Switzerland 1st time European Travelers

Old Jul 19th, 2010, 09:32 AM
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Switzerland 1st time European Travelers

Help! My husband and daughter decided they would like to go to Switzerland for a vacation. I have no clue on where to start. I have looked at package deals for the 3 of us but have become more confused. I don't know which city is the most convenient for what we want to do. My husband would like to take a train through (to) the Alps. My daughter would like to tour the chocolate and cheese factories. I just would like the least anxiety provoking vacation to sight see and do our own thing. But we do need guidence. Do I book everthing before we go or count on the concierge at the hotel once we get there? We have one week in August leaving from Chicago. I have no clue to hotels or airfair. Last minute trip before my daugther goes back to college. If this doesn't work out we will probably go to San Francisco.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 09:38 AM
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My husband would like to take a train through (to) the Alps.>

Well IMO the train is the way to go in Switzerland, where many Alpine areas simply do not even let cars in. Trains go everywhere - are extremely easy to use and modern - there is even The Chocolate Train that goes from Lausanne to the Broc Factory of Nestle - a guided tour by train for one day.

To get a great fix on Swiss trains i always highlight these great info-laden sites - www.swisstravelsystem.com - has links to specialty scenic trains like the Chocolate Train and also to the sbb.ch or Swiss Federal Railways for schedules and fares - and www.ricksteves.com; www.seat61.com and www.budgeteuropetravel.com - download the latter's free and superb IMO European Planning & Rail Guide's excellent chapter on Switzerland by train - rail maps - suggested itineraries, etc. A Swiss Railpass can be cost-effective even if doing only a week's trip - esp the 8-consecutive-day pass that would cover not only trains but postal buses, lake buses and gives discounts on aerial cableways, etc in the Alps. If you child is under 16 then he/she gets a free Family Pass to match the pass the adults buy - a great deal in this rather expensive country.
For rides by train thru the Alps i would encourage you to go to the Jungfrau Region - just north of Interlaken - mountain climbing trains going everywhere, including to Europe's highest train station at the Jungfraujoch - where a wondrous vista of glaciers, snow, etc unfolds.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 09:40 AM
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Hi Nadyne,

It'll be tough to get this done at the last minute; August is high season for the Alps.

The chocolate factory is in Broc, and the cheese making is in Gruyeres; you can do them with the Chocolate Train that leaves from Montreux or you can do it on your own if you are staying nearby (Montreux or Gstaad for instance).

Zürich is the biggest airport, so I assume you'll be flying in there -- there is a train station in the basement of the airport, so arriving and moving on is a breeze. Most folks want to see the high Alps, which lie in a wide swath through the middle of the country.

You could base in Luzern, which is an hour from the airport by direct train and has lakes and mountains and a bit of all of Switzerland! For more information on Luzern, see

www.luzern.org
www.lakelucerne.ch

Another place that many first-timers love is the Jungfrau region of the Berner Oberland, and particularly the car-free villages of Wengen and Mürren. This is where you find that quintessential Switzerland that you dream about! If you are interested in staying here, here is a site for more information:

www.myjungfrau.ch

You could spend four nights in either Luzern or the Oberland, then move on to spend two or three nights in Montreux on Lake Geneva. See Chillon castle and maybe do the Chocolate train.

Then to Zürich to fly out.

You can check the train schedules at the Swiss rail site

www.rail.ch

One good place to begin your research also is

www.myswitzerland.com

Have fun! Hope you get it all done!

s
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 09:44 AM
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Given the last minute nature of your trip and the kind of panicked tone to your e-mail, I think going with swandav's recommendation to stay in Luzern and Montreux makes a lot of sense.

It has been several years, but we liked the Hotel des Alpes in Luzern.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 10:15 AM
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Thank you all soooo much. I at least can start with flights to Zurich and check out staying in Luzern and Montreux. I will let you know of my progress.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 10:44 AM
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If you mean this August I think you are starting awfully late and will probably have trouble finding anything but very expensive airfares (have you looked yet at the prices into Zurich or Geneva - the former may be better) and even more expensive hotels. (There are budget options but they were likely booked months ago.)

