Itinerary questions from a first timer!

My husband and I are planning on a 15 day trip to Europe for summer 2013. We have both traveled internationally in college, but neither of us have ever been to Europe. I have spent some time in the past week reading Rick Steves' information and many traveler's helpline posts before posting myself. We realized we were definitely trying to do too much in too short of time when we first started thinking about Europe (typical newbies!). Now that we have done some research, I would love any advice or thoughts on the rough skeleton itinerary we have developed. Although we certainly recognize we could easily spend 13 days in just one country, we would love to be exposed to multiple countries on our first trip and would love to travel via train. We spent some time thinking about what we actually want to do and see to narrow our plans, and love the idea of Munich, Dachau, Ludwig's castles, outdoor adventure activities in Switzerland, etc. Here is what we are thinking (does not include travel days).... Day 1: Munich Day 2: Munich Day 3: Munich/ Train to Fussen Day 4: Fussen/ Late afternoon/evening train to Interlaken Day 5: Interlaken/Gimmelwald/Lauterbrunnen Area Day 6: Interlaken/Gimmelwald/Lauterbrunnen Area Day 7: Morning train to Cinque Terre Day 8: CT Day 9: Train to Rome Day 10: Rome Day 11: Rome Day 12: Rome
Day 13: Rome Would love thoughts from anyone out there with more Europe experience than we have :) Does this itinerary look reasonable? Any suggestions on train travel between these cities?Thanks!!

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
144 posts

It looks great Melissa. I appreciate the fact that you are trying not to pack too much. From Fussen to Interlaken you could add either Bern or Luzern even as a short visit for a few hours.
I would not stay in Interlaken. Consider Murren, Lauterbrunnen, or Wengen instead.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

Looks like a good job of not trying to do to much. As for Day 4: Late afternoon/evening train to Interlaken, pay attention to the Bahn schedules. The train leaving Füssen around 4 PM (16:04) gets into Interlaken around 11 PM (22:57).

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17728 posts

Melissa, Your proposed Itinerary is arranged in a reasonably good order, however I'd suggest a few changes. > Are you going to Füssen only to visit the Castles? It may be a better idea to do that as a day trip from Munich, either on your own or with a tour company such as Radius Tours. > Your trip from Munich / Füssen to Interlaken is going to take about 8 hours, so it will be a full travel day. A late afternoon/evening train would not be the best chocie. It appears that the trip will be easier from Munich rather than Füssen, as there will be less changes. I'd use a departure at 07:31, arriving Interlaken Ost at 15:28 (time 7H:57M, 3 changes). Perhaps Lee or one of the others can suggest a better route. > As your touring appears to be focused on the Lauterbrunnen Valley, I'd suggest staying in Lauterbrunnen, Mürren or perhaps Gimmelwald. Lauterbrunnen is a good central location, as it's easy to get to both sides of the valley from there. > Your trip from Interlaken to the Cinque Terre will also take almost a full day. I'd use the departure at 08:00, arriving Monterosso at 15:02 (time 7H:02M, 3 changes, reservations compulsory on 2 legs). You didn't specify which town you'd be staying in, so I used Monterosso for the search. Rather than only spend one day in the C.T., you might consider reducing Rome by one day and staying 2 days. When you arrive there, you may wish you were able to stay longer (that's what I've found). > The trip from the C.T. to Rome is easy. There's a direct train from La Spezia to Roma Termini with a travel time of about 3H:45M (La Spezia is only a few minutes by train from any of the C.T. towns). Good luck with your planning!

Posted by David
Georgetown, TX
107 posts

We spent the night in Fussen. Arrived about 5pm, did dinner and a evening hike up to Mary's bridge. Hiked down in the dark and rain (thank goodness we had our RS LED flashlights). In the morning we took the bus up to Mary's bridge, then walked over to Neuschwanstein (first English tour was about 9:15 am), spent several mins in the gift shop and cafe, then took the horse drawn carts down to the bottom (IMO, that is the best path to minimize the walking up). We didn't see the other castle because we didn't want to be rushed but we might have been able to fit it in. We skipped the luge up the road because of time constraints. Caught the 1pm train to Vincenza via Munich (Arrived 9pm).

