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2 Week family Trip Europe Summer 2016

We (family of 4) are flying into London and departing Frankfurt Jun/Jul. Need validation on itinerary. Currently thinking 3 days London, 3 days Paris, 2 days Colmar, 2 days Lauterbrunnen, 2 days Salzburg and then 1 day in Frankfurt due to flight home the next days. Is this too aggressive? I wanted the Swiss Alps experience and the charm of Salzburg. Also need to decide train or car rental?

Posted by
15125 posts

How old are the kids? What are the particularly sights and activities in which you are interested?

For a Multi-country trip like this you will want to take the train. Taking a rental car from one country to another and turning it in there is very expensive.

The first part of the itinerary, London-Paris-Colmar, looks fine. After that it is too rushed by long travel days. Colmar to Lauterbrunnen is 3.5 hours which is OK, but from there to Salzburg takes a minimum of 8 hours on the train---in other words, a whole day. This leaves you little time to enjoy either Alpine experience.

I can understand the desire to see both, but I think you need to drop either Lauterbrunnen or Salzburg.

If you do not already have flight tickets from Frankfurt, you could fly out of Zurich instead. This makes Lauterbrunnen very doable, and you could include Luzern which is every bit as appealing as Salzburg ( but without the Sound of Music connection). With many flights from Zurich you can spend the night before in Luzern as it is only an hour away.

If you prefer Salzburg, keep in mind that it is still 6.5 hours from Colmar, which is a long train day. And 5.5 hours from there to the Frankfurt airport, which means you would have to travel the previous day and overnight somewhere near there.

The long travel days alone would convince me to head to Lauterbrunnen and save Salzburg for another time. . . but that is just me. (Full disclosure---Switzerland is my favorite place in Europe, but it is comparatively more expensive. Ask here for suggestions on keeping costs down).

But if you already have your flights booked my suggestions may be moot. In that case you should drop Lauterbrunnen.

Posted by
4363 posts

It seems too aggressive. I suggest you add up the transit hours in their entirety and see what percentage of that is your awake hours. Include re-packing and checkout, transit to the station, waiting time, train time, transit time to the next hotel, and check in. I'll bet you are looking at 35% of your awake time as being on the move.

Car is generally cost prohibitive taking from one country to another country.

Posted by
7175 posts

I think aggressive is apt description of what you suggest. With a family travelling I would slow it down so you can relax and enjoy a bit. Drop Colmar and substitute Luzern for Salzburg perhaps. All by train ...

4 days London
4 days Paris
3 days Lauterbrunnen
1 day Luzern
1 day in Frankfurt

Posted by
544 posts

I agree with David's itinerary. Fewer travel days = more time to relax and get out and experience Europe. Consider staying in Mürren instead of Lauterbrunnen.

Posted by
6 posts

My girls are 13 & 16. So far I'm leaning towards London, Paris, Colmar, Muren then leave from Frankfurt. We did book the flight out of Frankfurt since it was the cheaper city which was further south and closer to where we wanted to end up. I did look at Zurich but it was a lot more expensive. I knew I was being a bit aggressive and greatly appreciate your comments for a reality check.

Posted by
39 posts

We have travelled in summer 2013 and summer 2015 with our kids, now ages 11 and 17. Next summer we are going again and renting car again. It's really an easy process, we brought our TomTom for GPS and relied on this entirely with no problem.

I think your itinerary is perfect. We did rental car both times so can't comment on trains, but we found driving not to be an issue and really was easy with the kids.

Driving would be easy, especially going into Murren, which we did on both trips, because it was just the most beautiful place in the world. We stayed both times at Hotel Alpina and the view from the room is SPECTACULAR. We went to the top of the mountain from Murren and it was just breath-taking. Go on a clear day.

Salzburg was just ok [old town was nice, but that was about it], but we really enjoyed our stay in Bacharach on the Rhine river. If I had to choose, I would return to Bacharach, but not to Salzburg. Maybe you could find a way to incorporate that into your itinerary on way back to Frankfurt.

Rothernburg would really easy to do on way to Frankfurt. My daughter especially loved this little town.

I got a lot of information from the readers of this board, I hope this helps you.

Have fun planning.

Posted by
32110 posts

I definitely agree with the others that your first draft was too ambitious and would have probably been somewhat exhausting. It would help to have some idea where you're flying from. Does your 2 week time frame include your two flight days? I find it easier to plan on the basis of the number of nights in each place rather than the number of days.

Well planned travel by train will be much faster and more efficient than by car and a much better use of your short holiday time, especially when using the high speed trains which travel at up to 300 km/h. Also, renting a car in one country and dropping it in another usually comes with some very steep additional charges. As you're planning to stay in Mürren, there are no cars there so you'd have to leave the vehicle parked in Stechelberg or Lauterbrunnen, where it would be gathering dust and incurring parking charges.

I also agree that it would be prudent to skip Salzburg this time and limit your stops to the other places you mentioned. A few thoughts.....

