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Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland in 16 days

I am trying to plan a family trip with teenagers to Europe. After many hours of narrowing down what the family wants to see and do, I have come up with a tentative plan with help from the Rick Steve archives. I was wanting feedback from people who have done this before. Here is my plan: Day 1: (Travel day) • Fly into Frankfurt • Frankfurt to Bacharach Day 2: • Cruise Rhine • ½ day in Bacharach Day 3: • The Romantic Road bus tour to Munich (maybe visit Dachau on the way) Day 4: • Munich to Neuschwanstein castle • ½ day in Munich Day 5: • Day in Munich Day 6: • Munich to Salzberg • day in Salzberg Day 7 • Salzberg to Venice (train) • ½ day in Venice Day 8: • Day in Venice Day 9: • Venice to Florence • Spend day in Florence Day 10: • Florence to Pisa • Pisa to Vernazza • Spend ½ day in Vernazza Day 11: • Spend day in Cinque Terre Day 12: • Vernazza to Gimmelwald • ½ day in Gimmelwald Day 13: • Spend day in Gimmelwald Day 14: • Gimmelwald to Luzern • Spend day in Luzern Day 15: • Train from Luzern to Zurich • Spend ½ day in Zurich • Zurich to Frankfurt Airport Day 16 (travel day)
• Fly back home (maybe overnight flight) Basically we are interested in experiencing southern Germany/Austria, seeing castles, Dachau, Venice, Cinque Terre, and the Beauty of Switzerland. We aren't really museum people but wouldn't mind seeing a few. Is this itinerary OK? Would you change something? Thanks for your help.

Posted by
21641 posts

I don't know where to begin. It is exhausting to read. First recommendation cut it in half. You are spending most of your time in trains and trains station. Second - do open jaw into Frankfurt and home from Zurich. Why waste time and money return to Frankfurt? When we travel, as a min, we plan to lose a half day for each location change or more if travel time is more than a couple hours. I count ten maybe twelve changes which means you are losing five days or more just to checking in and out of hotels, finding trains, find trains, riding trains, finding new hotel, etc. You have 14 good days and with 40% of your time devoted to travel. You are correct in not wanting to see museum. You will not have the time. Have you looked at a map. You want to "experience ....". Hard to experience it when youi are flying past it, You have some huge distances that you think you will cover in less than half day. PS (EDIT) Did a little calculation of travel times. Still working a couple of routes. Have you up to 7 days of travel. That adds enormously to your trip budget with to show for it. If this is a narrowing down of your travel plans, I am curious about what you had initially planned.

Posted by
951 posts

Italy is a beast that must be done on its own or if you have a boat load of time, which you do not. I just recently spent 16 days in Italy alone and was exhausted and gave each city a fair enough time. I can not comment on Switzerland, as I have never been there. Italy is not meant to be whirled thru, so please consider that and just work with Germany, Austria, and if you must, Switzerland. I agree with Frank to fly into Frankfurt and out of Zurich.

Posted by
31433 posts

Eric, I have to agree with Frank. This is an exhausting Itinerary and IMHO is going to be difficult to achieve. If there's a "hitch" anywhere in the plans (ie: train strike or whatever), it will affect everything after that. If I read your Post correctly, you're planning to visit 10 different places in Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland in a time frame of 14-days. That's an average of one location every 1.4 days, with no allowances for travel times which on usually be at least a half day each! I'm not sure you'll have much time to enjoy "the beauty of Switzerland", Castles or even a few Museums, except through the window of a train. There would seem to be two logical choices: 1.) Increase the time and budget for your trip. 2.) Drop one or more of the places you listed above. What time of year were you planning on taking this trip? Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
31433 posts

@ Kelly, "Italy is a beast that must be done on its own" I've found that Italy CAN be incorporated into a multi-country trip, however good planning is necessary (I do that every year, and will again this year). Upon arrival in Italy, I like to slow down to "Italian speed" and savour the experience. Cheers!

