Our first time to Europe. Need help!!


Dec 6th, 2014, 08:01 PM
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Our first time to Europe. Need help!!

My boyfriend and I have booked a 26 day adventure flying into Rome and flying out of Athens for the month of March 2015. Neither of us have been on a trip like this before and we are beyond excited!!!

We were hoping to get some feedback regarding accommodations, restaurants and places to see. But most importantly we need to plan exactly where we can visit in this time frame and how we will get around and manage to end up in Greece in time to enjoy and then fly home. Is the euro rail the best idea? Or a car rental? Or ferry?

Places we want to visit: from Rome, Florence, Venice, Monaco, Switzerland, Germany, Prague, amsterdam, Croatia, Bosnia, .... We have no idea!! Haha. HELP!
kalenam is offline  
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Dec 6th, 2014, 08:31 PM
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That's a long list of places for only 26 days. Some of those places are actually countries. And each time you move to a new place you will lose time.

Why did you chose these specific places/countries? Is there anything special you want to see in each place?

What do you mean by Euro rail? Do you mean a Eurail pass? That may be cost effective if you truly plan to go to all those places, especially if you are both under 26. But train travel is slow.

If you hire a car in one country and drop it off in another there is likely to be huge fee for it.

There are cheap flights between some of your destinations, but those usually have to be booked very early and will be non-refundable if you change your mind.
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Dec 6th, 2014, 08:44 PM
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8 countries - 26 days doesn't compute sorry.

And is the entire trip 26 days -- then you only have 23.5 days 'on the ground. that is less than 3 days per country. And when you subtract all the travel time you really end up w/ about 2 days per cuntry

In 26 days plan on Italy and Greece and maybe a foray into Switzerland OR maybe a couple of days in Croatia -- but I'd really only do Italy and Greece.

Or . . . back to the drawing board and re-think the whole thing.
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Dec 6th, 2014, 10:30 PM
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I hope you chose to fly into Rome and out of Athens because those were your two big dream places. Many of the other places work fine with one of those, but not with both. It is usually best to have your itinerary really nailed down before booking flights, because you must also consider getting from country to country, but you work with what you have.

You have considerable work - Now you must cut, cut, cut, until you have a trip that is sensible time wise and that works logistically without a lot of expensive and time consuming backtracking. Get a big map of Europe and note the sizes of countries and the distances!

Your first day will likely be jet lagged. Do not count it as much of a sightseeing day. Each time you move to a different city, allow time to get from your hotel to the train, train to the next city and get to your next hotel, anywhere from a couple of hours to 3/4 of a day, but count about a half day on the average.

Trains are great in Italy, but you might want flights between longer distances.

March can be cold and rainy, even snowy in some places, so you will need warm clothes, etc.

Make sure to know times and days that museums, etc. are open.

Small towns and cities often give you more a feeling of local culture than major cities which, while beautiful and interesting, may seem pretty international.

Use some system to lay out the trip, including travel time. There are lots of examples here on Fodors. Just read through some of them.
Just one example/estimate, and it is quite rushed. Most people would want thee whole days in Rome, but your personal interests will determine what you will actually do.

The following is very rushed, but doable.
Rome, 3nts, 2 days
Florence, 3 nts, 1&1/2 days
Sienna, no nights, 1 day
Venice, 2 nts, 1&1/2 days

Day 1 - depart home
Day 2 - arrive Rome, check in, relax, dinner, walk
Day 3 - Rome
Day 4 - Rome
Day 5 - train to Florence, afternoon in Florence
Day 6 - Florence
Day 7 - day trip to Siena
Day 8 - early train to Venice, afternoon in Venice
Day 9 - Venice
Day 10 - etc., etc.

Don't get frustrated, but do get realistic about what you can actually do in 3 & 1/2 to 4 weeks.
Have fun.
Sassafrass is offline  
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Dec 6th, 2014, 10:59 PM
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Welcome to the world of international travel!

