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winter planning and itinerary

Travel Forums Europe winter planning and itinerary

1. Posted by marionrogers (First Time Poster 1 posts) 2w

Hello! So me and a friend( both female 19y) will be traveling through Europe for 8 weeks( December 12 - February 5), starting and ending in Milan, which was the cheapest option considering where we are from.

We Will most definitely be buying an Eurail Global pass for 2 months unlimited, because we really like the freedom you get to make changes to your itinerary as you go.

But I still want and need your help with our ideas of where to go and our budget, because we would like to spend as low as possible without sleeping in a dumpster. But we are completely fine with hostels and buying food on the street and supermarkets.(Budget around usd100??)

Ideally we would like to go to

Slovenia( Ljubljana, Bled)


Austria(Vienna, Salzburg, Hallstatt)

Czech Republic( Praga, Cesky Krumlov)

Poland( Krakrow, Wroclaw, Auschwitz)

Germany(Berlin!, Munich, Nuremberg, Dresden, Hamburg, Fussen)

The Netherlands( Amsterdam, Delft, Utretch)

France( Lyon, Bordeaux, Tours, French Rivera, Annecy, Carcassone)

Spain( also Portugal, but we know it is to far away so we will probably just end up going to Barcelona)


Switzerland( Interlaken)(? not sure because it is really expensive

Italy( Florence, Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre, Sorrento)

These are just ideas I would really apreciate your thoughts and comments on it; it is not definite and can be changed according to what you say. We would also like suggestions on places to add and/or omit! and what would your ideal 8 weeks winter Europe itinerary be!!!

Please! all comments are appreciated!

Also what are the best places to spend Christmas and New Years that wont break our bank?

We are both history buffs!(especially WW2) and like pretty places and cool places with lots of stuff to see and do! and me don't mind spending an entire day just walking and taking in the sight!!

Thank you very much!!:):)

2. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 526 posts) 2w

You're covering a lot of territory for two months. Eastern Europe and the southern tier of countries, such as Spain and Portugal, aren't likely to be as expensive as Germany and the Netherlands. The Global Eurail Pass is expensive, even for the youth version for those 12-25. You might want to consider a few flights (some can be cheaper than rail), especially if you have to cover great distances. Railroads, such as Austria's OBB, offer discounted tickets if purchased in advance. See this link:

You also can ask at ticket offices if there are special discounted fares (on certain routes at certain times). It always pays to ask! In fact, always ask if there's anything cheaper. You could discover that you're eligible for a discount that you didn't know about. So ask.

Determine your priorities. Then plot an itinerary using the mapping system. Consider some flights. Check this Web site for flights:
Other useful Web sites for flights include; and

For rail timetables:

You'll be traveling during the off-peak months, so some places will be closed, or have shorter hours. The notable exception will be areas known for winter sports.

Layer clothing to keep warm! Best of luck.

3. Posted by zzlangerhans (Budding Member 10 posts) 2w

I added up the minimum stays for all the places you mentioned such that you could truthfully say you have actually been to that city (e.g. at least 4 days in cities like Prague and Berlin, 1 day in Cesky Krumlov) and came up with at least 70 days (10 weeks). That would be the bare minimum. I'm not sure if you think you could get to all the cities you mentioned in eight weeks, or just throwing out different ideas. If you did try, you would be miserable and spend half your trip packing and traveling. You are talking like you expect this to be your only chance to visit Europe in your life, but you are 19 so I doubt this is the case. I strongly recommend you pull back and focus.

Since you are traveling in the dead of winter, you are best concentrating on the colder countries from Switzerland to Poland. Why? Because these countries thrive in the cold and attract more tourists for winter sports, Christmas markets, and the like. Christmas is probably the best time of year to visit Krakow, for example. Places like Prague and Berlin and Vienna will also be in full swing.

