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Switzerland/Italy/Germany/Austria?

Planning two 2 week (due to $) trips to Europe - brief exposure for our 3 boys with the intent that they can return on their own to specific countries. First, Switzerland, Italy/Germany/Austria. Second, England, France, ... not yet planned. Less museums (Louvre the following year); more just a feel for the regions. Thoughts? 1- fly into Zurich, O/N (overnight) 2-rail to Grimmelwald, Schilthorn+brief hike, O/N 3-rail to Cinque Terre, O/N 4-tour Cinque Terre, late rail to Rome, O/N Rome 5-tour Rome(Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon), O/N 6-tour Rome (Vatican City), late rail to Venice, O/N Venice 7-tour Venice (Grand Canal, St Marks Sq), O/N 8-rail to Vienna, O/N 9-tour Vienna (city walk, maybe St Stephens, maybe Hofburg, brief standing room Opera), O/N 10-rail Hallstatt, city walk/hike, rail Salzburg, O/N 11-tour Salzburg (city walk), O/N 12-rail Fussen, Neuschwanstein, O/N 13-rail Zurich, O/N 14-fly home Cheapest rail thoughts? Thanks so much for the expert advice!
Ann

Posted by
32264 posts

Ann, I agree with the previous reply, this Itinerary is much too ambitious for such a short time frame! Even if it is feasible, it would be exhausting. Keep in mind that if there's a "complication" in any part of this plan, it will affect the subsequent parts. One other point to consider is that you mentioned that you had to reduce the time due to money. Each time you change locations, it will add to the cost. While you have some travel times indicated, I believe you'll need to look at that more closely and be sure to allow adequate travel times between locations. My suggestion to "change the trip" would be to drop the Austria portion and focus on Switzerland and Italy. It should be possible to fit Neuschwanstein in as well, but I'd to look at it more closely. I'm assuming you meant Gimmelwald? When will this trip be taking place? Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
813 posts

Skip Vienna and Halstatt. Add a day onto Venice and one to Grimmelwald instead. Yes, they're great towns, but you're just better off streamlining your trip.

Posted by
12040 posts

"How would you change the trip?" Scrap it altogether. I would consider Italy plus Austria or Switzerland, Germany plus Austria or Germany plus Switzerland.

Posted by
12040 posts

"more just a feel for the regions. Thoughts?" My thought is that the boys will see mostly the inside of trains and not much else. This is far to aggressive. General rule with the Alps- weather conditions are notoriously volatile. If you only budget one day, you risk hitting the mountains on a cloudy, rainy day.

Posted by
30 posts

You all are FANTASTIC - thank you so much! May I work with your ideas and then repost? Ann

Posted by
693 posts

What everybody else said about changing the trip. However, I didn't see anyone commenting on your flying in and out of the same city. Why backtrack to Zurich?

Posted by
32264 posts

Ann, I forgot to mention the possibility of using "open jaw" flights, as Anna pointed out. Is there a particular reason you're using Zurich for both inbound and outbound flights (ie: Air Miles or whatever)? Using open jaw would be much more efficient and would provide more touring time (perhaps into Zurich and return from Rome or Munich, depending on which locations you choose). One other thought that came to mind. Your home location is especially advantageous. You might consider taking a drive up to Edmonds one day in order to use the free Library at ETBD, which has all of Rick's current books. You could also speak with the travel experts there. They offer a consultation for a small charge, and that might be one method to get your Itinerary sorted. Have a look at www.ricksteves.com/about/consulting.htm for the details. Cheers!

Posted by
30 posts

I'm having a hard time piecing together an itinerary that doesn't include a lot of rail time (mostly getting to Fussen). Priorities: Rome - 2 days Venice - 1-2 days Cinque Terre - 1 day Gimmelwald - 1 day but suggestions advise 2 days (August trip)
Fussen - 1 day Dropped Salzburg, Hallstat, Vienna. Or, should our priorities be different - we want to experience the cities more than visit museums. Two free tickets if fly in/out of Zurich, Munich. But could instead purchase 5 open jaw tickets.