You've already gotten some great advice -- I agree that you need to cut your wish list drastically, and since you already have flights into Rome and out of Athens, those are your anchors. While the plan Sassafrass lays out is too fast for me (I'd want a minimum of 2 times the time in any place listed), the suggested strategy is solid. I recommend that you get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, note their opening/closing times, and mark them on a calendar. Then pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for getting to/from the train/bus station or whatever, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). Then see how things fit together. Only then can you begin to think about priorities.

Start with Rome and places relatively near it (e.g., Florence and Venice) and with Athens and anything you want to visit near there. Then you'll see how much time you have for places in between and can begin to consider you options -- if you have any time to spare. ;-) FWIW, IME, the Rough Guides are especially good about providing transportation options and times.

Hope that helps!
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Dec 7th, 2014, 12:28 AM
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"If you come in Italy you must visit Cinque Terre"

Not in a million years.

The last thing on earth you need right now is any advice to see something NOT on your list.

Especially from someone who's merely promoting his own business.

Irun: you agreed when you signed up NOT to abuse this site by self-promotion. By advertising like this, you're telling everyone you don't believe in honouring your promises. So why on earth do you imagine anyone would do business with you?
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Dec 7th, 2014, 12:48 AM
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Also remember that March is winter, and even southerly countries like Greece get cold. Greece has ski resorts that will be busy in March. No snow yet, but you can see them on http://www.snowcam.gr

All the Greek islands have year-round ferries to/from the mainland, but some inter-island routes popular in summer with tourists are simply not possible. The tourist season on the islands begins with Greek Orthodox Easter, which is mid-April in 2015.

A trip to Greece in March will be rewarding if you concentrate on Athens and the mainland.
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Dec 7th, 2014, 03:48 AM
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a friend of mine did a lovely trip from Italy to Greece using the ferry that goes from Ravenna [on Italy's east coast] to Patras which is just to the west of Athens. here's the link for the ferry website:


I can't find the timetable for March, but it may not be up yet.

you work your way from Rome towards Venice, then down to Ravenna, and over to Greece. Alternatively, if you don't fancy the ferry, use a combination of buses and trains to explore places Italy and Croatia before you hit Greece.

irun- whatever way you cut it, you are advertising your own business, which is not allowed on Fodors.
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Dec 7th, 2014, 04:25 AM
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Agree that your list of countries is really not possible in the time you have. You need to figure out how long you need to be in each place (stating Rome and ending Greece) to see what you want, check what days things are open (many places are closed one day a week) and how long it will get you from one place to another.

Lay out the trip day by day, listing where you will start, what you will see that day and where you will sleep - allowing time for the travel to get there. Bahn.de had train schedules for all of europe - but if a train trip is 3 hours assume at least 5 for the whole trip - including getting to and fro the train stations, finding your hotel, checking in, etc.

IMHO for major cities like Rome and Athens you need to allow 4 days (5 nights) each - for smaller towns you can do a day less. But do understand that 1 day equal 2 ninths (not 2 days equaling 1 night as tours show).

And while the areas south of the Alps are likely to be reasonably warm at that time of year, Switz will still be in winter and anything north of the Alps is likely to be chilly and rainy.
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Dec 7th, 2014, 06:46 AM
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You can find low cost airfare using skyscanner.com. Sometimes it is faster and cheaper to fly on low cost carrier than take a train. Just be sure to understand baggage limits, they are stricter than US airlines - size and weightwise.

Also, think about how to pack light (layers and fast drying )and perhaps aim for carryon only. Seems hard for a month, but it's actually pretty easy with smart choices.

Look at a map for distances, geography. List your wants/likes and do a bunch of reading to narrow down choices.
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Dec 7th, 2014, 08:21 AM
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Thank you so much everyone for all of your help! We sure have a lot of planning to do in the next 2 months. Our trip is from March 4-March 30 and I totally understand now how all of these countries wouldn't be feasible to see & enjoy in our time frame. Italy and Greece is our main focus. My boyfriend keeps mentioning Monaco, I would love to be able to touch at least 1 more place.

