Is this itinerary too ambitious?

Hello, folks! I'm in the planning stages for a trip to Europe. This trip is a retirement gift for my father. It will be myself, my dad, my sister, and my B-I-L. It will be taking place sometime at the end of August or the beginning of September and will be for at least 2 weeks. Since there are 4 of us it will be cheaper to just rent a car and some of the places we want to go are off the beaten path so this works out well I think. Now, the purpose of this trip is two fold. First, we are visiting sites where my dad's uncle fought in WW2(he was with the 36th Infantry Division) and also will be visiting the town that our namesakes immigrated from, Signau, Switzerland. As well as just touristing it up. It will be my dad's first time out of the U.S. I want this to be a general type of trip and then in future trips he/we can take more localized trips and not be rushing around as much. So here is what I have. The days I'm concerned the most with are days 3 and 6. Any concerns or suggestions? Problems you foresee us having?
Thank you. My sister and B-I-L will only have the 2 weeks available, but I will have a bit more time if I want it.

Posted by Eric
Havre, Montana, USA
12 posts

Day 1 - Friday Arrive in Nice, France in the morning. Pick up rental car and drive to St. Raphael and visit Camel Green Beach. Spend the night near Le Muy, France Day 2 - Saturday Visit Le Muy, France's museum dedicated to the paratroopers that participated in the invasion. (Local tourist office can open museum if arrangements are made in advance) Visit the American Rhone Cemetery in Draguignan, France. Day 3 - Sunday Drive to Signau, Switzerland by way of Italy. Stop in Lucerne before continuing on to Signau. Day 4 - Monday Visit Signau (and some distant relative?). Day 5 - Tuesday See the sights in Berne.( Zytgloggeturm, Marktgasse, Kramgasse, The Cathedral, The Bear Pit) Day 6 - Wednesday Leave for Epinal, France Visit Epinal American Cemetery Visit Struthof Concentration Camp End day in Selestat, France Day 7 - Thursday Turckheim Museum about Colmar Pocket. Visit Colmar. Day 8 - Friday Lichtenstein Castle – 2 Hr special tour on Fridays. Requesting of English tour in advance. 25 Euros each. Stay in Bisingen for the night. Day 9 - Saturday Hohenzollern Castle – English tour on Saturdays at 11:30. Day 10 - Sunday Open Day for anything. End Day 10 in Munich. Day 11 - Monday Dachau & Munich Tours Day 12 - Tuesday NeuSchwanstein and surrounding area. Tegelberg Luge All Day Day 13 - Wednesday Berchtesgaden & Hitler's Eagles Nest. All Day Day 14 - Thursday
Fly home via Munich International Airport.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8761 posts

My goodness that's a lot of time behind the wheel!! I hope it leaves you with a little time to see the things you are coming for. Are you aware of drop charges? Just 1 driver? I'd get a big car so people can have a bit of room with long drives like that. Is this itinerary too ambitious? I think you knew the answer before you posted the question.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4879 posts

I agree with Nigel. This is very busy with a lot of moving around. I don't know your father's age, but this might be a bit overwhelming for him. And as Nigel mentioned, there will be a large fee for the convenience of renting a car in one country and returning it in a other. If the additional cost is being split amongst the 4 of you it might be worth it. A good thing you did was plan to fly open jaw to avoid backtracking. I wish you had stated the itinerary in your original post so it would be easier to refer back to it when responding to your question.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, From your itinerary I assume you're not going to Italy, esp. in light of the 36th ID? Do you have names of the villages/towns in Alsace?

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

I think it's a wonderful gift you are giving your father. You sound like you've done extensive research; if your Dad is reasonably healthy, it will be a trip hell cherish for a lifetime. I agree with previous poster, you'll probably need a van for 4 people and even if you pack lightly, that will be a lot of luggage. The drop off fee could be pricey; you might want to see if you can train your way through Switzerland.

