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Planning 30+ Day Itinerary - trying to avoid being too ambitious

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Jul 16th, 2015, 07:01 AM
  #1
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Planning 30+ Day Itinerary - trying to avoid being too ambitious

I am currently in the planning stages for a trip for my girlfriend and I in May-June 2016. The amount of time we have is very flexible. Right now, about a month is the target, but that could be stretched to avoid burn out. I have never traveled extensively and have been reading a lot of posts so one of my main goals is to not be too ambitious.

The list of must sees are short. We need to go to Paris,Rome, and Malta. She enjoys Art and food. I enjoy castles and history. We both enjoy natural beauty and wouldn't be upset about a hike or two.

So far I've come up with the below Itinerary. Its already 4 days short so I can add days anywhere to alleviate exhaustion. I would like to go to somewhere in Belgium, Amsterdam, Germany (seems Western Germany would fit in easier with Eastern Germany), Austria, and the Swiss Alps. I would also love to hear must sees that would be along the route that would be worth adding some days to go to.

Day 1: Arrive in Paris from Boston or NYC
Day 2-4: Explore Paris
Day 5: Travel to Bruges
Day 6: Explore Bruges
Day 7:Travel to Amsterdam
Day 8-9: Explore Amsterdam
Day 10: Travel somewhere in Eastern Germany(Perhaps Cologne or Heidelberg)
Day 11-12: Explore City
Day 13: Travel to Salzburg
Day 14-15: Explore Salzburg
Day 16: Travel to Interlaken
Day 17-18: Explore Interlaken
Day 19: Travel to Rome
Day 20-23: Explore Rome
Day 24: Travel to Malta
Day 24-25: Explore Malta
Day 26: Back to Rome/Back to U.S.

I appreciate the assistance with this.
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Jul 16th, 2015, 08:01 AM
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You picked the destinations that appeal to you, mostly cities. (Is there a reason for going to Malta for only one day?) With the luxury of 30+ days, my itinerary would have a mix of cities and countryside. I dislike super-long train rides, so my itinerary might not include Interlaken. For art, food and history, I'd include more of Italy, especially Florence, and others will wonder why you also skipped Venice. I've been to all of your destinations except Malta, and if this was my first visit to Paris I'd want at least one more day, probably two.
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Jul 16th, 2015, 08:03 AM
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Hi Kudagra,

when I see threads that start "Planning 30+ Day Itinerary - trying to avoid being too ambitious" and then list 8 countries, I am already shaking my head. By the time you have travelling from one place to another, you have lost at least ½ a day, and then you have to settle in, orient yourself in the new place, find out how the transport system works, etc. etc.

with 30 days you can have great trip, but if you move as often as you are intending to, you will find it very tiring, and by the time you get to the end you are unlikely to remember what you saw at the beginning.

if there is nothing particular that you want to see in a place "Travel somewhere in Eastern Germany(Perhaps Cologne or Heidelberg)" [they are both in the west of Germany BTW] I suggest that you drop it. That frees up 3 nights.

Then you are going to Malta for 2 nights - why? and what is it you want to see there that is so urgent that you want to add it into your itinerary but for so short a time? and having to go back to Rome afterwards eats up more time. It's an attractive and interesting place, but it really isn't worth going there for so short a time unless it is absolutely imperative that you go there. and if you are going, go for a decent length of time.

Sorry if I appear harsh, but my answer to your unstated question is "Yes!".
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Jul 16th, 2015, 08:04 AM
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just seen Jean's reply, and I agree with that too.
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Jul 16th, 2015, 08:07 AM
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>>one of my main goals is to not be too ambitious. <<

Not to repeat the two previous (excellent) posts . . . basically you have failed to meet your main goal . . .
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Jul 16th, 2015, 08:39 AM
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I recently completed a 30-day trip that included 9 cities-- Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Gdansk, Ketrzyn, Torun, and Warsaw. Mostly I spent 3 days in each city, but 4 in St. P. and Warsaw, 2 in Ketrzyn.

