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  1. #1
    Registered User 149769's Avatar
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    How do you plan a European Bike Vacation?

    I don't know what section to post this in but I figured that I would start here....

    I am thinking of embarking on a European Motorcycle vacation. Check out the Alps, explore the countryside etc. There is a lot of planning that I will need to do but I am curious if I can even afford to do this or if it will always be a pipe dream.

    I am interested in talking to anyone that has done this from North America better yet Canada and what were the general costs for Flights, bike rental, accomodations and food. I figure that I should at the very least plan for two weeks, would perfer to go for three. However, I may only be able to afford the bike rental for one week and then rental car or use other modes of transport for the other. I don't need fancy hotels or expensive restaurants. Just the basics.

    I want to start setting money aside now with the hope that we can go in about 5 years.

    Any ideas, experiences, recommendations are welcomed!!!

    Celeste
    2009 R1200R Biarritz Blue
    1982 Yamaha RD350LC (work in progress)
    Is spring here yet?

  2. #2
    Cannonball Rider #52 darrylri's Avatar
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    You can do it! It's not cheap, especially when the dollar is so low against the euro, but it doesn't have to be outrageous.

    For planning, get John Hermann's Motorcycle Journeys through the Alps and Corisca. The first time I went, I got this book and just marked all the passes he liked on my map, then hooked them together.

    If you want to stay in 2-3 star hotels, you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of 50-80 euros a night. Cheaper are the pensions or "Zimmer Frei", where you stay in somebody's house. For example, I stayed at Pension/Cafe Pichler in July for €35/night; they are in the tiny Tyrolian village of Leutasch, half an hour from either Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany or Innsbr??ck, Austria, and their cakes and torts and Kaiserschmarn are all to die for.) You can find both of these options by checking the tourist office web sites for the areas you think you might be going to. Frankly, I just go and start looking for a room in the afternoon.

    Restaurant meals cost about the same number of euros as they do here in dollars (eg, they're 40% more expensive). But, if you eat breakfast in the hotel/pension, you can make a great picnic for lunch by buying cold cuts in a Metzgerei and bread in a B?├▒ckerei or, if you happen to be in the right place, get what you need in a farmers market.

    Gas was €1.20 a liter this past summer. Oil is about €10 a liter, depending on what you buy and where you buy it.

    Many dealerships rent new model bikes, but it's expensive, €100 a day or more, and with limited mileage allowances. You can rent older bikes from Stefan Knopf in Heidelberg.

    Check out the Global Touring area here on the main web site. Court Fisher keeps this up to date with lots of useful info.
    --Darryl Richman, forum liaison
    http://darryl.crafty-fox.com

  3. #3
    Cannonball Rider #52 darrylri's Avatar
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    Just to inspire you a bit...







    (The sign reads, "Give your guardian angel a chance.")
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    IBA Member #30241 cyclepath's Avatar
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    Celeste good luck with your trip planning!

    I to would love to ride in Europe some day. I am subscribed to this thread and look forward to hearing how your trip comes together.

    Keep us posted!

    Now time to go and check out John Hermann's book.
    2008 BMW R1200GS
    "Avoidance of danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." Helen Keller

  5. #5
    Registered User 149769's Avatar
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    Great pictures...it is all of people's pictures that made me want to go in the first place...

    Celeste
    2009 R1200R Biarritz Blue
    1982 Yamaha RD350LC (work in progress)
    Is spring here yet?

  6. #6
    That road looks good! Norwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 149769 View Post
    I don't know what section to post this in but I figured that I would start here....

    I am thinking of embarking on a European Motorcycle vacation. Check out the Alps, explore the countryside etc. There is a lot of planning that I will need to do but I am curious if I can even afford to do this or if it will always be a pipe dream.

    I am interested in talking to anyone that has done this from North America better yet Canada and what were the general costs for Flights, bike rental, accomodations and food. I figure that I should at the very least plan for two weeks, would perfer to go for three. However, I may only be able to afford the bike rental for one week and then rental car or use other modes of transport for the other. I don't need fancy hotels or expensive restaurants. Just the basics.

    I want to start setting money aside now with the hope that we can go in about 5 years.

    Any ideas, experiences, recommendations are welcomed!!!

