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One Year to Plan for 3 Weeks in Europe
kwedell
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Hello-

My sister will graduate college in May 2012 and we plan to take a 3 week trip to Europe before she enters the real world. She will be 22 and I will be 26. I am posting for help in planning a trip as I don’t want to try to do too much, but would love to see some great places. Given 2 days for travel, we have 19 days for seeing the sights. I have been told to give each major location about 3 days. The only must we have decided on is Italy, other than that we are open to suggestions!

About us- we are both very out going females and enjoy trying just about anything. I would love to work in some cool hikes/ nature activites and some beach time along with exploring some of the classic European cities. Since my sister just graduated, and I will only have a year and half out of grad school under my belt, we are both looking to do the traditional cheaper vacation. That being said, we are open to a few splurges.

Soooo- if you have any must-see suggestions or past itineraries, I would love to see them! Any input would be greatly appreciated! I am starting to plan now to ensure we book everything with plenty of time to spare! Thanks!

oldlady
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Try Slovenia and Croatia for hiking and beaches. Gorgeous mountain scenery (and a small bit of scenic Adriatic coast and beaches) in Slovenia with great hiking trails to waterfalls, lakes and through gorges. Croatia has wonderful beaches. Both have scenic villages and pleasant, friendly, smaller cities. Both are very easy to get around speaking only English — Slovenia perhaps a bit easier. Both would be somewhat cheaper and, IMO, much friendlier than the traditional beaches in France and Italy and hiking/scenery in Switzerland (very expensive) and Austria.

clevelandbrown
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If you can go in May, you will save a bit because a lot of prices go up in the summer months.

Two days for travel may be too little. I plan a travel day for each change of location, so I you go to five places, you’ll probably use five days for transportation. You can save some time, and maybe some money, by getting a multi-destination (also known as open-jaw) flight, where you arrive in one place, but come back from another).

There is a lot of nice scenery in Europe, but there is nice scenery everywhere; to me what makes a trip to Europe interesting is the history and culture you find. You can find a nice beach in California, Florida, or even Ohio, but you can find the Mona Lisa only in Paris.

Just to give you a few ideas, many Americans like to see London; Amsterdam is nice, but you will be a bit late for tulip displays; Paris is great. In Italy, I didn’t like Rome as much because I’m not into antiquities and its a big busy crowded city, but still its worth some time. I would recommend some time in Florence, visiting nearby Pisa, and also in Cinqe Terre, some very scenic villages on hills overlooking mediterannean beaches; good scenery, good hiking, good everything. We also liked Venice, in the same general area. There are a lot of other great places, but you would be well advised to limit this first trip to a few places; too many nice places in a short trip can be tiring and unproductive.

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kwedell
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Thanks so much for your suggestions and sample plans- I like your point about wanting to see the unique aspects of Europe that you can’t get in the US. I’ve been to London and Paris so those are not really “must dos” at this point. Definitely have lots to consider- I’ll be in touch!

luv_the_beach
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clevelandbrown wrote:
There is a lot of nice scenery in Europe, but there is nice scenery everywhere; to me what makes a trip to Europe interesting is the history and culture you find. You can find a nice beach in California, Florida, or even Ohio, but you can find the Mona Lisa only in Paris.

But you might find a beach town in Europe far more unique and rewarding than seeing the Mona Lisa…unless you just have to see the ML just to tell folks back home that you saw it.

kwedell wrote:
Thanks so much for your suggestions and sample plans- I like your point about wanting to see the unique aspects of Europe that you can’t get in the US.

My two cents on this subject:

Believe me, I’m all for doing uniquely European things, and I someone got into it with me for ridiculing a newbie’s decision for wanting to go to an amusement park and “dining in the dark”…generic things you can certainly find in American suburbia.

But once you actually get to Europe you’ll realize that there’s much more that’s unique to Europe than just the museums and famous sights. By all means, do work these “must-sees” into your itinerary. But a beach in California or Florida isn’t the same as a beach in Europe…or at least I can speak from a Southern European experience, where I’ve spent most of my time in Europe.

I’ve been to beaches in Florida and California and Maine, and yes….physically beaches are beaches. But even beaches have a cultural aspect to them. Especially in Florida, and [sadly] almost the entire Caribbean and more and more of Mexico’s coasts, it’s kind of like…gorgeous places, but from a social/cultural perspective, it’s like, “hey we have a beautiful beach! tourists, you’re welcome to come and stay here! we’ll create a little-American suburb so you can come and spend money here!!”.

Whereas in Mediterranean Europe, you experience summer on their terms (if you do it right, and avoid places overrun by Northern Europeans like Benidorm in Spain, or Kavos and Faliraki in Greece)…so you certainly get a cultural experience even on a beach. Rather than an isolated resort near a strip of makeshift-looking bars where the only locals you encounter are the ones that work at your resort or are trying to sell you things…in South Europe you actually have charming little coastal towns (yes, sometimes they’ve grown into cities where the original village has become the historic city-centre), and you have architecture, and late-night all fresco restaurants dining with the smartly-dressed locals…and you can walk into a bakery where locals buy their bread, and you can do all that stuff…and taking siestas in the afternoon, before heading out to the beach for a second time in the same day [and everything is walkable distance]…and train/bus/car rides between small towns, past olive groves, vineyards, and orange groves, on a super-sunny afternoon with the loud cicadas everywhere…these are the priceless Mediterranean summer experiences I’ve had as a little kid, and then as a teenager, and now as an adult, and which I always look forward to on my next trip back to the region. There’s something to these beaches that’s unique, and the average Let’s Go backpacker who just does Mona Lisa-Prado-Colosseum misses out on these experiences that I’m very fond of, and then complains that Rome/Madrid was too hot/busy/whatever. There’s something about walking around old, scenic, and walkable beach towns (some of which might be perched on a cliff!), where you’ll stumble across a mom-and-pop ice cream shop, then walk past a beautiful church facing a square (and whose church bells go off every hour)…a gossipy old woman on her balcony is chatting with another gossipy old woman down below, whose got a little shopping cart with her filled with fresh fruits and vegetables…teenagers on mopeds pass you by, and you walk past old men playing bocci ball, and somebody’s housecat chilling on a front doorstep between two potted plants; you walk through a farmer’s market, and past a little marina filled with fishing boats as well as a couple yachts…this isn’t an experience you get from auto-centric Fort Lauderdale or San Diego, where you drive everywhere, and “strips” are lined with giant McDonald’s, TGIFriday’s, and Best Western signs, and the view from the Olive Garden is a parking lot.

And I’m not saying all this to be a snob. I just want people to see the region as I’ve experienced it.


beach-lunch-siesta-beach-shower-dinner-nightlife-repeat

The dazzler
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prague is fantastic, tallinn in estonia is awesome, Rome fantastic, munich brilliant, amsterdam fabulous, kracow also must see. these would be my best places in europe to see.