The travel to most of the cities was about 3 hours by Lux Express or Polski bus. I took a train from Helsinki to St.P. and a plane from Vilnius to Gdansk.I drove from Gdansk to Ketrzyn.

I'm a relaxed rather than an energetic tourist, but this was too much.

I agree with the above posts. It sounds like you have not traveled in Europe before, and I will repeat Rick Steves advice: Assume you will return.
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Jul 16th, 2015, 08:45 AM
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kudagra,

I agree with those above. Less is more.

Buon viaggio
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Jul 16th, 2015, 09:11 AM
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Thank you eveyone for the responses. I appreciate the advice. I think perhaps I was underestimating the actual distances between the places.

To answer why malta and why not more Italy. Shes lived in Malta and would like to return and she has also travelled all of Italy, and Im only interested in Rome.


So to go back to the drawing board. What would you do to condense the area and maybe remove some of that aforementioned travel fatigue? Perhaps cut Belgium, Amsterdam, and Germany and just travel south from Paris to Switzerland, Austria and then Italy.

To achieve a slow pace and not being too ambitious how many places would be ideal for 30 days?
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Jul 16th, 2015, 09:17 AM
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I think you have done a much better job than most first timers with your itinerary time wise. Bravo! Near the end, however, your timing gets trickier. I have not been to Malta, so don't know how much time you want there, but you counted the travel day as a sightseeing day, not sure that would work. Also, returning to Rome and then departing from home the same day is probably not a good idea.

It would be better
Day 19, travel to Malta
Day 20 & 21, Malta
Day 22, travel to Rome
Day 23, 24, 25, Rome
Day 26, home

You might also consider reordering things
Arrive Amsterdam,
other places in the Netherlands and Belgium, including Bruges
Paris
Southern Germany and Austria
Malta (or other places, Venice, lakes area, Florence, Amalfi Coast, etc., in Italy)
Rome.

I think you might do some more research and adjust your choices. IMHO, there are nicer, more interesting choices than some of yours, but it is personal. At the time of year you are going, most places, especially France and Italy would be lovely.
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Jul 16th, 2015, 09:38 AM
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Now, some practical advice.

Here is your schedule listed by overnight stays and travel time between each destination proposed;

Arrive Paris - 4 nights
Train to Brugge (3:13) - 2 nights
Train to Amsterdam (3:21) - 3 nights
Train to Germany(Wurzburg?) (5:27) - 3 nights
Train to Salzburg (3:58) - 3 nights
Train to Interlaken (7:32) - 3 nights
Train to Rome (6:55) - 5 nights
Fly to Malta (1:25)- 2 nights
Fly to Rome (1:25) - 1 night (?)

You clearly understand that it takes time to travel between physical locations (bloody brilliant of you!) because you actually list travel days. One would expect that that would dissuade others from trying to explain the laws of time and space to you but, sadly, it has not.

I like to list my own travel planning like this because I too am aware of the need to move through space to reach a new destination and I actually enjoy (when well planned and within my personal expectations) the process of moving as opposed to thinking of it as a wasted day that somehow I cannot "count" towards my actual trip.

I see a couple of challenges for you using this plan. First, neither Cologne (certainly) nor Heidelberg (some like it but it is not one of my favourites) are prime destinations in Germany. Travelling to either of them from Amsterdam does not get you very close to your next stop, Salzburg, so I have suggested something more in the midpoint of the journey - Wurzburg - from which you can make some nice daytrips. There are other options.

Salzburg to Interlaken to Rome is a long way to go for 3 days - about 7 hours travel time at either end. Interlaken is a real outlier logistically. If you want Alps, the Dolomites are between Salzburg and Rome and would provide an option more in line with your routing. There are many small towns beautifully situated in which you could stay en route.

