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First trip to Europe - Itinerary questions - London, Paris, Italy etc.

First trip to Europe - Itinerary questions - London, Paris, Italy etc.

Mar 4th, 2010, 12:16 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 31
First trip to Europe - Itinerary questions - London, Paris, Italy etc.

I'm planning my first and much anticipated trip to Europe for May 2010. I meant to have everything booked by now but here we are, two months before, with nothing done. This is our anticipated itinerary, any help would be appreciated:

May 1-3: London (2 nights)
May 4-9: Paris (6 nights)
May 10-11: Amsterdam (2 nights)
May 12-14: Rome (3 nights)
May 15-17: Florence (3 nights)
May 18-19: Venice (2 nights)
May 20-23: Barcelona (4 nights)

We're planning on flying home on May 25 so there's a bit of flexibility. Can someone please recommend which cities are deserving of more time? Unfortunately I don't think I'll be able to spend more time in London due to cost issues, but I do want to know whether it's more worth it to spend more time in Rome vs. Venice vs. Amsterdam...

Looking at the past requests for help, I know the general creed is: see less, stay longer in each city. But it's my first trip to Europe (who knows if there'll be another one?) so I would really like to see all the places I dreamed about in one shot. Putting all my eggs in one trip basket, so to speak.

Thanks in advance!
nandgexperience is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 01:07 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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If you are convinced that you must see this many places, then so be it. Here are my suggested for those two extra days.

I assume you are from North America. Therefore, add one of your extra days to London. Since you've never been to Europe before, you'll have no idea how you will react to jet lag. Adding one of you extra days here will give you more time to actually see London if your first day is a blur of sleepiness.

I'd add you other extra day to Rome.

Depending on whether or not you are interested in Renaissance art, I'd steal a day from Florence and give it to Venice.
ellenem is online now  
Mar 4th, 2010, 01:12 PM
Join Date: Feb 2009
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If going by train to all those places (and it is feasible and i have done such wide-ranging rail travel often in my 4 decades of European rail travel though many will say too much) then by all means consider some kind of Eurailpass - though some of your stops are far removed from each other so you may be planning on flying certain legs. Anyway if going by train here are some great info-laden sites to learn the ropes of the fantastic European rail system - www.ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.seat61.com. You could mix in some overnight trains for the long hauls and save a night's hotel cost as well. Well i do not know if you are planning rail travel if so i could add much more.
Palenque is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 01:19 PM
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Your itinerary sounds just like mine from last year. I know what you mean and try to squeeze as much as you can. I loved London and wish we had more time there-stayed 2 days and it really wasnt enough. It is expensive and the pound conversion sucks.
We stayed in florence the longest but we did a few days trips from there-pisa, sienna and lucca are great. Also check out Cinque Terra, its gorgeous. all easy access from florence. Do visit Versailles Palace from Paris. i think its totally worth it. try and get in early to avoid the long wait. If you are trying to add a day somewhere i think u shud steal from Barcelona. Have a great time
travelinB is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 01:19 PM
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What's the "cost issue" with London? If you are talking about hotel prices - have you considered Priceline? Priceline works great for some cities including London in my past experience. Also good for Amsterdam. Not so good for Paris, Rome, Florence, or Venice, though, I believe.

The thing with Priceline is: if you use the "name your own price" service they don't tell you the hotel til AFTER they accept your price, and then you are locked in - credit card charged, no changes or cancellations. That sounds scary, but the upside is, if you bid smartly you can save an insane amount of money on hotels in some cases. $100 or under a night for a decent (business class) hotel in London and in Amsterdam should be very doable. Check out the website betterbidding.com to see what hotels people are getting in what zones (tip: in Europe, don't bid for less than 4* hotel, and stick to the good zones, don't book something at the airport!). I think $100/night for a 4-star is not out of the question at all with Priceline; I paid something like $75/night back in 2005 for something on Oxford Street in a decent location.

Just don't get too excited your first time using Priceline - pay attention, don't be hasty, don't bid too high too fast, read up first before using it, the BetterBidding site has a lot of info you should read first.

I know introducing something like Priceline into a trip might seem stressful at this point, but I'm assuming the cost of hotels might be a constraint for you anyway.

