travel advice & savings
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Help with finalizing a 25 day itinerary
Tripe's profile picture
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Hey everyone,

I will heading out to Madrid on the 31st with a friend after flying out of JFK (New York). We’re both college students (19-20) on low budgets but looking to get the most out of this rare opportunity. For the most part, we have a general itinerary setup but would greatly appreciate help in tweaking it. The major concerns we have with it are: Are we being overly ambitious with locations and not going enough justice to them? If so, what can be cut/reduced/added?

What recommendations would you make for travel? (I’ve done extensive research on cost but no real experience, input will be highly valued)

Is there anything that we missed which would be worth seeing near the cities listed? Like smaller towns, a cool statue, a large hole, you know, the occasional odds and ends.

Our budget is: $1500-$2000 per person

The itinerary is as follows: 25 days 31-25th Madrid- 1 day (stay in town, explore) – Overnight train to Barcelona: $60 Barcelona – 3 days (visit local towns possibly) Take a small detour to girona (bus ride): ½ day – Overnight train/or flight to paris 8 to 8 – $150 or by flight: $40?

Paris – 3
Versaille + Local town: 1 day: possibly do this along a train route if going by train
Train: $278

Berlin: 3 days
Visit local towns (1-2 days) : possibly do this along a train route if going by train (possibly cutout)

Train: $111
Prague: 2 days

Train: $127
Budapest: 2 days

Train: $190
Venice: 1 day

Milan: 1 day (possibly cut-out)

Cirque Terre – sleep in Genoa: 1 day

Florence: Siena: 1 days – siena is a possibility
Rome: 4 days

Almafi coast- Naples – Pompeii- 2 days

Sicily: 2-3 days (possibly cut out)

Madrid: 1-2 days

The things in bold are places I would not mind taking out. Other locations though…. they all seem pretty interesting. Some information about our interests: We want to hit a few clubs to experience the nightlife in Europe but heavy partying/drinking will not be our main goal. Beautiful scenery and landscape is always a plus, as is great food. Historical monuments are greatly appreciated though not 24/7 orientated around. Mostly, we want to get a feel of the culture in Europe and then possibly travel back years down the line to hit countries individually. Hopefully, we’ll be wealthier by then as well. Again, all help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Smile – And Merry Christmas
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We all have our personal preferences, so what works for me may not work for you.

My opinion is that you have too many places to see in the time you have. I would skip Milan, for example, unless you can spend a few days there and a few days in the lake towns.

Perhaps I missed it, but what month are you going to be going in. I ask because some places (Madrid, for example) are unpleasantly hot in the summer and are thus better visited in the spring or fall.

Sicily will take a while to get to. I might suggest spending that time in Naples or the Almafi coast with a day trip to Capri.

Since you want to see a lot of places, I would plot them out on a map and see if you can plan a circular route, or a linear route (flying into one place, but returning from another) which would save some time so you could see more places. For example, you could do Naples and the coast before Rome, then spend time in Rome and fly home from there. Don’t buy one way tickets; they are generally quite expensive. Search for a multi-destination ticket, the equivalent of two one-way tickets, but much less expensive.

Enjoy your trip.

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1. As Clevlandbrown says, if you haven’t already bought the plane ticket look for an open juaw ticket, for example, into Madrid and out of Paris to avoid the significant time and expense involved in backtracking to Madrid.
2. Paris: visit Versailles as a day trip from Paris taking the RER (commuter light rail) as the RER station is an easy walk to the palace. Versailles doesn’t work well as a stop on your way to somewhere else as the “regular” SNCF train station in Versailles is a long distance from the palace. If you’re toting all your gear, you may want to take a taxi from the SNCF station to the palace.
3. Travel time means a max of 1 1/2 days in Prague and Budapest. That’s not, IMO, enough time to get past the basic tourist stuff and really enjoy either city. Both are great tourist visits but even better places to slow down and experience the place. I’d try for at least a total of 5 days for these two cities.
4. I doubt a rail pass will save significant money on this trip, but putting your itinerary in railsaver or the trip planner will show which, if any, rail pass would save over standard fare.

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I took this as Tripe is leaving on Dec. 31. That $60 from Madrid to Barcelona is for a seat. I know you’re on a budget, but I might spend the extra 12 euros and book a sleeper berth. Or perhaps don’t wander Madrid tired all day and just fly right to Barcelona and get a good night’s sleep there that first night. Three days for Barcelona is great; forget the idea to visit small towns around it with that much time, but the day trip to Girona on the way to Paris isn’t a bad idea. With such a tight budget I would probably fly from Girona to Paris instead of paying 149 euros for a reclining seat on the overnight train. In general, either devote specific time to small towns or to the major cities near them. Trying to see the sights in a major city and some small nearby towns in a few days is too much in my opinion.

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A few comments… please bear in mind that these are thoughts/suggestions that match my personal preferences and that you should always ask yourself whether it sounds like something that appeals to you.

  • You’re missing Pisa! Pisa really just needs a half-day, and can be done on the way to Cinque Terre, but it’s a fairly well known attraction in that area that you’ve left off.
  • Including travel, 2 days in Prague + Budapest is way too little, in my opinion. I’d consider cutting one of those two out and saving the other for another trip. If you actually had 2 full days (3 nights) in each, it wouldn’t be so bad (although still quite rushed); however, you need to account for parts of those days spent on the train as well as the time spent checking in/out of your hostel.
  • Alternatively, you could cut out Southern Italy (by which I mean anything south of Rome) and allocate those 5-7 days elsewhere.

Just remember in considering your options that travel time eats up huge chunks of travel days. It’s not just the length of the train ride, but the time it takes to get to the train station, arriving a bit early so you don’t miss the train, the time it takes to orient yourself in your new city, check into the hostel, etc.

Good luck!