Please sign in to post.

To rent a car or take the train

My family of 5 (2 adults and 3 twenty year olds) will arrive in Frankfurt on Dec 26, 2011 and travel to Rome with stops in Stuttgart, Wohlen, Switzerland, Lausanne, and Zermatt or the 4 valleys and finally stopping in Rome for jan 2. How should we travel?

Posted by
5463 posts

In general, for 5 people, cost of tickets may easily pay the cost of rental and insurance, making a rental car a viable option. Specifically for the trip you mention, there are a few things to investigate. Cost of renting in one Country and dropping off in another does usually incur a hefty dropoff fee. Restrictions or added costs of taking a rental car into Italy from another country can exist Cost of a vehicle large enough to handle 5 adults plus luggage may be a premium from the normal small vehicle typically available. You will likely encounter a number of tolls, a permit required for Switzerland, maybe some other casts associated with driving. One thing to consider is maybe a multi mode type plan, train for some, car for other, even bus may be an option.

Posted by
5 posts

I was thinking of dropping off the car in south Germany and then get to Switzerland somehow. What do you think?

Posted by
813 posts

You drive or take the train. Here's my advice for both. Driving from STR to Zurich, watch out for the speed camera right as you cross the border into Switzerland. It's easy autobahn. Driving up through the 4 Valleys or the base for the tram to Zermatt could be problematic with weather. You can't rent the VW polo and expect to make it easily. Also, it's prime vacation time in Europe, expect heavy delays due to congestion around those prime ski areas. If you don't have reservations for New Years somewhere, get them now! From Switzerland to Rome is a long drive as well, but simple enough if you have experience with driving in Italy. As for the train, you can schedule out your itinerary on the country's rail sites. Except for Wohlen, they're all major enough stops you shouldn't have too many changes between each.

Posted by
31319 posts

anne marie, Driving at that time of year could be a "gamble", depending on the weather. If the weather is a "repeat" of last year, there could be severe conditions! Of greater concern is the fact that you plan to cover six widely separated locations in Europe in what appears to be a seven day time frame. IMHO, this Itinerary is not realistic or probably even possible, whether you decide to travel by car or by train. I really feel that you'll need to re-evaluate this plan and give some serious thought to skipping many of the places on your list. I assume you have flights booked already? Good luck!

Posted by
18056 posts

No need to rent a car and drop it in southern Germany. Depending on your route, Stuttgart to Lindau, near the Swiss border on Bodensee, can be as low as €29 for all five of you. That's using a €29 Baden-Württemberg ticket on a direct IRE to Lindau in 2¾ hrs. Since the Baden-Württemberg ticket is a hop on/off pass, you could stop off in Ulm to see the world's highest Gothic church tower or in Friedrichshafen to see the Zepplin museum on the way. You could also take the train just to Friedrichshafen and then the ferry across to Romanshorn, shortening your trip to Wohlen. December 26 is a national holiday (2nd Christmas) in Germany. I was on an SRO ICE from FRA to Mannheim on that date in 2001. I don't know how full regional trains in Baden-Württemberg might be then. There are no reservations for regional trains. There is one of those direct IREs leaving Stuttgart Hbf every two hours, and they start there, so if you get there ahead of time, you'll have plenty time to get a seat and won't have to change until Lindau.

Posted by
524 posts

Anne Marie I agree with Russ. I am sure there are reasons why you decided on your itinerary. But, it is really impossible. And then there is the weather and the Christmas holidays. I am not clear on whether you leave from Rome back to the US on Jan 2 or you have some extra time you could add on. Try these 2 exercises. Get a Western European Map - Plot your course. See how very far apart they are. The steps below will help you see the amount of travel time for your proposed itinerary. * get a paper/online calendar (wincalendar.com to make it easy to change) * put in proposed international flights. Count the 1st day as a recovery day & the last day as a flight day (pack, check out, time to airport, 2 + hrs. waiting). * with the suggestions you have received, plot the best route to your destinations. Add to calendar. * now figure out the travel times. Add to the calendar. For the train, go to http://www.bahn.com, English version. This will give you the actual time on the train. Read RS for purchase ideas. * for the car, go to viamichelin.com. Plot your current itineray and use their travel times NOT the miles/km to gauge how much driving time between locations. Get GPS & good map. * below are factors most people leave out when figuring out their actual train travel times. ** pack, check out of the hotel (get teens out of bed!) ** hotel to train station time (car, find way Out of the City) ** wait at the station time ** train time (car; get lost, winter weather, traffic jams) ** train station to hotel (car, find your way Into the city/hotel) ** check in, unpack ** get oriented, get lost (car, get lost a lot) ** Add all to the calendar.
Continued below.