Posted by
12911 posts

Eric, I will ask you the question I have asked before when I see an itinerary like this: When you go to a nice restaurant, do you order everything on the menu? That is what you are trying to do here, instead of making necessary and reasonable choices. Everything you list is great to see and well worth visiting-but not on one trip of 16 days! Just for starters, to travel from Vernazza to Gimmelwald takes a minimum of 9.5 hours, with lots of connections. That is a full day and more. You need to look at the train schedules at bahn.de and plug in travel times, then narrow down your itinerary. (FWIW, we limit our travel days to 3 or 4 hours.) And I believe that if a place is worth visiting, it is worth at least 2 nights-no one night stands.)

Posted by
58 posts

Hi Eric I agree with the above your doing too much traveling. I stay a min of two nights in one place. And keep my travel time to 3 hours or less. Will check train schdules to make sure how long it is from point a-b. I met a couple one time and they said they were going to alot of places. But they were not seeing much. They seamed tired because they were running all the time. They did not even have time to relax and join us for a nice dinner. Two nights at least gives you enough time to see most everything you want in that area, if not everything. Your staying in Bacharach. You can go visit Burg Eltz which is a wonderful castle in the middle of the forest. Real people lived in it, they had 4 familys that occupied it. From Munich you can take a day trip to Neuschwanstein castle, Dauchue and stay in your stay hotel. Plus there is a lot to see in Munich. If you like beer try there walking tour that takes you to pubs and try the differnt beers. There walking tour of Munich is also really good. You learn some history that you would not get with walking around on your own. Salzbury has plenty to see in a 2-3 day's full day's. Get the Salzbury Card, you get addmission to many places and public transportation is free. The TI office should be your first stop. You can also take a 4 hour tour to Eagles Nest. Gimmilwald is you have Shilthorn, and a lot of hiking trails. Great place to relax and unwind in the mountains. Plus you have Junfrau on the other side of the valley. Easy 3 night stay. Luzurn you can take a boat trip across the lake, take a fungular up the mountain. Explore the mountain and come back down the lift. Right there is a full day. I would look at going to 3 maybe 4 places only. Skip Italy all together. And go open jaw fly into Frankfurt and home from Zurich, Europe looks small but is much larger then you think. Good luck and have fun. Wendy

Posted by
7 posts

Glad I asked. Never have done a traveling trip like this. Usually spend a week in Mexico, Colorado, etc. Gonna rethink this and post again. On a side note, when I was looking at flights, it was a lot cheaper to do a round trip ($6000 vs $10000 for 4 people). That is why I went back to Frankfurt. Maybe I wasn't looking in the right place. Any hints on where to look for that?

Posted by
58 posts

Hi Eric. Prices change all the time for flights. Keep looking freqently. When you find a good price get it, might not be there the next day. How much would your train trip cost to get back to Frankfurt? Need to add that to the cost of your flight to get a true picture of getting there and back. Might be cheaper after adding that in to go open Jaw. Also time is money also. If your in Germany think of going to Rothenburg. This is on of my favorite places. Good luck
Wendy

Posted by
7 posts

I did see pictures of Rothenburg. Really cool. It is on the Romantic road I believe. Did you stay overnight there? I've been thinking about what to chop. Not easy... Munich and Venice are on the top of the list. Trying to figure where to go from there.

