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22 replies
3 Weeks in Western Europe
desilva
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Hi Everyone,

We are thinking about a 3-week trip to Europe in August 2011 and wanted to start planning early. I’ll be traveling with my wife (we both are 25 yrs old) and have sketched a rough itinerary using the trip planner.

Tentative Plan

We are hoping we’ll be able to spend around $4000-$5000 (excluding airfair) and basically want to hit the big cities. We are looking forward to traveling from train most of the time but would like to drive through France, from Paris to Nice, if it is viable. It’s still very early to say anything for sure but would really love to plan this well ahead. Hostels would be ideal as we are both still students but would prefer private rooms. Please let us know if the trip I’ve sketched above is practical for 3 weeks. I’ve left 5 days for traveling from city to city. What would be the best rail pass to take? Is the budget enough. We’d really like some personal experiences, for eg, which hostels to book, which routes to take, etc. This might be a once in a life time trip for us so we’d like to cover as much as we can. Is there any other attractions that we can add to this list along these routes? We really appreciate any advise we can get on getting this right.

Thanks.

-De Silva

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clevelandbrown
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I would suggest Florence in place of Pisa. There is much more of cultural significance in Florence (David, for example) than in Pisa, which is an easy half-day trip from Florence by train.

Milan doesn’t seem to be very popular, other than for the fashion industry and the opera house and the last supper (which requires a lot of planning to get in to see). I might suggest Venice in its place, or just skipping it (nine major destinations in 21 days is quite a lot; you could possibly save a day by flying into London and home from Amsterdam (a multiple destination ticket, in airline web-site parlance).

Lucerne is lovely, but you will have to get out of town to see many mountains. Perhaps a day trip to Lauterbrunnen or Mt. Rigi. There is a popular hostel above Lauterbrunnen that has great views. http://www.mountainh…

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desilva
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Thanks clevelandbrown,

Yeah, I agree. I admit I have no idea yet on what cities to travel except I know that it would be nice to see all these big European cities at least once. So, I’ve removed Milan and Pisa and added Florence and Venice to the map. However, I see that Pisa is en-route to Florence (am I correct). I just want to see the leaning tower if it is possible along the way. The thing is, we are not thinking of spending too much time in one place but rather see these important monuments at least once and move on (except for driving through France (which I’ve always fantasized) and may be a small half-a-day hiking trip on a beautiful swiss alps trail).

Anyway, I checked that Lauterbrunnen hostel website and it looks awesome. It would be nice to do a little hiking in the swiss alps if time permits. Anyway, if you have some experience, would you let me know what sort of transportation I should use? I mean, I’d like to get the maximum out of a rail pass and drive around a bit (especially through France). It seems it’ll be really awesome drive around Lucerne and the place you’ve mentioned above. Is it possible to drive from Venice to Lucerne? What sort of a combination (train pass, car rental) I should think about? OK, this is what I’m thinking.

Salt Lake City -> [Fly] London -> [Eurostar train] Paris -> [Drive] Nice -> [Train] Florence -> [Train] Rome -> [Train] Venice -> [Drive] -> Lucern and surrounding alps -> [Train] -> Munich -> [Train] Amsterdam -> [Fly] Salt Lake City

Anyway, thanks so much for your input. Seems like I’ll be changing a lot in this itinerary as expert advice comes in Smile

—De Silva

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Quote:
We are looking forward to traveling from train most of the time but would like to drive through France, from Paris to Nice, if it is viable.
it’s definitely viable, and I’d do it if I were spending a couple of weeks exploring the French countryside and if I had a bigger budget. I wouldn’t do it on a three week whirlwind big city trip on your budget. Train will be much faster just getting from A to B. When you add all the time you’ll spend renting, picking up, returning the car, and the significant extra time getting to/from central cities, driving will kill more than a day. Train is only 6 hours, or you can take an overnight train. Renting a car will also cost more than the train — especially if you are big enough and have enough gear that you can’t comfortably travel in a standard transmission ultra mini smart car (which I wouldn’t drive on French highways and backroads in any case).

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I hate to be that guy who interjects the fly in the ointment, but you may want to consider the fact that the big cities in Europe will be around for far longer than the small cities. Meaning, London and Paris and Rome will be around for hundreds of years still (they’re huge and established), while the small towns that truly retain regional charm will likely be swallowed up by tourism and/or suburbs in the next several decades. It’s happened to dozens of once-glorious European destinations, and it will undoubtedly happen again.

