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Month-long Eurotrip: Travel & Itinerary Help?

Month-long Eurotrip: Travel & Itinerary Help?

Old Nov 6th, 2012, 06:21 PM
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Month-long Eurotrip: Travel & Itinerary Help?

Hi everyone!

I'm doing a Europe trip with my mom and our family friend friend from mid-December to mid-January (one solid month) and I'd really appreciate if someone can proofread the itinerary I've put together. Please let me know if I'm being too ambitious or if my travelling logistics are silly. I apologize for this massive essay, it's just my mom has been looking forward to this trip for a long time and I want to get it right. Thank you so much! These are the preliminary plans so far:

Quick summary

Plan A: Paris -> (drive) Lyon -> Provence (Avignon, LSLS, Aix) -> Monaco -> Nice -> (fly) Rome for Christmas -> (train) Naples -> (drive) Pompeii & Amalfi Coast -> Rome for NYE -> (fly) Venice -> (train? Bernina Express it) Lucerne -> (fly/train) Paris

Plan B: Paris -> (fly/train) Munich -> (train) Innsbruck -> (train) Venice -> Rome for Christmas -> (train) Naples -> (drive) Pompeii & Amalfi Coast -> Rome for NYE -> (fly) Nice -> (drive) Monaco -> Provence (Avignon, LSLS, Aix) -> Lyon -> Paris

Detailed Summary
Plan A & B:
1. Meet in Paris: since the 3 of us all live in different countries, I chose Paris to be the starting point of our trip (however this depends on where we will want to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve, please see questions below). Spend around 2 days exploring the Christmassy feel of the city.

2. France (&Monaco): Drive from Paris to Lyon and because we are massive foodies, spend a day or two here. Then from Lyon to Provence, stopping at Avignon, L'Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue, Aix-en-Provence, and Grasse. I'm estimating this will take 3 or 4 days? Then take a day to explore Grasse or Monaco and back to Nice and drop off the rental car. Spend 3 days in Nice then take EasyJet to Rome.
Summary: Paris -> (drive) Lyon -> Provence (Avignon, LSLS, Aix) -> Monaco -> Nice

3. Italy: Arrive in Rome for Christmas Eve. What is Rome like from the 26-30? Are any of the cultural sites (e.g. museums, etc) open? Would it be a good idea now to take the train down to Naples and spend 4 days driving from Pompeii to the Amalfi Coast then get back to Rome for NYE? I'm unsure what the atmosphere in both places will be like so an insider's perspective would be much appreciated! Then depending, spend the next week in Rome or doing the aforementioned Southern Italy circuit. Then the second week of January fly to Venice for 2 days.
Summary: Nice -> (fly) Rome -> (train) Naples -> (drive) Pompeii & Amalfi Coast -> Rome -> (fly) Venice

4. Switzerland: This is where I'm unsure of the plan - would Lucerne be better than Innsbruck and Munich, what are the pros and cons? If I chose Lucerne, would the hassle of the Bernina Express from Venice (to Milan, to Tirano and finally to Chur) be worth the view? We would spend around 3-4 days traveling and then wandering around Lucerne.
4. b) If Innsbruck and Munich, would the Christmas markets be worth it? This would have to go first before driving down France. This choice would be cheaper I think than Switzerland, which is a main concern too... This would take 4-5 days traveling and exploring or is that too little?

Before I ask any further questions, our interests are:
Eating, historical and cultural sites (as my mom's friend will be filming this), just trying to get a general feel of a "European Christmas/winter". We're trying to minimize the walking as my mom doesn't have the best back, which is not to say we can't walk but the less the better so unfortunately, no skiing as well.

So summary of my questions are:
1. Which countries: Switzerland or Austria and Germany? In fact, is my plan feasible at all? I'm worried we're traveling too much and since my mom is not a light-packer, moving from place to place might be a pain in the butt.

2. Would the combination of driving and taking the train be a concern? I was hoping that with the car, we wouldn't be walking so much for my mom. Would anyone know how much the costs compare of driving vs. taking the train in France and Italy?

