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Feb 28th, 2014, 03:51 PM
  #1
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Help with Paris/Europe Travel Plans

I'm becoming overwhelmed here. I bought round trip tickets for my girlfriend for Christmas and I'm trying to nail down an itinerary to book early enough to get better rates. My travel dates and working itinerary are below. I've been reading tons of information and other posts but I'm in a stand still. Hoping to get more direct advice.

Travel 5/1 - 5/14 In and out of London (I know open-jaw was recommended here, but the rates didn't agree in this case, I needed to use United for benefit reasons, i.e. upgraded business class seats)

Arrive Day 2, immediately get on flight to Paris (cheaper and faster than Eurostar and it is only about a 3 hour layover)
Day 2 - 5 - Paris - Thalys to Amsterdam
Day 5 - 7 - Amsterdam - Night Train to Munich on 7th
Day 8 - 10 - Munich - Fly to London
Day 10 - 14 - London/Cambridge

How does that look? We originally tried to include Rome or Athens in this but decided we didn't want to travel more, nor wanted the spend the money on it and save it for another time as they are big cities that deserve more than a day.

Most importantly, and reason for posting, is I need to find the perfect hotel in Paris. I'm willing to splurge on the Paris hotel but the rest I'm going to try and keep around $200 a night. However, I'm looking for the best hotel in a prime location and I wouldn't mind a view. My budget is pretty flexible, but lets say it must be under $1500 total for 3 nights, but I'd like to keep it under, say, $1200. I was thinking maybe Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel with a Tower view (how good of one is unknown to me, anyone?). It will run somewhere around $1275 for the stay. But, are their better options around Champs-Elysees?

The thing is I'm planning on proposing to my girlfriend on this trip. My original plan was to stay at somewhere with an amazing private terrace with an amazing Eiffel Tower view and pop the question in private there over wine and relaxation and the night lights of the tower... But the only hotels, i.e. Shangri-La, that can offer such things are over $1k a night and it's just not something I'm prepared to spend after dumping a few grand on flight, an engagement ring, and the rest of the trip to budget for... So I'll figure something out on on that front later.

So I'm looking for advice on a hotel in Paris that is upscale, but not ridiculous, in a prime location for walking, and opinions from people who have stayed at these places recently and can speak from experience rather all of the information I'm finding on travel sites.

I'm thinking about utilizing Airbnb for Amsterdam and maybe London, location is the idea here, and we don't really care about luxury as long as it is clean, and I don't have to sleep on a twin bed (deal-breaker). I like to experience culture, but I don't want to slum it by American standards. Hotels in Munich seem pretty reasonable. I travel TONS in the US for work and have had great results from Priceline Express deals. Has anyone used this for European destinations with any luck good or bad? I'm not really a fan from European hotels I see online. Different culture I guess, but some look very tired and small.

If you have suggestions for hotels in the other destinations let me know. Please include the reasons you suggested it, and any issues you might feel the need to point out.

I plan on booking the travel listed within the next day as all the travel while there is running around $1250 USD total for both of us and I think that is pretty cheap. That includes most expensive option for night train (private room with bed and with shower) and good flight times on AirFrance. If you have suggestions please let me know.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 04:01 PM
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I haven't made it through your whole posts yet -- but just to begin . . .

>>Arrive Day 2, immediately get on flight to Paris (cheaper and faster than Eurostar and it is only about a 3 hour layover)
Day 2 - 5 - Paris - Thalys to Amsterdam
Day 5 - 7 - Amsterdam - Night Train to Munich on 7th
Day 8 - 10 - Munich - Fly to London
Day 10 - 14 - London/Cambridge
<<

What you really have is day 2 - 4 in Paris. And day 2 will only be a few jet lagged hours. So essentially 2 days for Paris

Days 5-7 in Amsterdam . . . which is 2+ a skosh days in A'dam.

Days 8-9 in Munich = 2 days in Munich

Days 10-13 for London and Cambridge which nets you 3.5 days max and probably less.

Fly home on day 14.

