Italy. I'm lost!!!

Old Jun 4th, 2014, 02:39 AM
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Italy. I'm lost!!!

I've been really impressed with the helpful comments placed here by enthusiastic travellers so hope you can assist me.
* Planning a five week trip travelling from New Zealand to Italy for my wife and I and two teenage boys
* Typically trying to cram as much of Europe into this 'bucket list' trip as we can
So, the questions:
1. Is it ridiculous to fly into London, train to Paris, then to Marseille and then rent a car to do the French Rivierra drive into Italy or just fly into Rome and do the Nice and Monte Carlo portion as a side trip?
2. I wish we were that far advanced that we knew where we would be on any given night. But we're not like that so can we just rock up to any hotel and try and get a room or would that be financially impractical?
3. Love the idea of trains but don't like the feeling of being stranded with luggage. And since we don't know where we'll be from one day to the next, what's the recommendation with motor homes - supplemented with regular stays in hotels/villas etc
4. Keen to visit both sides of the country as well as going inland to Cassino and L'Aquila. Would like to sneak into Munich for a particular festival and maybe Switzerland. Will that be pushing it for a five week tour?
5. Will try and encourage the family to learn some passable Italian and we'll carry a phrase book but, in people's experience, is slow English (backed up with hand gestures) enough to be understood - in urban as well as rural areas?

Thanks for any guidance.
Cheers
FarCanal is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 03:21 AM
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Hi FarCanal

Welcome to Fodors!
Here's my thoughts:
1. Why London / Paris - if you don't plan to stay in these places, then just go directly to Marseille.

2. What time of year are you travelling? For instance, August in Europe is summer madness, so bookings are a lot heavier in popular holiday places. Having said that, we've picked up hotels at short notice outside main cities.

3. If you plan to take trains, make sure everyone only has as much luggage as they can carry on & off the train - preferably one bag plus day pack. This makes getting on & off much easier to handle. Can't help with motor homes; probably others will.

4. Use an on-line map like Google Maps to log in your start and end point, see how long they say the journey will take, then add a bit extra for stops, getting lost etc. This will give you a starting point to see if your distances between places are a possibility or not.
How much time you spend travelling is up to you - I prefer to spend a longer time really getting to know one place, but there are many others who dash from place to place ticking off their bucket list.

5. Learning to say 'hello' goodbye' 'please' and 'thanks' will get you a long way with the locals. Don't expect English outside main cities; often people will be reluctant to speak back to you, even though they may understand enough English to know what you mean.
We found in supermarkets the check out staff couldn't/wouldn't communicate, but usually there was another customer who was happy to help out. Please remember not to shout if you are having difficulty being understood - this really doesn't work any better than a normal tone
Di
di2315 is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 03:44 AM
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1. That itinerary will cost you time and money. Why would you do this if you're not staying to see anything in these places.

Renting a car in France and dropping it off in Italy (or any other country) will cost a lot - up to E500 in drop off charges.

You can fly into Nice and start your trip from there and use trains to go on to other destinations or go across the border into Italy and pickup a rental car there.

2. Again, this will most likely cost you time and money to find hotels within your budget, particularly for 4 people. Unless you do research to find hotels with quad rooms you'll need 2 rooms.

3. Stranded with luggage? How about stranded without a hotel room - much worse or paying way above your budget. Motor home - this will keep you out of cities. If your goal is the countryside it may work but motor homes need lots of gas/petrol and you'll need to do more research on hotels as motor homes are probably too large for small roads. You'll need to figure out where you can park the motor homes which requires research which you don't seem to want to do so it doesn't seem practical.

4. You won't be "sneaking" into Munich with a motor home! Use viamichelin.com to plot your route for time, tolls, gas and see if you have enough time for Germany and Switzerland. Given that you don't have an itinerary beyond Nice, Monte Carlo, and Rome you will be able to go into Germany and Switzerland as the first three places won't need 5 weeks.

5. English is fine in cities and small towns where people are accustomed to tourists. In rural areas that don't see many tourists you'll need some Italian, depending on what you're doing in these rural areas. There's not much for tourists in rural areas (think about the rural areas in your country - do many tourist go there?). Rural areas often involve narrow, winding roads that would exclude motor homes.

How will your teens feel about being dragged from place to place with no definite travel plans - no sightseeing goals. As an adult I would hate it; a teen will probably be bored very quickly.

It's difficult for 1 or 2 people to travel around with no aim and no hotel unless you're traveling in the late fall through the winter. Doing this with 4 people is much more difficult - probably 10 times more difficult.
adrienne is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 04:03 AM
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A lot depends on when you are going to travel.

If in high season trying to travel as and when you want is going to be difficult unless 1) you have very high budgets for hotels and 2) you are very flexible about hotel locations and amenities. Esp if you want to put 4 people in 1 room (most hotel rooms in europe have 1 double bed for 2 people - family rooms may be only 1 or 2 in each hotel).