3. Where would y'all recommend we spend Christmas and New Year's Eve? I'm concerned that nowhere will be open on those days. Extensive research has shown that for Christmas: Venice, Rome or Paris, and for NYE: Paris, Rome or Avignon. What do you guys think?

4. What is Provence and Cote d'Azur like in January or December? Which is the better month to go?

OKAAAY that was really long but I WOULD REALLY REALLY APPRECIATE anyone who can critique any part of it. This is my first time doing any extensive traveling in Europe so I'm super excited, but inexperienced. Apologies if any parts aren't clear, I'll clarify if anything is muddled. Thanks so much everyone!
wanderingnomad is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2012, 07:11 PM
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This will be way easier for us if you also provide something simpler like;

Paris 3 nights
Lyon 2 nights
Nice x nights
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Old Nov 6th, 2012, 07:17 PM
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I can only take little bites of this... but first, you should start with 3 days in Paris to recover from jet lag as well as enjoy city.

Secondly , my impulse you are doing too much and have some illisions of what its going to be like in some places, I mean you do realize that winter in Provence can be really unpleasant and cold or windy etc,, not perhaps what you imagine,, what will you do if its cold and rainy , which sites attract you ?

I also am concerned you don't have train or flights booked, they are so cheap booked well in advance, but you are leaving it late for the good deals.

In figuring costs for rental car you do realize gas is really expensive and you will be paying alot of road tolls?

Frankly I find your trip exhausting and I am only 50,, we did 26 days in Europe this summer, and our total "moves" was 6,, but I think with your four extra days you have more then 10!

I think you should mellow trip out a bit more, and think about what you will do in places, in Nice what will you be doing exactly? Its not beach weather at all, so if just using as a base to check out Monaco do you really need 4 nights there ?

I think its great you are taking this trip with your mom etc,but try not to make it the Bataan Death March lol
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Old Nov 6th, 2012, 07:57 PM
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I can't wade through the whole thing right now -but skimming my initial comments are 1) do you really want to plan a driving tour in the dead of winter?

2) "Which is the better month to go?" If you mean between December and January - no difference except January after the holidays will be deader/cheaper. Both months will most likely have vile weather at least some of your time.

3) It is getting quite late to be planning Christmas and New Years visits.
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Old Nov 6th, 2012, 09:31 PM
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janisj post
1) agree
2) agree
3) agree
justineparis is offline  
Old Nov 7th, 2012, 05:34 AM
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It is really not true that the south of Italy has "vile weather" in December and January. It is usually fairly mild and pleasant around Naples and Pompei. I Last year, I spent from Jan 10 to Jan 20 in Rome last year and it only drizzled once. I walked around in a simple coat and boots. Along the Mediterranean coast near Nice, weather can be more stormy, and more prone to drop below freezing (although low temps are not the norm). I wouldn't want to plan an aggressive driving trip along the coast for either December or January.

Nor is it too late to be planning for a visit in December or January. You certainly won't face problems finding apartments or hotels.

Can your mother walk up stairs and get on and off trains if she isn't carrying luggage? Because your itinerary is really not car friendly. Many historic centers are not car friendly. You need to park (expensive) a good distance from the tourist sights. A city like Lyon is a city that needs to be walked (although you can fill in with taxis).

You really need to have a heart-to-heart with your mother about packing light. If she doesn't have a good back, and this is her trip, it is really not fair to be constantly asking others to haul more things than she needs -- and have them risking their backs!

I recommend that you make a plan to all pack light so that one of you can carry your mother's luggage so you can take the train from Paris to Lyon, and after that take the train to Nice. You can make the decision there about whether you want to rent a car, depending on the weather.

Fly from Nice to Rome. (Things will be shut for Christmas but will re-open after that.) I would rent an apartment there so you can do a laundry at that point, and thus pack light. I would only do a day trip from Rome to Pompei and the archeological museum in Naples if the weather was nice and if your mom can handle walking the enormous area of Pompei. I would skip the Amalfi Drive. It's just not the right time of year for it.

