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Is It Realistic To Visit 6 Countries In 2 Weeks? Tips For An Ambitious European Travel Itinerary


The map of our two-week honeymoon across Europe.

I belong to quite a few travel forums on various websites and social media. Naturally, travelers ask for help with their itineraries. Perhaps they are looking for a hotel recommendation, what are the must-see sights, or for optimal logistics to get from point A to point B. If they are asking about a single destination, respondents are all too happy to help. But heaven forbid they inquire about visiting multiple countries on their one trip!

 

I have seen comments run the gamut from tepid suggestions that the itinerary is too ambitious, to condescending remarks about the traveler herself, to open hostility, as though three major cities in one week were an affront to humanity. Judgy Janes and Joes come out in droves to admonish the poster about her trip.

 

The prevailing theme of these responses can be summed up with:

 

“That’s not enough time.”

 

Never mind that it’s her trip. They’re not the ones traveling. If she wants to see more, do more, go farther, isn’t that her prerogative?

 

But setting that aside, I find myself wondering, what do these people mean by “not enough time?” Not enough time to do what?

 


EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE BIG CITY

 

The Empire State Building

I have lived in the New York City metro area for 15 years. A decade and a half of weekends, holidays, evenings, and lunch hours to explore the city. During that time, I have also entertained literally hundreds of out-of-town guests. That has conferred on me the ability to be a tourist for a day, for many days. And still, 15 years in, I have not seen everything there is to see in the Big Apple. I haven’t even seen everything there is to see in Central Park, despite having taken a tour of it. I haven’t been in every gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, despite being a member for all 15 of those years. Heck, I am pretty sure there are entire floors of Macy’s – an avenue long – that I haven’t wandered through.

 


In Hoboken, my city that is just one square mile, there are bars and restaurants and stores that I have never set foot in.


Pier 13 in Hoboken, NJ, with a nighttime view of the Manhattan skyline

It’s not for lack of trying. In fact, it took one man an entire year to have a slice of pizza at every Manhattan pizza place, and he was on a mission to accomplish that feat! (Sign up for my newsletter to find out which one he chose as the best in NYC.)

 

The reality of life is that you can’t do it all.

 


UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

 

So, on a 15-day vacation, what is the expectation?

 

You know you can’t possibly see everything in 15 days. And is that your goal?

 

Of course not.

 

Most likely, your goal for traveling is to get a feel for a new place. Sure, it might be more specific than that. Perhaps you saw a picture on Pinterest or a video on Instagram and thought, “man I’d like to go there.” Maybe you want to see the Great Pyramids of Giza, walk the Great Wall of China, or dive the Great Barrier Reef. While you’re in these undiscovered (by you) corners of the world, you want to taste the food, meet the people, learn about the culture. Generally speaking, you want to absorb a little more of what the world has to offer.

 

Husband drinking a big beer in Munich

I highly doubt that your intention is to conquer that place. You probably don’t take an annual vacation in order to plot out your life in that country or city. You’re not looking for a place to live, a neighborhood to call home, the best coffee shop in the city. (If you are doing those things, you aren’t on a pleasure trip, you’re on a home-finding mission.) No, in most cases, you are simply visiting.

 


WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A "VISITOR"?

 

When you visit someone’s home, are you scouting it out to take up permanent residence there? Do you poke your head into every room? Go through their drawers and closets and medicine cabinets?

 

Of course not.

 

Your purpose for being there is to drink iced tea or a glass of wine and spend time with the people who live there. It’s not so important that you see everything in their house, and it’s not necessary that you stay forever to enjoy the visit.

 

When we travel, we’re guests. We’ve come to say, "Hello! How are you? What’s for dinner? We appreciate your great architecture, lovely gardens, unique art, and interesting music. That statue is really something, isn’t it?" And then we continue on our way.

 

So, why is there an expectation that you need a certain amount of time to do that?



YOUR PERSONAL TRAVEL STYLE

 

Each person has their own style of travel, and their own priorities when they travel, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Variety is the spice of life!

 

Some people choose to linger in the town square, visit the markets, chat with the locals, and really immerse themselves in the atmosphere. That’s wonderful.

 

Statue of a private investigator

Some people visit tourist attractions, eat at well-known restaurants, stay at the famous hotels, and really embrace the highlights of the destinations. That’s wonderful.

