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help with family trip

Hi Everyone! I am planning a summer trip for my husband and two adult children (18 and 23) and myself. We have a total of 19 days. Our plan is to fly into Rome and spend 4 nights there, then train to Venice and spend 3 nights - we also want to visit Switzerland and possibly Neuschwanstien castle, but I can't figure out the best route for this. We will not have a car so only train travel. We want to stay in the Lauterbrunnen area and maybe Lucerne for a few days. We can fly out of Zurich or Frankfurt....does anyone have a good route to see all these areas? We don't like to spend less than two days anywhere.
Thanks for any help and insight into this trip. I have not been to any of these places before and it is kind of overwhelming trying to figure it all out.

Posted by
79 posts

Donna - I can tell you about Rome and Venice, since I have done that part. In Venice please do not miss a visit to Murano island where you will find the best glassmakers. I must add that you might want to spend some time in Florence as well - it is a really beautiful place. Tuscany is close and day trips into the wine country are possible from Florence. Four days in Rome is sufficient - the trains are great as well. Do be careful of the pickpockets specially in Rome. All great sights in Rome are virtually walkable, so enjoy yourselves.

Posted by
79 posts

Donna - I can tell you about Rome and Venice, since I have done that part. In Venice please do not miss a visit to Murano island where you will find the best glassmakers. I must add that you might want to spend some time in Florence as well - it is a really beautiful place. Tuscany is close and day trips into the wine country are possible from Florence. Four days in Rome is sufficient - the trains are great as well. Do be careful of the pickpockets specially in Rome. All great sights in Rome are virtually walkable, so enjoy yourselves.

Posted by
31524 posts

Donna, First of all, does the 19-days include your two flight days (ie: you may only have 17-days for actual "touring")? Using open-jaw flights (which is what you're proposing) is absolutely the best idea. In this case, inbound Rome and outbound Zürich would work well. In the same situation, I'd probably look at a route like along these lines... > Rome - 4 nights Train to Venice - ~3H:45M > Venice - 3 nights Train to Munich - ~7H:35M, 1 change in Verona > Munich 4 nights - day trip to Neuschwanstein either on your own or with Radius Tours (Note that reservations required for Castle tour) - trip to Dachau if you're interested - you may want to visit the Deutsches Museum, as there are 16 kM of exhibits which take some time to see - With 4 nights, you'll have time to not only see Munich but also take day trips - Salzburg is one possibility, or you could go to Berchtesgaden and tour a Salt Mine, the Dokumentation Centre and Bunkers or the Eagle's Nest. Train to Lucerne - ~6H:50M with perhaps 2 changes > Lucerne - 3 nights Train to Lauterbrunnen via Interlaken Ost - ~2H:00M direct or with one change > Lauterbrunnen / Berner Oberland - 4 nights (I suggested 4 nights, as it will allow some day touring to the Schilthorn or Jungfrau, hiking and just enjoying the area). Train to Zurich Airport - ~2H:20M with one or two changes If your flight home from Zurich is booked in the early afternoon, you could travel directly from Interlaken Ost. If the flight is early in the morning, you may want to spend the last night in Zurich. I'd have to spend some time with your Itinerary to work out more precise details, but this will provide some ideas. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks Deb and Ken! Yes, we are planning on Murano during our time in Venice - thank you - cant wait! Ken, I like your ideas....I was wondering if it was better to go to Germany before Switzerland or vice versa...part of the issue being big cities vs. littler towns and mixing up hiking and city sites so we don't get to burned out on either. Truthfully, we are less city, museum people and more outdoor country people, so I really think we are going to LOVE Switzerland. My other thought was to possibly rent a car in Germany....though I am a little uncomfortable with this...so we could do the small towns there and also see the N. castle. I really have not researched Munich at all....but I know it is a big city, so 4 nights there might be a lot right after Rome and Venice. I have checked flights from Zurich and they only have morning flights, so we would probably have to stay the night there. It is a total of 19 days...17 days and 2 travel days...wish it could be longer. Thanks again for your help...I am going crazy trying to figure this out.
Donna

Posted by
3004 posts

Munich is a big city but the part of the city you'd be seeing doesn't feel "big". There's no skyscrapers, no rush of businesspeople or any of that, and the inner city/old town is largely car-free. Also there's the huge and beautiful English Garden (think: central park) at one edge. So I wouldn't cross Munich off necessarily if you're worried about it feeling too "urban" - a lot of it doesn't.

