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Teens in Zurich!

hello. my daughter & grandaughter want to travel to Europe for my daughter's senior trip June 1, 2012. looks like Italy, Spain, France are out due to the cost, but I did see a flight into Zurich for less than 1k each they might be interested in (which has a stopover in Paris!). if they stay in hostels and take the trains, we are hoping it will be relatively inexpensive. am I being un-realistic? how expensive (& long) is the train from Zurich to Milan? how long would you recommend they stay in Italy? (we are planning a 10 day total trip). can you provide any other points of interest? both enjoy history, and were hoping to get to Verona, Rome, Venice & that place on the west coast with the villages built into the rock...don't know the name sorry! thanks for your assistance.
Jenn

Posted by
1589 posts

Jenn, If you are not going & are doing the research for them, this seems like a bad idea. At the very least, ALL THREE of you need to get busy with some serious reseach. From my heart.............my Dad instincts are worried for you.

Posted by
8 posts

Bob,
agreed, and thanks for your kindness/concern!

Posted by
1589 posts

Jenn, What does " will be relatively inexpensive " mean to you? Switzerland is one of THE most expensive countries in Europe.

Posted by
8 posts

jeepers; I had no idea.
again, they would be staying in hostels & if we hook up with other students, I'm hoping to keep costs down.

Posted by
12964 posts

Depending on the time they land in Zürich, they can either continue straight to Italy by train, or spend one night (there are affortable hostels and budget hotels in Zürich) and go the next day. We fly into Zürich by preference even when we are going to Italy. The Zürich to Milan train ride is 3 hours 41 minutes and very pretty, although it does go through a few tunnels. WE bought tickets in advance on the Swiss rail site, sbb.ch, for 25 CHF each, instead of the regular fare of around 90 CHF. There were offering the same deal in 2011 and hopefully will in 2012 as well. For our family of four, we saved 496 CHF by buying those tickets.

Posted by
8 posts

Lola: wow! that's a huge savings. thanks so much for your post. how did you pre-purchase your ticket? stupid question: what does CHF mean? I thought Europe was on the Euro? was your train ticket open, or did you have specific times you had to go? it would be easier on the girls if it was open. thanks again,
Jenn

Posted by
9363 posts

Sorry, I am thoroughly confused. The trip is for your daughter and granddaughter? For the daughter's senior trip? They are both teens? You say Italy is out because of the cost, then talk about taking a train to Milan and going to Verona, Rome and Venice? If the trip is ten days total, that means you only have eight days "on the ground" (don't count arrival day and departure day). So far, you list Zurich - train to Milan - Verona - Rome - Venice.... that's barely two days each not counting travel time from one to the other! How are you planning to get them back to Zurich for the return flight? Or are you looking at an "open jaw" itinerary, where you fly into one city and out of another? At the very least, you need to cut way back on the number of destinations. And don't make a destination decision based only on the cost of the flight. The expensive parts are housing and food. It doesn't make sense to take a "cheaper" flight into a more expensive country that you don't really want to visit, and then have to pay to get to where you really want to be by train. Since it would appear that they have not traveled before, might they consider going instead to the UK or Ireland, where they could at least speak the language (unless, of course, they speak Italian)? You all might benefit from reading "Europe Through the Back Door" to get the basics of traveling in Europe. CHF is the Swiss franc.

Posted by
12964 posts

CHF stands for Swiss francs. Switzerland is actually not on the euro. You buy those tickets right on SBB website (www.rail.ch) about 60 days in advance. Rail.ch takes you directly to the English version. Put in Zürich for the start place and Milan for the destiination, and the date of travel (it won't show next summer's dates right now so just to practice use a date in late February). It will show you the various options. Look for the trains with "0" changes. They generally depart at 9:01, 11:01, 31:01 etc. but the schedule may have changed. Click on one and it will show more details and give you an option to purchase. You can keep going to investigate as you won't be asked for a cred card until near the end. If the discount tickets are available (they may be all gone for a particular train) the screen with show two prices, one the regular price and one the "special offer." Chose that and continue; at some point there will be an option to select the reserved seats (the reservation fee in included in the cost of the ticket so don't worry about that!) It will also ask if you have a Swiss discount card and the answer it "No." After payment you will get a confirmation code that you print and your daughter will take to the train station to pick up the actual tickets. Remember that these tickets are non-refundable and non-changeable so be sure of the date and time before you purchase.

Posted by
8 posts

Nancy: haha! yes, it's our daughter AND our grandaughter, who are just 10 months apart in age!! and I realize from the map that Rome, unfortunately, is just too far away. but if they can take the train into Milan, at least they can see SOME of Italy. no, the flight would arrive/depart out of Zurich. saw some good sidetrips for students that weren't too pricey, out of Zurich. I haven't researched Italy on either side trips or hostels. any recommendations?
Jenn

Posted by
12964 posts

Nancy, I think what Jenn is saying is that flying into Italy, spain or France is expensive, but they have found a reasonable fare into Zürich. Given that this is a short and inexpensive train ride from Milan, it is a reasonable choice if the savings are that great. The Zürich airport is very easy to navigate. Depending on th etime of their flight arrival in Zürich, they could be in Verona the same day. If they are headed to Rome it would be good if they could fly open jaw but that may increase the fare considerably.

