Author Topic: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe  (Read 7709 times)

ladystar

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Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« on: October 08, 2014, 11:07:32 PM »
I'm looking for budget conscious travel tips and most importantly, the best things to do/places to go in the winter and over the holidays. I've been to a few major European cities and done some of the big tourist stuff, so I don't need to see the Eiffel tower or anything like that. I prefer off the beaten path/adventurous travel. I really wanted to go to Turkey to Cappadocia, but will save that for another trip in light of what's happening over there. Kind of interested in the Black Forest area in Germany or even Scandinavia in the winter, but really I could go anywhere. I don't mind staying in hostels, but prefer ones that aren't like barracks with 20 people in a room. Trains are OK, but would want to avoid spending all day on one. Would also not be opposed to renting a car if that's a budget friendly option. Seems like flights between European cities can be reasonable too.

Basically, I really just want to have some interesting experiences but also stretch my dollars. So, please send your tips or recommendations for holiday travel in Europe!

Thanks! :)
« Last Edit: November 19, 2017, 05:14:45 PM by ladystar »

JoanOfSnark

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2014, 02:45:48 AM »
I haven't been myself, but I hear the Baltic is really beautiful and affordable in the off-season... just bundle up against the wind! For extra points, either take a train deal (Deutsche Bahn offers one called the Ostsee Ticket allowing 2 people to travel together to the baltic- even the Polish side, which is cheaper as well- cheaply from a couple of major hubs in Germany) or a rideshare like MitfahrGelegenheit. I heard Greece might be cheap in the off-season as well, but that ferried to and from the islands don't run as often if at all, so check those kinds of details before you put all your eggs in any off-season basket.

If you're traveling alone, a hostel might be the cheapest, but as soon as you get 2 or 3 people traveling together, I've found AirBnBs to be per-person more affordable, and a MUCH better experience in terms of crowded, clean, opportunity to cook, etc. Trains are not generally cheaper than planes, which is sad for the environment, but EasyJet, Ryanair, AirBerlin, etc are all really good deals if you book enough in advance. Check out Skyscanner for deals as well.

Spruit

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2014, 02:51:40 AM »
So, you start in Amsterdam but will travel Europe from there? As a nature lover myself I can't offer much first hand cultural trip advise, but if you want to see real winter snow opposed to drizzly grayness, Scandinavia or Austria/Switzerland or Eastern Europe are the places to go.
When using the train be aware that Dutch rail is pretty expensive (more so than car travel per mile) and that chances are that trains will be cancelled when it starts snowing / storming etc. NS are pussies, really :-P
International travel by train is certainly possible, but be prepared to "suffer" delay of sometimes four hours on longer tracks. Once got stuck for 8 hours on the way back from Prague, but that was pretty exceptional. It was a nice and reasonably cheap city, and will be nicer in winter I bet. Same for Budapest, and you could easily make a trip to Vienna from there while staying in the cheaper Hungarian side of the border.

ScroogeMcDutch

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2014, 02:54:31 AM »
I have never used AirBNB yet for travelling in Europe so I would be curious to other people's experience as well.

Please don't forget that although Europe isn't as big as the United States, it's also not small. Amsterdam is a nice central city and a good homebase. However, consider it to be like that Washington DC is a nice homebase for the US East Coast - it still requires a lot of travelling to get to NYC or to Boston or to Atlanta.

As for expenses, the northern European countries are more expensive than the southern ones (or the north African ones) and the same goes for western vs eastern. For the major cities the difference won't be that big (as in, Rome will be expensive) but if you plan to go off the beaten path, the difference will be substantial. Especially the scandinavian countries are relatively expensive, if you have a taste for a beer or other alcoholic drinks ;)


Grimey

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2014, 06:53:27 AM »
I'd check out Couchsurfing.com... It is a great way to meet people in new places.  Often in these 'off the beaten path' places, couchsurfers will have a lot of pride in their town, and be willing to be a tour guide for a day for you.  Combine that with a free place to stay in exchange for buying a new friend dinner and maybe drinks, it can be a wonderful opportunity...frugal too.

