First trip to Europe -- overwhelmed!

Mar 2nd, 2013, 11:12 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2013
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First trip to Europe -- overwhelmed!

Hi,

I am a 22 year old student from Canada, and have never travelled outside of North America. My boyfriend has never been out of NA either, and we would love to travel to Europe for 4 weeks this summer but have no idea where to start in our planning.

My top places to see are:

Florence, Venice, Rome
Paris
London
Amsterdam and/or Berlin
Santorini

Is it too much of a stretch to include Santorini in there? It's the #1 place I want to go to, but I will definitely make more trips to Europe in the future, so it's not a total dealbreaker. My #2 place to go to is Italy.

What would be the best order to see these places and how should I travel in between?
Is it also feasible to keep this trip under 5000$ (each person)?

Thank you SO much for any help!!
alexlee33 is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2013, 11:54 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
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I think limiting your trip to 4-5 cities would be more economical on your budget and stress level. It's tempting to do it all in one trip but that burns money and leaves you with negative feelings.

How I plan is to make a list of the things I and my group are interested in. Then I try to group them by location so you aren't spending ages getting from place to place. I include down time and "flex" time in the plan so there is time for last minute changes to go see something you just heard about.

Before narrowing down my travel route I then research the various transportation options available including costs and time estimates.

Best example I'm planning a trip for spring 2015 and the must see on my one companions list is to visit Venice. She is notorious for packing heavy and I will be having a lot of conversations with her just to make sure her bag is only 1 and under 50#. Trying to get it under the 22# for most European flights is next to impossible so Venice is our second stop before she has a chance to add souvenirs to the weight. Everything else is going to be by train until we fly home.

If you are careful with your budget you should be able to keep to the 5K but you will only know for sure once you estimate travel and hotel fees.

Best of luck with your plans.
AmyB81 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 12:37 AM
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I would start by looking what your flight options are... Most North American flights use London and PAris as hubs. There used to be some flights to Athens, not sure if this is still the case. If Santorini and Italy are top priorities, I would start by looking of flights Rome to Athens. I know that Aegean flies this route through Athens, there might be some direct flights too. It is wise trying to book open jaw tickets eg arriving in Europe in one spot, departing form an other so you do not back track.
4 weeks are not such a great ammount of time as you may think. Roughly allow one day in transit when you move between destinations. Personaly I would see if I can get a flight to my far out/hardest to reach destination, then a returning flight from a closer/easier airport. Why trying to see so pmany places? If Santorini ehich is in Greece is a top priority and then you want to explore various areas in Italy, why not to spli your 4 weeks between those two countries? If you have to use a larger city/airport for travel logistics, you can allow 4-5 full days for this city and then focus on those two countries. I have take many 4 weeks trip always focusing on one country only. As you mention your self, there will always be future trips to see what you did not manage on this trip. So why to russ?
mariha2912 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 01:35 AM
  #4  
 
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We all can understand the feeling overwhelmed part of planning. I'm an old hand at travel planning, but just yesterday I felt at a total loss in pulling my one-city trip to Dublin together.

So it's not you!

I think you have wisely answered your own question: Santorini really is out of the question unless you move your entire trip south. You do have enough time, but you will not have enough money to wisely encompass all of that.

I respectfully disagree with mariha912 that most NA flights use London and Paris as hubs. There are a lot of direct flights EVERYWHERE in Europe. For example, I can tell you that Amsterdam works very well because KLM is centered there. Since KLM is part of the SkyTeam Alliance, that means a lot of code shares with Delta, Air France, Alitalia, etc.

Hence you could easily fly into Amsterdam and fly home from Rome booking an open jaw flight, especially since it's a snap to work your way down through France to Italy via trains and cheapie European flights.

I often play around with this website, http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ to see which dates, connections work best for me getting over and back. Then for travel between places in Europe, I check out the cheap European carriers. Flycheapo.com and SkyScanner are two excellent online resources for budget European air travel.

I'm not discounting the use of trains, by the way. Eurail passes are not the bargain people generally think they are, but when you are traveling for four weeks, you have a shot at making those passes VERY cost effective. Do check out the pricing here: http://www.eurail.com/eurail-passes?...FUZV4AodA24Acg.

Amsterdam to Paris rail, London to Paris rail, and Paris to Venice rail are all delightful options. I really want to try the relatively new Thello system: http://www.seat61.com/thello-train-f...m#.UTMmCFc8CIk.

And by the way, if you really want the best timetable for rails, it's still the German website that operates best: http://www.bahn.com/i/view/GBR/en/index.shtml.

