11 day trip to Europe in August 2015

May 8th, 2015, 06:23 PM
Original Poster
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11 day trip to Europe in August 2015

My husband, my daughter (age 19) , my, son (age 16) and I are planning to go to Europe at the end of August. We will be flying into Zurich and flying out of Paris. We want to see the South of France and Paris when we are in France. My husband wants to rent a car in Zurich and drive everywhere. I think we should take a train from Zurich to France. Do we need a car? Will we get more of a "feel" of the country if we drive? My husband wants to go from Switzerland to Austria and then to France. We are going for only 11 days so I want to make the most out of our trip. Also, any thoughts on staying in "aparthotels" while in Europe?

njfamtravel is offline  
May 8th, 2015, 06:47 PM
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The good news is that a car is probably the best choice for a party of 4 adults. Per person it's probably cheaper than going by train. And France I am told is wonderful by car (I've never done it by that mode).

The bad news is that Paris, Provence, Switzerland, and even Austria is a crazy amount of territory to cover in just 11 days (10 nights?), regardless of transportation mode. You'll spend most of your days in a car, not in the places you want to visit!

I suggest flying into Nice and out of Paris. This way you will start in southern France, you can then train or drive to Chamonix to get your Alps fix. From there it's on to Paris with perhaps a brief taste of Burgundy.

If the flights have already been booked (into Zurich and out of Paris), then I suggest spending your first 3 or 4 nights in the Interlaken area. You could then take a train to Burgundy or the Alsace for a few nights, with Paris taking the remainder.
Edward2005 is offline  
May 8th, 2015, 06:48 PM
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IMO, it's not whether you should drive or train, but whether you should be trying to see multiple areas that are so far apart in only 11 days. You should check driving times and train journey times between the points you're considering. Do you have to fly into Zurich?

In case you don't know, a car rental started in Switzerland and ending in France will most likely involve a drop fee. Plus you'd need to rent a fairly large car to hold 4 adults and luggage. You can do a search on Avis.com or Autoeurope.com to see what the overall cost might be.
Jean is online now  
May 8th, 2015, 06:55 PM
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First time visitors always try to cram in too much in too little time.
Exactly how are you counting your 11 days? Is day 1 flying to Zurich, and you arrive on day 2?

It helps a lot if you plan your trip according to nights rather than days. Write down where you will spend each night.

Hopefully, you already have a plan for what you want to see and do where....but it doesn't sound like it.

Have you investigated the cost to pick up a car in Switzerland and drop it in France? You also need to consider that you need a car large enough to hold 4 people and luggage.

What do you want to see in Switzerland? It is a country with great public transportation so you can go many places without needing a car.

My only trip to France (so far) was 18 days. 1 nt Chartres, 4 nts Loire Valley driving, 5 nts Paris, fly to Nice, 5 nts Cannes doing day trips, 1 nt Paris prior to early return flight. It wasn't long enough. France is a very large country with much to see.

If this were my trip I would split it between Switzerland (nice weather in summer for the Alps) and Paris, since the return is already decided.

I don't think you have any time for Austria this time around, but only you can decide your priorities.

Happy planning!
Dayle is offline  
May 9th, 2015, 04:09 AM
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While Switzerland and Austria are different countries, my experience of driving around them does not really raise any particular "wow this is so different than yesterday", so I think hubbie may need to back down.

Driving around south france is perfectly ok as lomng as you get into the smaller villages and out into the country. If you are just going city to city I'd probably stick with trains (even though it might be a bit cheaper in the car, the time and effort is less)

Mulhouse is a pretty nice town to pick up a car and close to Zurich if you don't want do the whole Swiss thing.
bilboburgler is offline  
May 9th, 2015, 04:46 AM
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Upon arriving in Zurich I would take the train immediately to Interaken for 3 nights. You won't have much of the first day what with arriving, getting to Interlaken, jet lag, etc. but perhaps you could take a boat ride on the lake. That leaves you with two full days. If the weather cooperates go up to the mountains, if not there are day trips to places like Bern you could do.

Then train to Nice. What do you mean by 'south of France'? It really is divided into Provence and the Cote d'Azure and you can't see both from one base. I think you'd probably only have 4 nights so you could do 2 + 2 or pick one region for 4 nights. For Provence you'd want to rent a car. If you wanted to just stay on the coast you could do it by train, but the coast will probably be pretty crowded in August. I wouldn't want to drive there at that time, and would suggest spending the entire time in Provence.

To get to Paris you could either train from Avignon or drive. But you only have 4 more days so not time to stop any where en route. Four days in Paris is a minimum.
isabel is offline  
May 9th, 2015, 07:49 AM
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FYI, Interlaken to Nice by train will take 10 hours. Interlaken to Avignon 'only' 6.5 hours.
Jean is online now  
May 9th, 2015, 09:42 AM
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With a car you could possible hit all those places cheaper than with a train and more enjoyable- stopping as you like, etc. But if you are mainly going to see cities or Alpine wonderlands like the Interlaken area then a car is rather useless - so countryside and the sheer fun of driving thru Europe which I often felt when young go by car - but for cities only take the train - some good sources for info on European trains to get a fix on that: www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Be sure to plan to drop the car off in the country you pick it up in or face a steep drop-off charge typically.

I would also make the Interlaken area the focus of the trip - younger folk will love staying in a Grindelwald, full of young Europeans who come to hike or climb mountains, etc.
PalenQ is offline  
May 9th, 2015, 11:37 AM
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Your problem is not car or train - it's how many days you actually have on the ground and how far you are trying to go. This decision should rest on your final itinerary. Cars make no sense in cities but are great in countryside and small villages (except some in Switz that don't allow cars).

We have done many road trips in europe and they can be fascinating, wonderful and even relatively cost effective, esp for 4 people.

But you are trying to see way too many different places in too little time.

If you clarify how you are counting days and nights (you can;t count the day you leave the US, the day you arrive in europe or the day you depart europe) and need to understand that 2 nights in a city means one full day of sightseeing then people can help you figure out what is really possible.

And then you can decide on car or train.
nytraveler is offline  
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