Posted by
18 posts

Donna, That itinerary Ken suggested sounded great, but I would go for more Switzerland and skip or minimize the time in Munich. While you're in the Berner Oberland/Lauterbrunnen area, there are castles to see, though not as famous as Neuschwanstein. Both Thun and Spiez right on Lake Thun and are well worth visits. Thun is probably more official, presiding over the town. Spiez is right on the lake and a bit more homey, with its gracious but ancient period rooms. When we visited it, we were staying on the Beatenberg, across the lake and took the cable lift down to the lake, the the lake steamer across to the dock right in front of the castle, rather unique modes of travel for us. Another excursion we particularly enjoyed was the small railway up the distinctive Nissan (I hope I'm spelling it right!), and as mentioned before the lift up the Schilthorn gives a very dramatic and beautiful trip and stops at the famed Gimmelwald for a wonderful stroll through a cute hamlet and flowery meadows. The Ballenberg open air museum by Berne offers a wonderful view of Swiss houses of different types and times, in rolling hills which also give a good half day's walk. Also, if you're flying out of Zurich, you might want to consider spending the night before in Lucern's beautiful old section, where it's great to zigzag back and forth across the old bridges on your last night in Europe. Have a wonderful time, however you divide it!

Posted by
5615 posts

Donna writes, "Truthfully, we are less city, museum people and more outdoor country people, so I really think we are going to LOVE Switzerland." Probably. You will have your fill of museums and cities in Italy. Laurel writes, "I would go for more Switzerland and skip or minimize the time in Munich." Probably good advice. Germany has terrific rural destinations too. Here's an idea for you. Rome (4), Venice (3) Fly Venice to Frankfurt Hahn. Ryanair tix are 30-50€ (!) on many days right now. Hahn is in the middle of the Rhine/Mosel region where you'll find Germany's best collection of real castles that have stood for centuries, much more interesting than overtouristed N'stein, which isn't really a castle anyway: http://www.burg-eltz.de http://www.marksburg.de http://www.st-goar.de/17-1-.html http://www.burg-cochem.de/ (great falconry show too) This area is great for easy biking or hiking too. Stay in St. Goar or Cochem (3-4) Then spend the rest of your time in Switzerland. From St. Goar, advance-sale tickets are available for 39€ each to Bern at www.bahn.de .

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks Laurel and Russ - I am now more confused than ever...lol. Laurel we will be sure to take your suggestions - they sound amazing. I looked them up in RS book and can't wait! Russ - that sounds like an excellent plan...but dear hubby WILL NOT fly Ryanair - he is crazy scared of small planes...and after years of fighting with him, and being stranded at an airport because he has refused to get on the plane....I no longer book anything tinier than 3 seats on each side of the aisle. I did buy the RS Germany book yesterday and REALLY like the Rhine/Mosel area that you are suggesting. Do you think there is any timely method of adding this to our trip through train travel? Our areas of interest are Rome, Venice, Berner Oberland, Lucerne and possibly Fuessen, Rothenburg and the Rhine area. I am thinking we need to cut some out or it will be too crazy....it is just so hard when you want to see it all.
Thanks for all you help :)

Posted by
31524 posts

Donna, I chose that particular route, as the transportation links were all reasonably easy. My preference would still be to stick with the Venice > Munich > Switzerland route, as it seems more "workable" to me. As the reply from Sarah indicated, while Munich is a large city it doesn't feel like it in many ways. It's very walkable and just has great ambience (IMO). If you'll be getting out of Munich for day trips, you'll be able to choose areas which are less "city". The trip to Füssen (Neuschwanstein) should be very pleasant, and of course you could also go to Berchtesgaden which is a small alpine town. I have to agree with your husband on the topic of flying with RyanAir. They're not my preferred budget airline in Europe, but for other reasons than aircraft size. Incidentally, I believe they use 737 aircraft exclusively, so they're not exactly "small". However, passengers are usually packed in like sardines, so they can "feel" small. The Itinerary I suggested seems to cover what you're looking for. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
8185 posts

Ryan Air planes are the same size planes as what all the other airlines use. They aren't little planes. I haven't found the seating to be any smaller or more cramped either. Considering they just do short flights, mostly under 2 hours, it really wouldn't matter though if they did. I have been comfortable the couple of times I have flown with them. If you want an English speaking country, consider Ryan Air to Edinburgh. Uses the same airport as other airlines. Great city to visit.

Posted by
8885 posts

I can't really add anything except to mention that driving in Germany is very easy. If you wanted to have a car for a few days to maximize your ability to see more small towns you should consider it. Note : Most cars are manual transmission. Automatics can be difficult to find and cost more.

Posted by
5615 posts

"I no longer book anything tinier than 3 seats on each side of the aisle." Where did you get the idea Ryanair uses tiny planes? Maybe they do on some routes, but I've never been on a Ryanair plane with fewer than 3 seats on each side. I've used them about 10 times. Nothing wrong w/Ryanair as long as you follow their procedures, baggage policies, and know exactly where the airport is and how to get where you're going from there. If you don't want to use Ryanair but still want to fly within Europe you can find other airlines using this website - the plane size is always indicated when you book. http://www.whichbudget.com/