Overall, Switzerland is very pretty, very clean and very expensive. If you go you will love it - but you have a huge amount of work to do in the next week - and need to have a realistic budget planned.

So, first -

go now and check out airfares for your dates.

then get a map of Switzerland.

Then look at hotels - both availability and price - I would check Lucerne (you can see a bunch from there by car, train and/or lake steamer). Also you might want to spend 1 or 2 nights actually in one of the small towns in the Berner Oberland - but don;t know where you will find available at this late date.

A quick look at Lucerne for random dates in August shows some hotels still have availability - but there are only 1 or 2 in the town that would be less than $400 per night for a triple room - just to give you a quick idea.

You can see cheese made in Gruyere and chocolate in /zurich - but you can also see either one made in a bunch of other places (but you would have to check days and times)
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 11:25 AM
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You have been given lots of good advice. All that I want to add is to check airfares to Milan, if these are much less than flying into a Swiss airport, it is easy to get to Switzerland from here. However, the chocolate train and cheese factories are NOT in the Southern Switzerland region.
Often flights to Milan cost less, and MXP is a hub for discount airlines so the regular airlines need to be competitive on many routes in/out of MXP. You can adjust your itinerary if need be if the Milan airfare works out.
If you can find a good fare to Zurich, that would be ideal.

Look at www.kayak.com, to compare flight prices.

BEFORE, you buy your flights, check hotel availability, to be certain you can get accomodation within your budget. Most hotels will be full during this time of year.

Switzerland is a great country to visit.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 10:32 PM
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I'm no expert but I have a friend who lives there. I have flown to the Geneva airport, taken a train out to the Lausanne/Vevey/Montreux area on 5 different trips. I kept things real simple, but the trips were all very easy to plan. Especially with only 7 days, it's not like you need all that many things organized. Plane tickets and hotel reservations, then after you arrive train tickets and a few activities. There's fun things to do that take no planning, like going to the farmers markets (Vevey Tues & Sat, Montreux Fri) for example. Or a boat ride on Lac Leman. The tram up Rocher de Nayes. The castle at Chillon.
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 03:27 AM
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Or from Montreux/Vevey/Lausanne you can take the Chocolate Train that goes to the Broc Nestle factory for a Willie Wonka Tour and also stops in Gruyeres, one of Europe's finest walled towns, and does a cheese factory tour!
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 07:49 AM
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Swiss Chocolate Train - Swiss Travel System
The Swiss Chocolate Train is a joint venture of GoldenPass Services and Cailler-Nestlé. Ride in first-class comfort in a “Belle Epoque” Pullman car, ...
http://www.swisstravelsystem.ch/en/c...ocolate-train/

and it is a scenic ride as well - from Lausanne the train zigzags up from the lake thru vast vineyards - wine and cheese are served en route - to Gruyeres where you tour a cheese plant and have time to amble around this romantic walled town - then onto Broc for the Chocolate tour and back to Lausanne.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 07:48 PM
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Nadyne: We also planned family trips before each one of our adult children went off to college. It's a big transition for your whole family.

I have a suggestion. Why don't you let your daughter do the planning? Give her some basic guidance, such as your budget, and the number of days of vacation you have. Then let her plan the trip, with guidance from the forums and guide books. It would be more relaxing for you, and also excellent preparation for her, as she is about to step into a much more independent lifestyle as a college student.

You'd be surprised how well your daughter will do when you hand over the responsibility to her.

You might also ask her to show you each hotel or airfare right before she books it...as you want to make sure she is booking with legitimate hotels and airlines.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2010, 11:27 AM
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to take a train thru the Alps the Berner Oberland is the place and to get there from say Montreux/Lake Geneva area you can take one of Switzerland's fabled specialty scenic trains the Golden Pass train that begins in Montreux - climbs steeply thru vineyards then rolls thru innmerable Alpine valleys with high snow-capped peaks in the distance all the way to Interlaken-Ost, jumping off point for real mountain trains into the high Alps.

