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DansDeals Forum => Destination Guides And Trip Planning => Topic started by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 12:42:58 PM

Title: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 12:42:58 PM
Daughter wants to visit Europe before she goes to college (Fall 2016), so I am planning a trip to Europe with my wife and 18 year old yr old in June - August 2016 time frame. She would like to visit Rome, Paris, Berlin, and London (may be Venice, Sicily too, if possible) in around 15-20 days. :). Dont know if it is possible to cover these places since we will only have 2-3 days at each place then. I would love to visit Greece Mykonos island if it doesn't add too much cost, but that can be for some other time, hopefully. This might be probably rushing it, but these cities are somewhat of a bucket list for the daughter and this is our only chance before she gets busy with college. This will be our first time in Europe and likely only time at least in these cities, so it is fine to see just a little bit here and there (at least cover the main things, time permitting) in each city.

Looking for your thoughts, suggestions, and of course, frugal ways to travel and deals you're aware of.   ;)

Flying out of the Sacramento, CA area, SFO/SJC are the closest big airports.

I currently have about 204,000 United miles, wife & daughter each have 19,500 United miles, 280,000 Southwest miles, 136,000 UR (wife's name), 75,900 AA, 157900 AMEX MRs, and about 278,000 IHG points. I will also be getting one free IHG night in Feb. Wife also has an offer for 50,000 United miles with new card. Till 2 months ago I was doing Serve and GoBank to earn miles (about 14,000 points per month for both of us).

Don't really care about flying business/first class, but it will be nice to have at least one-way trip in either of these 2 classes (of course would like to make best use of the miles).   

I guess first priority should be to make flight reservations. I checked earlier today, and from SMF - LHR, I can get for about 30K miles on both United & AA (for June/July, but the problem is the return flights, almost nothing available till late August (I was only looking from London/Paris).

Looking forward to all ideas and suggestions for this long-time waiting trip. Would be great to stay in nice hotels. Have been staying in Holiday Inn (if available) whenever we travel, and we are fine with that. But, may be couple of nights in a really nice hotel, just to surprise the family  :) :)

Anyhow, here I am seeking advice and suggestions, so I can start work on making it one of our best vacations.

Anything that I should be aware of, and how much should we budget per day/trip.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: shwarmabob on January 07, 2016, 12:50:33 PM
The flying part is definitely doable :) Not sure if your points would cover the hotels for 3 weeks.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 07, 2016, 12:52:54 PM
Just pointing out that you most def can do 2-3 nights in each place. If you aren't trying to utterly immerse yourself in the local surroundings its enough time to see the basics
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 07, 2016, 12:55:36 PM




I guess first priority should be to make flight reservations. I checked earlier today, and from SMF - LHR, I can get for about 30K miles on both United & AA (for June/July, but the problem is the return flights, almost nothing available till late August (I was only looking from London/Paris).
why would you make the inbound and outbound the same destination? Waste of time. Search from all other cities that you want to visit and schedule based off that

Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: benjie1305 on January 07, 2016, 12:59:37 PM
I thought I had seen this already. Turns out, I was right.

http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=50020.msg1072333#msg1072333
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 01:23:42 PM
I thought I had seen this already. Turns out, I was right.

http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=50020.msg1072333#msg1072333

Damn it, you are good buddy :)

That was posted last year, and I was told it is too soon. I just started a new thread as I had some updates for the miles.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 01:24:46 PM
why would you make the inbound and outbound the same destination? Waste of time. Search from all other cities that you want to visit and schedule based off that

You are Right, that is a waste of time. I will search from other cities too. But just wanted to post what I had found and hopefully get some obvious answers that I was missing :)
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 01:25:44 PM
Just pointing out that you most def can do 2-3 nights in each place. If you aren't trying to utterly immerse yourself in the local surroundings its enough time to see the basics

Great. Just covering the major points should be good enough. We do understand that 2-3 days is not much.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 01:26:42 PM
The flying part is definitely doable :) Not sure if your points would cover the hotels for 3 weeks.

Well, lets first get the flying part done. Hotels we can do later. Ideal would be to find flights that cost 30K miles one way :)
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: @Yehuda on January 07, 2016, 01:59:31 PM
Sorry I never responded to your last post in your other thread. I must have missed it. I'm not sure about other round-the-world tickets that are available. But If you're goal is to see 4-5 cities, I'm not sure you'll need it.

