Seasoned European travellers - can you have a look at my trip schedule? Thanks!

(49 Posts)
HelenaQC Mon 25-Aug-14 08:29:27

My son will be 18 very soon (still at school) and, having been a single parent from day dot, I feel like having some ME, ME, ME time - so I am planning to head off into Europe for 4 weeks all by myself. (He doesn't want to come, and I would prefer to be alone anyway). He'll be staying with his father & I am planning on going at the beginning of January.

Before you look at my itinerary a couple of things: I LOVE train travel. Love it. I am less keen on air travel. A little sight seeing goes a long way for me & I'm happy just to see the big stuff & enjoy the experience of being there, iyswim.

So this is my plan:

Fly to Stockholm - sleep two nights
Train to Copenhagen - sleep two nights
Train to Berlin - sleep two nights
Train to Prague - sleep two nights
Train to Vienna - sleep two nights
Train to Bern - sleep two nights
Fly from Bern to Amsterdam - sleep two nights
Train to Bruges - sleep two nights
Train to Paris - sleep two nights
Train to Marseille - Sleep one night
Train to Monte Carlo - sleep one night
Train to Milan - sleep one night
Train to Rome - sleep two nights
Train to Brindisi - sleep one night
Ferry/train to Athens - sleep two nights
Fly Athens to Gatwick and home!

The reason I have flown backwards to The Netherlands is because I wanted to head through Germany on the train, because that way I get to see as much of the country as I can. And the flight from Bern to Amsterdam is really cheap (if booked now).

I've spent a lot of time on Booking.com and I can get all of my accommodation (inc. City tax & VAT) for £816. Some places are a lot more expensive than others.

A) What do you think?
B) Is it better to buy a Global rail pass thingy or book train seats individually?
C) How much should I budget for food for myself daily? All my accommodation includes breakfast, so I need the money for one decent meal, and one sandwich/snacky meal.

Thanks so much for any tips, advice, comments smile

SoldeInvierno Mon 25-Aug-14 10:05:25

Just a couple of random thoughts:

When you say 2 nights, it is not clear whether you will be departing in the morning or evening, so some of this might not be valid, but here you go. Brugges is small. I would do just one day there and 3 in Paris. Milan: I dont find it special. Can you do Florence and Pisa instead? Only one hour apart by train

BelleCurve Mon 25-Aug-14 10:11:04

Oh yes Florence or Venice instead of Milan. Marseille and Bern are nothing special. Don't stay in Monte Carlo, you can visit in a day and stay in France -Nice or one of the coastal towns much cheaper

Iflyaway Mon 25-Aug-14 10:11:13

Pack warm clothes! Will be cold in January, you may be knee-deep in snow... :-(

SoldeInvierno Mon 25-Aug-14 10:11:35

One more thought: are you super keen on Bern? I find Switzerland very expensive and not so exciting. I am writing this from a Swiss train, as I spend at least one week a month here through work. I much prefer the south of Germany, such as Freiburg im Breisgau. Nicer and cheaper

BelleCurve Mon 25-Aug-14 10:12:10

Have you looked at airbnb for accommodation? You can get some great bargains.

BelleCurve Mon 25-Aug-14 10:14:04

Didn't notice January. If at all possible, most of those places will be much nicer April/May unless you are skiing

SoldeInvierno Mon 25-Aug-14 10:15:39

Could you leave it until Easter? Anywhere in Europe, north of the Pirenees is bound to be covered in snow. I have often experienced minus 15 in south germany and switzerland at that time of the year.

SoldeInvierno Mon 25-Aug-14 10:17:16

Cross post. Sorry

BelleCurve Mon 25-Aug-14 10:22:31

Also remember there is a bank holiday in much of Europe on 6th Jan so shops/restaurants will be closed.

LeMousquetaireAnonyme Mon 25-Aug-14 10:24:06

Have a look at seat 61. He has travel all of europe by trains and give a lot of practical advice. Including passes or single ticket bookings.
according to DH

SoldeInvierno Mon 25-Aug-14 10:28:14

Sundays can be pretty dead in many cities in Europe, esoecially in Germany and Switzerland. Try and make Sundays coincide with the larger cities otherwise it can get really boring

gastrognome Mon 25-Aug-14 11:26:00

Agree that you could combine your Marseille and Montecarlo stops into two nights in Nice.

Having said that, I also agree that going in Jan could be pretty miserable, and a lot of things could be closed for annual hols, especially in the coastal resorts.
Bad weather could seriously scupper your plans, if you are working to such a tight travel schedule with only a day to see certain places. If you are locked into January, I'd think about refocusing on fewer, slightly longer stops in the larger cities (e.g. Amsterdam > Paris > Florence/Rome).

tribpot Mon 25-Aug-14 11:35:10

Yes, the temperature and range of destinations will make for an interesting packing conundrum as well. Can you plan to drop your heavy winter gear somewhere on the route rather than schlepp your fur hat and snow boots round Athens?

antimatter Mon 25-Aug-14 11:43:21

You would need winter clothes in Jan.
Likely to be icy and very cold. To buy those clothes you would need to spend a hundred pounds easily.
However it is beautiful.

But one of my friends had weekend in Prague when it was icy, she had lots of falls.
Roads aren't even there and bit hilly.

