Europe FAQ

I have absolutely LOVED answering questions about our trip. (Keep the emails coming!) Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions about our adventure. While the advice won't work for everyone and every trip, it worked well for us.

Q: How much did your trip cost?

This is a loaded question. The quick answer is we averaged $150 per person including everything (airfare, food, hotel, sights, souvenirs). So all in all, it cost just over $6,000 for two people, so about $3,000 for one. We were smart in our spending but I never felt like it we missed anything.

Q: Did you use a rail pass?

No. A private Italian train company just burst onto the scene when we were there and we snagged really cheap tickets by booking in advance on Buying in advance only worked because we knew exactly when we wanted to travel. If we didn't have a concrete plan, we just purchased tickets days of. My favorite website is It lays out every aspect of buying train tickets and riding the train. Other people have loved Rail passes. My advice is to price it out and see which one works better for your trip.

Q: Where did you get your plane tickets?

Kayak and Airfare Watchdog helped me check out prices, but I ultimately bought the tickets on Cheap O Air. The downside with cheap airline websites is that we didn't accumulate miles. American Airlines was our airline and two of our flights were changed but they handled it well.

Q: Did you really backpack through Europe?

Literally, yes, we carried backpacks instead of suitcases. However, we didn't "backpack" in the usual sense of the word. While many backpackers travel without a concrete itinerary, we knew exactly where we were going and where we were sleeping. While our daily activities weren't always lined out beforehand, I had a pretty idea of what I wanted to see (with plenty of room for readjusting and wandering). This is all personal preference. I am way too much of a planner and worrier for a traditional "backpacking" adventure, even though I am envious of those who aren't.

Q: Where did you stay?

I think is seriously the coolest thing. Renting apartments was a cheap and fun way to get out of the tourist hub-bub and tease ourselves into thinking that we actually belonged there. Below is a list of all of the places we stayed.


Cinque Terre
Mont Saint Michel
Paris (great location but a glorified closet- can't recommend)

Q: Can you send me a detailed itinerary?

Without detailing shopping times and meal time, here is our itinerary. I'm a big go-er so we packed a lot in.

Day 1: Arrive in Rome mid-morning.
Vatican Museum, St. Peter's Basilica, dinner nearby.

Day 2: RomeColosseum, The Forum (Get the Roma Pass to skip the lines!)Victor Emmanuel MonumentCapucchin CryptSanta Maria della Vittoria (see Bernini's St. Teresa in Ecstasy)Baths of Diocletian

Day 3: RomeTrevi Fountain (go early in the a.m. to beat the crowds!)Piazza da Spagna (the Spanish Steps)PantheonPiazza NavonaCamp de' FioriCatacombs of San Sabastiano

Day 4: Train to Sorrento in a.m.Check into hotel, take nap, walk around town.

Day 5: Day trip to Amalfi Coast (Amalfi Town and Ravello)Boat ride to Amalfi Town, bus to Ravello and tour the gardenWander around Amalfi town before bus ride back to Sorrento

Day 6: Morning in Sorrento: tour of lemon grove, Deep Valley of the MIllsPompeii- visit the sitesOvernight train to Venice

Day 7: Venice. Take vaporetti around the Grand Canal.St. Mark's Square and CathedralWanderTrain to Florence in evening.

Day 8: FlorenceUffizi Gallery (got reservations)Wander through Florence (used Rick Steves' guide to Florence)Pizza VecchioHiked to the top of the Bell Tower to see the Duomo

Day 9: FlorenceAccademia Museum (The David)Duomo BaptisteryPonte VecchioGalileo Science Museum (skip it)Shopping

Day 10: Day trip to Siena.Pizza on Il campStriped cathedral (can't remember the name)Hike to the top of the look out tower nearbyDinner at Tres Panches in Florence (heavenly)

Day 11: Morning train to Lucca/Pisa. Lucca- rented bikes, strolled in townPisa- Visited the Leaning Tower and got the heck out of Pisa.Arrive in Cinque Terre late evening. Strolled along the coast.

Day 12: Cinque Terre.Hiked between the towns. Boat ride back to Riomaggiore. Best views out there!Trained to Milan in evening.

Day 13: MilanSaw The Last Supper.Hiked to the top of the Duomo.Got sick of Milan and trained to Lake Como.Took a boat ride throughout the lake.Overnight train to Paris.

Day 14: Train to Mont St. Michel.Wander around the islandVisit the Abbey.