hexdexorex

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2014, 09:50:51 AM »
Just got back from doing airbnb in EU. Just make sure you confirm with people what the checkout time will be. I had a couple cases of the next tenant showing up at 9am / waking me up so they could check in. I also had a case where the apt owner said they never book back to back tenants so the check out time is really flexible. I did Stockholm / Paris / Prague. Enjoyed every city but Stockholm was my personal favorite. I would consider couch surfing...but with two people it might be hard. If you sign up for Barclay arrival you can use its points towards airbnb.

tj

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2014, 10:18:29 AM »
I actually was able to book a round trip Europe flight for 40,000 miles + $70 taxes next month. Flying to London (non-stop) and returning from Amsterdam (1 stop), I was able to book a 25 day tour for around $2400 with about half the meals included. I thought that was pretty good.

so.mpls

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2014, 01:31:17 PM »
I was lucky enough to spend a couple semesters living in the UK during college.  Here is my completely subjective list of Yeas and Nays based on my personal experiences and preferences. The Yeas here generally meet the criteria of a)interesting culture/scenery/architecture b)don't cost and arm and a leg c)feel authentic, not too touristy and d)feel relatively safe.  The Nays are lacking in at least two of those four categories.

Of course, for every Yea there is an equal and opposite Nay

YeaNay
GlasgowDublin
Scottish HighlandsWest Coast Ireland
LondonParis
NormanyParis (seriously don't)
BarcelonaRome
MunichBerlin
BudapestPrague
ReykjavikOslo
ZurichVenice

Kaspian

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2014, 03:15:21 PM »
Two weeks is a great length for a trip, but not to go all over Europe.  If I was you, I'd stick around and enjoy the area.  Make your way through Germany down to Bavaria, see the Alps, do a stop at Neuschwanstein Castle (beautiful in winter), work your way back up, slightly west, hit Strasbourg France (the best Christmas Markets there!  I believe they invented them!), Cologne Belgium...  So many places in between!  I did something similar just last year. Ack... Now I'm jealous!  It's so nice to be over there that time of year.  There's nowhere near as much shopping insanity, "Hello, Wal-Mart Shoppers" crap.  No, instead the people meet up with a few friends, stroll down to their local Christmas markets and waste a few hours outdoors catching up over some hot mulled wine.  It's more about friendship, being outside, and enjoying the season.
 
http://www.bavaria.us
http://www.neuschwanstein.de/index.htm
http://www.tourisme-alsace.com/
http://www.cologne-tourism.com/


Albert

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2014, 03:29:01 PM »
I haven't been myself, but I hear the Baltic is really beautiful and affordable in the off-season...

And for a good reason, high chance of it being cold and miserable outdoors. Also sun sets at ca 4:30 around Christmas. I would advise summer despite higher prices.

Albert

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2014, 03:32:18 PM »
I have never used AirBNB yet for travelling in Europe so I would be curious to other people's experience as well.

I've used it mostly in Southern Europe (never in US), last time in Barcelona and so far have had zero issues. It's the most affordable way for big cities if you would otherwise need more than one hotel room.

Albert

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2014, 03:36:56 PM »
I was lucky enough to spend a couple semesters living in the UK during college.  Here is my completely subjective list of Yeas and Nays based on my personal experiences and preferences. The Yeas here generally meet the criteria of a)interesting culture/scenery/architecture b)don't cost and arm and a leg c)feel authentic, not too touristy and d)feel relatively safe.  The Nays are lacking in at least two of those four categories.

Of course, for every Yea there is an equal and opposite Nay

YeaNay
GlasgowDublin
Scottish HighlandsWest Coast Ireland
LondonParis
NormanyParis (seriously don't)
BarcelonaRome
MunichBerlin
BudapestPrague
ReykjavikOslo
ZurichVenice

That's very subjective. Been to several of your Nay's and enjoyed it very much. Paris could be very nice as well, particularly if you are able to say some minimal things in French and don't stick just to tourist traps.

JoJo

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2014, 07:05:02 PM »
Get a good guidebook and look for lots of free stuff.