I don;t understand why you would want to rent a motor home (very expensive, plus the cost of tolls and fuel is sky high in europe) and then look at staying in hotels. If you want to do a road trip rent a normal size car an use it throughout the trip. Expect the drop off charge for renting in one country and dropping in another to be about 500 euros or so.

Without more details it's hard to give you a lot of specific information - but I think you need to focus on what you want to see and not go bouncing around to a lot of places you don't want to stay in. If y u want to do southern France, Italy, switzerland and southern Germany that is plenty to cover in the time you have. No point in going to either London or Paris (or Marseille) unless you want to spend substantial time there - which would mean dropping some of the other places.
nytraveler is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 04:14 AM
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A motor home would definitely not save you money; it would probably cost more than staying in hotels. It's true that you can almost always find someplace to park it, but if you want to stay at a nice campground with all services, you'd have to book those ahead as well.

The real problem with renting a motor home is that it restricts you to staying far from the center of most cities. If you mostly want to visit small towns and rural areas, this may not be a problem, but if you want to visit any cities, you will probably have a long and tedious commute from your campground. Since you aren't staying long in each place, that might seriously reduce the amount you'd be able to see.

I would imagine that the cross-border drop-off charges would be even more for a motor home than for a car.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 05:04 AM
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I hope bvlenci will put up a link to the trip report she wrote about her experiences motor home camping in Europe, because they bear no resemblance to the reality I know. Most people who rent camper vans do save money, and at least in Italy, there are many camper van sites near the major tourist cities with inexpensive and easy public transport into the city.

I am not encouraging you to do this, and in general I think you need to tons more research about deciding where exactly it is you want to go given whatever time of year you'd be traveling, but a motorhome is for many savvy travelers a budget option, with not a lot of downsides if they like that sort of thing.
sandralist is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 05:06 AM
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This sounds like a trip to Europe one might have taken 40 years ago. Unless you are travelling in late fall and winter, your plan is pretty impractical. Keep in mind that the trains are a great way to travel. And you don't want to waste valuable time dragging your luggage around to hotels in hopes of finding available rooms.

It might be easier to provide suggestions if you had a rough itinerary. As it is, it is much too rough. Sketch out a plan and we can help you with suggestions for length of time, modes of travel, etc. And plan to fly open-jaw - into your first city and home from your last.
mamcalice is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 05:28 AM
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When? What season is so important
Motor home, no
Trains do not leave you stranded, we are not talking Auckland to Wellington here, we are talking about a large network across the countries that help drive business, so it keeps going almost all the time.

Still we are talking Italy and there are websites to advise of possibility of strikes but note that these could be for fuel rather than trains. Finally Italy stops for lunch etc, so do not be surprised if a shop that you saw before lunch has closed for the afternoon.

seat61.com is a good read for trains.

What you will see is the fast trains need booking and are cheaper booked ahead of time while the local trains you just walk up and crowd on.
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 06:04 AM
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Lots of assumptions on this thread both by you and the responders.

Nobody can address the costs etc. unless you say what time of year you are traveling and assuming it is going to be in the summer is a waste of time.

It would appear you have decided to fly into London for some reason which I suspect is money or convenience of flight schedules, is this correct?

Have you considered the possibility of flying into some place such as Munich (which you mentioned visiting) and out of Rome which you also mentioned?

You might also be interested in budget flights between cities and if you plan far enough ahead they may save you money but with FOUR of you traveling you might, just might, be better off with a railpass.
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Old Jun 4th, 2014, 06:07 AM
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I know it's counter to the typical advice on Fodor's, but it sounds like you would really benefit from working with a travel advisor who truly knows Europe. My friend Ron Phillips has lived in Europe and really knows the ins-and-outs of travel there… He has shared his knowledge for years through his blog, and I think he could help you save many missteps (and money) and help you plan the real vacation of your dream.

I'm sure there are others who can help, but for Ron's contact info, see http://tinyurl.com/l779hnu
travelhorizons is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 06:32 AM
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I can't speak to Munich or Switzerland travel (or whether you'd have time to add them), but if you are indeed visiting each of those cities, then London, Paris, Marseille, Italy, etc., by train could work easily. Once you get to the French Riviera, you are close Italy's and can continue by train into Italy.

Work on minimizing traveling to new hotels. Going as light as possible is also a goal. My hub and I took 3 changes of clothing so had to do laundry 2 times on our 2-week trips. In larger towns/cities, you will always find laundries where you can drop off your clothing. Hotel laundries are very expensive. Washing out things in your room can get crowded!

Have you looked into an apartment with a washing machine every so often?

English is spoken where ever you find lots of tourists. Finding language cds for tourism would be helpful though.