IMO not NEARLY enough time in London or Paris.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 04:05 PM
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I plan on booking the travel listed within the next day as all the travel while there is running around $1250 USD total for both of us and I think that is pretty cheap. That includes most expensive option for night train (private room with bed and with shower) and good flight times on AirFrance. If you have suggestions please let me know.>

seems like you got a great fix on it - you are booking thru www.eruostar.com and www.thalys.com I expect as these have the cheapest rates and www.bahn.de/en for the CNL train discounts? Just to check. And for general info on those trains check out these IMO superb sites: www.seat61.com - goo dinfo on discounted tickets; www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com. There is no railpass that would be on use to you and your plans.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 04:10 PM
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Too much in too little time. I would suggest instead of focusing on finding the perfect hotel, you refine your itinerary. You're not accounting for packing up, travel time, and unpacking time anywhere. I wouldn't want to be hauled around like this on a trip where I was being proposed to. I realize you have the best of intentions, but your logistics need some serious work.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 04:14 PM
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You really have enough time for a nice visit to Paris and the proposal, a couple of days in Amsterdam, and 5 or 6 days in London w/ a day trip to Cambridge.

(A night train isn't romantic BTW - you'd likely arrive in Munich exhausted and grumpy)
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Feb 28th, 2014, 04:31 PM
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Congratulations! Sounds like a great trip and Paris is perfect for a wedding proposal. I would agree with the above suggestions that you drop one city from your itinerary. Logically, that would be Munich, because the others are in closer proximity to each other.

All those cities can be great for a romantic trip, if you have the time to explore and get to know them a bit. With two weeks, three major cities and Cambridge is just right, and you could always do a quick overnight to Normandy or the Loire Valley from Paris if you want a taste of the French countryside, which I would recommend.

Have a wonderful time, whatever you decide.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 06:12 PM
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Wow! What a trip! I would suggest you wait until the last night to propose. You may find out some dealbreakers when dragging your GF around on a trip like this....

Seriously, please follow everyone's advice and cut out one location. Munich does seem to be the outlier (although I am a huge fan of Munich). And I agree with janisj, a night train is not all that romantic and you may get up tired and grumpy the next day. In addition, you will be in Munich during the Spring Beer festival (think mini-Oktoberfest) Apr 25 thru May 11 and hotel rooms will be jacked up during this time. Or you could cut out Amsterdam instead of Munich if you are really set on the night train and have already booked the trip back to London from Munich.

Spend more time in Paris- take all of the days you cut out from Munich or Amsterdam. Take a day trip to Versailles. And a suggestion for the proposal location. There are several restaurants IN the Eiffel Tower. Choose one of those, make reservations, and propose there in the evening. You will have all of Paris to look at and remember instead of just one view of the Eiffel Tower. Incidentally, I would not stay in the area around the Champs-Elysees. I have stayed there several times but I enjoyed my vacations more after I branched out into the Latin Quarter, 5th or 6th Arr. The public transportation is so good in Paris that hotel location isn't a real issue.

As far as hotels go, you can stay at some pretty good hotels for the budget you have. Also, do you have any hotel points you could use in one or more of these cities? I have had pretty good luck with Booking.com- just be aware they are in the Priceline family. And I have used Priceline - I once got a Marriott for under $100 per night DURING the Oktoberfest in Munich maaaaany years ago. Sad to say no such luck nowadays....

At any rate, have a wonderful tri[p!!!

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Feb 28th, 2014, 07:53 PM
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Hotel Eiffel Trocadero is across the river and up a hill from the Eiffel Tower. It's one of the few hotels that has an unobstructed view of The tower. I've been at Trocadero Square at sundown when the strobe lights start up, and the sight is incredible. It's priced around 250 Euros.

See: http://www.hoteleiffeltrocadero.com

Most of the hotels in the area are down side streets, and you cannot fully see The Tower from them.

Congratulations on your finding a life partner.
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Feb 28th, 2014, 08:10 PM
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When you add the time (and cost) to get into Paris from the airport to that three hour layover, flying from London to Paris may not be better than Eurostar. The train would be more comfortable and relaxing. Double check that plan to be sure.