Search Star Alliance and OneWorld options from all the cities you want to visit back to SFO (perhaps also consider other cities in USA like NYC, ORD, LAX and then connect easily back to SFO). Once you have the main outbound and inbound flight, you should be able to easily piece together the intra-europe flights - either with BA (should be 4500-7500 for more routes). But keep in mind that there will be taxes on those BA flights that might just make it better to fly something like Ryanair for cash.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: shwarmabob on January 07, 2016, 02:00:45 PM
Look at using United points with stopovers and open jaws. for 60K per person you have your tickets. You could fly SFO-London, London-Rome, fly home Berlin-SFO
take a train from Rome-Venice, rent a car and drive from Venice to Berlin or use Avios or  low-cost airlines to travel.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 07, 2016, 02:25:17 PM


I guess first priority should be to make flight reservations. I checked earlier today, and from SMF - LHR, I can get for about 30K miles on both United & AA (for June/July, but the problem is the return flights, almost nothing available till late August (I was only looking from London/Paris).


not sure where or what your looking at but plenty of availability from LHR-SFO the whole summer
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 02:25:30 PM
Sorry I never responded to your last post in your other thread. I must have missed it. I'm not sure about other round-the-world tickets that are available. But If you're goal is to see 4-5 cities, I'm not sure you'll need it.

Search Star Alliance and OneWorld options from all the cities you want to visit back to SFO (perhaps also consider other cities in USA like NYC, ORD, LAX and then connect easily back to SFO). Once you have the main outbound and inbound flight, you should be able to easily piece together the intra-europe flights - either with BA (should be 4500-7500 for more routes). But keep in mind that there will be taxes on those BA flights that might just make it better to fly something like Ryanair for cash.

Thanks Yehuda. I will look into flying back to other cities. If that works, preference would be to fly on SW so we can use miles and companion pass.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: @Yehuda on January 07, 2016, 02:27:00 PM
Thanks Yehuda. I will look into flying back to other cities. If that works, preference would be to fly on SW so we can use miles and companion pass.
SW doesn't fly to Europe. You could use SW to fly from let's say NYC back to SFO. But yeah, that's the easy stuff. Work on the transatlantic stuff first.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 07, 2016, 02:27:59 PM
Great. Just covering the major points should be good enough. We do understand that 2-3 days is not much.
its really enough, spend two days in each city cramming everything in, full days of activities and then spend the last day roaming around and just chilling, it will make the whole vacation feel way more relaxed and less rushed.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 02:42:52 PM
not sure where or what your looking at but plenty of availability from LHR-SFO the whole summer

Really? I dont see that much availability, and most of what I saw is only for 65K and not 30K. May be I am doing something wrong.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 02:44:00 PM
SW doesn't fly to Europe. You could use SW to fly from let's say NYC back to SFO. But yeah, that's the easy stuff. Work on the transatlantic stuff first.

Oh I know that SW doesn't fly to Europe. wouldn't that be awesome though :)
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 02:44:58 PM
its really enough, spend two days in each city cramming everything in, full days of activities and then spend the last day roaming around and just chilling, it will make the whole vacation feel way more relaxed and less rushed.

Great suggestion. That's what we will do. Now, if I can just get the trans-Atlantic flights sorted first :)
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 07, 2016, 02:47:58 PM
Really? I dont see that much availability, and most of what I saw is only for 65K and not 30K. May be I am doing something wrong.
you said you would do one way in premium, plenty of availability @50K in J and 62.5 in F with AA
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 02:49:29 PM
you said you would do one way in premium, plenty of availability @50K in J and 62.5 in F with AA

Problem is I dont have that many miles in AA, only 75K, and for 3 of us, thats not enough.

Plus, I am a cheap xxxxxxx
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 07, 2016, 02:51:16 PM
Great suggestion. That's what we will do. Now, if I can just get the trans-Atlantic flights sorted first :)
also keep in mind the nasty UK tax on award seats when choosing your destination
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 07, 2016, 02:52:38 PM
Problem is I dont have that many miles in AA, only 75K, and for 3 of us, thats not enough.

Plus, I am a cheap xxxxxxx
plenty of time to get another AA card or two.it will be worth it, a great way to end the vacation
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Chapshnell on January 07, 2016, 03:23:24 PM
Here are my thoughts:
3 Weeks is a long time for 4 European cities.. You also dont want to leave London back to the USA, you want to make it your first stop (due to very high taxes).. How about something like this?

You'll get to see London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Venice, Mykonos & then fly back to SFO via ZRH

I dont know how updated the YQ thread is but being that this is in June there is no reason why this cant be done in style.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 04:40:41 PM
also keep in mind the nasty UK tax on award seats when choosing your destination

I noticed that too. Flying out to LHR, tax is only $5.60 (United), while coming back it jumps to almost 200$. I tried couple other cities like Paris, Frankfurt, it was still above 100 bucks  >:( Are there any places from where it will be less or reasonable?
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 04:41:58 PM
plenty of time to get another AA card or two.it will be worth it, a great way to end the vacation

You think I have plenty of time to get new cards, earn the bonus and then book the reward flight? It might take almost 2 months, and I am worried that reward seats might get sold out. 