Posted by
32264 posts

Ann, Using open-jaw flights would help to maximize your touring. Using the scenario in your last note, perhaps something like this would work: > Day 1 - Flight to Europe (arrive in morning?) > Day 2 - Arrive Zurich - take train from airport to Interlaken Ost (time ~2H:20M, minimum one change) and then local transport to Gimmelwald. > Day 3 - Gimmelwald (where are you planning to stay?) > Day 4 - To Interlaken Ost and then Cinque Terre. Using Monterosso for example, trip will be ~7-hours, depending on which train you choose (that's for the 08:00 departure, with 3 changes). > Day 5 - C.T. > Day 6 - C.T. morning - train to Rome (use direct train from La Spezia to Rome with a travel time of ~3H:45M). > Day 7 - Rome > Day 8 - Rome > Day 9 - Rome morning - train to Venice (time ~3H:48M) - your destination will be Venezia Santa Lucia > Day 10 - Venice > Day 11 - Venice > Day 12 - Train to Munich (time ~7H:27M with one change in Verona, using the 06:58 departure as an example). This will give you a short time to look around Munich. > Day 13 - Day trip to Neuschwanstein, either using a guided tour (see Radius Tours for example, or travel on your own by train). I took the guided tour and quite enjoyed it. > Day 14 - Take S-Bahn to the airport for flight home (I'd suggest buying tickets the day prior to travel at the Euraide office in the station). One option would be to drop a day in Venice and add to Gimmelwald (once you see the scenery, you may not want to leave!). Are you travelling THIS AUGUST? If so, you could have a problem finding accommodations as it's PEAK travel season. This is only one suggestion, but I tried to include everything on your list. Cheers!

Posted by
32264 posts

Ann, Regarding the previous reply, you can not travel as quickly or efficiently by car! The fast trains are still your best option for making this plan work. There would be other complications as well, such as: > Picking up the car in one country and dropping in another - HUGE fees! > Requirement for each driver to have the compulsory IDP for driving in Italy, as well as the possibility of violating ZTL areas (large fines). > Parking, Tax Vignettes, high cost of fuel, cost of CDW Insurance. > For five "full size" people plus luggage, a larger vehicle will be required, which will not be as fuel efficient. Having a Car works well in some situations. However, considering the very short time frame and the somewhat "wide" area you want to cover, I stand by my previous recommendations. Cheers!

Posted by
12040 posts

Based on the proposed itinerary that Ken offered, I would agree, a car would be more of a hassle than a benefit.

Posted by
30 posts

Great ideas! August 2012 trip. So taking Ken's itinerary, I tweaked a few more days (3) out of my husband's work schedule, so is this feasible? 1,2 - fly into Zurich 4:20 PM 3 - train to Gimmelwald 4 - Gimmelwald 5 - train to Cinque Terre 6 - Cinque Terre 7 - train to Rome 8 - Rome 9 - Rome 10 - train to Venice 11 - Venice 12 - train to Vienna 13 - Vienna 14 - train to Salzburg 15 - Salzburg 16 - train to Munich then Fussen 17 - Fussen, train to Munich 18 - fly home from Munich Perhaps 9 rail days. So a 10 day pass for 4.5 people (1 child) = $3100 but easier than a car? Thoughts? Thanks!
Ann

Posted by
12040 posts

Research advanced ticket purchases for your proposed rail trips, and make sure you use the national rail company websites, not RailEurope or EUrail. Forget rail passes unless you want to waste your money. I would be very surprised if the total cost for 5 people was not significantly lower than $3100.

Posted by
3696 posts

Agree with Brad... get a car and plan your itinerary accordingly.... you can do a lot of driving and buy a lot of gas and freedom for $3100....also there are the taxis to get to the train station, etc. so it can cost even more.
(I have done trips both ways (car & train) and am not opposed to train, but with a family I definitely do not see the savings here)

Posted by
32264 posts

Ann, The revised Itinerary looks much better, but even with the added time it still seems to be a bit "ambitious" with too many changes of location. Some points which stood out: > Arrival - It appears you're planning to spend one night in Zurich. Is there any possibility you could book a flight that arrives in the morning? That would allow time to get to Gimmelwald the same day. I'd MUCH prefer to spend my first day in Gimmelwald! > Train to C.T. - I'd suggest taking an early train (08:00?) from Interlaken Ost so that you get to the C.T. early (15:00?). This will allow about 1.5 days there - is that enough? > Austria - Even with the added time, I'd choose either Vienna or Salzburg, and spend more time there. Salzburg may allow a day trip to Hallstatt (check Bob's Special Tours for one example). You could also travel to Hallstatt by train, but it's not ideal for a day trip. One change is required in Attnang-Pucheim. One point to note - Venice to Vienna often involves travel by BUS & Train. > Munich - Are you planning to "base" in Munich and take a day trip to Fussen? IMO, that would be better than staying a night in Fussen and then a night in Munich prior to your flight home. > Railpass - I definitely agree with Tom. A Railpass is probably not the best idea, keeping in mind that you'll have to pay separately for reservation fees. Lee will be able to provide info on discounted tickets in Germany and Austria. For discounted tickets in Italy, check www.roninrome.com. Some trains have compulsory reservations, and buying tickets a day or so before travel may allow you to get "Mini" fares. Use the Trenitalia website for information in Italy. You might find it helpful to drop by ETBD or give them a call, and discuss this with Rick's Rail experts. Cheers!