Day 15: See Mont St. Michel early morn. Train back to Paris.Heart of Paris WalkNotre Dame, Shakespeare& Company BookstoreLatin Quarter

Day 16: ParisChurch/laundry
Les Puces de Saint-Ouen (largest flea market in a weird part of town)
Eiffel Tower and hiked to the top. Be there at night to watch it sparkle!

Day 17: Day trip to Loire Valley.
Chateau Chambord
Chateau de Cheverny
Chateau Blois (skip it)
Picnic in the park

Day 18: Paris.
Picnic in the park.
Orsay Museum
Arc de Triomphe (hike to the top)

Day 19: Day trip to Versailles in morning.
Visit the chateau as well as the gardens. 
Train back to Paris.

Day 20: Fly to Boston. Longest day ever.

Day 21-23: Boston. Fly home in the evening.

Lunch in Chinatown (only in Paris)


  1. Your blog has been so helpful. Glad to see you living life to the fullest. You seem to have a wonderful attitude and you are blessed. Thank you!

  2. I love reading your travel tips! I have a question about your backpacks- did you have any trouble keeping your things secure from pickpockets? I love the idea of not carrying suitcases, but it seems to me like it would be more difficult to keep a backpack secure.

    1. We didn't have any troubles! Anything of value was kept on my day bag (close to my body). In buy train stations and areas notorious for pick pocketing, we just used simple locks on the zippers. But we rarely carried our backpacks with us unless we were traveling to a new destination.

    2. Locks on zippers good. Pickpocketers - out there and don't you believe otherwise. My world traveling experienced husband pickpocketed on a Rome bus with our family all around. Deep pocket. He "knew what he was doing". They took everything. On Father's Day. Tip: only keep your money and cards in a necklace type thingie tucked into your cleavage/chest. Leave the rest back in hotel room. Good to leave one card and some cash back in hotel room, in case of pickpocketing. Most hotels have small room safes for travelers.

      PS - apartments (for family or group) good to rent in large, high priced cities

  3. I got your travel tips via Pintrest from a friend. I am looking to stay in Rome in the same building but it is cash only at arrival- is that what you did? Just seems a little unsafe as far as definitely having somewhere to stay! Was is close to the Colosseum?

    1. Kristin- With the exception of the apartments we booked on Airbnb, we just paid cash when we arrived.

      When we booked, we had to send them a copy of our passport/Driver's License and then we just paid cash upon arrival.

      Also- it was close-ish to the Colosseum. It was just a short bus ride away. But to be clear, it was out of the touristy area. It is very residential.

  4. What kind of camera do you use on your trips?

    1. I just used my trusty point and shoot! More specifically, it is a Canon Powershot A2300. I have recently upgraded to a DSLR and I can't wait to take it on adventures!

  5. Randomly came across your blog, and am so thankful that I did. My gf and I are planning 3 weeks in europe (16 days in Italy, 5 days in Paris) - and I think that we are going to try and follow your Itinerary. It seems like most of the places that you visited were on our checklist as well!

    A couple of questions for you if you wouldn't mind helping out...

    Would you recommend staying overnight in Cinque Terra? We have 1-2 days more than you guys did, and was wondering if that would be a nice place to stay overnight.

    You also seem to love Lake Como. Would you recommend staying there the night as well?

    I guess if you had 15-16 days in Italy, where would you extend your stays, or what would you include/do differently?

    Of the suggested places that you decided to stay other than the location in Paris - were any of them places that you would suggest staying at other places elsewhere within those cities?

    I'm sorry to ask so many questions...I am just hoping to get as much guidance as possible before trying to navigate thru this Country and see the most I possibly can!

    Thanks again...PJ and Tali

    1. Hi PJ and Tali,

      I hope that I can help.

      First, yes, stay in Cinque Terre! We regret only having one night. After a really hectic week of sightseeing, it was nice to slow down the pace and really enjoy it. The weather was perfect when we visited and I was sad to leave so soon.

      Lake Como was beautiful as well. Another place that might not have a ton to do, but is fabulous to regroup, relax and get away from the crowds.

      What I would have done differently:

      I would skip Pisa/Lucca just because it was just SO touristy and crowded. I feel like we wasted a day even though we like Lucca.

      Rent a car and drive around Tuscany. Siena was wonderful and I wanted to see more of the countryside.

      I would recommend every place we stayed except for the one in Paris. The host and the location were great but it was so tiny. Like a closet.

      Hope this helps! Email me any other questions at stephaniefbenson {at} gmail {dot} com.

  6. Hi Stephanie! I love your blog Im so happy I came across it! My BF and I are planning a trip to italy and france next September!