Or I should just leave it for next vacation??
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Chapshnell on January 07, 2016, 04:42:16 PM
I noticed that too. Flying out to LHR, tax is only $5.60 (United), while coming back it jumps to almost 200$. I tried couple other cities like Paris, Frankfurt, it was still above 100 bucks  >:( Are there any places from where it will be less or reasonable?

see what I posted for you
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 04:43:06 PM
see what I posted for you

I saw that. That is awesome. I am in the process of replying to that one :)
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 07, 2016, 04:43:59 PM
You think I have plenty of time to get new cards, earn the bonus and then book the reward flight? It might take almost 2 months, and I am worried that reward seats might get sold out. 

Or I should just leave it for next vacation??
Yes, should be enough time for you
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Chapshnell on January 07, 2016, 04:45:52 PM
I saw that. That is awesome. I am in the process of replying to that one :)

you can get nonstop SFO-LHR but I believe SFO-EWR-LHR has more options
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 04:46:33 PM
Here are my thoughts:
3 Weeks is a long time for 4 European cities.. You also dont want to leave London back to the USA, you want to make it your first stop (due to very high taxes).. How about something like this?

You'll get to see London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Venice, Mykonos & then fly back to SFO via ZRH

I dont know how updated the YQ thread is but being that this is in June there is no reason why this cant be done in style.

I agree with you about 3 weeks for 4 cities.Now that I know that 2-3 days are more than enough for what we want to do, we can either cut down the time (and save money) or cover more places and have a hell of vacation. Need to check into vacation time and run by wife, cant do anything without that :)

Flying into London and back is ruled out based on earlier responses. That is why you guys are so awesome!!

How many miles we need for the things that you planned? That is looking like a great plan. How do I go about getting it done??
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Chapshnell on January 07, 2016, 04:51:34 PM
I agree with you about 3 weeks for 4 cities.Now that I know that 2-3 days are more than enough for what we want to do, we can either cut down the time (and save money) or cover more places and have a hell of vacation. Need to check into vacation time and run by wife, cant do anything without that :)

Flying into London and back is ruled out based on earlier responses. That is why you guys are so awesome!!

How many miles we need for the things that you planned? That is looking like a great plan. How do I go about getting it done??

no, you fly JMK-ZRH-SFO (Aegean & Swiss) for the way back. Outbound is only $5.60 in taxes..

You will need 60,000 UA for the RT PP x 3 = 180,000 Chase UR or UA Miles/points

Intra europe just book using cash (book RT as its usually cheaper than OW)

LHR-CDG you can use 4,000-4,500 Avios from BA (Chase, Amex MR & SPG transfers into BA) PP (or check a paid flight)

To Berlin you can probably use Avios too same as above with Air Berlin
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 07, 2016, 04:54:18 PM




How many miles we need for the things that you planned? That is looking like a great plan. How do I go about getting it done??
do not book intra-europe with miles, 99% of the time revenue on LCCs is significantly cheaper if you travel light (which i highly recommend. trust me, your trip will be immensely more relaxed and laid back) if you figure out your specific days PM me and I'll find you the cheapest route around Europe with sooper seekrit scripts and stuff

Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 04:55:57 PM
no, you fly JMK-ZRH-SFO (Aegean & Swiss) for the way back. Outbound is only $5.60 in taxes..

You will need 60,000 UA for the RT PP x 3 = 180,000 Chase UR or UA Miles/points

Intra europe just book using cash (book RT as its usually cheaper than OW)

LHR-CDG you can use 4,000-4,500 Avios from BA (Chase, Amex MR & SPG transfers into BA) PP (or check a paid flight)

To Berlin you can probably use Avios too same as above with Air Berlin

I have over 200K united miles, so that will give us RT flight using miles. How do I find availability now? It is very tempting if I can pull it all off!! Am already excited.

Thinking more, it would be great if we can somehow use the train from London - Paris, isn't that undersea?? Anyone knows how much is it?
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 04:56:47 PM
do not book intra-europe with miles, 99% of the time revenue on LCCs is significantly cheaper if you travel light (which i highly recommend. trust me, your trip will be immensely more relaxed and laid back) if you figure out your specific days PM me and I'll find you the cheapest route around Europe with sooper seekrit scripts and stuff

Thanks for the offer. I will take you up on your offer as soon as I have the main flights figured out.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Chapshnell on January 07, 2016, 04:57:11 PM
I have over 200K united miles, so that will give us RT flight using miles. How do I find availability now? It is very tempting if I can pull it all off!! Am already excited.

Thinking more, it would be great if we can somehow use the train from London - Paris, isn't that undersea?? Anyone knows how much is it?

why not just fly? Its like a 35 minute flight. Plus its so cheap too.

You can check on United.com Aeroplan.com etc.. etc.. Call if you need to. 800-864-8331
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 04:58:35 PM
why not just fly? Its like a 35 minute flight. Plus its so cheap too.

You can check on United.com Aeroplan.com etc.. etc.. Call if you need to.

Just to get the experience to be on underwater train :)

Can I use United miles on Aeroplan?  Sorry, dont know much about all these programs.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Chapshnell on January 07, 2016, 04:59:43 PM
Just to get the experience to be on underwater train :)

Can I use United miles on Aeroplan?  Sorry, dont know much about all these programs.

