Switzerland with kids next Aug ideas?

Dec 19th, 2008, 02:06 PM
  #1  
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Switzerland with kids next Aug ideas?

Hi All,

We are thinking of cashing in FF miles to see Switzerland next August for about a week. The kids are 8 and 10 and are well travelled.

1. Is Switz. easy to travel with kids. From what I see it should be OK. We do have the option of leaving them with our parents.
2. Is August a good time to go with the kids?
3. For 7 to 10 days, should we just cover Switzerland or also pair it with another country. As part of using FF, I can fly into one city as a stopover and open jaw out of another.
4. For Switz., does this sound good: zurich to lucerne (2-3 nights)-does this cover Bernese area, then train to Montreaux, and then fly out of Geneva?
5. Other country pairs I guess would be the Italian lakes area or Vienna.

Thanks.
P67742 is offline  
Dec 19th, 2008, 02:36 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
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1. Yes

2. Yes - although many others will take their vacation at the same time. Book well in advance.

3. Plenty to see and do just in Switzerland.

4. The more times you move, the more logistics to deal with (reservations, deposits, packing/unpacking...) and the less substantial the memories will be. With kids, look for a vacation apartment (Ferienwohnung, FeWo for short) in a central location and daytrip from there. Nice to have a home base, with a kitchen for the familiar breakfasts and down-time.

Pick a location like Spiez, or Interlaken - somewhere central like that, near the mountains but not stuck up in the mountains, so you can go anywhere with ease and come back the same night.

Most holiday apartments (or houses) have a minimum rental time, probably a week, not day-by-day like hotels.

If you wish to do the open-jaw, getting into ZRH and leaving from Geneva, maybe spend a night or two in a hotel in Zürich on arrival, then a week in a vacation home in Spiez or thereabouts, and the remaining night or two in Montreux or Vevey or thereabouts - within easy reach of Geneva?

From Spiez (a nice town by the lake Thun, look at www.thunersee.ch/en/the-resorts/spiez.html and for boat schedules at www.bls.ch/e/schifffahrt/schifffahrt.php ) with gorgeous views of the major alps, on the fast train line, you can be

~ in Luzern in 1:35hr ( www.luzern.org/en/welcome.cfm? www.rigi.ch/en/welcome.cfm Rigi (mountain peak), www.pilatus.ch/default.asp?sprache=E Pilatus (mountain peak), www.lakelucerne.ch/en.html (boat schedule)

~ in Montreux in 1:42hr (www.montreux.ch/index_en.html, www.chillon.ch/en/index.html)

~ in Geneva in 2:21 hr

~ on the Jungfraujoch (one of the elevated highlights) in about 3 hours (www.jungfraubahn.ch/en/DesktopDefault.aspx)

~ in the city of Bern in 29 minutes (www.berninfo.com/en/welcome.cfm)

~ on top of the Niesen in 48 minutes (www.niesen.ch Niesen, superb 360-degree views, if you're game you can hike up, or down, all the way, or halfway and take the cograil for the rest of the way)

~ on top of the Niederhorn in 1:24 hr (www.niederhorn.ch, also superb views, and also a challenge to your legs if you wish...)

~ on top of the Schilthorn in under 2 hours (www.schilthorn.ch/index.php?set[page][language]=4)

Those are just a few awesome and unforgettable targets.

For train schedules (incl. funiculaires etc.) use www.sbb.ch

For holiday lodgings (or, as US Americans say, vacation homes), look to sites like

www.holiday-home.com/vacation-rental/spiez-1.htm

www.traum-ferienwohnungen.de/9484.htm

www.happyholiday.ch/1/schweiz/bern/spiez-01.htm

http://www.schweiz-gastgeber.com/Fer...iez-id287.html

fewo.myswitzerland.com/Ferienwohnung/Spiez.aspx

and don’t wait - book soon, August is absolute peak season.

5. Don't bother with other countries, that's for another time.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Dec 19th, 2008, 02:41 PM
  #3  
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Wow thanks. I'll have to print all this info and research each one.

What are your thoughts about doing the Golden Pass Scenic Train with the kids?
P67742 is offline  
Dec 19th, 2008, 02:56 PM
  #4  
 
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Switzerland is easy, and they won't get bored! Forget chocolates, you can take them home, buy lots of ice-cream
FainaAgain is offline  
Dec 19th, 2008, 03:18 PM
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Kids will not appreciate it as much as adults tend to do. But even for many adults it gets kinda boring, frankly. From Zweisimmen (or Interlaken) to Montreux you're not travelling through the most stunning scenery, not like the trip over the top of the Gotthard (but that's for an entirely different itinerary because it ends up in the Grisons). You have better views from Spiez or from the Niesen etc.

