I need your help. As a result of my work and extensive US Travel, I have accumulated enough "points" to take my wife and two children17 year Senior High School daughter and 20 year old college sophomore son to Europe this Summer. We have cruised in EuropeBaltic and Mediterranean on three occasions and this year we want to see Paris, Munich, Lucern, Interlochen, etc. Our currently planned dates of travel are from July 26th through August 11th. Each child, of course, wants to bring a friend which is fine. Both children have toured Europe on school trips. I plan to stay at Marriott brand hotels where possible. Also plan to take the TVG from Paris to Basel Switzerland (or to Munich if it goes there) where we'll rent a car and make our German/Swiss loop. Your thoughts as to how you'd plan the itinerary? Thanks for respondingA few years ago we went to Rome and someone suggested that we tour the catacombs beneath the Vatican which required more preparation that just showing up. I'm interested in learning as much about the regions as possible. Again, thanks.
Robert What a great opportunity to travel with your family! And to take other kids! Kudos. Now for the logistics and reality. Do you already have your flights? If not, first thing to do is immediately check availability of flights using your Frequest Flyer points. They go fast! Then book whatever you can based on availability. I would also just check in general about availability of Marriott hotel rooms within your dates. My guess is that you will want a parents room, girls room and boys room. If you don't have enough Marriott points (or they don't have enough rooms with points), Marriotts are very expensive in Europe. $500 + in some cases. Keep your destinations in as tight a loop as you can. Moving from one place to the next is expensive and time consuming (at least 1/2 day and usually more). Really. Spend enough time in one area to really get a feel for it; at least 2 nights and more is better. Kids tend to want to go, go, go and you don't want to spend all your time on the train! I am also concerned about the size car you will need for 6 adult size people. At least a mini van and I am not sure that will even work with all the luggage. As you know, European cars are soooo small. Do you have a copy of Europe throught the Back Door a Rick Steve Primer? Great help even when you have been before. Hope I am wrong on the flights and hotels and they are readily available for your dates! Act now! Even if the other kids aren't ready. You will have a fantastic time! Bobbie
Robert, If I'm reading your plans correctly, your trip is 17-days total, which will provide 15 days for "touring". With such a short time frame, precise planning will be important! Using open-jaw flights would absolutely be the most efficient travel method (if your points will allow). The route I'd use for the locations you mentioned is Paris > Interlaken > Lucerne > Munich. Are you planning to stay in Interlaken, or venture into the Lauterbrunnen Valley? Note that there are no Marriott Hotels in either Interlaken or the Lauterbrunnen Valley, so you might check the Switzerland Guidebook for alternatives. Were you planning to rent a car in Switzerland and drop-off in Munich? It's important to note that renting a vehicle in one country and dropping it off in another usually comes with a substantial charge! Travel by train is often faster and a more efficient use of travel time. Having a car in the cities is somewhat of a nuisance. Finally, even if it's not mandatory it would probably be a good idea to have an International Driver's Permit. For travel at that time of year, pre-booking all accommodations would be a really good idea! Good luck with your planning!
Keep in mind that August is a big vacation month for Europeans, so some places may be even more crowded than usual. If you're planning on visiting/staying in cities such as Lucerne and Interlochen, then taking the train may make more sense than finding a vehicle large enough for 6 adults and their luggage. If you plan on visiting or staying in more rural areas, then a car makes more sense. Also note that assuming you have 15 days "on the ground," and you've already mentioned four cities, plus "etc." Don't pick so many destinations that you spend too much of your time traveling in between them. In terms of planning the itinerary, poll all of the adults traveling, and see what they would like to see in the cities you mentioned. If the younger adults want to enjoy the nightlife in the bigger cities, then you may end up spending more time there, and less time in Lucern, Interlochen. Or if you all want to hike, then less time in the big cities, and plan time south of Lucerne and/or Interlochen. Or better in terms of travel time, go to the mountains of Bavaria, closer to Munich. Use the German rail website (http://www.bahn.com/i/view/index.shtml) for train times, prices and destinations; it works very well even for other countries. It indicates that TGV (plus other trains) Paris - Munich takes almost 8 hours (Paris - Basel is 3 hours via TGV). Seriously consider flying that portion of your trip, using a cheap European carrier. Enjoy!
"plan to take the TVG from Paris to Basel Switzerland (or to Munich if it goes there)" Yes, the TGV goes from Paris to Munich, in 6h11m. There is also a direct ICE from Paris to Munich and combination TGV/ICE connections via Mannheim or Stuttgart are a few minutes faster. Overall, it might be faster by train since the trip into Munich Hbf after landing at MUC takes almost an hour (including getting to the S-Bahn station). Since you have a few days in Paris and can plan to make any train to Munich, you can advance purchase Europe-Spezial tickets from the Bahn before going over starting at €39/p. For your stay in Bavaria, you can get to almost everywhere people go to by using Bayern-Tickets. The basic Bayern-Ticket is €29 for all day on/off travel on regional trains for up to 5 people. A single person Bayern-Ticket is €21, so one of each will cost €50 and cover all six people (€8,33/person for a whole day). If you don't plan on any unusual stops between Munich and Luzern, you can get more Europa-Spezial tickets, again starting at €39/p.
About 18 months ago we did Vienna, Salzburg, Murren Switzerland, Fussen Germany and Paris in 3 weeks. We had 5 people including 2 teenagers and prefer having more room so we use VRBO whenever possible. We had an apartment in Paris near the Eiffel tower and one in Salzburg. Both of these were great. In Murren Chalet Fontana (in the RS book) has an apartment wich would probably fit your group. We did not rent a car in Switzerland because we just hiked in the Lauterbrunen Valley and had no use for one. We did rent one for the 4 days in Fussen which is a must to be able to see all the castles and countryside. My wife is not thrilled with big cities so we stayed in Fussen and did a day trip to Munich and the Dachau Concentration Camp. Looking back we would have spent more time hiking in the Swiss alps and less time in Southern Germany. The 6 full days we had in Paris was good. Have a great time