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Plz Help Plan our 9 Day Swiss Vacation

Hi everyone,

This is my first post on this forum. I'm really excited to be planning our dream vacation to Switzerland.

We're going to be in the country for 9 days in total flying out of California. We're a family of four with a 7 year old and a 12 year old that will be traveling with us. I've been wanting to go to Switzerland for so long and we've finally decided to visit. We're tentatively going to be there the last week of May and returning the weekend of the first week of June.

I'm not sure how to plan the time that we do have though. I don't want to make it extremely busy by traveling most of the time. A semi-relaxing itinerary would be wonderful. Plus with two kids it wouldn't be fun hearing them complain about being tired every moment.

As far as budgeting, I've noticed that flying in and out of Geneva is more expensive as far as flights go. By flying in and out of Zurich, you net a savings of almost $400 per person. I happen to have about 180K American Aadvantage miles but it seems that you still end up paying about $3,500 (need to purchase 1 ticket) even when using the miles. Plus, you lose the ability to fly back non-stop using Swiss airlines if I was to purchase the tickets. Purchasing 4 tickets outright would be about $6800.

I was preliminarily thinking of flying into Geneva and seeing the sights around Lake Geneva possibly even taking a ride to a French border town for a day trip or two. We are also planning on meeting another couple in Lucerne and Lucarno although that will only take up 2 days or so of our itinerary.

My question to experts out there would be, how would you plan on spending your time if you were a family of four?
Are there specific sights \ hotels \ destinations that you would recommend?

Thank you

Posted by
1244 posts

Hi leberyo. Sounds like a great trip! Some initial thoughts:
- get the Rick Steves Switzerland book at book store or library; huge amount of useful info.
- fly Zurich if it will save you $1600. Also remember you can fly into one city and out of another.
- your high charges using AA miles are probably because some flights are on BA; they charge ridiculous fees for using AA miles; see if you can find non-BA flights; will cost way less.
- consider renting a car for some or all of your trip. Switzerland is very expensive, but rental cars are reasonable and give you so much flexibility.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
6 posts

Thx for the reply.
Unfortunately it seems that all AA flights are handled by BA. It is ridiculous to be using so many miles and still pay thousands of dollars on top.
I was planning on flying into Geneva and flying out of Zurich. This would allow us to do the Lucerne leg of the trip and still be relatively close to the airport nearing the end of our itinerary.
I'll try to check out some books but at this point I don't have a huge amount of time left to book the tickets especially if using miles.

Posted by
462 posts

Rick recommends the Lauterbrunnen area. I have been three times: I took each of my kids as they turned 11. They loved this area. The Hotel Staubbach has some big rooms, I think. I can't remember how many beds, but your kids are young enough that you may want one room. A lot of people here have stayed up high on either side of the valley and I'm sure they can recommend some great places too. From there you have the ability to go up the mountains on either side - Junfraujoch (possible to rent a saucer sled to sled on the glacier!) or Stechelberg, visit lots of charming towns, take easy hikes, tour Trummelbach falls (inside the mountain) or take a day to go over to the Ballenberg open air museum (lots of old buildings and farm animals to visit). Near Geneva, my kids loved the Chateau de Chillon. But, 9 days will go fast, especially if you need to plan around meeting friends for a couple of days, so if you want relaxing, I would only pick 2 places to stay, or maybe 3, such as fly into Geneva, go stay in Montreux or Lausanne for 1-2 nights and see the Chateau de chillon, then go to the Lauterbrunnen valley for at least 3 or 4 nights and finish up with your friends in Lucerne before flying out of Zurich. These areas are easy to link by train and be sure to get a family card for your kids and they will be free or cheap on every train. You could also do this flying in and out of Zurich - just a little more time on the train.

Posted by
6 posts

Lucerne is a definite because we will be meeting another couple there. There is a high probability of Lucarno as well. We were planning 1-2 days in Lucerne and 1 day in Lucarno. Those two spots are the definites, the rest of the itinerary is open. Although looking at the map Lucarno seems to be quite out of the way and might be a 3hr train ride or so away. It might not work with our limited amount of time.

At this point I'm just debating whether trying to get to the Western part of the country might not be enough for this trip? Which would mean that we would land and depart from Zurich instead and focusing more on the central part of the country. Do you guys think that a 9 day itinerary might be too little time to explore both the west and central part of the country?

