Hi there - My family (2 adults and 2 children - 17 and 14) are travelling to Europe in Dec/Jan - basic itinerary is: Rome, Florence, Venice, Grindelwold, Paris, St Antons. Can anyone advise us on the most cost effective train travel arrangements - without compromising comfort. Also - we are planning to do Jungfrau from Grindelwold. So far we have booked accomodation for Rome, Florence and St Antons.
In the movie European Vacation, Chevy Chase played the character, Clark Griswold. That doesn't mean that everyplace in Europe ends in -wold. The town in the Berner Oberland in Switzerland is called Grindelwald.
Italy is easy, trains are plentiful and you will be on a main route. You can go to www.trenitalia.com and see prices and options. Your choice will really be taking the slower train or the fast train, speed costs, if you are not in a hurry the slower trains are fine as is 2nd class. There are some benefits to buying ahead and there may be a cost break for buying tickets for a group. If you get confused, there are several people on here that know Trenitalia pretty well, just ask. For Venice to Gimmelwald, it will mean going through Milan most likely, looks to be 8 to 10 hours, not sure if you can buy from Trenitalia, but you can see schedules and routes. Gimmelwald to Paris will be another long day, may try the French National site www.Renfe.com.
Several things in advance of my suggestions. First, in Dec/Jan, Grindelwald, as well as Wengen, Lauterbrunnen and Murren are ski areas. You can actually ski from Wengen or Murren down to Lauterbrunnen. Grindelwald is actually in an adjoining nearby valley. Make sure of your accomodations in these areas. Second, Trenitalia will not sell you a train ticket from Venice to Grindelwald. They will sell you one to the Interlaken Ost train station which is just a short hop from Grindelwald. The French won't sell you one from Gimmelwald to France but they will sell you one from the Interlaken Ost train station to France. Third, coming from Venice, most train runs will route you via Milan, Arth-Goldau (via the Gottard Tunnel), Lucern and then Interlaken Ost. This journey takes 10hrs. However, before the tunnel was opened, the runs used to be Venice/Milan/Spiez/Interlaken Ost/Grindelwald. If you scan the Swiss rail website www.rail.ch, you can occassionally see these alternate runs. They only take 7hrs30min. On 12/31, you can actually see one of these runs departing Venice at 8:09am. 4 train changes. Fourth, if you order in advance from the Swiss train website, you can request a family card. With the family card, the 14-year old travels free as long as one parent travels with them. I don't think you can get this card in Switzerland. Fifth, if you are going to the Jungfraujoch (top of Jungfrau), I would suggest the Swiss Half-Fare card for the other 3 travelers. Cost is about 110CHF (121AUD)and its good for 30 days. 50% off all train and bus transporation in Switzerland including the train to the Jungfraujoch. The retail price on the R/T ticket from Grindelwald to the Jungfraujoch is 170CHF (187AUD). The Half-Fare card comes in handy.
Hi Penny! Would you provide your entire proprosed itinerary? Including your international flight days and times? This would help us to provide the best advice. For instance, I was wondering if there was a way to break up your long train rides / train changes from Venice to Grindelwald and Grindelwald to Paris. But if your time is short that wouldn't work. It is a shame to spend 2 days on trains when you are going through such interesting and beautiful country. And well as a waste of good sightseeing time. Bobbie
Wow! Thanks so much Larry, Paul and Bobbie for your very helpful, constructive advice. Much appreciated. This is our itinerary. Some places we haven't booked accomodation for yet. We want the full week in Paris - our daughter is learning French at school and is in love with all things French. * Rome - fly in 6:45pm 24/12/11. Out 29/12/11 (accom booked) * Florence - In 29/12/11. Out 3/1/12 (accom booked) * Venice - In 3/1/12. Out 6/1/12 * Interlaken - In 6/1/12. Out 8/1/12 ** (see note below) * Paris - In 8/1/12. Out 14/1/12. * St Antons (via Zurich) - In 14/1/12. Out 21/1/12. (accom booked)
* Zurich - fly out 9:45pm 21/1/12. ** Interlaken. We are keen to get up to Grindelwald. Anyone with advice as to whether we could / should get up there from Interlaken on the 6th - after long train trip from Venice? - to stay 2 nights there?. Also - if we stay at Grindelwald until the 8th, would it be too much in one day to get train connection to Interlaken then on to Paris? Or is it best to stay in Interlaken and do day trip to Grindelwald and Jungfrau on 7th.? We know we are taking out 2 days for travel, but we want to get to Paris by 8th - and we want to expertience the other cities at night (even though it is winter) - so we thought the day train trips could also be a sightseeing experience.
