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Doubts About Ending Swiss Trip in Lugano

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May 14th, 2014, 09:02 PM
  #1
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Doubts About Ending Swiss Trip in Lugano

This will be our first trip to Switzerland. We are traveling in early September and we will have the second class Swiss Pass. We are arriving in Zurich. We have reservations for 3 nights in Lucern (jet lag), 4 nights in Wengen, and 4 nights in Montreux.

We have no reservations for our last 3 nights. 2 of those nights were originally going to be in Lugano, and 1 at the Malpensa airport where we have a 10:20 departure to fly home.

When I was making hotel reservations I balked at Lugano. Our other bases in Switzerland were very easy to choose, they were all new adventures for us and I knew exactly what we wanted to do in each of those spots. Not so sure about Lugano. We live near Lake Tahoe in California, and we will just have come from other beautiful lakes in Switzerland.

Would it be foolhardy for us to keep our last 2 nights open so that we could go wherever we pleased? I already feel a bit fenced-in by having made so many advance reservations. That is why the Swiss Pass appeals so much to us.

If we choose not to go to Lugano do you think that we will be able to find last-minute hotel reservations on Booking.com? We are not picky about hotels, but we would appreciate being within a short distance from the train. We aren't interested in nightlife, we don't hike. We just love good scenery and quirky places, seeing new things, walks, and breathing fresh air. All suggestions are welcome!

A big Thank You to all of the Switzerland posters on this board. You don't know it, but I started obsessively reading your posts about 9 months ago. Were it not for you, my husband and I would never be making his dream trip!
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May 15th, 2014, 12:44 AM
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You could actually stay at Lake Como, Bellagio or Varenna for a couple of nights and then go on to spend the night near Malpensa. If you don't mind getting up early, you could even spend the three nights at the lake. Lugano is lovely, but so is the Como area, in fact, I think that the Como side is prettier and meals are much less expensive.
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May 15th, 2014, 01:49 AM
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Italy is cheaper than Switzerland, but the infrastructure around Lake Lugano/Lake Maggiore is way better:
1 cog wheel railway, 3 cablecars, 8 gondolas, 4 bus lines leading to different viewpoints (lakes and mountains), buses to almost every remote village (lakes and mountains) at least every hr, castles at Bellinzona (Unesco World heritage site), Locarno, Isola Bella, Angera..., Sanctuaries at Madonne del Sasso and Re, churches with famous frescoes at Lugano, Capriasca..., buildings of modern star architect Mario Botta at Lugano, Monte Tamaro..., geological parks of Monte San Giorgio (Unesco site) and Gole della Breggia......
http://www.ticino.ch/en/
Bus Lugano - Malpensa:
http://www.jetbus.ch/orarijetbus_01032014.pdf
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May 15th, 2014, 08:06 AM
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After dozens of visits to Switzerland I can tell you that I rarely pre-book hotels unless I am going to a specific area I am familiar with and wish to stay in a hotel that I know. I have never had a problem finding a room anywhere in Switzerland.

I am a firm advocate of unplanned travel. Tourists plan a tour, travellers plan to get to A and remain flexible to decide what to do each day after that.

The first time I took my wife to Switzerland we arrived in the little town of Meiringen and found a room. I asked for 4 nights. The next day we took the cable car up to the Hasliberg and hiked. The next day we visited Ballenberg and the following day we went to Jungfraujoch. Times up.

My wife said, 'oh, I love it here, I don't want to leave yet' and that is when the lighbulb went on for her. She had been aprehensive about not having any bookings beforehand but trusted me when I said it's not a problem. So when she said, 'I don't want to leave yet', I just asked for another couple of nights and the hotel said, 'no problem'.

Not pre-planning where you have to be next gives you that flexibility obviously. From that day till now, my wife no longer wants to pre-plan anything. I never understand why people take their 'free time' and then self-impose a schedule on it. Isn't getting away from schedules a big part of what a vacation is supposed to be about?

As for bookings.com and the rest, I never use any of them. I show up and find a room in person. Some try to argue that they get better prices by pre-booking, I disagree. I always negotiate a room price and I doubt very much that on average I pay more than someone who pre-books all their hotels. Nor am I alone in that.

Do a Google search for 'hotel insider tips' and you will get lots of hits. Read some and you will find recurring themes. Don't book online with a third party being one of them. Book directly with a hotel over the phone if you must pre-book or book in person at the desk for the best deals.

People think booking ahead gets them lower prices. In fact, industry insiders say the best deals are to be found on the day of and the closer to full the hotel is the better the deal you can get! That's completely contrary to what most people think.

http://www.learnvest.com/2012/06/how...-hotel-expert/

If it were me, I'd cancel all your bookings except the first one and wing it after that entirely.

