Need help planning my trip!

Old Dec 4th, 2007, 05:46 PM
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Need help planning my trip!

Hi guys, I was hoping youíd help me out by giving me advice on where to go in Europe.

My mom and I are planning to go on a 2-week vacation in mid-June to Europe. This is my first time, and her second time (shortly after her high school graduation, to England & FranceÖwhich was long time ago.)

Anyway, there are too many countries I want to visit, and I need some experienced travelers input. Iíve narrowed it as much as I can, but I know it is still too many places for a 2-week vacation. Basically, it is the countries capitals I want to visit, unless I note below.
-Czech Republic
-France
-Romania
-Hungary
-Switzerland
-Russia
-Lithuania

Czech Republic is a definite must since it has interested me for a while now and Iíve been learning Czech. (Iím looking forward to strudels, Charles Bridge, and eating Bohemia Bagels!) I would want to visit Prague, Cesky Krumlov, and Karlovy Vary, so would that take a week of our time?

I think France would be interesting, since Iím learning French in school.

Lithuania is only on there since we have relatives on my motherís side that we have never met. My grandma is in touch with them, and her health is decreasing (she has Parkinsonís) so I thought it would be good to meet them before the chance is closed.

I want to go to Russia just for St. Basilís Cathedral and the Red Square. But Iíve heard what a pain it is to get a visa. I am learning Russian by tape.

Switzerland sounds fun too, especially the Alps. The place I really want to go is Gimmelwald. (Any Rick Stevesí fan should know where Iím talking about.)

Additional Information: Iím 15, and my mother is in her 40ís. Museums are okay; I think I will be more eager to learn about European history since Iíve been fascinated with Europe forever. Concentration camps peak my interest- Iíve read so much about them, Iíd love to see them in person. Iím a vegetarian, but I will eat fish if nothing else.

And I was wondering also if this was too big to carry around?

http://www.pacsafe.com/www/index.php...n=detail&id=22

I just bought one, and it looks roughly like that but it isnít the same.

Please help?

-Kate
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Old Dec 4th, 2007, 07:12 PM
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Hi, bringmeback - you've put a lot into this already... I presume you're going to do your own trip (book your own flights, hotels, use the train, etc) rather than any kindo of 'tour'.

I recommend a maximum of 3 cities/towns in 2 weeks. You will have some learning curve on navigating and it usually takes up one-half of a day (or more) to move out of a hotel, train somewhere, check into new hotel. So each time you do that, you lose some sightseeing time.

You can plot out train trips on the following website to get an idea of how far apart places are. It's the Germain railsite but it's just easy to use for any train routes.
http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en

Once you decide what cities, people here can give first-hand advice on hotels and other sightseeing info.
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Old Dec 4th, 2007, 07:13 PM
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You can't do it.

You need to look at a good map, and think and face realities. Probably a starting point is to realize that YOU have a full lifetime to go see some of these places, and give some thought to what your Mother would enjoy most.

It sounds as if Russia and Switzerland are current enthusiasms, not urgent passions. It is good to learn French but you will not be able to use much of high school French in Paris -- you go there for other reasons. Would your mother enjoy it?

If you are able to limit yourself to 4 capitals, and are able to afford to fly between some of them, comb back with that list and experts in those countries may be able to advise you how to sequence it, and the fastest and/or most economical ways to get from one to the other. Again, look at a good map as a reality check.

Also, if you re-post, you will get more answers if your title is more specific, such as "2 weeks for Paris-Prague (etc); please advise!"

How exciting for you to have this opportunity at 15! Your mom is one special lady.
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 04:58 AM
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Hi B,

Lucky you.

I usually suggest for first-timers with 2 weeks, 1 in London and 1 in Paris.

However, since your heart is set on Prague:

Fly into Prague - 4 nights
......Visit Terezin

Fly to Paris
......See www.whichbudget.com
You will have time for 1 or 2 daytrips

Fly home from Paris

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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 05:11 AM
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Good for you taking on this planning! Yes, you definitely need to narrow down your itinerary.

We were in Vilnius this summer with our teenagers, and if you do want to visit your relatives, there will be much to occupy yourself, particularly with your interests. The former KGB headquarters is absolutely fascinating (and horrifying), and gives a very interesting look at the Lithuanian experience in WWII and under Soviet rule.

No concentration camps, but we took a private guide to visit Panerai, where the Jews were shot and buried en masse, and which was also the site of a daring escape. There is not much to see there, (you walk around the woods to see the actual execution grounds) but to hear the story while you are onsite is a very sobering, "truth is stranger than fiction" experience.

Vilnius is a beautiful city, one of Europe's largest preserved medieval centers, mostly restored, but partly not, so you can get a feel for what it also may have been like during the communist years.

although we didn't get there, I know there is a huge new water park and also a go-kart track, if you want some action. There is also a big food hall (farmer's market) which we didn't get too, either.