Now, I’m not being a Negative Nancy at all here; true, this journey to Europe may indeed be a once-in-a-lifetime trip…but only if you choose so. Throughout your life you will assuredly have other opportunities for vacations, and there’s nothing keeping you from choosing Europe again. I’m simply making the case for visiting some of the smaller, more fragile cities now rather than later, and saving the big ones for another day because you know they’ll still be the same (trust me—nobody’s planning on razing the Eiffel Tower or Tower Bridge any time soon in favor of condominium development…though I can’t say the same for many of the smaller, lesser-known, equally fantastic sights in Europe).

That said, I actually think you’ve picked some great cities to see. Just don’t set them in stone yet: dig around and you may find some destinations between places that deserve more than just an afternoon visit!

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I also like the idea of visiting smaller cities and even tiny villages, although because I think it makes a more enjoyable trip not because I am worried (maybe I should be??!!) that the charming smaller cities will disappear. I also much prefer Eastern Europe to Western Europe. However, most first timers seem to want to do the classic 10 Western capital cities in 21 days thing.

I like Nice and I love the general area of Provence, Alpes Maritime, Riviera, but it’s not necessarily a great visit depending on 1) what you’re expecting, 2) your interests 3) how long you’re there. Why did you include Nice in your itinerary?

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I don’t know the train routing from Nice to Florence, but I would guess Pisa is on the way. One problem with a short stop enroute is that baggage storage facilities are becoming rare, so you end up hauling your bags around. It might be more comfortable to leave your bags at where you are staying and take the short train ride to Pisa and back. The Cathedral in Pisa is also nice, so there are two things to see there, but it can easily be done in a part day. I think a bus might even be less costly, but I’ve not done that.

Because of my travel style (we usually stay in one place at least a week) I find public transportation (mostly trains) best. In instances when I want to get out in the countryside, our practice has been to take a train or bus, then rent a bicycle, but I may have to revise that as we are growing old. Train passes is an incredibly complicated subject and to get a good answer you have to have your itinerary planned, then compare point to point tickets with all of the various passes. I haven’t rented a car in years; all I know is that the cost is much higher if you pick it up in one country and drop it off in another. I would take a train from Venice to Lucerne so you can watch the scenery, not the road. And many of the mountain villages in Switzerland don’t allow cars, so you have to pay for parking, then pay for a train or lift to get to the village. Take a look at http://www.sbb.ch/ (switch it to English if I got the German version) and see what they offer for travel from Luzern to Gimmelwald, for example. It includes a train, bus, lift, and even a little walking if I recall.

I would suggest you leave some space in your itinerary; it changes even while you are there as you find stuff you didn’t know about.

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desilva
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Thanks so much everyone for the insights. My account was locked for two days so I’m sorry I couldn’t post here during that time.

regancannon wrote:
I hate to be that guy who interjects the fly in the ointment, but you may want to consider the fact that the big cities in Europe will be around for far longer than the small cities. Meaning, London and Paris and Rome will be around for hundreds of years still (they’re huge and established), while the small towns that truly retain regional charm will likely be swallowed up by tourism and/or suburbs in the next several decades. It’s happened to dozens of once-glorious European destinations, and it will undoubtedly happen again.

regancannon, I totally appreciate what you are saying and we’d love to explore the small towns, cities and the countryside in europe and take time to appreciate the rural beauty. However, the point is, my wife and I are graduate students in USA and once we are done with our studies, we’ll probably be heading back home. Once that happens, we can’t be sure if we’ll be able to make this trip again (I guess there is nothing like traveling during the peak of your youth and little or no responsibilities you have to worry about). Anyway, we have allocated three days for the Paris to Nice drive which we believe would serve the purpose of exploring the countryside in France (also, there are still 5 unscheduled days that we’ve left aside, just to be flexible, so it seems we can take a few more days to explore those small towns, villages and truly enjoy it in leisure while driving from Paris to Nice). I’ve also found some resources that lay out some of the scenic routes from Paris to Nice and we can put in a good part of our three weeks to that section (say 4-6 days max) while cutting corners from other places as more advice from you good people pour in. Also, as you’ve mentioned, we haven’t set these destinations in stone yet and are very much open to ideas from you guys. Hopefully, once we are done with all the planning, we’ll be left with an awesome itinerary with a mix of rural beauty and the glamor of big cities.

oldlady wrote:
I like Nice and I love the general area of Provence, Alpes Maritime, Riviera, but it’s not necessarily a great visit depending on 1) what you’re expecting, 2) your interests 3) how long you’re there. Why did you include Nice in your itinerary?