  • London - have you determined which part of the city you prefer to stay?
  • EuroStar to Paris - you can save a lot by purchasing tickets well in advance. Have a look at the excellent Man In Seat 61 website for all the details. The cheap tickets are usually non-refundable and non-changeable once purchased. Note that you MUST check-in for the EuroStar at least 30 minutes prior to departure. It's a good idea to leave lots of time, as passengers have to pass through airport style security and clear French Passport Control at London St. Pancras.
  • Colmar - 2 nights will allow one full day of touring
  • Lauterbrunnen Valley - I'd suggest at least 3 nights there for two reasons: an extra night will provide a "buffer" if you get inclement weather on one day. Also, there's a lot to see and do there and you may find when you arrive that you'll appreciate having booked more time. That area is incredibly beautiful. Are you clear on the route you'll need to use to reach Mürren?
  • Train from the Berner Oberland to Frankfurt - there are a few direct trains from Interlaken Ost to Frankfurt with a travel time of 5H:08M, so it will be an easy trip to reach Frankfurt prior to your return flight (I'd probably use the 10:00 departure).
Posted by
15477 posts

Visiting more than 3-4 places in 13 days is aggressive, but it can work if you do a lot of planning in advance and are realistic about how much sightseeing time you actually have.

Some things to keep in mind

  1. Different currencies every few days. It's helpful to be familiar with the bills and coins before you go. Also know how to get local money (ATM withdrawal are the best) and how much you need.
  2. Moving around eats up time. Plan your train times taking into account how long it takes to get everyone up, packed, breakfasted and ready to go. How long it can take to get to the train station (traffic?), how far in advance you need to be at the station. How long to get from the arrival station to your hotel to drop your luggage. If you take a morning train, you lose 1/2 day's sightseeing. If you take a later train, you have to allow time to return to the hotel to get your luggage.
  3. Know how to use local buses and metros. Choose hotels that are convenient to sightseeing, either close to the sights you plan to see, or close to bus/metro stops that will take you to them.
  4. Is your family ready for fast moving? Do you need lots of time for breakfast? Do you need to plan for 1-2 hour lunches? Dinners? You can only move as fast as the slowest member of your group, whoever that is at any given time. Are you going to have a lot of luggage to haul around, pack and unpack? What about laundry? On a 2-week trip, will you need to shop for toiletries?
  5. Don't expect to do too much on your first day or 2. Jetlag and lack of sleep take their toll.
Posted by
6 posts

We do arrive early morning Saturday in London and depart Saturday two weeks later from Frankfurt. Muren looks great. Now thinking train and London, Paris, Colmar, Muren and then travel up to Frankfurt on the last Friday for our afternoon flight.

Posted by
15125 posts

Sounds good. For planning purposes, think in terms of nights in each location, not days. You have 14 nights, counting the one in Frankfurt. I suggest 4 nights each for London and Paris; 2 nights for Colmar; 3 in Mürren, and then your last night in Frankfurt.

Note Ken's good advice above about booking the Eurostar train from London to Paris early to get the best price. We are going next May and booked 6 months ahead ( end of November) to get our tickets for £40 each. ( Price in GBP because I booked on the Eurostar UK website). For late June travel, you could start looking for tickets in late January.

A good budget option for lodging in Mürren is Chalet Fontana:

http://www.ferntree.ch/chalet/fontana_summer.htm

The ground-floor apartment is good for a family of four--two bedrooms, one bath, and a large kitchen with dining table. Breakfast in the main B and Bmis included in the price. For other meals,mthere is a grocery across the street, and any number of nice restaurants around town. We sometimes get take-out from the Asian restaurant up the street. The only thing the apartment lacks is a gorgeous view frommthe windows, but all you need do is step outside and walk a few steps to see that.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks so much all. I have heeded the advice and are 4 nights in London and 4 nights Paris with 2 nights in Colmar, 3 nights in Muerren and then 1 in Frankfurt. Also booked our Eurostar tickets and a few Air B&B's for lodging. Next goal is Eurail Family Pass and then researching places to visit and absorb the culture with the family. One more question - backpack versus roller bag? I was leaning toward backpack but the girls were loving the thought.

Posted by
32110 posts

"Next goal is Eurail Family Pass"

One important point to keep in mind is that Railpasses DO NOT include the reservation fees that are compulsory on the fast trains such as the TGV in France. You'll have to pay for those separately "out-of-pocket". One other point to note is that in France the reservations are limited for pass holders, and once the quota is sold out for a particular train you won't be able to get reservations even if there are seats available. You'll either have to book a different train, or just buy P-P tickets (which will include the reservations).

"One more question - backpack versus roller bag?"

That's a constant point of debate here on the forum, and everyone has their own preference. I much prefer a Backpack along with a detachable companion Daypack for carry-on. You might have a look in the Packing section of the forum as there will be threads there on the subject of luggage. If you decide on Backpacks, it's important to be properly fitted so that the pack is comfortable to wear. With a pack properly fitted for torso length, most of the weight will rest on the hips rather than the shoulders. Wheelie bags are the most popular luggage with majority of people, but they don't work for everyone (I'll give up travelling before I'll use a wheelie bag!!!).

Posted by
11294 posts

Before buying any rail pass, be sure to read this excellent discussion from The Man In Seat 61: http://tinyurl.com/bkw4u6c

Here's his guide to where to look for the best prices on each train route: http://tinyurl.com/bo8x6o6

Do not rely on any other source of train prices (including, unfortunately, the charts on Rick's website).

Yes, it's a bit of work to do the math and research, but it's the only way to get the best deal.

Posted by
4363 posts

Familiar with the coins: this is not a small matter. The US uses 4 coins, both euro zone and UK have 8 coins, a huge difference.

Posted by
11294 posts

And many Swiss coin denominations look shockingly alike - it took me a few days to learn to tell them apart without checking each one for its value. See for yourself: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coins_of_the_Swiss_franc#/media/File:CHF_coins.jpg

The bills, on the other hand, are amazing, with an astounding number of security features. If anyone's curious, here they are (click on each letter and number to learn about it): http://www.snb.ch/en/iabout/cash/current/id/cash_security