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Germany, Switzerland, and Austria with 3 kids Summer 2015

I know I'm planning far ahead, but I'm so excited about our trip next summer that I wanted to go ahead and get a head start :) Next summer, our 3 kids will be 14, 11, and 9. I need help with planning an itinerary through these 3 countries. We will have 12-14 days to travel. We prefer to travel by train while there, but if it's easy/better to rent a car, I'm open to that suggestion.

I visited Rothenburg, Germany, when I was a child about 30 years ago, and I have magical memories of this town, so I would love to take my kids there. We also want to see castles. We love the outdoors, hiking, etc., and are not so big on museums. My kids love The Sound of Music, so we want to incorporate a tour of that film in Salzburg. We would like to spend the night in no more than 3 different places if possible so that we aren't exhausted from packing/unpacking.

I really have no idea where to start this itinerary. Please send me your suggestions. Thank you!

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You can fly into Frankfurt and either head north for a stay on the Rhine or Mosel rivers, or make Rothenburg ob der Tauber your first stop. Munich can be a home base for visiting both the Fuessen palaces and Salzburg as daytrips, if you don't want to pack up and move between those destinations. There's no Switzerland in the plan yet, but if you only want one stop I would make it in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Then fly out from Zurich or other Swiss airport. I recommend planning with Rick's Germany and Switzerland books, but you can also get a taste of these destinations with articles and video links at http://www.ricksteves.com/europe.

Train works for all of these, although the longer trips will include a couple of connections. How to Look Up Train Schedules Online gives you the DB train schedule link and tips for using it.

You can compare the value of a rail pass when the trip plan is set, but it's most likely you'd choose just a Swiss Pass or Swiss Card. All 3 kids travel free on the Swiss Family Card. In Germany, kids travel free when you add them to your point-to-point ticket purchases and the Bayern/Bavaria group ticket works for the regional daytrips around Munich.