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Paris-Switzerland-Milan (Urgent Help needed!!)

Paris-Switzerland-Milan (Urgent Help needed!!)

Old Nov 17th, 2012, 12:04 AM
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Paris-Switzerland-Milan (Urgent Help needed!!)

I am planning a trip to Europe in last week of December (Dec 22 to Jan 4 - 2 weeks) with my girlfriend. With regards to the timing of the trip, I dont have much options as my girlfriend who is currently in Rennes (France) is finishing her exchange program there and we would have to fly out of Europe by 4th of January. We are strictly low on budget and would like to cut down cost wherever possible. We are planning to rent a Car for almost the entire duration of the trip. After exploring and much deliberations, I have chalked out a rough Plan for the trip:

1. Dec 22 - 24 ( we have planned to spend 3 days/nights in Paris. Need ideas on things we can do while we are in Paris during the Christmas weekend- We are not much into Museums and would like to see and experience the city and its charm) .Pls note: I will be be using the public transport for our duration in Paris.

2. Dec 25/26- We leave for Geneva early on 25th morning. I am planning to either hire a car right from Paris or take a train and hire the car from geneva whichever is more effective in terms of cost and time. I have planned 2 nights stay in Geneva (dec 25/26) although i dont know how much time we will get to see Geneva on the 25th after travelling all the way to geneva. Need ideas on interesing and scenic places we can see in and Geneva.

3. I have planned to go to Interlaken and booked my stay on the 28th and 29th Dec. As of now I had kept 27th of Dec as buffer. Not sure whether I should add another day in Interlaken or some other place on the way to Interlaken. Or alternatively I can plan 27th and 28th in INterlaken and 29th in Zermatt. But I can hardly get any bookings as all hotels are full and super expensive in Zermatt guess because of the the skiing season. Is it possible to just do a day trip to Zermat and do Matterhorn / gornergrat ? Also apart from Jungfrau in Interlaken, need more ideas what else can be done in 2 days. We are not much in to skiing but can try our hand at it just for fun. We would prefer to go and see places offering some really breathtaking views and serene landscapes. Need some interesting ideas from you to sort this 27-29 itinerary in Swiss.

4. Dec 30 to Jan 1: we leave for Milan on Dec 30 and we will spend the new years in Milan. Apart from the hotel bookings, havent really planned anything on place to see in Milan. Also inputs on happening places (not too super expensive) for new years party are welcome.

5. Jan 1 : we leave from Milan for Rennes, France. I am fine driving for 8-9 hours with breaks to drive all the way to paris in a day. But is it really advisable or doable? Since we are on strict budget, i would prefer not to add another day of hotel stay unless it is really required. I was also exploring to drop the car off in Milan and take a train back to Paris But the train tickets are turning out to be expensive. We spend Jan 1 to Jan 4 in Rennes where my girlfriend stays and just explore small town in and around Rennes, probably do some day trips with couple of hours drive.

Please suggest your views on the Itinerary above as this is my first time to Europe. Any advice and suggestion/ tips on Car rentals, stays, are also welcome. While I have made the rough blue print of the over plan, I still need ideas on places and things to do at each of those destinations. I would like to stick broadly to this plan unless it is really not feasible / advisable to do it or there are some really better ideas. While i have made almost all hotel bookings, they can be cancelled as of now.

Need to Finalize the Itinenery asap. HELP NEEDED URGENTLY! THANKS IN ADVANCE!!
hgaurav6 is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2012, 03:19 AM
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The words 'budget' and 'Switzerland' are mutually incompatible. It's a ruinously expensive country.
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Old Nov 17th, 2012, 05:00 AM
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I wouldn't bother renting a car except perhaps for day trips aroune Rennes. First of all, you can do your trip by train. Second, you can't count on the roads in mountainous areas that time of year. Third, you will save time and finally, renting and returning a car in different countries will be quite expensive.

Your itinerary is OK if heavy on Switzerland which is one of the most expensive countries in Europe. Geneva and Milan are not cities I would think of for a first trip. Sorry, I don't have any happening places for New Years eve in Milan.
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Old Nov 17th, 2012, 05:50 AM
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Hi H,

In reading your plan, I have to say that I am very puzzled.

First, how did you decide on these destinations? What was appealing to you? It is the scenery and charming villages in Switzeland? Seems like an odd choice of destinations when you have to ask what to do there.