There's nothing wrong with research or having a list of places you think you would like to visit but the idea that you can know beforehand how long you will want to stay in a place beforehand makes no sense whatsover. What happens if you want an extra day in Montreux or a day less?

Pre-planning and pre-booking are like putting handcuffs on yourself.
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May 15th, 2014, 08:39 AM
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You could consider Zermatt as a nice few-day stop en route from Montreux to Italy - Saas-Fee is a nice component of a Zermatt trip - your Swiss Pass being valid on the bus from the train from Zermatt - but Zermatt even without hiking can be great - mountain trains up to the Matterhorn, etc.

And an easy shot to Italy - you may want to make your last stop in Italy Stresa, a lovely city of Lake Maggiore that I believe has shuttles to Malpensa Airport or is not that far by train if you get an early start.

As always and probably did before in your posts I highlight these fine sites for lots of info on Swiss trains, lake boats, etc - www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com. Compare the cost of Swiss Passes bought Stateside with those in Switzedrland - often in the past several years when I compare prices for exact same pass it has often been cheaper for some weird reason if bought in U.s. - sometimes significantly so - but not always so check and if prices about the same just buy at any train station in Switzerland, keeping in mind any foreign transction fees your c c or ATM may tack on.
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May 15th, 2014, 09:17 PM
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Thanks to each of you. I am enjoying all of your suggestions. Actually, your ideas have set me free. I am starting to realize that I don’t have to have all the answers in advance.

Packed, Como sounds interesting. I have read many posts about the differences in costs between Switzerland and Italy. That is certainly something for us to keep in mind. Economy does come into the picture for us if we want to be able to make future European trips. I used to think that one “biggie” would be the way to go, and we actually did that 2 years ago, but the more I read, them more trip opportunities I find for the future.

Neckervd, thank you for enlightening me on infrastructure in Lugano. That is one of those issues that can become very important, and you have presented a new and different way to look at travel. Getting around easily is one of my prime goals. I recall previous trips where I never really mastered the transportation systems. I used to be intimidated by public transportation. On the other hand, when we have been successful at getting around, we have had wonderful experiences and gone home feeling that we gave it our all.

Dulci, dozens of trips to Switzerland….wow. What a good life. My husband and I love to travel with minimal plans, but we have only done that on the west coast of the USA. We haven’t let ourselves loose in Europe. Your story of Meiringen is a case in point. Just the other day I was looking at the Swiss map and wondering if we could stop there on our way to Wengen. We want to go to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. The train from Lucerne stops there anyway, but somehow I thought that we should just stay on the train and go back to Meiringen another day. Also, I will follow your suggestion to look for “hotel insider tips.”

Palen, Zermatt is now in the game. I had thought of Stresa on Lake Maggiore too. I remember reading your posts about buying checking Swiss Pass prices with Brian and I saved that information in my “Notes” on my iPad…it is saved along with many of your other tips, all of them deeply appreciated. My “Notes” file is huge because I love to copy and paste. I think it is an addiction.
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May 16th, 2014, 01:25 AM
  #7
 
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I used to travel without advance bookings until I wasted lots of my holiday time on a trip to Spain, not even in high season, looking for places to spend the night. After that, I decided that the advantages of booking ahead outweigh the disadvantages. I admit that there are advantages to making decisions on the spot, but not at the cost of wasting precious vacation time.

I do sometimes decide to extend my stay in a place, even at the price of paying a penalty for last-minute cancellation of a reservation in the next place.
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May 16th, 2014, 02:03 AM
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To follow Dulcie's advice about not pre-booking.

Don't take any luggage either. Just buy whatever you need, when you need it.
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May 16th, 2014, 05:53 AM
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I used to travel without advance bookings until I wasted lots of my holiday time on a trip to Spain, not even in high season, looking for places to spend the night.>

Ah that is the crux of the issue to me - before the internets I would just arrive in a town and have to look around - from the lists in my Let's Go Europe - to find something in my price range at least - literally spending at least two hours tracking down a place to stay.

Now I get something in my price range well ahead of time and just get off the train and head to the B&B, hotel, etc.

It saves me time and money that is for sure - used to be at times I had to take things more expensive than now I can reserve online -mhy experience being much different from dulcie's - I at times found cheaper hotels all booked up - I guess we travel in parallel universes.
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May 16th, 2014, 08:41 AM
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Well if costs are a factor and to most they are then staying just over the border from Lugano - in Como or on Lake Como would mean yes cheaper everything practically across the board and to me Como or Stresa, etc are more interesting than Lugano - justmy opinion but Lugano never ecited me - way too modern and spiffy though in a sweet location on Lake Lugano - boat rides are great and there are some neat postal buses I have taken into the hills around Lugano that were fun.
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May 16th, 2014, 09:07 AM
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If another lake is less appealing, how about the medieval castles in Bellinzona?

http://www.bellinzonaturismo.ch/en.aspx
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May 16th, 2014, 11:54 AM
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Jean - thanks for that link - I have never actually poked around Bellinzona, just changed trains there or took the postal bus from here to Chur via the asewome Splugen Pass.

