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Switzerland, Austria, italy & France in 3 weeks?

My husband and I are planning a trip in May, 2014 and want to do it within a 3-week period. I have worked out this itinerary but unsure if it is feasible. We want to see the "sound of music" country, the Dolomites, Switzerland and being this close to France, why not!
Arrive Geneva early afternoon; pick up car rental and drive to Appenzel
1 night Appenzel
1 night Innsbruck or Hall
2 night Salzburg
2 night Castelrotto or Bolzano
2 night Tirano
1 night Lugano
2 night Chamonix
1 night Annecy
2 night Laussane
1 night Berne
3 night Berner Oberland -Wengen or Murren or both?
2 night Lucerne
Drive Lucerne to Geneva and fly out

We are flexible with the itinerary and will book accommodations as we go except Appenzel and Innsbruck/Hall.
Suggestions or does this look okay?
Thanks so much for any input you can offer.

Posted by
23465 posts

Where to start? I was so exhausted from reading your schedule that I had to take a nap first. Is it doable? Sure, if you want to spend all your time in a car and moving in and out of hotels. Do you have any idea how much just that activity is going suck from your schedule?

First recommendation - make it open jaw. Save time and money. Into Geneva and home from Zurich.

Second recommendation - Reduce to six cities. We see of lot of questions about overly ambitious travel schedules but think this is the first time I have see the question with twelve cities. I personally do not see how you could even get close to this schedule. Others may disagree so I will wait and see before offering other suggestions.

Posted by
2081 posts

@ Pat,

i have no comment about your itinerary but.

It would be interesting to see if you follow through with it and report back to see what your thoughts are. i would love to see any report from anyone that do some whirlwind tours.

its just the morbid side of me peeking out.

good luck and happy trails.

Posted by
355 posts

My first trip to Europe was a trip where never stayed more than two nights in one place. It was a tour so we didn't do the driving, lugging suitcases,etc. I was exhausted after two weeks and afterwards realized I had seen a lot but was so busy moving from place to place I had not really experienced Europe. I know the thought of wanting to see as much as you can but you will definitely enjoy the trip much more if you pick just a few places to "experience ". I now never stay less than 4 nights any place and prefer a week. I strongly encourage you to rethink your itinerary and cut down the number of places significantly. You might explore the website Slow Travel. They advocate the way I have traveled for the last ten years and have a lot of In depth information about the countries you are interested in.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks for all your great suggestions. Guess I thought I was at the Monaco Grand Prix and had to race all over Europe. I'm trying to rethink and slow the pace down a bit. I will look at an open jaw - maybe from Munich to Austria to Switzerland and forego my dream of the Dolomites for now. Thank you so much and I'll come up with another plan and get back to you for more suggestions.

Posted by
8239 posts


I used to be one of those drive as far as possible tourists, however $9 per gallon gasoline has introduced me to staying in a central located city or B&B for 4-5 days, doing day trips via rental car and moving to another area.

Much of the territory you're itinerary covers are in The Alps. The Dolomites look a little different, however the Austrian Alps and Swiss Alps are essentially the same mountain ranges.

I've found that flying into Munich and doing a circle route through Salzburg, Hallstadt and down to Innsbruck to feed my desire for incredible mountain scenery. I've made day trips to the Dolomites by going through the Brenner Pass into Northern Italy. I especially enjoyed driving the Grossglockner High Alpine Highway south of Zell-am-See to Lienz, Austria and entering the Dolomites from there. Western Austria is just easy to travel through, with Bavaria and many tourist sights just a short distance to the north.

Making a full swing thru Northern Italy around to Lugano/Lake Como and back through Switzerland might just make your odyssey a big blur.

I agree that simplifying your itinerary would make your trip so much more enjoyable.

Posted by
1446 posts

I'm with David on this one: I'd start with what he suggested.

You easily have two different trip loops outlined here (sortof divide a line east/west, with dips into Italy), each of 3 weeks!

I'd choose either the eastern loop or the western loop of your itinerary based on your budget:
If flush now, do the west (Switzerland-focused).
If on a budget, do the east (Austria-focused).

