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7 days with rail pass in Austria

Hello, we have two girls ages 5 and 8. We will be in Europe for 3 full weeks, with 7 full days dedicated to Austria (non travel days). We do have a rail pass (yes, I know it was probably a poor decision to purchase that) and about 3 days of travel on it. We'll be starting our trip near Salzburg, coming in from Munich through Bad Reichenhall. We then need to head to Paris on day 8 for the last 3 nights before flying home. I know Paris is inconvenient to get to from Austria, it's just how things wound up.

I'm interested to know where you'd suggest we stay, and what places are must sees. We prefer the small villages and lakes and mountains. If possible, we'd head west to Basel before heading to Paris from there - simply because it seems we could break up the journey to Paris if we slowly make our way there on the train through Austria. How easy are the Austrian trains to reserve? Thoughts?

Posted by
16169 posts

My first question would be what time of year is this going to take place? Makes a big difference in anyone's recommendations.
Next, what type of rail pass? How many travel days, what countries?

Posted by
26365 posts

I've never reserved an Austrian train, and have always found plenty - or at least some - seats for my wife and me. But then again I've never traveled with a pair of munchkins. If you travel at peak times you will have crowds, off peak much less.

Posted by
6570 posts

I just hope the kiddies are very mobile (on their feet), as traveling by train requires a lot of walking. And they need to pack very light.
You're right about it being a little difficult to travel west of Munich to Paris via train. I've driven it, and it's farther than you'd think.
I would suggest traveling south out of Munich into Tirol and see the magnificent Austrian Alps. Then around to Salzburg before turning east toward Vienna.
The preferable way of travel would have been flying non-stop on NIKI or Austrian Airlines from Vienna to Paris.

Posted by
13 posts

Oh sorry our dates are very soon! Oct 3-12 2016 in Austria. And we are carrying carry on size packs, our kids packs will be under 5 lbs for their comfort items.

Posted by
12400 posts

Hi,

If you were in Vienna going to Paris, that would have been a lot easier by day train. I've done it. Take it to Frankfurt, you might have to transfer in Nürnberg. In Frankfurt take the TGV or ICE direct to Paris Est. at the latest you'll arrive before 10 pm, depending on the departure time in Frankfurt since not all are direct connections to Paris Est.

Main thing is get to Frankfurt for the direct connection to Paris Est, whether you're closer to Munich or Nürnberg, when you're ready to go Paris.

Posted by
353 posts

Hi Wanderkins,

With 7 full-days, I'd head from Munich straight to Vienna for 3 nights, then Hallstatt for 2 and then Salzburg for 2. If you prefer smaller towns, then I'd skip Vienna and spend 3 nights in Hallstatt, 3 in Salzburg and a night in Zurich on the way to Paris to break up the long trip.

Heading to Paris from Salzburg, you have several options, all taking 8.5-9.5 hours and involving at least 1 train change in either Zurich, Stuttgart, Mannheim or Frankfurt. You can use the German Deutsch Bahn website for finding train schedules and routes anywhere in Europe: www.bahn.com. It will even tell you which trains require a reservation.

None of the Austrian trains will require a reservation, but it can be a good idea, especially if you all want a guarantee to sit together on a long trip, such as the Salzburg-Zurich train. The only train on this route that must be reserved ahead, is the train to Paris (Zurich-Paris, Stuttgart-Paris, Mannheim-Paris or Frankfurt-Paris). This should be done asap, as high-speed French TGV trains only have a limited number of seats for railpass holders. You can reserve these through Rail Europe - www.raileurope.com.

Posted by
482 posts

Your post reminded me of a family vacation, including our sons (coincidentally, 5 and 8 at the time), to Switzerland in 1984. We had rail passes, and on our first long day (Geneva to Wengen), we discovered that the very efficient European rail system seemed to have connections carefully scheduled so there were only 5-10 minutes between arrival and departure for the next leg. This was often not enough time for us to gather baggage, study the schedule/timetable board, and comfortably figure out which track to seek for our next connection. I was hell-bent on catching the very next train until the 5 year old hurled his duffle bag at his brother as I was coaxing (OK, yelling) at the family to hurry thru the tunnel for the next train. My wife wisely, and calmly, reminded me that there would be another train soon (or eventually), that this was not a marathon, and perhaps we should find a place to sit down, relax, eat, and enjoy ourselves because this was a vacation. Great advice for traveling with children. I down-shifted, bought into her sage advice, and the next few weeks provided great memories for us all. Your plans for small villages, lakes and mountains may present similar circumstances. Happy travels.