Touring Lake Geneva with kids
Family road trip to snow
Like any good budget traveller, when we found out that we had an opportunity to spend a week in Switzerland at a discounted price, we jumped on it. We didn’t actually expect to win, but we did. This is when stuff got real. I hadn’t researched much on Switzerland before then and it was not high on my list of places to visit. But cheap(er) is cheap(er) and we checked a few things out before applying for it and it looked like a nice enough central location to family vacation. We had only been on a long trip the once after having our baby girl; we flew to the beach, spent 7 days tanning then flew back. This time, after weighing our options, we decided to drive this vacation; oh yay, driving with a 1-year-old and 4 year old, what could go wrong.
We decided to take two nights, or 2 x 4-hour stretches, to reach the Chalet, and another 2 x 4 hour stretches to come home. This would either be the maximum I wanted to be stuck in a car with whining kids or the longest they have ever napped before – spoiler alert; it was both. Choosing the stops was rather difficult; there was so much to see and do everywhere along the way, I could have taken 3 weeks to do this vacation instead of 10 days, but that was not possible.
If you’re looking for the others posts in the Ultimate Travel Guide to Switzerland, we’ll link to them as they are available!
Part 1: Swiss Museum of Transport
Part 2: SaurierMuseum – Dinosaur Museum in Zurich
Part 3: Guide to Visiting Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
Part 4: Top Things to See in Vaduz, Liechtenstein
Part 5: a Guided walking tour of Zurich
Part 6: Snow in the Swiss Alps: Little Snow for Christmas
Part 7: Touring Lake Geneva with kids
Part 8: Jungfraujoch with kids
Part 9: Top family friendly Hotels near Jungfrau
Day #1 – Ramstein
We stopped here for a number of reasons; visit a friend I haven’t seen since we landed over a year ago, and to break the trip into 3 baby-sized pieces. Hotel Pirsch was nothing special, the shopping was tempting but it was nice to see a friendly face again.
Day #2 – Strasbourg
It was this or Colmar but we wanted to stay as close to Germany as possible (gas vouchers through work). Since we were driving on a Friday morning, the road was near empty and we made it within 2.5 hours. Parking was interesting and the elevator was broken so we left the stroller in the car. Le Kleber Hotel was smack in the middle of town, across from Place Kleber; it was great. We were able to walk 5 minutes in either direction and hit a landmark. We stopped at a few boulangeries for macaroons and eclairs before making our way to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg and Barrage Vauban. We passed by Eglise Lutherienne Saint Thomas and Eglise du Temple Neuf on the way back to the hotel. The children so graciously woke us up at 6 am so we were on the road by 930 am. We drove 1.5 hours the next Aral station in Germany to gas up and purchase a vignette – Swiss road tax sticker. It was 40 euro and good for all of 2016. 2.5 hours later my wonderful hubby was preparing to stop in Gruyeres for a lunch break when we realized that both kids were still sleeping. Do we risk it and continue or stop anyways? GPS said we were 45 minutes away, which meant 2 episodes if they woke immediately after turning around. We were in luck; no one woke until we started up the hill and they loved the twists and turns.
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Day 3- Arrival day
We unpacked, played, and went grocery shopping. If I wasn’t broke before, I am now. To say that Swiss food is expensive is an understatement. We tried to pack as much non-perishables as we could since we were taking 2 days to make the trip, but with a stroller and playpen to pack in a small car, there was only so much that fit. I am slowly getting the idea that my stroller is not welcome and therefore a giant waste of space.
Related Article: Travel Toddler bag
Day 4 – Flying Boats
We took the free bus up the mountain to ski lift and took the gondola up to Roc D’Orsay 2000. Tickets say they are 57CHF per adult, but since we were not skiing, they charged 17CHF per. The gondola was amazing, the view was amazing, and the look on my sons face as we rode up the “flying boat” was priceless. We stayed at the restaurant for an hour or so, then made our way back down. I was able to catch a little sun tanning time, split a crepe with the baby and watched the munchkin roll in the snow. The boulangerie in town was great; I gained a few pounds, I’m sure. It wasn’t cheap though; a glass of milk and a coffee was 8CHF. We hit the tourism office for pamplets, souvenir shop for the traditional post card and toy souvenirs. The free bus was on lunch break when we were ready to head down so it took extra long to get home and we were starting to melt waiting for it, but we were able to look through our new information and planned our next few days…word to the wise, don’t grab too many. I am still on this vacation and am already planning the next time I am visiting Switzerland and how am I going to pay for it. Rest of the day was Netflix and Chill, while we left the back door wide open, hubby started a nice fire in the fireplace, as we busted out a wine. I broke the cork and the wine stopper doesn’t fit so I had to finish the bottle before going to bed. The struggle is real.
