Today we welcome guest author Renee Sklarew to the blog! Renee is the co-Author of Unofficial Guide to Washington DC and 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Washington DC. Her articles on travel and food have appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She updated the 2014 and 2015 Fodor’s Washington DC Guidebook and writes about award winning hotels for ForbesTravel.com. She recently traveled to Switzerland with the whole family and is here to offer her expert tips!
Traveling overseas can be a brave undertaking, especially when you bring your kids and their grandparents along. Despite my worries about moving six family members from town to town, I’m here to tell you it is not that difficult, thanks to the Swiss Travel Passes we purchased from Rail Europe.
Buying Swiss Travel Passes In Advance Saves Money
We ordered our Swiss Travel Passes online from Rail Europe before leaving the United States. We had the option to buy three-, four- or eight-day passes. Although we would only be there for seven days, it was more economical to buy the eight-day pass than to pay for individual fares, not to mention the ease of hopping on and off trains, bags and all, for the entire visit. Between stops, the train conductor walks down the aisles checking tickets, and if you don’t have one, you can buy one on the spot. Those tickets were considerably more expensive than advance purchase tickets.
Train Stations in Europe are Conveniently Located
After landing in Zurich, we found the train station was inside the airport (Rail Europe note: in addition to Zurich’s super convenient airport train station, there is also a train station located in the city center). The Europeans are very efficient when it comes to train travel; building their public transportation systems so they’re easy to access. We never had to worry about rental cars, parking or taxis because train stations are always centrally located and allow rail passengers to see a wide swath of the beautiful Swiss countryside. Once we arrived at the train station in Lucerne, Zermatt or Montreux, we even walked to our hotels (whenever possible, try to select hotels near the train stations!).
Traveling by Train is Comfortable
Settling into our roomy seats in the economy section felt luxurious. We had places to plug in our electronics (remember the adapters), small tables and groupings of four chairs facing each other; perfect for families who want to play games or chat. The seats were so comfortable that, within minutes of leaving the station, Grandpa started to snooze. Train passes made it easy for both children and adults to spread out, stretch their legs, and never worry about finding a bathroom.
Traveling By Train is Low Stress and Gets You There On Time
While the train chugs along, we enjoyed viewing the rolling countryside on either side of the tracks. Small towns, farmland and mountains are the main scenery in Switzerland, and we never stopped admiring it as we traveled from north to south without navigating a single cow in the road (it happens in Switzerland). Did I mention the trains run like clockwork? That must be how the phrase “clockwork” was created, Swiss time means on time and not a minute later. For example, when we were due to leave the Cailler Chocolate Factory, a few stragglers missed boarding the train. The conductor looked exasperated when she said, “We waited two extra minutes for these people! We never do that.” Hopefully, you will board your trains with time to spare, but if you do miss one, remember, there will usually be another coming within the hour.
Swiss Travel Passes Include Free and Discounted Access to Attractions
Another benefit of our Swiss Travel Passes from Rail Europe were admission prices for several key attractions. So, for example, touring the Chateau Chillon in Montreux was free and allowed us to bypass the line. The passes also entitled us to major discounts on scenic and adventure travel. Our gondola rides up to Mount Titlis and the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise were half price with our Rail Europe pass. Each time our passes saved $15 to $50 per person. The passes also provided discounts on tourist outings including the round-trip journey on The Chocolate Train, a Belle Époque style railroad that travels from the Lake Geneva to the Gruyere Cheese Factory and Cailler Chocolate Factory. The passes also entitled us to free boat rides on Lake Lucerne and Lake Geneva.
At the end of our trip, we calculated that our Rail Europe passes saved more than $400 per person. With savings and convenience like this, you’re guaranteed to have happier travels! All Aboard!
Like this post? Save it to Pinterest so you don’t lose track of it!