be traveling with my husband, and this is our first time to Europe. We will be taking 2 weeks for this trip. I am at a loss on where to start. I realize that we will be unable to see everthing and everywhere we would like, but we have narrowed it down to these options....London, Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, and Rome. I'm thinking it may not be possible to see all of these places in such a short amount of time. We are in our late 20's (will be 27 and 29 when the trip arrives) and can still go on little sleep, but seeing this many places may mean NO sleep at all! haha! Do you have any suggestions on which places to choose?? Do you think we can hit all these places in 2 weeks and it be worth it?? We also thought about going to Munich or somewhere in Germany...our thoughts were that this may be easier than going as far south as Spain or Italy. ????? Definitley confused!!! We would love to see all the major sights in each city, but we are all about having some fun! Almost more interested in living the life of each city than going and spending 8 hours in a museum. We love art and all that it entails, but we would rather just go see the focal points of each musem and get out and see the city! This is something we want to do before we settle down and start a family. We want to go out w a BANG!
tds0212 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 11:51 AM
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First thing to do is get out a map and see where these cities are...they are all over W. Europe so you will need to fly between (which adds to your costs and you lose at least 1/2 day of vacation time).

London, Paris, Rome (never been to Madrid) all deserve a week each, but at the least 3-4 days.

A nice first trip would be to fly into Amsterdam spend 3 days, 4 nights there...then train to Paris, spend 5-6 days there, then train using the eurostar to London, spend 5-6 days there and fly home.

Rome and Madrid are the outliers.

Hope this helps!
jamikins is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 11:56 AM
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I think London, Paris, and Rome would be a great 2-week trip. Or London, Amsterdam, Paris.

All five cities would be really rushed imho, because a travel day doesn't allow for much else. I'd pick three, and spend 4-5 nights in each. Fly into London, spend 5 nights (first day is jet lag day), eurostar to Paris, 4 nights, fly to Rome, 5 nights, fly home from Rome.
cheryllj is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 12:11 PM
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www.affordabletours.com

To see a lot in a short period of time

good tours like Globus are a good way

to go for firstimers usually start in London.

otherwise like Cheryl pick your top 3

and self guide using sites like www.ricksteves.com

Have fun,
qwovadis is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 12:27 PM
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I'd start by having a look at a few guidebooks, look at the cities (countryside too) of those countries, and make a rough list of all you would like to see. It will become clearer as you make this jumbo list of which locations 'rise to the top'.

I like Jamikins plan.

Using Open Jaw, land in Amsterdam, TGV to Paris, then Eurostar to London and fly home.

There is a constant discussion here are itineraries, and how much you should try to do. Some support a packed, all you can see, others a more leisurely approach.

Three cities in 2 weeks, IMHO, is a maximum number. Each city on its own (well, maybe less so Amsterdam) would take 1 week or more. Some of us have been to these cities multiple times and still 'need' to go back.

Every time you arrive and leave a city, you probably lose a half day (transit time, arriving, customs, transport into city, hotel check-in,etc). If three cities are not enough, there are innnumerable day trips you can take from these 3 choices.

Part of choosing is making dreams come true. Maybe Amsterdam is not on that list, but Rome is. So perhaps a London-Paris-Rome combo.

In travel, part of the choice is 'seeing' somewhere and 'being' somewhere. The difference is...time spent.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 12:42 PM
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As others have said, narrow the focus of your trip to a few cities and avoid the temptation to see absolutely every tourist highlight in Europe in two weeks. I'd personally start with London and Paris and maybe a few side trips from there and leave it at that. You might enjoy seeing more than just tourist attractions in the big cities. If you have any interest in World War II history, a side visit from Paris up to Normandy might be really nice for example - plus the countryside in Normandy is gorgeous, and it shows you a much different side of France than just Paris. You could take side trips from London as well. There are plenty of side visits (day trips or overnights) you could do in two weeks sticking to London and Paris as your base cities.

