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Help Plan Our Itinerary - Zurich to Bosnia, Croatia...and Beyond?

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Help Plan Our Itinerary - Zurich to Bosnia, Croatia...and Beyond?

Old Aug 3rd, 2018, 04:39 AM
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Help Plan Our Itinerary - Zurich to Bosnia, Croatia...and Beyond?

I posted a couple threads yesterday, and have not received a response, but I am seeking additional input on our planned April 2019 trip. I found a screaming deal from NY to Zurich, so I went ahead and booked the round trip flight. We will be in Europe in mid-April for 2 weeks (April 10-23). It will be myself, my husband, our two kids (5 and 4), and my parents. One week of our trip will be spent in BiH and Croatia. The other 7 days we have free. There are a lot of options for this trip and I can't seem to decide or commit to any one idea, so I'd love the input. My husband is from Mostar. It will be the kids and my parents' first trip there.

Originally, I had just wanted to rent a van in Zurich and drive down into Croatia and back over the two weeks, however, we cannot find a van rental in Zurich that will allow us to do take a van into the Balkans. So unless someone has a lead on that the idea is scrapped.

The easiest and most affordable plan for a party of 8 that I've brainstormed so far is:
- Arrive in Zurich the morning of the 11th. Stay in Zurich, or head out to another "home base" -- Luzern? Until the 14th. From what I have researched, people generally recommend Luzern as a home base for traveling around the area. I would also like day trip ideas. Going over into Italy or Liechtenstein seems like it would be overly ambitious, but Lombardy and Liechtenstein are both places I've always wanted to visit, so it is temping to try and scope those two places out. I also lived in Triberg, Germany in high school so it also might be nice to take the kids up there for a day trip.
- 14 April: Fly to Sarajevo. Stay one night in Mostar.
- 15 to 20 April: Stay somewhere in southern or central Dalmatia. My husband has previously lived in Split, but I have been a little ambivalent about the city when I've been there in the past. We prefer self-catering apartments, so where we stay will probably be dependent on what we find that we like (apartment/condo, villa, aparthotel near/on a beach). I've always wanted to stay on one of the islands, but since it is still off-season and the kids are so young it might be better to stick with the mainland and save Croatian island-hopping for when they are older.
- 20 April: One night in Sarajevo.
- 21 April - 23 April: Back in Zurich. We will want to stay in Zurich the night of the 21 and 22 since we are flying out on the 23rd. The closer we are to the airport for a 9 hour flight back to the US the better.

Flying into Split or Dubrovnik would probably be easier. Torn on if we should spent the extra money for those flights and just do a couple day trips into Bosnia (would mean we'd likely only go to Mostar and Medjugorje and even then it would be a LONG day/days). We would like to find that elusive van to rent, so it is possible that determines what city we fly into (my mother is in charge of researching that angle).

I'm also not opposed to getting creative and doing trains/ferries to get us to Croatia. Or flying/going by train into another city in the Balkans and driving once we get someplace where van rentals are not a issue. If we did more driving, it would mean cutting out more of Switzerland and being on the road and traveling more. Traveling to Europe with kids will be an adjustment. I'm usually a fast-paced, hectic traveler so it's been an a change of pace to have the kids along. To date with them we've stuck to places that involve less travel (e.g. Mexico, Caribbean), but they are generally OK travelers (two very busy boys, however). My husband and I have not been back to Europe since we had kids so it is tempting to cram as much in as possible.

It's amazing how quickly 2 weeks goes! Wish we could take a month off of work.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2018, 08:02 AM
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I would have passed on the "deal" into and out of Zurich and flown into Zagreb and, if possible, out of Sarajevo.

You have only 12 days on the ground, April 11 through 22. In the itinerary you're contemplating, you're staying in (at least) 5 different hotels. And you're traveling with two little kids who will be the primary factor in how fast or slow you can travel. You also mention you're a "party of 8" which is a fairly large group, and moving groups takes much more time to organize and move around.