United you need United miles. For Aeroplan (Air Canada) you need Amex MR points.. Both are good to use & are the same price (60,000 RT PP).
United overall is better to use because they dont charge fuel fees.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 05:01:03 PM
United you need United miles. For Aeroplan (Air Canada) you need Amex MR points.. Both are good to use & are the same price (60,000 RT PP).
United overall is better to use because they dont charge fuel fees.

Well then I will prefer to use United since I have enough miles for 3 RT tickets. And is overall better :)

Now how do I search the availability and flights???
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Chapshnell on January 07, 2016, 05:03:12 PM
Well then I will prefer to use United since I have enough miles for 3 RT tickets. And is overall better :)

Now how do I search the availability and flights???

You can check on United.com Aeroplan.com etc.. etc.. Call if you need to. 800-864-8331
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 05:04:25 PM
You can check on United.com Aeroplan.com etc.. etc.. Call if you need to. 800-864-8331

Shouldn't I have flight numbers and all figured out before calling or the agent will do everything for me?
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Chapshnell on January 07, 2016, 05:07:55 PM
Shouldn't I have flight numbers and all figured out before calling or the agent will do everything for me?

you need to get an idea of what dates are available first & then see if its workable.. I had a hard time getting JMK-ZRH availability to show up.. might be worth paying cash for that portion if you have to or fly out somehow from ATH theres better availability from there.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 05:13:35 PM
you need to get an idea of what dates are available first & then see if its workable.. I had a hard time getting JMK-ZRH availability to show up.. might be worth paying cash for that portion if you have to or fly out somehow from ATH theres better availability from there.

Oh I see. I will try my best to find the availability and see how it all works out. Thanks a lot for your help.

Anyone knows how much those reward booking services folk would charge? Just curious.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 05:27:06 PM
Oh one thing: as a US citizen, do we need visa to visit any of these places? My  search showed that as tourists we dont need, but just want to be sure before we go any further.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Chapshnell on January 07, 2016, 06:26:47 PM
Oh one thing: as a US citizen, do we need visa to visit any of these places? My  search showed that as tourists we dont need, but just want to be sure before we go any further.

no visa needed
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 07, 2016, 07:24:33 PM
no visa needed

Thanks.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 08, 2016, 12:48:37 PM
Ok, did some search for the flights. Availability is there, but I am not able to use stopover/open jaw properly, and I am sure I am doing something wrong.

Searched United only.

Basically, SFO - LHR is available for almost all of June/July/August for 30K.

ZRH - SFO available almost all June for 30K.

ATH - SFO available on June 21,24,28 and July 11/12 for 30K.

Daughter would love to do London - Paris on train (even I want to travel).

Mykonos island in Greece if we can do on this trip would be loved by all 3 of us.

So, is it possible to fly SFO - LHR, then CDG - TXL, TXL - ZRH and finally ATH - SFO back? Is this what is meant by 2 open-jaws and 1 stopover that United allows??

We will use internal flights (paid in cash) for Rome, JMK and foing to ATH??
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 08, 2016, 05:25:18 PM
Am I doing something really stupid that no replies?? Guys please advise!!
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 09, 2016, 11:38:40 AM
Am I doing something really stupid that no replies?? Guys please advise!!
Midday Friday through Saturday are typically slow days, give it some time.
Also I can imagine you getting better answers if you use this thread as a basic idea of your plans and then go to each individual thread- in this case "airline routing rules"- to ask more specific questions
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 09, 2016, 06:14:57 PM
Midday Friday through Saturday are typically slow days, give it some time.
Also I can imagine you getting better answers if you use this thread as a basic idea of your plans and then go to each individual thread- in this case "airline routing rules"- to ask more specific questions

Thanks for the reply Embay. I was worried that may be I pissed off people and that is why no one is responding :)

I will ask my next question in other thread, and hope to get some advice. But for now, I have been able to price SFO-LHR, FCO-ATH, ATH-SFO on United.com for 3 tickets for 180,000 miles + $531.78 (taxes). Funny thing is tax from SFO - LHR is $18 for all 3, and other 2 flights add over $500 in taxes. Is it possible to lower the taxes somehow?

Possible to add another open jaw in this route somewhere? I only have one open jaw right now.

Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on January 10, 2016, 02:02:36 AM




 other 2 flights add over $500 in taxes. Is it possible to lower the taxes somehow?


What is the routing of the return flight?
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 10, 2016, 09:43:41 PM
What is the routing of the return flight?

Returning from LHR..I think that is the trouble spot. Will check again to see if I can route from other airports.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on January 10, 2016, 10:20:15 PM
Jun 7 San Francisco - London, GB
Jun 15 Zurich - Athens, GR
Jun 21 Athens - San Francisco, CA

Got this schedule for 180,000 miles + $418.68.

