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European alps trip update in post #1- would love more help :)


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My last thread I was looking for suggestions for a 50th bday and 20th anniversary trip. I have decided to deal with my fear of flying and go to Europe. I think we have settled on the alps region for several reasons. One, we absolutely love to hike. Two, if we can swing it time wise, we will be able to see several countries in a small area. It's all very unstructured and new at this point. We are looking at a two week trip next June. Kids get out of school fairly early and the plan is to leave as soon as they are done. They will be 14 and 17 and they are up for anything.


Where we'd like to go:


Western Austria (Innsbruck area)

Eastern France (Chamonix, Grenoble, Sestriere areas)

Southern Germany (Munich, Black Forest areas)

Northern Italy (Milan, Turin, Lake Como areas)

Switzerland (Zermatt, Geneva, Jungfraujoch areas)


This is probably aggressive, I know. But if we can swing it, we might possibly add one of the following (suggestions on what that should be are welcome) Monaco, Nice, Barcelona, Liechtenstein, Andorra


So, I'd love to hear any and all advice you may have on traveling to any of these areas. What are the do not miss things? Or the okay to skip things? Since we don't have a ton of time, I want the best of the best.


Also would love to hear of any inexpensive places you stayed or ate at (we may be doing some hostels--trying to do this as inexpensively as possible) or tips for saving money.


I think we'll be doing trains between cities for transportation. I know there are rail passes and we will get those. I believe there is a 2 week pass. I've started doing some reading but it's overwhelming.


Anyway, we'd really just love any and all information you might be able to provide on any of the above. Thank you in advance!!




UPDATE: I decided that everyone was correct in saying it was a pretty aggressive plan, so here's what I'm thinking now. Would love any suggestions from those who have BTDT! Help me plan what we should do, where we could stay, eat, etc.


Split the trip into three destinations, five days each. The towns listed are just what we are looking at at this point; we realize we likely won't be able to hit them all. Looking for suggestions as to what those stops should be. Also, I'm now looking at driving vs train. Will need to figure out logistics on that as I think it's cheapest to rent and return within a country.


1. Tuscany (Florence, Siena, Pisa, Cinque Terre)

2. Swiss Alps (Interlaken, Jangfrau, Zermatt, Murren)

3. Provence (Arles, Nimes, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Nice, Orange, Antibes, Les Calanques)



Edited by whitestavern
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Yeah, I'd make sure your first place would be somewhere you could hang for a couple of days, at least to get over jet lag and get used to the altitude. It sure would be awful to get altitude sickness from doing too much too soon. (Unless, of course, you already live in a high altitude area.)

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I would recommend the Bodensee area. You can cycle or boat around the lake, hike, stay at inexpensive youth hostel on the lake. There is a boat down the Rhein you can take to Stein am Rhein, which is a lovely town, where there is also a lot of hiking trails and vineyards. 


My first trip to Europe I took a 2 week bus tour and saw about a dozen countries. It was a great overview, but the BEST trips since then was to pick a smaller region and spend time there to really soak up the culture, scenery and flavour of the local area. 

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1. Rick Steve's books on the Alps are right on.

2. If planning gets too overwhelming, note this: https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/europe/my-way-alpine

3. That is a very adventurous lineup.  Munchen-Innsbruck-Verona-Milano-Torino-Lyon or Grenoble (as a base for that area) might be doable. Follow the Eurorail maps. I've visited most of the places you mentioned. Munich is probably my favorite. Neuschwanstein, the tourist haven, is just outside of Fussen, and along the Eurorail trail if you go Munich to Innsbruck.


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Our dd & I visited Chamonix (where Mont Blanc is), in May 2010.  Delightful ski town.  Our trip was a 1 week loop thru France.

We did not overnight in Chamonix, due to the expense.  We did a B&B in Aussois.

They have a gondola ride to get to the top of Mont Blanc, with a restaurant & wooden walkways to see the view.

You could ski down, in season, I believe.  We used hats & gloves in May. :)


Our trip included 2 days in Paris, then flying to Marsailles, driving to the Med Sea coast, Provence, Mt. Blanc, ending in Geneva . . . which I would describe as aggressive--we only spent one day in each of these locations.  We could have spent 3 days in each!


I understand the desire to see as much as you can, but the logistics of travel take time (& money), and are exhausting when the language, culture, transportation is all "foreign" to your family.  It becomes stressful, NOT a vacation.  Do you know any IRL friends who have BTDT?

Rick Steves books are a great resource.  And traveling together as a family through Europe is a fantastic horizon-broadening experience--regardless of your exact itinerary!

