Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

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sunny_socal
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Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by sunny_socal » Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:04 pm

So we're finally all geared up for a Europe trip with the family.
- 2-3 weeks total trip time.
- Two adults, two teens

Agenda:
- Must visit Finland first (personal reasons.) This makes everything a little more complicated, open-jaw flight pretty much required. Planing on 5-7 days here.
- After this we'd like to see more of Europe. Wife and I already visited Belgium and France last time so she doesn't really want to repeat.
- Next on the list: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy

How to make it all work without it costing an arm and a leg?
- Fly from place to place? Fast but expensive
- Trains seem to make sense
- If Austria (Vienna) is included, it once again seems like an "out of the way" stop
- I love driving! Road trip a possibility

Ugh. I don't even know where to start.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by jebmke » Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:09 pm

I traveled quite a bit in Europe because we used to live there. The one piece of advice I have is to avoid packing in too many places. In addition to eating up a lot of time getting from place to place, you miss the opportunity to really get familiar with what the place has to offer. For a 9-10 day trip we typically only made two stops.
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OnceARunner
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by OnceARunner » Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:18 pm

We visited both Finland and Switzerland on a recent trip using an open jaw flight, though in a different order than you.

We flew from Atlanta into Amsterdam and spent 3 nights, took a train to Lucerne, Switzerland for 3 nights (the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited), and then flew from Zurich to Helsinki for 3 nights. Flew back home to Atlanta from there.

We used United’s excursionist perk. Paid for the flights from Atlanta to Amsterdam and from Helsinki to Atlanta with points, which made the Zurich to Helsinki flight free.

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JupiterJones
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by JupiterJones » Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:22 pm

I don't think Austria would be too out-of-the-way if you focused on southern Germany (Bavaria). It's an easy train trip or drive from Vienna to Munich, and you get Salzburg as a bonus along the way.

Time permitting, you could then tack on eastern Switzerland (Bernese Oberland, specifically). Fly home out of Zurich.

Not likely enough time to see much of Italy given that itinerary though. And you'd miss Berlin, etc. Still, it would be a marvelous trip!
Last edited by JupiterJones on Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:23 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Shallowpockets
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by Shallowpockets » Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:23 pm

You have already done a trip there with the wife. So how was that done? Take your cues from that, excepting now you have two teens. Maybe have each person research places to go and report to the group. Part of the fun is planning.
Otherwise as the poster before said, don't try and do too much territory.
Rick Steves books for planning. A no brainer. You don't have to follow his itinerary but you will sure get a lot of info on how long, how much, how to do.
There is plenty enough out there for you to research this trip. Asking here on BH will only add to that and complicate things further with more and more and more info. Eventually you have to make decisions. If you have not been somewhere, then go there. What's to lose?

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by neilpilot » Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:23 pm

sunny_socal wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:04 pm

How to make it all work without it costing an arm and a leg?
- Fly from place to place? Fast but expensive
Have you looked at some of the discount airlines in Europe? If you have some flexibility and ticket in advance, there are often some very low priced OW tickets available. Just be sure to pack lite to avoid expensive luggage fees.

OTOH our annual trips to Europe are almost never in the Summer, so that may work against you finding decent deals.

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bligh
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by bligh » Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:27 pm

sunny_socal wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:04 pm
So we're finally all geared up for a Europe trip with the family.
- 2-3 weeks total trip time.
- Two adults, two teens

- Next on the list: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy

How to make it all work without it costing an arm and a leg?
- Fly from place to place? Fast but expensive
- Trains seem to make sense
- If Austria (Vienna) is included, it once again seems like an "out of the way" stop
- I love driving! Road trip a possibility

Ugh. I don't even know where to start.
Sounds like after the Finland stop you will have about 1.5 to 2 weeks left.

A lot depends on how you like to travel. For me, 2 weeks is about how much I would give to one country in one trip.

Assuming you work similarly, I would just pick a country from your list, do a short haul budget flight from Finland to the country. Pick 2-4 places within that country and go from there. I am sure you know from your past trip(s) that the train network there is fantastic. Having four people makes renting a car much more economical too. So cannot go wrong with that unless you are going to be in major cities where the interesting parts are often pedestrianized and there are tons of traffic congestion and parking troubles to deal with.*

If you prefer covering huge distances and spending a couple of nights in each city just seeing the major attractions, I would personally pack light, and just use the trains to get everywhere.

* I haven't actually done a road trip in the European mainland (I have in the UK, and I did not enjoy driving in London, everywhere else was excellent) .. In Europe I just find the trains and metro systems fun to use and part of the experience. I would like to do a road trip at some point once I have my fill of the cities and start exploring the countrysides and towns.