I suggest you buy a big map of Europe, and circle the places you want to go. You should start to see what grouping would work best to limit your transport time and expense.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 01:47 AM
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Very nice suggestions from AlessandraZoe. I would also recommend not just hitting the big cities (which tend toward many tourists, high prices, and more hustles and hassles) and add in a transition or two that allows you time in smaller towns in between your major destinations (you can also do small towns as daytrips from larger cities). A night or two in a small town on the Rhine, or in Italy, or by a beach, can not only be a breath of fresh air, they can be highlights of the trip.
dfourh is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 01:29 PM
  #6  
 
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I was thinking that to make your planning simpler, you may want to start by flying to London for several days (always the best place for an English speaker to begin).

Then, fly to somewhere in Italy (look at budget airlines, lots of cheap flights from London -- www.whichbudget.com ) and spend several weeks seeing your Italian cities but also spending time out in the countryside (excellent advice from dfourh). I also second the idea of taking day trips from your major cities -- make sure you allow enough time to add some of these.

Next fly (or taking the train would be even more fun) to Paris and spend several days there; then take the train to Amsterdam for a few days before flying home.

What I like to do for planning purposes is make a Day-by-Day list (i.e. Day 1, Day 2 etc.) and just start filling it in very generally:

Day 1 -- Fly to London
Day 2 -- Arrive London
Day 3 -- Stay London and see...
Day 4 -- Stay London and see...

It will help you to get a better sense of how you want to spend your time, and you can play with it any way you want, trying out all kinds of different scenarios. When you have something roughed out, you can start looking at flights etc. and eventually add actual dates.

What an adventure -- there is nothing like the thrill of your first trip to Europe!
Magster2005 is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 03:38 PM
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>>>Most North American flights use London and PAris as hubs<<<

That depends on the airline you use. Different airlines have different hubs. Delta has non-stop flights from the states to Paris, Amsterdam, Nice, Venice, Rome, etc.

I would look for one of the better flight deals to any of your cities (I like to fly to the furthest point and home from the shortest). If Athens flights are too expensive from the states, look at taking an Aegean airlines flight from Rome or Milan to Athens or the islands. You could visit Italy, fly Aegean to Greece, fly back to one of the other cities on your list.
http://en.aegeanair.com/
kybourbon is online now  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 04:12 PM
  #8  
 
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Your 22 and you have many years of traveling ahead of you. Pick the places you want to go and enjoy the area. Find small apartments and/or guest houses to stay for at least a week.

Start with what you love.

Do you see yourself on vacation on a beach somewhere, drinks at sunset? Or do you see yourselves hiking? Taking in history and museums?

Start with your #1 spot and your #1 activity and find that.
LSky is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2013, 05:05 PM
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my advice, fly into Amsterdam where everyone speaks fluent English and lots of fun for people of all ages....stay there 3 or 4 nights then take a train into Germany (you decide where) Stay in Germany for about a week - hitting Frankfurt, Berlin, then swing by Prague, head down south to Munich, keep heading east into France, week in France including time in paris, then into Spain for a few days, fly out of madrid or Barcelona to go home. I would avoid the UK, much like the US only more expensive, it pales compared to the places I described...
jp4120 is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 08:26 AM
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I actually rather agree with jp4120. London/Paris or even London/Amsterdam/Paris trips can work OK, but I always found from my own experience that London travel plus elsewhere tends to be inefficient in terms of time and money.

I am particularly fond of Amsterdam because it is so unusual but so culturally accessible. You land, as jp4120 says, in a place that speaks English (often with an NA accent) and as I'm going to go on record saying, operates very efficiently in a manner you are used to. And from Amsterdam, you can train or plane ANYWHERE.

In other words, NA first-timers can transition beautifully into European culture without a hitch.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 08:27 AM
  #11  
 
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I want to add that I have nothing against Great Britain in general and London in specific. I love GB. But I feel that London and its environs are best toured for one whole week, and three weeks in Wales, Scotland, England would be an ideal.
AlessandraZoe is offline  
Mar 4th, 2013, 08:55 AM
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Assume you are taking trains or cheap flights and of course boats to Greece and in GVreece (many boats from Italy to Greece that go overnight - save on cost of hotel and in your age group many just 'sleep' in the ship's night club/bar or on deck chairs outside - you can also pay a bit extra for proper sleeping berths.

anyway if under 26 yrs old you can use the bargain Eurail Youthpass on trains and with such wide-ranging travels it will probably be a great deal. You can also hop the zillions of overnight trains running throughout Europe to save travel time and again the cost of a hotel - many folks your age from all over the world doing that!

Anyway for lots of great info on European trains and passes, etc I always spotlight these IMO fantastic sites - www.ricksteves.com; www.seat61.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com and download the latter's free and superb IMO European Planning & Rail Guide as it gives lots of rail itineraries in various countries, travel times, rail maps, etc.
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 10th, 2013, 12:07 PM
  #13  
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Thank you all so much for your responses!! They have been such a big help!

What do you think about this itinerary? I've searched open jaw flights to Amsterdam and out of Athens, and found many for around $1600. Is this a good deal?