Anyway, if you can manage the price, I'd probably steal a night from Paris for London; Paris is one of my very favorite cities in Europe, but London really deserves more than two nights especially on a first trip and as your first city (jetlagged, disoriented) on the trip. Many would agree that Venice is deserving of more than two nights also.
Andrew is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 01:20 PM
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Paris - 1
Barcelona - 1
Venice +1

I would actually say -2 for Paris given everything else you want to see, but you must have put it down for 3 times as long as any other place for a reason.
Aramis is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 02:22 PM
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London truly, truly does not have to be expensive. Truly. All you need is a little bit of research (there are several threads just on Fodor's on that very topic). You can eat cheaply very easily. Almost all the major museums are free (though entrance to the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's and the Eye are not). Public transport is inexpensive and you can walk to a lot. There are small b&b-style hotels that can be fairly inexpensive, if Priceline isn't an option for you, and certainly aren't much more than you'd pay in other European cities.

So, assuming I've convinced you, I would absolutely take at least one or two Paris days and add them to London. Aside from the previously mentioned jet lag issues, there is a LOT to see there, and it's a nice place to start your traveling experience, since the language is the same (more or less). Otherwise, remember that you usually lose about a half day when you move places, unless you take late or night trains. Think not only about time on the train or in flight, but also time for checkin, security, transport to/from airports and train stations...

If you very much want to fit in all these places, I'd do something like this. Lots of people would say that this is too busy, and you would definitely be tired at the end.

May 1-4: London (4 nights, 3 full days)
May 4-9: Paris (4 nights, 3 full days)
May 9-11: Amsterdam (2 nights, 1 full day)
May 11-14: Rome (4 nights, 3 full days)
May 14-17: Florence (3 nights, 2 full days)
May 17-19: Venice (2 nights, 1 full day)
May 19-23: Barcelona (4 nights, 3 full days)

My personal bias is to skip Florence and add those days to Amsterdam and Venice, and/or take a day from Barcelona and add it to Amsterdam or London. But that's me. I'm not crazy about Florence and I love London.
jent103 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 02:52 PM
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Honestly, I'd drop one of the '2 night' places and add the extra time to Rome but if you can't then I like jent's itinerary above.

I'd still steal one night from Florence (it's small) and add it to Rome though.

It's really worth trying to drop one of these cities just to reduce all the travel time between places. Amsterdam and Venice are quite a trek (from and to) the other places on your list. I don't think I could ever justify the time, expense and exhaustion involved in going to either of them for just one day.
sassy_cat is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 02:55 PM
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Have you thought about apartments in the cities? There are many out there and it would save on the costs of food. Eat lunch out-it's cheaper. Good luck and have fun. Do not forget to take the time to smell the roses!!
mayi is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 03:13 PM
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You must like big cities. I prefer to spend half of my time in rural loactions or small towns. Have you looked at transport time and costs just in Europe? Too much for me.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 03:32 PM
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The OP has until May 25, so two MORE days than shown in the original itinerary to add to that mix. Here's my preference:

May 1-4: London (3 nights)
May 5-9: Paris (5 nights)
May 10-11: Amsterdam (2 nights)
May 12-15: Rome (4 nights)
May 16-18: Florence (3 nights)
May 19-21: Venice (3 nights)
May 22-25: Barcelona (4 nights)
ellenem is online now  
Mar 4th, 2010, 05:14 PM
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I think it would be alot easier to answer your question meaningfully if you explain a little bit about your interests.
jubilada is online now  
Mar 4th, 2010, 05:29 PM
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Thanks for the replies everyone...

I guess I should quantify my preferences: My husband and I are in our late 20s and it's our first time to Europe, so we kind of want to stick with big cities and get a taste of different countries so that if we're lucky enough to go back in subsequent years, we'll know which ones to really focus on and explore.

I'm an art neophyte but am interested in museums and "destinations" as well as just walking around to enjoy the feeling of the city that we're in. I wanted to spend a lot of time in Paris because, well, it's Paris! Plus I would want to do at least one day trip to Versailles. It's also the one city where I don't want to rush around in and really want to be able to feel like I got a good feeling for it.