    You mentioned you read about the Italian Train system from a blog? Do you remember what blog it was? And can you suggest any other blogs?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Britt,

      The site is It is the BEST!

  7. Hi Stephanie, your blog is awesome and super helpful!!
    How many months in advance did you and your husband purchase your flight tickets? Also, what sites did you use to find the cheapest flights?

    Thank you :)

    1. Buying the plane tickets is the hardest part!

      We bought our tickets 3 1/2 months ahead of time. But there is no hard and fast rule. I am planning to buy tickets for our next trip, and the prices dropped 6 weeks before.

      My advice is to get a price alert on your flight from to get an idea of what flights are. When you see your buy price, go for it!

      My favorite sites are and But I always check the airline directly to see if the prices match. Sometimes it is cheaper.

      Good luck!

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  9. HI! Your blog is most helpful! My boyfriend and I are planning on trekking through Munich and Paris in 3 weeks. I was wondering what your favorite parts of Paris were. Do you recommend anything specifically? Thanks so much for all the advice!

    1. Paris is wonderful! My favorites were: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame and eating- everything and anything. If you have time, Versailles is wonderful. Make sure to get the Paris Museum pass!

  10. reading youre blog has been very helpful!
    my boyfriend and I wanted to plan a trip to Europe next summer, but 3 weeks didnt seem like enough time to see it all. I think we will do the same as you did, France and Italy.
    What month did you visit in?
    thanks a bunch!

    1. There is so much to see! In my humble opinion, I think you'll be happier sticking to a couple of areas.

      We traveled at the end of April through mid- May.

  11. I love your site its been really helpful. I live in England and.I am travelling through Europe by train next year. I am going to Paris 5 days then onto Avignon, Cirque Terre 4 days, Pisa couple of days then to Sorrento 4 days onto Rome 4 days Florence 2 days Venice 3 days Lake Come then to Chur, Lucurne , Montreux and Dijon then home, about 6 weeks in all. I'm 62 years old and will be travelling alone and like you I will pre-book everything. The thing is my friends and family think that I am taking on too much and that I should either do less places or not go at all. As you have been there and done it perhaps you could let me know what you think. I'm pretty convinced its do-able but advice from someone who has been there and done it would be invaluable.

    1. Hi Jen,

      Sounds like an amazing trip! My only advice on the itinerary is to shorten Venice (we only needed a day to see what we wanted) and to do Pisa as a side trip as you travel from Cinque to Florence (or do a day trip from Florence). IMHO, there isn't much to see in Pisa besides the Leaning Tower and your time is better spent elsewhere.

      If you think you might overdo it, consider finding a home base and doing day trips from it, i.e. stay in Florence and visit Pisa one day, Sienna another.

      The only downside of traveling to so many places is unpacking, so pack light!

  12. Hi Stephanie,

    Do you recommend then flying into one city and leaving from another? If we wanted to fly into London and then fly out of Rome, do you think that would be cost efficient? My friends and I (all students) are hoping to do a 3 week trip in $3000. At first, I didn't think it would be feasible, but after accidentally arriving at your blog, I have hope that it is do-able!

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Dorothy,

      I do recommend flying open jaw (different arrival and departure). That way you don't waste time getting back to the original destination. For ours, we started in Rome and ended in Paris. It cost just a tad more, but we would have spent at least that trying to get back to Rome for our departure.

  13. Hi Stephanie,

    I have watched several Rick Steves episodes in which he mentions it is easy to withdraw cash overseas using a debit card (although a fee applies). Did you find this to be true or did you withdraw all the cash you thought you would need in the US, then exchange it once you arrived in country?

    Many thanks,

    1. It is super easy to withdraw cash overseas. Just find an ATM. I always exchange at least $150 before we travel so we can get out the airport (never exchange at the airport!) and settle in without running to an ATM. We always withdrew enough to get by for a few days but never too much that we would be devastated if it got lost or stolen. Our bank has pretty low fees, so check before you go.

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  15. Hi steph can you please tell me for how many days did you get the Museum pass 2 or 4? Thank you!

  16. When you visited these two countries, did you know their languages?

    1. We learned the basics (hello, how are you, thank you, counting, etc). We found that if you at least try to speak the language, that earns you some respect points. We also got really good at gesturing. :)

  17. Hi There!

    Thank you for posting a lot of really helpful information:) I am currently doing some research into a 3 week European vacation for my boyfriend and myself and have some questions;
    -you did 2 countries in 3 weeks. Do you think that was enough time? (I plan on wanting to do England, France, and Holland- too much?).
    -Do you mind divulging the final cost of you trip? (I might have missed that somewhere on the blog...).
    -In terms of getting to and from major cities and attractions outside of town/city limits- what kind of transportation did you use? Train, bus, metro? I hear a lot about how Ryan Air or other flight companies are becoming cheaper than rail tickets.
    -time of year you would recommend for maybe less busy attractions?

