Europe Trip Planning – Proposal of European Routes

Europe Trip Planning as a Method

Even if in this article I am not going to emphasize in the methodology to plan a route in Europe, I want to say that every route you plan for yourself or that you evaluate must accomplish that the distance or time invested in the route is the minimum possible provided certain cities you want to visit and/or that the activities or cities you visit are organized in a logical way. The first part means that your route distance or time must be optimized to the best in order to enjoy more time doing the activities you plan (except if you travel by train, which can be an activity by itself). The second part means that, if possible, you should try to organize the route in an intelligent way, trying to put together cities that have things in common, such as belonging to the same country.

Europe Trip Planning for a 1 Week Trip

In the case that you have only 1 week available and you want to do a trip to Europe, you are forced to select 3 major cities. Of course you can focus in only one country and visit more cities, but here I take the example providing that you wan to do an international European tour. My recommendation, which comes directly from tourist evaluation resources, is to divide your trip between London, Paris and Rome. Certainly you could spend 5 days in each of those cities, but in this case we understand you will spend only 2. Of course you are free to reduce the number to 2 of them and visit each city during 3 days. The route in this case is a triangle and there is no optimization possible, just begin from the city that has the best flights from your departure airport.

Europe Trip Planning for a 2 Weeks Trip

That’s the standard holiday people take to Europe, and it allow you to move further to explore something more than just the 3 typical capitals of Europe. In this occasion, I think the best is to include in your itinerary the cities of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Berlin in Germany and Prague in the Czech Republic. At this point, probably a global train pass would be useful but distances are very big and if you don’t take nocturnal trains probably you won’t have time to do it. If you choose the plane, always use Ryanair or, if the route is not covered by them, change to EasyJet or German Wings. If you try the normal carriers you will be charged an awful quantity of money. The way this route would be organized is, departing for example from London, going east to Amsterdam and Berlin, then moving south to Prague and Rome in Italy, and finally climbing up again going through Paris before arriving to London.

Europe Trip Planning for a 3 Weeks Trip

We have to admit it: your boss was in a good mood today when you asked him to take your holidays abroad in Europe. Probably he’s fallen in love… In any case, now you have the opportunity to explore deeper the different cultures you can find in Europe, possibly one of the most varied continents in the World if not the most. We will add in this occasion the cities of Vienna in Austria, Venice as a second city you must visit in Italy and Barcelona, the most touristic city in Spain. In this case, except the routes from and to Barcelona, the rest of the trip would be economically done buying a rail global pass for Europe.

We would depart from London again, going in the same way to Amsterdam, Berlin and Prague, but then before Rome we would visit first Vienna and later Venice, the city of love. Turning down to the italian capital, Rome, and later taking a flight with Ryanair to Barcelona. Ryanair again will guide you to Paris, and finally you can take the last train up to London.

Europe Trip Planning for a 4 Weeks Trip

For the lucky ones that are able to spend nearly a whole month in my home continent, you can go even a deeper and explore more remote regions such as Dublin in Ireland and Budapest in Hungary. Also, adding Brussels to the trip will add more value by discovering the culture of the capital of Belgium. In this occasion, and taking as a reference the 3 weeks route, we will start from London first going up to Dublin and then flying back to Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Another change in the route would be after Vienna: before going to Venice, we will place in between a visit to Budapest, Hungary’s capital. Finally, after the visit to Paris, instead of going directly to London a good idea is to first take the train to Brussels. A global rail pass for Europe would be recommended also for this trip, but certain flights such as the ones to and from Barcelona or to and from Dublin should be done by plane.

What about the airfare cost or hotel accommodation?

As I always recommend, there are some websites where you can get travel certificates for free. Some of them will cover up to $800 in flights making you pay only $80, so you can expect nearly a 90% discount by using travel certificates for flights. Also for hotel accommodation you can find goo 85% discounted travel certificates in 3,4 and 5 star hotels worldwide. Very few people know about their existence, but it’s just a matter of going to the right place. And the question is… Which is that place?

Ultimate European Road Trip Series – Part Seven – Innsbruck, Austria

We began this adventure by purchasing a Porsche Macan S and picking the car up at the Porsche factory in Zuffenhausen Germany… the road trip is now “official”.

This segment of the series is dedicated to our adventures while touring the Innsbruck, Austria area.

The Drive from Salzburg to Innsbruck

We left Salzburg before noon and headed straight to the “famous” Grossglockner High Alpine Road and this time a “suggested” side trip lived up to the hype.

This panoramic drive twists and turns up 29 miles (48 km) into the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park… breath-taking views and car challenging exchanges… the weather was perfect and clear.

There is a broad, four lane road approaching the ticket toll gate where the bulk of the cars turn off and head back down to avoid paying the entrance fee.

“Yep, I drove the Alpine Road”… but they probably do not mention that they just drove the few miles of roadway leading up to the toll gate.

What a mistake… for about $40 you get access to a meticulously maintained roadway that affords majestic views on every turn.

You leave a warm green valley floor and drive up to cold, snow-covered Alps.

