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Regulars here suggest slow travel to 1st time Europe visitors--bad advice?

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Regulars here suggest slow travel to 1st time Europe visitors--bad advice?

Old Nov 18th, 2015, 02:28 AM
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welltraveledbrit,

I've nothing against people taking English language tours or making it a priority to poke around bookstores or to arrange multiple "GTG"s with fellow tourists in foreign tourists. I disagree with you that many people here are not being competitive. They are being highly competitive and looking for ways to assert their superiority. So my negative feelings arise when these people are aggressively sarcastic and insulting about other people's draft itineraries, and use the posts of newbies to paint flattering portraits of themselves to others as slow travel sages who "prefer" are more "in-depth" or "intimate' experience of a foreign culture as opposed to "skimming" multiple European cities and seeing unique, world famous monuments, architecture and art. It's annoying b**lsh*t.

I only occasionally read a self-congratulatory smug post from a super-blitz traveler about how they whizzed through countries checking off a bucket list of standard "must-sees". By contrast, the avalanche of postings and trip reports from people preening about how they've "learned" how to travel to foreign cities and simply do nothing but indulge themselves and their egos 24/7 -- well, glad to see a thread where somebody questions that is the best advice.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 03:03 AM
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"11 places in 19 days and exactly the type of itinerary we'd laugh at"

I wouldn't laugh at someone who wanted to accomplish this itinerary. I would simply shrug my shoulders and move on to another thread. I don't really care how other people choose to travel. I care about how I travel.

When offering travel advice, too many people here project their own desires and biases, while trying to control the behavior of others. Advice boards are a feasting nest for control freaks, and I find them a real turn off.

Others spend a lot of time lecturing because some people like to listen to themselves talk, as evidenced on this thread.

Everyone who wants to do a cram-everything trip should do it. No one can predict the future. It may very well be your one and only trip.

My first cram-everything trip taught me what never to do again. This slow traveler is a firm believer in experiencing mistakes. Mistakes can be your best learning tool.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 03:03 AM
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This is one of the best topics I've seen in a long time.

I live in rural Italy, and often have friends and relatives visit me from the US. Some of them want to take a day trip to somewhere every day, others mainly want to shop, some want to spend most of their time on the beach. One of my friends mainly wanted to get her nails done and get her dog groomed; for some reason she likes to experience nail salons in different cultures. One of my sisters (around age 65) recently backpacked across Europe by train (from England to Italy), spending no more than two or three nights in every place. There was only one place she said she wished she had spent more time: she stopped in Strasbourg for one night and said she should have stayed one more night.

None of these ways of traveling is right or wrong.

In response to Justine, some young people suspect they'll never be back to Europe because they don't have a lot of money and are about to embark on childrearing. Of course, they could be wrong, but they make decisions based on what they know at the time.

Likewise, some people assume they'll be back, but it never happens. Another sister of mine came to visit me about ten years ago. She was a rather busy traveler, spending a few nights in Rome and making a day trip to Venice from my house that involved about seven hours of train travel. She assumed she'd be back, but since then a chronic illness has limited her travel (and her money) and it's unlikely she'll ever return. She certainly doesn't regret the day trip to Venice.

The one consistent advice I give to first-time travelers is not to let yourself be convinced that you "have" to see certain places or things. If you find art museums a bore at home, you'll probably find them a bore in Europe. I know some people act as though it's unthinkable that a tourist not visit the Sistine Chapel or the Uffizi Gallery. There are plenty of people who would enjoy their trip much more if they skipped them.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 03:13 AM
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The whole concept that "regulars here" are somehow more knowledgeable about where and how best to travel somewhere is obviously a flawed concept. Look at this thread: a regular here is having "second thoughts" and as yet I don't necessarily see a whole lot of concrete agreement on the "best" way or even the factors which might influence the best way.

Folks generally base their travel recommendations on what happened to them whey THEY traveled and what they "think" is the best way. And then there are these particular enthusiasts, some of whom actually have websites, and they tell you that there is always a best way, usually tied to a particular means of conveyance (you know who you are).

And then there are the "depth" people who have arbitrarily decided that if you don't spend a particular amount of time in one place you are somehow some sort of moron.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 03:32 AM
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Slow down isn't necessarily bad advice. The sanctimonious tone with which it is offered and the weak arguments used to support it (you lose a half day every time you move) are frustrating to read.