Agree with others to drop something. Travel less - see more. Of course, you know your GF, or should. Is she the type to race all over or does she enjoy walks and romance?

You are counting several days twice, giving the same day to two different locations. That does not work. Times are quite rushed.

Realistically:
Day 1, Overnight flight to London
Day 2, arrive London, fly (with 3 hour layover) or train to Paris, transfer to hotel. You will be exhausted and jet-lagged. Don't plan on major sightseeing this afternoon. This is a travel day, not a sightseeing day.
Day 3, Paris
Day 4, Paris
Day 5, Paris (do a day trip to Versailles)
Day 6, Travel to Amsterdam, 1/2 day from hotel check out to hotel check in, so 1/2 day in Amsterdam
Day 7, Amsterdam
Day 8, Amsterdam
Day 9, travel to London, minimum of 1/2 day for travel
Day 10, London
Day 11, Day trip to Cambridge
Day 12, London

This leaves only one day over. Add it to Paris or London, perhaps another day trip from one or the other, or add the time to some small town in Belgium or the Netherlands.

The other option would be skip Amsterdam, but include Munich.

Day 14, fly home.
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Mar 1st, 2014, 06:39 AM
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With the time available and the fact that tickets are bought, I'd stick with just London and Paris with maybe a day trip thrown in. Good plan to get straight to Paris so you have less travel to get to your return flight. Take the Eurostar back to London.

It's not the Shangri-la but the Pullman Eiffel Tower has both the closest view of the ET and balconies as well. The balcony rooms are nice by all accounts. We've stayed there and the non view room we had was fine. I can tell you though that the views from the front rooms are spectacular as I've also stayed at the Mercure next door in a room with a view. You can almost reach out and touch the tower.
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Mar 1st, 2014, 08:34 AM
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Play a day trip while in Paris by ear--IF you feel you want to leave for a whole day and give up other things to do and see.
I agree with paring down the destinations. You won't be sorry--and you will come back!!
DS proposed to his wife at the top of the Eiffel Tower on our family trip. The idea of a hotel with that view is super!!
And don't forget to buy a significant souvenir of Paris to remind you of the day!!
We celebrated our 20th anniversary in Paris with our then teenage kids and let them help us choose a set of china at Villeroy and Bosch (20=china anniversary).
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Mar 1st, 2014, 01:10 PM
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(A night train isn't romantic BTW - you'd likely arrive in Munich exhausted and grumpy)>

isn't romantic to some perhaps many but to others it can be - I've taken zillions of night trains all over Europe and rarely have I arrived exhausted or grumpy but fresh and ready to go - it depends obviously on how well you sleep and the type of accommodations you book.

But I would not rule out the efficacy of such a train because of some folks personal animosity against overnight trains which is perhaps in some cases based on very little experience with them but rather repeating what is a Fodor's mantra - again often I suspect by folks who rarely take them and then make such a sweeping statement that IME of zillions of trains has not been true of me or the other passengers in the compartments to the large part. So it is a person thing and how well you sleep but with a hubby or wife or gal and guy friend in a private duble with some vino (bring anything you want onboard) it can indeed be romantic.

Indeed one of my friend claims his first kid was conceived on the Paris to Venice night train!
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Mar 1st, 2014, 03:52 PM
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But PQ -- the OP is a young man in love and about to propose . . . you on the other hand are an old fart

(Your friend is probably blowing smoke)
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Mar 1st, 2014, 06:55 PM
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Wow. Great replies. I'm impressed with the quality advice but I think I may have left a few details that may explain the extra destinations. You should be impressed I can write this much on a phone.

My girlfriend spent a semester in London and during that semester spent some time in Paris and a few Italian destinations. So when we talked about the trip Amsterdam and a German city (she speaks a little German from college) were the first two suggestions as she hasn't been there. I'm not to worried about myself as I will be back. So we may be able to get away with 2 days in London and Paris as I would like to see a few sights but not worried about getting it all right now.

Also, my family has hosted exchange students for many years and I want to visit a few that were my brothers years ago as I have never been to Europe and they always come here. A good friend of mine attends Cambridge on his, like, 5th PHD. He has promised me some exclusive student access to a talk or some restricted spots he says would be beautiful for a proposal, but my girlfriend has been there too.

