We are planning a trip to Europe next summer. We plan to fly into London & just see the "highlights" for 3 days before heading to Paris. Again, just want to see the "highlights" for 3 days - then we want head to Salzbug/Munich for 7-8 days. Planning to fly out of Munich. Originally thought we would take the chunnel from London to Paris and perhaps an overnight train to Munich. There we thought we'd rent a car because rail passes x4 get pretty pricey. Now wondering if we should just rent it in Paris - saw we could rent for 8 days for around $700 US - which was quite a bit cheaper than using rail the whole time. ADVICE?
A couple of things:
Renting in Paris and dropping in Munich will likely cost you a lot more once you factor in the charge for renting in one country and dropping in another. Renting in Munich and dropping there will avoid that charge. Railpasses are probably not the way to go, anyway. Point to point rail tickets can be purchased at a discount if you do so in advance. Of course, that requires knowing your travel dates. Most people who report back here say that point to point tickets are far cheaper than a railpass. You just have to do the math, given your situation, ages of your kids, etc., to see which is the better deal for you.
I checked on prices and it was under $600 for 8 days to rent from Paris & return in Munich - I thought that was very reasonable. I suppose if we rented and returned in Munich it would be cheaper, but once we factor in the cost of the overnight train, I doubt it would save us much. Wondering how comfortable those overnight trains are - we would be saving a night's hotel + it would be a new experience, which I'm always up for!
"rent it in Paris...which was quite a bit cheaper than using rail the whole time." Not true. You have some time before your trip. You need to learn about rail travel in Europe. It's not as expensive as you think. Renting a car might be less expensive than a rail pass, but point-point tickets will be a whole lot less than either. There are some 6+ hrs Paris-Munich day connections using the TGV and ICE. (According to ViaMichelin the trip by car will take 7h50m). If all four of you are adults, the advance purchase fare starts at €156 for all of you; if any are your under 15 children, they're free. Deduct €39 each from that fare. Again, according to ViaMichelin, the cost of fuel for a compact car, plus tolls, from Paris to Munich is €123, almost as much as the rail fare. You don't even want a car in Munich. MVV day tickets for all four of you are €9,80 in the innerzone, €19,60 for the entire network. With a Bayern-Ticket, all four of you can go from Munich to Salzburg for €29. If you return the same day, it's RT for for no extra. Just fuel RT and road tax is almost €40.
It sounds like your trip is more of a "hit-the-highlights" tour that can be done by train rather than a "leisurely-exploring-what's-on-the-way" one which would be easier to do by car. As Lee mentioned, there are some great advance fares available. Do keep in mind that most of these come out for sale 92 days before your trip. Do as early as possible as they sell out fast! It's pretty much impossible to find 4 cheap tickets on the same train if you wait till a few weeks before your trip. Especially on those popular routes. However, even if you can only get 2 sale tickets and have to buy the additional tickets at full fare you're probably still ahead of the cost of a car rental.
It's not quite as bad as Beatrix made it sound. I found tickets for four at the lowest fare for 11/8/2011, 73 days from now. That's three week after the tickets came out, so it's not that they are impossible to get, but you need to be prompt with the ordering. But I agree, if you wait until 2 weeks before the trip, you won't likely find a single ticket at the lowest fare. But you have almost a year. Get you room reservations well in advance, and then commit to a train.
These are really helpful replies! We do want to take the "Romantic Road" in Germany for sure - seemed that a car would be the best way to do that. Perhaps we would only want to rent for a few days & use rail the rest. It's VERY foreign to us (no pun intended). We live in an area where you drive EVERYWHERE and we have very limited public transportation, so trying to wrap our minds around the options. REALLY, REALLY appreciate your tips. Yes, our kids will both be under 16 (12 & 15 at travel time). Sound like that will help a bit. Does anyone have experience with the overnight train from Paris to Munich (or anywhere, really). Figuring in that it will save us the cost of hotel, we thought that might be a good way to get from point B to point C. :)
Lee, your test was for November which is not really a busy travel month. Summer looks quite different. I bought my tickets for travel in June about 85 days ahead of time and of the 3 I needed only 2 were available at the cheapest fare - and that was for single tickets. When we travelled as a family of 4 over Christmas vacation we only got single tickets at the cheap fare - buying them in October. Remember? I was asking some desperate questions here as we ended up spending close to 400 Euro on our train fare, more than what car travel would have cost us. However, in December that was definitely the better choice considering the horrible icy conditions on the roads. If you need 4 tickets on the same train in high season and want to get a deal you really should buy them as soon as you can lock in your dates.
