Seeing Europe Without the Crowds?

Oct 17th, 2007, 06:41 PM
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Seeing Europe Without the Crowds?

Hello! My excellent budgeting skills have made it possible for my husband and I to save up a good $6,000 to FINALLY get around to taking a honeymoon, 4 years after getting married. We want to travel Europe (for perhaps 2 weeks roughly), but have been disagreeing as to where we should go. We are thinking of travelling in the fall, roughly a year from now.

We both want to travel Europe mostly for the experience itself. We're not big fans of crowds and I despise waiting in lines to see things. We're more interested in seeing beautiful countryside and walking around and chatting with people than seeing the touristy places. My husband's top choices would be to visit France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Austria. My list looks more like UK, France, Switzerland, Ireland, and Italy.

We have a year, so we're at the very begining stages of planning. Right now I have no idea how many places we'll be able to see or how far $6,000 can get us. Do you have any advice as to what cities/countries would most fit our desires? I'd love to have some guidance as I begin my research.
4sarad is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 07:10 PM
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I think it depends on your (pl.) respective backgrounds and flexibilities. If neither of you has ever been, for example, then your list looks a little more reasonable since it includes 2 English speaking countries, compared to his 0 English.
That said, 5 countries in 12 days (+ 2 for airport-day) seems a stretch. But if you like challenges, go for it. And, unlike many Fodorites, we like to see lots of places, so I'm sure others will be more discouraging.
In an attempt to bridge the gap, I'd suggest UK, Ireland and one country from the continent. The UK and Ireland ould be much more conducive to a chat with the locals; unless one of you remembers a lot of foreign language from high school or college, your need for chat will go hungry in smaller Euro-cities. That's not to say no one speaks English, many do, but their vocabulary can be understandably rusty from lack of use. It's just something to consider. We like to chat with locals as well; last month in Normandy we "chatted" with our B&B host/hostess thru our respective 300 word English / French vocabularies, thru pictures, and thru pantomine. So too in Figeac. But the "chat" could have far greater quality if we'd had an "electronic instant translator" machine. And many folks would have found that a real hassle, so it depends on the person.
tomboy is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 07:21 PM
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I just got back from my first trip to Europe. I spent 6 months researching, mapping and reading reviews. We ended up taking the best trip of our lives. We went from 9/19 to 10/8 and it was perfect. The crowds were low, the costs were less and the weather was perfect. We flew into Geneva and rented a car and drove to France, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Northern italy and back to Switzerland. We stayed in great hotels, had great food, made friends and spent less than $2000 a person for hotel, food, car, gas and shopping.

Sights seen included the Abbey Library and Cathedral in St. Gallen, Neuschwanstein near Fussen Germany, the Dachau Concentration Camp outside of Munich, Salzburg (and all Sound of Music sights), Venice, Lake Como, Zermatt (and the Matterhorn), Chillon Castle in Montreux and back to Geneva and a tour of the UN building.

The bad thing about Europe is that there are so many choices.

My big recommendation is using before booking any hotel rooms. Also, is great for getting the best airfares.

Have fun. I did.
karbop1 is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 07:25 PM
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Staying in the countryside is alot cheaper than staying in major cities and you won't have crowds.
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 10:04 PM
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Two countries appeared on both lists: France and Italy. I suggest you choose one or the other, and you'll both be happy.

With 14 days, I recommend no more than three different hotels. You'll lose at least half a day moving from one place to the next.

Since it could be difficult and/or expensive to arrive at a secondary airport, assume you will arrive and depart through a big city like Paris or Rome. As long as you're there, you should spend a coupld of days seeing the sights that make these big cities such popular tourist destinations.

As Cigalechanta mentioned, accommodations are cheaper and crowds are thinner outside the big cities. Where, outside what city? You'll have to decide that yourself.
Jean is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:06 AM
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I think tomboy already made an important statement on the "chatting with people" issue. This will probably be an easy task in the UK and the ROI.

My first choice would be to find a nice accomodation in the countryside, Tuscany seems to be everybody's darling.
There are several websites which offer rural acccomodations, e.g. . They also have their site in English. Staying for a week in a Tuscany farmhouse (not necessarily "rustic", also available in luxury with pool etc.) is a good idea to get in touch with people and country. There are more opportunities for daytrips than would fit in 3 weeks. Some of these places are run by expats from English speaking countries, so chances are good that you can find a place where you will be able to communicate easily with your hosts.

As you made it pretty clear that you do not waste half of your vacation in lines (which is an excellent idea, by the way), you may want to get rid of those "must sees".

It may be a futile task since it has been said here many, many times but having a relaxed vacation time, getting in touch with people does not mix well with the 5 countries in 12 days concept.

