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Traveling in Europe

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1. Posted by aah2 (Budding Member 8 posts) 27w

Hello,

This summer, I will be travelling to Europe. I leave on the 5th of July and will come back home on the 6th of August. I will arrive in Zurich, Switzerland, and stay only for a few days before I would like to begin my European tour to the following countries: Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and I must arrive back in Switzerland with a week left to spare, since I will be staying for their Independence Day. Currently, I am having difficulties planning a route. I will begin in Zurich, Switzerland, however, from there on, I am having difficulties figuring out the route. I would prefer to travel by train as I have heard it is the most cost efficient, however, I heard flying might be necessary. Below are the cities and the number of days I plan to stay in each city:

Zurich, Switzerland: 1 day to greet relatives and drop off some luggage
Paris and Versailles, France: 3-4 days in Paris, 1 in Versailles
Amsterdam, Netherlands: 4 days
Rome and Florence, Italy: 7 days
Munich, Germany: 3 days
Vienna, Austria: 3 days
Zurich, Switzerland: 1 week

In a previous thread I posted, I noticed there was some disapproval on how I am planning out the number of days to spend in each country. I am travelling with a little brother and two parents, and not by myself. My parents have a list of landmarks they would like to target in each country. It is possible we will not be able to get a true sense of the culture in each country, however, we will adjust and definitely try to make the most out of each country :).

If there are any suggestions on a cost efficient route, that would be great! Thanks :)

2. Posted by hasbeen (Respected Member 630 posts) 27w

Here is your stated route as suggested by Google 4,783 km & the same places moved into a different order here 4,401 km.
Saves neary 400 km.
Play with the map til you get something that suits you.

The Man in Seat 61 is good for all things train.

Hope that helps a little bit.

Steve

3. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 528 posts) 27w

Steve has the right idea. Plotting an itinerary on a map gives you a good view of where you're headed. In your case, it makes sense to travel in a figure 8, first going north from Switzerland to France to the Netherlands, then to Germany, Austria and Italy before returning to Zurich. Or, you could head south first before heading north.

You essentially have three weeks to cover the territory that you want, excluding time spent in Switzerland. While that's doable -- especially if you tuck in a flight or two, or travel by train at night to save time -- it might not be advisable with parents and younger brother traveling along. Cutting out Munich will give you a bit more time to relax and get a better feel of the places you're visiting. You won't be as hurried or harried.

Steve is right, The Man in Seat 61 is an excellent resource. Try this link as well: https://www.bahn.com/i/view/overseas/en/index.shtml. Some rail routes offer beautiful scenery, such as Zurich to Vienna, crossing the Austrian Alps.

Discounted rail fares are available, if purchased in advance. For example, see this link: http://www.oebb.at/en/angebote-ermaessigungen/sparschiene

Sometimes it's cheaper to fly if you need to cover great distances. That's particularly so in Europe as it is in Asia. Check it out.

So explore your options. Whatever you decide to do, you'll all have a memorable time.

4. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 528 posts) 27w

Aah2, this is an interesting article: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-countries-where-youre-surrounded-by-tourists/?ex_cid=538fb

Many people only have time to spend a few nights in each place. So, no worries. You'll be OK.

5. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 285 posts) 27w

Have you looked at an 'open jaw' ticket rather than a return ticket to Zurich? That is, fly into one city and depart from a different city.

Could you eliminate that first day in Zurich? It seems to be serving little real purpose. You can 'greet relatives' when you get there at the end of your tour and if you pack less there will be no need to 'drop off some luggage'.

You could then plan a trip going from north to south and then only backtracking to Zurich at the end. So a route like, Amsterdam, Germany, France, Italy and then backtrack through Austria to Zurich.

Sometimes when we start out with a preconceived idea such as that first day in Zurich, we then no longer look at alternatives. That part is fixed in our mind and everything else is looked at (such as a route) based on that first fixed point.

Just like the typical, 'first I make a plan' as a preconception rules out any alternative. ;) Couldn't resist.

6. Posted by LifelongVaga (Budding Member 20 posts) 27w

If you're up for not using trains you can also check out blablacar and couchsurfing rideshares to make it a bit cheaper.

Also, don't forget to factor on driving times. Europe is fairly big and the distance between Switzerland and Paris is 6-10 hours, which is a lot of lost time especially on a short trip and that's not even factoring in train waiting times. So that's why I would also suggest traveling the shortest distance possible.

7. Posted by aah2 (Budding Member 8 posts) 27w

Quoting OldPro

Have you looked at an 'open jaw' ticket rather than a return ticket to Zurich? That is, fly into one city and depart from a different city.

Could you eliminate that first day in Zurich? It seems to be serving little real purpose. You can 'greet relatives' when you get there at the end of your tour and if you pack less there will be no need to 'drop off some luggage'.

You could then plan a trip going from north to south and then only backtracking to Zurich at the end. So a route like, Amsterdam, Germany, France, Italy and then backtrack through Austria to Zurich.

Sometimes when we start out with a preconceived idea such as that first day in Zurich, we then no longer look at alternatives. That part is fixed in our mind and everything else is looked at (such as a route) based on that first fixed point.