You can use the regular trains on that route, you see the same... If you do it, break up the journey, walk around Gstaad or Zweisimmen, have a snack, stretch your legs, or it gets too long.

If you end up being based in or near Montreux (where the little towns of Glion and Caux above Montreux are vey cute, they are served by a charming little mountain train, and the views from up there are stunning - or staying in Vevey down by the lake is nice), consider taking the Chocolate train:
www.mob.ch/GPS/produits/choc1.asp

Or find a way to go there and visit the Cailler-Nestlé factory on your own, click here: http://tinyurl.com/3vzr6a
- the train from Spiez to Gruyères takes about two hours.

Going in another direction from a place like Spiez, past Berne to the flatland, is nice, too, as a contrast to the mountains (they are not all there is to Switzerland...) - to the Roman excavations in Avenches for example (www.avenches.ch/ota/page.php?id=138&lang=eng) they are cool and good for bragging rights back at school, takes about 1:45 hr from Spiez.

Nearby is the walled-in fortified charming and well-preserved town of Murten (in German, Morat in French, it sits on the language border): www.murten.ch/_anglais/index.html

Combine that on the same day with the watchmaking centers of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, there is a watch museum: www.mhl-monts.ch/ - from Spiez you get there in 2 hours, or from Murten/Morat in under an hour.

When you get to Zürich, go tell an SBB (the Swiss train system) agent about your plans and have them advise you on the best passes and tickets, there are many options. Meanwhile you can look at www.swisstravelsystem.ch/Tickets.16.0.html?&L=2

Then do daytrips at your leisure, according to mood, weather, not according to a rigid plan that you cast in concrete in advance, that only locks you in. If one day all you do is a halfday boat ride (they serve snacks and drinks) on the Lake Thun and in the afternoon you go up on the Niesen, for example, and in the evening you go for a stroll and dinner in nearby Thun - that would be a great day.

Another (more expensive) day you go up on either the Jungfraujoch or the Schilthorn - more like a big deal.

Enjoy.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Dec 19th, 2008, 10:59 PM
  #6  
 
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Children that age would love to ride on the old steamboats on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). Some of them have the massive steam engines (these things are as big as a mini-van) inside the boat with a fence around them. They are always surrounded by children fascinated. Through a porthole they can also watch the water being forced around the paddle. There are little children's kits on board for free that have things like badges, a map to color, etc. www.cgn.com
beaupeep is offline  
Dec 20th, 2008, 11:49 AM
  #7  
 
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Beaupeep is right about kids loving the boats - and not only on the Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French, Genfersee in German).

You already have the URL for the Lake Thun (Thunersee), it is also the one for the adjacent lake, the Brienzersee (it begins just on the other side of Interlaken which sits, according to its Latin name, between lakes) - both timetables are on

www.bls.ch/e/schifffahrt/schifffahrt.php

For the lake Lucerne it is www.lakelucerne.ch/en.html
DalaiLlama is offline  
Dec 20th, 2008, 12:24 PM
  #8  
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Thank you. So from what I understand then it is best to fly in to one city like Geneva or Zurich and then out the other. Also you are suggesting that we stay at one place like Spiez rather than train for 2-3 nights in each city.

One more Q-we are vegetarian. Usually we stick to bigger cities so there are more options for food. Does the town of Spiez have many restaurants?

Thanks.
P67742 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2008, 12:30 PM
  #9  
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How is this for an itinerary:
Fly in to Zurich and go straight to Interlaken? Interlaken seems to have more restaurants, but I'll wait to hear from you all.

Stay for 5 nights and see surrounding towns, then continue for 2 nights to Montreaux or Vevey before heading out from Geneva.
P67742 is offline  
Dec 20th, 2008, 04:24 PM
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Sounds good. If you are going to rely on restaurants (which gets r-e-a-l-l-y expensive!), then Interlaken has indeed more hotels and restaurants - and it is not far off the main train line (many trains connect in nearby Spiez, which is the prettier location).

I just saw the remark about being vegetarians. In Switzerland that is not a problem, but depending on your needs and how strict you have to be, it can become a hassle to have to always choose restaurants based on those criteria - many just have a boring token vegetable dish as the "vegetarian" choice, a joke really. Others do better, but overall, you would waste less time (and money!) by taking an apartment with a fridge and a kitchen. Not just for eating in, but for preparing dishes you can take with you and eat when you feel like it, knowing what it is you're eating...