 

Some people seek out every church, wander through every museum, walk past every landmark, and really take time to appreciate the beauty. That’s wonderful.

 

Some people climb the tallest tower, jump off the highest bridge, ski the steepest slope, and really delight in the wildest experiences a place can offer. That’s wonderful.

 

Some people relax on the most beautiful beaches, splurge on a world-class spa, enjoy the million-dollar views, and really recharge in the luxury of the location. That’s wonderful.

 

Some people take cooking classes, hike mountains, frequent nightclubs, embark on road trips, raft down rivers, sleep under the stars, and on and on and on and on. All of it is wonderful.

 

Why limit someone’s epic adventure with an arbitrary assessment of the time they should spend on it?

 


HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU NEED AT YOUR DESTINATION?

 

If you want a rule of thumb, consider this:

 

  • If there is a site or two you wish to see, or you need a stop-over place on a longer route, plan to stay one night. This typically gives you two half days between other locations.

  • If you want to see a couple of sights, engage in an activity, and eat in two different neighborhoods, plan to stay two nights. This will give you one full day and up to two half-days.

  • If you have a list of things to see and want to move at a slower pace or linger longer, stay three nights. You’ll have two full days and up to two-half days.

  • If you feel you need three full days, plan to wake up at your destination by staying four nights.

 

If your travel style is to stay in one place for a week, do that. If you want a relaxing week at a resort, do that. But if your desire is to visit several destinations on this trip, you don’t need more than four nights in any of them.

 


FIRST-TIME VISITORS

 

Repeat guests may be even more likely to tell someone they need more time if they are a first-time visitor to a destination. Having been there yourself, you might make an assumption that the new guest will want to see everything you have seen, or that it would be unfortunate if they missed something. Or maybe, you can’t see yourself running through the city doing everything you expect they’ll want to do. But of course, you don’t know what their intentions are. And the truth is, first-time visitors should never plan to see everything anyway. After all, as we said, that’s an impossible task.

 

the Eiffel Tower at dusk

The first time I went to Paris, I stayed 3 nights. I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, the Louvre. I took a day trip to Versailles and Chartres. We felt like regulars at the local boulangerie and familiarized ourselves with the neighborhood. We took a lot of steps, but we saw a lot, too. Then we moved on, to Reims, to Beaune, to Lyon, to Avignon, and to Nice, all in two weeks.

 

Were there things we didn’t see? Of course. But we went back on our honeymoon, that time for two nights. We went to the Opera Garnier, Sacre Coeur, and did a little shopping at the Christmas Markets. Then we moved on, to Switzerland, to Germany, to Austria, to Slovakia, and to Hungary, all in two weeks.

 

You can always go back to see things you missed. But most people have limited funds and even fewer days of PTO. A lifetime isn’t enough time to spend a week in only one city every year and still see the world. Of course, as previously stated, if you do not share my intention of stepping foot on all seven continents and you do not have a mile-long travel wish list, linger as long as you’d like.

 

For you readers who travel harder, or for anyone seeking a grand one or two week European adventure, prioritizing is an important concept. Narrow down the field of what you must see or do on this trip.

 


WHAT YOU NEED IS A THEME

 

Something I do during my planning process is to brainstorm a common thread that links my plans together, and then I give it a hashtag. Sum up your epic adventure before you even take it with a few words of what you want it to be.


It doesn't have to be creative or catchy or unique. You can search Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration. But it should be specific to the kind of trip you want to take. If you don't know where to begin, try alliteration! Whatever is the first letter of the country name, make that the first letter of the adjective describing it. Or, add your first or last name to the hashtag. Or, change one word of a movie title. Or, insert an activity or food or sight you'll experience. 


Let me share some examples.


Visiting 5 islands in the Aegean Sea inspired:


white building with blue shutters and Vespas in front, in Naxos Greece

A trip to Ireland for a family of Flynns was naturally tagged:

 

 

A family of Muppets, I’m sorry, Matthews, used:

 

 

I am currently planning a foodie’s delight in Italy and calling it #BuonAppetito.

