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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 5th, 2010, 01:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 31
Again, thank you everyone for your help. I have another question! We're planning on flying open jaw out of Vancouver, landing in London and flying out of Barcelona. What's the most logical way to handle this? My thoughts were:

London to Paris by train
Paris to Amsterdam by train
Amsterdam to Rome by flight
Rome to Florence and Venice by train
Venice to Barcelona by flight

I've looked at the prices and they really vary wildly, but are quite similar in the end when all are added up. One expensive plane ride is tempered by another inexpensive one. Do you think it's better to fly out of another city to go home (i.e. Amsterdam or Rome) because another itinerary makes more sense?

Again, thank you everyone, this has already been an enormous help!
nandgexperience is offline  
Mar 5th, 2010, 01:24 PM
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Since we don't know your home airport, we can't predict which European cities would offer better flight options to you. I suppose the one thing you could check would be if Barcelona is better located after Amsterdam and before Italy as far as connections go.

The other succession of events (train versus airplane) seems logical to me.
ellenem is online now  
Mar 5th, 2010, 01:24 PM
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How about flying Milan to Barcelona via easyJet (try Kayak's search engine - use "nearby cities")? Train from Venice to Milan is a few hours (then maybe a bit longer to the airport). Do that only if this saves you a lot of money vs. flying from Venice, of course...

London to Paris by train is the easiest way (and I love trains) but Eurostar could be pricey - all depends. Flying could take about the same time but be a lot cheaper on a carrier like easyJet (but be sure to factor in costs of getting from city centers to/from airports).

Train from Paris to Amsterdam - easy, yes.
Trains in Italy - easy and efficient.
Andrew is online now  
Mar 5th, 2010, 01:50 PM
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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.>>

hi nand - the flaw in this is that europe is not just about big cities. and by the time you're in your third, you wan't remember what you've seen where, let alone care!

I would forget about Barcelona, and amsterdam, [europe will still be here, and you're still young] and do the following:

May 1-4: London (3 nights) eurostar to
May 4-9: Paris (5 nights) fly to
May 10-13: Venice (3 nights)pick up car, drive to
May 12-19: Tuscany [7 nights] drive to orvieto, deposit car, train to
May 20-25:Rome (4 nights)

this gives you three great cities, and the chance to see the countryside of tuscany. it will be cheaper than all that moving around, especially if you stay in an agritourismo in tuscany. and you can still see Florence by doing a day trip.

and you will have had a holiday!
annhig is offline  
Mar 5th, 2010, 02:10 PM
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Annhig's itinerary is similar to trips we've made ... and I think it's the most practical. Getting from city to city is always time consuming.. and you could end up with blurred impressions of all the places you want to see. I didn't start traveling til I was 40 and even so my list of places visited would take too much space here. Don't worry. Once you start traveling you'll be on the road for a long time! (It's addictive -
Gwendolynn is online now  
Mar 5th, 2010, 02:55 PM
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Gee thanks ann.

I am sure the OP is thrilled that you pointed out the "flaw" in her vacation. She didn't ask if Europe was "about" big cities, she didn't ask what what your favourite type of vacation was and she probably doesn't have your poor memory.

You go on and have your own holiday now. There will still be people to boss around when you get back.
Aramis is offline  
Mar 5th, 2010, 06:56 PM
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2 nights in London is plenty. We flew from Miami to London, spent half day upon arrival, full day next day, and then trained to Paris in the evening on the 3rd day and that was good. Busy but good. 6 nights in Paris is alot. We did 3 nights and that worked...even went to Versailles for a day. I would shorten the Paris trip to 3 nights and add on Lake Como (Bellagio is our favorite) for 2-3 nights. Just train from Venice to Como and fly from Milan to Barcelona. Instead of 3 nights in Florence...maybe do 4 nights in a Tuscany hillside villa and day trip to Florence for a day. Tuscany is beautiful...just rent a car and drive around. Or, yu can stay in Florence and drive for a day or two around Tuscany. Maybe do Chianti area one day and Montalcino/Montepulciano/Pienza/Orvieto the other day.
enlehman76 is offline  
Mar 5th, 2010, 07:41 PM
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Pretty funny. Why not scrap the entire plan, which the OP has already told us includes the places SHE always wanted to see, and just go to Turkey, or Greece, or Germany, or some other place someone else wanted to visit?

To say that 2 nights in London is plenty is, I'm so sorry to say, mind blowing. The OP is coming from Vancouver, for cryin out loud.

nandg: dear, go exactly where you want. For me, it wouldn't be enough time in London, which is so much fun that I have had fun there both when I was young, and most recently, now that I'm old. If you like theatre, parks, shopping, markets, and buzzy city life, you might really be able to mine London for some fun. What was it about London that your friends didn't like?

