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Old 04-01-2014, 10:12 PM
Location: Idaho
535 posts, read 472,663 times
Reputation: 1029


Ok, so my girlfriend and I would like to travel to Europe. I have been twice, but she has never gone. This trip will most likely happen in 2016 due to the time needed to save up these kinds of finances, but considering the complexity, never too early to start coming up with a gameplan right?

So I suppose first off I should talk about our general itinerary.

Fly from Chicago to Paris. 3-4 Nights in Paris.

Fly from Paris to Munich. 9-11 Days exploring Bavaria and Tyrol.

Train from Garmish or Munich to Venice. 2 nights in Venice

Train from Venice to Rome. 4 nights in Rome

Fly from Rome to Chicago.

So here are a few questions, with possibly more coming later.

1. Which month would be best for this trip? I was leaning toward either June or late August/early September. We want nice weather while we are there.

2. Best way to get to Venice? I have been once and driving is virtually out of the question, but the train rides seem to be rather long considering the relatively short distance.

3. About how far out can I expect to get the cheapest possible airfare?

4. Three or four nights in Paris? I have never been and so have no idea how long it will take us to see the sights. I'm leaning towards four to account for jetlag after the flight from Chicago.

5. And finally, any tips for cutting costs would be great. Both of my trips were almost ten years ago and I'm sure many things have changed, and last time my grandparents paid for airfare and lodging!

Thanks so much to all of you!
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Old 04-02-2014, 03:31 AM
Location: NW Indiana
1,320 posts, read 1,184,309 times
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Wow! Sounds like a great trip.

I would suggest going in September rather than August. Your prices may be a bit cheaper and a lot of the kids will be back in school. If you are interested, Octoberfest in Munich is in late September. I have been to Munich twice for this and it is a lot of fun. However, it is also more expensive and a very crowded.

If a massive beer party is not really your thing, early September should work fine.

You will probably get a lot of comments about where to go and how long to stay. However, your general plan is very workable. I love to travel in Germany and think the 9 - 11 days there will be great. Rent a car and just go on drives.

A couple of things I highly recommend seeing while in the Munich area is the BMW plant tour and the Dachau tour. Note, the Dachau tour can be very emotional and depressing.

You might consider taking a train from Paris to Munich, depending on price. An overnight trip with a sleeper car would be a fun adventure and the train essentially becomes your hotel room and transportation for the night. This would probably save money and save the daylight hours for sightseeing.

A quick note about trains in Italy. I took a train trip from Milan to Rome in 2001. I had a real issue with the smoking on the train. Many of the passengers smoked non-stop for most of the trip.

I think you will love Rome. Look into the Scavi tour under St. Peters. It is a fantastic experience.
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Old 04-02-2014, 07:24 AM
1,339 posts, read 2,970,571 times
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You are planning for a trip that is atleast 2 to 2.5 years away? Wow! Couples have broken up in less than that time! :-) Kidding aside, you don't need to come up with a game plan right now since you are visiting touristy places. There is and there will be enough information out there to get the accurate and latest information when the time comes.

Assuming you will buy your airfare 3-4 months before the trip, you might want to start planning 5-6 months before the actual trip. By that time, you and your girlfriend might have different interests.

Also, since you haven't listed your and girlfriend's interests, do not trust anyone who says "oh! x days are less/more for that city!".
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Old 04-02-2014, 07:29 AM
Location: Niceville, FL
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We're doing Munich-Paris as the back half of our European trip in a few months. Will try to remember to report back then. We're doing the train from Munich to Paris- about 240 Euros for two first class tickets for a six hour daytime trip. By plane would be 3-4 hours once you figure in security theater and luggage retrieval so it's not that much more time to get to take the TGV in France and is a little more budget-friendly than flying.