 

Some people lean on their hobbies for this theme. I have a friend who has made it her mission to visit every baseball stadium in America. Obviously, she can't do this all on one trip, but it makes it easier to plan each future trip. Another friend's family is comprised of avid SCUBA divers. They design their trips around great diving destinations. A single woman I know uses her entire travel budget on yoga retreats around the world.


These friends might tag their trips:



Does your family have a shared passion that can be converted into an awesome vacation? Enthusiastic Steeler Sundays at home could translate into a visit to Tampa to see the stadium where your team won the Super Bowl:



A love affair with rollercoasters? A trip to California will give you 30 amusement parks from which to choose:



Maybe there isn’t one activity that everyone in your group enjoys, but a common place to enjoy it. For example, mom and dad like sunbathing, your teenage daughter wants to surf, and your pre-teen son hopes to meet girls. Looks like the Paulson family is going to Hawaii!



I could do this all day.



DETERMINE THE “WHY” OF YOUR VACATION


For help establishing your theme, you may first need to define your “why”. Why are you taking this trip? Dig deeper than the standard “it’s my annual vacation” or “because I need to get away.” Those are good enough reasons to plop on a beach somewhere, but epic trips require epic purposes.

 

Think about the last vacation you picked out of thin air, without a specific “why” to match it. Some of my clients have told me that travel agents have discouraged their dream vacations and sent them on “affordable” ones instead, to places they didn’t want to go. If you have ever went on a Caribbean cruise because you didn’t think you could afford a 2 week European adventure, or spent a week in Wine Country because it was more convenient than Bordeaux, you may be guilty of ignoring your why. You focused on the “what” you want to do (drink wine) and set aside the “why” you wanted to do it (appreciate the source of your favorite wine). You, my friend, are a perfect candidate for vacation themes going forward.

 


woman posing for picture in giant wine mug at a Christmas market in Europe

Determining your why can help you to:


  •    Narrow your focus

  •    Prioritize activities and attractions

  •    Choose where you’ll go

  •   Decide how long you’ll stay

 

Your theme is a thread that ties everything together. It is meant to inspire you, to help focus your massive wish list, but it is not intended to take over your whole trip!

 

newlyweds kissing in Colmar, France at a Christmas market

 

I mentioned before that my husband and I traveled to 6 countries in 2 weeks on our honeymoon. The common link between the chosen cities were Christmas markets! We visited markets in Paris, Colmar, Basel, Freiburg, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. It was very romantic! We could have tagged our trip #GoingToTheOpera, since we also made a point of visiting the Opera Houses in Paris, Vienna, and Budapest. We wouldn't have been wrong to call it #HoneymoonByTrain, or #BeerAndBratwurst, or #PostWeddingExhaustion, but that last one wasn't the goal of the trip.


man on motorcycle at BMW Velt in Germany
the Sacher Torte dessert in Vienna Austria

Since Christmas Markets were our theme, they set the tone for our trip. We chose cities known for their markets, and hotels close to the train stations to simplify traveling between them. By day we climbed the steps to Sacre Coeur, hiked up to Neuschwanstein Castle, sang Sound of Music favorites on a tour, somberly paid our respects at Dachau, visited BMW Velt, and soaked in beer (literally) at the famous Szechenyi Baths. We then sipped mulled wine from little mugs while shopping for holiday presents and souvenirs at the markets, and capped off our evenings by indulging in Black Forest Cake in the Black Forest, the Sacher Torte in the Sacher Hotel, Augustiner Beer at the oldest brewery in Munich, and dinner at the top of the UFO Tower in Slovakia.

 

Does it sound cozy and romantic? It was. Does it sound rushed, stressful, like we were attempting too much in the time we had? It was none of those things. Make no mistake, fellow travelers tried to discourage this epic vacation. I’m glad we didn’t listen.


a hotel door hanger that reads, "it's the 25th hotel. I need the extra hour"


A BLURB ABOUT US


Go Farther Travel logo: Custom Plans | Epic Vacations

Go Farther Travel customizes itineraries for people who wish to travel to multiple destinations in a single trip. We help you figure out your why, give it a theme, and turn it into an epic vacation. Our goal is to take the stress out of travel by researching, planning, coordinating, booking, and presenting every detail of your adventure via our easy-to-use mobile app. We also offer Research & Consultation packages to answer your itinerary questions without judgement!

 


several suitcases lined up in a hotel room


 

 

 

 

 

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