22twain
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by 22twain » Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:01 pm

Whether you drive or take the train, your first stage will probably be by ferry from Finland to Sweden or Germany. This is an experience in itself, because those ferries are huge, like cruise ships. I've done Tallink Silja's Turku-Stockholm route twice, and it's very scenic, with most of the route passing through the Åland archipelago. If you drive, you drive on and off; if you take the train, you have to transfer via taxi or public transportation (subway) in Stockholm; In Turku, you used to be able to take a train to the dock, but I don't think this is still possible.

There's also a Helsinki-Stockholm route, a lot of it passes through open sea, hence not as scenic.

From Stockholm you can of course go by train or drive to Copenhagen, then into Germany via Lübeck and Hamburg.

Or if you prefer to bypass the rest of Scandinavia, Finnlines operates a car ferry from Helsinki to Travemünde, Germany (near Lübeck). They also run car ferries between Naantali (outside Turku) to Kapellskär (outside Stockholm).

http://www.tallinksilja.com/

http://finnlines.com/
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FireProof
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by FireProof » Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:13 pm

Flying is usually the cheapest way to get around Europe, except for short distances between cities in the same country.

123
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by 123 » Mon Apr 01, 2019 6:17 pm

A classy (and generally economical) way of connecting a visit to Finland with a visit to other part of Europe is by departing Helsinki via an overnight ferry to Stockholm. There are also ferries to Estonia and Germany from Helsinki. Schedules and availability vary by season. The overnight ferry to Stockholm works very well since it save you the cost of a hotel and you arrive in the morning (they usually also have cabins that are simple if you don't want to sleep in a chair overnight).
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by mageedge » Mon Apr 01, 2019 7:36 pm

A lot depends on what you and the family enjoy while travelling but, within the parameters you outlined, I'd consider a flight from Helinski to Munich (c$100 pp), rent a car and do an Alpine "loop" - east to Salzburg then down to Berchtesgaten, on to Innsbruk,(Austria), Vaduz (Lichtenstein), Lucerne, Zurich and back to Munich (via Neuschwanstein castle if that's your thing).
Glorious scenery, great hiking, exciting cable car rides and interesting old towns in Salzburg and Innsbruk.
The circle would be around 750 miles total - add a few hours if you want to drop down to northern Italy or subtract some driving time by turning back around Vaduz.
Last edited by mageedge on Tue Apr 02, 2019 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

dsmclone
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by dsmclone » Tue Apr 02, 2019 9:18 am

jebmke wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:09 pm
I traveled quite a bit in Europe because we used to live there. The one piece of advice I have is to avoid packing in too many places. In addition to eating up a lot of time getting from place to place, you miss the opportunity to really get familiar with what the place has to offer. For a 9-10 day trip we typically only made two stops.
Somewhat agree with this. People try to throw in too many places. Out of the 8 times I've been to Europe, there was only one time where I thought to myself "I stayed a little too long there". That was Munich, where we stayed 5 days. 3-4 would have been perfect.

Depending on the country, I also like to do about 50/50 big city/small town. The stuff I remember the most from my trips almost always comes from rural/small towns.

dsmclone
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by dsmclone » Tue Apr 02, 2019 9:20 am

mageedge wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 7:36 pm
A lot depends on what you and the family enjoy while travelling but, within the parameters you outlined, I'd consider a flight from Helinski to Munich (c$100 pp), rent a car and do an Alpine "loop" - east to Salzburg then down to Berchtesgaten, on to Innsbruk,(Austria), Vaduz (Lichtenstein), Lucerne, Zurich and back to Munich via Neuschwanstein castle if that's your thing.
Glorious scenery, great hiking, exciting cable car rides and interesting old towns in Salzburg and Innsbruk.
The circle would be around 750 miles total - add a few hours if you want to drop down to northern Italy or subtract some driving time by turning back around Vaduz.
This sounds like a great plan. I would personally skip the Neuschwanstein castle but the rest sounds great.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by Hockey10 » Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:34 am

After multiple trips to Europe I concluded that in order to relax, I need a minimum of 3 nights in each city. I had too many trips where I only spent 2 nights in a city, and always felt rushed.

Make a list of the cities you want to visit and the number of nights you will spend in each one. You might be able to pull off 5 countries in 21 days, but it seems to be a country or two too far.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by midareff » Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:50 am

I've traveled in Europe (and other places) with my own planning and by organized tours. If you have to spend time in Finland I'd recommend you pick up an organized tour for the rest of the trip through Europe. There are many, many choices of companies who do wonderful jobs. They make all transportation arrangements, book all the hotels, take you on tours of all the key sights and places, get the tickets to attractions so you don't waste time in line. I have no connection to any of these companies but have used Smartours and Grand European Tours on multiple trips with great times.
Grand European actually arranged return home travel around extended layovers in London and Paris on separate trips. You might check their websites and see if they have an itinerary that starts somewhere in Europe you want to start from after Finland and go from there.

