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Planning a first time trip to Europe


Jun 22nd, 2013, 02:47 PM
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Planning a first time trip to Europe

Hello. My boyfriend and I are in our early 20s and are planning a trip to Europe together for May 2014. Both of us have never been and do not know when we will get the chance again, so I want to see as much as possible, without spending half our trip traveling. We plan on going between 21-24 days (including travel days from/to Los Angeles). Ideally, the places/things we would like to see are:

London (Stonehenge if possible; want to spend time in the British Museum)
Paris (would like to go to Normandy as a day trip, plus the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, etc)

We would like to partake in some fun nightlife activities in at least a few cities, love great beers, and I really just want to experience as much as I can there. We would spend between 2-4 night in each place.

I really do not have any idea what I am doing as far as planning this trip goes and i would love some input. Also, very importantly, I would like to make this a sort of budget trip, if possible. I would like to spend under $4000 each (even less would be much better). I am fine with hostels, night trains, and I am vegetarian.

Thank you anyone for advice regarding traveling between places, number of nights to stay, things I must see, and general tips!
cherylelise is offline  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 02:58 PM
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Thank you anyone for advice regarding traveling between places>

well if going to all those places by train presumabluy and if under 26 then look strongly at the Eurail Youthpass - trains anyway are the best for folks going mainly to the large tourist cities they've been dreaming about their whole lives - take overnight trains say between Berlin and Amsterdam or Paris and Florence - save time and cost of a night in a hostel or hotel. For lots of great stuff on European trains and planning a rail trip check out: www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.
The alternative to a pass is to book months in advance discounted tickets thru the various national railway web sites (like www.trenitalia.com for Italy) but these are usually not changeable, are train-specific and cannot be refunded and as they are sold in limited numbers must be book months in advance to get. A railpass lets you hop on any train anytime in all our countries but France and Italy - there you need to pay a small amount for a seat reservation before boarding but you can wait until Europe to chose which train you will take.
PalenQ is offline  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 03:02 PM
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This is too much for a 3-week itinerary, and all the flights will eat up your budget.

I'd do this from south to north, before it gets too hot in Italy.

ROME - 5 nights

Day 6 - early morning train to FLORENCE (for day trip)...

... and onto VENICE that evening - 3 nights

fly to PARIS - 5 days (Normandy is realistically too far for a day trip, but I'd go to Versailles and/or Giverny)

train to AMSTERDAM - 3 days

train to LONDON - 5 days

I've cut out Prague and Berlin, but I think it will make for a more doable trip for you.
travelhorizons is offline  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 04:03 PM
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As early 20 somethings that love beer and nightlife I wouldn't cut out Berlin, or Prague for that matter.

That being said, you do have too much for your time frame. I know it's tempting to try to see it all because you don't know when you'll be able to get back but I'm sure many, many, many people will tell you that once you go once it becomes a priority to go back!

So, that being said, I would go London(5) - Paris(5) - Amsterdam(3) - Berlin(4) - Prague(4) and leave Italy for another time. Italy is a most excellent honeymoon destination.

That would give you time in each location to see the city, and do some day trips. You will save a lot of money not jumping from place to place. I think the only leg that would work for an overnight train would be Amsterdam to Berlin.

Note that it's normally about the same amount of money to fly into one destination and return from another.
Hez is offline  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 04:26 PM
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I agree - drop the Italy bits and the rest would be a rushed but totally doable 3 week trip.

Remember - travel to/from Europe eats up the better part of 2.5 days. Then you use another 1/2 to one full day each time you move between cities.

Then plan Italy for a trip of it's own somewhere down the pike.
janisj is online now  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 06:05 PM
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What is your dream trip? If you are thinking the must sees are London, Paris, Rome but you really always wanted to see Venice or Prague start with your dream and work in the others as you can. Depending of how you are traveling between places you have to factor in the time in between. You listed 8 great cities but keep in mind the 1/2 to a full day in between, 4-8 days out of your precious travel time. You will most likely have a more memorable trip of cutting it down to about 4-5 stops. Go and enjoy those places and save the rest for later. Don't try to conquor the whole continent in 21 days. If you have a marvelous trip you will figure out how to make another trip later. Happy planning and happy traveling.
AisleSeat is offline  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 07:01 PM
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The term budget is hardly compatile with those cities. I see this as a $12,000 trip. And, why all big cities---Europe is so much more.
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 07:31 PM
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Are you willing to drop Prague and/or Berlin from your trip? If so you can make this work really well (and add Munich). You will need to buy your train tickets 90 days in advance or more, preferably on Bahn.com, which is very user friendly and has the lowest prices. You can only use Bahn.com for trains entering or leaving Germany, or intra-German trains.

1. Rome for two nights. This gives you one full day of touring, which is enough for the Vatican, Coleseum, and to have a taxi driver drive you around to all the other sites. They will wait while you go into the Pantheon, etc.

3. Train to Florence for three nights. Budget your time as you wish, but a day trip to Pisa or Siena would be nice.

6. Venice for three nights. Try to take a 30-minute train trip to Padua to see the Scrovegni Chapel; reservations required.

9. Overnight train to Paris, plus four additional nights.

14. Chunnel train to London for three nights, take overnight ferry to Amsterdam on fourth night.

18. Amsterdam for three to five nights.

You can add a night or two to Rome and take it away from somewhere else. I wouldn't.
FHurdle is offline  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 07:32 PM
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Oops. I can't edit my post. Forget what I said about adding Munich. That's if you take day trains. For day trains, it's cheap to go Venice to Munich, then Munich to either Amsterdam or Paris. But in this case I think the overnight to Paris works best.
FHurdle is offline  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 07:57 PM
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Fhurdle -
Why would you drop Berlin and Prague when they are 20 somethings who like beer?