Posted by
524 posts

Continued from above. Now, how much time do you have in each destination? Do you have any time? Is this what you expected? Is there enough time to do & see what you wanted? Many RS posters will suggest you not have any 1 night stays and to do day trips from a central city. If you work these ideas into your itinerary, it will keep your trip much more sane! Keep us posted on your itinerary! Bobbie

Posted by
524 posts

Oops! I agree with Ken regarding impossible itinerary. Bobbie

Posted by
1068 posts

@Bobbie: You should be a technical writer! (Maybe you are?) That was a GREAT explanation of how to figure out an itinerary with travel times. But I agree. The itinerary as written sounds impossible, alas.

Posted by
12040 posts

"How should we travel?" If you have one, by teleporter. That's the only way your proposed itinerary will work. "* below are factors most people leave out when figuring out their actual train travel times. ** pack, check out of the hotel (get teens out of bed!) ** hotel to train station time (car, find way Out of the City) ** wait at the station time ** train time (car; get lost, winter weather, traffic jams) ** train station to hotel (car, find your way Into the city/hotel) ** check in, unpack ** get oriented, get lost (car, get lost a lot)
** Add all to the calendar. " I'll add one more factor- you're going to be doing a lot of these steps without the benefit of sunlight, because near the winter soltice, useful daylight hours are very short in Europe. Accounting for all of the above, you can expect to add about four hours to the quoted travel times.

Posted by
5 posts

Everyone, thank you so much for the input! I'll keep you posted. lol

Posted by
2828 posts

People are vastly overstating the disadvantages of driving. Part of it is due to a stranger, odd "creed" among most Helpliners that car trips are "un-European" by definition and spending hours in trains would be something worth on itself. So take all this doomsday scenarios about car driving with a grain of salt. Winter drive? If you can drive Nov-Feb in Iowa, Washington or Maryland, you can drive in Germany, Switzerland, let alone France.

Posted by
7978 posts

So Andre, are you willing to sit in the middle of the back seat for hours on end traveling through Europe? I know I wouldn't be pleased with that. It is ok for a short ride in a city, but not long distance. This is 5 adults in a car, with luggage. Besides, the plan is covering vast distances in 7 days and thus, basically impossible to begin with.

Posted by
5 posts

We have decided to rent a car for the day from the Frankfurt airport to drive to Stuttgart and then take the Baden-Wittenberg train that he suggested (thanks so much!). So now the question is how do we cheaply travel from Romanshorn to Wohlen where my 20 year old exchange daughter lives? And then we go to Paris to return home.

Posted by
11798 posts

We leased a car for five, picking up in Amsterdam and dropping in Rome. Even with pick-up/drop-off charges it was much better than renting (especially because the price includes full CDW) or taking a train. My lessons learned were: Make sure you have a big enough car. We were self, wife, plus 16 and 12 boys and an 8 girl, each with one carry-on (just a daypack for the 8 year old). We chose a seven passenger Renault Grand Scenic II. It was perfect for us. If we were bigger people or had more luggage, we would have wanted something larger. Bring a GPS for Italy. I had driven in Northern Europe many times before this trip. After taking on Italy with just a map, I came home and bought a GPS which is now packed for any trip. Expect to lose time dropping in Rome. The only option was the airport and getting an Italian to keep an appointment, even when confirming by phone a day ahead, is a challenge. Italians have a unique driving style. I thought it was fun but I could see many people being seriously intimidated by it. When visiting cities if possible, look for lodging with free parking (usually in the suburbs) with convenient public transport into the city center. Having a car in a city center is an expensive hassle. A manual transmission diesel engine performs well and gets amazing mileage. It will always be my first choice in Europe.

Posted by
5253 posts

"We have decided to rent a car for the day from the Frankfurt airport to drive to Stuttgart..." You don't have to rent a car just to get to Stuttgart! Your trip involves travel in 2 states or "Länder" - Hessen & Baden-Württemberg. So at FRA, just buy one train daypass for each "Land" - the Baden-Württemberg ticket described above, and the "Hessen" Ticket (31€) will get 5 of you to Stuttgart for 60 Euros total. Both can be bought with a credit card at a DB ticket machine inside the train station at FRA. There are 2 stations, but you'll want the "Regionalbahnhof" station, the one that sends off regional trains to Stuttgart and elsewhere. The trip is 2-2.5 hours.

