We are just starting to research a month long trip and would love recommendations. We have travel flexibility in regards to which month April-June or Sept 2018...which is best? We plan to have a home base...is Lucerne a good central location or is there a better place? kid friendly hikes and places obviously very important. we are absolutely going for the amazing landscape/mountains. Are there great home/apt rental sites specific to this area outside of airbnb and vrbo? Tips for traveling with toddlers please please! ...we can start there!
-If you're traveling on a Swiss Travel Pass, get the Swiss Family Card (free on request) so that your children ride free with you.
-The double-decker trains with a little teddy bear symbol on the train carriage have a cute playground inside the train carriage on the upper level. It's usually the train carriage that's first or last on the train, I think.
-Restaurants typically have kids meals (Kinder Menu) available that resemble those in the U.S. except one option is usually fried pork strips (schweinschnitzel).
-Restaurants have the cutest kids ice-cream desserts with a surprise toy hidden in a pocket of the package.
-Many restaurants in the small towns and countryside have playgrounds.
-There are playgrounds by many cable car stations, up high. But those will probably be closed for off season if you go in April through June. My favorite hiking trails don't open until the beginning of July. They still are covered in snow through most of June, and then it needs time to melt and drain. In July the alpine flowers bloom. That's my favorite time to be there. I've been there in early September and trails were still open, but the flowers weren't blooming as much. And it was already getting cold waves.
My favorite mountain landscapes are in the Jungfrau area of the Berner Oberland.
Check out jungfrauregion.ch/en for info on rentals. The official Swiss Tourist Information bureaus (Tourismus) can help you if you call them. Their contact info is on that site.
Or check out Luzern.com/en/contact-us for Tourist Info on Lucerne/Luzern.
I'm from the US but live in Zürich as of this year. Before we moved, we traveled with our toddler/young child to Switzerland 3 times for two weeks each time in March, May, and June, and always found plenty to do. (She was ~18 months, ~2.5, and ~3.5 for each trip.) September (in my experience) is the best month for travel throughout Europe, and Switzerland isn't an exception. European school kids are back in school by then, so it's not as busy as July/August, but the weather is usually more reliably sunny and warmer than Spring. The access to the mountains is still good too and you don't encounter as much slush, if you want to hike.
My favorite site for walking and activity guidance for children here is momstotszurich.com. You can get tons of ideas, not just hikes and it is very well-organized -- tons of ideas for getting up into the mountains with young children. Also, mominzurich.com has good info, too.
Like LindaL suggests -- you should look for the playground trains. It completely changed travel with our young child. The carriages are called Ticki Park (but my child calls them the monkey train because the outside of the carriage has large animal decals indicating it has the playground inside). SBB has a section devoted to them. On earlier trips, I studied the routes these carriages were on like I was going to take an exam on them and we took these trains most days. These playground carriages are on IC trains and the routes are: 1. St. Gallen–Zurich HB–Berne–Geneva Airport, 2. Romanshorn–Zurich HB–Berne–Brig, 3. Basel SBB–Berne–Brig, 4. Basel SBB–Berne–Interlaken Ost, 5. Basel SBB–Zurich HB–Chur. Use the SBB app to confirm that you are getting on an "FA" train and it is almost always the last carriage, at least this year. Some other trains have "FZ" carriages but those are simply designated for families and don't have the playground equipment (slide, boat, play area). I never feel self-conscious about my child making noise in either FA or FZ carriages because they are dedicated for families. It's a free-for-all in there, and you will discover children of all nationalities are equally noisy. :D
I have never needed proof of a train ticket for my child -- they have never asked and we take the trains all the time. Children are free on the trains until age six. Sometimes they give my daughter a "Magic Ticket" but it's just for fun, like when the flight attendants give children wings or colors on the plane. Always make sure your own travel pass or ticket is in order because they will fine heavily on the spot.
Lucerne is a good central location, but if I had a month to move around, I would probably choose a difference base each week in different parts of the country. Some of those long-haul train rides get monotonous from the same location if you're doing a ton in a short span of time. Plus Zermatt or St Moritz feels a lot farther than it looks on the map. But if you have to choose ONE location, it's not a bad one to choose.