Is it possible to add another leg from Zurich - Rome? That would make it awesome :)
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on February 09, 2016, 01:45:34 PM
Something came up and so I was not able to work out the details earlier. Now, I am back. Just checked the flight availability, and found the following:

Jun 5 San Francisco - London, GB
Jun 15 Rome - Athens, GR (found a flight with almost 10 hours connection in Vienna. Will try to make the most of it).
Jun 18 Athens - San Francisco, CA

Got this schedule for 180,000 miles + $564.18.

Just did a quick search on IHG for hotels (have over 275,000 IHG points). Hotels seem to be running over $200 for most of these places. I understand that it is summer time and things will be expensive. Is this normal or we can expect to find better rates with time?

Thanks.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 02, 2016, 05:04:32 PM
I am back with details of the trip. Hoping that experts here say that I got a decent trip :)

Flying out (United economy award ticket for 3) from Sacramento in early June to London (reaching LHR early morning). Staying at Holiday Inn London Mayfair for 2 nights.

Taking overnight bus from London - Brussels (reserved seats the day schedule opened at got it for 33.5 Euros. Immediately after that, tickets went up to 47.5, so proud of myself :) ). Reaching Brussels early in the morning, and staying at Holiday Inn Brussels for one night.

Next day, take early morning bus from Brussels -  Paris (reaching Paris around 11 AM) for 18 euros. Staying 3 nights in Paris (2 nights in Radisson & one night in Inter Continental). Booked Eiffel tower tickets for late evening as kid wants to see the sunset from the top).

Then, take TGV train from Paris - Zurich (booked using no FTF card, dont remember the exact fare, but it was cheap). Reaching Zurich around 3:0 PM. Staying for 2 nights in Zurich in Crown Plaza. From my other thread, know that there is not much to do in Zurich, so still trying to figure out what to do on one full day there. Any suggestions/advice?

Then, take Bernia Express train early morning from Zurich - Tirano (Italy). From there, take a train to Milan and then to Pisa (hopefully, trains will be on time and schedule will work out). Still need to make Milan - Pisa reservation (schedule not available yet). Tirano - Milan is local train, where advanced booking is not possible. Overnight in Marriott Pisa (booked using points).

Next morning, after clicking a few pictures at Leaning Tower, on our way to Florence (by train). Staying at AirBnb (my first stay), close to main train station (host has very good reviews), booked for $120 or so. Should be in Florence by 11 AM or so.

Next morning, leave for Rome (by train, seats reserved), reach Rome around 11 AM. Stay in Hotel Indigo for one night, and next night, staying at Holiday Inn Rome (close to airport).
Need to book Colosseum tour.

Next, we use Open Jaw ticket Rome - Athens (reaching Athens at 8:45 PM). Take Ryan Air flight (Athens - Santorini, 3 adults, $142), reaching Santorini at midnight. Booked a hotel for 2 nights (including when we reach there overnight) for $167. It has free cancellation till mid-June. , keep checking if anything else opens up.

Then, we take ferry (need to make reservation) to Mykonos island. Reach there around 2 PM. Stay 2 nights there (AirBnB, $231).

Then, we take Ryan Air again from Mykonos - Athens ($102 for 3 adults), reaching Athens around 9 AM. Staying 2 nights in Inter Continental Athens (using points from IHG promo where we had to mail cards; made 2 separate reservations to use 2 accounts).

Finally, we fly back from Athens - LAX (reaching LAX around midnight).

From LAX, we are flying back to SMF on SouthWest (used miles & companion pass).

Initially, I had booked trans-atlantic flights from LAX - LHR - FCO - ATH - LAX. Then, one day SMF - LHR reward flight opened up, I called United, and agent switched it from SMF - LHR (everything else being the same). So, now we are flying out from SMF, but returning to LAX (on United reward flight). Hoping that ATH - SMF reward availability opens up, so I can cancel SW and save my points :)

Flying out of SMF helps with car parking fees too, as we can work at work, and take public transportation to the airport.

Mostly staying in IHG properties as I had accumulated over 270,000 points over the years (IHG CC sign-up, and bought Daily getaway IHG points earlier).

Now, need advice with things to do, what to eat (vegetarians).

Let me know how I did with flights, bus/train & hotels. Feeling proud of myself, but need to hear from experts.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 02, 2016, 05:18:51 PM
I am back with details of the trip. Hoping that experts here say that I got a decent trip :)

Flying out (United economy award ticket for 3) from Sacramento in early June to London (reaching LHR early morning). Staying at Holiday Inn London Mayfair for 2 nights.

Taking overnight bus from London - Brussels (reserved seats the day schedule opened at got it for 33.5 Euros. Immediately after that, tickets went up to 47.5, so proud of myself :) ). Reaching Brussels early in the morning, and staying at Holiday Inn Brussels for one night.

Next day, take early morning bus from Brussels -  Paris (reaching Paris around 11 AM) for 18 euros. Staying 3 nights in Paris (2 nights in Radisson & one night in Inter Continental). Booked Eiffel tower tickets for late evening as kid wants to see the sunset from the top).