Go to Venice by train -- be aware that Venice is filled with stairs. If your mom can't handle that much walking on stairs, go to Florence and Verona instead (Verona is a good foodie town). Take the Bernina Express.

I'm sorry I can't help you out with Christmas markets. But I will point out that some of the most beautiful and delicious historic cities in Europe are in Belgium, which is so convenient to reach from Paris.

So my suggested itinerary for your month would be

Paris in an apartment rental and a day trip to Bruges
South of France (Nice + car trips if the weather is good, or Nice + train trips to Monaco, etc. if it is not)
Rome + plus a day trip to Pompei + Naples (or Florence)
Venice + the Bernina Express (or Verona or Florence + the Bernina Express)

I don't think you have time for more if you want to film and explore and eat and somebody has to carry your mom's luggage.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 05:59 AM
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I would take the train to Lyon since it's a city and you'll be paying to park the car and paying for a rental while it sits idle.

Provence - have you looked at an historical weather chart for southern France? Average temps are 45 to 55F which doesn't sound cold but smaller towns offer mainly outdoor activities and cold and damp can feel exceedingly cold. I would skip Provence for this trip and stay in places that are cities and offer many more indoor activities. You can spend more time in Nice and there are some nice smaller towns in the area you can access by car or bus. You can take the train to Monaco for the day.

Ditto for Pompeii and AC. If it's cold, damp, overcast, rainy you do not want to be at Pompeii. Since your mother has a bad back, this is the perfect place for her to injure it further. Very uneven walking on cobbles that are not flat on top. Not many places to sit down to rest. Only 1 cafe in the entire site.

I think of AC as a summer type place with little to do in inclement weather. Also coastal areas tend to be foggy/rainy more quickly than inland areas.

Any particular reason for Lucerne? Nice town but not high on my list of places.

Tell your mother she absolutely has to pack light. It's going to be cold so she won't get hot and sweaty and need to change outfits 1 to 2 times per day. She can wear the same thing more than once. And there are laundry facilities in Europe.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 07:09 AM
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Asstd. thoughts:

I assume you already have your plane tickets. If not, look into open jaws plane tickets (multi-city on airline websites). You could fly into Paris and out of Rome or Naples, saving time and money and avoiding potential weather problems backtracking. Open jaws tickets cost abgout the same as round-trip tix.

Venice has low stairs on the bridges over canals, but I find them almost neglible. (Those bridges aren't very high.)

Bruges would be a long daytrip from Paris. A minimum of 2.5 hours and one change each way. And Bruges in the rain is not so pretty.

Basing in one place and making day trips from there is always a good plan but especially in the winter. You don't want to be struggling through bad weather to get to your next stop day after day. For example, you can stay in Nice and see Monaco in an easy daytrip by train or bus.

And, in the winter, make those bases in cities, where there is more to do and more to do indoors. In the countryside many places close down for the winter; others run shorter hours.

With more time in fewer places, you can wait for a good weather day for outdoor activities and excursions.

I agree with the others. You'll be better off on the train and more comfortable. Certainly as an alternative to flying which requires more walking. The Bernini Express might be the perfect way for your mother to see snowy Switzerland, sitting in comfortable seats while the view flows by large windows. (And the toilet at the end of the car.) To lessen your mother's walking, make judicious use of taxis, both from and to the train station and within cities.

And Lucerne is a good snapshot of Switzerland.

You all will need layerable winter clothes, hats, scarves, gloves, a waterproof outer layer and waterproof footwear with a good tread.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 08:48 AM
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I think you should have a look at a map, the train schedules (bahn.de has schedules for all of europe) and and the average temperatures and hours of daylight.

You need to know that in resorts (the AC or south of France) many places can be closed for the season - and in Italy some sights are open only from 9 am to 1 or 2 pm - instead of the whole day. Also be aware that days are very short (dark at 4 pm) - so really city centers will have the most to see and do. But they are definitely NOT care friendly - no place to park and many have pedestrian only zones in the center.