Not far from Vilnius, also is Lake Trakai, which has a small, but beautiful island castle.

Vilnius is VERY cheap, too.
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 05:17 AM
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I would limit the trip to three or four cities, depending on how quickly you want to travel. Keep in mind that travel does take up a lot of time. There are budget airlines that fly between European cities. You can check out which ones fly between which cities at www.whichbudget.com.

You should arrange to fly open jaw. That means you fly into your first city and home from your last city, so you don't have to get back to the first city to complete a round trip ticket.

I think that learning French is an excellent reason to visit France. I visited Paris for three days when I was in high school and loved the opportunity to use my high school French. Even if your French isn't up to conversation, you will be surrounded by the language and the culture and that really gives you a perspective on the language that you can't get in school.

So I would suggest that Prague and Paris should stay on your list and then you and your mother can decide which other city (or two, if you're really into power touring) you most want to visit that fits most practically into your itinerary.
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 07:08 AM
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I think you've got the right idea and sound like a careful planner. I would say skip Russia. Other places will be more fun and easier to combine in a two week trip.

I suggest going to Prague and Paris. Price your ticket to see if you can fly into one city and out of the other ("open jaw"). That would be a great two week trip. You could even include a few days in Switzerland. Train from Paris to Geneva or Lausanne for example is about 5 hours each way.

That pack looks good to me. Is that all you are taking? or you mean it in addition to another piece of luggage?

Happy planning!
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 07:22 AM
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Like everyone else, I suggest skipping Romania, Hungary and Russia for this trip. Save that for another day. Focus on Paris and Prague, and add a third destination: either Switzerland or Vilnius.

It definitely makes sense to fly an open-jaw ticket, flying into Paris. You could do 4 nights Paris, train to Geneva or Lausanne, 4 nights in Switzerland including a visit to Gimmelwald, and then train/fly to Prague, 4 nights there with a day trip to Terezin (concentration camp), and fly home from there. If mom really prefers to visit Vilnius instead of Switzerland, you could do Paris, Prague, Vilnius, with 4 nights in each place.
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 09:45 AM
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Realistically in 2 weeks you can see 4 cities - but that's a very quick glance - not an in-depth trip.

If you're really into Prague and want to do a couple of day trips that's a week. So you have another week - and I would suggest to pick one more major city - Paris if you're also heavy into France - and do a couple of day trips from there. (I've been to Paris at least 9 times and there's always more to see and do.)

If you really push, and train from Prague to Paris - you might work a couple of days in Switzerland, then only 4 in Paris. If you do the latter I would stay in Lucerne, which is charming in itself, on a beautiful lake and surrounded by wonderful mountains you can ascend by cable car or cog railway within a short time.

But - to really get the feeling of Prague and Paris I would limit the trip to those along with nearby day trips.

(Remember that every time you change cities you lost almost all of a day - as well as spending significant funds.)
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 10:03 AM
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Hi, bmback,

wow, great idea. [i may post this to my DD's computer as a heavy hint].

I agree with all the others saying you need to limit what you try to do to maximum 4, preferably 3 bases.

the other limits are how much you can/want to spend and your vilnius trip, as that is the most difficult to get to.

do you know about "open jaw" flights? - you fly into one place, eg london, and out of another eg paris. it should cost about the same as a normal round trip flight.

that gives you more flexibility in how you plan your intinerary.

you also might like to think about places that are particularly nice to go in June - eg if your mum likes boat trips or mountains walks, a few days in Switzerland would be a good idea.

and it would be a pity to miss out on a chance to practice your czech!

don't forget as well that you can get trains and boats as well as fly - eg you can get a train from Prague to Vienna and a boat from Vienna to Budapest.

at this stage, I think you need to start researching your transatlantic flights, and where you really want to go when you get here. a book like Rick STeve's Europe through the back door light be a good place to start.

good luck,

regards, ann
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 10:34 AM
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Thank you guys for all the advice!


That Pacsafe bag will be my day bag, and I was wondering if it would immediately label me as a tourist and be too big.

I've read all of the Rick Steve's Europe Through the Back Door and I got some ideas from that. (Like getting a money belt & WC kit.)

We plan to do a package, buying our plane tickets and (most likely) Paris hotel together by Expedia. Is that the best way to save money?

My dad (who can't go since he is a workaholic) doesn't really want us going to Romania and Hungary since he thinks we will get kidnapped.So I guess I can save those until I'm older.


I think I somewhat have a better idea of where I'm going.
I think flying to Paris and staying there for 4 days (Would that be enough to go to Mont St. Michel and Versailles also?)
My mom has expressed interest in Belgium (for the chocolate of course) and I'm game for I'd like to see the Atomium anyway. Would 2 days be enough for that? Then I suppose we'd travel to Czech Republic and spend the rest of the time there.
Is that good enough?
I may try to talk my mom in staying longer- I'd love to go to Lithuania and stay with relatives before the chance escapes.