It's going to be a while before the airlines release their 2016 schedules, but once they do, you can set up fare alerts from web sites like Skyscanner, Airfare Watchdog, and Hipmunk and they'll e-mail you regular updates on prices for a given route- usually a few times a week, and then additionally if someone is having a fare sale. 3-4 months ahead for airfare can be a little tight if you want a specific routing (waiting until four months out cost us a 23 hour stopover in Barcelona on the way back at no additional cost) or something like Economy Comfort seating for those who want more leg room. The EC options for transatlantic on our flights went quickly and our tall selves grabbed some of the last ones.
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Old 04-02-2014, 09:17 AM
Location: Idaho
535 posts, read 472,663 times
Reputation: 1029
Dachau tour. Note, the Dachau tour can be very emotional and depressing
This is actually on our list of things to do, I have seen it, but she would like to see it as well. Other things locked in for that part of the trip are Eagles Nest and Bertchesgaden, Neuschwanstein, and Salzburg. We would probably rent a guest house in the far southern tip of Germany, Mittenwald looks appealing.

We are the kind of people that prefer outdoor activities, not much into the big-city party scene. Hiking, ski-lifts and cable cars, will definitely be doing a tobogon ride or two while we are there. We want to spend that much time in Germany/Austria because we love the idea of exploring the countryside and all of those tiny little towns in the Alps.

Know it's kind of early, but planning this kind of thing puts some fun into the week after we get home from work! We've been planning a Yellowstone trip for the last 18 months and we leave in 69 days(not that anyone is counting lol). We had to stop planning that one because we kept wanting to add more and more things to the trip! Thanks so much for all the helpful tips already!
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Old 04-02-2014, 11:32 AM
Location: Toronto, Ottawa Valley & Dunedin FL
1,409 posts, read 2,356,004 times
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I love planning trips far in advance! But don't overdo it, or you'll learn a lot of things then forget!

I think the pace you've laid out is very sensible. I haven't done it, but I'd take the train to Venice, myself.

I'd also go in early June if you can manage it, or mid-September.

Without knowing your interests, can't comment on the time in Paris--but you will need that day to un-jetlag a bit.
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Old 04-02-2014, 11:36 AM
Location: Phoenix, AZ > Raleigh, NC
15,079 posts, read 19,030,481 times
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I'd move the trip to May or October. Avoid the crowds somewhat, save on the airfare and hotels considerably. Those months will still have pleasant weather in the area's you are planning. The summer months in Venice and Rome will be miserable. And I'd seriously reconsider Paris in August, which is the traditional vacation month.
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Old 04-02-2014, 01:34 PM
1,264 posts, read 2,152,649 times
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Don't forget that before being tourist center, Paris is a real business city.

September, October are the busiest and most expensive months for hotels in Paris.
There are many conventions, business meetings in the city during this period.
Mid July and August is the least busy and cheapest period for hotels in Paris.
There are very few business visitors during this period.
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Old 04-02-2014, 02:01 PM
Location: Niceville, FL
7,685 posts, read 16,112,809 times
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Not early to middle May for the Alps- you run the risk of the interesting stuff still being snowed in at that point if it's been a hard winter.

If you've got good credit, I'd explore the hotel branded credit cards. The IHG 60K points Chase Mastercard offer can cover 2-3 nights with pretty modest spending requirements, and the Hyatt one also gets good reviews. Just be aware of when any points or promotional offers expire. IHG generally doesn'y but I think the Hyatt free night certificates are only good for a year or something.

The airline credit cards probably won't get you to Europe on spending and introductory points on their own, but they can be part of a strategy to help subsidize subsequent trips by getting you some free North American air travel.
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Old 04-02-2014, 02:09 PM
Location: Colorado
2,483 posts, read 3,539,063 times
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1. Pick your favorite single region.
2. Go there.
3. See it thoroughly.
4. Come home.
5. Repeat for some other location another year.

In other words skip all the logistics of travel between city to city and country to country. Pick one nice spot and stay there. If time permits go on day trips to see a few other places. You'll enjoy it a lot more that way and you'll see a ton of stuff that most tourists never do. You'll also save a ton of money that way especially if the bulk of your time is spent outside of a major tourist city. You can always add a night or two at either end for wherever you fly in/out of.

You can drive to Venice if you want but you'll need to return the car at the airport and then take the train into the actual town from there. There is also a big car park right by the shipping terminal, but it takes hours to get into and is very expensive per day.
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