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I hear a lot of you saying it's too much, and I do kind of agree. I am trying my best to cull it down a bit. When I put the itinerary up, I didn't mean we'd make stops at every one of those places; it was more or less a route we were thinking of taking. Not sure on the exact stops yet. I've decided against Milan and the Black Forest already.


We did do a 5 week cross country tour three years ago. We put 5000 miles on our rental car, hit 10 NPs and visited seven states. And four of the days were spent training out and back. There were places we didn't stay at for as long as we would've liked, but looking back, we never felt rushed or tired or cranky. And we did a LOT of hiking. Also, DH and I did one week in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, which also didn't felt rushed. Although there  was a lot we did not see, we did accomplish a lot and felt it was very worthwhile.


It looks like the distance between the two farthest points are about a six hour drive. So to me it doesn't seem like a big geographic area to cover. Rick Steves guideline is two nights at each stop, so I'm trying to abide by that.


Anyway, please keep any and all suggestions coming and thanks for all the information so far!

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If you are really wanting to get out and hike and see small places, maybe a car would be a better fit for you rather than using rail.  It would also free you up to stay at more budget hostels. Chamonix, Geneva, some of the cities you mention are very expensive. That might also help you trim your list down.


Munich: Marienplatz, New Town Hall, St. Peter's Church (climb the tower!),


Neuschanstein Castle

Innsbruck to Chamonix (via Lichtenstein, Zurich, Bern? play with google maps.....)



I'm excited for you! I could play with google maps all day! 


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I wish I was one of your kids!  I want to go too!


I have actually been to all of those places in my 20's.  As far as beauty, I  love South Switzerland and Western Austria.  I enjoyed renting a bike in Austria and riding along the river with mountains all around. I stayed at a wonderful monastery as well as a room in a private home.   


Barcelona and Andorra seem like outlier places for sure.

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I hear a lot of you saying it's too much, and I do kind of agree. 


Also, DH and I did one week in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, which also didn't felt rushed. Although there  was a lot we did not see, we did accomplish a lot and felt it was very worthwhile.


It's great to know you've BTDT with travel, both out West & in Europe.  You may also Google the WTM forums for previous threads about destinations on your list.


We traveled on a shoestring budget, $2K each for 13 days of travel.  We ate bagettes & cheese for lunch, tried to split entries in a restaurant supper.  Just remember that skiing in the mountains is generally a rich-man's sport, so the lodging & restaurants nearby will be more expensive.  That's why we stayed in Aussois, and then on the French side of Geneva, Switzerland--it was so much cheaper.


We drove toward the Alps from Provence.  Initially, we drove through the Haute Alps, lots of winding roads, and a 13km tunnel (on the France/Italy border).  But I remember driving around yet another winding corner, to look up and See The Alps.  They were just so much taller and larger than I ever dreamed.  It was NOTHING like looking at a postcard.  They were just massive mountains.  The experience was truly a Bucket List Moment.


It's worth the research you're doing now, to come up with a great itinerary!


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- Seriously consider NOT getting a rail pass. These days it is often as cheap (or cheaper!) to just book each section online or just pay at the station. Do your research

- Ditto hostels - as a family it might be cheaper to book a room or even two rooms compared to hostels - even dorms! Try booking.com

- As others have pointed out, in the Alps, away from major resorts and tourist areas a hire car might be the way to go (and I say that as someone who hates driving)

- Much of that part of the world is now better at facilities for Summer visitors - hikers, climbers etc. - but some things may still be closed.

- I'm jealous! Such a beautiful part of the world. Don't rush it, enjoy yourself, have a great time.


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We lived in Chambery, France, in view of the Alps, for a year.  We visited many of the French/Swiss towns in the area (Grenoble, Aix-les-bains, Annecy, Geneva) and knew many people who visited the Italian side as well (we just drove through on our way to Tuscany...).  We also saw Paris and Lyon.  Of all the places we saw, Annecy was #1 or #2 (tuscany is very hard to beat...).  It is gorgeous.  They call it "Little Venice of France" because there are a few canals flowing through the city.  It borders a lake with views of mountains in the background.  Nearby, my husband hiked "la belle etoile" which is gorgeous.  Many of our friends also highly recommended Lucerne, Switzerland, but we never made it there. 


This might be helpful:



Have fun planning!

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Shoestring eats: pastries and coffee/tea in the morning, baguette and cheese for lunch, split an entree for dinner (they usually come with salad, tax included).  Also, farmers markets are everywhere in the summer. Can't really help on places to stay, but there should be plenty of hostels you could look into... 


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