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Interrail 5 days in 15 days - How many cities/days?

Travel Forums Europe Interrail 5 days in 15 days - How many cities/days?

1. Posted by segfau (Budding Member 2 posts) 28w

Hi everyone,

I was hoping you could help planning my very first (mini) interrail! :)
Finally, I have the chance to travel trough europe for two weeks (precisely 16 day), but I'm having trouble to find the best days per city ratio.

The route I would like to do would be something like this:
Porto -> Prague (flight arring in the morning)
Prague - stay for 2 days (interrail pass activation)
Budapest - stay for 2 days
Krakow - stay for 3 days
Berlin - stay for 2 days
Hamburg - stay for 2 day
Amsterdan - stay for 3 days
Amsterdan -> Porto (fight leaving in the evening)

Note: I'm not countig 2 of my 16 vacation days to make up for the hours lost going from one city to other.

Is this pratical? Or should I discard one of those citys?

Thanks so much in advance!

2. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3713 posts) 28w

I wouldn't bother with Hamburg - Berlin is an amazing city with so much to see and do so I would spend more time there instead. Also I think 2 days is enough for Krakow.

3. Posted by segfau (Budding Member 2 posts) 28w

Thanks for your input!

I only added Hamburg because is only 2h away from Berlin.

My main concern is that 5/6 cities is too much for 16 days, because of the time I waste in train transfers from city to city.

4. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 216 posts) 28w

Two things come to mind. First, the problem with a rail pass is the tendency to want to 'get your money's worth' and that translates to moving more. You don't buy a pass and then only move once.

The second thing that I think of is how people try to decide beforehand how much time they will need in a place to see and do what interests them. I find that totally illogical. How can anyone possibly know how long a place will hold their interest? I have been to places where I had thought I would want to spend several days and found myself ready to leave after a day. I have also been to places where I found myself wanting to stay longer than I had expected. The answer to that is to NOT have a fixed itinerary at all, only a list of places you MAY get to in a given amount of time. If you move faster or move slower based on how long a place holds your interest, you may only get to half of the places on the list or you may get to another place you hadn't had on the list to begin with. There is no prize for keeping to a plan and no prize for reaching a specific number of places.

So to answer your question, "How many cities/days?", the answer is as many days per city as that city holds your interest for. No more, no less. Trying to answer the question of how many days that will be beforehand, is simply an exercise in guessing.

Having said that, you can use a rough guide if you want to get some idea of how many places you MIGHT cover, more or less. Based on the average traveller with the average amount of interests, you can use the Rule of 3s as a rough guide. The Rule of 3s as it applies to travel says, 'never spend less than 3 full days/4 nights in a place unless it is just an overnight stop between A and B.'

Note the 'less than', it is generally accepted as a reasonable minimum but most people would agree that somewhere like say Rome, London, Paris, etc. will need more than 3 full days to see all that is of interest to you.

Note the '3 full days/4 nights'. Every time you move you lose time and that time is not spent IN as place it is spent in BETWEEN places. Even a move that only requires a 1 or 2 hour train ride will in fact cost you a half day or more lost to moving. Pack up, check-out, have breakfast, go to the station and wait for the train, ride the train, find your way to your next place, check-in, it all takes time. So as a rule of thumb, you figure on losing a day every time you move.

If you use that rule and look at your 16 days, what you will see is it would work out like this.

Day 1, to A.
Day 2, 3, 4, in A.
Day 5 to B.
Day 6, 7, 8, in B.
Day 9 to C.
Day 10, 11, 12, in C.
Day 13 to D.
Day 14, 15, in D
Day 16 to home.

So I would not plan on visiting more than 4 places maximum. You may decide to leave a place sooner or stay in one longer but that gives you a rough guide to what the average person might do and be happy with.

5. Posted by Andyf (Travel Guru 640 posts) 28w

I'm not convinced about this "rule of threes" thing. For one thing it is entirely at odds with the cruise industry norm of one day in a port - a day is enough for many, many places.

It also forgets that some of the fun is the travel not the destination.

Prague and Budapest, I'd want longer than two days. I was in Budapest for 4 days last week, my second visit, and I could have done with longer.