You have said Malta is a must so I won't ask you why (you are allowed to have personal reasons). It's not that hard to get there from Rome by direct 1:25 hour flights but fares range from 129 - 290 Euros, return. Is it your intention to try and return to Rome the day you depart or do you plan to return the night before you leave and stay at the airport, perhaps? I would recommend the latter for peace of mind.

Generally, you only have 2 stops that are less than 3 nights, which is good. most experienced travelers like at least 3 nights in each location but younger people often prefer, and can handle fewer nights. It's your call, only you know what you feel capable of physically and mentally in this regard.

You still have 4 nights available to reach 30 and say you could extend even more. Brugge may not warrant a 3rd night (says the guy who had been 3 times) but Malta might as the flight times may mean you don't get good use of your 2 planned nights. Resting before the 1 night Rome airport hotel by spending another night in Malta makes some sense too. I think that adding another night to Paris, Amsterdam and Rome makes this a very doable trip, especially if Interlaken is switched out for the Dolomites. Even another night in Salzburg would be nice as there are many day trips possible from there.

Anyway, stuff to think about. If you want refine your plans, post back.
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Jul 16th, 2015, 10:00 AM
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Well, traveling in May and June I would go int he opposite direction - start in the south and head north for the better weather in both places. And agree to do less circling - don;t go both north and south form Paris - but more of a straight line to avoid wasted travel time. For details on getting from one place to another by train go to bahn.de, which has train schedules for all of europe. Next year's schedules will probably be slightly different but the elapsed time should be the same (be sure to look for the high speed train options which can be half the time of locals).

And you should assign number of days to each place based on what you actually want to do there. You have a toe of time to research so I would look at the main places you want to go, figure out your must sees and then allow enough days for them.

Also I would include some countryside or smaller towns rather than just cities. These can be done as day trips from some of the cities you stop in - but probably will mean you need 5 or even 6 days in larger cities from which you want to do a day trip.

IMHO Paris and Rome both need a minimum of 4 days (5 nights) for first visits, with another day if you will do a day trip.
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Jul 16th, 2015, 11:08 AM
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To answer why malta and why not more Italy. Shes lived in Malta and would like to return and she has also travelled all of Italy, and Im only interested in Rome.>>

unless you really only want to see Valetta, you're going to need longer than 1 ½ days. No reason why you shouldn't fly in from one place and out to another [Rome]; the question is where to fly from. you could fly to Malta from Milan and back to Rome with either Easyjet or Ryanair; you could also fly from Vienna to Malta with Vueling or from Geneva with Iberia. [look at Skyscanner.com for further options].

so why not work backwards, giving Rome 5 nights at the end, then Malta [5 nights?] and Paris 5 nights at the beginning? Now you've got 15 nights to fill, beginning with the place from which you are going to fly to Malta.
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Jul 16th, 2015, 11:49 AM
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As for your train travels - pared down now so a railpass may not be your best interests (unless doing several long and or international train trips) check on discounted tickets that you can book - must book to guarantee their availability - check www.seat61.com a site specializing in discounted tickets and how to get them - for general info on Europe trains www.ricksteves.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com are top-notch informative sites - also consider overnight trains on long rides - saving even daytime travel time and the cost of a hotel night.
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Jul 16th, 2015, 12:07 PM
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Even though Malta is only an hour and a half flight it will eat up most of the day. I know cause I just did it last week. I would not spend two full days of travel just to be somewhere two or less days. Malta is wonderful (she would know if she lived there) with lots to do so I would stretch that by at least a couple more days. There are flights to and from Malta from lots of cities in Europe so first I'd check Ryan Air and EasyJet as well as Malta Airlines, BA, etc. and see if you can fly from somewhere else so you don't have to do Rome twice.

Cologne is one of the most boring cities in Europe. Might be a nice place to live but it's not 'classic' Germany, it was heavily damaged in WWII and most of the post war rebuilding was not particularly good. Since you don't have a specific place in Germany I'd take that out.