Alternatively, if there are a few museums that you do not want to miss, most cities have City passes that could be purchased for a number of days that include admission to a big list of sites, often some tours, free transportation on public transportation, etc.  The price is fairly high but often if you're planning a few bigger ticket sites, this pass will pay for itself.  Also, it lets you bypass the ticket office lines.

Amsterdam has lots of booking offices where they have discounts on everything (tours, admissions, etc).

Food - groceries, street food etc.  The first time my sister and I went to Europe when we were in college, first time away from home for so long, my dad didn't give us advice about safety.  He told us "If you want to save money in the cities, buy hot dogs for lunch".  He was serious.  No wonder I turned out frugal.

so.mpls

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2014, 08:33:57 AM »
Here is my completely subjective list of Yeas and Nays based on my personal experiences and preferences.


That's very subjective. Been to several of your Nay's and enjoyed it very much. Paris could be very nice as well, particularly if you are able to say some minimal things in French and don't stick just to tourist traps.


Definitely subjective.  I enjoyed several of the nay cities as well, I just felt the yeas are better options given the limited time of the OP. 

Paris - I traveled to most of these cities with a small group of friends, one of which was French, so we were able to communicate and navigate the city just fine.  I didn't dislike the city; there was just nothing that particularly stuck out to me that made it worth the high cost, crowded & touristy feel.  The cathedrals were nice, but less impressive than those in London or Barcelona.  The food was hit or miss and generally quite expensive.  etc, etc.  We went to Normandy right after Paris and I was blown away by how nice it was.

ladystar

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2014, 01:24:19 PM »
Thank you so much for all the advice! Great tips in here.

Yes, we are using Amsterdam as a "home base". Right now we are leaning towards renting a car and driving down through the Black Forest in Germany and maybe to Switzerland and back through France and Belgium. We definitely want to see a Christmas village or two.

Has anyone been to Croatia in the winter? We are alternatively considering going there.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2017, 05:15:41 PM by ladystar »

lemanfan

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #15 on: October 12, 2014, 02:36:11 PM »
A few thoughts from a Swede here:

Turkey shouldn't be avoided too much due to the Syria / ISIS thing as long as you stay away from the syrian border and possibly parts dominated by kurds right now. Western and central turkey should be OK.   Istanbul should be as safe as it always is or isn't.

Being Swedish myself, I've got most of my experience from the northern parts.  Scandinavia is very nice of course, and if you like skiing there are quite a few nice locales in Sweden and Norway.  Tell me if you need more specific details.  Stockholm and Copenhagen are both very nice cities although I find them a bit less welcoming in the winter - all that water makes it cold and grey somehow.  Bear in mind that scandinavia is Expensive - and Norway is CRAZY EXPENSIVE.

Like someone said, the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) are nice and a bit cheaper.  Still nordic climate though.

As for intra-european travel, I'm sure you're aware that gas is a bit more expensive than in the USA.  The cheap flights like http://www.ryanair.com/ have some pitfalls, like surcharges for EVERYTHING and using airports very far away from the cities.  Also do note that quite a few train lines have sleeper cars for longer journeys.  That might save you a hotel or hostel cost.  Deutche Bahn ( http://www.bahn.com/ ) have a decent site for checking trains all over Europe.

If I were doing Europe in the Winter, I'd take the southern part for sure.  But I just generally hate snow and cold.   Just PM me if you have any specific questions about Scandinavia.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2014, 03:19:26 PM by lemanfan »

lemanfan

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #16 on: October 12, 2014, 02:39:37 PM »
Oh, and one more thing:  If you use Amsterdam as a base, the airline of choice will likely be KLM.  That means I'd strongly recommend you get either a Flying Blue card (miles for KLM/Air France) or a Delta card (both KLM and Delta are members of Skyteam so miles count both ways).

