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Glacier pass? Swiss passes? Coming May 2019; Family of 5

Our family of 5 are traveling for 1 1/2 weeks arriving in Geneva, Lausanne (1 day) Zermatt (2) days, Murren (2 days), Zurich (1 night). We will have a car, but could cancel it if we choose to travel by rail instead.
Questions -
1) should we cancel our car and travel by rail? I don't think so, based on what I have been reading on this forum.

2) Where should we go after that? We will be dropping off my one son in Zurich on June 1st and would have 4 days left.
Should we get on the Glacier Railway and do a trip on that? Is it covered with the Swiss Rail pass?
Still really confused about this whole rail pass thing. I can't figure out if you need it for all these cable cars, when you are hiking.

Thank-you for any help!!!!!
Deborah

Posted by
8889 posts

You say "arriving in Geneva", is that by air, train or car? That might affect things.

Where do you have to end up after Zürich in order to leave Switzerland?

1) Switzerland, especially the mountains, is usually better experienced by train. The train goes everywhere, cars do not. You cannot drive to Mürren or Zermatt, train only.

It is not a "Glacier Railway", it is a rail route that runs west-east across Switzerland, with trains every hour (all Swiss rail lines have a train every hour). If you don't want to go across the with of Switzerland, it would involve doubling back at the end.

A Swiss rail pass covers all rail lines, buses and lake boats in Switzerland. Only some mountain cable cars are included.
See the coverage map here: https://www.sbb.ch/content/dam/sbb/de/infotexte/uebersichtskarte-sts.pdf
This is also a good planning map for your Swiss trip. A Swiss Pass may or may not be the best option, you need to do the arithmetic yourself: after deciding on your route.

As to where for your 4 days, depends where you need to be at the end. Since you have ticked off the names in western Switzerland (but not given them enough time), how about Appenzellerland, or Engadin valley?

Posted by
20469 posts

What are the ages of all the family members? You know you cannot actually get to Zermatt or Muerren with a car. You will have to leave the car in a paid parking garage/lot and proceed to these by train/cable cars.

I assume you are talking about the Glacier Express. Not a special railway, but a special train that goes over the same rail road tracks as regular Swiss trains. The train fare part of the ticket is covered by a Swiss Travel Pass, but there is a seat reservation fee also required to ride the Glacier Express to cover extra services, like panorama cars, headsets that describe the scenery outside your windows, extra train attendants on board.

Cable cars during hikes can be paid for as you go. A Swiss Travel Pass may cover some of them and give discounts for others. so the question is, what hikes are you planning on?

Posted by
1102 posts

We went from Geneva to Bern to Murren to Zurich (via Lucerne on the Golden Pass route) and it was easy and painless. Never once did we feel we needed a car. How old are your kids? Kids travel free with adults who buy the Swiss pass.

Here's some info about children's tickets: https://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/tickets-for-switzerland/children.html

And more info on the passes. https://www.sbb.ch/en/leisure-holidays/travel-in-switzerland/international-guests.html

Posted by
3 posts

Thank-you both for your responses and help.
Family - 5 adults - 3 adult kids (19, 21, 22)
Yes, a few more details of our trip. We arrive by air in Geneva May 26th- depart Geneva June 5th.
Day 1 - Lausanne/Head to Zermatt
Day 2-4 - Zermatt
Day 5-7 - Murren
Day 8 - Zurich (Drop 1 kid at airport)
Have 4 extra days - We could take the Glacier Express from Zurich if you think that is worth it.
Or we could go back to Lautterbrunnen region and stay there those 4 days. At this point, I
have places secured to stay up through Zurich. Have to end up back in Geneva on June 4th.
Thank-you all again.

Posted by
8889 posts

We could take the Glacier Express from Zurich

The Glacier Express route does not go anywhere near Zürich.
I emphasise route, as it is a normal rail route from A to B, not a round trip and not a tourist-only route, it is a line used by normal regular trains the locals use to get around.
The route is: Zermatt - Visp - Brig - Disentis - Reichenau - then there are 2 alternative routes, to Chur or St Moritz.
You can see this on the map I linked to above (or click here).

