Post-college backpacking trip

Apr 10th, 2014, 01:08 PM
  #21  
 
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From Berlin to Amsterdam, I don't think there are any convenient overnight trains>

though there is a night train Berlin to Dusseldorf where you change to an ICE to Amsterdam - arriving there at 9:30 am no there is not a direct night train but practically so - it does depart Berlin a little late for oldsters at least, at 27 minutes after midnight. A CNL -a spiffy CityNightLIner German train.
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Apr 10th, 2014, 02:17 PM
  #22  
 
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Doesn't matter suitcase, duffle, or backpack, but I would definitely take the most lightweight piece you can fit your stuff into, that has wheels.

I wouldn't go to Venice for only 1 day. That a waste of time, effort, money to me for just a quick glimpse. Either stay a couple days or cut it (and I LOVE Venice).
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Apr 10th, 2014, 11:55 PM
  #23  
 
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"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."

It probably depends on the country but in Germany, Austria and Eastern Europe I do it all the time without a problem.

If you travel on Friday afternoon from a major city or around a typical family holliday, trains will be very full. But Tuesday at ten I wouldn't bother. For me this flexibility to take a train an hour later or to stay a day longer is one of the big advantages of trains in comparison to flying.
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Apr 11th, 2014, 12:07 AM
  #24  
 
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As for backpack or suitcase/rolling duffel bag, I think that it completely depends on how you want to travel.

If you reserve hostels in advance and basically just go from airport to hostel to railway station to next hostel, then there's no reason why you shouldn't take a suitcase.

But if you might end up taking a side-trip to xxx on a whim and end up walking a hour through some fields to catch a bus, a backpack is the much better option.
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Apr 11th, 2014, 12:16 AM
  #25  
 
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If you want to take a backpack, and you aren't already a hiker, start wearing one now and go for 30-60 min "hikes" with a full pack. This will get your strength and endurance up, thereby alleviating many of the backpack concerns in this thread.
sparkchaser is offline  
Apr 11th, 2014, 04:27 AM
  #26  
 
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Get a backpack that also can be converted to a rolling one - with wheels that can be used when you want - like trekking thru train stations or doing longish walks but can convert to a regular backpack when you do not want the wheels out.

I have an EastPack backpack like this.
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Apr 11th, 2014, 06:16 AM
  #27  
 
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I disagree with the advice to get a backpack that can be converted to a rolling one. I tried that once and the bottoms of the backpack get extremely dirty rolling on the ground, so when you go back to wearing it, your clothes get dirty.

Also, the wheels are uncomfortable up next to your body and unless you invest in an expensive high-end one, the wheels are not good or stable. Plus the frame adds weight.

It is better to buy a lightweight aluminum handtrolley and bungee cords if you want the flexibillity of being able to roll a backpack sometimes. When you put the backpack on, you can strap the trolley to the backpack.

I don't have an opinion about railpass vs. no rail pass, but Hans is correct in pointing out that train hopping spontaneously is still a very realistic possibility for a great many travelers in many parts of Europe. Done all the time.
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Apr 11th, 2014, 07:26 AM
  #28  
 
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I also disagree about a rolling backpack. The frame/wheels mechanism adds a lot of weight to any bag. So either a normal backpack OR a rolling duffle/suitcase.
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Apr 11th, 2014, 08:02 AM
  #29  
 
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In this particular case, there are three rather short trips in Italy, all of which will be on trains which require reservations. Then, I assume, there will be two trips on overnight trains, which will require reservations unless you want to get just a seat instead of sleeping accommodations. Then, there's a six-hour trip from Berlin to Amsterdam, for which I'd want a reservation even if it weren't necessary. (I've done my share of seat-hopping on long trips.)

Of course, it's true that you can often get a seat at the last minute even on a train that requires a reservation, because not many trains sell out completely. I do a lot of train travel on short trips (about three hours or less) without advance reservation. I especially never reserve a train to take immediately after a flight, because I'm not sure which train I'll be able to get. For a long trip, though, I would always reserve in advance.

A last-minute decision about when to travel is much more expensive than buying well in advance and getting a deep discount. On a very long trip, the flexibility is limited by the hours in a day, unless you don't mind very early departures or very late arrivals. It's also constrained by infrequent departures, or infrequent direct trains. In those circumstances, you might as well reserve in advance and save a bundle.
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Apr 11th, 2014, 11:45 AM
  #30  
 
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A last-minute decision about when to travel is much more expensive than buying well in advance and getting a deep discount>

depends on how many such discounted tickets you are talking about - a German Railpass of say six day can produce unfettered fully flexible travel at fares less than the cheapest discounted tickets.

and involving a series of discounted tickets in several countries can be time-consuming tracking them down - dealing with fickle for many sites like trenitalia.com or www.voyages-sncf.com - and if you cannot get a discounted ticket on one leg and have to pay full fare - ouch - like Frankfurt to Berlin on bahn.de I believe full fare is about $130-140 by itself.

So yes if you are willing to spend hours getting all your ducks in order and can get them all those tickets could well be cheaper for folks not traveling on trains a lot of day - the more days on a pass the cheaper per day the pass usually becomes. And with Youthpasses the OPs qualify for the per day fee can rival the discounted fees.

Unless you can save a significant amount on discounted tickets then go for the pass and flexibility - and when I first went when I was there age I met folks in hostels, etc and decided to change my itinerary to go somewhere with them or to some hot spot folks were talking about.

So there are many factors about a railpass besides price. But granted the fewer the trips the more discounted tickets can save money and if someone has an itinerary in stone and is willing to commit months in advance that is a good way to go - everything buttoned down before leaving and just have to show up for the train (and not be late or you're out the whole ticket price usually).
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Apr 11th, 2014, 02:56 PM
  #31  
 
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If doing the discount ticket route you should start booking NOW - as soon as they come on line - often 3 months or at times 4 months before the actual train.
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Apr 12th, 2014, 04:33 AM
  #32  
 
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You can also get flexible airline tickets if you pay double or triple, but most people would rather save money.
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Apr 12th, 2014, 07:12 AM
  #33  
 
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In Italy, a discounted ticket can be exchanged for a full-price ticket, paying the difference, up until the departure time of the train, so you really don't lose the cost of the ticket; you just pay what you would have for a flexible ticket. Even the flexible tickets must be exchanged within a hour of the train's departure, so missing the train could also cause you to lose the cost of a full-price ticket.

Also, while the best discounts for Italian trains usually are snapped up quickly, especially on the more popular routes, you can often get discounts right up to the last minute on less frequented routes, and if you're willing to travel at odd times of the day, especially very early, you can often get last-minute discounts even on popular routes. In addition, there are some discounts that rarely sell out, such as the "Bimbi gratis" (kids free) discount that includes 20% off for the adults as well; or the two-for-one on weekends discount, or the low price for same-day-return trips (only on longer routes). These other discounts are mostly seasonal, but when you investigate ticket prices you should enter the number in your party, and the ages, to make sure you see all the discounts that could apply in your case.

The discounts on international trains are usually only available until two weeks before the trip, and it's better to book a month in advance.
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