For cheap intra-europe travels there are also quite a number of long distance busses these days.

lpep

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2014, 09:57:43 PM »
If you're feeling adventurous and want to get out of cities and see some real countryside, I can recommend WWOOFing. The basic idea is you trade your labor on an organic farm (labor being anything from watering plants to making wine to planting seedlings to weeding - so much weeding - to selling produce at a farmers' market) for free room and board. The places can be hit or miss, but you get to be outside, generally work about 5-6 hours per day, meet interesting people, and learn a lot! Definitely a great way to travel.

rubybeth

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2014, 07:21:06 AM »
I am also planning a trip to Amsterdam, except in May (tulips!!!), and what I've discovered as far as tips, I'll try to put here:

-for a short trip, the I amsterdam card could be good, but we're planning to get the Museumkaart and go to museums all over the Netherlands while we're there for about 11 days: http://www.amsterdam.info/museums/museumkaart/

-I wouldn't be deterred by it being 'winter' in Europe, because I'm used to winter being -30 temps with tons of snow (Minnesota) so even a 20 degree day will likely feel like a heat wave to me after experiencing that

-I haven't traveled in Europe in the winter, but I'd probably just wear what I wear at home (in Minnesota) which is layers, layers, layers--I'm guessing a fleece jacket and a down jacket would be best to stay warm, just as they are in the US

-bring a book (or find an English bookstore) or crossword puzzles or other games and just hang out in parks/cafes and read/play/people watch - this is always my favorite thing when traveling - last July, we brought Quiddler http://www.setgame.com/quiddler along on our trip and played in the airport, in the shadow of the Eiffel tower, etc. and we did a puzzle when staying with friends in Germany; drinking German wine and doing a puzzle in the dark evenings was surprisingly fun

-visit 'normal' places, because they will likely be very different... going grocery shopping, a visit to the library, etc. are interesting when it's not at 'home'

-on the advice of a Mustachian, we got the BarclayCard Arrival MasterCard and it's saved us $800+ this year alone (incl. sign up bonus which was equivalent to $400): https://www.barclaycardus.com/

-My preference is to stay in one place long enough to feel like I really belong there (usually 5 days), which is why we're going back to Amsterdam and want to explore other towns in the Netherlands, but if you like to spend time in the car or on trains, Germany, Belgium, France, and even Denmark are fairly close... staying in the Euro-zone might be easier in terms of converting funds, but if you've got the time, explore further - there are also fairly cheap flights within Europe (I think RyanAir and others I can't think of, just google around)

-if driving to other cities, keep in mind that parking costs (and gas) are kind of insanely expensive depending on where you go - our friends in Germany drove us around, and I know it wasn't cheap (they never let us pay so I don't know exactly how much... ahh, Germany hospitality)

-We used AirBnB and we likely will again - my only caveat is to look for the things that are important to you (for me, it's a comfy bed and proximity to at least a couple major sights) and read the reviews for mention of those things - small beds seem common in the European listings, as do hot plates vs. actual stoves - look for 'rooms' vs. whole apartments/houses if you want to pay less

damize

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2014, 08:41:17 AM »

Albert

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #20 on: October 30, 2014, 03:16:02 PM »
Netherlands I believe has the most expensive gas costs in Europe at ca 9$/gallon. Renting a car might still be a good idea (trains are not for free either), but higher costs compared to US need to be taken into account.

expatartist

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #21 on: October 30, 2014, 06:08:47 PM »
Wow Air has some great intro prices for transatlantic flights right now: http://wowair.us/

+1 to posters recommending Southern Europe over the north in wintertime
+1 to Air BnB, I'm an Air BnB host and renter. You'll get much more choice of accommodation this way

fireferrets

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Re: Seeking Mustachian Travel Advice - Winter in Europe
« Reply #22 on: October 30, 2014, 06:49:57 PM »
Just got back from AirBnB in Montreal. We had a fantastic time. The apartment had a big kitchen and they were well equipped to deal with AirBnBers - extra shelf space in the fridge and pantry was left for us.

But I have heard people have had bad experiences - so please take the time to read all the reviews before booking a room. The nice thing about AirBnB to us was the kitchen, so we didn't have to spend a lot on eating out (we cook international dishes, so eating out doesn't carry much appeal to us).