Posted by
1589 posts

Are you going on this trip? How old are they?

Posted by
8 posts

Lola: thanks SO much for the info. I will practice this tonite & see what we come up with.

Posted by
27504 posts

Jenn Have you done some basic research about travel in Europe? Have the girls? Can I suggest a trip to the library, bookstore, or the Travel Store here (4th button from the left) and get your hands on Europe Through the Back Door and really read it. Then both of the girls to really read it, too. I agree that, even with access to a Time-Turner, they won't be able to do justice to all the bucket list presented. Will both girls be of legal age? That could be important especially if either you are traveling with them or if they are traveling alone.

Posted by
8 posts

Nigel: will definitely take your advice, and read this cover to cover.
one is, and one isn't (quite) legal age. what problems will we run into? they will be on their own.

Posted by
9363 posts

I feel the same as Bob. I am sincerely concerned that neither you nor the girls have any travel experience and are attempting a much too ambitious first trip. Are they prepared to get themselves from the airport to the train station in time for a preplanned train? Will they know what to do if one of their bags doesn't arrive with them? What if someone gets sick? What if they are hassled by young men they meet along the way? The idea of sending two very young girls on their own to countries where they can't speak the language, and expecting them to negotiate a complicated itinerary is kind of mind-boggling to me. Maybe I'm selling them short, but I wouldn't have allowed my daughter to do such a thing at that age, and she had traveled to Europe twice by then.

Posted by
963 posts

Hate to be a buzzkill here but I know Nancy has some very valid points. My first trip abrad by myself was to London with day trips, chosen so I could read the language even if I could't understand it. Next trip alone in my twenties was to Rome, where I was approached almost daily to my annoyance. People at the pensione and the train station spoke English but it was not quite as easy. My first few train trips in Europe other than airport trains were stressful, looking for the right car and the right seat, hoping I could manage the transfer, etc. Can they manage train travel- have they done that before without an adult? Remember that the more they move around the more expensive it is: you mention 5 places for 10 days- whew! Perhaps only one city or two at most in 10 days would be acceptable, or else consider a student tour where they would have help moving from one location to another. After all, have they experienced jet lag, money belts, not being nice to strangers with 'gold' rings, budgeting money for food, etc? Could they practice with a trip to a major city in the US like NYC?
More, I would really worry that one of them might not make the best decision if something were to happen ( all assuming they are going without you).

Posted by
5511 posts

Rick advises readers that northern Europe is easier to handle than southern Europe - for a variety of reasons, including the ones melissa refers to when she says, "I was approached almost daily to my annoyance." Send these very young, novice travelers to Zurich and keep them in Switzerland. In 10 days, they can expose themselves to the French-speaking, German-speaking, and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland - but they will nearly always be able to use their English if they need to because the Swiss tend to master our language much more often than southern Europeans do. Switzerland is perhaps the safest place on the planet, and probably the most beautiful, with a very dependable travel infrastructure. You can get them a youth railpass for Switzerland for around 250 - $350 that will get them all over to see the country's charms. Hostels there are reasonably priced - at the very handsome Brienz hostel, on Lake Brienz between Interlaken and Lucerne, for example, bed and breakfast buffet will run CHF 28 per night. There's a small kitchen where they can microwave some soup or make tea, etc. And there's Internet access so they can stay in touch cheaply. http://www.sjh.ch/en And I would wait a month or two on tickets - prices often drop for June in February or March.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks to Nancy, Russ & Melissa for points well taken. I agree they might have bitten off more than they can chew. We are working with a travel agent & she's suggested Ireland. The girls wanted to do London, Paris & Rome, but it's way too much (both expensive-wise & with their short travel time). They were heartbroken when we added in the airfare & it became a no-go. And it's tough to shake those cities out of their heads! We looked into Contiki Tours, but they are just more than we can afford right now. Do any of you know other reputable youth oriented tours we can research? Wish they had more time, but both have jobs they need to get back to.
Jenn

Posted by
5511 posts

"The girls wanted to do London, Paris & Rome, but it's way too much..." Yes, it is, in every way. Tours don't get much cheaper than Contiki. If they don't want to do something more limited/less expensive, then perhaps you put your $ contribution into a trust fund of sorts; let them save up to pay the balance of a more extensive trip and then travel a few years from now.

Posted by
9363 posts

Jenn, that's why I suggested Ireland, too, in my first post. There are lots of deals around for airfare, if you watch for them, and a variety of tour options, like Paddy Wagon, that might suit younger travelers. On my four trips there (so far), the Irish people have been unfailingly warm, friendly, and helpful when I got a bit turned around or needed a suggestion for routing. And they speak English. As a first trip, I think it's a much better option.