If you went from mid April you would have the nicest time with long days and mild weather.
In Jan it gets dark after 4 pm and you won't get to see much through the windows of your train.

tribpot Mon 25-Aug-14 12:00:45

Earlier than 4pm in Stockholm, antimatter! But I think for the OP the travel is the best bit of the trip (given some of these cities are nearly a whole day's journey apart from each other).

I've been having a marvellous time on Seat 61 planning imaginary train journeys around Europe, thank you Mousequetaire! I notice he mentions a service called Luggage Mule, which might be an option for sending the cold weather stuff back to the UK.

tribpot Mon 25-Aug-14 12:04:03

I meant to say, the lack of available sunlight might suggest that some sleeper journeys would cut down on the hotel bill?

antimatter Mon 25-Aug-14 12:05:55

I would most worry about slippery roads.
I saw photos from that slippery weekend in Prague - they were scrapping each other from pavements grin

HelenaQC Mon 25-Aug-14 12:41:56

Hmmm. Snow. I much prefer colder weather to hot, but I think you're all right...it will be seriously, seriously cold, won't it? Unpleasantly so, maybe.

Yes, I can put it all off till Easter with no problem. Gives me more time to save money, anyway so I can eat a bit better when I'm there.

Looking at all your suggestions re: cities instead of Milan, Bern, etc. To be honest, aside from Paris, Rome & Copenhagen, I don't care which actual cities I stop in as it's the train travel I am really interested in.

Superb advice all of you. Thanks smile

HelenaQC Mon 25-Aug-14 12:43:08

Oh, and by "sleep two nights" I mean...arrive 25th, check out 27th (for example).

tribpot Mon 25-Aug-14 13:00:34

Well it'll be nippy to put it mildly, but why not head south rather than north on this journey?

grumpasaur Mon 25-Aug-14 13:12:15

Hi there, I have travelled extensively around Europe, and looking at your itinerary, would give you the following advice:

- definitely do NOT go in January. Wait until April when it will be lovely, but you won't have to fight too many other tourists

- pick fewer places, and stay longer in some of the bigger cities. Paris, Rome, Berlin, Prague, Florence would each benefit from three days

- Scandinavia is shockingly expensive, so, unless you really have your heart set on it, I would give that area a miss and focus on western / Central Europe

- Milan is rubbish; Florence is absolutely amazing and you cannot miss it! So much to see and do there also.

- Brindisi is an absolute dive and the ferries from Brindisi to Athens are dodgy; you can get a (much nicer but slightly longer) ferry from Venice to Patras, and then take the train from Patras to Athens. This is a much better route

- getting a Eurail Pass allows you to be more flexible, as well as to do little day trips. For example there are some beautiful little places just outside Amsterdam / Brugge, with a Eurail pass you can just jump on the train when you like

- I would maybe try to cover a bit less ground, and do more of the local little villages and towns and stuff. For me, after a while, the bigger cities all tend to start offering many of the same things, and to really get a feel for the culture, some smaller places can be really beneficial.

- some 'smaller favourites' for me includes the Cinque Terre in Italy, Seville in Spain, hydra island in Greece (day trip from Athens), Innsbruck in Austria, Zaans Schaans in Holland, Interlacken in Switzerland, and Ypres in Belgium. Especially if you like train travel and the countryside, you will enjoy these things!!

- sometimes it is easier to centre yourself in one place and just do little day trips. Can make for long days but a more relaxing trip overall.

Hope this helps!!! I would say for a four week trip, perhaps do France, Spain, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece. Next time you can do Scandanavia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic...

Let me know if questions!!!

HelenaQC Mon 25-Aug-14 14:16:28

Fantastic, grumpasaur - thanks so much!!

I am going to sit down and rethink it all this evening & will probably have a few more questions tomorrow.

For now, I have definitely decided to go in April, not January. So thanks for that suggestion, all of you. Makes lots of sense.

Thanks again smile

mrsnec Mon 25-Aug-14 16:01:55

I agree changing to April is a good idea. I have done train travel in Italy, Spain, Belgium and Greece and all have been comfortable and reliable. I wanted to add that re some cities being quiet on a Sunday, I have also found things closed on Mondays in some parts of Europe particularly in Spain and Italy. On my last visit to Milan on a monday the museums I wanted to see were closed. Also, I know you've said you weren't keen on flying but, Milan is a very big hub for budget airlines. Flights from Milan to Greece are really cheap. You could then catch a ferry to one of the islands and fly home from there.

We ended up just eating,shopping and mooching about in Milan. I prefer Venice. I still enjoyed Milan though and its worth knowing Milan Venice and verona are all on the same train line. I also love the neopolitan riviera and had great weather there in April. Train from Rome to naples then another one to sorrento.

noramum Mon 25-Aug-14 21:05:46

I agree with

The Weather - Germany can be cold, ice cold in January. Switzerland and Scandinavia as well. The rest will be dull. Easter is definitely better, still cold possibly as it is early this year.

Sundays - often everything is closed, so try to keep them for large cities you can go to Museums.

In Gemany lots of Museums are closed on Mondays, research if you want to see something special

I would look into staying in one location a bit longer and do day trips instead of trying to do too many trips, you will be tired of packing and dragging yourself to the train station every couple of days.

To maximise time in each city you need to schedule arrivals early and departures late. Also, if you miss a connection your ticket has still to be valid, some offers don't include this, you book a specific train, not a route, so take change over times into account.

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