Posted by
524 posts

Eric What they said! It is very hard to cut down the number of places you want to go to. But as others have said, you won't have time to do or see anything with your current itiinerary. Here's a way to visually see exactly how the many desintations and the travel times will impact your time. Go to an online calendar web site (WinCalendar free for basic use), grab the month you are traveling. The squares (days) expand vertically so you can add as much as you want. first add your international travel dates and times. If you haven't booked them yet, do as suggested above and do open jaw tickets, in one city and out your last stop. take your current itinerary, use the research on the train times to plug in your travel times. BUT you need to include hotel to hotel times not just the travel times. Add the following together: hotel to train station, wait in the train station before departure, travel time, time to hotel. Almost always 1/2 day or more. Look at your actual time to be in the places you want to see. I also agree that 2 night minimum is key. As you said, you want to experience the places you want to visit. You have to stay long enough to do so. Recommend twice each day to pick a non - tourist cafe and stay an hour or so to watch the world go by. *Pick the places that take the longest to get to and maybe cut those out. Probably need to eliminate at least 3 places. Let us know if you make any changes. Bobbie

Posted by
21641 posts

ERIC We almost always do open jaws. I have never found it more expensive and sometimes cheaper. I just used 16 days in September. The price for RT from Houston to Frankfurt was $1150/person. An open jaw into Frankfurt and home from Zurich was $1078. A savings of $72/person. That was on Delta. That was just a quick shot. Probably could do better with a little more work. Beginning to think you really haven't done much homework.

Posted by
31433 posts

Eric, I have a few more comments to add..... For checking flights options, you could have a look at This Website or the other "usual" sites such as Kayak or Expedia. I usually double-check using the airline websites. Is there any possibility you could add a few more days (considering the distance you'll be travelling)? One way to start paring the number of places down, is to list them in order of most important to least important (you'll probably have to get a consensus from your group on that, as everyone will have different ideas on which places are "most important"). That should make it a bit easier to decide which places to drop. It's important to consider how well the places you choose fit into the overall route in terms of "ease of travel". If you haven't been to Europe before, I'd highly recommend that ALL members of your group read Europe Through The Back Door prior to the trip (especially the "Rail Skills" chapter). That provides lots of great information on how to travel well in Europe, and will minimize the "culture shock" of the differences you'll encounter. You might also check your local Library for copies of the country-specific books, as they have lots of details on sightseeing, Hotels, restaurants, etc. Continued in Part 2....

Posted by
31433 posts

Eric - Part 2.... I might structure the trip along these lines... > Day 1: Flight to Frankfurt > Day 2: Arrive Frankfurt - take train from airport Regional Bhf to Bacharach (trip is ~1H - usually one change in Bingen). Note there are 2 stations at the airport. > Day 3: Bacharach - short cruise from Bacharach to St. Goar - return by train - possibly hike up to Burg Stahleck for a "cool one" when you get back(fantastic views). > Day 4: Train to Munich - Least complicated is a train departing at 09:30, arriving 14:16 (Time 4H:46M, 1 change in Bingen). As I recall, the station in Bingen has two parts ( Lee or one of the others can confirm that) - you'll only have time for a brief look around Munich on the travel day. > Day 5: Munich (perhaps a walking tour - check This Website for details. > Day 6: Munich - day trip to Neuschwanstein - you can either make reservations yourself for the Castle tour and your own travel arrangements OR take a guided tour (see previous website link). > Day 7: Munich - day trip to EITHER Dachau OR Salzburg (IMO, you don't have time for both). If you need to arrange rail tickets, you might try Euraide in the Munich station, as they're really easy to deal with and agents speak English. > Day 8: Train to Florence - the train I'd use on that route departs at 09:31, arriving at 17:15 (Time 7H:44M, 1 change in Bologna). IMO, although Venice is a great place, I'd drop it as it doesn't fit as well with the overall route. > Day 9: Florence - tour Uffizi or Accademia (pre-book reservations - check Guidebook for details). > Day 10: Florence Continued.....