Should we get a Eurail railway pass(I was thinking about the SaverPass.)? Because I know Czech Republic isn't included in it, and I wouldn't want it to be a waste.
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 10:51 AM
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Is that the best way to save money?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It usually depends on what type of hotel (and budget) you are looking for. IME, those "package" deals tend to use higher priced hotels, not the small "mom and pop" type of budget places that are popular with a lot of people here.

Look at some hotels and price out the airfare and hotel separately before you book a package. Make sure you are getting a better deal than you would get if you booked your hotel yourself. And check the fares for open jaw tickets b/c that is usually the best use of your time and money.
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 11:47 AM
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Packaged tours may or may not save you money, there's no hard & fast rule about that.

If depends how many times you will use the train and exactly where you are going if you need a pass of any kind. If you are doing just Prague, Switzerland, Paris for example, you'd likely purchase only point-to-point tickets because that is not enough travel to warrant a pass.

It's hard for me to tell from the picture how big or heavy that day pack is. I don't think you really need the "safe" feature myself. Perhaps a smaller, lighter, less structured pack would be just as good to use for your daily needs touring around.

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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 12:07 PM
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Pretty exciting opportunity. You are going at the beginning of the season so prices of will be rising. Generally you will find public transport is pretty good in Europe so getting around by train is normal. You may also find that europeans generally walk around town rather than drive so plan to do same.

Like all the rest limit your self to 3 cities. Moving between cities will take half a day plus you then need to discover how the new city/county works. They all work very differently from each other it is not just a language thing.

Based on your list I might look at Paris, Lithuania and Hungary (just from the shear variety you will see and the chance to meet relations.

Czech republic is great so if you really want it swop for Hungary.

Switzerland is not fun it very dull and organised (think Newfoundalnd with mountains) (sorry every one else who loves the place but this is my opinion and I have relatives there). I also like Roumania but run with your dad's opinion on that this visit.

The good news for concentration camp lovers is there were lots. They are not very pleasant places but hey if we ever run out you can also visit Gulags or the places in USA where the Germans were taken to starve to death or similar for the Boers in South Africa.

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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 12:29 PM
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Hi again, B'meback,

well, the good news is that the incidence of kidnapping of tourists in Romania and Hungary is so low, I've never hear of it. and it's something that the UK press would probably have mentioned. so i wouldn't give it too much thought.

but you don't really have time to go to either place - so by all means let your dad think that you're heeding his advice.

for different reasons, I'd not bother with Brussels on this trip - you can get excellent chocolate in Paris, and though the atomium is a fascinating building, IMO it's not enough to justify a side trip just to see it.

based on what you have now said, and depending on flights, i would feel inclined to suggest flying into Paris, flight to Vilnius [go and see those rellies while you can] flight to Prague, home.

if that doesn't work too well, or you want somewhere friendly to recover from jet-lag, you could do London-Vilnius-Prague-Paris.

I think you really need to start to work on how you will connect between cities. with those distances, flying wil be quicker than trains. if you google "cheap flights in europe" there are a no. of sites that will select the cheapest options for you.

regards, ann
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 12:48 PM
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you can fly Paris - Vilnius on Baltic Air (airbaltic.com) and it is cheap.
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Old Dec 5th, 2007, 12:52 PM
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With four days in Paris, I don't think you have time for a day trip to Mont St. Michel. Versailles is much closer, though, and is easily reached on public transportation.

I don't think a Eurail pass would save you money, but you should check out the price for all your options and then decide.

If you decide to take a package through Expedia, price out all the individual components before deciding. Check the hotel's own website and see whether you get a better rate. Check the airline's website and see if the rate is better as well.
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Old Dec 6th, 2007, 06:53 AM
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Websites like Expedia just put things together, their packages are not necessarily discounted to save you money.

As others suggest, check the hotel and the airline's own websites directly to compare.
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Old Dec 6th, 2007, 07:48 AM
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You will find that International hotels, such as Ramada etc will sting you for the pleasure of an anodyn hotel. Try the local countries's 2 or 3 star and you will have foreigh holiday not an international one
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Old Dec 6th, 2007, 11:45 AM
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Hi, Bringmeback,

I like being near a city center and looking over the hotel choices which are not necessarily what Expedia will give you. Look to Rick Steves etc for hotels.

I would say just do Paris and Prague except that the family connection is very special. One thing about going to another country that makes it special is getting to know the people and you have a connection built in with your relatives in Lithuania. Have them show you the downtown and tell you the stories. It may be a "second-tier" country on many people's lists, but it may be your most rewarding experience.
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