We even made snow balls!

Onward to Innsbruck

After “testing out” the suspension system, handling capabilities and getting familiar with the PDK paddles (excellent for down shifting on alpine roads) on Max, we set course for Innsbruck.

The goods news… we experienced the Grossglockner. The not so good news (a mixed blessing)… we had to take local back roads for over three hours to get into Innsbruck.

But driving through small country towns and the absolutely spectacular scenery made up for the extra drive time.

We arrived in Innsbruck at around 6:00 pm, unloaded the car and parked in an underground secure space. After a brief introduction to the apartment we opened a bottle of wine to celebrate our day of travel and fun experiences.

Three Nights with Two Days in Innsbruck

Day One – The Mieders Alpine Coaster

Located a short twenty minutes drive from Innsbruck is a very popular recreational area at the base of the “Serles” mountain peak which is 1.7 miles (2,717 meters) high. At the base of this peak is the town of Mieders and the “infamous” Alpine Coaster.

The scenery is stunning as you enjoy a brief gondola ride to the top of the track.

The coaster is the steepest track in the Alps that runs about 2 miles long through the forest and down the mountain at a max speed of about 26 miles per hour.

“No big deal”, you say. Well, when seated in a single passenger bobsled-like device with a small seat belt strap and no other protective equipment… and only a brake-stick to control your speed… it gets interesting fast.

This is a gravity driven coaster and consists of 40 hairpin turns so the driver is hands-on at the controls.

What a rush of adrenaline that turned out to be. As we got more comfortable, the braking got less and let-it-rip took over… great fun.

We returned to Innsbruck around noon and had a chance to just wander around and explore this compact town.

We selected a restaurant on the touristy plaza area and enjoyed a few pints of draft Pilsner with a great Tyrolian lunch. The setting added a perfect spot for people watching as we savored the vibe of Innsbruck on a cloudy but warm September afternoon.

The weather improved a little as we strolled around peeking into various little shops and boutiques with unique items on display.

We asked a local about nearby restaurants that served good Tyrol food and we wound up at the Defregger Stube, which was located in a nearby unpretentious hotel. Sometimes you just luck out and this time we did…

What a surprise and the food and service was excellent too.

Our first full day proved to be great.

Day Two – The Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle

The drive from Innsbruck to the castle was about 70 miles (114 km) on a combination of highway and mountain roads so it took us over two hours to get there.

We pre-paid tickets for an english-speaking guided tour (which confirmed a reservation time slot) and had to pick them up in Fussen which is a short distance (on the map) from the actual castle.

But they forget to tell us that traffic and parking are literally a nightmarish experience. We are from Los Angeles and we know traffic… this was ridiculous.

The Castle Experience

The Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle was promoted as being the model for Disneyland’s Cinderella Castle and the two have a lot in common. Both locations are geared to get the most money out of each visitor and are the epitome of crowd control management.

Neuschwanstein is a relatively “young” castle having been partially completed around the 1860 period. The actual castle was small in size and limited in scope… the entire tour takes only 25 minutes.

In our opinion we did not feel that dealing with the traffic, people crush, assorted expenses (admission, parking and transportation to the summit), for a brief hand-held audio device tour was worth it.

Picturesque from the outside at a distance… yes.

Worth spending a day of your vacation… no.

The Return to Innsbruck

The entire day was taken up by the visit to the castle but at least we saw it… check-the-box.

The drive back was effortless on the now familiar roadway and finding the apartment was easy. That night we returned to the same nearby restaurant for another excellent authentic Tyrolian meal.

The next morning we packed up and headed out for Bolzano, Italy.

In Summary

This leg of the road trip was more relaxed, we started to slow down the pace and began to simplify the itinerary with a more practical use of our limited vacation time.

Side Note: If we were renting a car, and started outside of Italy we could not bring that rental into Italy. But driving your own vehicle made the road trip seamless.

But don’t you wonder why rental companies restrict entry into Italy… ? Stay tuned.

Please follow us in the series to part eight… Bolzano. Italy… at last.

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2015 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

Tips For Trips to European Destinations

It is always good to have tips for trips across any European vacation, to let you in on the little secrets that can make your holidays a truly memorable experience. Once you have packed your stuff and made a list of places to visit, it is always nice to have a guide around with you. If the guide is informative and you don’t have to spend a single penny, wouldn’t that be the perfect vacation? Thanks to several online portals, your wishes can now come true. You can set out for your European adventure after knowing all the little details that make each destination special.

Once you log on to cyberspace, you can find lots of tourism brochures and destination descriptions. However, such information can be found through any travel agent. What makes the search unique is the presence of online portals and blogs that give you a more detailed and bird’s eye view of the destinations. As you travel across Europe, each place can come alive in front of your eyes, because of the beautiful destinations mentioned in the portals. A major advantage of such portals is that they provide a complete picture of a place, without hiding or promoting anything. It can be a great help to tourists who have very little idea about a destination.