    Your blog is awesome! :) Safe travels on your next adventure.


    Courtney from Alberta, Canada

    1. Hi Courtney! Thanks for stopping by. I'll answer your questions best I can.

      - It depends on how much you want to see in each country. I still feel like we missed things with just two countries because they are both so great! I think you could do those three and not feel too rushed.

      - We spent around $150/day per person. Our flights were averaged into that.

      - We used public transportation the whole time. In big cities, it is set up really nice. We have never used RyanAir (chose to overnight train). I liked the idea of knocking out the price of hotel and travel in one fail swoop. If you do use a low-budget airline, just make sure the read the fine print!

      - Go on the off season. Summer tends to usually have the best weather, but the most crowds. Spring and fall are nice.

      Email me if you have any other questions!

  18. Hello! Was there a night train from Naples to Venice when you went? I have not found one, so I'm not sure if I'm looking in the wrong place or if it just simply doesn't exist anymore.

    1. Hi Katy! The overnight train was actually from Rome. We took a separate overnight train to Venice. We didn't have a ton of time for the connection, but we made it!

  19. it is set up really nice. We have never used RyanAir (chose to overnight train). I liked the idea of knocking out the price of hotel and travel in one fail swoop. If you do use a low-budget airline, just make sure the read the fine print! travel in europe

  20. My favorite website is It lays out every aspect of buying train tickets and riding the train. Other people have loved Rail passes. My advice is to price it out and see which one works better for your trip. travel in europe

  21. Thank you so much! We are heading from Maui to Europe in one month and will spend 4 weeks traveling to our hearts' desires. Love your hints and thanks to everyone else for their hints, as well.

  22. Hi Steph - First up great blog, so informative. Well done for that. Planning to use your itinerary as a rough guide for our 3 week trip.
    Question about trains in Italy. Did you guys take the high speed trains or the intercity trains for your journeys especially the overnight trips? Would be great if you could respond. Cheers!

    1. We used a variety of trains to get around. We preferred the high speed trains but took whatever worked best with our schedule (and our price). With overnight trains, we took whatever was available. The only one that I regret is our overnight from Rome to Venice. It was less than 6 hours long so we arrived so early before anything was open and we hardly got any sleep. If I could have taken a slower train, I would have.

      Hope this helps!

    2. Great thanks!
      A question about your France experience. Would you pick Mont St. Michel or the Loire valley day trip?

    3. Ooh, do I have to pick just one? We loved them both but Mont St Michel is more unique.

  23. Thanks Steph. Decided to can Mont St Michael and stay in Paris all 5 days.
    One question around daily expenses. I've read about your daily budget of around $150 that included airfares. But can I ask about your daily food expenses. Like how much did you spend for lunch, dinner etc.? Did you stick to sandwiches for lunch and big dinners? Thanks heaps.

  24. We usually had a really cheap breakfast (oatmeal that we brought from home, or a quick pastry or some fruit). Then we balanced lunch and dinner with one big meal and a smaller one to supplement. It was common that we would picnic for lunch (bread, meats, cheese, some fruit and juice for under 10 Euro) and then eat a nice meal for dinner (varying between 10 euro to 30 euro). We don't drink so that definitely saved on our food prices for sure.

  25. Hello Stephanie, Thank you for spending the time to share in your adventures! I am thinking of traveling alone for three weeks in April to Rome and Italy. Is there anything on your itinerary that you would not do if traveling alone? And, when you mention arriving to Trevi Fountain early, how early do you recommend? What was your goal am departure times for your day trips? Thank you!

    1. Hmm, I can't think of anything I would do alone. Just basic safety- these places are all pretty well frequented so you won't be truly alone. I think we got there around 7:30 a.m. Most tourists start showing up places around 8 or 9, so the early bird definitely gets the worm. :)

  26. Hi Steph! Thank you so much for your blog. I'm Mormon, too, by the way. :-) Anyway, my husband and I are planning our first trip to Europe. We plan to go to Italy and France and hopefully follow your itinerary. But I'm curious if you would recommend spending more time in Sicily--I hear it's paradise. Wanted to see what you think. Thanks so much!


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