I guess we should have planned this a littler better weather wise but it'll have to do. I am going to look into the eurorail pass (that's what I originally was referring to) because we had thought to maybe go up to the north of Italy and then train through Croatia and downwards to Greece. Either that or do Italy, and then head back down and ferry from the south. I have family in Venice, so I'm good for accommodations there; for our first night in Rome do you have any suggestions for nightlife? Restaurants? Hotels or hostels? Fav places to see? We just bought a handful of books to help us, but I find first hand experience from others to be the most efficient.

Thank you all!!!
kalenam is offline  
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Dec 7th, 2014, 08:30 AM
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where we can visit in this time frame and how we will get around and manage to end up in Greece in time to enjoy and then fly home. Is the euro rail the best idea>

Usually for such a wide-ranging trip in a fairly short time and especially if going mainly to cities trains are better for several reasons:

They can go up to nearly 200 mph

There are many overnight trains that let you cover ground quickly at night and save on the cost of a hotel

A Eurailpass gives you free deck passage on boats between several Italian ports and Greece via Corfu = a young person's paradise - stop off there for a day or two! Again the trappings of a cruise ship - an overnight voyage saves you money again on a hotel

Renting a car in one country and returning it to another can incur a steep STEEP drop-off fee

Maybe mix in some cheap flights too, like to Greece

Amnyway the efficacy of a railpass comes with the more longish train trips you take - are you under 26 - if so there is a bargain Youthpass for those under 26

Great sources for planning a European rail trip: www.budgeteuropetravel.com (download their free online European Planning & Rail Guide for lots of suggested rail itineraries in various countries; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com.

Eight countries in 26 days is a lot - you have to figure in travel time getting between them too though there are several overnight trains you could take.

fly open jaw - into say the westernmost place on your list and back home from say Greece.
PalenQ is offline  
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Dec 7th, 2014, 09:05 AM
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>>>I am going to look into the eurorail pass (that's what I originally was referring to) because we had thought to maybe go up to the north of Italy and then train through Croatia and downwards to Greece.<<<

I doubt a pass would be useful for this as you likely wouldn't be using it in Greece or Croatia (very little rail service in both and are better served by buses and ferries). For Italy, point-to-point is usually cheapest as you can book discount tickets in advance on Italy's train website Trenitalia. Passes don't cover the mandatory seats on Italy's faster trains (10€). Only the slowest trains in Italy don't require seats. The prices you see on Trenitalia for the faster trains includes your seat. Crunch the numbers before buying any type of pass and check whether it even covers anything in the areas you are considering (won't cover transport within cities either).


You should also check out budget airlines as they can be quite cheap in Europe.


From Italy to Greece, check Aegean Airlines also. A random day in March shows flights Rome/Athens for 45€.

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Dec 7th, 2014, 09:12 AM
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For advice on lodging you need to give us a specific budget per night - preferably in euros - and if you are willing to do hostels/pensions. Or if you are looking for modest hotels with private baths and elevator versus stairs.

For nightlife and young people's hangouts have a look at the Thorn Tree section of the Lonely Planet website. Be aware that soft drinks are VERY expensive versus the US (and tiny). Beer and wine are often cheaper - but mixed drinks tend to be very expensive.
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Dec 7th, 2014, 09:47 AM
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The efficacy of a railpass should not be judged strictly by dollars but sense too - say if you want flexibility to take what trains you want once there - the discounted tickets in Italy are sold in limited numbers so to guarantee must be booked in stone long long in advance of your trip and I believe are not changeable or refundable unless perhaps applied to a higher fare ticket (not sure of that).

and if you're over 26 most passes are first class and that IME of decades of European train travel has singificant advantages over 2nd class - especially biger and fewer seats per same size train car means more comfort and easier stowing of perhaps too much luggage many folks are bent on taking.

