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Old 06-24-2014, 09:06 PM
 
211 posts, read 276,060 times
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Long story short, my wife and I have a radically different outlook for availability and finances this summer than we had anticipated. We had talked about going to Europe back in the winter and had started movement on that front, but real plans never materialized due to uncertainty in our life. What I really want to do is get a plane into Europe (I guess Ireland for its cheaper fare?) and just wing it from there for 2-3 weeks.

I'm afraid that this last minute multi-country tour is pretty unrealistic. I see some really good deals on Flight+Hotel packages that are as cheap as the plane tickets by themselves. I've also read that its hard to use the rail passes without reserving your seat ahead of time. The busses are cheap, but would eat up a lot of time on longer distances (like Paris to Amsterdam). My wife and I are younger (26 and 25) and we could make do just fine in hostels and carrying possessions with us from place to place. Even so, it looks hard to do without having it all planned out months in advance.

Should I follow my dream of trekking around Europe, or should I content myself to a nice hotel and one city?

EDIT: If it wasn't obvious I am super open to your suggestions, although I'm not interested in Asian travel right now.
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Old 06-24-2014, 11:04 PM
 
5,453 posts, read 12,666,688 times
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Default Just do it...

My wife and I used to backpack just like you are contemplating now... zero plans other than a plane ticket to get there, and back. Well, throw in the Eurail Pass too. It is NOT unrealistic to do multiple country tour without reservations unless you are 'those' type of people... more later.

We were dating at the time, and we both would take off 4-6 weeks off of work and hop on a plane to Europe. It was cheaper back then, we used to each pay about ~$600 R/T including taxes. When I'd go alone, I'd budget 1K for an entire month, and I did it in style.

Fast forward two decades and I look back and never regretted anything. We got stuck many times, missed trains, almost missed trains,we slept in train stations, a park bench in Pisa, froze our butts off in the Swiss Alps because we went in the summer and did not pack for winter, stayed at hostels, some co-ed (Netherlands), got drunk and hungover, etc. We drank wine at the steps of the Duomo in Florence, had "fun" outdoors in Bern on a terrace at night, witnessed mysterious people in cemetaries at night in Budapest, slept in an old church in Salzburg, showed up to a hotel in Colmar only to find all the rooms booked because of the Christmas Market and the had to go back to Basel, showed up to Amsterdam and found no room, waited in a long line to get a cheap hostel only to find out the lines were long because it was the Gay Olympics in Amsterdam... not that there is anything wrong with that... we had to go back to The Hague. I could go on and on, we visited all of Western Europe over several years.

As you can see, we had a lot of fun, and never planned most of it. Those were really some of the best memories, best times that we had. Now we have a family, four kids, and they have all been with us multiple times (my wife is from Spain). I've had to lug two stollers up and down stairs in Paris, and up and down the bridges in Venice. I have family in Germany, and she has family in Spain and Norway, so that takes a load off the expenses these days. We are all actually about to leave to Europe again in a couple of weeks for 3 weeks and we can't wait.

So you are not crazy. Some may not agree, but those types are the ones that have to plan their lives. Buy a Eurail Family pass and take the trains, or book now and get cheap fares on discount airlines for the long trips. Good luck, let us know how your trip turns out.
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Old 06-24-2014, 11:19 PM
 
Location: San Antonio/Houston
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Most of my trips overseas are not planned at all. I find it more exciting. In some places I want to stay longer, in some shorter, so I cannot plan it in advance. I am spontaneous traveler.
You still need to gather all your options, know distances, travel means, hostel addresses, prices, things to see, places to be etc.
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Old 06-25-2014, 09:07 AM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
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I'll suggest Germany as a base with some dips into adjacent countries. Germany has excellent and affordable regional rail systems that connect well with neighboring areas as well as a strong hostel culture. You can wing it a fair amount there while staying on budget.
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Old 06-25-2014, 10:16 AM
 
Location: Gatineau, QC, Canada
3,402 posts, read 4,443,006 times
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Go further East. The slightly more expensive ticket will be offset by the drastic drop in everyday prices. Think Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Slovenia....or even Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Romania.

Frankly, I hate the whole package hotel thing. It might be cheaper for a short vacation but the experience can't be as rich. You sound like you want to be in control of your own holiday even if you sacrifice a bit of comfort, so I suggest just doing it. It's your money after all. It will be funner to use the busses and trains and go around a bit more.

Also, with three weeks, that's pretty good for time and I wouldn't worry too much about the time spent in busses versus the highspeed trains. You can always do them (bus) overnight. I'm in Germany right now and there's great fares for bus travel, and they have wifi and snack bars and bathrooms. I'm doing Berlin to Hamburg tomorrow for 8€. Trains used to have the monopoly on domestic travel here, so with the bus market opened up many companies are doing absolute rock bottom fares for big distances.
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Old 06-25-2014, 11:01 AM
 
211 posts, read 276,060 times
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Thank you all for your responses. I'm a bit intrigued by the suggestion to go East. My immediate concern is communication. I'm a native English speaker and can get by a bit in Spanish and very little French (though my wife is better). German would be entirely new for me and I'm not sure how much I could pack in over the next month or so before I go.