Posted by
31433 posts

Eric - last part.... > Day 11: Train to Vernazza - consider train departing at 09:53, arriving 13:37 (Time 3H:44M, 1 change at La Spezia Centrale). IMO, you don't have time for Pisa. > Day 12: Vernazza - hike the trails, relax and enjoy the ambience. > Day 13: Train to Lucerne - the easiest route might be a train departing at 07:32, arriving at 14:41 (TIME 7H:09M, 4 changes at Sestri Levante, Genova Piazza Principe, Milano Centrale and Arth-Goldau). > Day 14: Lucerne - you could visit the excellent Museum of Transport or the famous "Lion of Lucerne". A walking tour is offered by the T.I., which is in the rail station. > Day 15: Lucerne - perhaps a day trip on the lake or to Mt. Pilatus? Unfortunately, as someone else mentioned, the travel time from Vernazza to Gimmelwald is somewhat longer. Also, I don't believe there's really any time to fit this in. As Rick often says, "assume you will return". > Day 16: Train to Airport. Two choices to consider, depending on what you find with the flight searches. If you booked a late afternoon flight, you could travel from Lucerne to Frankfurt Airport. There's a train departing 07:54, arriving 12:06 (Time 4H:12M, 1 change at Basel). You could also take a train to the Zurich Airport. For example, a train departing at 10:10, arriving at 11:13 (Time 1H:03M, no changes). Whichever option you choose, I'd allow at least four hours between arrival at the airport and your flight departure time. These suggestions are only one possible way this trip could be structured. Train times are of course subject to change. Some trains have compulsory reservations, but these will be included if you're buying P-P tickets. Lee or the others can provide information on how to obtain discount tickets for your group, especially in Germany. Cheers!

Posted by
813 posts

Just to add to the concept of possible travel time.......we went skiing in January in Austria. Trip time on mapquest 3h10min. Took 7.5hrs to drive home. At one point, we only went 10km in 2 hrs. We hit two areas of traffic and a few construction areas. This was on a Saturday, not a holiday of any kind. Weather was not a concern either, roads were clear. Your Bacharach to Munich by bus is mapquested at 4h15min. Given buses have speed limitations, the drivers have required rest times, traffic, etc. It's going to take you minimum 6hrs in my opinion, probably longer. As others have said spend more time in less places.

Posted by
12040 posts

The others all make good points, so I would reiterate what they have written. But an additional point. Weather in the Alps can be extremely tempermental. You might have a beautiful blue sky, or you might have thick fog and rain with 20 feet of visibility. That's why it's best to schedule at least a few days at one alpine destination. It maximized your chances of taking in those postcard views you'll always dreamed of.

Posted by
12911 posts

"I've been thinking about what to chop. Not easy... Munich and Venice are on the top of the list. Trying to figure where to go from there." The problem I saw was that you are going too far south into Italy, to include Cinque Terre. I suggest that is what you chop. Instead, from Venice, go Verona-Luzern-Gimmelwald-Zurich. (Verona to Luzern is via Milan, and there may be discounted tickets available for that portion.) With 2 nights at Verona, you could spend a day visiting close-by Lago di Garda, with Sirmione (Roman villa, 13th century castle, graet hiking and windsurfing at the upper end of the lake at Malcescine and Monte Baldo). With 2 nights at Luzern, you could do a day trip up either Mt. Pilatus (ropes course and Rodelbahn at the top) or Mt. Rigi (great hiking). Either would involve a lakeboat trip as well. Luzern is a lovely town on its own, and the lake is beautiful. The trip from there to Gimmelwald is fun as well as very scenic. Spend at least 2 nights at Gimmelwald (or Muerren nearby for more lodging choices). Three would be better to give you a better chance of good weather. If you haven't already bought your flight tickets, fly open jaws into Frankfurt and out of Zurich.