Just like the typical, 'first I make a plan' as a preconception rules out any alternative. ;) Couldn't resist.

I actually haven't heard of an open jaw ticket, but I'm definitely open to that suggestion. Would it be like: I would fly to Amsterdam, and then fly out of Zurich?

8. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 528 posts) 27w

This link explains what it is; and why it is useful: http://www.independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/air-travel/open-jaw-and-circle-fares

I use open-jaw tickets frequently. For example, over the weekend I bought an open-jaw ticket from Atlanta to Accra, Ghana; returning from Libreville, Gabon, to Atlanta. This saves time and money.

Play around with routings on Skyscanner.com, Kayak.com or Google.com/flights to help determine the fare. Sometimes you'll be pleasantly surprised. For example, with the ticket purchased above, I was able to tack on a one-way flight from Atlanta to Honolulu at less than half of the price of the usual one-way fare to that destination. The reason: Arcane fare rules that treat the Atlanta to Honolulu segment as continuation of an international flight, since it crosses over international waters (the Pacific). I'm spending three weeks in Atlanta before flying to Honolulu to visit family.

So investigate the possibilities.

9. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 285 posts) 27w

The link berner256 gave when answering for me gives a good explanation aah2. You should also pay attention to the first part which states, "roundtrip flights almost always cost less than the sum cost of two one-way trips on the same route. (Discount airlines are a notable exception to this rule.)

So while an open jaw ticket on most major airlines gets you the same kind of pricing a return ticket would rather than 2 separate one way tickets would, you ALSO have the possibility of getting as cheap or an even cheaper fare with 'Discount' airlines when buying 2 one way tickets.

LCCs (low cost carriers) often price ALL their seats as one ways. They do NOT offer a lower price for a return ticket than for 2 one way tickets in other words. That can work to the advantage of someone who wants to visit several places and move overland in between places.

That also points out the disadvantages of using third party websites as your only source of flight choices. Often they do NOT list LCC flights at all as the LCCs refuse to pay them a commission. While online booking is a convenience, it isn't necessarily the best way to plan travel. Berner256 can probably tell you if the sites he suggests looking at for prices list LCCs or not. I personally never use third party booking sites for anything.

Most people who fly only on vacations are used to flying return flights. They are generally going to only one destination and back and so it makes sense. But if someone wants to do a bit more than that, you need to learn more about what is available to you and I know of no online BOOKING website that will provide you with that.

So to answer your question to me, yes, you could fly into Amsterdam and back from Zurich. But that is not the only choice you might make by a long shot. If you are 'open to that suggestion' as you say then all kinds of other possibilities come into play.

You might for example find a great price on an LCC to Frankfurt. ONE WAY. It might be a big enough price difference that you might consider flying to Frankfurt, doing your German portion of your trip and then taking a train to Amsterdam (short hop in relative terms) followed by a train to Paris and then Italy, Austria and Switzerland where you would take a ONE WAY flight home on A DIFFERENT LCC.

To give you an admittedly extreme example of just how much difference there might be, I once got a one way from Vancouver, Canada to London, UK for $99 CAD. A typical Vancouver/London return at the time was around $800 on an LCC and $16-1800 on Air Canada, the major Canadian airline. Being me, I didn't even worry about how to get back, but that's back to my 'wing it' philosophy that everyone insists has to cost you more. Oops, couldn't resist yet again. ;)

It all depends on what airlines you have available to you to/from your home country. Since you haven't said what country that is, I can't suggest a list to you. But as you will see from the following link to a worldwide list of LCCs, there are a lot of them and most will never come up on most third party online booking sites. http://www.icao.int/sustainability/Documents/LCC-List.pdf

The possibilities available to the traveller today have become far more complex than they were in the past as the example of adding a Honolulu segment that berner256 describes shows. But most people have remained clueless to those possibilities.

In the past, a knowledgeable travel agent would probably have automatically looked at where you wanted to go and suggested the possibility of an open-jaw ticket. You would have learned about it then. But the public in its infinite wisdom has decided that they can avoid using travel agents and just book on a third party booking site to 'save themselves some money'. Also know as, 'how to shoot yourself in the foot.' Not everything in the digitial world is necessarily an improvement on the old ways of doing things.

If you are going to act as your own travel adivisor, then you need to educate yourself about what is available to you, just as a good travel agent had to do in the past. ;)

10. Posted by MollyFitz85 (Inactive 3 posts) 27w

Hi there,

I would definitely suggest an open jaw ticket when traveling to so many different destinations in a short amount of time. Depending on how much your parents want to spend of course.

I agree with Steve and I think that, with the destinations you've chosen, traveling them by train is a great idea. I have both flown and traveled by train through Europe and I must say, the routes through Europe by train are pretty amazing, especially in the Alpes and at the Mediterranean coastline. The website Steve suggested is really good for train travel advice (www.seat61.com) or you can order your ticket at Eurail online. There is a cheaper website to book train tickets though, it's called -snip- They also let kids travel for free I think (under a certain age), I don't know how old your little brother is?

Anyway, I hope this was useful.

Molly

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