Then, take TGV train from Paris - Zurich (booked using no FTF card, dont remember the exact fare, but it was cheap). Reaching Zurich around 3:0 PM. Staying for 2 nights in Zurich in Crown Plaza. From my other thread, know that there is not much to do in Zurich, so still trying to figure out what to do on one full day there. Any suggestions/advice?

Then, take Bernia Express train early morning from Zurich - Tirano (Italy). From there, take a train to Milan and then to Pisa (hopefully, trains will be on time and schedule will work out). Still need to make Milan - Pisa reservation (schedule not available yet). Tirano - Milan is local train, where advanced booking is not possible. Overnight in Marriott Pisa (booked using points).

Next morning, after clicking a few pictures at Leaning Tower, on our way to Florence (by train). Staying at AirBnb (my first stay), close to main train station (host has very good reviews), booked for $120 or so. Should be in Florence by 11 AM or so.

Next morning, leave for Rome (by train, seats reserved), reach Rome around 11 AM. Stay in Hotel Indigo for one night, and next night, staying at Holiday Inn Rome (close to airport).
Need to book Colosseum tour.

Next, we use Open Jaw ticket Rome - Athens (reaching Athens at 8:45 PM). Take Ryan Air flight (Athens - Santorini, 3 adults, $142), reaching Santorini at midnight. Booked a hotel for 2 nights (including when we reach there overnight) for $167. It has free cancellation till mid-June. , keep checking if anything else opens up.

Then, we take ferry (need to make reservation) to Mykonos island. Reach there around 2 PM. Stay 2 nights there (AirBnB, $231).

Then, we take Ryan Air again from Mykonos - Athens ($102 for 3 adults), reaching Athens around 9 AM. Staying 2 nights in Inter Continental Athens (using points from IHG promo where we had to mail cards; made 2 separate reservations to use 2 accounts).

Finally, we fly back from Athens - LAX (reaching LAX around midnight).

From LAX, we are flying back to SMF on SouthWest (used miles & companion pass).

Initially, I had booked trans-atlantic flights from LAX - LHR - FCO - ATH - LAX. Then, one day SMF - LHR reward flight opened up, I called United, and agent switched it from SMF - LHR (everything else being the same). So, now we are flying out from SMF, but returning to LAX (on United reward flight). Hoping that ATH - SMF reward availability opens up, so I can cancel SW and save my points :)

Flying out of SMF helps with car parking fees too, as we can work at work, and take public transportation to the airport.

Mostly staying in IHG properties as I had accumulated over 270,000 points over the years (IHG CC sign-up, and bought Daily getaway IHG points earlier).

Now, need advice with things to do, what to eat (vegetarians).

Let me know how I did with flights, bus/train & hotels. Feeling proud of myself, but need to hear from experts.
Its Alot of travel which is very tiring. Your likely going to end up ditching a bunch of activities you planned.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 02, 2016, 05:28:11 PM
Its Alot of travel which is very tiring. Your likely going to end up ditching a bunch of activities you planned.

I agree it is a lot of travel. But, just wanted to see some main spots when all 3 of us can go. Kid is going to college, so this might be the last trip together :(

Santorini & Mykonos should be all relaxing, at least that is what I am hoping for. Day traveling from Zurich - Pisa (though a long day, but mostly sitting in train, enjoying the views, should take some stress out). We will see how it goes.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 02, 2016, 05:41:08 PM
I agree it is a lot of travel. But, just wanted to see some main spots when all 3 of us can go. Kid is going to college, so this might be the last trip together :(

Santorini & Mykonos should be all relaxing, at least that is what I am hoping for.
Im assuming its too late to change anything but I would knock out one of those, they arent different enough to want to rush around having only one full day in each, rather have 3 full days in one.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 02, 2016, 06:27:39 PM
Im assuming its too late to change anything but I would knock out one of those, they arent different enough to want to rush around having only one full day in each, rather have 3 full days in one.

It is too late to change anything now. I completely agree with you on just spending one day in these places. But, we are already onto 3 weeks of vacation, can't extend it anymore. And who knows, we might be back in these places in future if we just have so much fun :)
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: BKYW on May 03, 2016, 12:10:54 AM
Its Alot of travel which is very tiring. Your likely going to end up ditching a bunch of activities you planned.

You start with 3 nights not sleeping in a bed. Kudos to you if you can manage it, especially as you seems to be budgeting. I personally would probably fall asleep while walking, although I never tried it.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 03, 2016, 01:58:26 AM
It is too late to change anything now. I completely agree with you on just spending one day in these places. But, we are already onto 3 weeks of vacation, can't extend it anymore. And who knows, we might be back in these places in future if we just have so much fun :)
I wasn't saying to extend the trip, I was saying to forget about one of those islands the whole time and not take the boat/flight to the other.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 03, 2016, 11:47:56 AM
I wasn't saying to extend the trip, I was saying to forget about one of those islands the whole time and not take the boat/flight to the other.