Posted by
62 posts

I believe a train is the best option for where you want to go. There might be a night train opportunity between Italy and Austria if you are interested in one of those. A car in Rome is a dissaster waiting to happen! I also agree with another comment to choose either Vienna or Salzburg. With boys, I'd probably choose Salzburg. I would then add the extra days to Switzerland (time to recooperate from the flights) and Rome. Also, you can visit Fuessen as a daytrip from Munich, it looks like you are thinking about spending a night there, but to save a hotel change I would look into doing it as a daytrip from Munich.

Posted by
78 posts

don't stay in Fussen...you'd need a car to get to the castles. stay in Munich and try Mike's Bike Tours for the Neuschweinstein castle...it was family friendly and fantastic (even though it rained on us). you are going to have to cut either CT or Vienna...both of those are out of the way from everything else and would therefore require lengthy train rides. do your boys like to hike? i'm not sure what else they would do in CT. there's not much going on there, and kids generally like to be constantly entertained. if you can take the Jungfrau Top of Europe train trip from Switzerland, do it...it's expensive but completely worth it in my opinion. very cool to be on top of a snowy mountain in the middle of summer! and if you make it to Vienna, the Schonbrunn Palace and the Zoo are great! also, don't rule out cheap intra-Europe flights instead of trains, for example from Vienna to Venice - Ryanair.com or Easyjet.com usually have cheap tickets and it would be a lot quicker.

Posted by
30 posts

Thank you for the great advice! Arrival into Zurich - An earlier arrival lengthens our flight (miles on British Airways) by 5-7 hrs (from 12 hrs). OK - early train to C.T. and 1.5 days is fine for a hike. OK - skip Vienna - just Salzburg. Add the extra day to Hallstat or elsewhere in our itinerary? OK - 2 nights in Munich and day trip to Fussen. OK - point to point rail. My husband does not want to deal with driving. We are very unfamiliar with Europe. Any other changes? Thank you! Ann

Posted by
837 posts

I would not stay in Gimmelwald. There is absolutely nothing there. It is not even a "widening in the road". Instead stay in Lauterburnnen, Muerren, or Wengen. Many like Muerren or Wengen because they are high whereas Lauterbrunnen is in the valley. However, Lauterbrunnen has the advantage of being between the other two, thus offering good access to both Shilthorn and Jungfrau.

Posted by
30 posts

Good idea David. Thanks! We are road tripping with the boys to Yellowstone - more responses when I return. All this advice has been tremendous. If anyone needs help with the WA area - let me know! Ann

Posted by
32264 posts

Ann, Although your flight arrives at 16:20, I might still try to get to at least Interlaken (rather than stay in Zurich). There's a departure from Zurich Airport at 17:40, with one change in Bern (and later departures also). "We are very unfamiliar with Europe." If you haven't been to Europe before, be sure to read Europe Through The Back Door as it provides a lot of good information on "how" to travel in Europe. If you take a drive to Edmonds, you can check the Switzerland, Italy and Germany Guidebooks in the Library at ETBD, and use that information for planning Hotels, touring, transportation, etc. I wasn't able to tell if you were planning to stay one night in Hallstatt, or visit as a day trip from Salzburg?? To elaborate on the reply from David, could you clarify what characteristics you're looking for during your stay in the Berner Oberland? Gimmelwald is a small farming community which also hosts tourists, but there's not a lot to do in the evenings (although there's usually lots of activity at the renowned Mountain Hostel at night, which might interest your boys). If you wanted more of a "town", you might consider Mürren, which is just above Gimmelwald. The views from both Gimmelwald and Mürren over the valley are spectacular! While there be sure to take the Cable Cars to the Schilthorn and have lunch in the "James Bond" revolving restaurant, while views of the Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau pass by the window.

Posted by
15675 posts

Here comes another 2 cents. I'd leave out Cinque Terre. It takes a lot of time to get there to see the sea, and you have wonderful coastlines in the Pac northwest. There are many other towns in Italy that have a special flavor and will save you travel time. Verona is close to Venice. Orvieto, Florence, Vincenza are all between Rome and Venice. Or just add the time to one of the other stops.