The Golden Pass train provides commentary en route in English and runs a few times daily -there are also regular non-Golden Pass trains over the route hourly but the official GPass train has spiffy Observation 'Panoramic' cars and even some very unusual and unique VIP seats that are next to the train driver's cabin so you simulate driving the train itself. Details on Golden Pass - www.swisstravelsystem.com has a link.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2010, 11:49 AM
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I see a lot of unnecessary negativity here. Switzerland is one of the most user-friendly destinations in Europe and it doesn't have to be expensive, especially if you are flexibile on dates and location.

I just did a very cursory check and in 5 minutes came up with this:

RT fare Chicago to Zürich for $846 (plus tax, I assume) on Delta or KLM, departing 17 August and returning 24 August. Earlier dates were a bit higher (a little over $1000).

One night (18 August) in Zürich at Hotel Bristol, a family room for 230 CHF. We have stayed here; it's a good location not far from the train station and the Altstadt.

Three nights in Lauterbrunnen at Hotel Staubbach in a family room (with bath) for 220 CHF per night. This room is not a mountain view room but there is a balcony across the hall with a view of the waterfall.

That's as far as I got, but it illustrates how you can visit Switzerland without paying a fortune, even at the last minute.

I left out Luzern as that is one of the most expensive places in the country. We don't stay there for that reason. You can visit the town for several hours on your way from Zürich to Lauterbrunnen; there are lockers for luggage in the train station.

Lauterbrunnen is a small village in a valley that looks a lot like Yosemite. It is well-located for exploring the lakes and mountain scenery of the Bernese Oberland. And it's on the route to Montreux.

A good base in that area would be Vevey, or one of the other smaller villages on the lake. They are likely less expensive than Montreux itself.
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Old Jul 24th, 2010, 04:17 PM
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We decided to go to San Franciso and drive down to Los Angeles. I will be done with my Masters in Nursing Education in Dec. So on to a new project in January. Planning a trip to Switzerland in August. The right way with all of your suggestions. Thank you all soooo much!!!
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Old Jul 24th, 2010, 05:35 PM
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Get a guidebook. It will give you lots of useful information, and you'll be able to daydream while reading and planning.

When I'm going to a new destination, that's the first thing I always do.
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 06:47 AM
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Three nights in Lauterbrunnen at Hotel Staubbach in a family room (with bath) for 220 CHF per night. This room is not a mountain view room but there is a balcony across the hall with a view of the waterfall.

That's as far as I got, but it illustrates how you can visit Switzerland without paying a fortune, even at the last minute>

and IME you can get really nice rooms, with views IME, in Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and especially in Interlaken at prices much cheaperthan CHF220 a night -not as nice perhaps as the Hotel Staubbach in case you need to economize more - there are guesthouses in Matten (Interlaken) that offer a view of the Jungfrau Massif for about 80-100 CHF.
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Old Jul 26th, 2010, 12:14 PM
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Onw way to cut costs in Switzerland, which can be very very unfathomably expensive places IME is to go to Supermarkets and prepare your own foods - they often have prepared salads and deli fare too - restaurants IME are really really expensive without exception (at least for my budget) - even the McDonalds in Interlaken is out of my budget except perhaps for a coffee!

So if staying up in the hills right opposite Interlaken-Ost train station is a Super Coop Store, with prices and selections that cannot be beat - some things are less expensive than others - like wine and cheese and bread - staples of my diet at least, are reasonable but be selective and look at prices because some items will send you into sticker shock.

By all means bring in anything you will need from home or another country - toiletries, etc to save a lot of money often.

But you can live cheaply, especially if in self-catering accommodations like many guesthouses allow.
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Old Jul 27th, 2010, 10:26 AM
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Hi
We travelled to Switzerland and Italy,it was our first time too..
Here's the detialed itinery of our trip
http://swissinfourdays.blogspot.com/
Check it out,might be useful..
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 09:15 AM
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PalenQ---is that 80-100 CHF for a triple room? since most Swiss hotels and guiesthaouses charge perperson, a triple is usually at least 150 CHF (50 pp/pd).
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Old Jul 28th, 2010, 01:02 PM
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well enzian since i travel by myself perhaps i jumped to conclusions but i will check the places i've stayed and see what charges are. thanks for the correction.
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