Why Milan? I've visited Milan for about 3 days and it was just OK. I have enjoyed all the other cities I've visited much more.

Yes, hotels in the Alps will be much more expensive during the holiday vacations ski season. It's that way all over the world. Also, skiing is a very expensive sport so with a strict budget, I don't think you want to try it just for fun (unless you reserch all the costs for one day and are OK with the costs).

Renting a car will be much more than using the train. If you must return to Rennes before flying home, have you looked into cheap interEurpean Flights at all?

I love to ski, but if I were not a skier and on a strict budget, I would choose a different trip. Have you considered somewhere with a warmer climate?
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Old Nov 17th, 2012, 08:45 AM
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Since you are on a budget, consider Portugal which will give you a better value for your money as well as offering better weather conditions.
Or cities in Europe other than Milan such as London, Amsterdam, with easy access by train from Paris. Car rentals in Europe are expensive so look at trains.
As others have mentioned, Switzerland, although beautiful, is very expensive and Christmas time will be high season for skiiers.
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Old Nov 17th, 2012, 09:03 AM
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This makes absolutely no sense to me. First of all, your girlfriend is already in Rennes, and all of France is there for you to explore. I can see going to Paris (in fact, why don't you just go there, rent an apartment, and enjoy it?). Second, you can't find a more expensive destination than Switzerland. Third, Milan, unless you are a Last Supper afficionado or a fashionista (which you can't be on a budget), is a bore.

Renting a car in Switzerland and dropping it off in Milan will cost a fortune (like an extra $500 or more). You don't need a car at all, even if you follow through with this hairbrained itinerary. If you actually have good reasons to pick these places, you should explain that, but you haven't.
I would stay in France. Just go to Paris, rent a small apartment, take daytrips. Or fly from Rennes to another country (not Switzerland), rent a place, and hunker down and enjoy.
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Old Nov 17th, 2012, 10:18 AM
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Agree that you really need to rethink this. Switzerland is VERY expensive - all places, all the time - not just Zermatt in ski season. Count on everything costing at least double what it would in the US.

In the limited time you have - esp since it includes all of those holidays - I would agree to stay in France. Visit the Franch Alps if you want to see mountains and so a little skiing - but spend the bulk of your time in Paris. At that time of year the countryside won't look like anything - except in ski areas - you are much better off in cities - where very short days and bad weather don;t matter so much.

Also - assuming you are student age you can probably travel by train much more cheaply than be renting a car. And I wouldn't want to drive in ice/snow unless I had substantial experience doing it. Separately, you don't give your age - but do check what regs the rental agencies have on rental age.
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Old Nov 17th, 2012, 02:01 PM
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There will be nothing open on Christmas in Geneva. And I mean literally nothing. You should look for city for Christmas. I imagine there will be more open on Christmas in Paris, although London is so pretty at Christmas. How about London?

I agree with everyone who says take the train. You will save hours, money on gas and most importantly parking. Parking is an added expense you don't want. Oh, and don't forget the tolls!

I also agree that unless you have a specific reason to go to Milan (ie, family or friends) it's a long way to go for a city that's frankly not very interesting and it will take you much longer than 8/9 hours to drive back to Rennes. More like 12 hrs.

Anyway, over all consensus is perhaps you might want to re-think your itinerary to keep your travel area more compact and to be in a big city for Christmas. There is so much to see and do in the Paris/London/Amsterdam triangle which also has great fast train links, without heading so far south, especially to expensive mountains of Switzerland and a very "closed for Christmas" Geneva.
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Old Nov 18th, 2012, 12:53 AM
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Thank you every one for you great inputs..I was aware that Switzerland wud be expensive but I guess I have missed on the magnitude ! Both of us are 26 and I will be the only one who will drive if we rent a car.. We have always enjoyed renting our own car and traveling although i agree things will be a lot different driving at this time of the year. For the itinerary I had proposed the cost of renting a car and trains / public transport was coming almost same . However with the general consensus on Swiss being way too expensive , and Geneva in Christmas n Milan too not being great options I am really confused now.

I had tried to explore restricting my itinerary to just France and the French Alps at the most, but cud not really make a good plan. Please share your ideas ?