There is also the matter of restricted hours during which the kitchens in restaurants are working - when travelling, that can hang you up, but if you are selfsufficient, it's not such a big deal.

Are you shortening the trip by two days/nights? Try to eke out as many nights as you can, you're going an awfully long way from home...

You will have to pace yourselves - mixing up days where you spend quite a bit of time on trains to more distant targets with other days where you stay more or less in the neighborhood.

One such neighborhood day you could do a good walk, maybe from Interlaken along the lakefront to the Beatus caves, go in - it is a memorable visit - check out the website for details: www.beatushoehlen.ch/e/hoehlenwelt/index.html.

Then you could take the cograil (or whatever the technology is of that contraption) up to the Beatenberg and take the "Postauto" (scheduled coaches that go where trains don't) back to Interlaken. Or take it down to Thun and take the late-afternoon boat back to Interlaken...

Also nearby is the Niesen (you have the URL) - a short ride to Spiez and a couple of stops on the local train to the base. There is hardly a peak where you have a better 360 degree view. It gets windy and sometimes a bit chilly up there, take a windcheater. There is food and drink, and with a bit of luck you'll see the windsurfer daredevils take off from right near the restaurant and viewing spots on top.

Right above Interlaken is a great little place, with a small animal zoo, great views - a nice no-big-deal excursion, maybe you can even walk back for a stretch: www.harderkulm.ch/

Another day you could take a boat on the other lake, the Brienzersee, to Brienz (famous for handcarved souvenirs), and go up on the Brienzer Rothorn - www.brienz-rothorn-bahn.ch/?lang=en - it gives you a different look of the alpine peaks, kinda from the side.

At that same end of the Brienzersee, but opposite the town of Brienz, are the famous waterfalls where (as per author Conan Doyle) Sherlock Holmes met his demise - it is just a nice oldfashioned hotel with a garden café, good for afternoon tea etc., and the nearby falls (you can walk under them and get a bit wet - much fun), and a wonderfully oldfashioned sort-of-cablecar-train contraption that takes you up from the boat jetty. Check it out at http://tinyurl.com/9oz5og

This kind of nearby excursion would be in contrast to the one I suggested for Avenches / Murten / La Chaux-de-Fonds where you really make a trip to get there and back.

Lots more to see and do, of course. mix it up and have fun!
DalaiLlama is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 07:40 AM
  #11  
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Thank you. This is so extremely helpful. I have to now get on the phone with Continental and see what I come up with.
P67742 is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 07:46 AM
  #12  
tn
 
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Hi P,

We took our kids to Switzerland in August '07. We stayed in Interlaken and Lucerne. Our children were 12, 6 and 4 at the time. A few thoughts:

1. Our children loved Switzerland and it was very easy to be there with them. Restaurants and hotels were accommodating.
2. Our kids liked Interlaken more than Lucerne. We did more outdoor activities in Interlaken and I think our kids were more into that. This is just a judgment call for you and your family.
3. There is a lot to do in Interlaken. The highlights for us were:
- The Bollenburg Museum (which I am sure have misspelled), a large historical area with all of the Swiss cantons represented. It has many hands on activities for kids. This is a good trip for a rainy day, as you will probably not want to hike around on Alpine trails (but you will still have to suffer the rain here).
- The North Face Trail. This took about four hours with our kids, but they had a great time.
- The "Top of Europe" takes you to the top of Jungfrau. This will take up most of a day from Interlaken. Go when it is not cloudy.
- When we were there, the lakes were flooded, but we had planned to do a boat trip. There are also supposed to be some great caves, but they were flooded as well.

We are going back this summer to Murren, which is slightly higher up in the mountains. Earlier posters are correct that it is easier to get to other areas of Switzerland from Interlaken. But if you want to spend most of your time here hiking, I would consider a higher village as it will save on travel time up and down the mountains. The downside of a higher village will also mean more limited food choices as these towns will have fewer restaurants.
tn is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 08:02 AM
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I agree about getting an apartment. It will be more comfortable for traveling with kids and allow you to do some meals for yourselves.

Spiez is pretty, but Interlaken probably makes a better base for the Bernese Oberland. The trains for the mountains leave from the Interlaken Ost train station. So does the boat on Lake Brienz. If you get off in Brienz, you can catch a bus to the Swiss Open Air Museum. It has examples of houses from all the cantons plus craft exhibitions; making cheese, etc.

