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Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

Edison, NJ
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Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

Hi, We are planning a 10 day road trip in August through Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. We are a family of 4 (Coupe + 2 teenagers) from US. We enjoy natural scenery and look forward to beautiful Switzerland and surrounding region. Not really into museums or winery etc. Although I have heard that many of the locations are worth spending many days at each one, this would be a "glimpse" tour of sorts as we would be constantly travelling. We have been to Italy before and used trains to get to Rome, Florence/Pisa, Venice etc. It was convenient but not easy to travel with bags between trains and hotels.

This time we are thinking of a road trip to cover more locations in relatively short time. Since we are vegetarian, having a car allows us more flexibility, we think. In Italy, we didn't find many flavorful options for vegetarian food.

Can any of you with local knowledge or experience of driving as a tourist check this plan and comment if this looks doable or not?

Any suggestions to change it for better experience? If we were able to add 2-3 extra nights to the plan what would be the best way to spend those?

i.e. Extra nights in any of the below locations or possibly cover additional cities (such as the ones in Austria)?

If we rent a hybrid car, how convenient is it to charge the cars in Europe?

How good/bad is the parking situation in these locations?

Thanks in advance. We have not driven in Europe before but driven extensively in US, Canada, and sometimes in Carribean islands. Driving 3-5 hours every day is not an issue as long as phone GPS works well.

10-day/9-Night Driving Itinerary:

Overnight Travel from US to Paris (Night 0)

Drive immediately to Brussels (Night 1)

Amsterdam (Night 2)

Cologne/Rhine River Cruise (Night 3)

Heidelberg - Black Forest - Rhine Falls - Lucerne/Titlis/Interlaken and Mt Jungfrau/Zurich (Night 4-5-6 in Lucern)

Geneva (Night 7)

Paris (Night 8-9)

Travel to US

9 replies to this topic
Houston, Texas
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1. Re: Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

Not advisable to drive a car in sleep deprived condition after an overnight flight with possible jet lag.

In Europe it makes sense to drive if you are planning to see the French/Spanish country side/riviera or the German scenic roads or the Norwegian fjords to name a few.

Comparison for your proposed itinerary here will be to having a car for your NY or Toronto holiday and not for the National parks

If you are taking the Rhine cruise from Cologne, you return to your base by train I presume?

In Switzerland, Titlis, Jungfraujoch you mention are mountain excursions which are steeply priced and sensible to do with a travel pass. The car will have to stay in expensive parking

We are vegetarians and I hear you regarding the hassles of getting good veg food. But if Italy disappointed in that regard, can't see how a car can help. Can you elaborate your logic?

August is hot, crowded and peak tourist season In Europe. In 14 days, choose 3 bases not more.

Edison, NJ
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2. Re: Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

Thank you IndFamTrveler for your informative and prompt response. Our choice of renting a car Vs traveling by train is definitely a debatable one since Switzerland and Europe in general has good public transportation. We are thinking of these benefits:

1. We can check out our hotel/apartment early in the day and keep our bags in the car as we cover attractions. Using trains wouldn't allow that. We have to come back to hotel to pick up our stuff.

2. We don't have to worry about train schedules and exact location of our hotel/apartment being in walking distance from train station

3. We can keep a food box in our car (purchased from convenient location along the way) and use as needed when we can't find good food nearby.

4. Perhaps it would also be economical since we are 4 travelers using a car instead of paying for 4 tickets everywhere in train. Of course the parking cost (and Gas/Toll) you mentioned has to factor in on the negative side.

It is also possible that in Lucern, we may leave the car at the base if that makes more sense there. If you or someone can suggest a better way to plan this, it would help. I am already thinking of switching Paris sightseeing to first two days instead of last two days to cover jet lag and sleep concerns you mentioned.

Thanks again.

Schindellegi...
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for Switzerland, Kiev
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3. Re: Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

There are places travelling by car can make sense in Europe too. Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam are not - traffic is a mess, parking somewhere close to nightmares. You might find hotels with parking facilities (expensive), but no way to travel in town for some sightseeing, don't expect you will find a free parking space next to some point of interest. Amsterdam in addition has restricted access zones. August is one of the best months visiting Paris (more people have left the city than tourists in town) but even then parking is not easy.

Cologne for mainly a short Rhine cruise is not really a place for using a car. Black Forest might be, Rhine falls too - just what do you want to spend time there when traveling afterwards in much more scenic Alps area?

In Switzerland also, using a car can make sense. But not really for Lucerne (and Titlis) nor Interlaken (for Jungfraujoch or Jungfrau area, not Jungfrau mountain) and for Zurich.

For one of your questions in the first posting "If we rent a hybrid car, how convenient is it to charge the cars" - hybrid cars run on gas. Electric cars run on batteries only - autonomy is still in a 200 to 400 km range, not really for your planned trip (even with possibilities reloading at motorway service stations and now in most cities).