I think we an easily spend an extra day (25th Christmas) in Paris itself. Amsterdam for 2-3 days seems to be a good option. Although New Years at Amsterdam is not possible as the hotel rates have already sky rocketed. Would not like to include London in this itinerary . Can anyone help with ideas around this plan and additional places which can be visited. Also any different ideas for New Years which don't turn out to cost a bomb.

I had got my hotel bookings made a month back and had got some good deals for Swiss and Milan. If I have to change the itinerary I need to start making new bookings immediately I guess.. Please share your inputs. Thanks a lot for all the ideas .
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Old Nov 18th, 2012, 03:53 AM
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If you have good deals for Interlaken and more importantly a good deal for New Years in Milan then keep them.

Honestly, if the prices come out "about the same" you really should take the train. But I find it hard to believe it will be the same. Are you including insurance, gas, parking & toll costs in your calculations?

If you can reasonably stay in Paris for Christmas, you might have more fun there. It will be dead in Geneva.

You could do Paris, Amsterdam, Interlaken, Milan, for example. I mean it's a lot of traveling. But as you say, it's getting late to find better deals for the holidays. Anyway, taking the night train (if possible) back from Milan to Paris/Rennes the last night will save you hotel money.
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Old Nov 18th, 2012, 09:08 AM
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Based on the inputs i have received, I am thinking of adding a day to Paris(4 days now instead of 3) and spending my new years in Paris. So from 22 to 25 i will spend time in Paris. On 26th we leave for Amsterdam. I dont know what length of stay wud be appropriate for Amsterdam.. Please share your inputs..As of now I am thinking of either spending 3 days and 2 nights i.e. 26th and 27th night in Amsterdam and spend a night in Brussels on 28th to break the journey back to Rennes, France. Do you think that I should spend another night 28th in Amsterdam itseld considering that 26th i will only be reaching in later half of the day or probably wen it is dark in the evening.. Any other suggestion on side trip for a day other than Brussels which falls on the way while returning to Rennes, France?

i think i definitely will hire a Car from 26th to 4th as it is turning out to be much more economical. The train fare from Paris to Amsterdam return itself is like 420 Euros and Paris to rennes return wud be another 150-200 euros return plus the day trips from Rennes.. Any suggestion on day trips that can be done from Rennes for the last 4-5 days of our tour? I dont think I have much options for the new year as stay anywhere is costing a lot..so guess I will spend a quiet new year in Rennes itself unless there are some interesting options you can suggest.

@StCirq and Dayle : please let me know what parts of France we can explore and day trips we can fo from Rennes itself.
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Old Nov 18th, 2012, 09:13 AM
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Have no idea where you are getting thee train fares - but they seem way too high - esp Paris to Amsterdam.

Have you looked at the seat61 web site to see options for buying tickets.
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Old Nov 18th, 2012, 09:31 AM
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Where are you getting those outrageous train fares? I just checked a random day or two in December on the SNCF site, and you can get from Rennes to Paris for 74 euros for the two of you, and from Paris to Amsterdam for 130 euros for the two of you (and had you booked 2 months ago, you's probably have found even much lower fares than that).

I would spend 3 full days in Amsterdam - that usually works out perfectly for me. Brussels for a night is a good idea (also consider Bruges). If you want to explore a bit of France, from Rennes it should be easy to get to Nantes or Angers by train as well.
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Old Nov 18th, 2012, 02:25 PM
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Ouch on those train tickets.

Do you still have the reservations for Milan? You could fly on EasyJet from Paris to Milan for about E80 each if you choose the dates well (as of right now 29/Dec-4/Jan is E80). Then you could take day trips from Milan if you get bored in Milan.

Otherwise, if you rent a car and hang out around Rennes, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels you'll already be seeing a lot and the driving isn't as stressful/long as going all the way to Milan/Switzerland in the car. Places to see include Amsterdam, Delft, the Hague, Brussels, Brugge, Gent, Antwerp, etc.... There's a lot!

Just remember, parking is very expensive, especially in Paris and Amsterdam. You can find parking garages on the internet. They should give prices. You'll be paying 35E for 24hrs in Paris. Could you take the train Rennes to Paris then rent a car when you leave Paris for Amsterdam & Brussels? You'll save on parking and on the daily rate for a car you won't be using.

