We are traveling from Salzburg to Vienna via public transportation. Is it possible to do this via train to Melk, boat to Krems then bus/train to Vienna in one day with time to see Abbey, or would it be better to go straight to Vienna, then make the Melk trip a separate day?
I'd recommend renting a car in Salzburg and then parking in the Wachau Valley to see these sights on your way to Vienna. Besides Melk, towns like Spitz, Wissenkirchen and Duenstein are very appealing to make a stop along the way. Krems is a gem too. The drive from the Wachau Valley to Vienna is easy. Drop the car in Vienna once you arrive. A car will also give you the ability to visit a winery or Burgruine Aggstein.
If you choose public transport then:
There are left luggage lockers at Melk and Krems stations so you can store your luggage there.
Or just go straight to Vienna then make a day trip to Melk without the luggage.
I suggest taking the fast train direct to Vienna and then visiting the Wachau as a day trip from Vienna. It looks efficient to stop along the way from Salzburg to Vienna, but it’s not. If the weather is bad that day as well, then you’re screwed. Driving the highway from Salzburg to Vienna is also a notoriously stressful, traffic jam experience.
on a related matter - Emily is the traffic at the Salzburg end or the Vienna end or the whole thing? The reason I ask is when I make the trip I will likely be driving from the east side of Munich to Vienna, skipping Salzburg and not joining the autobahn until around Linz.
driving from the east side of Munich to Vienna, skipping Salzburg and not joining the autobahn until around Linz.
Skipping the Autobahn between Salzburg and Linz will cost you more time than a probable slow-go near Salzburg and the German-Austrian border.
The Autobahn between Salzburg and Vienna is no big deal (less than 200 miles, 3½hours), notwithstanding Emily's loathing of that route. It does not differ very much from other Autobahns, most of the troubles - i.e. traffic jams - are caused by accidents, notably trucks steered by overtired drivers. Construction sites are set up in a way to keep the traffic flowing as good as possible. If you avoid the rush hours near big cities (Salzburg, Linz, Vienna) you should be fine. Bad weather (rain, snow, fog) is another issue, but that stands for all roads.
I second RJean: rent a car. Near Linz, see Wilhering & ST Florian Abbey & Mathausen concentration camp
I second RJean: rent a car.
Even if you have a car, do the math how long a day is. The car is slower than the train. If you drive straight from Salzburg to Vienna on the Autobahn, it is 3½ hours. If you make a detour along the Wachau, add 1½ hours. That is just for driving.
If you visit St. Florian Abbey, add 1 hour at least. Mauthausen concentration camp: at least 2 hours, Melk Abbey 2 to 3 hours, and so on. You may have a lunch break, add 1 hour.
You can't visit everything in on day en route. Pick two items to visit which are not easily doable as a day trip from Vienna, if you go by car. If you go by train choose Melk and Wachau for the day trip.