Posted by
5615 posts

"I did buy the RS Germany book yesterday and REALLY like the Rhine/Mosel area that you are suggesting. Do you think there is any timely method of adding this to our trip through train travel?" Rome-Venice-Switzerland- then do the Rhine/Mosel at end. Trains from Oberwesel (next door to Bacharach) are direct to FRA and take only one hour, so you probably wouldn't need to book a hotel at the airport for your final night with a favorable flight schedule. Rothenburg is unique but it truly is overrun with tourism. You can see some really fine old-world villages in the Rhine-Mosel area that still have town walls and towers from medieval times - look into Bacharach, Linz (on the Rhine north of Koblenz) and Cochem and Bernkastel on the Mosel. Linz: http://www.maennerchor1846hitdorf.de/Bilder/j/0.jpg

Posted by
31524 posts

Donna, "Our areas of interest are Rome, Venice, Berner Oberland, Lucerne and possibly Fuessen, Rothenburg and the Rhine area. I am thinking we need to cut some out or it will be too crazy." With only a very short 19-day time frame, I doubt that it will be possible to visit five cities (Rome, Venice, Füssen, Rothenburg) and two regions (Berner Oberland, Rhine area). In order to make this work, you have two choices: 1) Increase your holiday time. 2) Skip some of the places you've listed, and plan to see those on a future trip. The Itinerary I provided earlier allows a visit to Füssen. It would be prudent to skip Rothenburg this time. If you want to spend some time on the Rhine, Bacharach would be a good choice. I haven't looked at it too closely, but that would likely fit nicely between Munich and Lucerne. Cheers!

Posted by
71 posts

Thank you all for sharing your knowledge :) I have never used Ryanair, but had been told it was a small plane and there were many complications....so I was hoping to steer clear of them. Hoping to just stay with trains. I think I have managed to narrow it down to: Fly into Rome - 4 nights train to Venice - 3 nights train to Wengen - 4 nights train to Lucerne - 2 nights train to Fussen - 1 night train to Rothenburg - 2 nights train to Frankfurt - 1 night fly home or Rome 4 nights Venice 3 nights Lucerne 2 nights Wengen 4 nights Rhine Area 4 nights Leave from Frankfurt I am still slow to catch on with the train schedules - I have not really understood the websites....not sure if I can even go to Fuessen from Lucerne or if I have to go to Munich first - and how long this would take. I really want to minimize travel time - but no Ryanair..lol Thanks for being patient with me - I really appreciate everyone's ideas :) Also, we can get a direct flight home from Frankfurt, but not from Zurich, so I think that would be a better place to end. Thanks all :)
Donna

Posted by
71 posts

Sorry - one more question :) We are leaning toward the Rhine Area to end this trip - can we take a train from Interlaken to this area and see everything we want to (especially that incredibly cool falcon show) or are we going to have to rent a car at some point? Don't really want to drive....
Thanks

Posted by
5615 posts

This part doesn't make much sense to me:
"train to Fussen - 1 night" It's a 6-7 hour train trip to Füssen. You don't have enough time in Füssen to justify the trip, really. Then it's another 5 hours by train to Rothenburg and 3 more to the airport area, so that option means lots of train time and connections. "We are leaning toward the Rhine Area to end this trip - can we take a train from Interlaken to this area and see everything we want to (especially that incredibly cool falcon show) or are we going to have to rent a car at some point? Don't really want to drive...." It's about 5 hours by train from Interlaken to Mainz, the city that serves as the gateway to the Middle Rhine. To stay in one of the villages will require a little longer; how much depends on which one you pick. St. Goar, one hour north of Mainz, is in the middle of the valley in the most scenic section of the river. For train travelers it's close to ideal. Trains run north and south along the river there, connecting you directly to the villages of Boppard, Oberwesel, Bacharach and Bingen, and to Koblenz for connecting trains up the Mosel River (Cochem) The ferry crossing in St. Goar lets you use the trains that cruise the east bank as well (Marksburg Castle, Kaub, Pfalzgrafenstein toll station.) Rheinfels Castle is of course right in St. Goar, a steep but short uphill walk.

Posted by
5615 posts

(cont.) Reichsburg Castle (and falconry show, closed Mon.) in Cochem is accessible on foot from Cochem's town center. Burg Eltz is the only sight that might be problematic - it's a longer walk from the nearest station, Moselkern. But my 75-year-old in-laws had no trouble: http://www.bensbauernhof.com/accommodationsrhinemosel.html For outings you can get a local train pass - a "3-day mini-group ticket" - for 40€ that covers trains and buses for ALL of you from Oberwesel north along the Rhine to Remagen and along the Mosel River to Cochem: http://www.vrminfo.de/en/tickets-and-fares/ticket-offers/leisure-ticket/#c423 Bacharach isn't covered on this pass. But you could just pay the regular fare for the 4-minute train trip from Oberwesel. You do not need a car in this area. We enjoyed 3 nights at this apartment in St. Goar: http://www.loreley-apartments.de/die_4_wohnungen_en.php There are others there too: http://www.st-goar.de/586-1-fewos.html Be sure to book in town and not in one of the "burbs".

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks so much Russ! You are right - it would be crazy to go to Fuessen - it is just so hard to give up seeing that castle.... But, I think the Rhine is the best use of our time - thanks so much for those links!!
I am sure I will have more questions as I start booking places to stay - I really appreciate all of your advice :)