The best thing about such blogs and portals is that they are written by real people on their travels. A traveler’s account is always a refreshing welcome from the plain promotions of a place. You can get an idea of the journey, the sights to see and some of the difficulties. Europe has lots of different places to visit, so you can read up on them to make your choice. Each post about a place is filled with its rich cultural history, which adds to the beauty of the place. When you travel to Scandinavia or take a voyage along the Danube, you will be mesmerized with the scenic beauty and little hidden sights that are delightful to any tourist.

Such blogs and accounts can help you brush up on your knowledge about a place. You can learn about fun little facts related to each travel spot, reading up on the locals and heritage. For anyone who makes trips to Europe for business or vacation purposes, such portals are a gold mine of information and help. You can learn about the hangouts, popular joints and even the best dining and resting places. The road conditions are also mentioned so you know the perfect time for traveling and the type of transportation for each place. With such blogs to guide you along, you will feel at home even in the most distant of places.

If you are not content with just reading up on a place, most blog portals allow you to see a destination in its full glory with a beautiful assortment of pictures. Each of the pictures is of high quality taken during the travels, so you get a first hand view about the beauty of nature. You can also entertain yourself with local legends and folklores so you know what to expect when you arrive at a place. You can now make a difference to a European trip with the help of tips for trips blogs that allows you to explore every little corner of the landscape to your heart’s content.

Europe Trips – European Countries Tours & Holidays

Europe is a never ending fascination. Many places and spots can be spotted in various parts of Europe. Sightseeing, bay watching, beaches, skiing and added water expeditions, and much more are awaiting the viewers and people from all over the world. Indeed, Europe is a good-looking continent overflowing with amazing spectacles and observations.

Populace who pass through Europe will have a first-rate trip. The trip through every country can be accomplished in a lot of techniques. There are people who opt for the rucksack or cycle from side to side by the conspicuous country side. Or else a helicopter can reach you on the specific destination as well you can enjoy the greenery and the miniature buildings on distance. There are singular categories of good-looking structural designs that can be analyzed and traveled around all the way through Europe. These superb edifices are breathtaking toting ups that add to the chronological assessment. Immense monuments, museums plus art porticos are scattered in various parts of Europe. The old-fashioned pious structures are marvelous to scrutinize.

A quantity of extraordinarily elevated constructions is generated on the most important cities for a person to survey although roaming to Europe. A year is not enough to cover the whole Europe, its beauty and fascination. The landmarks are awe-inspiring. There are loads of supplementary sorts of actions that can be consummated by means of a pass through to Europe. All the members of the family can find amusement and fun. It is more relishing and surprising to newly married couples. Europe does blow their horns with a world legendary ice-skating rink in London.There is conventional music performances carried out in London as well. Metro railways do make the travel throughout Europe quite hassle-free. Now, for individuals who are not accompanied by anyone can very well find their recreations in mode of games and expeditions or holidays. Europe is famous for Casinos and Amsterdam does comprise an international casino.

Personages that take a trip to Europe can stopover a lot of unusual draws right through the first-rate manners of journey. Iced mountains and slopes are well-known treasures of Europe for skiing. Yes, an extensive mixed bag of obsessions can be accomplished on this grand continent. Europe is a big world comprised of small worlds and each segment and fraction of if competes to be the first. There are lots to be explored and tickets can be easily attained through online. Various tour packages are also on the line. A good research and inquiry is all you need to grab a ticket to visit the entire Europe.

The prices and rates rely on the various factors including the mode of transportation and accommodation. In fact, the time and days spent on each spot can also fix the rates. It is always ideal to pick your favorite spots through internet and then go for the trip to this wild and stunning continent. When it comes to Europe, your time, money and travel is worthy!!!

How You Should Plan a European Backpacking Trip

If excitement and exploration of everything that is beautiful is what you will be searching for in your vacation, backpacking through the European continent may just be your ultimate trip. A mixture of hiking, exploration and camping is a very exciting way to get a glimpse of the distinct landscape of Europe.

1. You should plan your trip as precisely as you can. Backpacking isn’t really something that may be done without prior planning. The European continent includes a lot of countries to be able to visit them all in own single excursion, so you may want to narrow down most of the countries you are interested in visiting. Try to obtain as many travel guides or books related to traveling as you can to have an idea about your possible future destinations.

2. Try to estimate costs so that you do not run out of money halfway through your excursion. Although you will be backpacking, you may still have to buy various things before your excursion or along your way through Europe. Costs may include air flight tickets, meals, passports, hostels lodging or different ways of transportation between cities.

3. Try to keep in touch with your family or friends. This may be planned in advance by buying calling cards. This will most certainly offer you a means of safety because if something should happen, your family members will have an idea where you may be.

4. Packing carefully. Select a backpack which may carry a lot of things and doesn’t really hurt your own back. You should pack diverse clothing to be able to accommodate the distinct European weather conditions, and bring with your good walking shoes. It is also a good thing to bring with you a set of traveling sheets to use for hostel beds, a first aid kit, a video camera, maybe a towel as well as a knife.

