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Trip to Europe

My family and I (wife and two children; one male 18 and one female 15) are planning a trip to Europe. We are planning to fly out from Dallas/Fort Worth on July 2, 2007 and fly back home on July 15th or 16th. We were thinking of flying to Zurich and use the Eurail passes for four countries; Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany. From Zurich, if we arrive in the morning, I was thinking that we could go by train to Interlaken and stay at a Hostel there for two nights (July 3 & 4). From there we were hoping to go to Milano on the 5th and spend two nights at a hostel there (5 and 6). Is it possible to travel from Interlaken to Milano in a couple of hours or is that a whole day? We would travel to Florence on the 7th and spend the 7th and 8th in Florence and then travel on the 9th to Venice and spend the nights of the 9th and 10th in Venice and on the 11th travel to Innsbruck (we noticed that it is about 380 Kilometers from Venice to Innsbruck, would that be an all day travel by train?). We would then spend the nights of the 11th, 12th and 13th in Innsbruck and on the 14th travel to Munich and spend the 14th and 15th there and leave back to the states on the 16th.

The question is this a doable trip or do we need to scale back on the cities? Should we cut out Florence? The more important question is can we do all this with a budget of $6,000.00, not including the flights, since I have enough frequent flyer miles for our four tickets?

This is our first trip to Europe as a family so as you can tell I do not know the ins-and-outs of the train system in Europe.

Thank you for any travel information and recommendations you can provide.

Moises Rodriguez,
Fort Worth, Texas

Posted by
1506 posts

You might get the best answers to your Italian Train questions on the Italian (The Boot) Board. You can check schedules but not fares for trains around Europe on the Die Bahn (German Train website)

The website sometimes prefers the Germany spelling of place names: Venezia, Innsbrueck, Firenze.

It takes 5-7 hours between Venezia and Innsbrück.

Florence (Firenze) is most out of the way but still my favorite city in Italy. But, that is just my personal tastes. I might be more tempted to cut my time in Innsbrück.

Expenses: We are doing 14 days in southern Germany for about $5000 for ourselves and two older children. But, I suspect that some places like Venice will be a lot more expensive than the type of places that we will be staying. You can only cost out the places against your tastes on line to tell what it will cost.

I like Hotel Reservation service to research hotels and they even seem to beat the price at the hotel's own website:

Rick Steve's books have given me good hotel recommendations as well.

Good luck, it sound like a great trip.


Posted by
191 posts

I definitely think this trip is doable and on your budget especially if your staying in hostels.

To check out train times and cost for italy check out, you can book your tickets through this site or just check times, if your coming from another country or going to another country from italy make sure to select the international tab when looking up train times.

I also have a recommendation for a hostel in venice the name is Alloggi Gerotto Calderan the website is this place is great easy to find right near the train station and more like a hotel than a hostel you may even be able to get a private room for your family for a great deal. Also for the dates your going make sure to book a couple months ahead.

Venice will probably be the only place that may break the budget so just be careful and you shoud be fine!

Posted by
16919 posts

You can also use the Swiss website to check schedules:

Interlaken to Milan is only 4 hours 10 minutes; you change trains once or twice (Spiez and Brig).

I'm not sure about 2 nights in MIlan---there are better places to spend your time in Italy, I would think. You could, for example, travel an hour or so past Milan and be at Lake Como. Or add a night to Florence or Venice.

As for your first day---trains leave right fromthe Zurich airport. There is one departure per hour that will take you directly to Interlaken i about 2 hours. Other departures require a change at the main Zurich station, but that is quite easy.

Expenses---our last 2-week trip to Europe (Switzerland) with 2 teenagers cost about $320 per day for the four of us. We stayed in nice 3-star hotels, and ate in nice restaurants. But we did not travel around or as far as you did. So your budgeet is probably fine. Venice may well be the most expensive part.

Posted by
9109 posts

If you miss the the direct to from Zurich Airport to Interlaken, you can also take a train to Bern and transfer there for Interlaken. Getting to Milan from Interlaken is quite easy; take a local train to the other end of the lake at Spiez and transfer there for the high speed trains direct to Milan. Total travel time is about 3.5 hours.