For your second posting: 1) - as for most of the planned sites you will simply leave the car next to the accommodation (because of lack of parking possibilities near points of interest) it will not really make a difference between leaving bags in a car or at the hotel. And its not "trains" - its public transportation, integrating trains, buses, tramways, metro. 2) - public transportation timetables are also smartphone applications, answering questions such as "how to get to a specific place from were I stand now". 4) - long distance train travel can be cheap when carefully planned in F, NL, D. For Switzerland, visitors can get special passes, some allowing free travel for children traveling with parents (up to age 16). Use www.seat61.com for train travel information.

To come back to the first remark: there are reasons for using a car. But not for most of your planned trip. At best for the Cologne to Switzerland part (but then return it in Germany to avoid excessive drop off charges).

Edited: 22 April 2018, 23:55
Edison, NJ
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4. Re: Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

Thank you jm2cents. I think the message is clear to me that while renting a car may offer convenience in some aspects I listed before, it may not be the best choice and may in fact be a hassle if I try to find parking on my own anywhere near major attractions.

Now that leads me to think, we will need to use local taxi/bus service to connect with long distance train service. I will search the forum for this aspect but does Uber have a service there and the app that I have from my regular USA use also work in all the place I want to go? If so, I can get a internet plan and rely on that to address some of our concerns.

canada
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5. Re: Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

Hi DesiMan, Please take note that in Germany and Austria, a group of 5 can travel on one "lander" day ticket (regional train and local bus) for roughly a day's car rental.

In Paris there are electric car charging locations (usually ideal parking spaces) existed for over thirty years.

Wengen, Switzerland
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6. Re: Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

Given that you want to see nature and scenery I find your plan a bit odd, because you will mostly see motorways.

In your place I would do the following:

- Put your Paris days in the beginning, and fly back from Zürich. That allows you to use your time more efficiently, and recover from your flight.

- If you insist on getting a car get a big one. You indicated you had trouble with luggage on previous trips, so you obviously are not a light packer (but maybe you could learn to become one...). A standard European car cannot accomodate 4 big suitcases.

- Leaving luggage in cars unattended is asking for trouble.

- You will not use the car to explore Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne or any other major city. In most cases you will leave it somewhere, maybe at the hotel, but then you would have to pick a hotel out of town.

- Driving Cologne - Luzern and fitting in Heidelberg, the Black Forest and the Rhine Falls is crazy. The Balck forest is an area you go to spend a few days to relax, to walk, or to enjoy wellness. That people want to rush through it so you can tick of a box is something I never understood. So if you want to visit that, at leat give it the time it deserves. Or keep it for the next trip.

What I always suggest to people who want to do several cities in Europe is:

- Use the trains. On Paris - Brussel - Amsterdam - Cologne they are significantly faster and more comfortable (and often also cheaper) than using a car.

- Move cities in the morning. That solves the luggage problem. Check out. Take a taxi to the main station, take your train. Arrive in next city. Go to next hotel, drop of luggage or check in and then explore.

- Maybe rent a car in Cologne (after you've done your Rhine Cruise) and use that to drive south, and drop it off again in for example Singen. Then continue by train again. Around Luzern you are not going to use a car to explore anyway.

-Fly back home from Zürich, not from Paris.

Wengen, Switzerland
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7. Re: Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

Regarding vegetarian food...

- In Europe vegetarians are mostly city dwellers, that more likely than not will not have a car and will get around on foot or by bicycle. So vegetarian restaurants you will find in the inner city. For example, one of the best ones in Bern is right in the railway station. Car drivers are meat eaters. Out of town motels may not have a good vegetarian selection.

- I am puzzled that you could not find vegetarian food in Italy. Any Italian restaurant I've ever been in had lots of vegetarian options. Pasta is mostly vegetarian (just don't order it with a meat sauce) and any pizzeria can provide you with meat free options. And that applies to restaurants in the rest of Europe as well.

San Francisco...
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8. Re: Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

HI, this sounds so similar to what I want to do with my parents in August. would love to get your thoughts on some info you find as it's 4 of us adults.. and all vegetarian as well. We are doing 2weeks - london, brussels, amsterdam, germany, switzerland, and end our trip in Paris

Schindellegi...
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9. Re: Road Trip (Switzerland, Germany, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam)

Most of the issues have already been discussed.

London, Brussel, Amsterdam, Paris are places not to travel by car - definitely not driving in the cities, not even between the cities as much more convenient train connections are available.

Germany and Switzerland are countries with to many travel possibilities - using a car can make sense when traveling mainly small places, hardly for most cities, and especially in Switzerland there are some interesting places without car access, many scenic trips cannot be done by car.

So what exactly are your looking for?

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