5. Staying safe and cautious should be your main thought. Although a lot of tourists may consider Europe pretty safe, maybe even safer than the United States, it’s always a good thing to be cautious. You should always try to be polite, alert just in case, and confident on yourself. Try to not look too “touristy;” this might make the average travelers a target for thieves.

Try to keep all the above guidelines into mind for your next backpacking European trip and you will most likely have your dream vacation.

Thinking of a European Road Trip?

It could be easier and cheaper than you think to enjoy a tour throughout Europe – if you take to the road! A road trip also provides a lot more freedom than travelling by plane or train because it enables you to get to many locales that are not easily accessible by any other means or that you may not consider seeing normally.

There are a few practicalities that should be taken care of before the trip however:

• Make sure passports are in hand, as they will be needed at every border.

• All European rental companies require a valid driver’s license (and some countries require an international driving permit if you hold a US licence. Permits are available through the American Auto Association.)

• Also, check that the your health insurance will continue to provide coverage overseas (as well as completing your EHIC – European Health Insurance Card )

• Contact your credit card companies, and establish a budget.

Following through with each of these preparatory steps will make the entire experience much more enjoyable.

Now, it is time to plan the trip. In this brief example, the road trip will take a tour through the United Kingdom, to France, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Austria, Germany, and Holland, the lesson here being ‘be sure to have a loose itinerary and book a few hostels before leaving’.

The trip begins in the United Kingdom, which makes it necessary to take a ferry to the mainland. There are many ports along the coast of England and France, (plus a boat ride across the English Channel is an added adventure in and of itself).

Once in France, you might like to take the time to drive to a few sites. One such destination is Mont Saint Michel, an impressive fortress just off the coast of Normandy and Brittany. There are many other attractions that might be of interest, such as wine tasting and castle tours in the Loire Valley (for some incredible WW2 history) or exploring the quaint medieval town of Strasbourg.

While exiting France you’ll find yourself cruising through Switzerland, and there are many breathtaking natural sights to take in; luxurious chocolates to sample, historical sites to explore and fine beers to drink!. The gorgeous Lake Lucerne offers stunning views of limestone peaks and the reflective beauty of the pristine lake.

Next, you can wind down through Northern Italy, with its rustic food and rolling golden hills. While Venice may not be the most automobile friendly city in Europe, there is still plenty of scenery and history that can be enjoyed during the trip through Northern Italy.

After traversing Italy, you can come up through Europe once more by arriving in Austria. This small German-speaking country is steeped in history and its countryside is truly magnificent, but modern culture is also flourishing in the cities. From Austria, the road takes you up to Germany where a trek down the Rhine will offer fairy-tale castles and internationally renowned wine tasting.

Finally, the adventure ends in Holland. There are ferries along the coast that will take the weary road traveller back to UK, officially ending the tour of Western Europe.

There are many reasons to take to the road when travelling through Europe and many adventures to be had, whether going by yourself or taking escorted holidays. It can be accomplished much more cheaply than taking a plane or train, but this form of travel also enables you to experience much more.

How to Start Planning a European Trip on a Budget

You can approach the planning of a trip in a number of ways. For me I narrow it down to where I roughly want to go and then figure out how much it will cost. From here I can add or subtract locations or side trips. As I’m currently beginning to plan a trip to Europe I thought I might walk through the process and demonstrate at least how I begin to put a trip together. Do be aware that the costs listed below are from internet searches I performed on January 30th 2008 and should be understood to be samples of potential prices only.

Recently my Dad (who has never been to Europe) asked me to go with him and show him around at the end of April. After prodding for specifics his only request was that it be Italy, Spain or Germany. With only about 10 days to spend overseas I decided against Germany. Although Germany is probably my favorite country in Europe, Italy or Spain can really give the first time traveler to Europe a sense of being in Europe in a small amount of time. In Italy you have the normal circuit of Rome, Florence and Venice all within relatively close proximity to each other, making for easy and quick train travel. In Spain, my favorite cites Barcelona, Girona, Granada, Seville and Madrid, are likewise relatively close and inexpensive. Personally, there is so much about Germany I love which is at different ends of the country a quick 7-10 day trip would not be enough time.

With my location narrowed down and a trip duration in mind I begin with the most important part of a trip to Europe, the flight. Using kayak.com I start by plugging in the major airports I would like to fly in and out of. Since we want to go to Italy we can start with (for simplicities sake) New York to Rome with flexible dates during the time frame I can get off work. Of course you will want to plug in the nearest international airport to you. Searching within the last week of April through the first week in May I found the cheapest flight to be: NYC- to – Rome from the 29th through the 9th = $756 With this as my working number for ticket prices I look into other possible cities to fly into for cheaper tickets NYC – to – Florence from the 29th through the 13th = $956—-nope NYC- to – Venice from the 26th through the 10th = $850—-nope NYC- to – Milan from the 25th through the 9th = $852—-nope Not finding anything cheaper I then start thinking about flying into one city and flying out of another. This has the benefit of saving the time (which is limited) of backtracking as well as the cost of an extra train ticket back. Since my working plan is to fly into Rome and visit Venice last I check these two cities on the dates of the cheapest flight above. NYC- to – Rome : Venice- to -NYC from the 29th through the 9th = $852