If you have never been to Europe before, I would try to keep things simple and would avoid too many airports. Take the Eurostar train from London to Paris. Stick to train and bus travel; Europe has an excellent train system in most places. Maybe fly into London and out of Paris or vice versa; this type of ticket is known as an "open jaw" and is a standard way to save time of not having to backtrack to your arrival city and usually doesn't cost more than the round trip. (Could cost less.)

Similarly, you could do Italy - fly into Rome and out of some other city, pick a few big cities and some smaller detours, use the trains to get around, and still find two weeks only enough time to scratch the surface, without being stressed out by constant travel.

Rick Steves isn't everyone's favorite here on the Fodor's forum, but after several trips to Europe I still swear by his books and highly recommend them to first-time visitors to Europe. Browse the Rick Steves books at your local book store's travel section or at the library, and when you are closer to committing to a trip, buy the books you need. Feel free to come back with more specific questions as well once you have made some decisions!
Andrew is online now  
Jul 19th, 2010, 12:43 PM
  #7  
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I appreciate all insight so far!! This is helpful in getting started. I like the comment of "seeing" somewhere and "being" somewhere...so true!
tds0212 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 02:46 PM
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tds,

The above suggestions are great and you will get plenty more.

DW and I are going to France in late April early May 2011. We spent considerable time thinking about what we wanted out of the trip and what we really liked. At the beginning of the planning process all we knew was we wanted to go to Paris and Scotland...we only have 12 days. After reading hundreds and hundreds of posts and trip reports we decided we wanted to spend 7 days in Paris and the rest in the Luberon region of Provence. Scotland will have to come later. The reason I share this is because the more I researched the more I knew only two ares of France would work because of what we wanted. Much like your quote...

"Almost more interested in living the life of each city than going and spending 8 hours in a museum."

We felt like "living the life" was to take a more leisurely pace in fewer locations and not run from one site or location to another.

So...my recommendation is to read as many trip reports and "advice" threads as you can from the areas you are interested in. I think as you slog your way through all the information you will soon gain some clarity and plan a trip that fits neatly into what you like. At least that is how it worked for me.

The planning is so much fun.

DaveMM
DaveMM is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 03:39 PM
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Part of living the life IMO is renting an apartment and shopping for groceries. If you spend 3 or4 days or more in a city you can do that. It can be less expensive and give you more room. And I like being able to eat breakfast In my 'jammies.

Just google vacation rentals followed by the name of the city.
charnees is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 03:57 PM
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Hi tds0212 ,
I agree with charnees. I loved our apt rentals during our three month trip last year all around Europe. I loved having our own space to come back to every day and not just a bed and chair. You can make your own meals, to the extent you want, or just have light snacks and drinks on hand. Shopping at the local markets gives you that 'local' feel also that you are looking for.
Michele
michele_d is online now  
Jul 19th, 2010, 04:52 PM
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tds - I would love to see and do it all too! But I haven't and I won't. My first trip to Europe was 10 days in England split between the Cotswolds and London. I then returned to only London on my next trip.

Our trip for July 2011 is only France; and only 2 areas at that. We will spend 1 week in Brittany and 1 week in Paris. We are renting homes/apts so we can really experience life in France; shopping at the markets, cooking local produce, etc. Of course I travel with 3 kids so the extra room doesn't hurt either!