Secondly, we had brought up Germany before but, well, what does one do while traveling in Germany? I know about Neuschwanstein Castle and that's about it lol.
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Old 06-25-2014, 11:33 AM
 
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Spontaneous trips can be fun, but were it me, I would call ahead of time and reserve an automatic rental car and rooms at various Marriotts.
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Old 06-25-2014, 11:39 AM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
7,678 posts, read 16,089,040 times
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Berlin is one of the world's great party towns (Munich and Hamburg are also quite lively), there is much history and many historical sites throughout the country going back to Roman ruins, the Alps are amazing scenery and great places to hike/bike/boat during summer months. English is widely taught as a second language throughout the country so you can pretty easily muddle through the usual tourist interactions and only occasionally have to look something up in a phrasebook, though it's a little bit hit or miss in the over-30 age group in the old East Germany because they learned Russian instead in school pre-reunification.

Prices are also often a bit more reasonable than they would be in Paris or London. It's also a very safe place with low rates of petty crime. I never felt unsafe in Germany even in the kind of sleazy red light area around Munich's main train station.
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Old 06-25-2014, 12:59 PM
 
Location: Gatineau, QC, Canada
3,402 posts, read 4,443,006 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by curzon_dax View Post
Thank you all for your responses. I'm a bit intrigued by the suggestion to go East. My immediate concern is communication. I'm a native English speaker and can get by a bit in Spanish and very little French (though my wife is better). German would be entirely new for me and I'm not sure how much I could pack in over the next month or so before I go.

Secondly, we had brought up Germany before but, well, what does one do while traveling in Germany? I know about Neuschwanstein Castle and that's about it lol.
To my knowledge, France and Spain are among Western Europe's least English-enabled countries. I know you said you have a bit of Spanish and your wife has French, but if you would feel comfortable in France and Spain without any of those skills then you will do completely fine in the East. I don't know a lick of any slavic language but I've been to Poland briefly, and it was fine communicating basic ideas like buying food or tickets. In fact, I can only speak English, bad Spanish, and words of German but would never rule out any country based on language barrier. I never even think about language when I travel, there's always a way around it.

Germany is a bit different in that it is a very modern and does not screw around. You have to dig a bit deeper to find the old-worldness you might be looking for in a trip to Europe, but it is still very cool to see how the country runs. I've only travelled the north, so maybe Bavaria and Baden Württemberg are different in that respect though. Also, basically everyone in a major city speaks passable English, although i was just in Leipzig and ran in to a few who couldn't. Like someone else said, Berlin is a great place to have some fun and go out. It is one of the cheapest capitals in the very Westernized world. You can do a lot for a great value, although many will be quick to tell you that is changing fast.

If you want a really quick and mediocre breakdown of Germany....:

North: Hamburg, one of Germany's largest and prettiest cities, also a bunch of quaint towns on the Baltic which are very scenic, like Rostock and the area around Rügen.

Central: Frankfurt, and I have no idea what else to be honest.

East: Hip and artsy, Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden. Close to the borders with Poland and CR.

South: Munich, Constanz, Stuttgart, the alps, the traditional stereotypes of Germany, educated and good economy type of environment, probably.

West: Düsseldorf, Cologne, the Rhine and its valley. A lot of the west looks kind of ugly, since its so dense. But its very accessible from NW Europe like the Netherlands and Belgium.

Last edited by Jesse44; 06-25-2014 at 01:08 PM..
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Old 06-25-2014, 01:24 PM
 
5,453 posts, read 12,666,688 times
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Default Cool...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse44 View Post
Go further East. The slightly more expensive ticket will be offset by the drastic drop in everyday prices. Think Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Slovenia....or even Serbia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Romania.

Frankly, I hate the whole package hotel thing. It might be cheaper for a short vacation but the experience can't be as rich. You sound like you want to be in control of your own holiday even if you sacrifice a bit of comfort, so I suggest just doing it. It's your money after all. It will be funner to use the busses and trains and go around a bit more.

Also, with three weeks, that's pretty good for time and I wouldn't worry too much about the time spent in busses versus the highspeed trains. You can always do them (bus) overnight. I'm in Germany right now and there's great fares for bus travel, and they have wifi and snack bars and bathrooms. I'm doing Berlin to Hamburg tomorrow for 8€. Trains used to have the monopoly on domestic travel here, so with the bus market opened up many companies are doing absolute rock bottom fares for big distances.

I will be in Munich in a couple of weeks, what do you think the fare would be to Salzburg, or do they only run within Germany? 'Sorry, don't mean to hijack the thread... you can PM me.
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