I've only skimmed answers above so sorry for any duplication. Have a wonderful trip, FarCanal.
TDudette is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 10:38 AM
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Well the OP talked about a "motor home" which to me is a 30' vehicle complete with toilet and shower, full kitchen and a couple of separate bedrooms.

Then one of the responses talked about a camper van - which sounds like a VW bus with a couple of cots in the back.

Obviously your plans depend on a large number of things we don't know yet:

Specific time of year
How much time you actually have?
Why you seem to be traveling through London and Pars but not actually visiting them?
What do YOU mean by a motor home - 30' home or VW van?
What are your interests?
Do you want primarily countryside/natural beauty or cities and major attractions?

With some more info we can help you put together a coherent plan. But trying to wander around europe - with or without a motor home - in high season without any reservations is going to result either in very high bills for lodging or a lot of inconvenience and wasted time finding places to stay for 4 people that meet your standard and budget (when many people have made reservations - grabbing up the best places months in advance)
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Old Jun 4th, 2014, 11:43 AM
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Make hotel reservations in advance. Just carefully check their cancellation policies so if you decide to stay a day or two longer in a certain place, you can call ahead and adjust.

I know "winging it" always seems like a fun idea, but then reality of searching for a hotel in an unfamiliar city with a family and your bags in tow smacks you in the face. Make a clear plan for hotels with generous cancellation policies, then make minor adjustments along the way if needed.
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Old Jun 4th, 2014, 12:10 PM
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>>>But we're not like that so can we just rock up to any hotel and try and get a room>> Love the idea of trains but don't like the feeling of being stranded with luggage. And since we don't know where we'll be from one day to the next, what's the recommendation with motor homes >>sandralist on Jun 4, 14 at 9:04am
I hope bvlenci will put up a link to the trip report she wrote about her experiences motor home camping in Europe, because they bear no resemblance to the reality I know. Most people who rent camper vans do save money, and at least in Italy, there are many camper van sites near the major tourist cities with inexpensive and easy public transport into the city.
kybourbon is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 12:49 PM
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With five weeks, consider choosing five areas or cities in which you have a great interest. Rent an apartment in each as a base. Do day trips to the surrounding areas and towns. You can use local trains and buses or rent a car if you choose a more rural area like Provence. Travel in between by train, or use cheap flights.

For part of the trip, you might want less time in a place, so could have a couple of bases in a week and stay in hotels. If you do not want to book far ahead, at least have a good list of possibilities and as soon as you arrive in one place, go ahead and book the next one. You won't be stranded by the train, but you could be stranded without a place for a family. One person, or a couple, not such a big deal, but you want kids to feel safe and relaxed, with something to do in the evening.

Buy multi-city tickets. Land in your first place of interest, depart from your last.
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Old Jun 4th, 2014, 01:38 PM
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I've never traveled with a motor home in Italy, but our neighbors with two children have done so fairly often. They stayed in rather basic campgrounds, because their main interest is hiking and climbing. I've asked them what it cost to rent the motor home: it was about €120 per day, which is about what I'd pay for two agriturismo rooms in rural areas. Then you have to add the campground fees, fuel and tolls. The campground fees, at simple campgrounds, range from about €10 to €25 a night, depending on the season and how popular an area it is. Fuel and tolls are more than for a car.

As I said before, there are lots of places where you can park the campers free, but as soon as you need any services, you have to pay.

This is a motor home, known as a "camper" in Italian, not a Volkswagen van, which would be hell for four people.
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Old Jun 4th, 2014, 04:20 PM
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I think you should take a little time - perhaps a weekend - with a map and guidebooks and narrow down where you want to go, then book places. I mean at some point you have to decide, right? Why not decide sooner not later.

In your shoes I'd figure out 5 to 7 bases and book apartments so everybody has plenty of room and a little freedom. I think the boys would MUCH prefer that. We have traveled that way with our adult children and it's been fantastic.

I'd never wait until I got there to find a place to stay again. We had one afternoon to late night in Italy once - early May - where we looked for a hotel from 4pm to 11pm, stopping at every place we saw until we finally found a weird hotel in a semi-industrial area. That wasn't fun. No time for dinner. Never again.
rosetravels is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2014, 05:35 PM
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You can't just "roll up to a hotel and get a room" - especially for 4 adults. Most rooms have one double bed that holds 2 people and the room is not much bigger than the bed. So you would need 2 rooms. Or you would need to be lucky enough to find a place that has it's one family room - for 4 adults - available. And what are you going to do with your luggage while you look?

The camper will resolve that (but do they have AC?) - but then you have to find a place to put it with services - near the places that you want to see.

Caveat: I don't get the camping thing and in summer there is now way I would stay anyplace except a centrally located hotel with excellent AC.

Frankly I think the 5 locations 5 apt idea s good - but do realize most apts do NOT have AC.
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