    Celeste
    Just returned from a two week tour..... I did the Five Country Tour with RoadRunner Magazine.... Great Tour, new or nearly new BMW bikes rented in Germany, very nice accomadations (mid range) food was included (Dinner and Breakfast) lunch on your own (on the road) two local and very helpful guides. We covered a nice loop of five countries...and many, many mountain passes... Germany, Austria, Solvenia, N. Italy, Switzerland and had a great time...great weather too, no rain during the days only at night (don't always plan on that).

    I arrived a couple days early and use the bus..train combo in Germany to see the sights....one pass for both. I found walking English speaking walking tours for about 10 Euro in Munich for example.

    Tour: you can shop Europe tours with many different companies and a WIDE range of prices... tours are usually about 10-12 bikes.... Many touring companies advertised in the BMW ON...
    For me, you can cover so much more area, see more roads and have the bikes ready, hotels reservation and dinner and breakfast ready for you, local knowledge of the roads, history and best places to see and a direct route without having to stop and ask or have several maps, the bike rental was included as well.... the down side is you travel at the group's pace...but you get to meet and make new friends.

    So for me, since I speak only English, the best value for the money is a guided tour...for your first time trip.

    If you do it by yourself, consider a GPS with Euro maps and do some trip routing in advance.

    The above posts gave you some good information as well.

    I want to go back already....

    Here is link to some pics.

    http://dongnorwood.smugmug.com/Motor...-Magazine-Five
    2011 R1200 GSA (My Radio Flyer)
    75 R90/6 with Velorex sidecar

    " Oh Lord I pray, Let me live long enough to do everything they say I've done"

  7. #7
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    Planning a European Bike Vacation

    Hi Celeste!

    Although I have been a BMWMOA member for many years, this is the first time that I have posted on this site.

    I toured for many years (since 1975) in the US and Canada with my cousin Buck. It was always our dream to tour the Alps on a motorcycle. A couple of years ago Buck and I decided to go on our own after renting bikes from Stefan Knopf (previously mentioned in this thread). We rented bikes for about three weeks. We decided to spend most of our time camping so we took lightweight quality camping gear to keep the costs down. We had a ball and immediately started planning for a reprise.

    Buck lives in Santa Fe, NM and I live on Maui in Hawaii. I kept my bike stored in Santa Fe at his house and would slip away from time-to-time to tour out West.


    The Bikes:
    To make a long story short, Stefan Knopf had a container leaving from Denver on August 24, 2009. Buck and I secured a space in the container and Buck U-Hauled both bikes to Denver. Prior to putting the bikes on the container Stefan guided us through the necessary paperwork and he takes care of customs on each end. The bikes are scheduled to arrive in Bremerhaven, Germany on September 27th. If you go for three weeks or more, it is less expensive to ship your bike than it is to rent the bikes. Stefan will store the bikes in his warehouse (where there is access to his shop). We plan on storing the bikes with him for a while because we wish to make return trips. His storage rates are very reasonable.

    Gas is expensive but it does not seem to be. In the Western US we would normally ride 400-500 miles a day and burn multiple tanks. In the Alps you can ride all day long but you are not covering many miles. We never burned a full tank of gas in one day. Expensive but not as painful as you think. One does not put in the mileage in Europe as they do in the Western US.

    When to go:
    We fly into Frankfurt on October 7th and make our way to Stafan's B&B where we will rest before heading to the Alps on the following day. We love the "shoulder" season of September and October. The weather is great and the tourists are gone so there are not many crowds. In most cases, there were only a few other campers in the campgrounds. Most campgrounds have a small market, cafe and many have coin operated laundry facilities. Prices are cheaper in the off season.

    Our camping philosophy:
    As stated earlier, we camp most of the time. We did get a pension when it was raining one night so we did not have to deal with wet gear. The European campgrounds that we visited were clean and almost every single one of the campgrounds were in scenic places. We camped riverside on the Moselle and Rhine, lakeside at Lake Garda and we camped at the base of the Eiger. We took Kermit chairs, a small folding table, a backpacking cookset. Our tent was light weight and we had inflatable foam pads under our goose down sleeping bags. We were always dry, warm and comfortable. The campgrounds charge by the person, for a tent and for each motorcycle. We almost always camped for less than 20 euros. They have clean facilities (bathrooms, showers, sometimes laundries and often a cafe and small market. Because there were two of us, that was less 10 euros each. We would fire the stoves up each morning for coffee and we would cook oatmeal and ate yogurt, fruit, cheese, etc. We got to meet alot of people in the campground who were curious about us. We never felt unsafe and we felt our equipment was secure. In the past, we only stayed in any one campground once night but that will change on this trip. We will probably stay in one campground two or three nights due to all the wonderful riding.

