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Forums » General & Multi-Country » 3 months in Europe

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3 months in Europe

by /bio/vandyke5 »

My husband and I are starting the planning for a 3 month trip to Europe in 2020. We are retired, mid-50's, good to excellant health.  My husband has alot of overseas travel experience, me none.  Looking at doing 3 separate locations for 1 month each and then branch out.  Looking for suggestions on locals,  best time to go, best credit/debit cards, how to stay in touch with adult kids.  My husband wants 1 location to be Florence, and then go from there.  Would like to see as much as possible without over doing it.  Touristy things as well as non-tourist stuff. Food, wine, beer, history, art, etc.  Travel agent or book ourselves? Not looking to rent a car. Any and all advice would be welcome.

Thank you!

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RE: 3 months in Europe

by /bio/road-crazy »

If you want ideas on locales to base in, it would be helpful to have more information - for example, what countries potentially interest you?  Your list of interests is general enough that it could be met in dozens of places. Can you be more specific?

 

Florence is a good start - lots of great places that are reachable from there for day-trips.  If you're going to be there a month, I assume you'll want to rent an apartment.  Even with an apartment rented for a month, you might want to spring for an overnight or two in Rome and an overnight in Venice - it's possible to day-trip there, but there is so much in Rome that you'll likely find a day-trip too limiting, and Venice is at its best in the early morning and in the evening when the day-trippers and cruise passengers are gone.  You might also want to look at Bologna, which has great train connections to a myriad of places, including Florence, but is less dominated by tourism.

 

You say you don't want to rent a car, and that makes sense if you'll be spending your time in places well served by trains and buses.  However, there are fabulous countryside areas that can really only be explored by car, for example the Val d'Orcia region of Tuscany (Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza).  You might consider renting a car for just two or three days to visit areas like that.

 

As to when, generally you will find shoulder season a good mix of not-too-crowded and pretty good weather.  My personal pick is spring because I like the longer days, although I think you may get more rain in spring than in the fall.

 

Find a debit card that doesn't charge a percentage fee for converting and doesn't have charges for using ATMs other than your financial institution's.  I have Schwab, which charges nothing for withdrawals anywhere in the world and rerfunds any fees the other machine charges, plus they have awesome customer service.  You also want a credit card that doesn't charge beyond the standard 1% - Capital One is one possibility, but there are others.  Call and ask.  For sure, before you go call your banks (ATM and credit card) and let them know when and where you'll be traveling so they don't deny your charges as possible fraud.

 

My T-Mobile plan has unlimited data and text from Europe, and free wifi calling, so it costs me nothing to call from the hotel or apartment where I have wifi.  The per-minute charge for calling not on wifi is 10 or 20 cents per minute, can't recall, but nothing that would stop you from making a short call home while you're out and about.  It is possible to get a cheap phone and phone plan in Europe, which others can tell you about, but it would depend on where you expect to be calling.  If you think you'll be calling mostly other places in Europe, that might make sense, but most of my calls are home, and I don't really feel constricted in sticking mostly to wifi calling.

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RE: 3 months in Europe

by /bio/road-crazy »

One VERY important thing I forgot to say:

 

Unless one of your stops will be in a country not in the Schengen zone (most notably the UK), you can only spend 90 days out of 180 in Europe legally without a visa, so a few days less than three full months.  Google to see which countries belong to Schengen.  This is for all countries in Schengen combined - for example 90 days total for Italy, France, and Germany.

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RE: 3 months in Europe

by /bio/vandyke5 »

Thanks so much for the great advice.  Regarding the 3 "bases", our countries of interest are Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium and Netherlands.  Definitely want to do the occasional 1-3 night branch out trips.  Is renting a car for a few days easy? We are planning to AirBnb.  Is that the easiest? How far in advance to you recomend booking flights and lodging? We are super flexible with months of travel as well as countries.  My husband has done Germany a lot, so not sure if that fits at this point.  Thanks again for your help!

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RE: 3 months in Europe

by /bio/vandyke5 »

Thank you for the great advice and information! The countries we are interested in is Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium and Netherlands.  Whatever the "bases" we are interested in doing occasional 1-3 night branch out trips as well.  Lisbon sounds great! I will look at Antwerp.  We are flexibile on travel months, but it sounds as if Spring is a good time to go, with cooler weather and maybe a few less people. How far in advance do you recomend booking flights and lodgeing? We are thinking AirBnb. Thanks for all your help!

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RE: 3 months in Europe

by /bio/road-crazy »

That's very helpful information!  Mushroom's advice is spot on, especially as to short-term apartment rentals.  Paris for one has really been cracking down and renting an illegal apartment there is risky - shouldn't do it unless you're prepared to lose your lodging on short notice and be scrambling for a place to stay.

 

I too would vote for one of your locales to be the Netherlands.  With the difficulties of renting an apartment in Amsterdam, I'd be inclined to base in a nearby smaller town such as Haarlem.  The Netherlands is such a small country and the rail service so good that you will be able to zip around to most of the country from nearly any base on day-trips.  From there it would also be easy to take a foray or two into Belgium for a few days - good for your love of beer, as Belgium is one of the very best places in Europe for beer.

 

I think car rentals for less than three days are more expensive and possibly more difficult, although not impossible, to arrange, but often that's a good time frame anyway.  You will get better rates if you book in advance.  My go-to rental agency is Autoeurope.  They are an aggregator and will set you up with an established company:  Hertz, Avis, Europcar.  If you have any troubles with the rental car company, they will go to bat for you and get it fixed.  Their rates are almost always better than you can get going direct.  They work in all the countries you are considering.

 

When should you buy your flights?  That's the $64,000 question!  It's almost impossible to say, as it can change from year to year.  I recommend checking the routes you are interested in once a week or so starting now, so you have an idea what fares tend to be and will know when it's a good one.  Since you're so far in advance, use dummy dates as close as possible to the season you're considering.  If you watch 2018-19, you should be able to buy with confidence in 2019-2020.  Accommodations really depend on where and when.  In a city like Paris, finding a legal apartment is something that should start quite early (legal ones have a registration number in the listing - no registration number, it's not legal) - I'd be looking starting a year out and booking whenever I found what I wanted.  In cities where legal apartment rentals aren't at a premium, I'd look 6-9 months out.  Keep in mind that looking that far in advance, some places will show as unavailable when they're actually open because the owner hasn't decided on the rent that far in the future.  But the thing about rentals is, the rate isn't going to change from whatever you're quoted in the way that airfares do, so if you find what you want, there's no reason to delay booking.

 

 

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RE: 3 months in Europe

by /bio/road-crazy »

Airfarewatchdog also tracks airfares on all airlines on routes you choose and notifies you of particularly good deals.

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RE: 3 months in Europe

by /bio/pheymont »

On that point: For cities such as Paris that have registration numbers, the way to find it is to click on the link that says "Read More about the space." If there is a registration number, it will appear there, under the heading 'License or Registration Number." If there's none, the heading won't even appear.

I'll add a vote for Lisbon (including a couple of days out to Porto).

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