I have friends that don't like Venice. On our last trip to Venice, we spent a week, and never took a day trip out of the lagoon. I had planned on at least one day trip by rail, and never made it. We were having too much fun at the Biennale, which I've seen someone give a bad review to here on Fodors.

So my point is, I guess, stick to your cities if they are your dream places. Try and eliminate 2 night stays as they are generally difficult. You're getting in, and getting out, with hardly anything in the middle.

I might steal one night from Paris, and I might take a night from Barcelona, but you have a couple of extras, so why not just make the 2 night stops into 3 nights instead?

Remember, you are coming from the west coast of North America. It's not an insignificant distance, and this is your first time. You might need that one extra day for a little recovery, even though you are young.

I do like your plans for getting from place to place. I think they are good, or good enough. With such a busy trip, you don't want to knock yourself out on to much minutiae. And time is running short, so get planning!

I will recommend Byron at Budget European Travel as someone excellent to help with rail arrangements. budgeteuropeantravel.com
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 04:17 AM
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Gee thanks ann.

I am sure the OP is thrilled that you pointed out the "flaw" in her vacation. She didn't ask if Europe was "about" big cities, she didn't ask what what your favourite type of vacation was and she probably doesn't have your poor memory.

You go on and have your own holiday now. There will still be people to boss around when you get back.>>

aramis - were this from the OP it would be acceptable - from you it is not. it's the OP's first trip to Europe - I'd like her to come back, not go home exhausted, vowing never to return.

if you have any positive suggestions to make, fine. if not...
annhig is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 05:17 AM
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I will recommend Byron at Budget European Travel as someone excellent to help with rail arrangements. budgeteuropeantravel.com>

I ditto this but he is at budgeteuropetravel.com not budgeteuropeantravel.com - he has an amazing knowledge of european rail - and IME always takes time to do so even if i am not buying anything.
Palenque is offline  
Mar 10th, 2010, 11:51 AM
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aramis - were this from the OP it would be acceptable - from you it is not. it's the OP's first trip to Europe - I'd like her to come back, not go home exhausted, vowing never to return>

ditto to what annhig retorted to what i also feel was out of order comments - especially to one of the most thoughtful, polite and cerebral posters on Fodor's IMO

when folks first plan their trips they do think mainly of big cities but i also think more of the 'real' Europe lies outside those mega-cities which can be real exhausting and sometimes elbow-to-elbow with other tourists - so a tip like annhig's can be eye-opening to novice itinerary planners - mix in some smaller towns with the mega tourist cities and i guarantee you those smaller less touristed places will be the real highlight of your trip.
Palenque is offline  
Mar 10th, 2010, 12:57 PM
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gee thanks Pal. can you see my blushes?

it's a very narrow line we tread, those of us who try to be helpful but not proscriptive.

most of us are motivated by a genuine desire to help others enjot exploring europe. a few of us just like bossing others about!
annhig is offline  
Mar 10th, 2010, 01:32 PM
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I dearly, dearly hope the young artist sticks to her plan to go where she wants and see the great art capitals of Europe. Florence as a day trip???? It's likely to break her heart as it is she can only spend a few days there.

Personally I pretty much hated London when I first went abroad, since it was very much Paris that spoke to all my artistic dreams and interests. I later got quite interested in London's museums, and now that London is no longer the hidebound insular culture it was, it's more artistically stimulating to go there.

But even with the conversion rates, I still find London un-enjoyably expensive. I don't bother trying to find good food there. I load up on free museums, and pray my hotel won't suck. (I think Priceline less of an answer than most, since so many 4 and 5 star hotels in London are just plain awful).

I've never had a good time in Barcelona and I've no interest in Guadi but I'm fundamentally with Tuscanlifedit:

The OP should go where SHE wants and put her own ideas to the test. She certainly should not be steered by much older suburban people -- and let's face it, that's Fodor's -- who somehow think that cities and art treasures aren't "really" the core of Europe. She's trying educate herself as an artist.
zeppole is offline  
Mar 10th, 2010, 01:33 PM
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Sorry for my gaudi typo
zeppole is offline  
Mar 10th, 2010, 03:26 PM
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Palenque & annhig;

You two are a riot. It is not surprising that you have formed a mutual fan club.

You comprise two members of that special group of people who feel that what they think and believe is what everyone should think. You have no authority, or right, to dictate to others what constitutes the "real" Europe. It is not your duty, or right, to In your own twisted way you think that you are setting them "right" by trying to make them see it your way.

