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iowaLacey Sep 10th, 2017 08:08 AM

I Want It All in 13 Days, But I Know I Can't
Hi Y'all! Need realistic expectations for planning our fist trip to Europe please.

Here's is the original thought that I now know should NOT happen after reading on this site:

June 10: Fly from Chicago to Paris
June 11: Arrive Paris and check in to Airbnb home choice near CDG/Train Transportation
June 12: Train to London for a day & return
June 13: Train to Amsterdam for a day & return
June 14: Train to Cologne or Frankfurt for a day & return
June 15: Paris all day
June 16: Check out of Airbnb and train to Venice.
June 17: Venice
June 18: Florence
June 19: Rome
June 20: Rome
June 21: Train or ? to Barcelona
June 22: Barcelona
June 23: Fly from Barcelona to Chicago

And yes... now that I type that out I already know I have to cut out some cities. I could cut London and the German cities. Paris, Amsterdam & all of Italy are a must in my opinion. Barcelona is negotiable, but still on the wish list for one of my travel partners.

Sooooo....break it down for me...give me the hard facts.

Yes or no to an Airbnb "home base"?
Which trains to take and which ones to steer clear of. ( I am getting train info overload)
Shall I book this trip through an agent or on my own? Like travelocity or ???

Thank you in advance for your knowledge. And fyi... there are 3 Adults and 1 Child (age 11 - great traveler) on this proposed trip.

Kathie Sep 10th, 2017 08:18 AM

No to airbnb in Paris. (Read the dozens of threads about why not). And your idea of basing in Paris and taking day trips to London, Amsterdam, Cologne or Frankfurt is a non-starter - you'll be spending way too much time on trains and way too little time seeing, doing experiencing.

Absolutely no need for an agent to book this.

By my count you have 12 days on the ground in Europe. Choose three cities and enjoy yourselves.

janisj Sep 10th, 2017 08:26 AM

ditto everything kathie said. Jumping around like that is silly.

Have you booked your flights already - in to Paris and out of Barcelona? Then Paris, Barcelona and one other city for 2 to 4 days.

No to airbnb in Paris -- (It would be totally OK in London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, etc -- but the vast majority if short term rentals in Paris are illegal and the city plans a major crack down this Fall)

StCirq Sep 10th, 2017 08:37 AM

Oh dear me, no!

Forget the airbnb in Paris. Book a hotel or an aparthotel. Stay there a few nights, then pick 2 other places to visit and learn about train fares in Europe on the Man in Seat 61 site (buy in advance for any long-distance hauls).

You do not need an agent for this.

Buy open-jaw airline tickets if you want to avoid backtracking to where you land.

artsnletters Sep 10th, 2017 08:51 AM

Basically I agree with everything everyone else has said. Going faster to more places does not mean you will see more; just the contrary - you will spend a much higher percentage of your time in transit, seeing nothing.

I think, if Italy remains on your agenda but you decide to pass on Barcelona, that you could do four cities. Start in Amsterdam (3 nights), see Paris (3 nights), take the overnight train from Paris to Venice (leaves at 4pm, gets in at 9:30am) (1 night), Venice (2 nights), and Florence or Rome (3 nights). Take late afternoon/early evening trains between cities to maximize your sightseeing time, or else leave around 7:00 in the morning. This plan is only possible if you fly into Amsterdam and home from Italy. I know this is faster than most others here will approve of, but it is not completely unreasonable for people who want to get a taster. It's not high quality travel, but it will give you a sampler.

Just note, whatever you choose, you will have to come back to Europe to see "the rest", so don't wipe yourselves out trying to go too many places this time. It will all still be there waiting for you (well, except maybe for Venice) when you return.

artsnletters Sep 10th, 2017 09:04 AM

And when looking for open-jaw air tickets, use the multi-city function, NOT two one-ways.

janisj Sep 10th, 2017 09:14 AM

If you HAVEN'T yet purchased your flights -- don't, until you firm up exactly where you want to go. Be it London/Paris/Amsterdam, or Rome/Venice/Florence or Paris/??/Barcelona -- do book open jaw (multi-city) . . . Which the only good thing about your original plan :)

StCirq Sep 10th, 2017 09:31 AM

<<you will spend a much higher percentage of your time in transit, seeing nothing.>>

Not only that, every time you transit to another country you have to deal quickly with a new language and signage, new transportation systems and metropolitan set-ups, new foods, new customs, and in the case of what you proposed, at least one new currency (when you may not even have become accustomed to the euro). It will exhaust you.

denisea Sep 10th, 2017 09:33 AM

No, no, no...this is not a great way to see anything. It is a good way to ensure you are exhausted. Even the best 11 year old traveler will eventually revolt on a trip like this.

I would narrow it down to 3 destinations. From Paris and Rome, you can certainly take some wonderful day trips by train. Trying to do London and Amsterdam as day trips, IMO is not a great idea.

If you are interested in finding great day trips by train from Paris, take a look at Paris To the Past. You can also look for posts on this topic by Fodorite FrenchMystiqueTours for great options. Paris is a great base for many day and half day trips. Even staying in Paris the whole trip would give you plenty to do and see---making my 8th trip in April and still have plenty to do and see.

FYI--we spent 9 nights in Rome a few years ago and still didn't see a fraction of it. You can take a day trip by train to Orvieto and perhaps half a day in Tivoli for Hadrians Villa and Villa d'Este and another half day in Ostia Antica.

I totally understand wanting to see a lot but I would limit to 2-3 major destinations.

I would fly into Paris and out of Rome. You don't need a travel agent at all. You can take a look at Trainline Europe (formerly Capitain Train) for train tickets. I don't speak French and found this site (and app) easy to use and book TGV tickets in France.

Please listen to the advice here and cut way down on desinations. You will not regret it.

bvlenci Sep 10th, 2017 10:07 AM

I like day trips in general, but a day trip to a large city makes no sense, unless you have only one particular thing you want to see or do. Some people take a bus tour of a city like London, or a canal boat tour of Amsterdam, but you really don't see a city very well like that.

Sassafrass Sep 10th, 2017 11:15 AM

See a lot or travel a lot? More time spent in travel means less time spent seeing and experiencing. You already see that your itinerary is untenable. Accurately calculate your travel time from hotel to airport to train station, travel time, then time from station to your next hotel, and you will see even more how that is true.

Listen to the people telling you to cut, cut, cut. Think hard about how much time you will actually have to sightsee after allowing for travel time. Two nights in a place give you one full day with a bit of another. Bits of days are harder to plan than full days.

Day trips requiring more than an hour or so of travel time from your base, waste a lot of time. Not always, but in some cases moving from one place to another is better.

For you, Amsterdam, Paris and "all of Italy" are a must, in your opinion? In 12 days you can't come close to "all of Italy," much less anything else. You have to settle for a few places .

How will your travel companion feel about missing Barcelona?

Your arrival day anywhere will not be good for much sight seeing.

Bus tours around cities - usually just awful and a waste of time sitting in traffic, looking at the outside of buildings through a bus window. I have done them, both on my own and with tour groups, and finally said, never again, period! A HOHO becomes a blur - a drive by movie of nothing. Use the time to actually see something more in depth.

Just my own preference, but during summer, evenings in cities are lovely for walking and sitting outside for dinner, so I prefer early morning travel if possible. OTOH, it is nice waking up in a place and walking out for coffee and the awakening of a city or village.

Options - all you can do!
Paris, Rome, a bit more of Italy
Paris, Amsterdam, Rome
Barcelona, Paris, Rome

You might have time for a very, very close, very short day trip from one of the three bases.

danon Sep 10th, 2017 11:55 AM

A day trip from Paris to London or Amsteram will not only take hours
but also set you back a good deal of money.
As suggested, skale down and find your priorities or most of what you might see will be a number of train stations.

janisj Sep 10th, 2017 12:02 PM

I am beginning to wonder?? :-?

First post -- and we certainly DO get a lot of outrageous itineraries -- but the first part is soooooo out there

<blue>June 11: Arrive Paris and check in to Airbnb home choice near CDG/Train Transportation
June 12: Train to London for a day & return
June 13: Train to Amsterdam for a day & return
June 14: Train to Cologne or Frankfurt for a day & return
June 15: Paris all day</blue>

Just sayin' :-"

If I'm wrong -- I apologize in advance :)

BigRuss Sep 10th, 2017 12:09 PM

If you want to go to London, go there and stay there a bit. If you want to go to Paris, go there and stay there a bit.

If you want to lose money with no return on your assets, then I'll send you my paypal account information. At least it's legal for you to send me money by paypal. It is almost certainly NOT legal for you to use airbnb in Paris.

And I'd rather this post be a troll. It'd make more sense considering how the OP has structured the trip and would consider forcing this nightmare upon a child.

mjs Sep 10th, 2017 12:18 PM

I think you get the picture. Lots of options but you need to make some decisions. Some good options that come to mind with an open jaw ticket are:
London Paris and Amsterdam
Italy with Rome, Florence(Tuscany) and Venice.
Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona
Paris , Amsterdam and one Italian city
London and Paris with day trips
London and Paris with one Italian city
Paris and Barcelona with one Italian city etc etc.

PalenQ Sep 10th, 2017 12:22 PM

Yes as others opine those day trips from Paris make little sense (though Paris-London may as it is just over 2 hours - others to Amsterdam and Cologne are twice as long each way.

Really need a complete re-tooling for great train info on purchasing discounted tickets and booking yourself on line yes check the guru site for that and for general info I also always recommend and

There is an overnight train Paris to Venice that may be better than a daylong daytime train or even daytime flight. for info and booking.

PalenQ Sep 10th, 2017 12:27 PM

Paris, Amsterdam & all of Italy are a must in my opinion.>

and yes that's enough in 13 days

Fly into Amsterdam
2 nights
Train to Paris - 3.5 hours
Paris 3.5 full days
Night train to Venice
Venice 2 nights
Florence 2 nights
Rome 3 nights

Take trains between Italian towns.

That's about as quick as you could do and that for many would be too quick. Less can be more.

marvelousmouse Sep 10th, 2017 04:17 PM

Honestly, I don't think the OP is a troll. From a North American perspective, it doesn't seem that crazy when you look at the transit connections. It is crazy. I am not defending it. But if they've never been to Europe, I can kind of see where they're coming from.

But, OP, have you sat down to look at guidebooks at all? Thousands of years of history in European cities vs a few centuries in an American city like Chicago. I could and did cover the highlights of Chicago in about 3 days. 3 days in Rome would just make your head spin. one day in even a village is not enough, because there is so much worth seeing. Churches, museums, etc.

So here are a few thoughts...

Have you been overseas before? Do you have any idea of how jet lag effects your whole party?

Consider culture and language shock. You get lost easier, you have to adapt to different practices (like late dining hours in Italy), attraction and shopping hours may be shorter, lines are longer. Lines can eat up your time in Italy, especially, if you have not planned ahead.

Have you made a list (with others' help) of what they want to see in each place? I mean, if you haven't researched those sights thoroughly, you may have no clear idea of how much time you actually need. Let's say someone wants to "see" the Louvre...well, they'll walk in there and then once they see it, they'll realize that might be the entirety of your one day in Paris. Some museums and sights in Europe are what you'd expected and then some are these monstrosities that would take a whole day just to walk through.

Palenq's itinerary might work, but if Italy is your priority, I would just do Italy. The entire 13 days will seem like nothing once you are on the ground there. If you want one more location, spend three days in either Paris or Barcelona at the beginning of your trip to get over Jet lag and get your bearings- then fly to Venice.

iowaLacey Sep 10th, 2017 08:08 PM

I am the OP and not a troll! Lol!! (Although I see your point). I cannot thank you all enough for your input as I travel extensively within the USA, Canada and Mexico, but never to Europe or any other continent for that matter. Apparently there is a cultural difference in how to travel. I understand that now from all of your lovely comments and I will definitely take your advice and share it with the other travelers.

We have not purchased our tickets yet, but I will do it without an agent when I do. I will completely forget about Airbnb. And I will force my travel team to narrow it down to 3 cities/countries. Great advice!!! It's tough to hear it, but I trust all of you, so it will be done. I have never experienced jet lag, so I am grateful for the heads up and will take that into consideration for sure!

As much as I HATE it, I may have to put Italy off of this trip so I can return and just visit Italy on its own another time. But traveling over seas takes $$$$ and that killer 10 hr + flight makes me nervous. That is why I was trying to shove everything into the time we have available. I totally understand now that that is a horrible idea.

Some of your sample itineraries are wonderful ideas. I will share them with the team as well.

Thank you so much!!

menachem Sep 10th, 2017 08:21 PM

janisj: AirBnB is definitely NOT OK IN AMSTERDAM. The City is cracking down, many shortlets are really rent controlled housing and are hence illegal or or are illegal and unsafe hotels.

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