I think if you really want to immerse yourself and you only have 2 weeks to pick only 2 spots. Tell yourself you will be back even when you have a family. More adventures to come!
trvlgirlmq is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 05:34 PM
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Thanks everyone!! Keep the replies coming I am with DaveMM....the more I read and study...the more I realize that one trip to Europe just isn't going to do it for me. I'm sure I will have TONS of questions once I decide on the final destination, but all this is helpful! It is so much fun planning such an eventful trip. It has almost consumed me!!! haha!! I get so excited thinking about it, and it's almost a year away!
tds0212 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 07:25 PM
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Ok...I let my husband see this, and we talked it over. As bad as we hate to leave them out, I think we may "x" Italy and Spain. They are very far South, and the travel time will take away from our trip. We will keep our fingers crossed that one day we will be able to take 2 more trips, seeing each place and all it has to offer. So as of right now (lets hope it doesnt change so I can really dive into this!) we are going to London, Amsterdam, and Paris. We are going to have 11 travel days. I did not count the travel day there, the travel day home, and the recovery day when we get back!! (14 total days) Now I just have to split my time between the three. Should I do 4-3-4 or 4-2-5??? I hope this sounds more reasonable! I could do 4-4-4 but I am afraid to not have a recovery day when we get home. Returning to work the day after we get back sounds BRUTAL! I think we definitley need at least a day at home to get back in the swing of things. Let me know how you think I should split the time between the 3, and if this plan sounds better than seeing all of Europe in 2 weeks! haha! Amateurs...what will the world do w/ us all?
tds0212 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 07:45 PM
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If you're down to only 11 travel days now, I think you would find it much more doable & enjoyable to cut it down to London and Paris.
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Jul 19th, 2010, 07:57 PM
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tds,

As I said...I am right in the middle of planning our trip and I have made a list of everything that looks interesting. (The list includes stuff that isn't on the "must see" list of every guide book.) It is amazing how quick you can fill up 7 days in Paris. Here is a big lesson I learned...I am not going to be able to see it all. There are some trip reports where people go, go, go and squeeze stuff into very available minute of the day. I lose my breath just reading those reports. But…that type of a trip works for some people.

I am glad I have 7 days in Paris and I wish I had more. I can’t speak to London or Amsterdam but other people will.

Good luck as you plan.

DaveMM
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Jul 19th, 2010, 08:17 PM
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I want to go against the grain just to give you another perspective. When we go to Europe we really tend to pack a lot in. Many don't like this style of travel which I can understand. At some point down the road I see us slowing down and taking a longer time to see the sites. But for now we find that we like to move around a lot. I consider my first several trips just a warm up to let me find where I want to come back on a slower trip.

In 1999 we did the following: London, Paris, Wengen (Switzerland), Florence and Rome. For a first trip to Europe that trip hit all of our big cities and left us wanting more at each stop. At some point in my life I plan on spending at least a week in all of those locations.

It all depends on your personality and what type of trip you think you'd enjoy. I just wanted to chime in that a hectic trip isn't so bad for a first trip. (and the enjoyable train trip between the cities helps slow down the pace)
Wekiva is online now  
Jul 19th, 2010, 08:18 PM
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Forgot to mention that the trip I described above in 1999 was a two week trip...Friday to Friday (ok...that's 15 days)
Wekiva is online now  
Jul 19th, 2010, 08:48 PM
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Once you decide you will return one day your decision will be easier. We travel under a basic premise, we would rather a few places well, than many poorly.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 09:23 PM
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You definitely made a good decision cutting down to at least 3. Two would be better, but those 3 places are doable in 11 days.

I would do 4 London, 3 Amsterdam, 4 Paris or
3 London, 3 Amsterdam, 5 Paris.

Pardon my partiality toward Paris, but my wife and I just vacationed in Paris last month. It was the first time back in 10 years and it truly is a wonderous City and I think should be alloted more time than the other 2. As DaveMM has discovered filling 5 days with Paris isn't difficult and this way you'll have the opportunity to "live" in at least one of your destinations. Plus, what better place to live than where everyone drinks wine with lunch and dinner, bread is fresh every day, fresh market vegetables and fruit are standard, not to mention the crepes, chocolates, croissants, maccarons... need I go on.

Btw, I have to agree with Andrew that Rick Steves can be a very useful tool. We downloaded his ipod tours through the D'Orsay, Louvre and Versailles and they were really good, concise and flexible. Got a little tiresome listening to his voice, but otherwise it was good.

One thing I recommend strongly is the visitor's card recommended by Rick Steves for 3 days, it allows you to skip lines and is prepaid admission into nearly every major site.
chadnycity is offline  
Jul 19th, 2010, 09:26 PM
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oops, meant at MOST 3, not at least.
chadnycity is offline  

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