Thanks for your reply and helping me out with my blocked account issue earlier. Well, to answer your question, I don’t have a steadfast reason for visiting Nice except that 1) I watched all of Rick Steve’s Europe tour videos and loved the sceneries in Provence, Nice and 2) I found that it can be reached en-route to Florence and Rome from Paris, so, thought of giving a try. Personal encounters too, tells me that Nice is such a “Nice” place to visit Smile

clevelandbrown wrote:
And many of the mountain villages in Switzerland don’t allow cars

Thanks for the info. So, I’m just wondering…what is the best way to explore areas around Swiss mountain villages? You seem to suggest trains are the best. But I thought (admitting I know nothing about this area at all) that would limit my traveling only to the areas surrounding train stations (or is it the case that areas around train stations are more than enough for this journey and gives us best value for our time and money?) And yes, as you’ve pointed out, we have 5 unscheduled days (as I’ve put in the trip planner link) so that we can use that time to plan somethings as we go by.

I also have another question (which I don’t think exactly suits this forum, but will ask it anyway) about airfares from Salt Lake City to Europe. As I have it now, I was thinking of starting from London and leaving back home from Amsterdam. I was also hoping that $2000 would be enough (for two people) to cover the roundtrip airfare from USA to Europe. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’ve checked ticket prices and the least I could do (with this plan) is around $2600. Should I be thinking of something else? A few choices I’m thinking about now is reversing this itinerary (start from Amsterdam and end in London) but that doesn’t seem to significantly improve anything. Is this whole multiple destinations air travel a bad thing? Should I be thinking about going to one airport (say in Paris) and departing from the same airport when heading home? In that case, does anyone have an idea to which airports I’d be able to find the cheapest airfares? (of course that could mean significant changes to the itinerary too). Or else, we don’t mind spending $2600 or more for airfares if we could handle all the other expenses (train tickets, hostels, food, renting a car from Paris to Nice, etc) with the remaining budget. (the total budget we are planning is around $6000 so that leaves us $3400-$3500 after the airfares if we decide to go ahead with the current ticket prices). Of course, worse comes to worst, we could save a couple of grand more (say $7000-$8000 total budget) if most of you suggest that it’s worth the money (of course that would mean sticking to basic survival techniques on our graduate student stipend for the next 8 months and saving money for the trip Wink)

As always, your ideas are very much appreciated. I guess part of the excitement in going to Europe is planning the trip itself.

Thanks again to everyone.

—De Silva

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Pisa has a left luggage office so you can stop there, stow your bags, go see the tower, and then catch a train elsewhere easily. I just did this in June.

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Quote:
I also have another question (which I don’t think exactly suits this forum, but will ask it anyway) about airfares from Salt Lake City to Europe. As I have it now, I was thinking of starting from London and leaving back home from Amsterdam. I was also hoping that $2000 would be enough (for two people) to cover the roundtrip airfare from USA to Europe. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’ve checked ticket prices and the least I could do (with this plan) is around $2600.
For August $1,300 for SLC is pretty good, but spend some time on our “cheap flights” forum reading the sticky’s and old posts. Sign up for fare alerts, look into consolidators, etc. As for your open jaw ticket, from a time standpoint, Paris is really very close to either London or Amsterdam. Look into flying into London, Paris or Amsterdam and out of Rome — that’s the itinerary where an open jaw will save lots of time. In many cases a round trip ticket is not enough cheaper than an open jaw to pay the cost of getting back to your departure point.

IMO, visiting 10 major cities that are fairly scattered around Europe in 21 days is not a good trip. You need to cut to 7 or 8. Cut to 7 or less if it’s the classic 21 day flight as that’s overnight flight on day 1, arriving sleep deprived, jet lagged and culture shocked on day 2 (meaning don’t plan much for day 2). Day 21 will be entirely taken up with your flight home (most flights from Europe to the US leave in the morning) and day 20 could be lost to getting to your departure city. That leaves around 18 days to actually see and do anything. Paris, London and Rome each need 3 full days (preferably 4). Plan on an average of 3 days per city and don’t plan more than 1 one-night-stand per week. Packing up and moving on every day and losing 1/2 of the day to transportation is a trip ruiner. Even with 2 night stays, moving on every other day and losing 1/2 of every other day to transportation gets old sometime around then end of week 1.