Well, just skipping that one island is going to cost us over $600, so not worth it now. Will try to take it slow and do the best we can within the limited time.

Now, to make a list of things to see/do in all these places. I guess best place is with Wiki for each place, correct? And, then posts any questions in the specific threads rather than here?
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 03, 2016, 11:51:55 AM
Well, just skipping that one island is going to cost us over $600, so not worth it now. Will try to take it slow and do the best we can within the limited time.

Now, to make a list of things to see/do in all these places. I guess best place is with Wiki for each place, correct? And, then posts any questions in the specific threads rather than here?
Oh. I thought you would have saved money. Def don't change it for $600.
And yes, better chances in each individual thread.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 03, 2016, 11:56:15 AM
Oh. I thought you would have saved money. Def don't change it for $600.
And yes, better chances in each individual thread.

Thanks Emkay.

And thanks once again for that Seat61 link. That has been amazing. Now, just hoping for trenitalia to release their summer schedule  >:( >:(
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 15, 2016, 08:00:47 PM
Just a quick visa question for the experts (I have checked US State Dept visa, so I am pretty certain, but still wanted to double-check here):

On upcoming Europe trip, we are visiting London, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Italy (Milan/Pisa/Rome), and Greece (Santaroni/Mykonos/Athens). As US citizens, we don't need visa to travel to any of these places, right? Just staying 2-4 nights at the most in one place.

Thanks.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 16, 2016, 01:32:13 AM
Just a quick visa question for the experts (I have checked US State Dept visa, so I am pretty certain, but still wanted to double-check here):

On upcoming Europe trip, we are visiting London, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Italy (Milan/Pisa/Rome), and Greece (Santaroni/Mykonos/Athens). As US citizens, we don't need visa to travel to any of these places, right? Just staying 2-4 nights at the most in one place.

Thanks.
Correct.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 16, 2016, 11:48:18 AM
Correct.

Thanks a lot for the reply Emkay. That takes care of one stress :)
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 18, 2016, 11:27:42 AM
Finally, Italian Rail has opened up the summer schedule. Coming from India where trains are notoriously late, how are the trains in Italy? If there are only 20-30 minutes between reaching Milan (Central) by train from Tirano, and next train to Pisa (again from Milan Central), can I buy ticket online without worrying about missing the train to Pisa?
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 18, 2016, 11:30:05 AM
Finally, Italian Rail has opened up the summer schedule. Coming from India where trains are notoriously late, how are the trains in Italy? If there are only 20-30 minutes between reaching Milan (Central) by train from Tirano, and next train to Pisa (again from Milan Central), can I buy ticket online without worrying about missing the train to Pisa?
Yes, they are very much on-time, they will leave and arrive on the second usually and shouldn't take more then a couple minutes to make the transfer even with luggage. 
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 18, 2016, 11:32:36 AM
Yes, they are very much on-time, they will leave and arrive on the second usually and shouldn't take more then a couple minutes to make the transfer even with luggage.

Thanks Emkay. You are amazingly fast and good!!
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 18, 2016, 11:34:07 AM
Thanks Emkay. You are amazingly fast and good!!
:D
Does that make me a bored soul?
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 18, 2016, 11:35:35 AM
:D
Does that make me a bored soul?

I think you are so technologically advanced that mere mortals like us can only dream :)
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 23, 2016, 11:21:04 AM
Just 10 more days to go for our dream Europe trip. Feeling excited.

What kind of power adapter we need to take with us (visiting London, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Italy & Athens)? Will be using iPhone (6+) and may be a macbook. Oh, and haven't decided if I want to take my Canon camera along or just use iPhone's camera. Suggestions??
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 23, 2016, 11:36:23 AM
Just 10 more days to go for our dream Europe trip. Feeling excited.

What kind of power adapter we need to take with us (visiting London, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Italy & Athens)? Will be using iPhone (6+) and may be a macbook. Oh, and haven't decided if I want to take my Canon camera along or just use iPhone's camera. Suggestions??
Something like this should be fine http://m.ebay.com/itm/5-x-Pcs-US-USA-to-EU-Euro-Europe-AC-Power-Wall-Plug-Converter-Travel-Adapter-New-/361565892021?hash=item542f01adb5:g:iMgAAOSwyQtVkd12
Unless it specifically needs 120 in which case you need an actual converter.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: MC on May 23, 2016, 11:36:38 AM
Just 10 more days to go for our dream Europe trip. Feeling excited.

What kind of power adapter we need to take with us (visiting London, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Italy & Athens)? Will be using iPhone (6+) and may be a macbook. Oh, and haven't decided if I want to take my Canon camera along or just use iPhone's camera. Suggestions??

You will need one adapter for the UK (London) and a different one for the rest of Europe.
Definitely bring along the camera. Your iPhone won't be able to capture this trip of a lifetime the same way a proper camera will.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 23, 2016, 11:41:35 AM
Thanks for the adapter link Emkay & camera suggestion MC.

