This will be our fourth trip to Europe for the winter holidays (2015: 4 weeks in Italy, 2017: 2 weeks in UK, 2019: 3 weeks in Portugal). Though we live in Los Angeles now, we grew up in the Great Lakes. No need for cold weather/darkness warnings - we are prepared ;-). We've also been to Spain for 3 weeks and the Croatian coast and Paris each for a week. Hubs has been to many locations in Europe (including Munich several times; Lindau/Friedrichshafen, Germany and Flims/Laax, Switzerland in summer; and St. Anton, Austria in winter) without me for work/play. We both have a fair bit of Swiss heritage in our family trees.
Arrival and departure cities were selected for award flight availability. I'm nuts and keep checking award availability, but I'm pretty confident these are our best option.
We tend to not actually go to a ton of museums and big tourists sights. I'd say we average less than one per day. We mostly wander around all day (10-15 miles+ is not unusual) with frequent "pop-ins" to warm up, pee, "hydrate" with coffee and/or alcohol, and eat delicious things. We kind of like to just hang out and get a feel for/imagine what it's like to live in a place. We used to stay in AirBnb's/apartments almost exclusively, but it's so hard to find homey feeling/not generic Ikea box apartments these days that we've been including small hotels and B&B's more, especially for shorter stints. We definitely value the accommodations themselves (quiet, pretty, and comfy cozy, please!) and a local neighborhood feel more than proximity to sights for our lodging. We've also found that we enjoy our time in "second cities" and smaller/mid-sized cities. (Places with an industrial past and a little bit of grit feel like home to us after growing up and living in multiple rustbelt cities. Grit is not a requirement, of course, but we are certainly not averse to it.) Oh, we love strolling Christmas markets in the evenings, but they're not the point of this trip. I see us enjoying them wherever we are, rather than choosing destinations specifically for them.
We don't like to move too much. Usually 3 or 4 nights minimum, frequently an entire week in bigger cities. We've driven in both Croatia and Portugal but hoping to stick to train this trip.
Now that you know more than you ever wanted to know about our travel preferences, help me decide on an itinerary! The holidays and Eves, as always, can be a bit of a monkey wrench for transportation and checking in, getting food, etc. It's getting a bit cramped with maybe too much time at the end in Switzerland due to a) trying to devise an itinerary that makes sense geographically, b) avoiding holiday travel, and c) not knowing where to go in Germany.
Super rough idea of what I'm thinking so far, but I definitely need help. We love RS books for the very useful tips, walking tours, etc. in the most touristic areas, but always use other sources as he frequently doesn't even cover the cities we're considering.
December 12 Arrive Amsterdam early evening
13-15 Amsterdam. One day trip - Delft?, acclimating to new time zone
16 Travel to Belgium. I think we might enjoy staying in Antwerp but am open to Brussels too. If we stay in Brussels, stop in Antwerp on the way.
17-18 More Belgium. BEER. Frites. Stroopwafel. Day trip to Ghent or Bruges?
19 Travel to Germany. Cologne, I think. If we stayed in Antwerp, stop in Brussels on the way. Liege or Aachen worth a stop?
20-22 Germany/Cologne. Day trip suggestions?
23 Travel to Strasbourg. Stop off in Bonn, Mainz, or quick detour to Heidelburg?
27 Travel to Lyon. Worthwhile stops along this train route?
28-30 Lyon. Day trips?
31 Travel to Switzerland. Best choice? Will end in Zurich, so somewhere else.
1-5 Switzerland. City with easy trains to ski and/or couple days in the mountains. I don't ski but have no problem lounging in an alpine village while he does.
6 Travel to Zurich
7-8 Zurich. Day trip?
9 Depart Zurich