    As others have mentioned we referenced John Herman's books. We also cross reference Herman's books with Rick Steve's, "Europe Throuigh the Back Door" series and other reference books. If you know where you wish to go, the Michelin Regional Maps are much better than the map of the entire country. We use both the Country Map (such as Italy) but we also use the regional maps (such as NE Italy) because they provide so much detail. We will use GPS unites this time.

    Costs - Shipping Bikes:
    It cost us about $1200 to ship our bikes from Denver. This includes Green Card insurance, bike insurance (for the sea voyage only), Stefan handling the customs paperwork and a bit of storage time in Stefan's warehouse. It was all inclusive The cost to ship the bike is just about the cost of 10 days bike rental.

    Costs - Flights
    Our flights were funded by air miles that we had accumulated. I have both a Master Card and American Express card from American Airlines. The credit card offer gave me 25,000 miles if I used the card to purchase a certain amount of items (I think $600) in 6 months. This was offered with AMEX also. One of the cards initially gave me 1.5 miles for every dollar spent (for the first 6 months) and after the time period was over, this reduced to 1 mile for every dollar spent. The other gave me 1 mile for every dollar spent. I use the cards for all my bills and spending and I always, always pay the entire balance each month. I staggered the receipt of the cards so I could spend the appropriate amount in 6 months to get the award miles. Within 6 months of receiving the cards, I was awarded 25,000 bonus miles for each of the cards. Soon I was sitting on excess of 50,000 air miles and had no credit card balance. I used the card for big items. For example, I had $5000 I had saved to put down on a new car. I used my credit card for the down payment and used my savings to immediately pay the credit card off. That got me 7,500 miles. With the 25,000 mile promotions, the miles can add up quickly. The Key is to never overspend and to always pay off the balance each month. Do not take your card in a shoe store that sells Italian shoes or in a shop that sells chocolate (trying to make a joke, not stereotype) Only use this card to pay bills and everyday expenses that you normally would purchase with cash.

    So, I got on the American Airlines website to redeem my miles and a calendar pops up listing the miles needed to book on certain dates. I looked for the "low miles" dates. I am flying to Frankfurt, Germany from Maui, Hawaii for 20,000 air miles and I am fly back to Maui from Frankfurt for 30,000 miles. A round trip from half-way around the world for 50,000 miles - what a deal!

    I will use my credit cards throughout Europe. Although I will run up a balance (but pay it off with what I have saved for the trip), I will be gaining air miles.

    I will leave my bike in storage with my Go Kit and will make subsequent trips. It should be much cheaper because the bike (and camping gear) is already there waiting for me. I continuously try to accumulate additional miles for additional free flights in the future.

    The bottom line is that it can be done fairly cheaply if you start thinking about how to make it happen. Free flights (air miles), cheap accommodations ($10-15 euros a night for camping), cheaper food (because you prepare some of your own meals) and you are riding your own bike

    However, I do agree with some of the other respondents. Organized trips are costly but they are worry free. A compromise might be to take a shorter (less expensive) organized trip or rent a bike from Stefan and strike out on your own.

    The only difference between a disaster and an adventure is attitude.

    Keep thinking and planning, it can be done!

    Rick

  8. #8
    El Cid franze's Avatar
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    18600- Best first post ever.

    Celeste, best advice for riding in Europe is keep your options open. Don't sweat not having hotel reservations. Let the weather direct you to where you go. You can go a long ways in a short while. Brussels to Geneva is a one day ride on back roads. In other words, you can see everything you want, just wait until the roads are going to be dry. I don't remember your time frame but the big passes can be closed from October to mid June. If you can, fly into Germany and let it all happen like it's supposed to. Good luck.
    "Plans are meaningless, planning is everything." Dwight Eisenhower

  9. #9
    Registered User 149769's Avatar
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    This is great! I have started my "Europe Fund" Keep the info coming!

