Post-college backpacking trip

Apr 9th, 2014, 12:19 PM
  #1  
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Post-college backpacking trip

Hello all. I am traveling to Europe with two of my girlfriends after we graduate from college this summer. We will be traveling in late June for 21 days (so technically 19 days of actual traveling considering we are flying from the US).

We have decided on our itinerary and wanted to see what other traveling experts have to say. The three of us have been to Europe before and are experienced travelers. However, we have never gone backpacking and stayed at hostels. What are some tips you would give us as it is our first time backpacking? Another big dilemma I am having is whether I should bring a backpacking pack or a rolling duffel bag (NOT a suitcase)? We are also open to suggestions on what to do in each city and what is a good day trip to take from Florence.

Below is my itinerary.

Day 1: Arrive in Rome at 12 pm
Day 2: Rome
Day 3: Rome
Day 4: Rome – Leave for Florence– First night in Florence
Day 5: Florence
Day 6: Florence (Stay in Florence overnight, but take a day trip to Verona, or Chianti)
Day 7: Venice - Spend overnight train to Vienna
Day 8: Vienna
Day 9: Vienna
Day 10: Vienna – Leave for Berlin
Day 11: Berlin
Day 12: Berlin
Day 13: Berlin
Day 14: Berlin – Leave for Amsterdam
Day 15: Amsterdam
Day 16: Amsterdam
Day 17: Amsterdam – Leave for Barcelona
Day 18: Barcelona
Day 19: Barcelona
Day 20: Barcelona
Day 21: Leave for America

Thanks for your help!
nicolethenole is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 12:32 PM
  #2  
 
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Congratulations on graduating!

When do you travel to Venice? Are you planning to do this as a stopover day en route from Florence to Vienna?

I think Rome is worth more than two days, especially given the fact that you'll be getting over jet lag there. I'd take at least one day from somewhere else (Berlin maybe? I haven't been so not sure) and put it there.

With all the time you'll be spending on planes and trains and finding your lodging in new cities, I think you'll be very glad to have a backpack instead of a suitcase.
jent103 is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 12:35 PM
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Since you're visiting cities and taking trains, bring a small roller bag - 19" or 21" at the most. It will be easier on you than a backpack.

Read hostel reviews and book ahead to get the best hostels. Bring combination locks as many hostel have lockers. Flipflops to wear in the showers.

For basin hand washing, buy Purex laundry sheets and cut them into 4 pieces. Each piece has more than enough soap for a basin wash. Also bring a sink stopper as many times the sink plugs don't fit tightly and the water runs out.

It may be less expensive to stay in a hotel with 3 beds rather than a hostel. It will also give you a change from the group environment.

You're short changing Venice - give it at least 2 days as it's such a magical place.

Check pricing on point to point tickets from each country's train web site. It may be cheaper than a rail pass. Read seat61.com for lots of helpful train information.

Check the Thorn Tree forum for backpacking advice and read Let's Go guide books for general safety, restaurant, laundry, hostel advice.
adrienne is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 12:36 PM
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It's pretty funny that the first two responses gave you conflicting views on the backpack vs. roller bag question! LOL
adrienne is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 12:39 PM
  #5  
ekc
 
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I would skip Venice (you will only have a couple of hours) and add it to Rome, since your first day in Rome will be consumed with getting your luggage, getting to your hotel, checking-in, showering, etc., and then it will be time for dinner.

With only 2 days in Florence, I don't see how you have enough time for a day trip.
ekc is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 12:59 PM
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Get a backpack. My last several 3 week trips overseas I've used a 'Rick Steves' backpack. I don't usually take lots of clothes along and have managed quite well. I don't struggle a bit and find it less cumbersome than using suitcases, rollers or not. It's nice to have your hands free when boarding buses, trains etc.

I got a kick out of some of my fellow travelers who had 65 lb. suitcases who couldn't handle them and found that they really didn't need all the clothes they brought.
pauljagman is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 01:03 PM
  #7  
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Thanks for the advice so far! Definitely helpful points to take into consideration.

I forgot to clarify a couple things:

The plan for Venice was to spend ALL day there. Get there in the early morning and take a train out of Venice around 11 pm to spend the 8 hr train ride sleeping en route to Vienna.

I have heard very different things about the whole backpack dilemma. I heard on one hand its better to bring a backpack since a lot of streets in Europe are cobblestone. However, I heard it can also get really heavy and too painful to carry on the back. We are planning on packing light and washing our clothes somewhere along the way.

Also, we have found cheap plane tickets to fly to Berlin, Amsterdam, and Barcelona. Unless someone suggests taking a train to some of these destinations?
nicolethenole is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 01:11 PM
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Haha - that is funny, adrienne! I'm remembering back to my semester in London. We had two weeks of free travel at the end, and when I was packing I thought "oh, I'll just take my suitcase" (granted, a 24" or 26"!). After two trips during the semester to Paris and Spain, I was SO grateful that a friend of mine decided she hated free travel so much that she changed her flight home to skip free travel and let me borrow her backpack. Much easier when you're running to catch trains.

