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Help with Zurich to Munich Road/Rail trip

My family and I are flying to Zurich on August 9th and leaving out of Munich on the 22nd of August. We are not particularly interested in cities but we probably will spend two nights in Munich and one in Zurich to adjust. Other than that we are pretty open. I am struggling with Rail vs Car because of some of the potential spots on our Itinerary. Our favorite European trips have been multi-city multiweek train trips. 8 day Rome-Florence-CinqueTerre-Rome and 17 day Munich-Kitzbuel-Venice-Paris-Belgium

Covid: My wife and I are vaccinated and we are not worried about our healthy 8 and 10 yo boys. I think with our vaccinations it should be easy to travel in and out.

Here are our initial thoughts. It seems ambitious but we have really enjoyed multi city trips before. Has anyone driven from interlaken or zermatt to Val Gardena? Train Travel seems inconvenient getting from switzerland to val gardena and to get from Austria/Switzerland to Fussen. Any thoughts on the order or substitutions would be appreciated.

1 night Zurich for time adjustment

3 nights Lauterbrunnen

3 nights Zermatt

3 nights Val Gardena/Ortisei

1 night Fussen

2 nights Munich

Posted by
5791 posts

The only comment I would have is that Luzern is a beautiful little city just one hour by train from Zurich. While I would typically suggest 3 nights, you could get a little taste of it by spending that first night in Luzern, unless you have already been to Luzern.

Posted by
32994 posts

are you prepared for a high drop charge dropping a Swiss car in Germany?

Posted by
25 posts

Yes. I realize It may be around $600. In Switzerland the destinations seem to be all train friendly. It just starts to get challenging if we leave Val Gardena in the trip.

Posted by
16894 posts

I haven’t driven this route myself, but wouldn’t hesitate to do so, except for the high cost of car rental. Try route and timing ideas at www.viamichelin.com as an alternate to Google maps. There’s no shortcut around the extra distance and time these mountain destinations create. I’d think about replacing Italy with another stop in Switzerland. Fuessen can also be done as a day trip from Munich, if that reduces the number of train transfers while you have luggage in tow.

Posted by
2992 posts

Instead of recuperating in Zurich, take a direct train from the airport to Bern (1h 15m). The next day finish your journey to Lauterbrunnen (1h 30m with one connection). When you’re ready to drive to Zermatt, take a train to Interlaken (30-minutes) and rent your car there (2h 30m) to get to Zermatt.
If you rent a car in CH and drop it off in DE, expect to pay a hefty $1,000 drop off fee. The most scenic way to get to Val Gardena is to catch the Glacier Express in Zermatt at 9:52a and arrive in St. Moritz at 5:38p and sleep there one night. The next morning take a direct train from St. Moritz to Tirano, IT (2h 15m) and rent a car in Tirano. Your drive from Tirano to Val Gardena is another 3h 30m.
Paying the exhorbitant drop off fee may be worth it, but I still like the idea of renting a car in Interlaken unless you plan on driving in the Berner Oberland.

Posted by
20296 posts

How about a hybrid?

  1. Get (2) 8-day Swiss Travel Passes and the free Family Card, that will cover you and the kids for the whole time in Switzerland.
  2. Go directly from Zurich airport to Lauterbrunnen by train. Don't waste any time in Zurich. You can be in Lauterbrunnen 3 hours after you get your luggage at the airport.
  3. Last day in Switzerland, travel by train to Innsbruck and rent a car at Innsbruck Airport (train station locations are closed). Drive to your Dolomites location. Your car, rented in Austria, will come with a vignette already attached. You'll just have to pay fares from the Austrian border to Innsbruck
  4. After Dolomites, drive to Fuessen. Next day, drive back to Innsbruck Airport (2 hour drive), turn the car in, then take a train to Munich. You could even split up with 1 adult traveling with the kids to Munich by train while the other adult does the car return.

Each driver needs an International Drivers Permit from AAA.

Posted by
32994 posts

I was intrigued by the idea of car rental in Lauterbrunnen. Who has a rental lot there? I'd never noticed one.

I searched and can't find one. Interlaken, back down in the flat lands has a small Hertz and a Europcar, but they are small and not in Lauterbrunnen.