In my opinion, you are wasting your time going to southern France and Barcelona in the winter. People go to those places in the summer, and there won't be much of interest in January. Save France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy for other trips (April, May, September are the best months to travel in those countries). Forget Mostar. It is way outside the rest of your itinerary and honestly there's not much to see in Mostar itself outside of the tourist alley. Wait until you have more experience traveling and feel comfortable exploring the real Bosnia and the Balkans. I'm not sure I would do Slovenia in winter either. It is a beautiful and underrated country and I think more enjoyable when warm and green.

If you go to Milan and far northern Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Czech, Slovakia (Bratislava is underrated), Poland you will find more than enough to keep you occupied for eight weeks. You could even consider staying in a place like Prague for a week or more to get some sense of what it is really like to be a native. And of course, expect freezing temperatures everywhere. I assume you're from a cold climate. If you're from Florida, you'll be miserable.

[ Edit: Edited on 07-Oct-2016, at 04:01 by zzlangerhans ]

4. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 526 posts) 2w

Agree wholeheartedly with zzlangerhans.

5. Posted by Tabithag (Budding Member 55 posts) 2w

I have mixed feelings about trips like yours. These days, in our forties, my husband and I travel much of the time, we go slowly and stay longer in most places, so that we can get more of a feel for the place and absorb more. I think this is a much better way of really experiencing a new place or country.

However, I have great memories of our two month long interrail / eurail trips that we did too. One was western Europe back in 1989 at your age, and one was Balkans / southeast Europe in 2002. Both were the 'fit in as many places as possible' style, with only one or two places per country and one or two days per place.

Especially the first trip, we did a lot of overnight trains to save on accommodation, or camped. Aside from the cost of the ticket, that was done on a total budget of £8 each per day (which would be about £14 these days). The second had some hostels and cheap hotels thrown in to mix it up, and we increased our budget to a much more comfortable £30 (now about £35) each per day.

I loved those trips because they were fun and we saw loads of places. But I can't honestly say that we had time to get to know the places, beyond a very superficial level and being able to say which ones we would want to go back to and spend longer in later on.

So it really depends what kind of experience you want to have, and whether you would come back to soak in a bit more another time.

Either way, I do agree with the two posts above that suggest sticking to the northern countries, especially given your interest in in WWII history. I also heartily endorse the suggestion of including Slovakia; Bratislava is really lovely. Prague is fabulous in the winter and the Christmas markets in Berlin (and other places of course) are great. I also loved Romania, but was there in the summer. You will need to bear in mind that some places are much less 'open' in the winter.

Do expect some very cold and snowy weather, and even at that time of year, do book ahead for Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a great trip.

6. Posted by OldPro (Respected Member 237 posts) 2w

I agree you are trying to cover too much and need to slow it down. The common phrase people use is, 'to see as much as possible'. What they confuse is the word 'much' with the word 'many'. They are not synonymous. The way to see as 'much' as possible, is to spend your time IN places not in BETWEEN places. The more you move the LESS you see and do IN places.

Most people considering a trip such as you are, start by coming up with a list of places they think they would like to visit. They then take the time they have available and divide it among the places. I suggest, that is the WRONG way to go about it. What you end up with is a pie you have cut into so many small pieces, no piece is worth bothering to eat.

Most experienced travellers will agree that 'less is more' and that you have to allow sufficient time in each place you visit. Otherwise, it all just becomes a blur and while you can say, 'been there', you probably won't be able to say much more beyond that about any given place. So the question then becomes, what is a reasonable amount of time to average per place.

My advice is to use the 'Rule of 3s'. In terms of planning travel, that means 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 3/4. That allows for travel days between places, something people often forget to consider. Even a short train ride between places can result in most of a day being lost to packing up; checking out; eating; train ride; checking in; eating again.

Also note the 'less than'. Most people would agree that some major places need more than 3 days. A history buff might find it quite difficult to cover all that is of interest to them in Rome for example. Trying to determine beforehand just how long a given place will hold your interest is in fact just guessing. I've been to places that I was ready to leave in less than a day and other places that held my interest for twice as long as I had thought they might. That means you need flexibility in your planning. A totally pre-planned and pre-booked itinerary is NOT conducive to flexibility obviously.

