Help w/ planning first European vacation

Jan 5th, 2012, 06:14 PM
  #1  
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Help w/ planning first European vacation

My husband and I are planning our first trip to Western Europe and would like some advice on which cities to hit. We're interested in taking an aggressive approach - seeing as much of the main attractions as we can in our time there, and returning in the future for more detailed itineraries. With that said, we're planning an overnight flight on June 8th, arriving the morning of June 9th. Original plan was to fly into London and work our way to Barcelona, via Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome, departing Barcelona the morning of the 22nd. We were only planning one day in Amsterdam, Florence, and Barcelona, and at least 2 days everywhere else. I guess rather than criticism on how this is "too much" I'm looking for suggestions of whether time would be better spent elsewhere, and what the "must see" cities and attractions are. Like, should we cut out Barcelona and maybe Florence, and travel through Belguim, Germany, or Switzerland instead? I appreciate any constructive advice that could be provided. Thanks!
Halle_Cupp is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 07:05 PM
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You're not really going to get much advice here other than to slow down. You only have 12 days and you want to make 8 stops, requiring at least 4 full days of traveling in between cities and taking away from time you could be spending enjoying yourself. A more logical approach would be London-Paris-(maybe)Belgium-Amsterdam, OR Venice-Florence-Rome. Either of these is MORE than enough to do in 12 days!
anothertravelinsong is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 07:08 PM
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Only you can define the cities that are "must see" in the 14 nights you have for this trip. You don't really give us much information on your interests other than taking an aggressive approach so it's difficult to give advice on which places I'd prioritize.
CathyM is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 07:12 PM
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My error - your trip is 13 nights on the ground and one in the air. 12 full days + the arrival day.
CathyM is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 08:03 PM
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If you stick to your schedule you'll only have half a day each in Florence and Barcelona unless you revise the time in other cities. If you don't have cities in Belgium, Germany, or Switzerland that you'd rather spend your 2 half days in you should keep Florence and Barcelona.

Here's what your schedule looks like when you show each day with travel time:

June 9 – arrive London
June 10 – London
June 11 – London
June 12 – fly to Amsterdam (1/2 day in Amsterdam)
June 13 – Train to Paris (1/2 day in Paris)
June 14 – Paris
June 15 – Paris
June 16 – fly to Venice (1/2 day in Venice)
June 17 – Venice
June 18 – Florence (1/2 day)
June 19 – Rome
June 20 – Rome
June 21 – fly to Barcelona (1/2 day in Barcelona)
June 22 – return home
adrienne is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 08:03 PM
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Look at a map and start putting some pins in for where you want to go. Get our guidebooks, and travel DVDs from you local library and decide on the must see for yourself since no one knows what you like and don't like. It is your trip. Do not let experience travelers convince you that you cannot do it. Go for it.
fmpden is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 08:19 PM
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Drop Barcelona. It's a long way from all your other choices and you don't have as much time as you think once you factor in travel time between cities.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 5th, 2012, 08:24 PM
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You might consider a tour if you want to pursue an aggressive timetable as you say. Tours are really ideal for this sort of itinerary because they move fast and pack a lot of information and sights in, covering what are considered the highlights. You can always go back and fill in the gaps later, or return to sights that you want to see better, once you have learnt the basics. Plus the operators don't waste time getting you to and from accommodation and sights, in the sense that they know how to get you there quickly, whereas every city you hit, you will be a newcomer and will fumble your way around looking for taxis or the right street, when you need to make the most of your time. There is also every chance you'll find a tour with a similar set of destinations to the ones you have identified here because they're popular. Good luck for your trip. I think it is possible to do what you want, but you might just consider taking that stress factor out by looking at tours.

Lavandula
lavandula is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 08:33 PM
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Per your list and how you contemplate allocating the days, it sounds like:

London 2
Amsterdam 1
Paris 2
Venice 2
Florence 1
Rome 2
Barcelona 2

You'll lose essentially a half day moving from London to Amsterdam, a half day between Amsterdam and Paris, a half day between Paris and Venice, and another half day between Rome and Barcelona. So, the "at least 2 days" you wanted in most of the cities is actually less than 2 days unless you forego many lovely dinners and travel primarily in the evening. Pray you don't encounter any flight delays/cancellations or train delays/strikes.