Posted by Eric
Havre, Montana, USA
12 posts

My dad is in pretty good health. The only medical issue is he is a Type 1 diabetic. He'll have his insulin and pump supplies with him. I've been to Europe 3 times since 2007. The first trip I learned my lesson about over packing, though in my defense I was there for 1.5 months. The last trip I made was for 2 weeks and I lived out of a Osprey Porter 46 and plan on doing the same on this trip. I think my dad can do the same, though he will need another smaller piece of luggage for his medical stuff. My sister is a tomboy type so she can live out of a small suitcase if she wanted to. My B-I-L might be the problem. 3 out of 4 ain't bad. As for certain towns in Alsace, my uncle was in Cannon Company of the 142nd Infantry. I have the morning reports for the company and can pinpoint the location of at least the company headquarters to within 100 meters. He took part in the invasion on the 15th of August, 1944 at Saint Raphael. After that it was a race to cut off retreating German forces. He was wounded near Nyons, France. After that the fighting through the Vosges Mtns and a lot of fighting around Hagenau, France before he crossed into Germany near Wissembourg to assault the famed Siegfried Line. After that they were releived from the line and served as occupational forces before being put back in the lines near Augsburg. He eventually wound up in Austria near Mittersill.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Hi, It sounds that all of you are geared up and well prepared for this trip. Visiting Hagenau and Wissembourg are best done if you're motorised. I would suggest since you'll be in the area see the town of Bruyeres as well. I assume that Italy was not part of your dad's uncle's experience with the 36th since you say he was part of the August 1944 invasion. Outside of Toulon there is a museum on the Aug '44 Anvil/Dragoon landing, saw it several years ago, can't remember the exact location but it was outside of the city. But Toulon is not on your itinerary.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

I've just skimmed your proposed itinerary, but I see at least one glaring issue. Le Muy to Signau in one day's drive is VERY LONG. You will literally be in the car all day long, without any flexibility to stop and check out stuff along your way. I'm glad that you have included the cemetery in Epinal ( I have a relative buried there). Being well off the typical North American tourist routes, it sadly receives very few visitors. It's also a bit confusing to find, so make sure you map it out well, or use a good GPS.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17795 posts

Eric, I've just had a glance at your Itinerary, and would need to spend some time looking at it. However, my first impression is that it's very busy, and could be difficult to accomplish, and also very tiring! If there are "complications" in any part, that will affect subsequent parts. For driving in Italy, note that each driver will require the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is easily obtained at any AAA office. Also note that you'll need the highway tax Vignette for driving in Switzerland, so be sure to ask the rental firm about that. Good luck with your planning!

Posted by Eric
Havre, Montana, USA
12 posts

Yes, Tom, that day will be a long day in the car, but I'm trying to put a positive spin on it. We'll get to eat lunch in Italy and have a lovely drive through the Alps. In the overall scheme of things it will be necessary to get from southern France to Switzerland one way or another. I've looked at train schedules and the train would be a 12 hour ordeal and would cost us more than 400 Euros. I was quoted 850 Euros for the car between Nice and Munich at Europcar(a VW Golf Diesel) Fred, our uncle got to Italy at the end of April and did do some fighting near Rome, but that will have to be for another trip.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8761 posts

Eric, I don't know where you got 12 hours to the Emmenthal but I can get you there a lot quicker. Leave Nice Ville at 10:57 for Geneva, arriving at 17:16. Have a quick stroll around the station and grab a bag with a dinner in it, and get on the 17:45 for Bern arriving at 19:26. It shouldn't be too hard to get from there to your destination. So just 8 and a half hours to Bern. 46€ Prems as far as Geneva, 94€ the whole way, pp. From the SBB its CHF110 or equivalent 91€. CHF47 (approx 39€) for Geneva to Bern on a standard ticket. So with a split ticket 85€ pp is possible.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8761 posts

Eric, I don't know where you got 12 hours to the Emmenthal but I can get you there a lot quicker. Leave Nice Ville at 10:57 for Geneva, arriving at 17:16. Have a quick stroll around the station and grab a bag with a dinner in it, and get on the 17:45 for Bern arriving at 19:26. It shouldn't be too hard to get from there to your destination. So just 8 and a half hours to Bern. 46€ Prems as far as Geneva, 94€ the whole way, pp. From the SBB its CHF110 or equivalent 91€. CHF47 (approx 39€) for Geneva to Bern on a standard ticket. So with a split ticket 85€ pp is possible.