Bobbie - do you have any other suggestions given our specific itinerary?
Rome-Florence: Standard 2nd class fare on high-speed EuroStar Italia trains is €45.00. Booked today on the Trenitalia site, you can get a Mini fare as low as €32.00 for some departure times on 29 December. Florence-Venice: Standard 2nd class fare on ES Italia trains is €43. Booked today you can get a Mini fare as low as €34.00 for some departure times on 3 January. Venice-Interlaken: The standard 2nd class fare for Venice-Brig with connections in Bologna and Milan is €104.00. Booking each leg separately on the Trenitalia site can get you a Mini fare of €23.00 for Venice-Bologna, a Mini fare of €34.00 for Bologna-Milan, and a Smart fare of €19.00 for Milan-Brig. The standard 2nd class fare for Brig-Interlaken Ost is 21.00 CHF. No discount for advance purchase. Interlaken-Paris: Book on the Swiss Rail site to get the best fare. Paris-St Anton am Arlberg: The standard 2nd class fare for Paris-Zurich is €121.00. Booked today at tgv-europe.com you can still get a Piccolo fare as low as €41.00 for 14 January. To keep the site in English and to avoid being bumped to the Rail Europe site which doesn't offer discount fares choose Great Britain as your ticket collection country. Dong that still allows you to pick up your ticket at any SNCF station or boutique in France. The Swiss Rail site shows a standard 2nd class fare of 52.00 CHF for Zurich-St Anton am Arlberg. No discount for advance purchase.
Penny, the trip from Venice to Interlaken (via Milan, Brig, Spiez) takes about 7 hours. going on to Interlaken adds 30 minutes. It is up to you whether you want to add that 30 minutes to your journey from Venice, or to the Jungfrau trip day. I would prefer to stay in Grindelwald itself, as it is a small village with a festive atmosphere and lovely mountains. But it is a ski resort and may also be pricey. Try HOeel Residence (apartment will accommodate 4) or Gletschergarten. You will want the Half-fare Card for the parents and 17-year old free Family Card for the younger child. This will reduce the cost of your travel in Switzerland from the entry point at Domodossola to the exit into France. It will take half off the pricey Jungfrau trip, and the child is free on that as well. If you have it in advance, you can show it when purchasing your tickets for travel into Switzerland and save time. The Half Fare card is 110 CHF each and you can buy it here: http://www.swisstravelsystem.com/produkttexte.php?passid=6 Shipping is free, but you need to buy it soon so they have time to ship to you in Australia. Travel from Interlaken to Paris is only 5 hours on the TGV, which you can meet at Basel. If you buy tickets in advance on the Swiss rail site (www.rail.ch) you may get the "special offer" price of 103 CHF instead of 54 CHF (those prices include Half-Fare Card discount)
I checked on Grindelwald hotels. Hotel Residence has a 1-week minimum until 6/1 so that will not work. Gletschergarten has rooms available for a 2-night stay, but for a family room you must call to book: 033 8531721 This is a very nice traditional Swiss chalet-style hotel, well-located. If they have a family room that would be my choice. Venere.com is showing family rooms available at Hotel Bodmi and Hotel Aspen. These are both a bit out of the center, so you would have to ask about rransport. Bodmi is located above the town with terrific views. There is a pedestrian path to reach it, as well as the road. They hare well-known for excellent food. I have enjoyed dinner there, out on the deck in the summer, and I can confirm that.
Thank you everyone for the tips - all have been very useful and we are well on our way with booking trains. Have ordered our swiss half fare cards / family card and have booked most italy trips through trenatalia on the mini fares - GREAT TIP there! - So THANKS EVERYONE!