Amsterdam - I'm not a big fan. A day is plenty for me; I much prefer Copenhagen.

6. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 216 posts) 27w

Fair enough Andyf, it is a rule of thumb you can use to come up with a reasonable expectation, it isn't carved in stone. My whole point is that it is unreasonable to expect to be able to GUESS beforehand how long a place will hold your interest. Yet that is what everyone does who sets out an itinerary of places they do not already know. So if they insist on trying to schedule something that cannot really be scheduled, then a rule of thumb of some kind is as good a way as any. What alternative rule of thumb would you suggest? Plan for 1 day per place?

I advocate slow travel and winging it Andyf. Slow travel means stopping in places for a week or more and as much as possible, living in those places as a local would do. Winging it means not knowing where you will go beyond A.

Most people can't seem to imagine not having an itinerary if they are thinking of visiting more than one place. We live our lives to a schedule and it seems most people think they have to vacation to a schedule as well. It takes a major shift in thinking for most people to let go of scheduling.

It requires a paradigm shift for most people to consider just buying a ticket to A and seeing what happens from there. If you suggest it, they come up with all kinds of supposed 'reasons' against it. None of their reasons holds water but they'll argue them till the cows come home.

Travel can be as simple or as complicated as we choose to make it. I prefer simple. I go to A and then leave when I am ready, not before or after. I then decide where I want to go next and repeat the process until either my maximum time available runs out or my money runs out. Then I go home. I may only get to that first place or I may get to half a dozen places, it really doesn't matter. What matters is what I got out of each day I had. Quality not quantity is the goal.

The Rule of 3s I suggested, is not for someone like me, it is for someone who does believe they need to have a plan. It is intended to try and encourage them to at least spend a few days in a place rather than just tick a name off a list.

I remember the first time I took my wife to Europe with no fixed itinerary and no pre-booked hotels. Never having done that before, she was understandably nervous but put her trust in me and went along with it. We had a rough outline of 4 or 5 places we would go to. Researching places beforehand is part of the fun of travel but you can do that without committing to anything. The first couple of places we visited went as anticipated. Then we got to a village in Switzerland that I was familiar with, found a hotel and booked in for 4 nights. At the end of our third day, my wife said she really liked it there and didn't want to leave the next day, she would like to stay a bit longer. So I simply went to reception and asked to keep our room for another 2 nights. No problem. That is when the light bulb went on for my wife. No plan means you can do as you please. Stay or go. We did not have a reservation somewhere else we were tied to. Nowadays you couldn't get my wife to pre-book anything.

We never got to the last place on our list on that trip. We went there on another trip. The same thing has happened to us several times on our travels. We have a rough idea, get to some and may not get to others. Getting to 4 places isn't necessarily better than getting to 3 places. It is what you get out of each day that matters. If you are enjoying each day, WHY do you have to leave and move to B? Will you enjoy your day in B more than if you stayed in A or will you simply perhaps just enjoy it as much as in A? Or maybe less than if you had stayed in A?

It really does seem to be a real paradigm shift for some people to understand that MORE is not BETTER, it is only more. That people can't see that and therefore that it requires a real paradigm shift for them can be seen in the typical answer to this suggestion of winging it.

People will say something like,'I only have x amount of time to spend and I want to get as much out of it as possible.' In that sentence they are clearly equating 'much' with 'many'. The two words are not synonymous. Getting as 'much' out of your time as possible is about what you VALUE, not quantity. Unless of course it is quantity that you value. If your goal is to say, 'I went to 10 places, here's the list' then so be it. But if you would prefer to say, 'I had a great day hiking in the Alps and met a sheep herder who invited me to join him for his lunch of fresh sheep milk and cheese in his little hut', then quantity has nothing to do with what you value. So why insist on an itinerary?

7. Posted by Andyf (Travel Guru 640 posts) 27w

Sure, there are planners and non-planners. The OP was asking for help with his planning.

I can think of various situations where your unplanned travel doesn't work for perfectly legitimate reasons, so i think there is no right and wrong way. I'm usually tied to a fixed period off work, need return flights booked, and an open itinerary would be more stress than the value it adds, when I take into account the time overhead of finding accommodation on the road. I'd usually sooner devote the time beforehand to the planning and maximise what I can do during my limited time away.