Kristen, a night train can be a really interesting experience. It'll give your teens something to remember and to talk about for sure! However, I've yet to meet anybody who actually managed to get some decent sleep. That seems to be more of an exception.
I only used November as it is the only way I have right now of showing fares 3 months in advance. However, checking for this year, for Sept 27, one month from today, there are still tickets available, 3 adults, 1 child, for €147 (€49 for each adult). Of course, no one can predict what the fares will look like next summer, and I agree that she should get her tickets as soon as possible, but this shows it is possible to get good fares, fares far better than the cost of a car.
I've spent 10 nights on night trains, nine in this country on my way to/from college (yes there was a time when you could do that) and one from Brussels to Karlsruhe, and I never had trouble sleeping. On the other hand, I didn't spend the night with two teenagers excited about the train experience. If you book very early, you can get, online from the Bahn, a discount price for a four person couchette for €237. That might save enough vs a hotel to make it worthwhile, particularly, but only if you are willing to put up with the bathroom at the end of the car. If you wait, full fare is €577. I don't think that saves, overall.
It sounds like you want to see the hilights of London and Paris and then take more time in the Munich and Salzburg area. As I am a car person and drive all over Europe I think the rate from Paris to Munich sounds pretty good. You then have a lot of freedom to drive the Romantic Road, explore the castles, and make the beautiful and easy drive to Salzburg. No, you do not need a car in Munich, but you can park it at your hotel and if you want to see the countryside you probably don't need too many days in Munich since you have already done 2 big cities. The kids may be ready for a change. I have not done a night train and do not see it in my future. It seems like it would be the equivalent of another overnite flight.... I would rather save money elsewhere and have a hotel. I love the flexibility of a car and one of my favorite memories of a trip to one of the castles was pulling off the side of the road and stopping for a little German picnic (wonderful bread, ham, cheese, paprika chips and those fabulous German pickles) I had my 11 year old grandson with me and we both loved it.
Another thought... as long as you fly out of Munich, just drop your car there before you stay in Munich. Also Dinkelsbuhl was my grandson's favorite town on the Romantic Road. He liked Rothenberg, but liked the less touristy town better. He also found it humorous that there was a vending machine right outside out room where he could have purchased a cup of beer.
Kristen, Time will get tight on your whirlwind tour. You sure are going a lot of places, all understandably, but a lot; and a lot of driving (says the guy who just did 1800 miles in just over a week with a bad leg - but I live here and know my limits and don't have any kids with me). If your husband really wants to see the D-Day areas in Normandy (and they are well worth seeing) your best bet is at least one, much better two nights in Bayeux. You will find a number of D-Day threads here with all the detail, also a good summary in RS France guidebook. To visit the beaches area for less than a long half day and a couple of hours minimum in the Bayeux WWII museum would not really be worth doing. If you take a full day doing that and 90 minutes with the Bayeux Tapestry you will have just scratched the surface.
IF we wanted to take our time driving to Bavaria from Paris - is Strausburg a good place to stop midway? Looks beautirul . . . but it all does! ALSO, coming from the US - the only borders we have experience with are Canada & Mexico - which can be LONG entries/exits (esp. Mexico). Are the border entries between countries easy to navigate as long as our passports are in order?
Strasbourg is lovely stop on way to Germany. Lovely cathedral worth seeing and a nice canal, we took I think half hour trip that took us through some small locks. There is also a beautiful WWII cemetery on way from Paris to Germany before Strasbourg in St. Avold, called Lorraine, worth stop for a few hours. Also if going to Munch suggest you go to Dachau concentration camp. Enjoy.
Thank you! Yes, Dauchau is on our "to do" list - one of the main reasons we wanted to spend time in that area. Also, my husband (huge WWII buff) wants to visit the "Eagle's Nest." Our main reason for going through Paris is a day trip to Normandy - so he'll get to see a lot of the places he's studied all these years.
Within the Schengen area, including among the 26ish member countries France, Austria, Germany (and honorable mention - Switzerland), you don't slow down at the borders, let alone stop.
We think we might take a guided tour to Normandy. I'll check out those boards, though, thanks!
A guided tour is likely to be a very good decision. Many folk here have plenty experience with the various guides. You might compose a question about that - you'll get plenty of help.