My family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children ages 12 and ) will be traveling to the French Alps this summer at the end of July. I was wanting to advice on renting a car vs taking the train. We are planning on flying into Geneva. I am thinking right now that we want to stay in Annecy and then Chamonix. Any advice on hotels,how much time in each city, etc would be greatly appreciated.
I highly recommend Hotel De L'Arve in Chamonix. It is a good value. We stayed there in 2001 and 2008. It is clean, comfortable, and well located for walking to everything in town. http://www.hotelarve-chamonix.com/en/ In 2003, we stayed at Hotel Richmond. It was ok, but not as good of a value. We were in Annecy last year. Our hotel was fine for us, but would hesitate to recommend it as it was older and had nothing to recommend it as a GREAT choice. As for time in each place... For us, 3 nights, 2 full days is a minimum in Chamonix. Last year we had 2 nights, 1 and half days in Annecy and I would have liked another full day. I will add that we are hikers, so we could spend many days in each town enjoying the outdoor activities. I would read up on the activities in each place and decide how much time you need. One thing about renting a car in Geneva. You will need to buy a yearly pass to drive in Switzerland, It can seem expensive if all you are doing is driving across the border, but don't drive in Switzerland without it. You might check with the rental company to see if the car comes with it if you rent in Switzerland.
We've been to Chamonix twice. Stayed at Hotel de L'Arve first time, not a fan. Second time we stayed at Le Morgane Hotel and loved it. Don't know what your budget is though. Two to three nights in Chamonix is a good amount of time, it all depends on what you want to do. We love going to the top of Mt. Blanc, renting bikes and riding along the river, doing the summer luge, walking around town and exploring. Need 3 nights for all that.
Connie and Susan gave good advise. For the money, Hotel L'Arve, Chamonix,worked well enough that we are staying again this year. We will arrive in Geneva in latter part of July as well, from Berner Oberland. We are renting a car, and when/if you do, request pickup from French side of Geneva Airport, to avoid a service charge for dropping off in another country. Europcar has an office downtown Geneva, but that is considered Switzerland. Love Annecy, but only visited, didn't spend the night.
The Ibis in Annecy is fine for the money. I do not recommend the Ibis Styles in Annecy, however.
The Alexandra Hotel in Annecy is very good. And friends stayed at the Hotel du Chateau and liked it.
We stayed in the Best Western in Annecy. Nice hotel; reasonable, across from the lake, in old town. Very nice. Happy Travel. Devra
My family of 4 (kids 8 and 11) visited the French Alps in 2008. We flew out of Geneva afterwards. We returned our car to the French side of the airport as mentioned earlier to avoid extra fees. We spent some time in town and didn't enjoy it very much. We spent some time hiking and loved it! The trails were pointed out to us by some French tourists who visit often. I agree with Rick - time in the alps should be spent on the mountain - not in town. Make sure you have Raclette at least once. Enjoy!
Just to clarify. If you rent a car in Switzerland it will most likely have the vignette. Also the vignette is only required for using motorways, not other roads. You can theoretically cross Switzerland without the need for a vignette if you avoid motorways.
As a side note, the controversial vignette was setup to tax transit traffic. After the Gotthard tunnel was opened in 1980, they quickly realized that most of the people transiting from Germany to Italy via Switzerland were not spending a dime on Swiss soil while using Swiss infrastructure.
How much time do you have total? I could see spending two full days in each city, if you really want to see the place. We had three nights in Annecy, arriving late the first evening. The first day we explored Annecy, the second we drove to Chamonix. We thought our time was a little short in each town. We were there in late April-early May, and that time of year the weather in the mountain heights around Chamonix was obviously cool, and uncertain. To get the greatest value in Chamonix, especially with a family, stay multiple days and get a gondola pass. The gondola rides are very expensive but a pass seems like a better deal if you have time. Driving into Chamonix was easy, driving into Annecy was a bit of a nightmare. If you do drive, make sure you get detailed instructions on where to park from your hotel. Hotels have deals with ed car parks for cheaper parking, but if you park in the wrong car park, you pay full rate. I would think in July parking would be more of a hassle that usual in Annecy, too. Depending upon where else you are going, train could be a good choice that time of year. I would also book way ahead for rooms.
We just returned from Annecy and stayed at the Ibis as we were travelling by train and it's just a couple blocks from the station. Everything we wanted to see and do there we were able to walk. Our room looked out on the water so we could watch the swans. Very simple; not luxury, but clean and good location. We also hired a driver / guide for a trip up into the Alps. Four of us with some mobility issues made it an excellent treat for us. Enjoy!