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Your expert advice needed: Venice, Salzburg, Switzerland

Lititz, Pennsylvania
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Your expert advice needed: Venice, Salzburg, Switzerland

My wife and I are in our early 30s and are looking forward to travelling to Europe in late June 2009. I would appreciate your input on our itinerary and the questions posed below:

Evening of day 1: Fly from JFK via Swiss to Venice (layover in Zurich). (American Express 30,000 Membership Rewards points for Companion Fly Free voucher.)

Day 2: Arrive around 2:00 p.m. local time on Day 2.

Check in at Hotel Al Ponte Moncenigo and fight jetlag to try to stay awake until bedtime!

Day 3: Spend day exploring Venice.

Day 4: More Venice sightseeing. Take night train from Venice to Salzburg (with one train change, I think).

Day 5: Train arrives in Salzburg early morning. Leave luggage at hotel - Weisse Taube (in Old Town). Take Sound of Music tour and enjoy Salzburg sites.

Day 6: More exploring of Salzburg. (must see locations??)

Day 7: Take morning train (or possibly rental car?)to Hohenschwangau/Fussen for Neuschwanstein Castle. Take afternoon tours of 2 castles there. Sleep at Hotel Garni Schlossblick in Hohenschwangau.

Day 8: Leave early morning via train (or drive?) to Lautterbrunnen. Stay at Hotel Staubbach. Explore falls and hike.

Day 9: Weather permitting, Jungfraujoch and environs.

Day 10: Spend morning and part of afternoon in/around Interlaken, then train to Zurich. Stay near airport (Moevenpick Hotel Zurich Airport?).

Day 11: Take morning Swiss flight from Zurich to JFK. Arrive NYC 12:30 p.m. local time, same day.

What are your thoughts on this plan? We realize it's ambitious and covers a lot of ground, but we really want to pack as much as possible into our available time (with 3 kids at home, staying with grandparents).

My main questions are:

1. What is best way to book train travel, realizing we'll be touching pieces of Italy, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

2. Is it worth taking a night train from Venice to Salzburg so we don't spend 7 hours of daylight on the train? The downside is that it will be dark and we'll miss scenery that is gorgeous (but perhaps not much different than what we'll see in Switzerland.)

3. It appears that getting from Salzburg to Neuschwanstein Castle (one day), then from Neuschwaanstin to Lautterbrunnen (next day) will require several train connections. Where do I go to book this or see what schedule options may exist? Am I better off renting a car for this portion and dropping the car off when I arrive in Interlaken area and take a train to Lautterbrunnen?

4. Venice and Salzburg are "must see" cities for us. Do you think that going all the way southwest to Lautterbrunnen and then flying out of Zurich might be too much? Can we get a "Lautterbrunnen-like Alps experience" elsewhere in Austria or Switerland and potentially fly home from Munich (in order to have a more relaxed travel schedule?)

5. The current airfare for JFK - VCE - ZRH - JFK on Swiss is $1,203 including all taxes & surcharges. Companion ticket pays taxes only. For booking 2 people, I can't find fares lower (when accounting for the availability of free companion ticket on Swiss). Does this fare seem reasonable? Should I book it now? Do you see fares declining in the next couple of months?

Thanks for your insight! These message boards are invaluable!

Fife, Scotland
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1. Re: Your expert advice needed: Venice, Salzburg, Switzerland

Only an idea but there is a night train from Venice to Munich, see page 36 of the pdf file -

citynightline.ch/nachtzugreise/view/mdb/nach…

From Munich you could work your way back to Salzburg via Neuschwanstein, we had to go a coach trip to see it. While in Munich if you are interested you could visit the Dachau concentration camp.

There is a lot to take in with your travel plans.

La Canada...
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2. Re: Your expert advice needed: Venice, Salzburg, Switzerland

I think you are trying to do a little too much in your amount of time.

Instead of Lauterbrunnen, and flying out of Zurich, how about substituting the German Alps, especially the Zugspitze in Garmisch Partenkirchen, a spectacular ride to the top of a high mountain, and flying out of Munich (probably on Lufthansa):

http://www.zugspitze.de/main_en.php

You could keep your original itinerary up to Salzburg. After Salzburg, you train to Rosenheim, pick up a rental car, and drive a small part of the German Alpine Road to Garmisch (see the Zugspitze), and then on to Fussen and the castles. From there you could drive to Munich airport, and spend your last night somewhere in the area (I like Freising).

There is usually a pretty hefty charge if you pick up a rental car in one country, and drop it off in another. That's why I did not suggest you just pick up a car in Salzburg.

The night train from Venice to Salzburg takes 7:30 hours (the stops are longer). The current schedule shows it departing at 20:28 and arriving at 4:05. But there are a couple in the day time that take only around 6 hours with one transfer. Unless you think you will be able to sleep on the train, I would opt for a daytime train, rather than arriving at 4:05 a.m. at which time you really will have nowhere to go.

La Canada...
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3. Re: Your expert advice needed: Venice, Salzburg, Switzerland

I made a mistake above. You can rent a rental car from several companies in Freilassing, Germany, which is a 6 minute train ride from Salzburg Hbf. So there's no need to go to Rosenheim to rent a car. Just rent the car as you leave Salzburg in Freilassing.

Lititz, Pennsylvania
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4. Re: Your expert advice needed: Venice, Salzburg, Switzerland

Thank you Strath 101 and Zatara for your excellent comments. We will do some more thinking about these ideas.

One slight modification to our possible itinerary:

I am thinking that if we take a train from Salzburg to Innsbruck, we can stay in Innsbruck for 2 nights (rather than in Fussen area) and do a chartered bus trip from Innsbruck to the Castles. By charter bus/car, this appears to be less than 2 hours, but by train it's pretty time-consuming.

Thanks everyone for your feedback! I welcome additional comments!

La Canada...
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5. Re: Your expert advice needed: Venice, Salzburg, Switzerland

Sounds like you don't want to rent a car. However, if you want to stick to your original plan of flying out of Zurich, and if you decide to rent a car in Germany outside Salzburg in Freilassing, you could return it in Lindau on Lake Constance.

Lindau is about 100 km from Fuessen. From Lindau it's about 1:45 to Zurich by train, and the trains are frequent. Also if you rent a car, you could go to Berchtesgaden, which is a truly spectacular setting.

The airport is Zurich is very close to the city, and transportation is excellent with very frequent trains. There really is no need to spend your last night at an airport hotel. Or, if you come from the Lindau direction, you could spend your last night in Winterthur, which is about 25 minutes from the airport by train.

Fife, Scotland
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6. Re: Your expert advice needed: Venice, Salzburg, Switzerland

If you do visit Innsbruck then you could perhaps get the bus out to the Swaroviski crystal place and it's under ground exhibition.

7. Re: Your expert advice needed: Venice, Salzburg, Switzerland

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