As I said, I love Provence and the Alpes Maritime, but with your time constraints you’ll be hard pressed to do anything except hit the promenade. I’d seriously look at skipping it and flying to Italy — arrange your trip around the cheapest flight you can find from any of your other stops to any of the places you want to visit in Italy.

One final bit of unsolicited advice… Do not plan this as a once-in-a-lifetime-trip. If you enjoy it you WILL find a way to get back to Europe. Plan a reasonable trip.

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Thanks so much for the reply. I’ll be seriously thinking about your advice and will post again once I have a revised plan.

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I think Switzerland has the best public transportation in the world. It includes trains, postal busses, lifts, and even boats. And their timing is impeccable. When you have a connection, you often only have about 5 minutes to change. I have yet to find anyplace in Switzerland. and I’ve been to some pretty remote places, that I could not reach using public transportation. Some people prefer driving so they can stop and view the scenery, but I’m the driver on our trips, and I focus very intently on the road (many of them are very narrow and very near the edge of the mountain) so I would see less scenery than on a bus.

Visit http://www.rigi.ch/e…
Mt Rigi is an exceptionally scenic peak convenient to Luzern. On their site they show the ways to get there from Luzern: train, boat, or car, then a train up the mountain. Personally, I’d pick the boat; there is nothing like riding one of those old steamers and seeing the villages along the lake.

As to multiple destination fares, my experience is the cost is equal to half the round trip fare ticket to your destination, added to half the round trip fare from your departure to home. Seems fare to me.

You can keep looking for lower fares, and perhaps you will get lucky. But the general rule is that fares, and other costs of a European trip, are highest in July and August because everyone is on vacation (including many of the workers at a restaurant you might want to eat at). If you could move your trip up to April or May, or back to September or October, you could anticipate lower costs.

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I have yet to find anyplace in Switzerland. and I’ve been to some pretty remote places, that I could not reach using public transportation.
According to Jay Brunhouse’s Traveling Europe’s Trains over 1/2 of the Swiss population lives within a KM of a train station and 97% of Swiss households are within 1 KM of a public transit stop — pretty amazing when you think how remote some of the residences are.

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I would not be in a hurry to book a $1300 fare for August right now. It’s in keeping with what we’ve seen for the last couple of years, so it’s not terrible, but that fare will be there for quite a while. Echoing oldlady, check the cheap flights forum regularly, and sign up for fare alerts. You just might find a summer sale once they hit.

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Hi Everyone,

Thanks so much for your feedback. I’ve had a long talk with a colleague who has been to Europe twice (each time for a month) and here I’m putting in some of the ideas/experiences he left me with.

So, the first time, he used to do a lot of traveling by trains. He said he traveled between major cities using the eurail pass and in each of these cities, he and his family rented a car to explore the surrounding areas for two or three days. Also, he seems to have traveled the cities/countries that overlap with the itinerary that I’ve planned. On the second time he went to Europe, he has done it entirely using a rented car. Having traveled to all the major cities during the first time, he said he was able to move into the remote areas and cover the same amount of distance as the first time, but this time giving more emphasis to rural cities/villages and the countryside. Also, he seems to think that both times, there weren’t a significant difference between the cost, although admitting that the fuel prices/tolls can be a stumbling block if the distance traveled gets a little too high.

So, after taking all your suggestions and my friend’s experiences, I’ve changed the plan once again. Between my last post and this one, I’ve come to know the following facts.

I’ve talked to a travel agent and they said I should be able to get a round-trip ticket to Paris for $1200-$1250. Also, I’ve come to know that schengen visa does not cover UK. So, considering these facts and taking some of the suggestions by oldlady, we’ve decided to omit London and Amsterdam from the tour (now it’s around 8 major cities with small cities in between). What we plan now is to start the trip from Paris and end it from Paris too. As can be seen from the travel planner, the route is: Paris -> Nice -> [through Florence] Rome -> Venice -> Swiss alps -> Fussen -> [through the romantic road] Wurzburg -> Paris

We want your help in deciding between the two options. That is, 1) take trains to these major cities and rent a car in each city to explore for two three days (we can return the car to the same location), OR 2) rent/lease a car from Paris, drive the entire trip (I’m not sure whether it’s even possible if there are ferries, etc) and return to Paris. If we are doing the second option, I have the following google map that I’ve plotted if anyone is interested in commenting on it.