If a poster wants to say it once and then let it go - fine. But some posters have to win arguments and own their territory. A real disservice to pleasant people asking for advice.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 04:25 AM
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Cold

I think that telling people that will lose a half a day is a help as novice travelers might not realize that. This is particularly useful on a short trip.


I also believe you do not know a place until you are ready to leave.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 04:38 AM
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In my opinion what can be helpful for less experienced travelers is to pose questions which help them sort out what experience they are looking for.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 04:43 AM
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IMD - It seems to take people an awfully long time to pack their suitcases around here. Packing suitcases and checking out of hotels should not take longer than 20 minutes.

Walking to a train station through an older part of town, sitting in a train station, taking a train from the city center through the suburbs, riding the train through the countryside, seeing a new city as you ride the train into it and landing in the middle of a new city is definitely not a loss of half a day. It is often one of the highlights of the trip.

Young people often sleep on trains after being out late, enjoying a city while most of us are snoring. That is not a net loss of half a day.

If you are driving in a taxi in a city you have already been to ten times and then standing in a security line at the airport - yes that is a loss of half a day.

Finally, while it may be someone's first time to Europe do we assume they have never been anywhere? Do they really need to be told that changing locations takes a bit of time. Sorry - to me it is just another form of unneeded lecturing from the wise ol' travelers to the poor lost souls asking the questions.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 04:50 AM
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I am always reminded of a very nice woman I met in Singapore. Her visit plan to the US for two weeks?

1 Go to Disneyland
2 Rent Car, drive to Walt Disney World
3 Go to Disneyworld

(Now this might not be your dream vacation, but her's was to see both Disneyland and Disney World...)

It took us a LONG time to get her to understand that driving meant that in her two weeks she would be spending a LOT of it on the drive. She had no understanding of the size of the US (After all her country was the size of Manhattan)

So I do think at least pointing out the logistical challenges or even fatal flaws (i.e., "I want to take the night train from Barcelona to Paris" which no longer exists) is not a bad idea. If someone says "OK I understand that but still want to do X then assist them don't judge!
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 05:28 AM
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"Packing suitcases and checking out of hotels should not take longer than 20 minutes."

I realize speaking in broad generalizations on this board is popular, and I also realize most tourists do not travel like me, mixing "vacation" days with a work-related trip. However, any photo-loving tourist traveling with expensive electronics for their 2-week adventure can enjoy the chuckle the quote above provides.

On the other hand, I'm sure many "carry-on only" travelers, especially those who are bald, with bad hair, and ugly fashion, can pack in 10 minutes.

I need at least 3 hours to pack strategically without stress. I've tried to do it in less time, but then I make expensive mistakes.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 05:32 AM
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By driving from California to Florida and using two theme parks as bookends, that woman could see quite a bit of the US in two weeks.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 06:02 AM
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I have not traveled as extensively or as often as most of the regulars here. I also travel with kids so that makes my perspective a bit different than a single person or couple. My first trip to Europe was 9 nights in England (4 Cotswolds, 5 London). I had no idea if I would ever return when planning that trip. Our trip was dictated by the time we could get off work and our limited budget. Could we have seen more of England during that time? Sure, but to us the thought of having to pack up and move was not something we relished. Did I wish we had more time and money to spend? Sure, but we didn't and we still had a wonderful vacation and to this day do not regret what we did and what we did not do.

