I'm new to the forum, but have spent the last few days vicariously living through all of the trip reports from posters here like Carol, Carrie, Pat, cchapin, Jane, and more! I really appreciate all the wealth of information that has been provided.
We are a family of 6 (my husband and I, my parents age 65 and 71, and two kids age 8 and 10) who will be traveling to Switzerland for the first time in mid-late July. We will be spending 2 nights in Lucerne (will directly train there from Zurich), 3 nights in Interlaken, 4 nights in Wengen, and last night will be in Zurich. We are predominantly an outdoors active family (love hiking) and not so much museums.
I am finalizing our itinerary and have some questions to ask. Would love to hear any insights from those of you who have already been to Switzerland. Clearly the 10 night trip I planned was not enough, as I have too many activities and places I want to see!
1.) Would you recommend getting a guide book for Switzerland (and which one)? I have heard good things about the Rick Steve's Switzerland Travel Guide. I have also looked at Walking in the Bernese Oberland. I have done tons of internet research and have basic ideas of the trails I want to do (they are all pretty popular and well known) but am hoping to get those helpful maps of the BO that have all the trails and descriptions. Hopefully this will be enough, unless you think there is still value in getting an official guidebook?
2.) How hot should I expect it to get in mid-late July? I know there can often be heat waves this time of year. This was unfortunately the only time we could book the trip, otherwise we would be going in late June. Our hotel in Lucerne and Wengen will not have AC. I am hoping that with opening the windows, it will be OK, and that the mountains and lakes (Thun, Brienz) will be somewhat cooler.
3.) We are only getting one full day in Lucerne (first day we will probably arrive in the afternoon and be jetlagged, second day is the full day in Lucerne we have, and the third day we are planning to travel to Interlaken in the afternoon). Does it make sense to just focus that second day on seeing Lucerne the city? Or, my original plan had been to use the second day for Mt Rigi, and the first day upon arriving, we would do a quick city tour (Chapel bridge, Spreuer bridge, Jesuit Church, the old town square, Musegg City Towers and Wall) and save anything we missed (e.g. Lion monument) on the last morning before we head to Interlaken. But, maybe that is too rushed?
4.) Are there any walks/hikes that you might recommend skipping due to the crowds, or advice on how to avoid the less crowded times of day? I had Mannlichen to KS on my list but heard some reports that they were too crowded to be enjoyable. Also was concerned about First to Lake Bashalpsee for the same reason. We could try to wake up early and do them first thing in the morning, or potentially late in the afternoon. Having said that, it doesn't make sense to spend a day walking on a crowded trail when there are so many other beautiful areas to explore.
5.) Brienzer Rothorn- is this overrated? We definitely plan to do Schynigge Platte. I have heard reports of the long waiting times and crowds. This is included in our BO Regional pass though, which is why I had wanted to do this.
6.) Half board option for dinner? While in Wengen, we will be staying at Hotel Baren, and they have a half board option for 3 course meal for 45 CHF. This seems appealing as then we don't have to worry about dinners (and will be likely cheaper than eating off regular menu), but then again it might be nice to be able to go out and eat at different restaurants.
7.) How important is learning common German/Swiss phrases before we go?
Thanks in advance for any advice you may have! We are super excited about our upcoming trip to Switzerland.