Map of the entire route

This entire route is about 4000km (may be a few hundred kilometers to veer off to sides), and from the following article, I get the impression that expenses for a roadtrip (car rental, fuel, tolls, etc) will not be significantly different from that of using public transport for the entire trip (eurail pass, buses, etc) (by significant, I mean at least a difference of $1000). Admittedly, the article lays out an experience in 2003, but I find that fuel prices are still in the same range. Also, that’s like traveling 200km a day, which I believe is not that terrible (correct me if I’m wrong).

Cost for renting/leasing a car

It seems like two more people would be joining the trip. If that happens, I guess the costs could be reduced a little bit more (in sharing the rental cost etc). If that happens, I’m inclined to do the roadtrip since we can take turns in driving as well. One other reason that my friend gave, which makes me lean a little bit into the driving option is that, he said, sometimes your schedule can be constrained by the travel times of your bus or train. For eg: if you want to travel to a few castles in Bavaria, it seems that there are buses that take you to the castle, stay for a while and come back. So, if you want to see a bit more during that day, you won’t be able to since you are constrained by the travel time of these tours.

So, how does all these fit in? What can you guys say about these two options? I’ve cut down the number of major cities to about 7-8. Hopefully, this route is doable within the time frame.

clevelandbrown wrote:
Mt Rigi is an exceptionally scenic peak convenient to Luzern. On their site they show the ways to get there from Luzern: train, boat, or car, then a train up the mountain. Personally, I’d pick the boat; there is nothing like riding one of those old steamers and seeing the villages along the lake.

Thanks for the info. You seem to be an expert on swiss alps Smile. The sceneries are awesome, even from pictures. Can’t wait to go there.

oldlady wrote:
According to Jay Brunhouse’s Traveling Europe’s Trains over 1/2 of the Swiss population lives within a KM of a train station and 97% of Swiss households are within 1 KM of a public transit stop — pretty amazing when you think how remote some of the residences are.

That’s an awesome statistic. I wish the transportation is that good in my country too Smile

augustin25 wrote:
I would not be in a hurry to book a $1300 fare for August right now. It’s in keeping with what we’ve seen for the last couple of years, so it’s not terrible, but that fare will be there for quite a while

Thanks. As I’ve mentioned above, a travel agent said that I could get a decent price even a little later. So, I’m not rushing in to it as I was before.

So, everyone, let me know what you think of the above two options. I’ve made that google map public so I guess anyone should be able to edit it and add good ideas to it Smile

Thanks,

-De Silva

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You are right in noting that renting or leasing a car for a group can improve the cost comparison with public transportation, but I think the article you cite is from a trip in 2003, so you should get more up to date data. Gas in Germany now is just under 1.5 euro per liter, for example.

Also, with four adults, you will probably need a larger car. I think virtually all entry level rentals have four seats, but have space for only two pieces of luggage. One of our neighbors in Munich had a rental, but he had had to get a larger one for two adults and two children, just to carry their luggage. Of course, I have seen 32 clowns getting out of a very small car, but they didn’t have much luggage! You can go to a travel site like Orbitz to get up to date information on the costs of renting various cars; I don’t know where to look for leasing information.

And the convenience of having a car outside the cities has to be evaluated against the inconvenience of driving in a crowded city, and with strange laws, and with parking being limited and expensive. And I think more and more Americans don’t know how to drive a standard transmission (automatics are less common and I think cost more), much less negotiate a travel circle.

I think the constraints of public transportation are largely exaggerated. When we stayed in Munich, I wanted to see both of Ludwigs castles. So I wanted to get there early. I was constrained to going on a weekend, but only because the super cheap train ticket I bought was valid all day on the weekends, but only after 0900 on weekdays. When we got to Fussen, there was about a 15 minute wait to the bus (some people avoid this by taking a cab). When we finished, we got onto a bus; if we had missed that bus, we would have taken the next. When we got to Fussen, we got onto the train; if we had missed that, we would have gotten on the next train. We did actually skip a cable car and luge run we had planned on, but that was because we were tired, not because of any constraints imposed by public transportation.

I think you will save some money by returning the car where you rented it; but you will be giving up some sightseeing time, too. Because of the severe penalties imposed on discount ticket holders when they miss their flight, I would suggest returning to Paris a day early, so you can be certain to get to the airport on time.