Posted by Melissa
Lubbock, TX
19 posts

Thank you so much for all of your suggestions. I like the idea of going to Fussen to see the castles as a day trip on day 3 and then leaving early on day 4 for Interlaken. I had assumed traveling to Fussen on our own to see the castles would be cheaper and less crowded, especially if we went early morning. Am I right in thinking this?
Ken, thanks for your suggestion of leaving Munich early morning for Interlaken. I think we will plan on that. Also staying in Lauterbrunnen sounds like a better option for us than actually staying in Interlaken. We love everything we have read/pictures of Lauterbrunnen/Murren/Gimmelwald and really look forward to exploring that area. Thank you for the suggestion of staying longer in CT, we will definitely think about that. Monterosso was where I was thinking we would stay, if we only had 1 or 2 nights what would you suggest? In looking at our itinerary, what would be the most cost effective way to purchase train tickets? That aspect of planning seems a little overwhelming. I realize we can't purchase those now, but we would like a rough idea of transportation costs for budgeting purposes. I really appreciate all of your feedback. We just want to have a wonderful first time trip and it helps to know we are on the right track itinerary wise!

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11256 posts

Doing Füssen and the castles on your own is easy. Here is some information on doing-it-yourself.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17728 posts

Melissa, You can easily travel to Füssen either on your own or with a Radius tour. Lee provided suggestions on how to do the trip on your own. If you decide to do the trip on your own, note that you'll have to make reservations and be at the gate at the appointed time. As I recall, no photos are allowed inside the Castle, but you can certainly take photos from the inside looking out. You'll be funnelled through several souvenir shops on the way out, so you'll have lots of opportunities to buy pictures. If you're going to stay in Lauterbrunnen, specify that as your final destination when you buy your ticket in Spiez. You'll need to transfer to the Berner Oberland train at Interlaken Ost for the 20 minute ride (it's blue and yellow, you can't miss it). I was just in Lauterbrunnen for about a week in September, and quite enjoyed my time there. It's somewhat of a "transportation hub", so it's very convenient to get to places on either side of the valley. The trip to Mürren is very easy - Cable Car to Grütschalp and then the small mountain railway to Mürren. Were you thinking of visiting the Jungfraujoch or the Schilthorn? I stayed at Hotel Oberland and would certainly recommend it. I was also in Monterosso for about a week in September, and that's my favourite of the five towns. Try and stay two nights if possible. When you arrive, you'll be wishing you had more time. I stayed at Hotel Villa Steno in the "old town" and would absolutely recommend it. It's a bit of a walk from the station, but worth the effort! However, I'd like to emphasize that you'll need to BOOK EARLY (it's very popular)! If Villa Steno is booked, you could also try their "sister property", Hotel Pasquale. Continued......

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17728 posts

Melissa, Regarding rail tickets, it's too early to buy tickets for Summer 2013. You'll need to wait for about spring. I normally buy tickets after arrival in Europe, either at staffed ticket windows or from the automated Kiosks (which are becoming more prevalent), usually a day or two before I'll be travelling. While this approach can be a bit more expensive, I like the flexibility of not being "locked into" a particular departure. Also, P-P tickets include reservations where compulsory. It is possible to save money by pre-purchasing tickets on the "premium" Italian trains. Some posters here have reported a few "issues" on the Trenitalia website, so it's not always a trouble-free process. I've found that the Super Economy fares usually sell out quickly. You can find an excellent tutorial on buying tickets for trains in Italy on the Ron In Rome website. You could also check the very comprehensive Seat 61 website. One important point regarding travel by train in Italy. The premium trains such as the high speed Freccia trains have compulsory reservations. Those caught without reservations may be fined on the spot, and the fines are not cheap at about €50 PP (that goes up to €100 PP or more if not paid at the time). The same is true for those riding Regionale trains without validating their tickets (time & date stamp), or riding Buses with unvalidated or absent tickets. You may find it helpful to download the Rail Pass Guide to see whether one of the Passes would be a benefit for your trip. Passes DO NOT include the reservation fees, so you'll need to pay extra for those. Cheers!