There is nothing wrong with doing the latter. Almost everybody seems to love it: big cities, crowded airports and train stations, worries about connections, having to be at certain places and certain times because the tour will start then, carrying luggage around.. holidays in paratrooper-style.
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Oct 18th, 2007, 02:16 AM
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I'm sorry, I didnt mean to say we had our hearts set on 5 countries in 12 days. My husband and I just sat down and made lists of where what places we'd like to see most. There's no pressure to see them all right now.

And yes, this will be both of our first trips out of the US. I know Spanish moderately well and my husband knows French moderately well.
4sarad is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 03:20 AM
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I think it is better to see one or two countries well than three or four poorly. To me travel is not about notches on a belt but learning a people and their culture. Since you have diligently saved once you can do it again. If this was going to be your only trip the attitude would be different.

So pick one country or a second that is close so that you are not spending a lot of time traveling. We have spent substantial amounts of time in Spain, Italy, and France and two weeks is just a start in each.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 03:24 AM
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Sorry forgot to add the following. Since we do not have children we have almost always traveled between May 15 to June 15 and Sept 15 to Oct 15.

Prices are just slightly cheaper, the crowds are thinner, the weather is fine, and very little that is closed.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 03:28 AM
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Maybe you can find ways to narrow down your choices.

For example:

You have Switzerland on your list, your husband Austria.
Both are, stating the obvious, Alpine countries. But, your husband knows French.
So, going to the Western (french-speaking) cantons of Switzerland gives you the landscapes you want to see plus the ability to communicate.

Cowboy1968 is online now  
Oct 18th, 2007, 05:07 AM
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I guess to avoid crowds you should go to places that tourists don't normally like. If a European asked the same question about traveling to the USA, I'd then suggest Kansas and North Dakota--they do have some lovely countryside and very few tourists. Not sure what would be the equivalent in Europe.
Jake1 is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 05:16 AM
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Hi 4,

Since France is, respectively, numbers 1 & 2, I suggest that you go there.

It would be a shame to skip Paris.

Is your $6000 in addition to airfare? If not, you might want to plan for 10 days instead of 2 weeks.

ira is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 10:04 AM
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In England, avoid London at any time of year.

The Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Peak District are all very quiet mid-week outside July and August.
Chris_England is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 10:28 AM
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You could do two trips with that budget, unless you plan to 4 star it the entire time. I would put your leftover budget in a cd for the next year's trip.

Yes it can be easier in an Engligh speaking country, but you both have time to bone up on your Spanish and French, so those are both really appealing choices. Attempting to converse with people in their language is a great opportunity to interact with locals.

From your description it sounds like spending all of your time in one concentrated area would be a good idea. Outside of large cities and major tourist destinations I don't think crowds will be a problem so you're halfway there.

You both want Italy and France--a good place to start, no?
yorkshire is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 11:26 AM
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Forget countries and think in regions. A good example is this 2 week trip in the Alps and lakes:
Berner Oberland[ Grindelwald]
Piemonte lakes [ Stresa]
Bavarian castle country
Salzkammergut[ Salzburg].
That makesa a great contigious itinerary in 4 countries but is still not much travel time.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 11:28 AM
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Oh yes, forgot to say you will need all of that $ 6000 for a 2 week trip with airfare.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 12:39 PM
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We took our first trip to Europe a couple summers ago - Germany and Austria. Regarding budget - not including airfare (we used FF miles) we spent about $3500.
J_Correa is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 12:58 PM
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France made the top three choices of both you and your husband, so obviously you should start there. And since you speak some Spanish, I'd suggest Spain also.

So my suggestions is to visit Paris and Barcelona, and rent a car to drive between the two, so you can visit the beautiful French countryside along the way.

Fly into Paris, then rent a car and drive to Orleans or Tours to visit the chateaux of the Loire Valley, then continue on to the Dordogne region for a few days before ending up in Barcelona (do an open jaw ticket). That would fill out two weeks easily, and would be a good mix of two great cities and lots of beautiful French countryside.
cheryllj is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 12:59 PM
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if that $6K includes airfare, I would not include Italy since flights there are expensive. I would go for either Spain or France since you each speak some of those languages. Go to the library, check out the latest guidebooks to both countries and start reading up so that you can get a feel for each. Then, you can come back here and ask more detailed questions in regions in your chosen country, and start working on an itinerary.
I would plan on a few days in one of the major cities of the country that you choose, then the rest of the time in the countryside - rent an apartment (you can find them at to get a feel for what lige there is like, rent a car so that you can travel around. Another good resource is Slow Travel - - and they have forums as well. Have fun, the planning and dreaming are part of the fun!
Momliz is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:31 PM
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ugghh - life, not lige - wish we could edit posts!
Momliz is offline  

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