Route Advice

Jul 17th, 2015, 01:32 PM
  #1  
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Route Advice

I am planning a 12 day vacation with my mom and a friend to Europe. They would like to see France, Switzerland, and Italy. On the wish list is typical tourist spots, scenic nature, and the culture of the people.

We would like to travel inexpensively, maybe staying on hostels, rented houses, staying with families

Some sights on the wish list:
France: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, Louvre, Versaille, Beaches of Normandy, Blois region to see Chateau du Chambord and maybe other castles. We may have to leave off Normandy?

Switzerland: Alps, railway or tram to Mountain tops, maybe the Jungfrau region, Bern, Geneva

Italy: Probably Venice, Florence, Tuscany region

My Questions:
(1) What is best way to navigate between countries? Railway, planes, combo of each?
(2) Advice on best route between, start in Paris, Switzerland, and leave from Florence?
3) suggestions on best inexpensive way to meet locals, absorb culture and not just the tourist areas?
(4) Best time to book travel? Go thru a travel agent, book railway tickets in advance?
We are leaving in Sept 2016
kdryer is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 01:38 PM
  #2  
 
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How did you choose Chambord over Chenonceau or Blois, or any other chateau in the Loire valley? Your answer might give us some idea of how you came upon your bucket list, which is far to big for a 12 day trip.

Inexpensive and Switzerland do not compute. In fact, that generally applies to any large city in France and Italy.

You need to look at guidebooks for sights and pricing; figure out what you want to see within the budget that you envisage.
Michael is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 01:44 PM
  #3  
 
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No way in the world does it make sense to visit 3 countries in 12 days. At best you have time for 3 stops. Into Paris an out of Florence would be reasonable with possible day trips in those locations.
RonZ is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 01:53 PM
  #4  
 
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Yes trains would be the best - 12 days ain't much to do justice to all three but a possible quick-look scenario:

Paris 4 days
Switzerland 3 days
Italy 5 days

Train Paris to Interlaken and head for the hills - the Jungfrau Region to me the finest place in Switzerland for dramatic Alpine vistas - glacier-girdled peaks rise thousands of feet above lush meadows - toylike trains and thrilling cable cars go off in all directions - like to glaciers you can walk right up to - the Switzerland pictured in most folks minds and right about half-way between Paris and Italy.

Italy - take train Interlaken to Venice
Venice 2 days including arrival day
Train to Rome for final 3 days fly out of Rome

Trains are fantastic - check these sites for oodles of great info to get a fix on the European train system - www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com - you are not traveling enough to make any railpass pay off.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 02:07 PM
  #5  
 
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Not even close to possible:

You have listed 7 specific destinations . . . and have 12 days. Just doesn't work. PLUS - you say your vacation is 12 days. If that is the total trip -- you will only have 9.5 days free on the ground. And part of that is taken up by transport within Europe.

So JUST Paris and a couple of other stops in France, OR Paris and Florence/Tuscany, OR Paris/Venice/Florence, OR Paris and a couple of places in Switzerland.

Back to the drawing board . . .
janisj is offline  
Jul 17th, 2015, 06:39 PM
  #6  
 
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Sorry - you are making the classic mistake of first time travelers to europe - trying to put 20 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag.

Plus you say "suggestions on best inexpensive way to meet locals, absorb culture and not just the tourist areas". In the very few days you have you would be rushing around like chickens with no heads if you even attempt that itinerary - which would take between 3 and 4 weeks to do what you want.

In 12 days (and does this include the day you land and the day you depart, which would mean you really have 10 days) you really have time to see two places - with perhaps a day trip each - if you really want to get off the beaten track you can;t do it by spending only 1 or 2 days in major cities.

As for cost, while switz is beautiful and I love it, it is one of the most expensive places in europe - with costs close to double those in the US.

agree you need to do a lot more research and make some hard decisions on what your TOP sights are. If you tell us that people can make recos on an itinerary. Also do look at costs - some places in europe are relative bargains (Portugal, some central europe) but your places all will cost more than the US.
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 18th, 2015, 02:31 PM
  #7  
 
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Switzerland: Alps, railway or tram to Mountain tops, maybe the Jungfrau region>

Well the Jungfraujoch train is for you - Europe's highest train station and a sea of perpetual snow and ice - walk to a glacier! Walk thru ice grottos - have exhillarating vistas... the one trip you should point for in your limited time in Switzerland.