WhiteMaxima
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by WhiteMaxima » Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:56 am

I would strong recommend travel by train. How old are your kids, under 12 they are free to ride train. I will buy a Eurorail global pass which covers all european countries. car rental is not recommended. costly parking and narrow street. Summer try to avoid southern europe (italy, spain, southern france). Hot hot hot. There is no ac and you have to walk a lot.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by HawkeyePierce » Tue Apr 02, 2019 11:05 am

If cost is a factor I would focus on Austria over Switzerland. The mountains are just as beautiful but at a much lower price, especially coming from the US given the relative strengths of the euro and franc to the dollar.

Personally I'd look at the Otztal Valley in western Austria. Tons of outdoor adventure if that's what you're in to and quite close to Innsbruck which is worth a day or two. I would consider combining it with northern Italy. There's a train 2 or 3 times a day from Innsbruck that makes its way through Bolzano to Verona.

You could fly from Helsinki to Innsbruck or Zurich and take a train to the Otztal. There are lots of very affordable bed-and-breakfasts in that area. The Aqua Dome is an excellent (and huge!) thermal spa complex in Langenfeld. Spend a week in the Otztal Valley, then go explore northern Italy and fly home from Milan or Venice.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by PinotGris » Tue Apr 02, 2019 11:18 am

sunny_socal wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:04 pm
So we're finally all geared up for a Europe trip with the family.
- 2-3 weeks total trip time.
- Two adults, two teens

Agenda:
- Must visit Finland first (personal reasons.) This makes everything a little more complicated, open-jaw flight pretty much required. Planing on 5-7 days here.
- After this we'd like to see more of Europe. Wife and I already visited Belgium and France last time so she doesn't really want to repeat.
- Next on the list: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy

How to make it all work without it costing an arm and a leg?
- Fly from place to place? Fast but expensive
- Trains seem to make sense
- If Austria (Vienna) is included, it once again seems like an "out of the way" stop
- I love driving! Road trip a possibility

Ugh. I don't even know where to start.
My first post did not make, don't know why.
Roadtrip is absolutely the best. Eurocar. Rent in Germany and return in Germany. We landed in Berlin, stayed outside the city and took the train into the city, and when ready to leave we took a train to Dresden and when leaving Dresden rented a car. In all our trips to Europe we have always rented a car. No airport hassles or border crossings, super highways, great country side, leave when you want stop where you want. Hotels are cheaper outside the city and you take the train in to the city. We stayed in Iggles in Austria and Innsbruk in Switzerland.

WhiteMaxima
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by WhiteMaxima » Tue Apr 02, 2019 11:30 am

Euro train usually stop right at the center of the city or under the airport. You could take a night fast train from Pairs to Roma and have your own privite room with sleepers. For best value, go to east Europe (czek, hungary, slovenia), they all have more characters than vanila western europe.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by WhiteMaxima » Tue Apr 02, 2019 11:47 am

If you flying to Helsinky 1st, you can ferry to Eastonia, Lativa or Stockholm Sweden then Demark or St. Pertersbog Russia. Summer day light is long and not as hot than southern Europe. You will see a lot of cruise ship travelers there. for two weeks that pretty much full. Or Central Europe (Berlin, Wien, Prague) which is my favorite part.

gretah
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by gretah » Tue Apr 02, 2019 10:05 pm

Norwegian Air flies to Helsinki. Cheap.

www.Norwegian.com

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by aristotelian » Wed Apr 03, 2019 8:27 am

It is only complicated if you make it complicated. My approach would be to pick one or two places and spend time getting to know and enjoy them.

If you connect through London or Reykjavik, you could easily spend time there without any wasted time in transit.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by phil64 » Wed Apr 03, 2019 9:21 am

The best thing you can do is pack light. Did a similar trip last year, and the rule was everyone was allowed 1 carry on and a knapsack. Whether you fly, go by train or car the freedom of access this allows is well worth it. I would look to stay in an Air B&B sometime to be able to do laundry. The family wasn't too happy when I put it out there, but as soon as they saw a similar family loaded down with huge suitcases trying to board a train, everyone agreed best way to go.

If your looking for suggestions Munich along with Fussen and Neuschwanstein Castle make a great trip especially driving through the Alps.

Enjoy

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by JupiterJones » Wed Apr 03, 2019 10:35 am

phil64 wrote:
Wed Apr 03, 2019 9:21 am
The best thing you can do is pack light.
Strongly seconded. Especially in Europe. And especially when you have multiple stops on the itinerary and multiple modes of travel.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Wed Apr 03, 2019 11:43 am

I plan my trip by looking ahead of fly and train cost. It’s not always cheap to go from one location in Europe to another, it depends whether there are low cost flight out of a certain city.
Last edited by DrGoogle2017 on Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

rich126
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by rich126 » Wed Apr 03, 2019 11:55 am

This won't answer all your questions but just some thoughts from my first vacation to Europe a decade ago.

