We're taking our kids to Europe for the first time over their spring break, during the last week of March into early April. My son will turn 14 over the trip and my daughter is 11.5 and they're well traveled, just not to Europe! We're flying into Berlin and back from Vienna (I got a great deal on the flights so those are set in stone). We pack light and would like to utilize trains whenever possible because I know that kids are sometimes free (true for buses too?). Also my husband would rather not drive if he doesn't have to, especially since we're crossing into another country.
I want a good mix of great food, museums, palaces, castles, nature and adventure so I put the following itinerary together and am hoping for some feedback. I know it's tight but I'm not planning on really visiting museums or doing tours outside of Berlin. We're interested in experiences and creating memories and I'm trying to plan my stops w/out huge travel times between cities. This is what I came up:
Berlin - 3 nights (museum, sites, food, high speed train to Nuremburg to get to Rothenburg?)
Rothenburg od de Tauber - 1 night (medieval town, night watchman, what's best way to GP?)
Garmish Partenkirchen - 2 nights (Zugspitze, day trip to Neuchwanstein?, Partnachklamm Gorge, Bavarian town)
Salzburg - 2 nights (day trip to waterfall? Krimml or Bad Gastein)
Lake Halstatt - 1 night (do I go here before Salzburg?)
Vienna - 3 nights (palaces, opera, Spanish riding school?, food)
Halstatt is kind of a non negotiable must see for us, and we'd like to stay for a night to have some reprieve from the crowds. Should crowds be of concern during this time of the year? And where should we go for salt mines and a luge ride? I was thinking Garmish-P would be good for that but seems tight w/two days. Is that even a good base? Zugspitze is another thing we really want to see. What's the funnest way up the mountain? Can we do sledding there? I've heard of the night watchman in Rothenburg which I thought would be neat for the kids. Is the one night worth it just for the medieval scenery?. As far as Salzburg goes, none of the Sound of Music stuff is important to us. So is two days there too much?
I realize that 12 nights is not enough to truly experience Germany, Bavaria, Austria, etc. but it's the most time we have and I'd like to get a taste of the area with the idea that someday we'll return. I know Prague is also really common to include when you're talking Berlin & Vienna but we felt strongly about keeping our trip to a two country minimum!