And the more trains you take the pass at some point may be as cheaper as a string of discounted tickets or even cheaper - it depends on whether you can book all your train at a discount - if you can't and have to pay full price for some tickets those are or can be terrifically expensive - a pass can be used on any train anytime - chose once there though in Italy and France and Spain you must have seat reservations before boarding the train - easily gotten always IME with a pass so you have total flexibility to chose which trains to take once there not be locked in concrete weeks/months in advance.

But if you have a schedule set in stone too and are not taking a raft of train trips then the discounted tickets (which also come in first class) may be best for you. It all depends on whether you want any flexibility or not and can get all your ducks in a row so you do not have to buy skyhigh full fare tickets.
PalenQ is offline  
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Dec 7th, 2014, 09:47 AM
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Sorry, Monaco isn't worth more than an hour, if that. You can't get into casino unless you are appropriately dress. If he wants to see yachts in the harbor, that would use up 20 minutes of the hour. Way better places to go amd see. Really.
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Dec 7th, 2014, 12:17 PM
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Keep very much in mind the weather for each place. Seaside resorts where it is cold and rainy in March may not be worth it.

Ferries that connect ports are not worth it or efficient if the places you are going are not near ports, so getting from the port into the city would take more time and money. For example, connecting by ferry to ports in Italy is not a good idea when the three places you are most interested in (Rome, Florence & Venice) are best connected by cheap, efficient trains that take you directly from city center to city center.

When it is cold, windy & rainy, a ferry might be fun for a short haul, but perhaps not enjoyable for a long one - and I love boats and ferries.

Skip Monaco this trip. Some other time, combine it with a trip to the coast of Southern France.

Figure out what you want to see in Greece and how much time that will take. Add that time plus transportation time to the time you need in Italy. See how much you have left to explore other places.

Since you will end your time in Italy in Venice, look at a flight or overnight train to another city or area, then a flight from there to Greece. It is not a long train ride from Venice to Milan, so you could also catch a flight from Milan to your next destination.

With such limited time and your concentration on Italy and Greece, you are not likely to be doing a lot of long distance trains, so you can look into it, but a rail pass is probably not worth it. A couple of flights might be best. Get your itinerary in place first.

Not to confuse you, but because you are set with arriving in Rome and departing from Greece, you might consider as soon as you land in Rome, flying directly on to one of your other choices, say Berlin. Train to Prague, then Munich, then flight or overnight train to Venice, Florence, Rome and get a cheap flight from Rome to end in Athens. It all depends on what you decide to include with Italy and Greece.

Narrow your choices and others on Fodors can help you put it together.
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Dec 7th, 2014, 02:06 PM
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You can certainly go overland from Venice through Croatia to Greece, although you'll also go through Slovenia and Albania: a rail pass will be of minimal value for such a trip, It is really too early in the year, though, many places will be closed and the weather is unlikely to be welcoming.
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Dec 7th, 2014, 04:38 PM
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March is NOT the time to go to Monaco. It is for the uber rich and they have a season when they are there. Not really worth it at other times unless you just want to see the palace.

The casino is open limited hours and the entrance fees and dress code to get to the inner rooms (the James Bond part - and yes many of the men are wearing tuxes and the women gowns and jewels) may make it impractical for you.

We have done it a couple of times for a hoot - but we always bring clothes for fine restaurants (not tux and gown but dark suit and evening outfit) and enjoyed it - but it's not cheap and this is not the right time of year.
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Dec 7th, 2014, 05:15 PM
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"We just bought a handful of books to help us, but I find first hand experience from others to be the most efficient." -- LOL, kalenam, I'm sure it will be more efficient for YOU, but not for all of us who have repeatedly responded to similar requests! ;-) Check your guidebooks, read trip reports and planning threads on this board, search the internet, and I'm sure you'll find LOTS of useful information. And then I think you will find that Fodorites are very generous with their time and knowledge when you ask more specific, better informed questions.
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