Related Article: Road tripping with kids
Day 3 – Castle
Chillon Castle in Montreux. We drove the whole 20 minutes down the mountain and checked out the local castle right at opening time, 10 am. Parking is right in front of the castle and it is free with a max time of 4 hours. We had the whole place to ourselves until just before we were ready to leave, it was amazing (Kids woke up at 7 am this morning). Strollers were not welcome, or practical, and they asked to be kept at the front entrance, so we left our in the car. Munchkin wore his backpack/diaper bag the whole time and did an amazing job as our tour guide, I wore the baby and hubby was in charge of photography. We spent a good 2 hours looking around, though I’m sure we would have stayed longer had speedy gonzolas not been with us. Broke for snacks, walked along the lake shore and headed to the groceries for more fire wood and steak. It was 3ish by the time we got back to the chalet and poor baby girl was just done; she slept on the way to and from town but that still only makes for 40 minutes of naps, as opposed to he regular 3 hours. I tried, and failed, to put her down again… hopefully this means she will sleep better tonight.
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Word to the wise; don’t forget to pack the sleep sack. I had to buy another one, not nearly as thick as she is used to and if she is anything like me, I enjoy the pressure of a blanket when I sleep more than the warmth it provides. As for the playpen; we modified it and made it softer but she still wakes up fairly frequently, whereas at home it was once or twice per night. This still strikes me as odd, since we have been on so many vacations/overnights away from home and she is not new to the playpen. Here I am trying to apply logic to my child’s behaviour.
Day 4 – Glacier 3000 & Aigle Castle
Hubby had the great idea of climbing Glacier 3000. It was a great idea at the time; the weather was perfect, we didn’t have much on the plate that day but it did cost a pretty penny per person. After driving an hour up to a beautiful mountain side, amazing view of Aigle castle and the vineyards, the lift was closing down due to bad weather at the top. We ended up playing in the parking lot for another hour before heading back down to the castle.
Aigle Castle turned out to be a wine museum in a castle, it wasn’t as amazing as we had hoped, but it was an adventure and the kids were pretty happy. We also bought another bottle of wine.
Day 5 – Bobsled
Col de bretaye – Cookie cafe. Based on a colleagues suggestion, we went up the cog train to Col de bretaye and visited the cookie cafe. Honestly, the cookies and waffles were amazing. The cafe was packed with people. We found a rental store that rented bob sleds (for munchkin) and a sled (for baby girl) at 5CHF per day. We played for about an hour when baby girl whipped out while daddy was driving the sled and refused to be consoled.
Day 6 – Cheese factory
Gruyeres. While it was a horrible drive there ( one hour of whining and crying and restless children), we managed to make it to the cheese factory in one piece. The demonstration started just as we were walking in and both kids seemed to be entranced by the process. We were given 4 packages of samples (even though the kids were free), and tore through them all while we watched – they were that good. The factory had a restaurant and it was getting near lunch time so we had a nice cheesy meal. The castle was right around the corner, so we thought we would walk, but it was all up hill to the parking lot and then again another large hill to the village so we drove the 2 min and walked what felt like forever, up the hill to the village. I had to wear the baby again and she was starting to get heavy. After a great tour, souvenir shopping and a wonderful snow fall, we made our way back home.
Day 7 – Freiburg.
We decided to leave the chalet a night early. Since hubby had to be at work for Monday morning and we still had two more nights on the road to get home, I thought it best to have Sunday afternoon to relax. We drove the few hours, again it was unpleasant – these children need to chill out in the car but that’s for another day. The hotel was amazing, free mini bar, access to the pool and I believe they were renting strollers in the lobby but I can’t read German and we already had ours so I didn’t bother looking into it. Since we arrived at noon and our room wasn’t ready until 3pm, we walked around town for a while. The Alstadt was only a few minutes away so we walked around, in the general direction of the Rathaus. Through the McDonalds labeled archway at the Bertoldsbrunnen, spent a while at the Freiburger Munster before making our way back to the hotel through the Altes Rathaus Freiburg im Breisgau. The walk didn’t take all that long, even found a park along the way. The spent the rest of the evening at the indoor pool – it was not heated but after sitting in it for a few minutes, it didn’t matter anymore.
Day 8- Ramstein again
We found a lot that we wanted to buy at the commissary so we stopped again. If we didn’t want anything, we would have stayed at Heidelberg next door. We took our sweet time having breakfast and did more shopping in the morning so they were good and tired before getting in the car. Both slept the whole 3 hours home.
Groceries – 300CHF
Strasbourg – free
Roc D’Orsay 2000 17CHF each person
Chillon Castle 12CHF each adult, under 6 free
Glacier 3000 would have been 79CHF per adult, 40CHF per child
Aigle castle 11CHF per adult, under 6 free
Gruyeres Cheese factory and Castle combo ticket 16CHF per person
Fribourg – Free
Where to stay in Switzerland
Of all the cities we have stayed in, we found a few gems and a few duds. Here are our recommendations for hotels in Switzerland and on our way to Switzerland.
- Hotel Tschuggen – Grindelwald, Jungfraujoch
- The Guests’ House – Zurich
- Tascherhof Hotel – Tasch, Zermatt and Matterhorn
- Novotel Freiburg am Konzerthaus – Frieburg, Germany
- Le Kleber Hotel – Strasbourg, France
- Hotel Pirsch – Ramstein, Germany
- Berghotel Schwarzwaldblick – Triberg, Germany
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