This doesn't mean I travel particularly quickly, but it does maximise the quality time, whether it is spent on many or few places. I think it's a little judgemental to say none of their reasons hold water - yes we all have self limiting beliefs, but we also have free choice.

8. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 216 posts) 27w

Quoting Andyf

Sure, there are planners and non-planners. The OP was asking for help with his planning.

I can think of various situations where your unplanned travel doesn't work for perfectly legitimate reasons, so i think there is no right and wrong way. I'm usually tied to a fixed period off work, need return flights booked, and an open itinerary would be more stress than the value it adds, when I take into account the time overhead of finding accommodation on the road. I'd usually sooner devote the time beforehand to the planning and maximise what I can do during my limited time away.

This doesn't mean I travel particularly quickly, but it does maximise the quality time, whether it is spent on many or few places. I think it's a little judgemental to say none of their reasons hold water - yes we all have self limiting beliefs, but we also have free choice.

Like I said Andyf, " If you suggest it, they come up with all kinds of supposed 'reasons' against it. None of their reasons holds water but they'll argue them till the cows come home."

Your 'reasons' for not winging it on a 2 week trip don't hold water any more than any other reasons people give. In fact your reasons are pretty much the most common 'reasons' given. You are of course in charge of your own time and so free to do as you please. But please don't try to give me 'reasons' for planning that simply don't hold water.

Most people are tied to fixed periods off work, so there is nothing in that to differ between someone who plans and someone who does not. Most book return flights since they have a fixed end date so that is not unique to planners either. I don't know just how you would measure the supposed stress vs. added value. I find no stress whatsoever in winging it. You may if you do not do it regularly but it's like anything else you become familiar with. The first time you tied your shoelaces, no doubt it was stressful but with practice it becomes second nature and there is no stress at all. So that dog won't hunt either.

There is no 'time overhead' of finding accommodation. That is actually an interesting difference between the planner and the winger. You may go online, do some searching to come up with a place in your budget and make a reservation. It's simply a function you need to perform. I don't arrive in A and then go around asking at 6 hotels to see a room and get a price before picking one. That would be the equivalent functional approach you might expect.

My most common method of finding a room is to go to a restaurant or bar, sit down and order a coffee, glass of wine or a beer depending on what I feel like drinking. I sit there and people watch for a bit. Then I begin a conversation with the waiter,bartender, or locals sitting next to me. I ask if someone knows of a local hotel they would recommend staying at. Almost invariably they do and almost invariably they make a phone call to see if a room is available. I have had some very interesting experiences with this method. I've had rental owners show up and join me for a glass of wine before escorting me to their accommodation. In other words Andyf, finding a room becomes part of the experience, not just a function that has to be performed. And no, I have never not been able to find a room in my budget or had to sleep on a park bench because all the inns were full. I could argue that I maximize my time in terms of added experiences even when finding a room.

We all do have self-limiting beliefs and free choice as you say Andyf. You choose to believe that planning makes sense given your circumstances and I would not argue that planning doesn't get you what you expect it to get you. But I would also argue that it doesn't get you a whole lot of the unexpected and that is just what I want to get, the unexpected. You believe that planning 'maximizes' your use of time and I would argue that winging it in fact gets you maximum in terms of experiences simply because it requires you to interact more with the local people. If I don't know where I am going, I have to talk to people to find out. I can't just give a taxi driver the name of a place to take me to.

Let's be honest about why people plan. It isn't to maximize their use of time, it's because planning is what they are comfortable with doing. For most people the idea of arriving in A with no reservation and no idea of where they will go from there, is not a comfortable thought. It is outside their 'comfort zone' and no one likes to do something outside that zone. So suggesting they try not planning will obviously elicite all kinds of 'reasons' why it won't work for them or is a bad idea etc. But after you have gone and winged it a few times, guess what, your comfort zone shifts.

We can agree to disagree Andyf but don't try to tell me planning results in better use of your vacation time. It is simply a different use of your time. You may spend an hour looking at the Mona Lisa while I spend an hour talking with a local.

9. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 216 posts) 27w

Maybe we can sum it up with one quote Andyf.

"The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. – Gilbert K. Chesterton"