I was thinking of doing Eurostar from London to Paris to Amsterdam, then flying from Amsterdam to Rome, and training from Rome to Florence then Venice, then flying from Venice to Barcelona. I guess it's a bit hard to determine which cities I'd really like, because I have friends who have gone and said they really liked Barcelona but didn't like Rome or London, etc. Everyone has a different opinion I suppose!

ellenem, I like your itinerary suggestion - I'll definitely give that serious consideration. Andrew, yes, I was going to do Priceline in London, but I did get a bit scared looking at the prices for even crappy hostels... we're in Canada - the conversion to pounds is not a pretty one.
nandgexperience is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 05:32 PM
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"Unfortunately I don't think I'll be able to spend more time in London due to cost issues"

What cost issues? For instance, Paris hotels might run a bit less, but almost every museum/gallery costs quite a bit. In London - most museums and galleries are free. Plus Priceline is brilliant for London. Full service, 4 star hotels for less than $100.

I love LOVE LOVE London -- but honestly, if you are only going to be there 2 nights - I'd skip it altogether and just fly directly on from Heathrow to Paris or A'dam or Rome or where ever. Not being snarky (at all), just practical. Your arrival day will likely be a jet lagged fog so 2 nights there means about 1 day free for seeing London. Instead of trying to run yourselves ragged trying to squeeze in a teensy bit of London, take those two nights and add then to A'dam or Rome.

(I'd personally drop Barcelona and add those 4 nights to London and Rome -- but that is just me)
janisj is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 05:57 PM
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Alright alright you guys convinced me, more time for London! I guess the conversion rates when I was poking around the hostel rates just made me recoil.

Practicality welcomed here janisj!

Also, thanks for your advice jent103 - everyone here really seems to love London. I think I've been hearing too many horror stories about the horrible accommodations for high prices and I guess some friends of mine didn't really give it rave reviews. Priceline might just save me here...
nandgexperience is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 06:22 PM
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Glad you like my itinerary. I think it's a good way to include all your choices while taking into consideration that each time you relocate you will lose at least half a day to travel, waiting at terminals/stations, and checking in and out of lodging.

Go to whichbudget.com to see which routes offer better cheap flight options: Amsterdam to Rome then Venice to Barcelona OR Amsterdam to Venice then Rome to Barcelona.
ellenem is online now  
Mar 4th, 2010, 07:34 PM
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Do give Priceline a shot, then! As I said, I'll bet it would work well for you in Amsterdam as well. (I once used Priceline in Amsterdam but that was way back in 2002.)

London isn't my favorite city on your itinerary, but it's definitely worth three nights if you've never been there. I'd love to go back and visit again.

Since you mentioned hostels, have you heard of the site www.cross-pollinate.com ? They have lodgings in many of the other cities on your itinerary. I used them a few times in Italy. In Venice, I have stayed at the Ca' Maria (an apartment) through them twice - a nice place, for one person a great deal (about $100/night, central location, nice place, kitchen, etc.), a bit more for two - a splurge I guess but in Venice, location is super important (don't stay on the mainland if you can help it!) The website seems to be well-run and their policies are good (you can cancel up to a few days before check-in without penalty).

In Croatia I also used the sites hostelbookers and hostelworld to find places with private rooms/private bathrooms (some hostel-like places of course) - so you could try those as well, if you really want the cheap places. Both seem well run and have lots of helpful reviews.
Andrew is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 07:39 PM
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I've spent a lot of time in London, so I'm a little biased, but count me among those who love it. Personally, I think if you get horrible accommodations for high prices, you just haven't done your research. Searches on here and on TripAdvisor will show you lots of places for a pretty reasonable budget, and that's before factoring Priceline into the equation (try londontown.com too). If you state your specific budget, people can recommend places within it. I stayed at the Morgan Hotel (www.morganhotel.co.uk ) last year, but there are many similar places around.

I'd give London more time than Florence or Venice (at least), especially given the jet lag you'll be feeling at first.
jent103 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 07:40 PM
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"I guess the conversion rates when I was poking around the hostel rates just made me recoil."

Actually the $/£ exchange rates are quite good right now. Approx $1.50 = £1. The € is approx $1.35. That does not mean the £ is worse against the $. It can seem pretty confusing - but since £1 doesn't equal €1 you can't make that leap. It mostly depends on what £1 buys in the UK and what €1 buys in France or Italy.

The $ buying power is about the same w/ each currency -- or at least close enough . . . .
janisj is offline  
Mar 4th, 2010, 10:51 PM
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Well I live in London and Love it.

Here is a list of sights that are free:

Also to save money you can easily buy sandwiches in many places (Pret, Eat, Boots, Tesco Express) and eat in parks etc. If you get takeaway you dont pay the 17.5% VAT.

I think it definately warrants more than a couple nights!
jamikins is offline  

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