When planning my first trip I had a number of places I wanted to see and wrote them down. Then I looked at my trip length and where places were located. My plan was to only use trains. I then created a little matrix with Excel detailing real travel times between cities (some were straight with no connections and others involved changing of trains). Then I started figuring out what was realistic.

I ended up with a very hectic schedule but it worked well and covered what I wanted to see in case I didn't make it back. I visited 8 cities across Germany and Switzerland in 11 nights. Usually with 1 night, 1 night, then 2 nights. Its something I wouldn't do now since I'd rather have more time to see places and prefer to always stay in one city for two nights at a minimum but it fulfilled my bucket list.

Whatever is your form of travel, look at schedules and account for various delays. Check hotels in various cities to get a true idea of cost. Don't plan on visiting a place for only 1 day if you are going to arrive late and won't be able to hit the museum you want to see. Also check to see the places you want to visit are open that day (maybe its a holiday for that country or things are closed on Mondays, etc.).

If you are planning to do a lot of flying make sure you understand what the ticket includes. And most importantly do not over pack. Keep to one carry on and one backpack per person. I've seen way too many tourists trying to haul huge pieces of luggage around town, up/down stairs, on/off trains, etc. You can survive wearing clothes more than once.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by Starfish » Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:14 pm

sunny_socal wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 5:04 pm
So we're finally all geared up for a Europe trip with the family.
- 2-3 weeks total trip time.
- Two adults, two teens

Agenda:
- Must visit Finland first (personal reasons.) This makes everything a little more complicated, open-jaw flight pretty much required. Planing on 5-7 days here.
- After this we'd like to see more of Europe. Wife and I already visited Belgium and France last time so she doesn't really want to repeat.
- Next on the list: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy

How to make it all work without it costing an arm and a leg?
- Fly from place to place? Fast but expensive
- Trains seem to make sense
- If Austria (Vienna) is included, it once again seems like an "out of the way" stop
- I love driving! Road trip a possibility

Ugh. I don't even know where to start.
By far the cheapest option is renting a car but make sure you understand driving in Europe first (signs and rules).
High speed trains are similar in price with low cost airlines, maybe cheaper but for 4 is not going to be very cheap.
I have no idea what are the rules about crossing borders with a rental car in UE. It should be ok at least in Schengen.
Of course having only one week you should go in 2, at most 3 places not far from each other. You cannot really fly a much because it takes half of a day for a 2h flight, you shouldn't drive or stay in a train more than 10-15 hours total. Start with these limitations and it will be much easier. You can see a part of Italy for example.

PS: momondo is a decent flight search engine.
Last edited by Starfish on Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by fortfun » Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:26 pm

We did a three week marathon tour of Europe with a 10 & 12 year old last summer. A few of my favorites:

1. Middle Rhine (Bacharach, Germany) take Ferry Down the river for an all day tour to Koblenz. Take the train back to Bacharach.
2. Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. Beautiful!
3. Venice, Italy. It is a truly amazing place. Buy a day pass for the Vaporetto and ride it up and down the grand canal all day. Get seats up in the front. Yes, it will be crowded but still amazing.

There are lots of amazing places but these were three of my favorites.

We mostly used the train, for the authentic Europe feeling. Plus, it was nice to see the countryside. We had a sleeper cabin from Munich to Venice--that was a unique experience.
Last edited by fortfun on Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by snackdog » Wed Apr 03, 2019 12:35 pm

Write down your list of must-see places then cut it at least in half.

I recommend a car rental in order to have maximum freedom and flexibility.

Look at the cheapest Europe destination from your home city and work from there. For example, I'm in Houston so my cheapest European flights would be to London, Amsterdam or Paris. From either of the latter two, I would take a cheap RyanAir (or equiv) hop to Finland and back, then rent a car for a Loop around southern Germany/Austria/Italy. Actually, if it were me I would rent in Helsinki, put the car on the ferry to Estonia then drive around Latvia and Lithuania, maybe Poland.

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sunny_socal
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Re: Summer Europe trip - overwhelming to plan!

Post by sunny_socal » Sun Apr 07, 2019 6:13 am

Thanks everyone! Decided to fly to Stockholm, take the overnight ferry/cruise to Finland (new experience for the kids.) After a week, fly to Munich for a few days. Drive through Switzerland to Milan and spend a few days there. Should be fun, we'll likely hit about 6 countries.

This thread helped make plans around Munich: :beer
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=277641

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