Posted by Lesley
Sidney, BC, Canada
335 posts

Like your Dad I am diabetic so there are things you need to take into consideration - however well controlled the disease is, extra care does need to be taken when traveling. Presumably you will have him check with his doctor about the trip. A good idea would be for him to take a map with the itinerary marked on it so the doctor is aware of the distances to be traveled. Might be an idea to see if there is a Diabetes Education Centre where he can talk to somone about his needs while traveling. You say you are arriving in Nice and are straight into the trip with a long drive - no time to recover from jet lag? Your father's system will need time to adjust to the changed mealtimes, etc. He will be eating breakfast at 2am Havre time, for example! His diet is critical to his well being and however careful and prepared you are, the food and meals in Europe are different from the States - again adjustment is needed. Does his insulin need to be kept cool? If so, you will need a cooler with ice for travel days and preferably a room with a fridge to keep it overnight. This is likely to be an emotional trip with visits to war sites, cemetaries and camps - some down time is important to absorb and digest what is being seen - especially for your Dad. And again this can affect the diabetes.... And don't forget to check on travel insurance and pre-existing condition exclusions.

Posted by Kathy
Germany, Germany
800 posts

Have a look at this website: http://www.abmc.gov/home.php
It is the American Battle Monuments Commission. They have great information there. I have a few concerns. I don't see Lucerne as on your way between Italy and Signau. I think you should come in from the Berne side. Either way you take, make sure you take a paper map, as the GPS could take you off the autostrada/autobahn when you really want to stay on the main roads. Why stay in Selestat? It's not nearly as fabulous as the many other Alsace towns in the area. Riquewihr, Ribeauville, or even Colmar are better. Much like crossing the Swiss Alps, cutting through the black forest is not pleasant for anyone who gets car sick, so plan accordingly. Lastly, prepare with food and water in the car, traffic, mostly in Germany, can be horrific for no reason. Sometimes they like to just close the A8 completely and force thousands of people off onto teeny tiny roads not able to handle the traffic due to construction. There was no warning of this last weekend, we spent 3.5 hours going the distance we could cover on the autobahn in 20 minutes. Torture after 5 hours already in the car. Be prepared with printed maps! I digress, but it's important to be prepared. You'll need a vignette for Switzerland as well. There's also a small shuttle that takes you from the parking area to the castle at Hohenzollern. Take the bus!

Posted by Cary
Hayden, Idaho, USA
112 posts

Like sev others, Eric, I think you have been a bit too ambitious in your itinerary. We were in Alsace in 2010 (stayed in Eugesheim) and did a day trip to Struthof; you need most of a day to get there because it's isolated and then there's lots to see once you're there. Colmar is worth more than just a pass-through. The American Battle Monuments Commission website is very good. Each of the seven cemeteries we've visited has been unique in its own way; all are meticulously cared for. An interesting book w/ a different look at the war in France, particularly Alsace/Lorraine, is War & Wine by Don & Petie Kladstrup. It is usually in-stock @ Barnes & Noble. Bon Voyage!

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
144 posts

What a fantastic trip. What a treat for your dad. I appreciate the research you did. I think it is doable if there are no hiccups. Roadwork may be what throws a wrench in your schedule so you may need to add a few hours to your transit time just in case. I personally think you are rushing that day through the alps too much. A day or two in the Berner Oberland would be a welcome addition. I understand your desire to see Signau but unless you are planning to visit relatives, you may limit that visit to a few hours (or combine with visiting Bern the same day) and stay in the BO instead (which is still in the same Canton and linked to your ancestry).

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Agree with the others about this trip being rushed, and I'm here to suggest you cut out Lichtenstein castle. It's a nice little castle - fun for people who are staying in Baden-Wurttemburg and are out of things to do, but it's entirely a Romantic fantasy castle, there are only slight ruins left of the original that aren't that interesting. It's a pretty and scenic spot, but not worth it on a trip this packed full. Hohenzollern is more interesting. (And yes yes Neuschanstein is also a Romantic fantasy castle, but it's at least very impressive looking - Lichtenstein is really quite small).

Posted by Mark
Santa Barbara, CA, USA
144 posts

Yes, good point Sarah. The three castles Eric picked in Germany are 19th century Neo-Gothic architectural follies. It may be interesting to visit a middle age castle instead.