Posted by
16 posts

I was in Italy in May (including Florence and Venice, but we did not make it to Milan). 2 nights each in Florence and Venice is sufficient based on my experience. Be sure to arrange for tickets to the Ufizzi Gallery (Florence) in advance or you'll wait in a ridiculously long line! (See Rick Steves posting at

Also, the one word you want to know relating to Italian train travel is "sciopero" which means train strike. Strikes are frequent but do not last very long usually, and since you're not taking an overnight train in Italy you'll probably be okay - a few slower trains sometimes continue going for shorter trips. On our trip we had to find a place in Naples last minute due to a train strike that caused our overnight from Naples to Venice to be cancelled. It actually turned out to be the nicest hotel we stayed at on our trip.

Posted by
1717 posts

I think you are going to the best countries in Europe, and your direction of travel is good. I guess your family could do the trip for less than $ 6000. I suggest these changes : I would subtract the two nights at Milano. Travel from Interlaken to Florence in one day. Subtract the three nights in Innsbrook. Subtract one of the nights in Munich.
Add one extra night at Interlaken (or at Gimmelwald or Lauterbrunnen or Stechelberg). Staying three nights, not two nights at your first destination is important. Someone in your family might need to sleep during the day on your second day in Europe, because of the night flight from the U.S.A. Recovering from the night flight, and getting adjusted to the different time zone takes time. And you will want to be at that Berner Oberland region (near Interlaken) in Switzerland for more than one whole day. Rick Steves suggests being one day at each side of the Lauterbrunnen valley. Add one night in Florence. (Florence deserves two days. Or, if one day in Florence is enough, on the second day go on a day trip from Florence to a hill town in Tuscany. Add two nights : Reutte in Austria. (travel from Venice to Reutte). Reutte is very near the border of Bavaria in Germany. The next day ride in a bus from Reutte to the ticket office for Neuschvonstein (Castle of King Ludwig 2 of Bavaria). Visit Neuschvonstein that day. You might have time to also visit King Ludwig's other castle (it is on the opposite side of the road). Inquire about the possibility of reserving your tickets for Neuschvonstein an earlier day. A specific time for beginning the cstle tour will be printed on your ticket. In my opinion, an English language tour in Neuschvonstein is not necessary. A German language tour is good enough. And German people in your group could talk to you in English. I can not imagine going on a vacation trip to Bavaria, and not going to Neuschvonstein. Add two nights at Salzburg in Austria.

Posted by
4 posts

I note that you are planning to use frequent flyer points for your trip in July. I assume you already have those tickets. My experience has been that you must start about 300 days ahead to get seats to Europe, and that is for shoulder or off season. You probably are aware of this, but if not just wanted to alert you to not make other plans until that is settled. However, does sound like a great trip!

Posted by
1890 posts

Just a quick note. The train at Zurich airport is actually across the street from the airport terminal, not in the airport as someone else posted.

I was just there last October. Get to baggage claim, then walk across the street to the train station to get your tickets and board the train.

also, make sure when you read the train schedule that you do not get on any train sitting on your track. Make sure you are not 'early" the trains in Switzerland leave on time. if you board a train, make sure to read the signs carefully for departure time.

And, I also agree, skip Milan, and go to Florence instead. There is much more to see in Florence. Milan is fun, but more industrial and fashion. Florence is also a great place to base from to see Pisa!! It's only 45 min by train and a great day trip. You have to climb the tower with the kids!!

Posted by
1358 posts

I read that it is 182 miles from Interlaken to Milano so you can guess it will take 4 hours minimum whatever method of travel you choose. Even if you fly.

Posted by
683 posts

We would advise to eliminate any stay in Milano. It is a waste. There is one good sight there-- the Duomo or Cathedral. There are hundreds of spires on its roof. Other than that, Milano is without much charm at all, It is a commercial and banking center.
Firenze (Florence) is a lovely city and should remain on your itinerary.

Posted by
50 posts

You might also consider taking night trains to cover the longer distances. You could share a couchette and essentially kill two birds with one stone...getting from point A to point B and getting some sleep! It is advisable to make reservations for the night trains as they are usually booked, especially in high season. Have a wonderful trip!