Posted by
5483 posts

Consider dropping: Florence (It's about museums. It's a zoo in summer.) Romantic Road bus tour (slow, boring, no time to speak of in towns. But do visit Rothenburg and Würzburg's Residenz Palace - stop there - there are lockers - on way to R'burg.) Take train to Munich after R'burg instead. Neuschwanstein (also a zoo, just not worth the time and trouble. See authentic 800+-year-old castles in Rhine region instead - Burg Eltz or Marksburg. A cruise from Bacharach at 10:15 drops you in Braubach at 12:20 - then tour Marksburg at 1:00 - www.marksburg.de ) Zurich (mostly pretty dull.) Also consider: 2 nights each in Rothenburg (to see Residenz and W'burg first) and Salzburg (part of one day isn't quite enough. Relax.) See Switzerland before Italy, fly back to Frankfurt to save time. Gimmelwald's hard to reach and isolated. Lauterbrunnen might work - gorgeous there.

Posted by
7 posts

Alright, how about this? Bacharach - 2 days Rothenburg- 2 days Munich- 5 days Salzburg- 3 days
Venice- 3 days Since Munich and Venice were the needs, I had to work around that. Both Lucern and Venice ended up being about the same amount of travel so Venice won out on that decision. Have to do Switzerland and cinque Terre some other time. Salzburg kinda fits in the middle there. Question is, do I backtrack to Munich and fly out of the intl airport or fly out of Venice?

Posted by
5483 posts

That looks very doable. I would transfer a day to Bacharach from Munich or maybe a day from Salzburg, depending on what daytrips you have planned from Munich. It takes some time and effort for most people to adjust their biological clocks, and you'd get more out of your stay in Bacharach that way. On one day, you'd probably enjoy a train trip along the Mosel River to visit some towns there too: http://www.mosel-reisefuehrer.de/moselhighengl/moselhighlightsengl.html The falconry show at Cochem's castle is terrific: http://www.falknerei-reichsburg-cochem.de/fotobuch.htm Transportation: Railpassess and tickets would be pricey. Go with the regional and national daypasses for 2-5 people. Train outings from Bacharach: "Rheinland-Pfalz Ticket", 30 Euros total for 4 Bacharach to Rothenburg: On Sat or Sun on a "Happy Weekend" ticket: 39 Euros for all; on a weekday on a "Quer durchs Land" Ticket after 9 am, 42 Euros total. Outings from R'burg or Munich, from R'burg to Munich, and from Munich to Salzburg: Bayern ticket, 29 Euros total. The BT is good for transport inside Munich too. Salzburg to Italy: ? You can get from Munich to Venice on advance-sale tix for specific trains, 156 Euros (Europa-Spezial Italien tickets) for 4 adults. But you must try early (available 92 days out) to get them and there are penalties for changes/refunds. http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en

Posted by
690 posts

Great job narrowing down your itinerary. It pays to listen to the advice on this board. Whether you go back to Munich to fly out could depend on whether you have a car. It's very expensive to rent in one country and drop in another. You won't need the car in Venice so I hope you are taking the train. Fly out of Venice rather than go back to Munich. It's a big international airport with very good transportation options to and from the city. Enjoy your much saner holiday!

Posted by
21641 posts

Why have the expense of back tracking? Do an open jaw ticket. It is always the easier thing and cheaper when you add in the cost of the backtracking to your starting point.

Posted by
951 posts

Such a better plan. And try to fly out of Venice if possible.

Posted by
58 posts

Hi Eric Nice job on cutting your trip down. It does not tire me out just reading it like the original plan. I do question your choice about going to Venice. By train it is about a 6 hour trip, that is just the train ride. And it does not look like air is any quicker. You could take the over night train, Leaving at 8pm, arriving at 6:40 am. but costs $244. a ticket. If you still feel you must visit Venice then fly out of there home. You also asked if I have stayed over night in Rothenburg. I have on 3 trips now. It's a nice town to roam around after all the tour busses leave. We also hiked down to the valley and the mayors home. We did it the wrong day and the house was closed but a nice trip. I think you can even rent bikes to ride to take down there. There is a small village with a nice church down there that you can visit. I do not remember the hotel name, but my favorite was the Rumplskillson theme out of Ricks book. If nothing else stop by for dinner the place is really interesting. Have fun Wendy