    Celeste
    2009 R1200R Biarritz Blue
    1982 Yamaha RD350LC (work in progress)
    Is spring here yet?

  10. #10
    cgragg
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    Quote Originally Posted by 149769 View Post
    I don't know what section to post this in but I figured that I would start here....

    I am thinking of embarking on a European Motorcycle vacation. Check out the Alps, explore the countryside etc. There is a lot of planning that I will need to do but I am curious if I can even afford to do this or if it will always be a pipe dream.

    I am interested in talking to anyone that has done this from North America better yet Canada and what were the general costs for Flights, bike rental, accomodations and food. I figure that I should at the very least plan for two weeks, would perfer to go for three. However, I may only be able to afford the bike rental for one week and then rental car or use other modes of transport for the other. I don't need fancy hotels or expensive restaurants. Just the basics.

    I want to start setting money aside now with the hope that we can go in about 5 years.

    Any ideas, experiences, recommendations are welcomed!!!

    Celeste
    You can never go wrong by taking a guided Tour your first time. My wife & I took a Edelweiss Tour in 07. The Greatest time we have ever had. The trip of a lifetime.We took the one where we stayed at a base camp & rode out each day from there.Great food & almost new bikes.I could go on & on. But if you would like more info you can PM me !! Best of luck on your trip !

  11. #11
    Just along for the ride JeffMunn's Avatar
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    European vacation?

    Congrats on picking a dream and starting to make it happen! Most people never seem to get beyond the dreaming part, so you are ahead of the game.

    There is absolutely nothing scary about touring in Euope. If fact, most drivers on the road, and the people you meet, know, are aware of, and respect motorcyclists. Riding is a fantastic way to meet so of the nicest people.

    I'd be happy to help in any way I could. The US Army gave us the opportunity to live in Europe from 1998-2001, and my wife and I have been back several times since. We kept several bikes there and have helped many friend come to Europe and ride. It is not that difficult.

    First, several of the things already said are gospel for riding in the Alps. John Hermann's book is it. I never left home without it. And Stefan Knopf has a cult following for his shipping and rentals. I've shipped (by sea) with him, as well as have flown my own bike over via Motorcycle Express.com Stefan can even provide you insurance cheaper than almost any other place, even if you don't rent from him. I don't think his rentals can be beat either, but check with other places that Court Fisher lists on the Global Touring webpage on the MOA site.

    As mentioned, a paid tour is the easiest, but also is the most exspensive and limited. Shipping your own bike and going solo is an option, but the cost/benefit ratio of time vs money for shipping is about 3-4 weeks. If you are going for less than that, renting from Stefan would probably be cheaper. Knopf Moto Tours

    Although most EU countries will accept a US driver's license, it is recommended to just go to a local AAA office and get an international driver's license. Make's life so much easier. Also, I believe that the German Auto Club (ADAC) has a reciprocity agreement with AAA and will provide some services (and FREE maps) if you present your AAA card. I always stop at an ADAC office in Germany to get lots of free stuff and current maps when I go back. They even have motorcycle trip planning maps for the Alps there, and lodging information

    I completely agree with the camping part, and have done it extensively. European campgrounds are light years ahead of the ones stateside. Many also rent out caravans that are parked at the grounds year round, so you can find cheap lodging in some even without a tent.

    Lodging is also easily found in small towns via the B&B route. They are not expensive and many times are actually rooms in people's private homes. "Zimmer frei", "Camera", "Penzion", "Sobe" are all terms for the same thing, a room for the night. Almost all come with a continental breakfast too. (mit fruhstuck)

    Since you have so much time before you depart, I'd highly recommend taking a basic German course before departing. Even the simplest things like reading a menu, asking directions, asking for a room for the night, shopping, etc will often get a response in English, but you also will engender so much more good will by trying to speak the language that it is often a great ice-breaker.

    There are a million things to say, but I've run on too long. Our favorite place in all of Europe? The Lauterbrunnen Valley just outside of Interlaken in Switzerland.



    It is a glacial valley like Yosemite with 1000ft walls and hanging waterfalls. Camping Jungfrau is a wonderful campground with great amenities and spectacular views. You can take the train to the top of the Eiger from there. And several of the best passes in Switzerland are all withing a day's ride. (Furka, Susten, Grimslel). Or you can stay on top of the Alps in Andermatt and ride in any direction. South into Italy, west into France.