Let's imagine someone who has no desire for small town/village life. They would have no interest in visiting anywhere in Europe except the large cosmopolitan cities. According to you two, they are doing it "wrong" and you feel you have the moral and intellectual superiority to tell them so. You cannot "guarantee", as claimed Palenque, that anyone will accept your reality and you are supremely arrogant to think so.

You must derive some sense satisfaction from believing you are correcting the mistakes of lesser individuals and by seeking to have others follow your enchanted advice.

The most amusing part is, you try and justify it as an expression of your benevolence (annhigs' "genuine desire to help others") to those who know less than you.

Annhig - your blushing (how cute!) at Palenque's comments (Ooooh, he called me thoughtful, polite and cerebral - look!) looks like little more than evidence of an overdeveloped need for approval. It is that need for approval that drives some people to try and influence others to do tings their. "Go where I went, do what I do, you will see how good it is!"

Why not give people the advice they ask for or just keep quiet? Some people do ask open ended questions about where they should go, or ask for for critiques of their itinerary. That is the place for that special brand of teaching that you two, and too many others, seem to be unfailingly committed. The majority of responders here understand the difference between those different scenarios.

If your approach wasn't so arrogant, it would just be sad and desperate.

Out of Orderly Yours,

Aramis is offline  
Mar 11th, 2010, 07:21 AM
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Aramis - you said it all --- and - more

but missed the point - folks can suggest things the OP had not planned and it is only pointing out something possible - i saw no 'i am right and you are wrong' in annhig's or my comments.

What you should have said IMO - instead of attacking ann and later me - contradicted the advice to the OP and say why you think only staying in large cities is the way to go and to forget that there is a far different Europe outside them - that is your opinion and who is to say who is right or wrong - and that is exactly what you are doing.

'first-time travelers' often do not realize that it is easy to get out of the big cities and IMO if they do they will cherish these memories even more than the larger cities.
Palenque is offline  
Mar 11th, 2010, 04:03 PM
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You need to spend more time reading.

I expressed no opinion with respect to the validity OP's travel wishes. The advice I provided in my first post was consistent with the OP's desired itinerary and with her request for feedback on which cities were deserving of more time. My post was "on topic", if you will. My subsequent posts were directed at annhig's and your attempts to instruct the OP to do things they way you like to do them.

Therefore, your assertion that I am doing what I accused you and annhig of doing is utterly baseless. Either you are out bereft of any ideas to support your side of the discussion or you are having difficulty with the entire concept. Since you once again reasserted your unique ability to think and feel for others, it appears that the latter is correct.

Let's look at some quotes now because I like to stay on topic and dealf with facts;

Palenque (recent post); " i saw no 'i am right and you are wrong' in annhig's or my comments."

annhig (1st response); "hi nand - the flaw in this is that europe is not just about big cities. and by the time you're in your third, you wan't remember what you've seen where, let alone care!

annhig (1st response) "and you will have had a holiday!"

What does annhig describing the OP's proposed plans as "flawed" mean to you if not "I am right and you are wrong"? I'm dying to know. What does an assertion that the OP's plans will leave her with no fond memories of her "first and much anticipated" trip to Europe mean to you? And the suggestion that it won't even be a holiday?

Your own first two posts were great - good advice about transportation and a link to a topical travel resource for train travel. There was no insulting of the OP's travel plans and no attempt to redirect when none was asked for. The you posted a defence (well....) of annhig.

Palenque; "I'd like her to come back, not go home exhausted, vowing never to return>

"i also think more of the 'real' Europe lies outside those mega-cities"

"i guarantee you those smaller less touristed places will be the real highlight of your trip."

How you would like her to come home from her trip and the mere fact that you think you can presume how she will come if she follows her plans is irrelevant and drips with condescension. The other comments we have already dealt with.

For the record, I love the large cities of Europe and I love the small cities and towns. I probably spend 75% of my time in small cities, towns, and villages, dividing it equally among those three. There are those who loathe the big cities and toddle from village to village, soaking up the atmosphere (slow travel) while staying in rural B&B's or agriturismos. There are others who jump from capital to capital soaking up museums, fine dining and partying all night. I don't pass judgment on either of those preferences, or anything in between. When someone asks for feedback from the community on how they should spend their time, I certainly reveal my preferences and why so that they can weigh them against the travel styles and experiences of others and try to put it all together and fulfill their personal travel desires.
Aramis is offline  
Mar 11th, 2010, 08:15 PM
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My fiance and I are in the same boat as you. We have been planning our honeymoon for a year now and finally decided in the last 2 weeks to actually stop talking about planning and start to plan (May 2010 as well!). We WERE originally thinking of traveling all over Europe (France, Amsterdam, Switz, Italy) for 2 weeks with the same thought as you. "We will be so close and who knows when we'll be back so let's see it all!"

