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Almost ready to book France/Switzerland-need help w Itinerary, SCNF

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Hello,

I've been posting about a last minute trip to Europe this summer. We've tossed around various ideas, and with the help of other Fodorites we've narrowed down our itinerary to a couple of different choices.

DH and I will be traveling with our two teenage sons, 17 and 15. They are fairly experienced travelers after a month throughout Italy last summer. This year, we want to visit Paris (for the culture, food and experience), Switzerland (pristine beauty, culture, amazing views), and Provence (to soak up the warmth and ambience).

I've been doing extensive research on flights. Since we don't live near a hub, we always have at least one stop. I'd really like to avoid two stops but if it makes sense financially, we can do it that way.

Ideally, we wanted to fly into CDG and home from Nice. This would allow Paris to set a magical introduction to the trip, then we'd be amazed at the sights of Switzerland, and relax a bit in Provence before heading home.

It would look like this:
• Fly into CDG, stay in Paris 5 nts (or 4 if no Versaille)
• Train to Geneva or Zurich (if we go to Zurich, we could work our way back toward Geneva which geographically makes sense), stay in Switzerland 12 nts (Luzern, Logano, Montreux?), ending up in Geneva for train to Avignon
• Pick up car in Avignon, stay 4 nts St Remy
• Drive to St Paul de Vence or Nice, stay 2 nts
• Fly home from Nice

The reason for the jag over to Nice (besides returning to St Paul de Vence) is that the best one stop flight (Delta) leaves from Nice. Unfortunately, there is no one-stop flight for us from Marseille, which I think is the only other airport near Avignon that would possibly have non-stop flights to JFK, PHL or somewhere that connects for us.

So, in researching I came up with two other possible itineraries.
Second choice: Fly into Zurich/ home from Nice
• Fly into Zurich, stay in Switzerland 12 nts, ending in Geneva
• Train from Geneva to Paris stay 5 nts (4 if no Versaille)
• Train Paris to Avignon, pick up car stay 4 nts in St Remy
• Drive to St Paul de Vence, stay 2 nts
• Fly home from Nice
This is a bit less expensive, but not too sure if we will really want to head to a city like Paris after all the natural beauty and serenity of Switzerland.

Third choice: Fly into CDG/home from Zurich
• Fly into CDG, stay in Paris 5 nts (or 4 if no Versaille)
• Train to Avignon, pick up car, stay 5 nts in St Remy
• Train from Avignon to Geneva; (right now 4 tickets Avignon TGV 16h14/Geneve Cornavin 19h 16 for 140E TOTAL)
• Stay in Switzerland 12 nts, ending in Zurich
• Fly home from Zurich
This is the least expensive, and it might be the best alternative for another reason. First, we would only stay in St Remy while in Provence, thereby cutting down on check-ins, etc. The only downside is that we had hoped to finish in Provence, where we're comfortable with the Nice airport.

So can anyone help with these questions?
1. Which itinerary looks best/ could you suggest any tweaks to improve one over the other?
2. Is there another airport near Avignon that would fly direct to the northeast US?
3. Can anyone advise about the Zurich airport? I would expect that the Swiss have that pretty well organized, but just want to check if anyone knows.
4. SCNF website has tickets right now for a total of 140 euros from Avignon to Geneva. Are Avignon TGV/Geneve Cornavin the stations I'd want to use? Suggestions on arriving at 19h 16: would you pay more to arrive earlier?

We definitely want to be economical but we also want to enjoy the journey!

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!

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