Where can they rent in Lauterbrunnen?

Posted by
25 posts

Thanks for all the good suggestions. It seems like I could take a train into italy to get from Zermatt to Val Gardena. Trains to Innsbruck from Zermatt seem to be a long go. Even if we go to St moritz then tirano and drive its alot of logistics. I am not convinced after so many days in the alps that we really need to see the sights on the Glacier Express. Zermatt to Milan is less than 4 hours. Then we could overnight in Milan(or Como) and take a ~4 trip to Val Gardena the next day. Time to do some soul searching on how much I want to drag these kids across the Alps.

Posted by
1238 posts

Hello. Driving would be out of the question for me, so I tend to look for trains. I have been in all of the locations you list, and of them all, for me, Zermatt, calls to me least. I saw it briefly, for a few hours; road a train to a viewing outpost; ate food; hoped for the clouds to leave the peak; and then road away. Perhaps my experience is not enough to judge, but it appears to be a small village with many tourists all hoping for a sunny view of the Matterhorn. If it were my trip, I would leave Zermatt out of the mix.

I would consider after the Berner Oberland, backtracking through the Zurich area, by train to Innsbruck: the Arlberg Railway. Read what the Man in Seat 61 says about this. When you reach Innsbruck, you are on a fairly direct north south route that heads south through the Dolomites (Bolzano is a stop) to Verona and north to Munich. This is the route that goes through the Brenner Pass. I believe there are faster and slower train options. For example, heading north, you can opt for the slower train that goes through locations like Garmisch.

The train trip from Lauterbrunnen to Innsbruck takes 8+ hours according to Rome2Rio. If Zermatt is an important part of your plans, you might figure the time from Zermatt to the Dolomites may be equivalent. I am not sure how to weigh these options in the balance - but this is an alternative.

Posted by
1491 posts

This is a lot of traveling and would tire your kids. I understand that these distances look short on Google Maps, but bear in mind that this area is very mountainous. Driving in the Dolomites is not easy. In August there is constant roadwork around the Austrian/Italian Alps. It is because construction must be completed before snow starts again.

3 nights in Zermatt is too much. I love seeing Das Matterhorn, but 2 nights or even 1 is enough.

ALso, the pandemic is not over yet. Make sure all bookings are fully refundable.

Posted by
25 posts

Thanks for the candor. I wonder if we could go without set plans and book as we go. Has anyone done this? Is there enough excess hotel inventory to travel on the fly so to speak? I am guessing most of you are planners but It could be exciting to just go and change on a whim.

Posted by
20296 posts

3 nights in Zermatt is too much. I love seeing Das Matterhorn, but 2 nights or even 1 is enough.

Would not agree with that statement. Maybe if ALL you wanted to do is see the Matterhorn, even then it is always weather dependent in the summer. But there are plenty of other things to do in Zermatt besides that.

Posted by
32994 posts

Is there enough excess hotel inventory to travel on the fly so to speak?

These are strange times. I don't think anybody knows. Could go one way, could go the other. Sorry.

Posted by
27267 posts

I am generally a plan-on-the-fly traveler, but my definition of POTF has changed a bit. I try not to wait until the night before arrival to book a room. I'm more comfortable with 3 or 4 nights ahead in a typical city. But Switzerland, due to its cost level, is not typical. (I'd say the same about much of Scotland and a lot of places at the time of special events.) I sometimes have to spend more than I like due to late booking in relatively ordinary places. The penalty for finding myself in that situation in Switzerland could be costly.

Virtually 100% of your fellow travelers will have cellphones they can (and will) use to book lodgings once they know their schedules. There's no advantage to waiting until you arrive in town to try to find a place.

Posted by
1491 posts

I have traveled in the area without prior planning and hotel booking. We make up the trip along the way according to weather forecasts, which are very fickle in this area. The cost we paid was higher hotel prices. However, we didn't mind because we were able to enjoy outdoor places when the weather was right. Tyrol and South Tyrol are rainy areas. At times, even without rain, it could be very hot and humid. You don't want to hike in these situations.

Posted by
25 posts

Posted a trip report under Zurich to Munich Road trip since you all helped so much