If your travel budget is not an issue, then toss a coin! ;-)

Posted by
3941 posts

This was my husband and my trip in 2010...learn from our mistake...
arrive London early morn, train to Paris 3 nights, Strasbourg 1 night, Augsburg 1 night, Munich 1 night, Salzburg 2 nights (and overnight train to Venice), Venice arrive early morn from train then 3 nights, Milan 2 nights, off to Switzerland with 3 1 night stays (Spiez, Bern, Zurich) then fly back to London 2 nights, visit sister in Portsmouth 2 nights, back to London for a night and home... we had 21 nights...and here is what happened when we were looking at our photos - I hit Munich - hubby couldn't even remember being there - by the time we arrived in Munich from Augsburg (due to a lovely couchsurfer we stayed with, we left Augsburg way later then we planned), it was after supper so we went right to the hotel, had til about 4 pm the next day before heading to Salzburg. Strasbourg was lovely, but by the time we went from Paris to Arras, back to Paris and on to Strasbourg, it was very late when we arrived - we had about 4 hours the next morning before we had to go to get the picture. Yes, we 'saw' lots of stuff, but we didn't really 'see' anything. I used to pooh pooh those who said you have to take in account changing hotels - it can take a few hours ++ out of the day to change, get settled, figure out what to do (unless you have a car - much easier then having to find your way from the train stn using public transport).

I planned the vacation that way because hubby wanted to see 'everything', but even he admits (now) it was foolish to try to pack so much in...tho we still try to pack to much in, but try to stay at least 2 (or better, 3) nights at each stop...the only thing it did was make me want to return to Strasbourg and Switzerland and...

Posted by
806 posts

Some thoughts.

  1. I will join the chorus of "too many cities". Go back through the list and decide which ones you really want to hit. We always keep one night stops to a bare minimum because by the time you check in etc. there is very little time left to see where you are.
  2. Second, your first day drive is too long. You are getting off a flight 9 time zones long and starting out with a drive of at very least 4 hours duration while jet lagged. This is not a good start.
  3. Into Zurich and out of Geneva would save you driving across Switzerland twice although it is magnificent country to drive through.
  4. In the Berner Oberland,I would base out of Lauterbrunnen. The problem with Murren is that once you are there, you need to take a cable car ride to travel anywhere else as your car will be down in the valley. If you can get valleyside room one night in Murren might be worth it. The view from our tiny room at the Hotel Alpina was breathtaking.
  5. Whether you go in and out of Geneva or do an open jaw trip with Zurich, you should think seriously about doing a lease plan with Peugeot or Renault. Geneva has a cost advantage of no pick up or drop off fees. The total price of the lease is very good because the car is insured to the hilt, you can have a second drive for no extra cost and the car will be what you reserved which is critical if you want an automatic. If you need an automatic, reserve now as they are always in short supply. You will be driving far enough to justify the extra cost of diesel. Diesel fuel is cheaper and the little suckers run well especially high in the mountains while delivering over 40 mpg.
  6. I would pick Castelrotto over Bolzano and take the bus into Bolzano if you want to see Utzi the Ice Man. I just have a preference for small towns.
  7. Don't forget you need IDPs since you are going to Italy and Austria. Likewise you need Autobahn vignettes for Austria ans Switzerland.

You are going to my favorite part of the world, have a great trip.

Posted by
7562 posts

Some years ago, Austrian air had a good deal that included a cheap but thrilling through-the-mountains flight to Innsbruck the day of flight JFK to Vienna. We used only trains for:

3 nights Innsbruck
3 nights Salzburg
3 nights Munich
4 or 5 nights Vienna (I forget ... )
Home from Vienna

I'll admit that "mountains" were not our only objective, but it was leisurely, in-depth, and very pleasant. It's so nice to get to recognize "your neighborhood" while strolling back to the hotel after dinner.

You might also think about things like the Rhododendron-blooming season in the palace parks in Salzburg or Vienna - there's a lot more to this than checking off cities on a list. BTW, do you know how expensive Switzerland can be?