A taxi tour in Rome? You caught that they are on a budget, yes?

Also why would you go to London and then back to the continent - that seems silly - and expensive.

I think your plan is just bad advice.
Hez is offline  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 09:51 PM
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There is plenty of beer to be found in lots of places. The reason I would drop Berlin and Prague is that they are really hard and time-consuming to include. I really think if you look at it something needs to be dropped. You could drop London and Paris instead, but why do that for first-time visitors to Europe?

You can book the Venice-Paris overnight pretty cheaply if done in advance, as in 35 Euros. It would be substantially more expensive to book an overnight train to Amsterdam, then train to Paris, then go to London.

The Paris-London chunnel trip costs about $66 per person if booked in advance. I haven't taken the Harwich-Amsterdam ferry, but it is said to be very comfortable. A train and ferry trip for two will cost roughly 133 Pounds total for two, and includes a cruise-style cabin with beds. Using this means of transportation allows one to arrive truly rested and saves a hotel night. Certainly one could train from Paris to Amsterdam and then take the ferry to London, but I really don't see that this will save any money from what I've proposed, and after factoring in the added hotel night it would cost very substantially more.

It has been some years back, but we paid a taxi driver in Rome something like 50 Euros for quite a long taxi ride. He stopped at the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and other sites and let us get out and look. For a couple planning to spend $8,000, I don't consider it expensive, especially if it allow them to keep their stay in Rome to two nights, since Rome is an expensive place.
FHurdle is offline  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 10:07 PM
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I'm guessing you aren't a beer drinker. Just because there is beer available, doesn't mean that there is a beer culture. It's like telling someone that they should go to Chicago in the US when they are super interested in wine, instead of sending them to Napa.

As for the rest of your arguments, they are as silly as your original post.
Hez is offline  
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Jun 22nd, 2013, 11:10 PM
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cherylelise - I'd start a new post.

We obviously have a beer p*ssing contest between two supposed experts.
Rastaguytoday is offline  
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 12:05 AM
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I rarely comment on these Europe in 3-week threads as I don't have any experience with them and don't tend to travel that way. Don't underestimate how knackered you will be if are constantly on the move for 3 weeks.

Most of the folks on this board are experienced travelers and in general, experienced travelers have learned that slower is better. However, I think many experienced travelers have also forgotten what it is like to be in their 20s!

I'm an ex-pat in the UK and there are younger ex-pats here who take a more hurried approach and they do fine (though they don't do it for 3 weeks mind you). I think you can still see quite a few places though probably not all.

Some general advice similar to some above:

1) rank the places in order of priority (think why you want to go)
2) put them on a map and see how they fit -- the most efficient way will be to work linearly as possible. Fly open-jaw/multi-city into one and out of another
3) for starters, assume 3 nights at each place. Add another night in your first destination for jet lag.
4) see how many days that is and start eliminating

Each move costs time and money, as others have noted.

I agree with the above that logistically, it might be best to save Italy for another time. Think about if that fits in your priorities.

For beer, Prague has been my favorite so far (and cheaper too). Belgium should really be in the mix.

Something like London/Paris/Belgium/Amsterdam/Berlin/Prague ?

Belgium could be Bruges, Brussels or Antwerp.

The best hostels will book up so do plan ahead. Similarly the best train fares will be available 90-120 days out (but not before).

If you want to have a poke around, here are 3 blogs from ex-pats (mine plus 2 others in their late 20s). Have a look.


Good luck.
indy_dad is offline  
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 06:56 AM
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Adding Belgium is super easy as the trains from Paris to Amsterdam go through there.

indy_dad has some great advice!
Hez is offline  
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 07:03 AM
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also agreeing with indydad here.

another thing to consider is whether you might want to do some cycling - a very cheap and interesting way to travel. you could do this very easily in the Netherlands and between Berlin and Prague. add in london and Paris and you have the makings of a great trip.

bilboburger on this forum has some great ideas for cycling in europe.
annhig is offline  
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 09:01 AM
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cycling also shows you a very different kind of Europe - the ultimate way to meet locals. But carrying bags on a bike and I have years of previous experience doing just that shows me it can be a pain the rear - and in place like Netherlands I have seen it rain for weeks on end - For years I led cycling tours of Europe and one year in England, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany we had 45 straight days of rain in summer - mainly a constant drizzle - mnow recent summers have been better but this summer and spring has been very cool - biking often sounds nicer than what it really entails.

That said to do a biking trip it pretty much has to be mainly a cycling trip - you cannot rent bikes to say cycle between Berlin and Prague unless you return them to Berlin, etc.
PalenQ is offline  
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 11:08 AM
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For biking tours, including ones where they take your luggage for you, I recommend the compilation at http://www.biketoursdirect.com/ [no business connection].
drlaz is offline  
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 01:32 PM
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My 1st trip to Europe in my 20's was, gasp!, a tour. Yes, Fodorites a guided tour. It was a 3 week "If it's Monday it must be Milan", budget tour thru Europe, in August! But...I saw all the big cities - London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Athens and many smaller ones - Nice, Lucerne, Bern, Pisa...
It was hectic, hot, rushed and I loved it. It fueled my love of travel and I have returned numerous times, planning my own trips from then on, with many more to come.
Perhaps this would work for Cherlylise's time frame and budget?
A tour package around $1700-2000 per person + $1000 airfare + $1000 meals/spending money, would bring her in on budget.
Just my opinion.
hollywoodsc is offline  
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Jun 23rd, 2013, 02:57 PM
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Pal - I wasn't suggesting that they cycle the entire trip. But a few days in Holland or along the Elbe might be fun and as you say, a good way of meeting people and seeing the country from another angle.
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