Parking should be cheaper in the smaller cities and should be free on holidays (Xmas & NewYear) and at night. Check the signs. Another option is to look for hotels with free parking or parking fees cheaper than the public parking garages.
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Old Nov 18th, 2012, 02:26 PM
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I meant "on street parking should be free on holidays and at night. "
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Old Nov 18th, 2012, 07:43 PM
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I don't plan to hire a car while in Paris for 4 days btwn 22nd and 25th.. I will hire a car while moving out from Paris on 26th for the rest of my trip and drop the car back in Paris while leaving on 4th jan avoiding a extra surcharge for drop off at a different location. I checked on SNCF for trains leaving on 26th. The cheapest fare I CID get to Amsterdam was 104E per head. I am still comparing the two options considering the local travel and day trip from Rennes and decide whether to hire a car or stick to public transport .
So let me know of this plan sounds fine. We leave from Paris on 26th . We spend 3 days in Amsterdam (26-28) and a day in Brussels / Bruges on 29th. Guess I will have to pick a couple of the destinations from Hague , delft, Brussels , Bruges , Antwerp . I can add a day in Belgium probably I.e. The only down side is that after having such a wonderful trip we will be back for a quiet New Years in Rennes ! Any suggestion?
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Old Nov 19th, 2012, 03:54 AM
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It sounds good so far.

Personally I love Brussels and Antwerp and they are not as expensive for hotels. Either could be fun for New Years.

I would consider staying in Brussels the 29th to the 1st/2nd. Then you could do day trips to Brugge, Antwerp, Gent. They are only about an hour away from Brussels even Lille and Maastricht are only about an hour and half away (though they are in opposite directions.

Look online for "Nouvel ans Bruxelles" or " Reveillon Bruxelles" to see what's going on.

One thing about Brussels is that it looks like nothing on the outside, but then you enter a non-descript outside to find a beautiful, fun and cosy inside. I remember standing outside an empty unappealing door thinking "OMG, what is this?" only to find a beautiful interior with lots of people, good food/drink and a lovely atmosphere. It's been a while since I lived there so I can't give you an specific recommendations.
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Old Nov 19th, 2012, 05:00 AM
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Hi hgaurav6,

Here's the thing about having a car in Switzerland -- it's useless. You cannot drive to the best mountain villages, nor to any of the mountaintops. Zermatt is also car-free. You car will likely sit in a (paid) parking lot for the duration of your time in Interlaken and will certainly sit in the paid parking lot in Täsch while you are in Zermatt.

Most folks have some kind of a pass or discount card to cut the train costs, and you'll want one if you want to ascend the Schilthorn or the Jungfraujoch. Once you've paid for the pass or discount card, having a car will be that much more expensive! I've found the Half Fare Card (costs 110 chf and gives you half off practically everything that moves in the country) to be the most economical for me.

As St Cirq posts above, your idea of the train costs seems inflated to me; I would check them again.

If you do end up going to Switzerland, drop your car before you arrive -- your trip will be more fun and more economical. And the Alps will thank you!

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Old Nov 19th, 2012, 05:08 AM
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I agree, you do not want a car in Switzerland.

As for trains, there is actually a 3:25 pm train from Paris to Amsterdam for 99 euros apiece, but yes, unfortunately you waited too long to get good fares. Don't let it spoil your trip.
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Old Nov 21st, 2012, 10:58 AM
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First of all thank you all for all the resourceful inputs ..after much deliberation I have dropped Switzerland and Milan based on the vital inputs u have provided considering requirements.. I revised plan is as follows:

Dec 22-26 - Paris (4nights) - public transport
26-27- Renting a car while moving out of paris. Bruges (1 night)
27-28- Brussels ( 1 night)
28-29- Antwerp (1 night)
29-1 jan - Amsterdam (3 night) - probably a day trip to Hague or delft one of the days .
1-4 - Rennes (3 nights)

I was fortunate to get reservations for all hotels with an average cost of just under 100$ a night with free parking. The rental cost me 350$ for 10 nights from 26-4 with convenient pick up near hotel and drop at the airport with zero excess.

While I will do my research you inputs on places that can be visited at these destinations or on the route would be invaluable. Especially ideas on the day trips that can be done from Rennes for 1 or 2 day ( on 2nd and 3rd jan would be really helpful. Any other suggestions or tips are welcome ! Thanks again for all the help.
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