Switzerland: Alps, railway or tram to Mountain tops, maybe the Jungfrau region

Maybe just do Paris - Jungfrau Region and Venice - still a full plate - fly home from Venice. Maybe fly there from Switzerland if a several hour train ride is not you bag.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 18th, 2015, 02:51 PM
  #8  
 
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If you do decide on Venice, the Alps and Paris - I'd fly into Venice and home from Paris. Most Stateside flights from Venice leave VERY early in the AM making getting to the airport a hassle.
janisj is offline  
Jul 18th, 2015, 06:11 PM
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It all sounds so neat--12 days, 3 countries, major city tourist attractions, stay in hostels, enjoy the culture of the countries, meet the locals--AND inexpensive.
A reality check is truly needed--sorry.
Gretchen is offline  
Jul 19th, 2015, 05:18 AM
  #10  
 
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>>>France: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, Louvre, Versaille, Beaches of Normandy, Blois region to see Chateau du Chambord and maybe other castles. We may have to leave off Normandy?<<<

Just this part is really more than a 12 day (10 on the ground?) vacation.

>>>Italy: Probably Venice, Florence, Tuscany region <<<

This is also a 12 day vacation. You will have to choose which one (Switzerland is not budget so you will have to ditch it).

>>>We would like to travel inexpensively, maybe staying on hostels, rented houses, staying with families<<<

"Inexpensively" doesn't help us make suggestions much if you don't state how much you want to spend per night. Have you ever stayed in a hostel? Some can be fine (the better ones book up), but others can be more of a late night/party crowd. Houses/apartments often have a 3 day minimum stay. In some areas it may be a week stay depending on time of year.

>>>(4) Best time to book travel? Go thru a travel agent, book railway tickets in advance?<<<<

Airlines only book about 10 months out so you probably won't be able to see flights until Nov/Dec sometime. Most people on this forum book their own travel and don't use agents. Railway tickets are best booked directly with each country's rail system. Depending on country, you can either book 90 days in advance or 120.
kybourbon is online now  
Jul 19th, 2015, 01:05 PM
  #11  
 
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well, I'm not so horrified by your proposal! I think it is certainly possible to do 3 countries in 12 days, those are contiguous. I've done stuff like that and lived to tell it and don't regret it. I know I've done France, Belgium and Netherlands in that time frame, and I just did two countries far apart with only 4 days in each, so it's the same thing, you have 4 days in each country.

But I do think your plans within each country are too ambitious, I'd limit myself to one major base in each country. Yes, I think Paris, then train to Switzerland, then go to Italy would be a good direction and perfectly feasible. I'm not that knowledgeable about Italy so don't know what to suggest there, but you can'ty do all that. coming from Switzerland I think you can get down to Venice or Florence by train.

If you saw anything else in France, it would have to be between Paris and Switzerland, your desires to the west do not work. You can't do them. You could easily do Strasbourg on the way. Or you could do Dijon on the way to Switzerland.

When I was in Switzerland I only did Lucerne and Montreux so don't know your choices. I did take the train from Montreux to Paris so the reverse of what you are doing, that isn't difficult. Now I can't say for sure, but I don't think Geneva is considered a big tourist attraction, it's more for business. Bern I think has more of interest.

Paris to Bern is only 4-5 hours by train, transferring in Basel or Neuchatel OR Geneva. Or you could go through Strasbourg, and spend a day or so. But Strasbourg to Bern also requires a change in Basel. Or you can go from Paris to Dijon in only a couple hours, spend a day, then Dijon to Bern is only about 3:30 hours but does require a transfer.

YOu can get from Lausanne or Geneva in Switzerland to Florence, Italy in only about 5-6 hours by train, also, transferring in Milan.

So I think you could do Paris-Switzerland (Lausanne or Montreux or Geneva or Bern if you really want)-Florence. in 12 days. That would be full enough, I think.