I've heard of great things LAUTERBRUNNEN VALLEY but I'm think it might be too adventurous for two younger children? I'm sure there might be towns in there though where people could go sight seeing though. Maybe there are kid friendly hikes as well? It would be wonderful to be able to sit around a lake or something for a day and get some rest too.

So far my tentative itinerary would be something like
Day 1- Thursday Arrive in the evening in Geneva and take a late night taxi or train to Lausanne.
Day 2- Explore Chateau de Chillon
Day 3- Day trip - Possibly visit Montreaux
Day 4- Travel to the Lauterbrunnen valley
Day 5- Explore Lauterbrunnen further maybe Murren
Day 6 - Interlaken ?
Day 7- Travel to Lucerne
Day 8 - Lucerne
Day 9 - Lucarno - Lucarno seems to be quite a bit out of the way. This might or might not work in our itinerary.

What do you guys think?

Posted by
4352 posts

leberyo, first you are going to be the one who knows what YOUR 7 & 12 year olds will enjoy. So don't be afraid to trust your instincts. I also think that if you know Lucern and Locarno are definite, then it's ok to give Geneva a miss this time, especially if you save significantly by purchasing round trips in and out of Zurich. I would second adding in the Lauterbrunnen area. Sure there are plenty of adventurous activities; but those are not required to enjoy and entertain the kids. You could see Staubbauch Falls, take some easy walks in the beautiful countryside, ride the little train up to Wengen, take a day trip to Ballenburg and/or ride the ferries on Lake Thun or Brienz. Locarno would be another beautiful side of Switzerland. And three places in 9 days would provide variety without overstaying (for kids).

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks Gwynn.

We're absolutely positive that we have to be in Lucerne. The rest of the trip is really open. We can be in Lake Geneva or not. The same for the Lauterbrunnen but I've gotten too many recommendations it seems to not skip the Lauterbrunnen valley \ Interlaken.

I'm thinking though that having to travel from Lucerne to Locarno (and back to Zurich) is going to be a bit too time consuming? Maybe it's a bit too little of a time spent traveling \ to benefit ratio.

Posted by
20 posts

have you seen Rick's trip tips? 3 days in Bernese Oberland tip

Personally with 2 children, it may be nicer for them staying in the one place, like Lauterbrunnen, which is very central for the trips you have mentioned. eg Chateau de Chillon is a 3 hour 3 change train trip, long day, but the castle itself is 2 hours max. but maybe overnight in Montreaux. Zermat is a day trip from Lauterbrunnen as is Lucern, Bern, Zurich, mostly 2 hours by train each way.

But the Jungfrau is a must, It has a chocolate museum there now, and lots to do, train from Lauterbrunnen. It is a ful lday with some stop off at beautiful Kleine Scheidegg and Wengen. Jungfrau web cam . Also Waterfalls inside the mountain is exciting for kids. A walk up under the Staubbach Falls is easy for kids and a classic easy 90 min walk to Muerren (Cableway to Grutschalp from Lauterbrunnen.).

There is the Mürren Children's Adventure Trail The Allmendhubel funicular in the center of town takes you up to a huge "Flower Park" playground and restaurant and the trailhead for a few trails, including the Children's Adventure Trail. The trail is a little over 2km and should take about an hour. It's not stroller-friendly, as the trail is mostly a narrow, lumpy, dirt or grass path. It's mostly downhill, so it won't be difficult for children that are confident hikers. It's a good choice for families that want to hike while admiring the big famous peaks of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you eyhus5

I'm trying to gather as much information as I can... I'll take a close look at that post.

Our itinerary has slightly changed. We will have a full 10 days excluding 3 days of travel on the ground in Switzerland which gives us more time to explore the country.

We're now meeting with potentially two other friends of ours. We're going to start exploring the Lake Geneva area on Thursday but our friends would like us to stay around there until Saturday when they arrive. I'm not sure how much there's worth exploring for 3-4 days in Lake Geneva... Are there some suggested areas to visit?

I was planning on setting up 3 bases of operations. One in Montreux to explore Lake Geneva. The other either in Grindelwald or some place else and the final one is going to be in Lake Lucerne I believe.

Once I know definitively when our friends will be arriving I can coordinate the trip a little bit better.