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/ European Roadtrip - travel and accommodation recommendations

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tkenopic on 08 Jan 2018
My family and I are from Canada and are planning an extended vacation in Europe in fall 2018. There is my wife and I plus our 7 year old daughter. The idea is to spend about 3 weeks in each of: Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, trying to hit all of the great crags that we've never been too. So far the idea is to fly into Barcelona, and travel by land in NE Spain, across the south of France, down the coast into Italy. We'd then fly from Rome to Croatia, then Croatia to Greece, and fly home from Athens. I'm wondering a couple things:

1) Travel: Car or camper van? We've used long term buy-back rentals before from places like EuropAuto and had good success. With a small car we'd save gas, and we could bring our camping gear. OR We could rent a camper van and save lugging a backpack full of camping gear. Wondering about others thoughts/feelings/preferences?

2) Accommodations: Camping or gite/refugio/room? We haven't travelled extensively in Western Europe for quite a while. We'd like to make the trip as economical as possible but also want to be comfortable. Is camping the best option? Or are the gite/refugio/room options plentiful and economical enough to leave the camping gear at home?
Thanks in advance,
Trevor
tjekel - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to tkenopic:

First, full of envy for your trip. This is just some thoughts:

- As you get closer to winter, the eastern mediteranean tends to be wetter than the west, I'd therefore think of turning the trip the other way round.

- as you are clearly out of the main holiday season, I'd suggest a combination of small car and camping gear might work out reasonably cheap. This also gives more flexibility regarding visiting cities and not to pack everything in the.morning.

Several places allow for cheap or free camping (especially in spain, if you are discrete). In addition, the money saved can easily be invested in a gite / hot shower for a day or two. These options should be plentiful in off-season, but a night for the whole family would on average probably come around 50 EUR.

Not sure if flying Rome - Croatia and Croatia-Greece does make sense. Either car (1day) or ferry would be equally possible ...

... should Kaly be part of your plans, forget about a car there altogether.

Toerag - on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to tkenopic:

In the Alps many huts, cablecars and chairlifts close/stop working around the 3rd week of September, so bear that in mind when choosing destinations and check them out beforehand to ensure you're not disappointed. Campsites may be the same, but I'm not sure.
I've done a couple of Euro road trips mainly camping - it can be a pain putting a wet tent away and up again the next night. Look up roofed accommodation in advance on tripadvisor or airbnb to see if there's enough available at a cost you can afford for such a long trip. Some campsites have 'log cabins' or yurts/teepees for rent at a good price, probably the best compromise. Definitely do a night or two in a mountain hut in the Dolomites / Austria as that's a great experience. You should be able to get a 4/6 person room to yourselves in September and avoid the horrors of the big dorms. Best to book in advance though.
When driving across the plains in Italy the toll roads could be a good idea to avoid getting stuck behind trucks on the A roads which are often single carriageway. Might not be too bad in a powerful LHD rental car, but it was a problem in a RHD car.
tkenopic on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to tjekel:

Thanks for your thoughtful suggestions! Very interesting about turning the trip around. I was worried about it being too hot and busy in Kalymnos in Sept, and also too cold in the south of France around November, but it is something we will consider. Your ferry suggestion is also very interesting. The one I found looked just as expensive as flying though, and doesn't look like there is a sailing into Hvar:
http://www.croatiaferries.com/italy-ferries.htm

Is there a better website to find out ferry schedules and prices from Italy to Croatia?
Thanks again!
Trevor
tkenopic on 09 Jan 2018
In reply to Toerag:

Thanks for the suggestions! I agree about putting away a wet tent, it is something I'd like to avoid, but worried about the cost for such a long trip. I will try tripadvisor and airbnb as you suggest for roofed accommodation. Toll roads is an interesting suggestion as well. I'm curious about the LHD/RHD rental cars. Is this a choice across Europe or just in Italy? Why are the engines less powerful in RHD cars?
thanks,
Trevor
tjekel - on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to tkenopic:

Considering temperatures, we've been visiting Kaly about 10 times in August/September, so for probably 180 days in total, and lost some 3 days of climbing to temperatures overall... and in the last few years many shady sectors have been opened in kalymnos and telendos. On the other end of the scale, we've successfully visited the following areas during christmas time: Sperlonga, Ferentillo, Finale (all italy), Nice / Monaco, Toulon, Calanques, Alpilles, ste. Victoire and the Gard area (Seynes, Collias); and Margalef, Siurana, and Costa Blanca. It will be to cold for inland venues like Verdon. This is just my experience, but my age allows for some statistics ;-(.

Concerning ferries, I do know there's a ferry taking cars from Patras in Greece via Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar all the way to Trieste. Hvar can be reached by local ferry from Split in winter. If you get one rental car for the whole trip, this is a way to get everything with you and travel at a leisurely pace.
Toerag - on 11 Jan 2018
In reply to tkenopic:

Sepember and later accomodation prices should be a noticeable bit lower than August as August is euro holiday month.

You'll only be able to rent an LHD car on mainland europe - I was driving my own RHD car, sorry for the confusion. Try autoeurope for car hire options, there will be loads of choice (although a 'one way' rental will have extra costs and reduce the choice - I had to do a late notice one-way rental in the UK last week and the one-way fee was £47 on a 2 day rental - it essentially doubled the price). There will also be a reduction in choice as not all operators do one-way rentals.

Viamichelin is a great site for working out routes and tolls in Europe.

Jenny C on 11 Jan 2018
In reply to tkenopic:

Mainland Europe the steering wheel will be on the left (lhd) as you're used to. I think only Ireland and the UK drive on the left, so here you will only get rhd.

One thing to be aware of is that most cars are manual (stick shift), so make sure you tell them when booking if you requre an automatic - this may limit your choice of vehicles.

Had a young American couple in Italy last year who actually came up to look at our UK van and then asked if we were legally allowed to drive in Italy with the steering wheel is on the wrong side. The answer is yes, although it is easier to have the driver in the centre of the road as it improves visability. 

tkenopic on 11 Jan 2018
In reply to tjekel:

Wow, thanks very much for the detailed response. That's exactly the kind of local knowledge we needed, looks like we should be turning the trip around! It will actually be really beneficial since my wife was looking into doing some sailboat charter trips in Greece, and September is such a better time there for sailing as well. One rental car is definitely an appealing option. I've read on this climbing report below that some companies don't want their rentals going into Croatia, so I'll have to double check.

https://www.climbing.com/places/a-family-climbing-vacation-to-formerly-war-torn-croatia/

We definitely want to see Croatia, and also need to break up our visit to the Schengen area countries since we are only allowed 90 days. This is where I wish we had an EU passport!

https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/e-library/docs/schengen_brochure/schengen_brochure_dr3111126_en.pdf

Thanks again!

Trevor

tkenopic on 11 Jan 2018
In reply to Toerag:

Thanks for the reply, that viamichelin is a great resource tool! I will check out autoeurope, they are the company we used years ago and had a good experience. We picked up a brand new Peugeot in Calais and returned it in Zurich 2 months later. Do you have any experience taking rentals into Croatia? I've heard some companies don't allow their rentals to travel into non-Schengen area countries. See my above reply for links....

Thanks again!

Trevor


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