So if you take the four 'extra' days, plus the Germany days, and add them to Malta and another night or two in some of the other locations you'd have an OK trip.

Once you have an idea of where you want to go, the first thing you should do is check logistics of how to move between them. That often causes people to change plans when you find out how long/complicated some of the journeys are.
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Jul 16th, 2015, 02:15 PM
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OK -- Malta and Rome are musts -- and it sounds like Paris as well.

Malta is great -- but IMO you'd want at least 3 or 4 days on-the-ground to make the trip there and back worthwhile. So plan maybe 4 nights ON Malta, maybe 5 nights in Rome and 4 or 5 nights in Paris . . . that will fill a little more than 2 weeks of your trip. W/ the rest of your time -- You have several options. More time in Italy, more time in Paris, maybe a week-ish in Belgium/Netherlands . . . whatever.
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Oct 19th, 2015, 12:06 PM
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In Malta there is much more to see than 2 days only, and considering the traffic and not-so-reliable public transport system...it's almost impossible. Also if you like swimming, consider that you need half a day reserved for that. Also, it is nice going to Comino (in summer) and Gozo (all year round). If you love history, Malta is definitely a must, but do read about it first, as it is very interesting. Fort St Elmo (Valletta) & Angelo (Birgu) are a must, as well as the Cathedral in Valletta - do get in it. Mdina & 3 Cities, half a day in Marsaxlokk preferably sunday morning, a visit to a megalithic temple, Hypogeum (do book prior coming), Sliema for shopping, St Julians to party... Despite its size, Malta also has some nice natural areas like the Blue Grotto, Blue Lagoon (comino), Dwejra Window, Dingli Cliffs, Ghajn Tuffieha & Golden Bay... As for food here, definitely Pastizzi (Maltese pastry), rabbit, braggjoli, Malta right now is experiencing a rapid restoration in its major site seeings.

Also for Paris you need at least 5 days (and an extra day in Disneyland and half day in Versailles). Do note, the lines in Paris are crazy -it can take you more than 4 hours to buy tickets to the Eiffel tower, and you do need at least half a day in Louvre. And since your gf likes art... Louvre and Orsay are a must - and that will take time. Also if you are on a budget, eat from St Michel area (near Notre Dame). Food is very cheap [yet not the best] (10 eur for 3 course meals, and rather good meals). I also recommend taking a long trip to Mont St Michel if you have time since its a unique experience, however do mind the trip is long (4-5hrs each way from Paris) and there are loads of stairs.

Rome wasn't really my favourite city, I found it unclean, full of drunkards, beggars and suspiciously way over friendly and pushy people and nothing really special, especially the food - many tourist trap restaurants. I ate much better pasta and pizza in Malta. On the other hand, Florence (food was incredible anywhere I went to) and Venice (so unique yet horrible food) are my favourite Italian cities.

I also heard Salzburg and Bruges are amazing, and well Switzerland has a great name as well - despite being very expensive.

If it were me, I'd divide the trip into 2.
One time: Paris (5days), Italy - Venice (2), Rome (2-3), Florence (day trip from Rome), Malta (5) and another mediterrenean city like Istanbul, Lisbon or Barcelona (3); or maybe London (5).

And I'd do the other second trip in central Europe: Amsterdam (3), Bruges (1), Bavarian Countryside/Cologne (2-3 days), Switzerland & Hallstatt (Austria) (3), Vienna (also really nice - 3), and Budapest (not to be missed - 2-3). Also don't forget the Balkans like Slovenia (alps, bled, Ljubljana); Croatia (Dubrovnik, Plitvice, islands); Bosnia (Sarajevo & Mostar); Montenegro (Kotor).

Otherwise I think it would be way too rushed and you would definitely skip some must-dos.
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Oct 19th, 2015, 12:27 PM
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maltamonument: The OP has only ever posted on this one thread and not since July 19. I doubt he will see your detailed post.
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