If your mom has a lot of trouble walking I would look into cabs or other public transit. Local tours are not a good option - since they travel at a standard speed and are not able to modify the plan or wait for someone who can't keep up.

Agree that not having massive amounts of luggage is good - but you will need enough for winter weather - including a warm coat, winter boots with non-skid soles and a sturdy folding umbrella. (While Italy is usually not as cold as north of the Alps you can still get snow as far south as Rome and Naples.)
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 08:57 AM
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"It is really not true that the south of Italy has "vile weather" in December and January. It is usually fairly mild and pleasant around Naples and Pompei. I Last year, I spent from Jan 10 to Jan 20 in Rome last year and it only drizzled once."

First of all the entire trip is NOT in southern Italy. And second - yes, there can be nasty weather even in the south of Italy.

I am not saying don't go. But you probably don't want a driving tour and you may want to stick to major cities which are easier when the weather doesn't cooperate.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 12:09 PM
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They had snow in Rome and Athens last winter, rather unusual but not anknown occurence.
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Old Nov 7th, 2012, 09:44 PM
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I thnk the vile weather is more likely in Provence. freezing blasts of wind at times. Having been to Monaco, I can say that it's not particularly interesting or different from the Cote d'Azur and not really worth a special trip, especially in winter.

Absolutely fly an multi-city or open-jaw itinerary so you do not waste time in backtracking to Paris. And don't backtrack to Rome just to spend New Year's Eve there. Choose one holiday or the other. Rent apartments and don't move around so much: do day trips to see additional sights if the weather permits. I would much prefer the additional room and the kitchenettes over a small hotel room if I were confined by bad weather. But be aware that few apartments have clothes dryers, so your laundry will take a while to dry. So you have to allow plenty of time per stay, just to get clothes washed and dried.

Tell your Mom that she does not have to take so many changes of clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc. The only people who will see her every day are you and your friend, and you will understand why she is wearing the same thing over and over.
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Old Nov 8th, 2012, 04:28 AM
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I think your itinerary sounds quite nice with just a few tweaks. You said you want to experience "winter" in Europe so it sounds like you aren't expecting warm and sunny. But given that it will be "winter" I agree with a few of things already mentioned. Take trains as much as possible, maybe renting a car once or twice for a few days for more rural areas. But actually, you really could do it all by train. Second, base yourself in cities rather than small towns, so that if the weather is bad you can find indoor things to do. And definitely get everyone to pack light. Send your mom to some of the packing websites and get her psyched to see how light she can go.

I would do Paris 3-4 nights - lots of Christmas markets, plenty to do if the weather is bad, and beautifully lit at night (which will last a loooong time in December).

Then train to Lyon for a couple nights, then train to Nice about 4 nights. You can do Monaco as a day trip from there but also numerous small towns similar to Provence. In your itinerary you have a week between Provence and Nice and I'd probably do almost that much. Maybe rent a car for two days and go up to Provence, or just keep the base in Nice and see several towns that are day-tripable from there (Eze, Antibes, etc).

I agree with then flying Nice to Rome. You could look into renting an apartment in Rome so you wouldn't need to worry about things being open on Christmas. It's possible to do Naples, and even Pompeii as day trips from Rome but if you do want to go down to the AC I would base in Sorrento as it's larger and more will be open. You could then take the bus to Amalfi/Positano for a day. You can do Naples and Pompeii as day trips from Sorrento. So your original plan of a few days in Rome and then a few days down there is actually pretty good (just makes it harder to rent an apartment).

I think it's easier and quicker to train from Rome to Venice than to fly. I also think only two nights in Venice is not enough. If you are worried about cost you could stay in Padua and do day trips into Venice. Padua itself is a very nice small(ish) city that people don't seem to include on itineraries but I think it's very worthwhile, plus it's only a half hour from Venice (and way nicer than Mestre which is also suggested as a place to stay to cut costs).