Will you be coming from time zones with more than 5 hours difference? If so, plan to do very limited activities in your first 2-3 days. This was a painful lesson for us to learn -- plan for your child not to adjust quickly and be pleasantly surprised if they do. Lots of people told us that children adjust quickly but this was not our experience. We enjoyed everything a lot more once we gave ourselves time and space to relax first. In fact, we did the best when we allowed ourselves 1 day for every hour of time difference (in other words -- we had the option so, we kept it low impact and low expectations for the first 8 days, when we had crossed 8 time zones to get here). Also, try to move your meal and nap times up as much as can be tolerated, but set your expectations that your kids will be hungry or sleepy around those "home" times in Switzerland. Everything felt smoother when we took that approach (backed by that 1-hour/1-timezone science about jet lag adjustment).
Thank you so much! I am adding all these tips to my research. i appreciate the time you took to give them to me and cannot wait to learn more!
Buy them presents (stuffed animal, small box duplos/Legos, etc.) from the airport (ZRH). They will play with them the whole time. Tough to be a kid with NO toys.
Stay at the Sports Ferein in Fiesch and check out Binn and then Binntal. Easily hike to the Binnhuette. All of this is probably within 5 miles of each other. There is train stop AT the Sports Ferein place (in the middle of nowhere). It has a kids pool and a HUGE pool. Both indoor. Pools are not to be seen in reasonably-priced accommodations in Switzerland. There is also a rope park and some other activities on premises.
If you are in a car, and for god's sake I hope you are, buy a small (like a tall 6-pack) cooler. Great for keeping some stuff cold between hotels. We would freeze the liters of water we bought and the cooler would keep them, and some picnic eggs and milk, cool. At the end of the trip we put liquor bottles in the cooler, well packed with memorabilia from the trip, in a duffel bag and check it it. We get another cooler and our bottles don't get smashed. Haven't lost either yet.
Observation deck, with free coloring book and crayons, and playground, at ZRH.
Go to Swiss Miss' blog. One of her posts linked to playgrounds in Zurich. Be careful though, healthcare is reasonable but still not cheap in Switzerland. Don't ask me how I know. Possible broken arm--about 700SF and several hours due to going to an out of the way surgery. Strep throat--about 150SF and 45 minutes (2 experiences in 2 different locales; one in Luzern, Friday night, 10:30 pm--45 mins in and out, including paying for it).
There are playgrounds EVERYWHERE. Use them. They are really really nice. And BIG. Harder to find a swing than a rope bridge. Dangerous stuff. I wish I had has it when I was little. :)
Free stuff, scenic bridges and byways, walking around places like the Binntal, Goeschenertal, and the route to Capanna Corno Gries looking for crystal. All of them safe routes.
I will think on this. I love to see kids get introduced to Switzerland early and people on the routes (red) love to see little kids.
Fondue and roesti--kids love them.
2 and 4 year old do not need the free Swiss Family Card to ride for free. Children below the age of 6 always travel for free.
Number 1 Bring a LOT less and buy what you can afford to replace at the airport (ZRH) esp. things like toiletries, bandaids, personal hygiene, etc. It has a mall, scratch that, it IS a mall. 3 grocery stores carrying enough stuff to look like a small wal-mart. An electronic store for your adapter. A cell phone shop to get a chip for your phone for 30 SF. Clothes shops of you have the money. And a food court. Eh. Like I said, 3 grocery stores, and you can eat at the food court tables.
We used to stop by the Zurich IKEA and buy a child's potty. It made everything so much easier. Gross, a little, but it is part of the process. It really wasn't that bad and at one point I was in the road with a little one for almost two months. With a potty.
Paper towels and toilet paper.
We always get a room with a kitchen (always=90% of the time) and that really helps with a) cost ($16-19 lunch & dinner for a little person?) and b) fact that little people can be picky and have to be catered-to to a certain degree on a trip like this to keep them fed. AND in control of themselves.
Proper outdoor clothes for your little people. Marmot provides sort of a baseline. Long undies and a decent soft shell. My little one has one that she loves from them (I got three sizes!).
Also, decent shoes for the kids. I would suggest Vasque Breeze 2.0 with lace-loks for the 4 year-old and a pair of tevas.
For us the potty was a game changer though.
Also, there is an easy to find doctor in Luzern.
Doctor's office is at the train station, first floor. Typically ALMOST no line and a very short wait. Good treatment at reasonable cost.
AND disinfectant wipe the airplane area where you and children will be sitting. Everything, including the eating trays and screens. It is filthy and you should t want to be sick for the whole trip.