Whatever you decide to do, nicole, pack light! My roller bag doesn't have any trouble with cobblestones. But it's a carry-on size that I can easily lift over the stairs on the bridges in Venice or up onto a curb. A larger suitcase would be painful.

I would absolutely fly to Barcelona at least. I haven't been to Vienna, Berlin or Amsterdam so don't have as good a feel about distances there.
jent103 is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 01:22 PM
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I've only backpacked once and the first day I threw out half of what was in my pack. Today's backpacks are much lighter. If you choose a backpack, go to REI or similar hiking outfitters and get a pack that fits your body.

I did specify a 19" bag which is what I take for 3-4 weeks plus a soft sided small duffle. The benefits of a roller bag is that you can add something small to carry over the handle. Look for a bag with good sturdy wheels.

Whatever you get, you need to be able to lift it over your head when fully packed to put it on the overhead rack on trains.

Berlin to Amsterdam is 6.5 hours on the train. I see tickets in mid June for E44. or E49 for a train with no changes.
adrienne is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 02:16 PM
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I used to carry a backpack (smallish) but I've decided a roller bag is much more convenient. I have a very small one that will fit under an airline seat. On top of it, I can perch a little duffle bag that has a band that goes around the handle of the roller bag. They're both so small and light that I can carry one in each hand with no problem when there are steps. I can lift either one to put it on the overhead rack on a train. I pack very light, and by wearing things multiple times, I don't even need to do laundry, except perhaps for socks and underwear. I just use the hotel shampoo as detergent.

Speaking of hotels, since hostels charge per bed, and hotels charge per room, three people will often pay less in a cheap hotel than at a hostel. I use www.booking.com to find lodging. They list hostels and other types of accomodation along with hotels. You can specify a neighborhood, or just type "xxx city centre" as your destination, to weed out the places out in the boondocks. Then you can sort the list by price. Pay attention to the guest ratings, and read the reviews.

Booking.com has a very well-designed page to manage your bookings, making it easy to change or cancel a booking. Most places have free cancellation, usually at a higher price than that for reservations that are cast in stone. I usually prefer to pay more for the flexibility.
bvlenci is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 09:01 PM
  #11  
 
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Post-college backpacking trip
Posted by: nicolethenole on Apr 9, 14 at 4:19pm
However, we have never gone backpacking and stayed at hostels. What are some tips you would give us as it is our first time backpacking? Another big dilemma I am having is whether I should bring a backpacking pack or a rolling duffel bag (NOT a suitcase)?


Aha, the old backpack versus rolling bag issue. The real question is how much to bring. See http://tinyurl.com/3yeqvt for some perspective on that.

I gave my daughter a couple months in Paris and Italy for her graduation a few years ago. In Florence she stayed at the Plus Hostel. I'm a geezer and have stayed in a number of hostels. The HI hostel in Dresden is a great stopover. It would be a good idea to book in advance for June and July. Advance bookings will help keep you on schedule also. After a couple days in Amsterdam you might just forget about Barcelona. I suggest a day trip from Amsterdam to Haarlem. If it is a hot day go all the way to Zandvoort for a dip in the North Sea.

That leg from Amsterdam to Barcelona is a stretch. You'll have to fly or spend a long time on the train. Check the schedules for trains and flights. If you fly you are facing severe luggage restrictions.
spaarne is offline  
Apr 9th, 2014, 10:19 PM
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Hi nicolethenole,

Just one note about the backpack vs. suitcase question --

If you decide to take a backpack, I encourage you to be very, *very* mindful of the seated passengers when you board/walk through a train. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen somebody's face take a full hit from a backpack as the backpacker gambols down the aisle, unaware. You may even want to take off the backpack and hold it in front of you as you walk, just to make sure you don't swipe somebody's head.

If you are considerate like this, the other passengers will be appreciative, and they will be more outgoing and engaging with you during the train ride.

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Apr 9th, 2014, 10:30 PM
  #13  
 
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Thanks swandav2000 I was going to post similarly. I was knocked clean off my feet by a backpacker who was completely oblivious.
cathies is offline  
Apr 10th, 2014, 01:31 AM
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I assume you're all women from the original post. If so, there is a hostel in Trastevere, a very nice district of Rome with lots of students and night life. The hostel is at the International Women's House, and is for women only. The location is very nice and convenient, but I've never actually stayed at the hostel. I tried to book it once when I was traveling with my daughter, but it was fully booked.