So summing some of the above up, if you use the Rule of 3s, you take your 60 days you have available and divide it by 4. That tells you that you could initially plan for no more than 15 places. From THAT you then come up with your list of places. Your initial list has 32.

Also keep in mind that if you are not ready to leave a place, there is no law that says you must do so. There is no prize for getting to every place you think you would like to visit and quantity does not beat quality. What matters is that you get what you consider valuable experiences out of each day you have available. Spending 3 days in each of 10 places is NOT more valuable than spending 6 days in each of 5 places IF each day was well used. In fact, you could argue that moving even less will result in even more days spent IN places seeing/doing things of interest to you.

Consider the Rule of 3's in another light. It allows for a travel day (day 4). That means it allows for 25% of your total time to be used moving. That is time you will NOT spend in places. Do you want to spend more than 25% of your time moving? Or would you prefer to spend even less? The ideal of course would be to go to one place and spend ALL your time in that one place, thus losing no time to moving. But most people want to try and get a balance between best use of time and the desire to visit several places. Just don't let the 'more places' overcome a reasonable balance. That's what the Rule of 3's tries to do for you.

Years ago, just as Tabithag mentions doing, I too took trips that really tried to cover too much in too little time. That is probably the number 1 or 2 mistake travellers make. The other is packing too much. Some never change as it becomes a habit while others learn to slow down and see/do more with their time. Nowadays, I do not consider any stop of less than a week worth making and often opt for only ONE place per trip. I've learned that more places does not mean more value in terms of best use of time.

Regarding budget. Received wisdom in backpacking sites is that a daily budget of around 60 Euros per person is about right for someone who is staying in hostels; eating mainly supermarket food and paying for the odd museum entry or beer. It does not include transportation. That is for W. Europe and for E. Europe you can reduce that to around 40-45 Euros.

That is obviously a bare bones budget and you should also consider whether it would suit you. There is a difference between enjoying your trip and just surviving your trip. I have met many backpackers who were so busy looking for the cheapest everything, to stay within a budget, that they had no time to see or do much of anything other than that. That to me is not the way to travel.

So depending on how that compares to how much you are budgeting, you may want to consider either upping the budget if possible or reducing the time. I would rather enjoy 30 days than just survive for 60 days. Having a certain amount of time available does not mean you have sufficient funds to cover that amount of time and doesn't mean you have to use all of the time you have available.

Even backpacking and staying in hostels which I am not unwilling to do, I would want to have 75-100 Euros per day in order to enjoy my time. The 75 for time in E. Europe as an average and the 100 for W. Europe. Then you wouldn't be asking about how expensive Switzerland is. Where you spent less in one place you could afford to spend a bit more in Switzerland (but not Interlaken, please, it is the ultimate in tourist kitsch). Decisions on where to spend your time should be made based on how interested you are in a place compared to another place, not on the difference in costs. If the number one thing you want to do is visit the Swiss Alps, deciding to go to another country because it is cheaper, will NEVER get you that experience of seeing the Alps. I often wonder about people who post in travel forums answering a question like, 'how much do I need to spend to visit the Alps' with a response like, 'go to Thailand it's cheaper.'

[ Edit: Edited on 08-Oct-2016, at 08:59 by OldPro ]

7. Posted by arif18 (Budding Member 3 posts) 1w

Well, you have almost done with the beautiful places in the Europe except Sweden I guess. Its a beautiful place too. Though in winter it gets dark early but the wonderful islands, mountains, lakes etc will surely make your trip even better.

8. Posted by thomsonriver (Budding Member 12 posts) 3d

Finnish, Sweden temperatures way below 0 C in most of the winters. In Finnish, you can get into Arktikum museum and In Sweden, cross-country skiing along national park is the place to visit. Parts of Andalucia, Spain, you can expect mild temperatures in winter.