Will have to delve into Bellinzona next time as it looks like a gem - something out of France!
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May 17th, 2014, 03:14 AM
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..and don't forget the Post buses going from Bellinzona to

Paudo, a viewpoint at 800m/2700ft above Sea level, almost perpendicularly over the town of Bellinzona (650ft)

Carena in Val Morobbia; from there you can hike to Garzeno above Lake Como and go down to Dongo/Gravedona by bus

Rossa in Calanca Valley, one of the less touristic southern mountain valleys of the Canton of Grischun/Grigioni/Graubuenden/Grisons (and with 2 tiny gondolas to the also tiny mountain villages of Landarenca and Braggio).

as well as the cableways from Montge Carasso and Rivera (both close to Bellinzona) to the viewpoints of Mornera (4500ft) resp Alpe Foppa (5000ft).

The train ride from Bellinzona to the Lake Maggiore ferry at Magadino lasts just 20 min; to Locarno or Lugano 25 min.
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May 18th, 2014, 07:20 PM
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Jean, you brought up an area I had not even considered: Bellinzona. I spent several hours following your lead, looking at pictures and reading about the town. I wasn't even aware that there were medieval castles there. That certainly makes me think with new eyes about the Lugano area.

Palen, I hear you about spending valuable travel days looking for lodging. All I really wanted was a little bit of freedom and some new ideas. I got it. I will take your ideas seriously. I also remember your previous posts about the Postal Buses, and I especially enjoyed the ones you just outlined around Bellinzona.

Neckervd, wow, thank you for the wonderful details about transportation around Bellinzona and the surrounding peaks and valleys. You gave me so much more insight than my regular map can provide. I am struggling with mountain geography and and trying to plan for it's influence on our travel. Yes, I am aware of those teeny topo lines on my map, but it so much better to hear a bit about the lay of the land from a person who has practical experience.

Peter, what can I say ;-)? I used to dream that I could fly..... But I am 70 and now my dreams consist of having a healthy, safe, adventure in beautiful Switzerland. We are very fortunate to have this opportunity to travel. I do realize the need to travel light, and we do plan to buy minor toilitries along the way, but I think that we will each have a wheeled carry-on as well as daypacks to haul around. That is of course if my otherwise rational husband can limit his photography gear!

Thanks to each of you, as well as to the many other faithful posters who have so enriched my research for this trip.
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May 19th, 2014, 07:37 AM
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Palen, I hear you about spending valuable travel days looking for lodging. All I really wanted was a little bit of freedom>

In early September I'm sure you can free lance it and given the frequency of hotel vacancy boards in stations you can just get off the train and use the free phone to book your hotels - so in Switzerland with this nifty feature you will not waste much time and maintain flexibility.

I've used those hotel boards many times in off-seasons as September should be I think.
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May 19th, 2014, 01:19 PM
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I do realize the need to travel light, and we do plan to buy minor toiletries along the way>

Well I suggest you bring all the minor toiletries you can as sticker shock in Switzerland will send you into conniptions - so if say any daily toiletries bring a good supply and save tons of money.
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May 21st, 2014, 03:00 PM
  #17
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Thank you Palen. My latest idea about luggage; two small wheeled suitcases to check on flights, 2 over-the-shoulder carry-on bags to double as day-bags. Still thinking about this. Have not traveled with luggage while getting on and off a series of trains. On our longest train day we might send luggage ahead, but that won't be the norm for us. We might use Left Luggage areas at train stations, but we still need to be able to easily board and leave trains with our luggage in tow. I think finding the right set-up for us will make a big difference in our comfort level on the trains.
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May 21st, 2014, 03:17 PM
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Feom someone who always travels light, I always carry on my 21" wheeled carry my luggage. No miss sent bags and you get through passport control quickly. Switzerland is beautiful, enjoy your trip.
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May 21st, 2014, 10:16 PM
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We stayed in Locarno on our last trip to Switzerland It was our least favorite place we visited. It is certainly nice, but I would definitely think there are better places in Switzerland to explore. However, I would highly encourage a trip to Lake Como if you have the abilities. We stayed in Bellagio, and that whole area was more relaxing and beautiful than you can possibly imagine. We also flew home from Milan. If you fly later in the day, you could certainly travel from one of the lake towns to the airport. Because we had an earlier flight, we moved to the town of Como for our last night and took the train from there directly to the airport. I think it was about an hour. No need to stay at the airport your final night. So many fabulous options! Enjoy!!!
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May 22nd, 2014, 01:50 PM
  #20
 
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Plus staying in Switzerland means lots higher expenses often for say hotels, etc than just across the border in Italy.
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