For $100 more I can eliminate 4-5 hours of travel as well as a train ticket that will cost at least $100 one way. So far this seems like a better deal. Just for the sake of argument then, why not check into what it would cost to throw in a wonderful Spanish city, Barcelona. My Dad wanted to see Spain and an over night ferry from Barcelona to a city near Rome is relatively fun and cheap when you think about the cost you will be paying for accommodation anyways. NYC- to -Barcelona : Venice- to -NYC from the 29th through the 9th = $816

Well, we almost saved 40 bucks and get to see Barcelona. If we can get from Barcelona to Rome for around $40 we are practically making money (well not really but you get the idea). Sticking with the ferry idea for now a quick check of directferries.co.uk gives me: Barcelona -to – Civitavecchia (near Rome) (20 hours overnight) = $65 on Grimaldi Ferries Considering accommodation is going to be anywhere from $25-$35 in Rome or Barcelona and we saved $36 on the flight by going into Spain this sounds reasonable for a quick visit to Barcelona and does not cost us more at all. For even more savings we can try to fly from Barcelona to Rome but we must keep in mind that 1. it won’t be an overnight flight so accommodation will be an issue again and 2. Budget airlines don’t usually fly out of the major airports, making travel outside the city and issue. None-the-less checking clickair and ryanair for a few samples does not hurt. clickair has Barcelona- to – Rome (Fiumicino) on the 2nd = $29 (the 2nd however is a bit late) ryanair has Barcelona (Girona)- to – Rome (Ciampino) on the 1st = $20

All in all we now know that stopping in Barcelona is a great idea and getting to Rome will be cheap and easy. With our air plans figured out we can start to look at what this trip is going to cost us in ground transportation. I prefer trains over renting cars in Europe; I just can’t relax in a car and the cost of gas and concentrating on the road usually outweighs the freedom. With that in mind it’s time to figure out if buying point to point tickets is cheaper than buying a rail pass. My rough plan is to fly into Barcelona head to Rome (fly or sail) then go from Rome to Florence to Venice. Ill check the cost of point to point tickets between these cities as well as a few side trips to get a spread of costs using the worksheets at noambit.com Rome- to -Florence (1-2 hours) = $65 Florence- to -Venice (2-3 hours) = $58 Rome- to -Pisa (3-4 hours) = $47 Pisa- to -Florence (1-2 hours) =$19 Florence- to -Rimini (1 hour) = $50 Rimini- to -Venice (1-2 hours) = $70 With these numbers we can see that our simplest trip, Rome, Florence, Venice, is going to cost roughly $123. Our most expensive plan, Rome, Pisa, Florence, Rimini and Venice is going to come in around $196. A quick look at rail pass prices shows us that we will only really benefit if we want to do the longer trip and then only barely. A four day rail pass (you can travel for any four days within two months) runs about $202. About the same as our longer trip but also with an included 20% off discount on the ferry from Barcelona. The problem I see here is that traveling that much, especially since we are adding the city in Spain, is not going to give much time to see anything. At this point I’m going to opt to pay full price on the ferry and buy point to point tickets in Italy. Even adding Pisa on is only going to cost about $134 total.

To this point then, assuming we throw in Pisa (a day trip) on our way to Florence and pay full price to take the ferry over from Spain we are looking to spend about $1015 to spend 10 days and see five cities in two countries in Europe. Its time now to figure in accommodation. A rule of thumb for me is to plan on spending a minimum of $50 a day for a bed and food. Sometimes this is high (not very) sometimes this is low (more and more each year). For the sake of demonstration however I looked up budget hotels and hostels for the locations I plan on visiting to get a rough idea of what I will be spending. 30th April – Barcelona =$20-$35 1st May – Boat to Rome = already figured in 2nd-4th – Rome =$20 (camping) $30 (hostel) 5th-6th – Florence = $15-$25 7th-8th – Venice = $45

What we end up with is a range of $200-$265 that I need to budget for accommodation. Adding in food takes a bit of guess work but $15 dollars a day is a good workable number. If need be you could eat twice at a Mc Donalds and “live” or grab some bread and cheese from a grocery store and still have some left over for a couple slices of pizza or Doner Kebab. Of course if you are going to Italy for the food or wine you will have to plan on spending more money but $15 should get you by. Our final cost is going to be the sight seeing and extras (taking the metro, bottle of wine, train reservations). Since my Dad has never been there I will want to show him the Vatican museum, the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, The statue of David, la Sagrada Familia and a variety of other things. For a trip like we have planned above, in Italy for only 10 days, $150-$200 should be fine.