I started getting nervous that since my fiance has never been out of the country before he would be overwhelmed and both of us exhausted. I had a feeling if we were in Rome, I would feel obligated to not waste a second....adding to the exhaustion and time crunch. It was very hard but we decided to be brutal in cutting our itinerary down because 1. We are on a pretty tight budget and 2. we only had just over 2 weeks. After reading Rick Steve's books on each city we knew was a 'must see' for us as well as his "Europe Through the Back Door" we decided to focus on Italy as a whole and then jet over to Paris as well. I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Italy. We of course wanted to see Amsterdam, Switzerland and Germany but realized that we wanted to really experience as much of one area as we could at once. After long discussion with him we realized that we both wanted to see Italy....not 'rome' (as Rome is not Italy).

Having said that, it's just something to ponder. You will get so many opinions on here and honestly, if budget is not an issue you can fly by the seat of your pants and find a place to stay anywhere...you have the luxury of not having to stress too much about planning the details of an itinerary. It may not be 'right' in the eyes of 'planners' but if it feels good to you, have a general idea of the places and time frames and just travel away. If we had a month and weren't on a super tight budget I would fly into one city and stay as long as we wanted and book a train or flight out when we were ready to leave. Inter-Europe there are many flights and even more train rides (both cheap). Most Fodorites will tell you this is NOT a good idea, because you dont want to spend your time looking for a hotel, etc...but I tell you what, every one of my friends have traveled in Europe this way (both americans as well as Europeans) and every one has an AMAZING time. Vacations don't have to be about planning...they can actually be about experiences (finding hotels included!). I for one, am not a planner and only wish we had a month to follow our whims. If I had the luxury of being in your shoes, I'd book our main flights to and from Europe, research and have a general idea about flight and train schedules, book my hotel in the first city we landed and go where you want when you want.

This didn't answer a lot of questions, I know. Sorry about that. Bottom line, if you're not a planner and have the budget and time to play....then fly out there and see what you want when you want. My theory on vacationing is that I want to leave a location wishing I had more time to stay, rather than be in a town wishing I was leaving earlier. Plan your trip assuming (not hoping) that you will come back later. If there are things you must see (Paris, for example) ask yourself it you really must see those other locales or just feel like you should because you're so close.

Here are my 2 cents on this crazy lecturing/argument above regarding small cities. My fiance has never been overseas and therefore only wants to see large cities he's read about, seen online, etc. However, when we travel in the US, we often become charmed by small little cute towns that have sweet little bakeries or hole in the wall bars, walking charming 'downtown' areas of small towns. Knowing that, I threw in a few days to Cinque Terre (HIGHLY SUGGESTED BY EVERYONE that has been there....big city lovers and not) for some rest and a slower pace and a slice of Italian life. I also added an extra day to Venice so we can stroll around or take day trips and if we feel like we don't need the 'rest'. Rome and Paris will be go-go-go. If you can see yourself traveling to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and NYC (or canadian equivalent on a month long trip then you have just verified to yourself that a month full of large cities is great for you. If you cant imagine flying from one of those cities directly from another without a break in between....well, then I think you know what will work best for you.
Lanee is offline  
Mar 11th, 2010, 09:12 PM
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We believe in seeing a few places well than many places poorly. Since you are young, you will no doubt return to Europe.

Of course, everyone has there favorites. That of course, does not mean they will be yours. There are all exceptional places, each with its own treasures.

You mentioned museums. Here are some ironies. Some of the art is found in the architecture such as in Barcelona and Venice. Madrid has far superior museums than Barcelona, but Barcelona's sense of style is unique. As far as what cities to visit, it would depend on what genres and periods you prefer.

I would eliminate a place or two, you will return and will have something to look forward to. This way you will have a chance to sit at a sidewalk cafe and watch the world pass which is also instructive.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2010, 07:06 AM
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hi nand,

when I was your age, I too went touring with my DH "on spec" staying as long as we liked and then moving on. we even did this in july in France and Italy and always found places to stay, though not always easily. even in florence.

but that was 25+ years ago, and things have changed. you can waste a lot of sight-seeing time trying to find reasonable accommodation. even in May, I don't fancy trapsing round Rome looking for somewhere decent that I can afford. the advantage of small towns is that they are not over-run with tourists and it's a lot easier to find somewhere reasonable. if this style of trip appeals to you, a good compromise might be to book places for either end of the trip, [say Venice and Rome] and busk the middle.
annhig is offline  

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