You might look at a cheap flight between Switzerland and some Italian city as that is the longer trip. Easyjet (my favorite budget airline) does flight direct between Geneva and Venice, for example, (but not Florence) in only a little over an hour. They fly to Rome in only 1.5 hours. These flights are only about 40-75 euro. then you could do Paris-Switzerland-Florence OR Venice. That would probably be enough, moving to another place in Italy might be too much.

I don't think you are going to be meeting locals and experiencing the culture much with such a rushed schedule, anyway, but a lot of tourists have romantic ideas about hobnobbing with locals. We have tons of tourists in my hometown (Wash DC), and I don't hang out with them, believe me. It's just not normal for locals to be spending a lot of time at main tourist sites or city centers that much, which is, of course, what tourists want to do. We are going to work and living in the burbs mostly. And there are always language differences, of course. So I'd just tamper down those expectations and not worry about them, go with the flow when there.

You can't rent houses with your time frame (a couple days in each place), so that's out. Don't know what staying with families means, that's more a thing in some 3rd world countries where they meet you at rail stations to rent out rooms. If you mean B&Bs, that's a rural concept mostly so don't think that will work with your itinerary. I'm sure there are some hostels around.

Contrary to some, I didn't find Switzerland any more expensive than lots of other places in Europe, like Paris. And in some places it was cheaper.
Christina is offline  
Jul 19th, 2015, 01:34 PM
  #12  
 
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>>well, I'm not so horrified by your proposal! I think it is certainly possible to do 3 countries in 12 days, those are contiguous. << . . . >>But I do think your plans within each country are too ambitious, I'd limit myself to one major base in each country.<<

Actually you are agreeing w/ most everyone. Doesn't matter if it is one city in three different countries . . . OR . . . three cities in one country. It is still just three places MAX
janisj is offline  
Jul 19th, 2015, 02:04 PM
  #13  
 
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three cities in one country. It is still just three places MAX>

Yes very possible BUT very rushed - totally possible though.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 19th, 2015, 02:59 PM
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>>>>So I think you could do Paris-Switzerland (Lausanne or Montreux or Geneva or Bern if you really want)-Florence. in 12 days<<<
>>>you could do Paris-Switzerland-Florence OR Venice<<<<

That isn't "doing" Switzerland. That is stopping in one city. The OP wants to go to multiple locations in each country, not one city in each country.
kybourbon is online now  
Jul 19th, 2015, 06:05 PM
  #15  
 
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Yes, but what the OP wants is simply not possible. Like saying I WANT a brand new Ferrari for $25K. Perhaps you can get parts of one - but a whole car is just not possible for that.
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 20th, 2015, 01:58 AM
  #16  
 
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Now if I wanted to meet the locals I'd change my plans completely and base myself in one town, with a large market and an active social life without too many foreign tourists, so maybe Le Mans, La Rochelle, Cahors, etc (I could think of other more relevant ones if the OP wanted me to)

Take an appartment, shop in the market every day, buy my bread from the same baker, attend church, go to any festivals, coffee mornings, knitting shows, choir evenings, take any local art classes.

Any interest?
bilboburgler is online now  
Jul 20th, 2015, 01:28 PM
  #17  
 
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Meeting locals is hard but if you take the train you will have to meet locals in the adjoining seats - often some pretty neat encouters of the sweet kind.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 20th, 2015, 02:06 PM
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Much too much. Just Paris and Blois area (Loire Valley) would consume your entire time if you really want to see things, as opposed to just travel about.

So five nites (four full days) for Paris, including a day trip to Versailles.

Balance of time in the Loire Valley--there are lots and lots of really beautiful and different chateaux in this area. Our favorites were Amboise, Blois, Chenonceau and Chinon, but there are lots of others in the area. All of this is doable by train, I think--Chinon would be the only outlier.

You may have time for a quick trip to Normandy on the way from or back to Paris, but that would be very rushed, IMO, but nearly as rushed as trying to see two other countries in this time period.
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Jul 20th, 2015, 02:18 PM
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kdryer has not responded. This was her(?) only post on Fodors. I guess she didn't hear what she wanted to hear - so she disregarded the advise.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Jul 20th, 2015, 06:44 PM
  #20  
 
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Or is still waiting for an email saying she has responses?
nytraveler is offline  

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