When all is said and done I can count on spending around $1365 – $1480 for the whole trip. This, as we have seen is rather bare bones so there isn’t a lot that can be cut if this were out of my budget(which it is very close to being). I could of course opt out of going to Pisa but ultimately in terms of trains this only saves me $10 and that doesn’t seem worth skipping a city I have never seen. What you will decide to cut (perhaps the duration you’re overseas or how many cities you can see) will depend on what is important to you on this visit to Europe. What is important is that you find a way to fulfill your dream of traveling to your country of choice and I hope that this article helps you find a way to make it work with a limited budget.

Ultimate European Road Trip Series – Part Five – The Driving Experience

We began this adventure by purchasing a Porsche Macan S and picking the car up at the Porsche factory in Zuffenhausen, Germany… the road trip is now “official”.

This segment of the series is dedicated to the actual driving experiences along the way.

Gentlemen Start Your Engines… We are off!

We began our day with a breakfast feast at the Hotel Schlossgarten, and retrieved the car from his “special” underground, secure parking place reserved for hotel guests.

Stuttgart is the home of Porsche and Mercedes Benz so the hotel is used to accommodating the paranoid owners of new cars that are over protective of their investment… as the trip progressed the paranoia waned a little, but just a little.

The Rules

When we picked up the car at the factory we were informed of some very strict “rules”.

We had to sign documents that, in essence, acknowledged that we have a thirty day German registration, and thirty days of insurance coverage. Porsche paid half the premium and we paid the other half. The effective rate for the insurance exceeded $6,000 per year.

Max had an unusual red license plate which denoted temporary status and our get-out-of-town date prominently displayed… 02 10 15.

We were also provided two Day-Glo yellow vests that, by law, were required to be in the car. In the event of any road breakdowns we must put them on BEFORE we leave the car to inspect the “whatever”… it is the law.

Locked and Loaded

We loaded the car and dialed in the Salzburg apartment’s address as we headed south with a car full of luggage and our traditional assortment of roadie snacks. Yes, we ate food in Max on the very first leg of the trip… has to happen sometime!

The Autobahn and Speed

Once we nervously navigated the narrow city streets we transitioned to the autobahn and the first thing that we noticed was how fast the cars were moving.

Driving on the autobahn is fun and we knew that there are sections with no posted speed limits, but until you get passed by the blur of another machine, especially when you are “cruising” along at 110+ MPH… do you realize just how fast they are traveling.

We are simply not used to be driving at these speeds and left it to the people with the experience and expertise to navigate the road at over 150 MPH.

Getting Comfortable with MAX

As we drove we noticed that the car began to create a comfortable and enveloping environment for each of us. All the controls were just in the right place and easy to access. The car provides continuous feedback and after a while it all begins to fit into a logical and smooth process.

The old “fits like a glove” cliché became a reality during the initial hours in the car.

Actually driving a new car in Europe was NOT easy

Domestic Car Delivery

Please reflect on driving a factory fresh, brand new car in the town where you currently live, and on roads that are completely familiar to you.

The driving and parking laws are well known and even the typical personality of the drivers that you interact with every day are part of your “normal” driving environment.

But we bet that you would still be filled with a lot of trepidation and be as cautious as possible.

European Car Delivery

Now throw all of that out the window and image driving your brand new car in a completely different environment where every mile driven is a first-time experience. It brings a little sweat to your palms.

Bonding with the car was the easy part and we got really good at driving it motivated by pure fear and survival instincts.

Are we going to get crunched by that truck, or get scratched by that wall? Get a door ding in a parking lot? What about that rock that just hit the windshield? Do you see any damage?

There were many times when we believed that Max had some kind of force-field protecting him.

For instance, there was the time going through a narrow tunnel near Lake Garda, Italy when a tall truck coming at us had to cross over the center line because its roof was too high and he had to “borrow” some of our lane.

We really thought that this was bye-bye nice new car and hello to a ripped side section from either the truck or the wall of the tunnel. We sincerely do not know how we got through that close encounter.

How about the sheer thrill of slaloming numerous, extremely tight road construction sections next to other cars and trucks that are only a few feet away… so close you can literally reach out and touch them? Oh yeah, all this entertainment at freeway speeds.

How about driving through seemingly endless tunnels going under the Alps or the many dark and eerie tunnels through the hills of Carrara, Italy?

We all made it back safely

Max was such an exciting car to drive and was very luxurious but not pretentious, flashy or obnoxious… a true stealth sports car in the body of a crossover containing some of Porsche’s latest technology.

When we dropped him off at the end of our trip, we did not realize that we would have to wait two to three months before we could actually see him again, and that was the deal breaker for us.

In retrospect, would we do it again? NO we would not do it again.

In Summary

The road trip was an amazing experience punctuated with moments a sheer joy and sheer apprehension.

Everything was intensified because we were driving our new car in some very challenging and unfamiliar destinations.

A rental car, no problem but when it is your own it’s a different story.

We experienced many fun and interesting destinations and will continue the series based on those road trip related tales.

Please follow us in the series to part six… Austria.

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2015 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

Ultimate European Road Trip Series – Part Six – Salzburg, Austria

We began this adventure by purchasing a Porsche Macan S and picking the car up at the Porsche factory in Zuffenhausen Germany… the road trip is now “official”.