We all only have our own experiences to guide our advice. If we are each happy with the way we travel then no one is going to change how we do it. I think when giving advice to a first-timer that getting as much information from them first should be crucial. Instead of just jumping in with do this, don't do that the more experienced should really try to help them pin down time, budget, who is traveling and what they want to get out of this trip. Teaching someone HOW to plan their own trip should be the main goal.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 06:37 AM
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I would add that if you are traveling with your children, it is helpful to remember that they are the same kids on a trip as at home (same point for adults). So if they are not great with change or have trouble getting used to sleeping in a new place, a trip with frequent accommodation changes is a bad idea. If your family takes a while to get going in the morning, the excitement of a trip may speed things up but you are not suddenly going to get out the door at 8am. I have learned this the hard way. I have now accepted that there is nothing wrong with traveling in a way that suits our family as if we are all comfortable and well rested we will enjoy any destination better.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 06:58 AM
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Sally30 - I totally agree! None of us knew how we would do with jetlag. My youngest was 4 and he didn't sleep a wink on our overnight flight! Our biggest mistake of that first trip was scheduling trains directly from the airport to the Cotswolds. It involved 2 changes and a taxi, then settling in and going out for dinner. Once he went to sleep he didn't wake up until almost Noon the next day! Talk about losing half a day of your vacation. We have been lucky to return to Europe and have learned and adjusted as the kids got older and our time (not necessarily our budget) has grown! We still don't sleep well on the plane and are totally bogged down with exhaustion our first day.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 07:47 AM
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A friend of mine visited us in the UK, and wanted to see London.
He zoomed around on the tube collecting photographs - he has one in front of a red phone box, a red bus, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar square and the Houses of Parliament. We only spent a few hours there and he wanted to go home. He showed no interest in actually going inside any of the buildings or finding out about the history.

He has similar photo albums from Paris, Berlin, New York and San Francisco - him standing next to famous sites. As far as he is concenred, he is well travelled, and "Done" London, Paris etc.

Is he wrong - probably not, but to me he hasn't experienced any of the cities that he's been to. For him, there is no reason to return.

I like advising people to slow down, because that is the type of travel I like and understand. People can take or leave that advice as they wish - it doesn't make it more or less valid because they disagree - I can only comment on my own experiences, and for me 11 cities in 12 days would be awful.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 08:56 AM
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I think there are times when it is apparent the the poster is missing some vital information - or has misconceptions - that make it not just helpful but necessary to give them information for which they have not asked.

I won't go into tedious detail but just mention that I have seem a number of posters who for some reason seem to think that Italy is a tropical country. (Not sure if that's all they're used to or that the shape vaguely resembles FL or what).

One couple insisted that there was no reason they couldn't visit cathedrals in Italy in tank tops, shorts and flip flops - no matter how many posters told them it would be a problem. The kicker: they didn't reveal until well into the thread that they were traveling in December. And again, they wouldn't believe that it could be chilly and even cold - with a good possibility of fog, cold rain, sleet, ice or even snow - esp in northern Italy.

In that kind of situation IMHO trying to inform them of actual conditions is important - even if they don't want to know.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 09:19 AM
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The quality of this thread is indeed excellent.
Thanks Julies for starting it.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 10:51 AM
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Speedy itineraries often get blasted here, sometimes unfairly. Some people simply have a low threshold for boredom. While many of us could spend a month in London and see, do, or eat something new every day, others would be done with the place after 3 days and be itching to move on.

Some people want to check boxes. There's nothing wrong with this. Don't need to rent an apartment in Paris for two weeks to check a box.

Others love train travel and pack very light so picking up and training to a new town is fun, whereas the slow-travel folks see this as a negative. However, many times a person proposing a speedy itinerary has greatly underestimated the travel time between cities.

Most Americans who are lucky enough to travel have at most two weeks for their trip and they want to squeeze the most activities possible into that time.

I think some of us blast the speedy itinerary here because many people who draft one also say they want to absorb and experience the places they visit. These are conflicting objectives. You can check all of Paris' major boxes in 3 days but you can't marinate yourself in Paris' juices in such little time.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 12:20 PM
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"By driving from California to Florida and using two theme parks as bookends, that woman could see quite a bit of the US in two weeks."

And if that had been her goal that would have been good. Her goal was to spend LOTS of time in Disney. She really thought it was one or two day drive. For a single woman who didn't drive a lot I think it would take considerably longer

So if she had said "yes, but this way I can see the US" we would have been all for it. But what she said was "I want five days in one park and a week in the other" OPPS!
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 12:30 PM
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Yes to all julies says - many Fodorgarchs who chastise rookie tgravelers for being too ambitious I think forget about their first trips, especially if they were young and how much they saw in such a little time.

I once long ago spend most of a whole month riding night trains - when they had regular seats that with my Youth Eurailpass meant a free night's sleep - it was exhilarating to wake up in a new city each day - I did stay a few days in some places and would boomerang back and forth between others - I absolutely loved the experience - would I suggest it to others - not really but the fact is we often forget what we did and loved as first-time or novice travelers ourselves.
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