It's not really clear what you want to get out of the Switzerland/Germany part of the trip. You could take a long and expensive train trip and see nothing but clouds out the window. Even without this part, you have about six 'destinations' (bases) so I would only do one or two more at the most for this area.
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Old Nov 8th, 2012, 11:48 AM
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I will fix it all for you...stay in Paris the whole month! I do it often. I will be there from mid Nov to mid Dec. myself. Never a dull moment or without great dining and places to stay.

I have very special favorite places in Provence. But all closed that time of the year. Mistral winds etc.

a bientot...

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Old Nov 13th, 2012, 07:39 PM
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Hi wanderingnomad -
I spent 2 weeks with my family in Paris and Rome over Christmas 6 years ago. My back had gone out and I needed to walk around, so it seemed like going to those 2 cities was a brilliant recovery plan. We loved it.

We spent 8 nights in Paris, then took the train to Rome and spent 7 nights there. We rented apartments in both cities. We arrived in Rome on December 24th and yes, most things were closed on the 25th or 26th.

For me the most stressful part of traveling is moving from one place to the next. If I were you I'd keep that to a minimum. You can and should spend at least the first 7 nights in Paris. In the winter, there is no better place to visit. There's so much to do indoors and the cafes have heat lamps outside. The Christmas lights at Notre Dame and the department stores are gorgeous! We loved it. You may regret leaving it for a damp, cold place without much to do.

I also visited Paris and Italy with my adult daughter 4 years ago. We especially liked Bologna in the winter. There are miles of porticos to wander under (and stay dry) and it's a fantastic town for foodies. There are great day trips to places like Modena. We went on a tour of one of the balsamic houses and LOVED it.

If it were my trip with my daughter I'd do something like this
1.5 weeks in Paris with day trips
fly to Venice
3 days in Venice
short train trip
4 days in Bologna with day trips to Modena and Ravenna
1+ week in Rome (I'd do a day trip to Naples or a couple of nights there because I LOVE Naples)

I wouldn't visit Switzerland or Austria or Germany on this trip. Unless you have a particular reason to go there, it's a lot of moving around and it will be colder there.

On packing light - I find winter the easiest time to pack light. Black coat, black boots with a low heel, a skirt, a pair of pants and a few tops and 2 sweaters. You're set. All anybody sees is a coat and scarf.
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Old Nov 21st, 2012, 03:44 AM
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Just returned from our 50th Anniversary trip. We went for music in Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Milan so we stayed in the center of town and so Metro and cabs got us around. We flew between cities, reasonable and efficient. Not much site seeing from the train this time of year unless you are taking the Glacier Express through Switzerland.
We're in our 70's and found the jet lag recovery time even longer than in the past, so take alot of time ,at least 2extra days, without a schedule. No better place to do that but in Paris.
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Old Nov 21st, 2012, 04:19 AM
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ps to the above . you should be aware that accommodation for people with some physical limitations are minimal in many places.
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Old Nov 21st, 2012, 07:24 AM
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I agree that packing light is a god idea - but would absolutely not want to spend a month in one skirt and one pair of pants.

Frankly, in winter I think that checking a modest piece of luggage (24'?) is a good idea. Then you can have a light carry-on for your toiletries, camera etc - plus one change of clothes - just in case luggage is delayed. That should give you enough room for several changes of clothes (1 or 2 skirts and 3 or 4 pants) but still be manageable. And if your mom has mobility issues, you're better with a checked bag and a small carry-on than her having to haul a stuffed carry-on around with her.

If it were me I would cut out the coastal resorts and stick with cities (although there is a lot to see in Nice and vicinity other than beaches). You just need to be realistic about travel in winter weather with one of you not operating at top speed.

I see little need for a car - unless you want to do day trips from Nice into the hills behind. Other than that trains make more sense. Just make sure that the connections have enough time that your mom doesn't have to rush around hauling her luggage.
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