http://www.foresteriaorsa.altervista...esteria_uk.htm
bvlenci is offline  
Apr 10th, 2014, 01:53 AM
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I don't think you have time for a day trip from Florence as there is so much to see there. I can't imagine Venice would be much fun carrying your backpack on you all day.
KTtravel is offline  
Apr 10th, 2014, 03:56 AM
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With that many trains in various countries the Eurail Youthpass is something to strongly consider - for folks under 26 and you can still just hop on any ole train any ole time in most countries - and consider taking overnight trains on the days when you are relocating long distances -

like Vienna to Berlin and Berlin to Amsterdam and Paris to Barcelona - save on the cost of a hostel and save daytime travel time.

anyway for lots of great info on planning a European rail trip check out these IMO fantastic sites: eee.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com.
PalenQ is offline  
Apr 10th, 2014, 06:10 AM
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Can you borrow a backpack from someone and fill it up and walk up and down stairs with it and see how you feel? You definitely don't want to get a backpain in a couple of days of travel that will spoil your fun for the rest of the trip. A lot of it depends on your physical size. I have seen petite women traveling who are obviously really overwhelmed by their backpacks.

I am very tall and in Italy I much prefer a backpack because of all the stairs one needs to climb, especially inside train stations, but also in places like Venice or hotels without elevators. A roller is useless. However, in other places, like Amsterdam, I have a roller bag with swivel wheels and I would never bother with a backpack there.

But give it a personal test with a real backpack as an experiment.

Whatever you decide to take, be aware of other travelers in transit! I am equally tired of oblivious travelers dragging their roller luggage so haphazardly behind them that they create constant tripping hazards and bang other peoples shins and feet without ever apologizing.
sandralist is offline  
Apr 10th, 2014, 06:16 AM
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PS: If you decide to take a backpack and it ends up giving you pains, you can buy a luggage handcart/trolley in Europe for about 15euros and some bungee cords and switch to that for the remainder of your trip. You can buy cheap handcarts around train stations. Sometimes they come with shopping bags attached but those come right off and you can throw them away.
sandralist is offline  
Apr 10th, 2014, 09:47 AM
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It's very unlikely that a rail pass will save you money, because many countries have deep discounts (nonrefundable) for advance purchase. In Italy, all of the trips you're planning can be had for €19 per segment, reservation included. With a rail pass, you'd have to buy a separate mandatory reservation on these trains, which would cost you €10.

From Venice to Vienna, you can get a bunk in a six-person (all women) couchette on the overnight train for €59 (SMART price, advance purchase). (It would be €99 per person in a 4-bunk couchette, and the three of you might even have it all to yourselves.)

On the overnight train from Vienna to Berlin, With advance purchase, you can get a bunk in a triple carriage for €65. From Berlin to Amsterdam, I don't think there are any convenient overnight trains. There are direct daytime trains, for as little as €79.

From Amsterdam to Barcelona, there are no convenient overnight trains. I would definitely fly on this segment.

Adding these prices up, I get about €300 worth of train tickets, including reservations and sleeping accommodations on overnight trains. I didn't choose the cheapest sleeping accommodations, but the 4-bunk carriage to Vienna and the triple carriage to Berlin. A 6-day youth select pass for 4 adjacent countries would be €290, and would not include reservations nor sleeping accommodations, which would be extra.

The idea of hopping on any old train whenever you want is no longer realistic, because most long distance trains have either required reservations or highly recommended reservations. You lose a lot of your flexibility anyway if you need to make a reservation, although sometimes you can make them at the last minute.

You can get all the tickets from Rome to Vienna here:

http://www.trenitalia.com/cms/v/inde...005817f90aRCRD

You can buy tickets on the Vienna to Berlin and Berlin to Amsterdam segments here:

http://www.bahn.de/p/view/index.shtml

I think it's better to say you're resident in the UK or Ireland,to get English language, but in order not to be shunted onto the more expensive Eurail site. If this is not true, someone else will correct me, I'm sure. (For the Italian trains this doesn't matter.)

I use this site for finding budget flights:

www.skyscanner.net
bvlenci is offline  
Apr 10th, 2014, 10:03 AM
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A Eurail Select Youthpass for 4-countries - Italy, Austria, Germany and Netherlands (inc Belgium too) is p.p. 4374 or abut 52 euros an unlimited travel day and gives the option of choosing which trains to take once there. Discounted trains that bvience kindly go into so much detail on for the OP - those tickets are usually train-specific and sold in limited numbers so must be booked weeks often ahead of time and then cannot be changed nor refunded I believe.

so for trading flexibility how much can you save over 50 euros a train day? Well in Italy you must add 10 e reservation fee as bvienci explains to each ride but in the other countries you just hop any train anytime.

So it all depends on whether you want any flexibility or not - if fine with booking in stone weeks or months in advance then that is the way to go but if it does not save you very much money consider the flexibility point, which to me is priceless.

With a pass you would have to pay extra for any sleeping options on night train - pass covers the basic rail fare - you can get reclining seats on some trains for a few euros extra or a couchette for around 20-25 euros extra.
PalenQ is offline  

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