Another student is going to meet us in Amsterdam or Munich out of Frankfort and another one in Munich out of Austria.

GREAT to know something will be going on in Munich while we are there. That is a great plus.

I do worry about travel wearing us out. That's why I am splurging on every effort for comfort including lay flat beds on the flight over and a private bed cabin on the night train. Hopefully this will help? I still think we will be tired so I agree first 2 days will just be travel. And I didn't intend in implying counting travel days as full days, just noting when we will be where.

I like to hear that about the Pullman Hotel as it fits pretty good. I might go with that unless someone recommends against it. My budget will allow a upgraded deluxe room with a view, just short of a suite if I book soon.

Thank you for the feedback on Priceline as well. I have about 25k points left over from when I lived in a Crown Plaza for 4 months but that isn't going to be of much use.

Thanks again people. Keep it coming.

I'd like to hear if anyone keeps with their strong recommendation of cutting a city with the new info. Or is it make degraded to a mild recommendation.
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Mar 1st, 2014, 07:09 PM
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Also, my girlfriend is probably expecting it to some degree as it has been a long time coming. I know she has asked some friends if they think I will propose. I just hope she isn't motivated enough to find this post. Ha.

I was thinking maybe doing it at the United Club at IAH when leaving or possibly waiting until the end or on the way home to throw her off, but that might disappoint her as well. Putting my own desire to torture her over the punctuality.
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Mar 1st, 2014, 08:10 PM
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Our family has for years made little trip packs, or goody bags with magazines, new paperback books, candy, gum, small games, little wrapped gifts & toys for the kids when they were little, etc. You could make a little goody bag for her with favorite candy, a new paperback set in Paris or London, etc. perhaps a little bride's planning guide, plus the latest copy of Bride's Magazine. Give it to her after your plane takes off, and after she looks through the bag, follow with the ring. Just a thought, but only if you think it is something she would like. Secretly, after you board, give the flight attendant two lovely glasses and ask them to bring Champagne when she/he sees you give your GF the ring.

Make yourself a trip pack too - just for fun and as a reward for being a thoughtful guy.
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Mar 2nd, 2014, 11:52 AM
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But PQ -- the OP is a young man in love and about to propose . . . you on the other hand are an old fart>

Well yes about moi! But what a novel thing - book a private compartment on a night train and pop the question then a bottle of Champagne - they will probably arrive exhausted like you say from a lack of sleep but for a good reason!

Point is you cannot simply make a blanket statement about night trains -like you did IMO (A night train isn't romantic BTW - you'd likely arrive in Munich exhausted and grumpy) - that sound 100% guaranteed to end up like that as many folks I know simply have way different experiences. You shuld not extrapolate your night train experience - which I assume is limited in practice - to everyone - I have no problem saying those who are light sleepers may - and AI often do but to throw the baby out with the bathwater...
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Mar 2nd, 2014, 12:04 PM
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well, congrats - and thanks for starting a thread which is a little out of the ordinary.

as a seasoned traveller you'll know how tiring it can be, you don't need us to tell you that. And I like the mix of places - not just sticking to the tried and tested London-Paris-Amsterdam combo.

I can't really say much else except that by the time you get to Paris, your poor girlfriend is going to be on tenterhooks - will he? won't he? - that unless you get that proposal over soon, the moment may lose something. So don't leave her in suspense for too long.

hope you have a great trip!
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Mar 2nd, 2014, 01:05 PM
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As cute as proposing on the plane is, a view of the Eiffel Tower is unforgettable. DS and DDIL "collect" Eiffel Towers now. Just another thought. No matter where it will become a part of family lore!!
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Mar 2nd, 2014, 01:41 PM
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Best to leave out Munich, as much as it is a favorite of mine!

I'd switch out Munich for Belgium. One my favorite trips were London-Paris-Belgium (Brussels+Bruges)-Amsterdam, all super easy by high speed train. Belgium has the best beer, chocolate, fries, and waffles anywhere! Truly underrated.
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