Is Zurich a priority for this trip, or is it just in the mix because of the "screaming deal"?
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Old Aug 3rd, 2018, 08:18 AM
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Well, it was purposeful not to fly into a Croatian and Bosnian city. We wanted to break up the flights for the kids. It might bite me in the behind later, but knowing how they have done on 4-5 hour flights of multiple legs thus far, my husband and I felt like breaking up the travels to get to our main destination was preferable to powering through with multiple layovers and being stuck in airports for so long. Zurich was chosen because it was close-ish, had direct flights from there to get us into either Bosnia and Croatia, and yes, that screaming deal. Certainly after we do this, we might decide it's not worth the hassle, but it's what we're going with this time.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2018, 01:41 PM
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I hope this works out for you, but I think once you've delved into the transportation options/issues and how long it takes to get from place to place you will be compelled to scale back. I think you'll need all of your days for Croatia and Bosnia with perhaps only the first and last nights in Zurich.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2018, 02:32 PM
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Lucerne is a great base - but is not in the awesome Alps - but if not interested in that a very pleasant city - for a day trip consider going to Como - on direct train route from Lucerne and take boats around. For lots on trains check www.seat61.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com. Book early and save money but lose flexibility as those discounted tickets are train-specific and typically cannot be changed nor refunded. www.sbb.ch for discounted tickets - otherwise just buy on day of travel - no problem.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2018, 04:28 PM
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Much as I love Switzerland – and I do! – you might consider adding those days to your time in the Balkans. Have you been to Sarajevo? IMO, it easily merits at least 2 or 3 days. If you do decide to spend a few days in Switzerland, whether to stay in Zurich or go to Luzern or other depends very much on what YOU want to see and epxerience, and we would need to know about those preferences if we are to give you any kind of worthy advice.

BTW, April is not ideal for certain parts of Switzerland – please be sure to consult some good “when to go” resources before making a commitment to any specific part of that country! And you might want to consider putting all of your time in Switzerland at the end of your trip.

And do, please, remember that frrequent changes of location are difficult with large groups – particularly groups that include children!. Too, 6 -- or is it 8? -- people is a lot for just one van – be sure you’ve got enough space to fit everyone AND their luggage – AND is small enough to maneuver all the roads you will want to take. Two vehicles might make more sense. Or traveling to places that won't require a vehicle might make even more sense.

Consider flying to Sarajevo. Spend a few days. Train to Mostar, train or bus to Croatia. Only rent a vehicle once you are in Croatia – and for that matter, only rent one if you actually need it.

Renting ANY vehicle in one country and returning it in another will likely cost an arm & a leg.

You have so many options in Croatia that I don’t even know where to begin to offer comments – except to say, as others are noting, that you can see very little in the time you’ve allowed yourself. You can see some wonderful things, but not a lot. And you know your children – are they interested in “city” things, or would they be happier in a place near the water or by hiking / biking trails? And how will meeting their interests fit with those of the adults in the group?

If you don’t already have it, please get a copy of the Rough Guide to Croatia.

Hope that helps!
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Old Aug 4th, 2018, 06:02 AM
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I would be inclined to fly straight on from Zurich, probably to Sarajevo, and put any Swiss time at the end. I really enjoyed Sarajevo - are you short-changing it because you have been there before?

Switzerland can be very expensive, and I would want to spend any Swiss time in the mountains, probably Murren or Wengen, but has already been mentioned it may be the wrong time of year. You could take a train from Zurich to Como or Milan (book ahead for great deals) and visit the Italian Lakes on the way to the Balkans but again, may not be the best time of year.
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Old Aug 4th, 2018, 06:57 AM
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I'd give Sarajevo a bit more time too. The train journey between Sarajevo and Mostar is one of the best you're ever likely to enjoy, and it only takes 2.5 hours.

A bus from Mostar to Split takes about 4 hours, pretty good scenery especially when the bus hugs the coast once into Croatia.