The boat for Lake Thun leaves from Interlaken West station. Interlaken is a long skinny town, stretched out along the river between the 2 lakes. So it's a bit of a trek from one end to the other. One day when we were tired, we even used our train pass to go from one station to the other.

To evaluate the train pass options, look at www.ricksteves.com. Or what's that site that Bob the Navigator always recommends? Can't believe I haven't bookmarked it. Bob?

Mimar is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 08:55 AM
  #14  
 
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Sounds good to me! I don't think the open jaw (into one city out of the other) is quite as important just between Zurich & Geneva because they are not such a great distance apart (say as if you were talking fly into Amsterdam and out of Rome, for example).

Both airports are very easy to use, as the train stations connect right at the airport. I love flying into Geneva then go stay out in Vevey or Montreux and would recommend this for part of your family's trip.

Chateux de Chillon, the tram ride Rocher de Nayes, and a boat ride on Lac Leman are my recommendations for the area. A day trip to Gruyeres and the castle there is fun too.

Vevey/Montreux are up-to-date towns and you should have no problems with vegetarian food at the grocery stores. Perhaps a bit more difficult at restaurants, but not impossible if you are lacto/ovo.
suze is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 08:59 AM
  #15  
 
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Walking along the lakeside quai in Vevey or Montreux is very nice. There's snack stands and park benches. The gardens should be very pretty in August.

Also the open air farmers markets would be very fun for you. In Vevey they are Tues & Sat AM and in Montreux Fri AM.
suze is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 09:13 AM
  #16  
 
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We visited the Berner Oberland with our children in the summer of 2006. It is my 11 yr old's favorite place he has ever been. I think the mountain villages are much prettier than Interlaken, and there is lots to do. If you click on my name, you will find the trip report I wrote detailing the alpine slide, scotters, etc. that we enjoyed.
Digbydog is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 09:32 AM
  #17  
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Thank you. I've been on the phone with Continental and can't find any reward availability.....will keep trying. Hopefully some combination will work. Will post when I find out.

I am so excited to plan this now. Thanks for all your wonderful suggestions.
P67742 is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 10:28 AM
  #18  
 
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I've been on the phone with Continental and can't find any reward availability

Any specific dates? Out of which city? How many tickets?

Availability on Continental is usually very, very poor. And the agents are usually pretty worthless, unless you spoon-feed them the exact routes and flights that you have already confirmed availability for.

If finding award tickets is critical to being able to do this trip, then I would worry about getting them booked first, and worry about the other stuff later. If it is just a "nice to have" then that is another story.
travelgourmet is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 10:33 AM
  #19  
 
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You could consider flying into other cities. While certainly not as convenient, Milan is not all that far from Geneva. Even Paris. Would put an extra train ride at each end of your trip, but might open up more possibilities?
suze is offline  
Dec 21st, 2008, 03:03 PM
  #20  
 
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Yes, you have to do your homework. With that many partner airlines you have to be the one to suggest flights to the agent, they only have so many combinations pop up on their screen without you prodding them gently into looking at others that you found out by yourself.

They will probably charge you a fee for booking on the phone, but that is definitely worth it if you find something as opposed to nothing...

As per Continental’s website, these are the partners - pick out the main ones to Europe and make a list of all flights to Zürich (ZRH) or Basel (BSL) or Geneva (GVA) or Milan (MXP), direct from a US airport or via Rome (FCO) or Frankfurt (FRA) or Munich (MUC) or even Amsterdam (AMS) or Paris (ORY or CDG) or Brussels (BRU) or London (LHR or LGW) or some other intermediate hub:

“Continental Airlines OnePass rewards are valid for travel on Continental Airlines, Continental Express (Operated by ExpressJet Airlines, Inc. and Chautauqua Airlines, Inc..), Continental Micronesia, Continental Connection carriers, SkyTeam Alliance Members: Air France, Aeroflot Russian Airlines, AeroMéxico, Alitalia, China Southern, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection (excluding Delta Connection flights operated by American Eagle, Big Sky and Express Jet), Delta Shuttle, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines+, Korean Air, Northwest Airlines and Northwest Airlink+. SkyTeam Alliance Associate Members: Air Europa, Copa Airlines and Kenya Airways. Other valid OnePass reward partners include: Aero República, Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, American Eagle, Amtrak, Cape Air, Emirates, Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, and Virgin Atlantic.”
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