Will the adapters linked by Emkay work at all the places we are visiting or need a different one for UK & rest of Europe (as per MC)?
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 23, 2016, 11:51:45 AM
Thanks for the adapter link Emkay & camera suggestion MC.

Will the adapters linked by Emkay work at all the places we are visiting or need a different one for UK & rest of Europe (as per MC)?
You will need a separate one. Missed the UK part.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 23, 2016, 11:54:08 AM
Thanks for the adapter link Emkay & camera suggestion MC.

Will the adapters linked by Emkay work at all the places we are visiting or need a different one for UK & rest of Europe (as per MC)?
I just use something like this when I travel.
http://m.ebay.com/itm/All-in-One-Travel-Power-Plug-Adaptor-for-US-UK-EU-AU-SHIPS-FROM-USA-Ohio-/171465532727?hash=item27ec246537:g:NLoAAOSwGvhUGVPu
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on May 23, 2016, 12:22:36 PM
I just use something like this when I travel.
http://m.ebay.com/itm/All-in-One-Travel-Power-Plug-Adaptor-for-US-UK-EU-AU-SHIPS-FROM-USA-Ohio-/171465532727?hash=item27ec246537:g:NLoAAOSwGvhUGVPu

Thanks once again Emkay!!
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: E R K on May 23, 2016, 01:32:45 PM
So if I go to UK and Israel, I need 2 different adapters? or are those 2 the same?
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 23, 2016, 01:33:49 PM
So if I go to UK and Israel, I need 2 different adapters? or are those 2 the same?
Different, Israel is the same as EU.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: E R K on May 23, 2016, 01:36:16 PM
Different, Israel is the same as EU.
Thanks. And UK is???
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 23, 2016, 01:37:02 PM
Thanks. And UK is???
A Google search away.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: E R K on May 23, 2016, 01:38:22 PM
A Google search away.

Awww, come on. You are answering all the questions. :P
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: Emkay on May 23, 2016, 01:40:27 PM
Awww, come on. You are answering all the questions.
I'm not sure what the question is but this is how it looks.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on June 27, 2016, 03:40:47 PM
Thanks for the advice here, we just came back from amazing our first ever Europe trip. Covered a lot of places (London, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens), in almost 3 weeks. Little tired now from all the traveling, but coming out of jet-lag slowly. We traveled in economy class, so my trip report is not something you guys will be interested in :)

But, just wanted to say lots of thanks to everyone for the very helpful advice. Couldn't have done this without all of your help. Thanks everyone. God Bless you, and lets keep this brotherhood going, helping everyone.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: @Yehuda on June 27, 2016, 03:54:57 PM
Welcome back! Glad you had a great time!

Please write up a report, forget the plane rides - I'd love to read about the places!
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: MosheD on June 27, 2016, 04:06:05 PM
Thanks for the advice here, we just came back from amazing our first ever Europe trip. Covered a lot of places (London, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Santorini, Mykonos and Athens), in almost 3 weeks. Little tired now from all the traveling, but coming out of jet-lag slowly. We traveled in economy class, so my trip report is not something you guys will be interested in :)

But, just wanted to say lots of thanks to everyone for the very helpful advice. Couldn't have done this without all of your help. Thanks everyone. God Bless you, and lets keep this brotherhood going, helping everyone.
-1
Very interested. You can write about each dest instead of some lame plane rides...
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on June 28, 2016, 11:42:51 AM
Welcome back! Glad you had a great time!

Please write up a report, forget the plane rides - I'd love to read about the places!

Thanks. Will do the report soon. Might not have pictures to add for each place as we included ourselves in most of the photos and I dont know how to remove us from the photos or make it blurry. At most of the food places, we just "attacked" the food, and only after we were almost done, I was like, "shoot, I needed to take a photo of the food to post on DDF :). It happened every single time :)
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: loveddeals on June 28, 2016, 11:43:53 AM
-1
Very interested. You can write about each dest instead of some lame plane rides...

Ok, will do. Was not sure how much people would be interested in a trip report without having fancy plane stories or how much fun it was for a first-timer in premium classes.
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: MosheD on June 28, 2016, 11:47:11 AM
Ok, will do. Was not sure how much people would be interested in a trip report without having fancy plane stories or how much fun it was for a first-timer in premium classes.
These trips are not JUST about the fancy planes. At least most of the time. We leave that for Lucky and AJK (see Brazil TR).
A lot of us are avid travelers and have taken budget trips as well. You can see my West coast trip report where I flew Frontier (albeit for free).
Title: Re: Help!! Europe vacation Summer 2016.
Post by: cozmohoot on June 28, 2016, 06:30:03 PM


y. At most of the food places, we just "attacked" the food, and only after we were almost done, I was like, "shoot, I needed to take a photo of the food to post on DDF :). It happened every single time :)
lol