You say "Day 8 - Zurich (Drop 1 kid at airport)" "(19, 21, 22)" - that is not a kid. Over 16 counts as an adult on Swiss trains. I would say that "non-kid" does not need to be dropped off at the airport, they can make their own way there by train. That way you avoid a wasteful detour to Zürich.

I would make the plan (all by train):

Day 1 (26th May) - Lausanne/Head to Zermatt - are you really planning to arrive at Geneva airport (immigration, time difference), travel to Lausanne and then onward to Zermatt in the same day? I think that would be too much. I suggest a night in Lausanne to get over the jet lag.
2-4 (27th - 29th May) 3 nights Mürren
5-8 (30th May - 2nd June) 3 nights Zermatt.
Day 8 (2nd June) "non-kid" makes way to Zürich airport (easy by train, 3½ hours). If it is an afternoon flight no issue, if it is a morning train they may need to overnight in Zürich city or at the airport.
I put Zermatt AFTER Mürren, because that is where the Glacier Express starts from:
Day 9 (3rd June) Glacier Express to Chur. Overnight in Chur.
Day 10 (4th June) Train to Luzern, 1 night Luzern
Day 11 (5th June) train to Geneva, fly home).

It would have been a little easier if you also flew out of Zürich, it would save doubling back across the whole length of Switzerland.
Depending on your flight time, you may need to overnight in Geneva.

Lookup train times on the SBB website: https://www.sbb.ch/en

Posted by
16894 posts

This sounds like an itinerary that's been discussed recently, though I don't see any older threads from you.

When buying a Swiss Travel Pass, your kids under 26 all qualify for a small Youth discount. The one who's leaving early might be fine with a pass for fewer travel days than the others. Unfortunately, the choices for number of days jumps from 4 to 8 to 15, with no intermediate options. Because you only get lift discounts and other coverage on your counted pass travel days, the consecutive-day versions of the pass tend to be the most popular.

The Glacier Express is covered by passes but the named departures on that route are among the few trains in Switzerland that require a seat reservation in addition to a pass (or built into a point-to-point ticket). Unreserved trains on the same line tend to require additional connections and have regular windows that open rather than panorama cars.

Posted by
7209 posts

You don’t need a car. Rail will be SOOO much simpler than a car.

Surely all 5 of you don’t have to trek to Zurich to take the one son to the Airport?? If the flight isn’t too early you just put son on the train in Murren all the way into Zurich airport. It takes a little over 3 hours.

I guess you all are not a training family? Or maybe you are new to trains? In Switzerland the trains are the only way to some of the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen.

And BTW...I don’t think there’s any rental car that will hold 5 adults and all of your luggage. If you decide on a rental vehicle you’re going to have to have a minivan.

Posted by
20469 posts

The Glacier Express does not go from Zurich, It runs between Zermatt and St Moritz through the high Alps, east to west in the southern half of the country. You will already have been to Zermatt. So it would take a bit of logistics to do it.

With 5 adults, a car would save some money as Swiss Travel Passes are expensive, and Swiss rail prices are expensive to begin with. It will need to be a van to hold 5 adults and all their luggage. The car also acts something like an anchor. Take a long train ride, then you have to return back to the car.

Can you stay in Luzern instead to Zurich? It is just over an hour by direct train from Luzern to Zurich airport. Unless his flight is first thing in the morning, instead of driving everyone to Zurich, just get him on the train to the airport and him a good-bye kiss at the station. Then the rest of you could spen another couple days in Luzern before driving back to Geneva. Maybe a couple nights in Murten, or Gruyeres.

Posted by
3 posts

Okay, so I have done more research since my last post. We are definitely keeping the car. It' $500 and for 10 days that's a good deal. So, now the question is about these rail passes. It looks like the only time we would be on trains is to get from Tasche to Zermatt, and Schletburg (sp?) to Murren. BUT we do need cable cars and maybe other forms of transportation to go to Schiltorn. Do we need any passes for these types of trips?
Thank-you, Deborah

Posted by
33336 posts

If that's all you are doing you can just buy tickets at the ticket offices.