Have a look at a full day on either Brac or Hvar. The ferry trip is great and inexpensive, takes an hour to Brac from Split, and 2 hours to Stari Grad on Hvar. Lots of folk also recommend a day at Trogir, personally I'd give it a miss and explore Split Old Town a bit more.
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Old Aug 4th, 2018, 11:10 AM
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Thanks all for the thoughts!

kja -- to be clear, we are going to repeat places in BiH and Croatia that I have been to several times and that my husband lived in until he was in his teens. So while I'm sure my parents would love exploring, and my husband wants to stop by those places, they don't necessarily need to be done to really "get into" the cities. We are going for a vacation and to visit "home" for my husband. Part of the reason that we wanted to stay in Croatia on the coast is because we normally stay in Bosnia while we are there and just do a night or two in Croatia, so we are reversing it this trip, but more or less sticking to the same places that we always go (Sarajevo, Mostar, and Southern Dalmatia). It definitely would be awesome if we have time to make the drive to Kotor this trip because we never have when we've stayed before. But wrestling around with how much time to spend in each city and how frequently to move is definitely a kicker for us. I'll have to go back and play around with flights a little more to see if flying into Sarajevo a couple days earlier is even an option -- I think the flight is only a couple to a few days a week. Aside from being to Sarajevo and Mostar before, the kids are definitely too young to "appreciate" the history behind both of those cities and what their father went through. Although my parents certainly would enjoy it.

And my intention was never to rent a car in one country and return it to another -- we wanted to drive down into Bosnia and Croatia on route, and come back another route. Simply DRIVING into the Balkans seems to be an issue. We definitely would like a car as we are very independent, "explorer" type travelers (there will be 6 of us). I'm confident those 7 passenger vans and light packing will get us all crammed into a van if we can find one to rent. Otherwise, like you said, we could always rent two cars. The 6 of us travel a LOT together so I'm not worried about wrangling everyone and the kids and getting us where we need to go. While our trips to date have been closer to home, our kids also travel a LOT and are pretty go with the flow...assuming we are providing them ample opportunity to get their heebeegeebies out (hence the broken up flight).

They definitely do better with space to roam and trails to explore. Beach, hiking, exploring, and tiny towns off the beaten path are our cup of tea with kids.

Thanks for the thoughts!

Last edited by bikeskidstravel; Aug 4th, 2018 at 11:16 AM.
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Old Aug 5th, 2018, 02:54 AM
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Another random question for people who have been to Croatia this time of year -- will pools be open at houses/villas/apartment complexes/hotels yet? It seems logical because in the northern Tundra of the land of 12 feet of snow a year, people usually open their pools Memorial Day weekend.
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Old Aug 5th, 2018, 10:25 AM
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If you really want to rent a car in Zurich and drive to Croatia (but not Bosnia) that is possible. I have done this(from Munich) using Hertz. I even drove the narrow strip of Bosnia to get to Dubrovnik. I just called Hertz today and they told me the category F (Ford Galaxy-7 passenger) qualifies for driving to Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy, and of course Germany and Austria.
While 12 nights is a short time for what you want to do if you take the car ferry at least one way Split to Ancona, Italy or reverse it can be done. You would need to take public transportation or a tour Split(or where ever you stay in Croatia to Mostar and return as a day trip to Mostar. Below is a sample itinerary. It could be in reverse order and you could take the car ferry in both directions. They depart at about 8 PM and arrive about 7AM(I did not check which days Ferry operates. I may be off by a day.). They also have cabins for sleeping the night.
Sample Itinerary:
4/11- Arrive Zurich am, drive 1hr40m to Liechtenstein for the night.
4/12- Drive 4hr5min to Salzburg for the night.
4/13- Drive 3hr10m to Ljubljana(or Lake Bled) for the night.
4/14-Drive 5hr1m to Split for 5 nights.
4/15,16,17,18 Split or day trips
4/19- Day in Split, Overnight Ferry ( leaves 8 PM) to Ancona,Italy
4/20- Arrive Ancona 7AM. Drive 5hr20m to Lake Como for the night.
4-21- Drive 2hr42m to Lucern for the night. Turn in car.
4/22-Lucern
4/23- Train 1hr18m to Zurich Airport for flight home.
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Old Aug 5th, 2018, 10:38 AM
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Driving Map
https://goo.gl/maps/GNcCLGbbBXE2
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