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clevelandbrown wrote:
And the convenience of having a car outside the cities has to be evaluated against the inconvenience of driving in a crowded city, and with strange laws, and with parking being limited and expensive. And I think more and more Americans don’t know how to drive a standard transmission (automatics are less common and I think cost more), much less negotiate a travel circle.

Thanks for that detailed reply. So, after reading that I get the feeling you are essentially saying that we should explore a hybrid scheme (I mean, public transportation plus renting). Am I correct? But if you had to choose between driving that entire route for three weeks with four people and taking public transportation methods, what would you go for? I’m still in a bit of confusion of how to plan this. If you have the time, would you kindly look at the google map I’ve posted in the previous post and let me know what sort of a travel method you’d use for each of those portions between cities? That would really help. I guess it’s a little too much to ask but I’d really appreciate if you could tell me in detail how you would cover those cities I’ve plotted.

Just to add something, I’m not from America and ever since I remember, I’ve only driven cars with standard transmission. So, guess that’s not a problem.

Thanks again.

-De Silva

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I think a hybrid scheme of public transportation and car might work well, though it seems like a car would be more expensive. For Paris, Nice, Rome, Florence, and Venice (no cars in Venice anyways if you want to stay on the island) you will not need or want a car; in fact it will be a HUGE hassle in any of these countries. Trains in Italy are very cheap if you take regional trains so you will definitely not save any more there. The train ride from Paris to Nice is only 5 hours (or an overnight) and can be very cheap with advance purchase. Of course, I understand you may want to take some days to travel from Paris to Nice, but I would ditch the car once in Nice and not use one in Italy at all. I can’t speak for Germany or Switz since I have not been there.

I understand the appeal of having a car, and having rented one in Europe myself, it was very convenient. However, I was in Croatia where there was limited trains and very long and unreliable bus rides. We needed a car to get from point A to Point B quickly and to visit my friend’s family who were not in a major city. And in the end, it cost us more money than public transportation. For at least the France/Italy portion of the trip, trains are going to be much easier for you and probably cheaper as well, especially if you buy point to point tickets in advance. There will be many times and routes for you to chose from.

You seem really organized for this trip, which is awesome. You have plenty of time to work these details out!

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The original criteria were:
1. A short time frame
2. A desire to visit only major cities
3. A (depending on what it really includes) very limited budget for 2
4. A preference for the train
5. 2 people

Renting a car “does not compute.” For this western, city-oriented itinerary a car will take longer and cost more — resources that it appears Desilva doesn’t have.

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DreamingOfItaly wrote:
I think a hybrid scheme of public transportation and car might work well, though it seems like a car would be more expensive. …….You seem really organized for this trip, which is awesome. You have plenty of time to work these details out!

Thanks DreamingOfItaly,

Yes, I think I now realize doing this entire trip on a rented car is out of topic. But I’m sort of firm on the drive from Paris to Nice (even if it takes a couple of days extra). After all these suggestions, I guess I’ll be doing the rest of planning with a rented car + train pass scheme on mind. I’ve learned a lot during these few days and have come to know of so many different places I can visit and it’s too hard to make decisions. Smile

This discussion now seems to be getting more inclined towards “Transport” issues rather than “Favorite places” issues. So, I guess I should probably move the discussion to the “Transport” forum, provided I can finalize and come to a conclusion that the cities I’ve planned are capable of being traversed within three weeks. So if you guys can please comment on the following route (whether it’s doable or not, irrespective of the transportation), that’d be really helpful.

Paris -> Nice -> Rome -> Venice -> Swiss Alps -> Fussen to Wurzburg (romantic road) -> Paris

oldlady wrote:
The original criteria were:
1. A short time frame
2. A desire to visit only major cities
3. A (depending on what it really includes) very limited budget for 2
4. A preference for the train
5. 2 people

Renting a car “does not compute.” For this western, city-oriented itinerary a car will take longer and cost more — resources you don’t have.

Thanks for the response.