Choosing the "must-see" cities and attractions is entirely a personal thing. One person's can't-miss museum/art/church/ruins/architecture is another person's idea of utter boredom.

Here's a good website for searching train timetables in Europe:

http://www.bahn.de/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml

After you've looked at train and plane travel times, you may decide to shrink your itinerary geographically, perhaps dropping Amsterdam or Barcelona or both or leaving Italy for another trip. Whatever. It's your trip.
Jean is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 08:36 PM
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Lots of similar replies.

I agree with lavandula. This sounds like a guided tour itinerary.
Jean is offline  
Jan 5th, 2012, 08:55 PM
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Flying from Rome to Barcelona for just an afternoon is a very expensive afternoon and you won't have time to see much. If you do go ahead with that, hire a guide to pick you up at the airport and take you to at least one or two of the major sights right away.
Sassafrass is online now  
Jan 5th, 2012, 08:58 PM
  #12  
 
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I think if you skip Amsterdam and Florence it could really be a fun trip. You can do this without taking a tour.

Fly into London
London 2
train to Paris
Paris 3.5
Fly to Venice
Venice 2
Train to Rome
Rome 4
Fly home from Rome

This would give you a sense of the different areas in Europe and you'd hit what I think are the real highlights.
rosetravels is offline  
Jan 6th, 2012, 03:40 AM
  #13  
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Thanks for the great input! To clarify, my husband and I are 30 and 31, respectively. Our interests as they pertain to Europe are leaning more towards major cities (touristy areas), significant architectural sites, stunning landscapes, foods, beverages, neat pubs/breweries/vineyards, etc. We're not history or art buffs, and are not religious. BUT we do want to see things such as the Mona Lisa, some of the big beautiful cathedrals, Vatican City, etc. An additional note is that our travel plans included an overnight ferry from London to Amsterdam, thereby saving some time since departure is in the evening and arrival is in the morning. And we'd planned to travel to Paris by high-speed rail, with hopes to arrive before noon. Then we were going to fly from Paris to Venice; take trains between Venice, Florence, and Rome (isn't travel time only a couple hours in between?); and fly to Barcelona the morning of the 21st. We thought all these go-betweens were the most efficient methods.
Re: a tour. That was actually our initial plan, however I'm not sure I can stomach traveling Europe by motorcoach, and all the tours that were in line with our aggressive itinerary and budget used this as the main method of travel. Additionaly, I've been told tours are generally travelled by "older crowds", and while we absolutey respect and can socialize with any age group, we thought that might not be ideal for us. And on the contrary, Contiki tours are geared towards 35 and younger, but being June I'm sure the average age will be more around the freshly college graduated. Otherwise, a tour would be ideal!
Again I appreciate everyone's input!! Hopefully this helped clarify a bit about our interests and intent in traveling Europe for the first time.
Halle_Cupp is offline  
Jan 6th, 2012, 04:03 AM
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If you want landscapes and vineyards you should perhaps spend some nights outside of a major city unless you only want to experience them from a train window. With 1-2 days in each city you're not going to have a chance to take a day trip outside of the city.

Also if you are trying to take the early morning trains be sure you know exactly when tickets go on sale otherwise your train fares are going to add up very quickly.
Tubulus is offline  
Jan 6th, 2012, 04:13 AM
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<< take trains between Venice, Florence, and Rome (isn't travel time only a couple hours in between? >>

Train travel time is only about 2 hours between each city but you have to allow time to pack, check out of the hotel, get to the train station, get to the hotel, unpack, acclimate yourselves to a new environment. So the transit time is much more than 2 hours. More like 4 hours for a 2 hour train ride.

Enjoy your trip and let us know how your itinerary worked out and what you enjoyed best in Europe!
adrienne is offline  

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