Posted by
2828 posts

Jo, While there are some disadvantages to car, you can always rent a larger car, a van for 7, which fits almost all parking lots and doesn't cost much more than the price of a regular sedan. There are also advantages of car travel: - you keep the family together, avoiding the need to bother about strangers in the way - it is easy to use the car as a luggage locker of sorts - you have utmost flexibility

Posted by
5253 posts

"you can always rent a larger car, a van for 7, which fits almost all parking lots and doesn't cost much more than the price of a regular sedan. " Not a good choice just to reach Stuttgart. At Autoeurope, 7-psgr. VW Multivan is $439 for one day. A 5-psgr. Touran will handle 3 suitcases and runs $205 for one day. Even that's going to be more than 3 times more expensive than the train (60 Euros) once you pay for gas. Annemarie: To get from Stuttgart to Wohlen, the 5 of you can also cover the German part of your trip to the Swiss border on the B-W ticket (29 Euros) discussed above. This pass could get you to Waldshut, and from there you'd be using Swiss trains and Swiss tickets to reach Wohlen You probably have a reason for picking Stuttgart as a destination, but if not, the B-W ticket will also get you to smaller, more scenic towns like Gengenbach or Gernsbach to the south west. These Black Forest towns, or any of 130 others, participate in the "KONUS" program, which gives you a free transport pass to anywhere in the Black Forest region and to the Swiss border. You can ride the train for free to Basel or to Waldshut, close to Wohlen. Your hotel or B&B hosts issue this card when you check in. http://www.blackforest-tourism.com/konus

Posted by
5253 posts

From Koblenz, Switzerland (just across the Rhine from Waldshut at the Swiss/German border) to Wohlen costs 13.40 CHF each, according to the Swiss railway site: www.sbb.ch Now you're going to Paris. Have you dropped plans for the rest of Switzerland and for Rome?

Posted by
524 posts

Anne Marie It would be helpful if you would provide the Helpline folks with your entire destination list. Your international flights dates and times and all other non negotiable stops; Daughter and Paris? Often we have creative suggestions to make your trip even better, cheaper, less train or car time, etc.
Bobbie

Posted by
12040 posts

OK, I'm fairly agnostic on the age-old Ricknik debate between auto rental vs. train, but this time I'll weigh in. Frankfurt to Stuttgart by autobahn... one of the worst drives in Germany. There's an insane amount of road construction in Baden-Württemberg and Hessen right now. What should be no more than a 90 minute drive for me (I live about 30 minutes south of Frankfurt) to Stuttgart has taken as long as 3 hours. If you're arriving by flight into Frankfurt, I can think of few worse introductions to Europe than driving jet-lagged in December to Stuttgart. PS- Nothing is certain in life except death, taxes... and Lee and Russ mentioning Länder or Sparpreis tickets when someone suggests driving in Germany...

Posted by
5 posts

OK, Ok. These are our parameters: arr. Frankfurt Dec 26 at 10:30 am. My husband (we have 3 vintage Porsches; one doesn't run; he restored both and is working on the third) so Stuttgart is really nonnegotiable. We are seeing our exchange daughter in Wohlen, the boys want to drive the autobahn and ski the Alps. We return on Jan 6 at 1pm. from Paris. So that's it! I like the combo of train and car. So now do we rent a car from Switzerland to get to Paris? lol

Posted by
31319 posts

anne marie, Thanks for the additional information - that helps. The only comment I have at the moment is that travel from Switzerland to Paris would be better via TGV, especially at that time of year.

Posted by
977 posts

Understand the husband's fascination with Stuttgart and Porsche. I have one of those!!! We did the Porsche factory tour last year. It was fantastic. We had to book this tour in Australia before we left. I guess you guys have organised this already.

Posted by
188 posts

Beware if you charge your rental using a Capital One card they now exclude the VAT portion of any damage claim, this can be over 20 %

Posted by
638 posts

Or fly a cheap airline from Switzerland to Paris. Also, check with whoever you rent a car from about the driving age required, you may have to pay a lot more for your sons to drive; plus if both adults drive you're paying for 5 drivers, that will add to your cost of renting.