The original criteria were:
1. A short time frame [yes, this is still the case]
2. A desire to visit only major cities [yes, but I’ve already removed some cities taking your suggestions into account and I believe you were also endorsing the idea of visiting smaller cities rather than a whirlwind ride across the big cities.]
3. A very limited budget for 2 [Again true, but I believe I mentioned that with some prudent spending, we’ll be able to save a couple of grand more if needed]
4. A preference for the train [Yes, I think I started having confused thoughts after the discussion with my colleague who did the whole trip in a rented car. My bad. I admit I should stick to the trains/public-transport most of the time]
5. 2 people [well, things change. Ever since I’ve mentioned the idea to some of my friends, two of them really showed interest in joining, which is why I brought it up]

Anyway, I guess the whole idea of planning this is to get suggestions from those who’ve been there before us and mold that plan accordingly. So, I’d assume original criteria are there only to serve as a starting point but things get shaped up as we get suggestions/experiences from you people.

Hopefully, I can make up my mind on these places and if needed, get help from the “Transport” forum on getting between each of these places.

Again, thanks to everyone who replied.

-De Silva

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I think your latest revision is workable, but also am not clear what you want to see. Is this just an overview of places to see if you will want to return, or is it the one time in your life that you will see these places? My wife and I spent four days in Normandy and two weeks in Paris, and didn’t get to see everything we wanted to. Rome similarly can take a couple of weeks. And traveling through the countryside of France is best enjoyed slowly. Venice is smaller, but warrants at least two days, if not more.

I’m pretty open about preferring trains, mostly for reasons that may apply only to me. But a car can have its place.

I would offer this suggestion regarding your routing. Spend a few days on arrival in Paris to recover from the flight and see some sights. Then take a train to somewhere in the countryside, and rent a car there to visit the countryside on the way to Nice. Return the car at Nice and take a train to Florence/Pisa. Rome is a major destination and I don’t want to say don’t see Rome, but it is a bit out of the way considering the rest of your itinerary and how much time you have, and you will be really rushed if you include it; save it for another trip. From Venice, take a train to Gimmelwald and stay in the mountain hostel. Then take a train to Luzern and spend a few days there. I don’t know the best way to get to Fussen from Luzern; probably bus or train. In Fussen, see the local sights by bus, but a car is best for the Romantic Road. I’d then take a train back to Paris and spend a few more days there; by then you will want to know what else you want to see in Paris and what you want to revisit. You will also be well positioned for your flight home.

Incidentally, I haven’t stayed in a hostel in the last 45 years, but I believe they are not just for young people. Many families use them, and some of them have a few private rooms. They are a good place to talk to Europeans, as are trains.

Enjoy your trip, however it turns out.

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clevelandbrown wrote:
I think your latest revision is workable, but also am not clear what you want to see. Is this just an overview of places to see if you will want to return, or is it the one time in your life that you will see these places?

I think you’ve understood exactly what I’m looking for. I mean, this could very well be a once in a life time trip (My wife and I are two PhD students doing our studies in USA (but we are not American). Once that is over, we have plans to return to our home country and who knows if we’ll get the chance to do such a trip). So, yes, this is an overview of what we want to see (again, I admit I don’t know much about Europe, except that from everything we see/hear, it seems like an awesome part of the world to visit at least once, and we want to do it while we are here). If you ask the MUST SEE places for me, I’d say the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Vatican/Sistine chapel, Colosseum etc, Venice, Places around Swiss alps and Castles along the way of romantic road. Everything else is open to changes I guess.

clevelandbrown wrote:
I would offer this suggestion regarding your routing. Spend a few days on arrival in Paris to recover from the flight and see some sights. Then take a train to somewhere in the countryside, and rent a car there to visit the countryside on the way to Nice. Return the car at Nice and take a train to Florence/Pisa. Rome is a major destination and I don’t want to say don’t see Rome, but it is a bit out of the way considering the rest of your itinerary and how much time you have, and you will be really rushed if you include it; save it for another trip. From Venice, take a train to Gimmelwald and stay in the mountain hostel. Then take a train to Luzern and spend a few days there. I don’t know the best way to get to Fussen from Luzern; probably bus or train. In Fussen, see the local sights by bus, but a car is best for the Romantic Road. I’d then take a train back to Paris and spend a few more days there; by then you will want to know what else you want to see in Paris and what you want to revisit. You will also be well positioned for your flight home.

This sounds awesome. Exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Now, I can move this to the “Transport” forum, if needed, to get specifics about traveling between each of the destinations and other details.

Thanks so much. Smile

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If anyone from this thread is interested in helping me out to decide the point-to-point transportation issues, I’ve moved this discussion to the “Transport” thread and the link is below.

http://www.eurotrip.com/content/western-europe-point-point-transportation

Thanks for your support.

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