This segment of the series is dedicated to our adventures while touring the Salzburg area.

Salzburg Arrival

The drive took about four hours and everything went smoothly.

We did experience a few eye openers along the way, one being the price of fuel. We complain about the price of fuel in the States but we were experiencing close to $7 per gallon on this journey.

But the strangest was the turnstiles that made you pay one euro ($1.15) to use the public bathrooms along the highway… they had you coming and going.

Change of Plans

We originally allotted seven nights in Salzburg but were encouraged to include a stay in Innsbruck, so we added a few interesting day trips to justify the revision of our itinerary.

The rule-of-thumb is simple… stay someplace for four nights and you get three days of touring since the travel time at both ends knocks off a day.

Another is to keep a wander-around day in the schedule and enjoy the unexpected museum or shopping or restaurant, and relax over a glass of wine or coffee.

Most importantly, simply take in the new environment you traveled so far to see.

Driving a new car and the excitement of the road trip made our experienced map reading brains go into overload… heck we can get there and go there and maybe there too all in one day… reality bites.

The laws of physics usually win over enthusiasm.

Four Nights and Three Days in Salzburg

We ultimately selected a day in Old Town Salzburg, a spontaneous family reunion, and the Werfen Giant Ice Caves.

A Day in Old Town Salzburg

Before we left on the trip we arranged for a private tour of the famous “Old Town” area and booked the “Rickshaw Company” to provide the unique experience with local flavor.

We left the apartment on foot at noon for a 2:00 PM meeting with Marko, the driver, at a famous landmark in Mozart’s hometown… the Mozart Statue in the Morzartplatz.

Do not assume a landmark will be easy to find.

How can anyone NOT find this prominent landmark?

Old Town is just that… a city evolving from a center core or to put it in another way, a lot of winding, twisting streets that hide landmark statues. That is our story and we are sticking with it.

Embarrassing as it is, we the experienced travelers, could not initially find the statue. So here we are without a map, tour guidebook or internet connectivity wandering around Old Town Salzburg freezing our collective toes off.

We finally meet our guide Marko and had our city tour in a rickshaw… check-the-box.

The tour people suggested an excellent local favorite restaurant… the “Zum Zirkelwirt” (circa 1647).

Home Made Beef Goulash with Bread Dumpling and Classic Wiener Schnitzel were amazing.

Now that we were fortified by a wonderful meal and some local pilsner we were off to do a little shopping only to be reminded that being Sunday, most of the nice shops were closed.

We returned “home” to warm up and enjoy a relaxing evening in prep for the morning drive to Melk, Austria.

The Family Meeting

Genealogy is something we have been exploring for over ten years and we kept getting close but because of the language barrier things were not moving too well.

One of my cousins, Adam, “found” us recently on Twitter and bridged the gap. His contact led to the meeting and we rearranged our calendar in an effort to explore family roots.

We met at a midpoint between Salzburg and their home town of Velke Kostolany, Slovakia in the stunning city of Melk, Austria for a truly wonderful family connection.

The Werfen Giant Ice Caves

The drive was easy and the Austrian scenery was spectacular.

We were looking forward to visiting this unusual tourist attraction known as the “largest ice cave in the world”. Our plan was to tour the cave and then seek out a few castles that dotted the countryside all along our driving route… such optimism… new car enthusiasm clouds one’s logic!

To preface this… we are both in very good physical shape. The hike from the parking area was all up hill and took over one hour, plus a brief gondola ride, followed by a twenty minute hike to the mouth of the cave, and then into a cave of frozen ice… what else would be in an ice cave you ask?

That is when we found out that we were about to take a dimly lit walking tour (up and down slopes) consisting of 1,036 wet steps about 18 inches wide, with and without railings, and it would last for over 80 frigid minutes…

We were wearing a lot of layered clothes… fleece vest, two sweaters, long pants, socks and walking shoes… but still froze. We actually paid someone for this frozen privilege?

Big Hint: Read the fine print and the numerous TripAdvisor reviews (the negative ones, too) before you embark on any tour. The promotional picture for the cave had to be photo shopped as the cave is dark and photography was not permitted… for a darn good reason.

Back to Salzburg – Marionette Theater Performance

The morning of the performance we were notified that the Salzburg Marionette Theater performance of “The Sound of Music” was cancelled due to an injury of one of the puppeteers and another called in sick.

So from Rogers and Hammerstein and familiar music to the alternate selection which was Mozart and the “Magic Flute”. Since we really wanted to see the famous marionette show we agreed to the exchange.

We were not disappointed as the theater is truly beautiful. The puppeteers are extremely talented and we were spellbound by their fluid movements of the life like characters in the play.

After a nice meal in town, we once again headed “home” to prepare for the next day’s drive to Innsbruck.

In Summary

This leg of the road trip was a learning experience and we had to make do with a short visit and a rushed one at that. We broke our travel mantra and limited our exposure to a very interesting region.