    As one has mentioned, go in a shoulder season, but not too early in the year. Most of the higher passes won't be open until late June (if it has been a bad winter).



    Whatever you do, DON'T go in August when almost all of Europe goes on vacation. It is madness to try to travel in Europe then. Trust me.

    As I mentioned earlier, I'd be happy to help you out in any way I could. All you need to do is ask. I've got a bunch of European travel journals posted below that include lots of European touring tips. We put those up when we lived there, but not all of the information is out of date yet.

    Good luck with the planning and the trip! Taking a guided tour is a great way to get introduced to riding in Europe, and then you can go back the next time and rent/do it on your own for half the cost! Or you could just go it on your own. It just depends on how adventurous you are.

    jeff

  12. #12
    Alps Adventurer GlobalRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 149769 View Post
    I am curious if I can even afford to do this or if it will always be a pipe dream.
    I thought the same thing back in the early 90s when I viewed slide and video shows put on at our local club by two members; one was a dentist, the other was very well off.

    I was neither and I've been touring Europe and the Alps the last 15 years in a row.


    Quote Originally Posted by 149769 View Post
    I am interested in talking to anyone that has done this from North America better yet Canada and what were the general costs for Flights, bike rental, accomodations and food.
    You're in luck

    I keep detailed spreadsheets of my expenses just for that reason; so that I can tell people what it really costs to tour there.

    You'll be surprised how cheap it really is. Leaving the bike out of the picture (an apples to apples comparison), it cost me less per day to tour Europe in 2003 than it did to tour Eastern Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador...and Europe even included airfare.


    Quote Originally Posted by 149769 View Post
    I figure that I should at the very least plan for two weeks, would perfer to go for three.
    Two weeks should be a minimum.

    If you will be at the Toronto show in December, we can chat about Euro/Alps touring over lunch. PM me if interested.

    The best thing to do is get some maps in advance and browse over them. You can get FREE maps that you can download showing suggested motorcycle routes. Check out the "Alps Motorcycle Tours - Priced Right, How to go about" link below. The first couple of posts provide lots of info.

  13. #13
    Biker gunnert's Avatar
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    We are planning our "trip of a life time" for this summer also. We'll (two couples) be renting from Motogreek in Munich for 2 weeks (2-14 July). I looked into a tour company but decided to go it alone for the flexibility as much as the cost savings. I'm spending my time now researching the various routes and trying to decide on "base camps" to ride out of, e.g. 3 days here, 4 days there type thing. A hard part is going to make sure the wife's enjoy the trip as much as the men. I'd be just as happy camping and riding the whole trip... With my wife there'll be no camping... As a compromise I'm looking at spending probably 3 nights at the northern end of Lake Garda. We can get in short rides during the day and still have time for the girls to "streched their legs" in the local shops and maybe hit a disco or two into the wee hours.

  14. #14
    Cannonball Rider #52 darrylri's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnert View Post
    We are planning our "trip of a life time" for this summer also. We'll (two couples) be renting from Motogreek in Munich for 2 weeks (2-14 July). I looked into a tour company but decided to go it alone for the flexibility as much as the cost savings. I'm spending my time now researching the various routes and trying to decide on "base camps" to ride out of, e.g. 3 days here, 4 days there type thing. A hard part is going to make sure the wife's enjoy the trip as much as the men. I'd be just as happy camping and riding the whole trip... With my wife there'll be no camping... As a compromise I'm looking at spending probably 3 nights at the northern end of Lake Garda. We can get in short rides during the day and still have time for the girls to "streched their legs" in the local shops and maybe hit a disco or two into the wee hours.
    Although I have no experience with it, I understand there's a well regarded spa in Sirmione, on a long spit of land that sticks into the south end of Lake Garda. Expect the traffic around the lake to be horrible. The Italians say that when the Germans go on vacation, they head south and stop at the first water they find...
    --Darryl Richman, forum liaison
    http://darryl.crafty-fox.com

  15. #15
    Alps Adventurer GlobalRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarrylRi View Post
    Expect the traffic around the lake to be horrible.
    I've been around it and it was nothing special. In fact having to go through all the tunnels on the west side was misery. Too much traffic, much like Lago di Como.

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