1. Edmonton, Canada -> Amsterdam
2. Amsterdam --> Paris
3. Paris --> Italy (Venice, Rome)
4. Italy --> Santorini
5. Santorini --> Athens
6. Athens --> home

Does this sound reasonable? How does travel from Italy to Santorini to Rome work? What are the cheapest options for connecting between the rest of the destinations I've picked?
alexlee33 is offline  
Mar 10th, 2013, 01:10 PM
  #14  
 
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What are your dates alex?

It may be cheaper to fly to fly, return, to Santorini from one of your Europeanstops and have your open jaw from that other city. For example Rome-Santorini return and your open jaw could be Deadmonton -> Amsterdam/Paris and Rome -> Deadmonton
Aramis is offline  
Mar 10th, 2013, 03:06 PM
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Aramis..sounds like you know the locale?? Deadmonton indeed, definitely not the center of the universe as we know it.
Alexlee, try to keep the airline the same or partners and you can check straight through. AC to Frankfurt to elsewhere to Santorini?? BA to London to elsewhere to Santorini??.KLM as you obviously know. If you can get your itin. as you stated above for $1600 and that is the total you probably should go for it. Travel light, duplicate your docs., advise your bank and cc people ans off you go.. BTW leave a clear itin.& copy of docs. with family..Then off you go!!!
amer_can is offline  
Mar 10th, 2013, 07:48 PM
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Hi there, I think flying into Ams is a good idea to get started, then head southwards to Paris and down south to Italy. You might be able to stop in some other places like bordeoux or nice before you enter florence, pisa, rome. I suggest that you look into doing maybe a short cruise that departs from Venice. Msc cruises has itineraries that will start in venice and it will pass by even dubrovnik in croatia and then towards santorini and even athens. Theres quite a number of Italy - Croatia - Greece cruises. You might want to check around abit. Bear immind that flying from Venice to Athens might be expensive ( I was researching this route myself). Bologna, which is sandwiched between florence and Venice has an airport as well and there mihht have some budget airlines. You can check that out as oppose to just flying from Venice to Athens. Otherwise the cruise for seven nights will be about five hundeed pounds for the cheapest option for a seven night trip. For flights around the italy greece routes try Aegean Air and Olympic Air.

Peronally, im heading to Greece in two weeks time. My route is flight from London to Corfu. Corfu to Athens by flight and from Athens to Santorini by ferry before taking a fliggt back to London.

I've been to Berlin as well but if this is your first trip to Europe it will not be a good experience. Berlin is essentric and different and its not a romantic place to visit for sure. The effects of the cold war can still be felt, so I think you should stick to the more hyped up places first and move on to the European must go firsts. You can go to the eastern european trip the next time. Cover prague, budapest, slobakia andnthen go east towards berlin, warsaw, talinn and riga perhaps. This way you wil get to make a contrast of culture and understand the culture better imo.
missnomad is offline  
Mar 10th, 2013, 08:58 PM
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Here's something to think about, and I know a lot of people will disagree with me.

As summer approaches the cruise lines often slash fares pretty dramatically. There's a good chance you can find a 7-day cruise out of Venice that will make a port call in Santorini, along with several other interesting ports. (Last summer we were able to book a 12-night cruise for either $699 or $749; a 7-night cruise might be under $400, before tips).

Some cruise ships have self-service laundries. It could be a great way to relax and get your clothes clean and see some places that you otherwise would not see.

Just a thought.
FHurdle is offline  
Mar 10th, 2013, 09:37 PM
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>>>Does this sound reasonable? How does travel from Italy to Santorini to Rome work?<<<

Look at Aegean Airlines.

When searching flights, you should flip cities. It may be cheaper to fly into Athens and home from Amsterdam. You could also consider a round trip flight to Greece (or two one ways which are cheaper on European airlines) and fly home from Italy. You might find a cheap flight from Amsterdam or Paris to Greece, then you could fly to Italy and finish your trip.
kybourbon is online now  
Mar 11th, 2013, 09:13 AM
  #19  
 
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And there are many ferries between Greece and Italy - save a night in a hotel and have a kind of cruise ship experience - you can always fly but rarely have the opportunity to take a boat loaded with things to do, a la a cruise ship light.
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 11th, 2013, 10:01 AM
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Going from Rome to Santorini by ferry would be quite a trek. First make your way to the Italian port, overnight ferry from there to Patras or Igoumenitsa (ferries from Italy don't go to Piraeus or Santorini), then travel by road from the Greek port to Athens. Go from Athens to Piraeus and take a ferry to Santorini, another 8 hours. Most days ferries to Santorini leave only early mornings, so you will probably miss it and have to spend another night in Athens or Piraeus. The whole trip would take about 2 days, compared with 2 hours on the flight.

Of course you could take a flight from Athens to Santorini, but if you are going to do that you may as well fly all the way from Rome instead. ;-)
Heimdall is online now  

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