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First Trip to Europe: Winter 2012
Jean
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I am currently planning my first trip to Europe. I’m going with a friend of mine, both of us are 19 years old and female. We’re going during the winter, arriving in England on December 16th and leaving Europe on January 7th, giving us a total of 23 days. We are interested in other cultures and hope to do a lot of sightseeing while also hitting up some of the local nightlife. This is our current schedule:

London, United Kingdom for 2 days
Amsterdam, Netherlands for 2 days
Venice, Italy for 2 days
Rome, Italy for 2 days
Barcelona, Spain for 2 days
South of France (staying in Montpellier, France) for 2 days
Zürich (or another city, we haven’t worked this one out yet), Switzerland for 2 days
Paris, France for 3 days
Dublin, Ireland for 3 days
London for 3 more days

It’s just a rough outline of where we want to spend the majority of our time, but I was hoping to see if anybody had suggestions? We’ve reworked our schedule a bunch of times and ended up removing Prague, Vienna, Scotland, and several different parts of Greece because it just didn’t fit into the short amount of time we have. Are we trying to fit in too much, or are we leaving out cities that we might enjoy more than those already listed?

I am leaving from United States with $2700 for 23 days
London, Amsterdam, Venice, Rome, Montpellier, Paris, Dublin, London
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Itinerary, Nightlife, Food, Sights
augustin25
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It looks too rushed with so many two day stops. Have you already bought your plane ticket? If not, consider purchasing a multi-city ticket where you fly into one city and home from another. The added cost (if any) is usually minimal and worth it to avoid backtracking. Three days in Dublin in winter is one thing that jumps out at me as something I’d rethink, and I’d give Rome more time.

oldlady
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Augustin25 is right … Too rushed and backtracking to London makes it worse. You’re covering huge distances on some of these legs. You’ll kill most of a day getting from London to Amsterdam, probably a whole day getting to Venice, 1/2 day getting to Rome, a full day getting to Barcelona, etc., etc. Do you really want to spend the better part of every other day getting packed and to the train station; on the train; finding, getting to, getting checked into a new hostel, getting oriented to a new city? Even flying takes a minimum of nearly 5 hours when you add time to get to/from airports and 2 hours check-in time to the flight and a flight in the middle of the day kills the entire day (particularly with the very short December days in much of Europe — check a globe, most of Europe is north of most of the US) for sight-seeing.

Pick a smaller geographic area and cut 2 cities.

Jean
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I went to a travel agent who showed me some Contiki tours that were 23 days long and covered 11 countries, but it looked unbearably rushed, so I decided that planning it on our own and cutting that number in half would be the way to go. Would it just be easier to go with a tour group, or am I right in thinking that it would be even more rushed, even with people taking us back and forth? We haven’t booked the plane tickets yet, so if it would be easier to leave from a different country and it wouldn’t cost too much more that should be easy to rework. I’m already rethinking Ireland because it’s something like $200 more for the Britrail+Ireland compared to the regular youth Britrail pass (because they don’t offer youth discounts for it), but we had really hoped to go. We have to go to France because we’re staying with a friend in Montpellier, and we originally planned just to go to England, France, Ireland, and Italy. I don’t know how I feel about removing Amsterdam, but would it be a lot more doable if we removed Switzerland and Ireland?

I am leaving from United States with $2700 for 23 days
London, Amsterdam, Venice, Rome, Montpellier, Paris, Dublin, London
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Itinerary, Nightlife, Food, Sights
oldlady
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Ireland is a member of the Eurail group so you can cover Ireland on a Eurail pass if you want, probably more cheaply than on a Britrail pass. The issue isn’t so much that they don’t offer a youth discount, it’s that there’s just one class (no 1st and 2nd class) of train service. I don’t see why you’d want a railpass for 3 days in Dublin or for your time in London. Point to point tickets will probably be cheaper than using a railpass for day trips — your travel agent probably didn’t mention that since they get a commission on rail passes (and Contiki tours) but obviously not if you buy train or bus tickets (bus is sometimes handier than train in Ireland) at the station in Europe. Check full cost of the railpass (including shipping and handling) with your travel agency and on a couple of websites. It’s usually cheapest to buy your railpass from this site’s railpass tab.

Contiki will cover more ground because you’ll spend most of your time on their bus “visiting” places on short stops or seeing the sights through the window of the moving bus. Their 11 country route probably counts Luxembourg and Monaco because you drive through them and is much more efficiently set up than your itinerary as you listed it here. Try putting an itinerary in the trip planner to look at it on a map.

Jean
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It’s in the trip planner, listed under “First Trip to Europe: Winter 2012” just like this board. I took out Switzerland and Spain and added those days elsewhere. You’re right about the Contiki tours, and that’s why I decided not to go with them. We’re hoping to use the night train as much as possible so that we can save money by not going to hostels on those nights and – most importantly – so we have more time during the day to see Europe. So hopefully those days that it’s going to take us to travel between places can partly be spent sleeping, so we won’t be losing too much time. It’s still a large geographical area, but we’ve cut out two places and now have much more time in each place.

I am leaving from United States with $2700 for 23 days
London, Amsterdam, Venice, Rome, Montpellier, Paris, Dublin, London
Requesting help with Transport, Hostels, Budget, Itinerary, Nightlife, Food, Sights
augustin25
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Where are you leaving from in the U.S.? I’m sure we can find a reasonably priced multi-city plane ticket that will make things easier for you.

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Night trains do save time, but for the budget traveler using a railpass they usually don’t save much, if any,money. Reservations (not covered by a railpass) are required on overnight trains. A berth in a 6 berth couchette costs about the same as a bed in a hostel dorm — and is usually much less comfortable. Some overnight trains have slightly cheaper reclining seats which probably may save a few euros. There are sometimes good specials available on ticket and reservation for overnight trains from the individual national rail company websites which can be significantly cheaper than using a day of a rail pass and buying a reservation.

Further, too many overnight trains can be exhausting. I limit to about 1 overnight train or intra-Europe flight a wee — definitely not more than 2 in any 5 day period. You often don’t get a good night’s sleep on the train and arriving in a strange city at morning rush hour can be disorienting. Sometimes it’s surprisingly hard to find breakfast and a place to stash your pack. You won’t be able to check into your hostel until mid-afternoon — a real bummer if you desperately want a shower and a nap.

Look at cheap flights for long legs like Amsterdam to Venice (15 to 20 hours by train) and Rome to Montpelier (20 to 24 hours). Flights will also be much faster than the train and probably noticeably cheaper to/from Dublin. Time is about the same by train or plane from London to Amsterdam, but a flight may be cheaper.

Verita
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well, i don’t know why are you freaking out, Europe is save and yes, some places are expensive but if you are willing to digg more you will fins that every country is affordable. For example Madrid is considered to be one of the priciest cities in the world but you can in a hostel, like Zabala hostel you will have to spend only 20 bucks for a night i don’t think its a lot of money. the same is about food, digg deaper, ask locals)))