Trip to Germany/France/Switzerland

Old Apr 17th, 2019, 06:34 PM
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Trip to Germany/France/Switzerland

I have found this forum very helpful and am hoping some kind souls might give me some general advice. I recently started planning a trip for two of my children (boys ages 13 and 16) and me to Europe in mid-August of this year. The plan I settled on was to fly into Frankfurt, then rent a car and visit some combination of Heidelberg, Alsace, Colmar, Basel, and Bern before returning the car in Geneva six or seven days later. The trip seemed to fit exactly what I was looking for. However, more research has made me aware of potential issues that should have occurred to me immediately but didn't: prohibitive costs associated with returning a car in a different country than where it's rented, big August crowds, terrible traffic and crowds around the August 15th holiday, and high temperatures.

Now these issues have me wondering if I should abandon the plan (and perhaps any plan to travel to Europe in August). If the car rental is the only major issue, and the other things are overblown, then I could either (a) adjust to fly both in and out of Frankfurt or (2) consider trains and buses versus a rental car.

Any thoughts? Unfortunately the travel if it happens does have to be in August, but I'm not committed to either of the above-mentioned airports or any particular itinerary. I want to fly somewhere we can get to nonstop with airline miles (options are Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Geneva, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Munich, Paris, and Zurich). Other than that, there's a whole lot we would enjoy--I prefer to get away from big cities, and I think the kids would enjoy seeing castles, picturesque villages and the like. But, they have neither been outside the U.S. before, and I know they would both be happy to just experience new places.

I don't know if that's all too broad to allow anyone to be helpful, but I would love suggestions.
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Old Apr 17th, 2019, 06:42 PM
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You have an extraordinary range of options, including ones that can be delightfully experienced with excellent, comfortable, and convenient public transpiration. I would encourage you to go to your local library or bookstore to explore those options, perhaps using the guidebooks with high quality photos (e.g., the National Geographic or DK Eyewitness). Also look at guidebook sections on "when to go" for climate information to see which places might be too hot at that time of year, or consult weatherbase.com. Perhaps you can make it a family project? Have fun!

Last edited by kja; Apr 17th, 2019 at 07:16 PM.
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Old Apr 17th, 2019, 06:57 PM
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I notice you also tagged your thread for the UK -- maybe that was just because flying in to London would be an option. But just in case . . . I think Scotland and northern England would be a terrific fit to your wish list. Edinburgh would be problematic -- it doubles/triples in size in August due to the Festivals and Tattoo running the whole month. But avoiding Edinburgh is certainly possible - or staying outside of town and doing a day trip in to the city by train if your really wanted to see Edinburgh. Even w/o setting foot in Edinburgh - the castles and history and scenery and outdoor activities and Harry Potter and Hadrian's Wall etc etc etc. would be great for a family trip.


And there would be no rental car drop off issues. Do get a guide book or two and see if that appeals.
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Old Apr 17th, 2019, 07:49 PM
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>>> If the car rental is the only major issue, and the other things are overblown, then I could either (a) adjust to fly both in and out of Frankfurt or (2) consider trains and buses versus a rental car.

You have needlessly limited your options. All or nothing.

Except for Alsace, whatever you mean by this, all other connections can be trivially made by trains. If Alsace means Strasbourg, that also is trivial to connect to any other places mentioned.

The issue with you initial plan is that the return location is in a different country and far from the renting location. Even with different country, if the distances are not that far from each other, the drop off price is lower. If your car need to limited to certain segment, which I suspect is the case, you can rent strategically and avoid cross border drop off fee. For example, if Germany and France are place requiring car, then rent at Frankfurt and return somewhere in Germany, for example the German side near Basel if you chose your rental company correctly. If France is the only part of interest, you can rent in Strasbourg and return the car in the French side of Basel.

If Basel, Bern, and Geneve are really the only destinations in Switzerland, contrary to your desire, "prefer to get away from big cities," you can trivially connect them by frequent trains even easier than in Germany or in France. If you really " prefer to get away from big cities," you might instead go to Luzern (as a base), Berner Oberland, or many other destinations by trains. There are of course places you can travel easier by a car in Switzerland. But you need to do a research rather than assuming a car can get you everywhere. Many high mountain destinations are off-limit to cars. It is not your choice. They don't let you take you car.

I found less hotels in Germany and Switzerland offer A/C. Locals don't think they are needed. I beg to differ having spent sleepless heatwave nights in Bern and in Luzern in hotels without A/C in muggy rooms where the temp stayed above 80 F at midnight.
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Old Apr 17th, 2019, 08:31 PM
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You can very easily do the Frankfurt - Heidelberg leg via the trains, then you could catch the train to Strasbourg, hire a car (perhaps pick a base) and explore Alsace, then do a loop back to Strasbourg to drop off the car and continue by rail on to Freiburg, Basel and Bern. Open jaw flights into Frankfurt and out of a Swiss airport (I don't know which airport services your connections best). But you will probably have to reserve seats in the trains where possible as they will be crowded. I would think riding at 300 km/hr would be a popular activity with the teens, just make sure your luggage is pared down. If you are worried about the general exodus from cities in holiday periods, I've never found it a huge problem in Germany, it doesn't shut down as completely as France or even Belgium for that matter. I don't know about Switzerland in that regard.

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Old Apr 18th, 2019, 12:09 AM
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I'd do two river areas, Alsace and the Mosel, the Mosel is especially kids friendly with a bit of river bathing, bike riding, cliffe hiking etc and very German while Alsace would be more about wine, old buildings and a bit of hill walking. You could either use a train to get from A2B or use the car in Germany then take a train Mosel to Alsace and hire a car there before driving to Geneva and return the car on the French side

Heidelburg in August, nah.

Last edited by bilboburgler; Apr 18th, 2019 at 12:12 AM.
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Old Apr 18th, 2019, 04:21 AM
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Thanks very much for the replies. I am continuing to research and these will be helpful.
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Old Apr 19th, 2019, 01:27 AM
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Response to post 1:
Never drive immediately after a overnight flight. There are tons of trains from Frankfurt airport to Heidelberg.
In dorder to avoid huge car drop off fees:
Rent your car in Strasbourg and drop it off at Geneva airport (French side)
or rent it in Germany, drive through Gemany, France and Switzerland and give it back in a German town around Basel (Loerrach, Weil am Rhein or so).
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Old Apr 19th, 2019, 12:17 PM
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for such a quick trip I'd take trains and maybe rent a car for a day in Colmar to drive the Alsace Wine Road though excursions from Colmar do the same. Otherwise trains are great - especially in Switzerland - for lots on trains check www.seat61.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com.
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