Please follow us in the series to part seven… Innsbruck.. where we picked up the pace and drove on some legendary Alpine roads.

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2015 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

Ultimate European Road Trip Series – Part Two – The Itinerary

We began this adventure with Part One of the series by selecting and purchasing a Porsche Macan S for our road trip of a life time. This segment focuses on building an itinerary that challenges both the car and ourselves while maintaining our slow travel mantra… what is the hurry… be inspired.

Planning the Road Trip

This is going to be our longest adventure to date consuming the entire month of September while driving a new car through four countries… but what a journey it will be! The actual planning of any excursion requires a lot of thought and research as you are investing both time and money for that “special” experience… so build that inspired travel itinerary!

Our favorite time to visit Europe is in early September… the weather is usually perfect and the crowds go away since “vacation time” is over and most schools are back in session. With fewer travelers the flights, and housing options are usually more flexible and negotiable too.

An added wrinkle this year is that the Euro / Dollar exchange rate is so favorable to the USD that more American tourists are heading for the continent so things such as flights and housing options are a bit competitive.

The three most important criteria in this phase are selecting a destination city, determining the number of driving hours between way points, and finally deciding if a vacation rental makes more sense than booking a hotel.

Destination City

One of the most important points of any vacation adventure is to simply understand why you are even going there in the first place. A destination city must offer abundant points-of-interest, an interesting history, culinary options (i.e. Michelin Star rated restaurants) or extraordinary museums to explore – whatever you believe to be important enough to justify the time and expense to get there.

Besides what is in the city be sure to include what is around the location. The proximity to special day trip/side trip sites can have a positive impact. In our case think castles and mountains and lakes and seaside villages… short drives and returning to a familiar place is a big plus.

On this trip we decided to select the more scenic routes and the small, less congested cities as we deliberately avoided as many large cities as possible. An added “must have” is to find a secure parking place or garage at each of our selected lodgings… yes it was simply new car paranoia.

Number of Drive Hours Between Destination Cities

Our go-to driving aides consist of a Garmin GPS, the app “ViaMichelin”, and a really good quality old fashion paper map. Using your smartphone device while on the road is very expensive and subject to a provider’s coverage while the Garmin does not require data roaming charges. WIFI is your friend so do trip updates and searches in your hotel/vacation rental and use a GPS on the road.

Think about the drive time between locations and how much you want to spend in a car… new or not that can get old fast. We use a general rule of thumb… the longer the drive segment the longer the destination stay.

So now you are armed with a few tools so list your selected cities, and plot your course.

Vacation Rental or Hotel Booking

Suggestion one… Vacation rental or hotel? As a rule of thumb if you are staying for more than three nights a vacation rental is the way to go… better value for the dollar and much larger quarters to stretch out and relax.

Suggestion two… When selecting vacation rentals or hotels there are a few key things to take into consideration. Always check the reviews either from the rental’s site (HomeAway is pretty accurate) or the hotel’s site (TripAdvisor also maintains accuracy). A place with no reviews throws a big red flag and you should look elsewhere. If no one took the time to write one… that says a lot.

Suggestion three… Look carefully at all the pictures (they must have pictures or another red flag). Look out for photos with “rounded edges” which usually indicates a fish-eye lens was used to make a small room appear larger. Also look for quality bedding and towels… cheap stuff looks cheap! That sets the tone for the overall condition of the unit.

Suggestion four… Communicate with the property management and note their responsiveness as well as professionalism. Red flags get easy to spot with a little practice.

Our Road Trip Routing

Once again we were pleasantly surprised by the Porsche European Delivery Program Team. After a brief email exchange they requested our “potential” itinerary with the intent of possibly adding some unique suggestions.

Their turnaround was amazing and within 24 hours they sent us an improved itinerary with maps, driving routes with mileage notations, suggested points-of-interest, and dining and hotel recommendations… all prepared by “Porsche Travel Club” experts.

Two of their many suggestions were places that most travelers would miss. The “Grossglockner High Alpine Road” which is one of the most fascinating panoramic roads in Europe, leading 48 kilometers to the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park is an amazing addition to the Ultimate Road Trip plan.

Driving any car on this slope would be exciting… but a performance vehicle? Makes for a great side trip!

Another side trip was near Salzburg… the “Werfen Giant Ice Caves” which are the largest ice caves in the world.

We finally developed our routing through four countries and created a round trip loop beginning and ending in Stuttgart using the ViaMichelin app on our home system. Our estimated mileage is 1,300 miles and fuel / toll expense is approximately $480 USD.

In summary

We are now set with eight destination cities which includes three vacation rentals, five hotel reservations, in four countries for the month of September. We are locked and loaded with reservations, euros, a travel credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees (ie. BofA Travel Rewards), “WhatsApp” for free texting from Europe, smart phone calling plans, and most importantly a positive attitude anticipating the new and exciting adventure that awaits us.

Please follow us for Part Three of the series… The Delivery… which begins with arriving in Stuttgart to meet “Max”… yes we name our cars, too!

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2015 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar