Independent or Plan our own

Apr 6th, 2015, 06:01 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2015
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Independent or Plan our own

My husband and I are interested in traveling to Italy this fall. After what we've priced out thus far, a 9 or 10 day Independent tour is about $7k, and a 12 day is $8k plus. Is it worth it for that much money?? Obviously we'd like to stay the longest amount of time but that seems so extream. A cruise from Venice to Turkey to Greece to France to Barcelona is only $6k. All of our meals are included but then you're under crunch time in each city to see everything. It's going to be really hard to "run" through Rome. We "power Louved" a few years back in Paris in about 4 hours.

Any input would be greatly appreciated. We're going to Europe no matter what, we're just hoping it's Italy. If not there are plenty of other places we can go. Time is of the essence due to air prices. Thanks D & M
DMB95 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2015, 06:11 PM
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Only you know your finances and if any trip is "worth it". But I wouldn't do a cruise if you really want to see much of Italy - Rome alone needs at least 3 full days (4 nights) just to see the most important sights.
nytraveler is offline  
Apr 6th, 2015, 06:24 PM
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How much it costs to visit Italy depends entirely on how much you choose to spend. Assuming your budget does not include airfare, $7,000 for two people for ten days is $350/day per person. I travel solo, which is more expensive than traveling as half of a couple, and I would not budget more than $200/day, and I would expect to come in closer to $150. Admittedly, that means I do not stay in four or five star hotels, I do not travel first class on trains (and I book my tickets ahead of time for long distance trips) and I may well lunch on a panini rather than sit down to a multi-course meal. But I get to enjoy the same sights as people spending twice as much.

But I am not sure what you mean by an "independent tour". I am talking about booking your hotels and transport yourself. Is that what you mean?
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 6th, 2015, 06:45 PM
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We did not find Italy as expensive as we thought it would be. We found a lovely little apartment in the small village of Val d'orcia, for 700 euros per week, hotels in Florence and a monastery in Venice averaged around 80 euros per night.

I found the biggest expense was dining out, so we would eat our large meal at lunch and tried to have breakfasts and even light dinners in our apartments or take away places.
We would not spend 8K in 12 days, but we travel middle of the road, like Thursday, not five star.

We were there in October of 2013.
live42day is offline  
Apr 6th, 2015, 06:50 PM
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>>A cruise from Venice to Turkey to Greece to France to Barcelona is only $6k.<<

A cruise is only a valid option if you want to cruise and see a few port cities. It definitely isn't 'seeing' Italy. Cruises are fine, but they are for the cruise experience w/ a little sightseeing thrown in. And that $6000 is just the beginning -- shore excursions either on your own or booked through the cruise line. So take a cruise if you want -- but don't compare it to visitng Italy for a couple of weeks.

>>a 9 or 10 day Independent tour is about $7k, and a 12 day is $8k plus<<

I have no idea what this is -- are you talking about an unstructured 'tour' like Untours or traveling independently. One can visit Italy on a bare bones budget, or at a gold standard, or anywhere in between.
janisj is offline  
Apr 6th, 2015, 07:49 PM
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Each year, my husband and I travel independently to Europe for a month and spend around $7,000 - $8,000 not including airfare. We stay in nice B&B's and small hotels with breakfast included. Lunch is usually a sandwich or snack and dinner is usually taken at a moderately priced restaurant. We find we can see and do so much more - and at our own pace - by renting a car for travel between cities. In cities, we use public transportation. We have taken a couple of river cruises but we much prefer being on our own. If you decide to travel like this, I suggest you go to your library or local book store and read some travel books for more information.
crckwc1 is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 04:40 AM
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The Independent tours are arranged through companies. Your air, hotels, transfers, breakfasts, train transport, and a tour in each city is included. You pay for lunches, dinners, and any additional tours or sightseeing. Companies like Go Ahead, Monograms, Rick Steves, and Perillo. That was more the question. Pay them to set it all up for that price or book it all ourselves. Has anyone flown into Frankfurt and taken the train down to Venice to start and perhaps from Rome back to Frankfurt to fly out?
DMB95 is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 04:49 AM
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Flying to Franfurt to see Italy is not at all reasonable. If you want to start in Venice, fly there. If you want to leave from Rome, fly out from there.
AJPeabody is online now  
Apr 7th, 2015, 04:59 AM
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Posts: 16,505
Mrs Bilbo and I take at least one (well probably 3) two weeks holiday in Europe each year. Basic costs for budgetary purposes are

Food E35 per person per day (includes booze)
Room E90 per couple per night
Entertainment E20 per couple per day
Getting around E10 per person per day
Getting there around E350 per couple (we live here, but you can replace).
So 14 days and nights
E3150 for the fortnight. How can you spend E6k? no idea and $=E for the basis of thought at the moment
bilboburgler is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 05:30 AM
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It sounds like 'independent tour' means air & hotels & transfers are booked for you. A cruise is a cruise. Your destinations are determined by the ports and tours offered from each. We have taken but one cruise (Baltic states) and one tour (Italy). We have taken 10 other trips to Europe on our own, including back to Italy twice. We much prefer that mode. We see and go exactly where we want to, we research first what it is we most wish to see and do! We book hotels online very easily. If you have the wherewithal to do so, it's what I'd recommend. But many people worry about not speaking the native language (not a problem usually), and other issues (finding the right metro station), and seem to feel doing their own planning is beyond their comfort zone. That's why there are so many tours & river cruises. It's your call.
aliced is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 06:03 AM
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I suppose you mean the Rick Steves' "My Way" tours? I don't understand why anyone would lock themselves into the constraints of a tour unless it's fully guided. But there is no reason to take a tour of any kind unless you're going somewhere with terrible public transport (hint, not Italy) or don't have time to do some basic research yourself.

What you want is an "open jaw" plane ticket - fly into Venice and out of Rome. Use the "multi-city option on sites like and Consider using a consolidator like Even if it is a bit more expensive than a return ticket, you will save the expense - and precious time! - involved in backtracking.

If you just want to do the standard Venice - Florence - Rome trip nothing could be easier - you take the train in between. See for all the info you need for taking trains anywhere in the world. Pretty much anywhere else in Italy - including the Dolomites, the Lakes, the Amalfi Coast, etc. - can be reached by train or bus, although if you want to do a countryside stay in Tuscany you would be better off with a car.

Before you decide to book a tour with Rick Steves, or anyone else (and certainly before you book a cruise!) I suggest you read his "Europe through the Back Door" which will explain how to travel in Europe without spending a fortune.
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 06:13 AM
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Why Frankfurt? Will you be there anyway, or have you found some great airfare on Condor? If so, Condor will codeshare with Lufthansa to get you to Italy for a little more, so plug in your Italian destinations and see what fare comes up.

From previous research, it is an 11 hour train ride Venice to Frankfurt with a change in Munich. There is a day train or sleeper train Venice to Munich. Book the Italian legs on 6 months in advance, the German legs on 90 days in advance.

You really want to fly if possible, Alitalia can have very cheap airfares. Bargain airlines do not serve Venice very well from Frankfurt. The high speed rail trains that make so much of European travel quick do not go through the Alps, Germany to Italy.
tom_mn is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 06:30 AM
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D&M. what you are calling an independent tour is not what most of the people at Fodors are thinking of when they say independent, so take that into consideration.

The "independent" tour you are talking of is a lot more expensive than doing the work yourself. My husband and I are flying from Buffalo NY to Italy for 19 days this Sept/Oct. We will have 17 nights in Italy. I have booked our air fare and all of our accomodations (in apartments, not hotels). I have spent less than $4000.00 so far. And $1600.00 of that is airfare. I have looked into the costs of trains for our moves from city to city and it should cost us well under $500.00 for both of us, and that is traveling from Milan to Rapello to Florence to Rome and back to Milan. I've also budgeted in the train travel for two day trips out of Rome. Even throwing in another $500.00 for miscellaneous transportation from airports and train stations to our accomodations, I'm still at $5000.00 approx for our trip, including air fare.

I don't think the independent travel you are quoting includes your air fare, so if I take that out of my numbers, I have 17 nights in Italy for approx $3500.00. Thats 5 nights more than the 12 night trip you are looking at, and $4500.00 less money.

So, if you are willing and able to put in the time and effort to plan a truly independent trip you can save big bucks. No, everything isn't guaranteed. We might end up with a stinker apartment.(That hasn't happened to us yet, but it could.) We have to get ourselves from one place to another and that can occasionally be a little stressful. But is it worth it. Oh my gosh yes.

I've taken tours, and will undoubtedly take them again because I have girlfriends that will only travel on tours and I like to go with them from time to time. But there is always a hustle. Either being hustled from boat to bus to sight and then out again before you really want to go, or being hustled by being taken to particular shopping areas where the tour company gets a cut.

Everyone has their own traveling style and comfort level, so only you can answer your question as to how you want to travel. If I had to choose only between the two types of travel you've listed, the prebooked "independent" or a cruise, I'd pick the independent to at least be able to spend my time where I wanted to in any given city, rather than be at the mercy of a cruise ship schedule. All that free food could never outweigh my free time.
Cpelk is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 06:39 AM
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Some years ago my brother, SIL and I booked a "vacation" through United Airlines. It realy was just a package price for airfare, hotels, airport transport, Eurostar from London to Paris, and some discounts if you wanted to use them. So don't know if that's what you're referring to.

There was no "tour", we spent all our time as we wished, it was just that at that particular time, there was quite a nice discount for the package.

I pay more for plane fare to Europe because I'm on the west coast. I sometimes wish I was on the east coast...price and flight time is much better.
crefloors is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 09:39 AM
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>>The Independent tours are arranged through companies. Your air, hotels, transfers, breakfasts, train transport, and a tour in each city is included. You pay for lunches, dinners, and any additional tours or sightseeing. Companies like Go Ahead, Monograms, Rick Steves, and Perillo.<<

That really isn't 'independent'. It is a tour where you are on your own a bit and they try to get you to book more of their add-on tours. They are just another type of pre-planned tour, albeit w/ more free time than the typical group coach tour.

You can do the same for cheaper if you actually travel independently and you'd have more options.
janisj is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 02:50 PM
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Thank you all for your help. We are well traveled, and we were just trying to see what was all out there. We were thinking fully escorted, just to be worry free. Most of our vacations are not, it's a hand full of maps and a rented car, no reservations anywhere, just flying by the seat of our pants. This is great fun, however can also take a toll. Escorted tours started at $8k for 9 days. Then most tour companies offered "Independent" tours, they would book the air, train, hotels, and a tour in each city for the above listed prices. My main concern was the air fair. Tour companies and travel agencies get discounted rates, and when booking 4-5 months out, that was why I was so curious. We can't beat a flight from MSP to Venice, and Rome to MSP for $1k total. That's unheard of. Thanks to Condor, we can now get to Frankfurt without stops for $600-$900 bucks, that is why I was wondering about the train. Upon further research, I was able to find that playing with dates (thanks to your suggestions) we are able to still fly Condor and Lufthasa and get there reasonably, still not the $1k, but $2500 both ways. The best part, it's a much longer trip than what the "companies" were offering. Due to our last minute cancellation of our family Europe trip, we're now under a crunch to get this all on the books, leaving little time to research as normal. Thank you again to everyone for your help. We've decided to book everything on our own. Our last worry is the transfers, from airport to hotel, hotel to trains, hotel back to airport. Everyone makes it sound like a cake walk, so I guess we're going to trust in that. Public transportation in South America with luggage and limited local language skills has proven difficult, so thus our concern. Sort of a been there done that type of deal. Then again a map and some pointing usually gets the point across.

As for booking train tickets, do we book them months in advance?
DMB95 is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 02:54 PM
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We're making our first trip to Italy in May. Train tickets are pretty inexpensive if you buy them far enough in advance, and we're paying between $60-100 per night for lodging, using Airbnb apartments in Milan, Rome, and Florence, a hotel in Siena, and an agriturismo near Tuscany (the most expensive lodging of the trip). We also got a great deal on airfare.

If you do your homework, watch airfare sales, and are happy to use public transportation as much as possible, you can go to Italy for quite a bit less than $8000.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Apr 7th, 2015, 03:10 PM
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In most European cities 'transfers' from airports/train stations to hotels could not be easier and are usually cheap. Most are connected to the city centers by train, subway/metro/underground, or buses. There are also taxis and pre-booked car services/shuttles. In almost all cases these would be cheaper than the 'value' placed on them by tour companies.
janisj is offline  

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