What Does it Cost to Take a Family to Switzerland?

What Does it Cost to Take a Family to Switzerland?

Joining Maui, Las Vegas, and Camano Island on our “2018 vacations we travel-hacked” list is Switzerland! This was my sixth time to Switzerland but my first time bringing kids along.

The Trip

Once again, we traveled at a peak time to a destination famous for being expensive. We were in Switzerland for 7 nights over the holidays, and also traveled overnight getting there and getting home – so we were away from home for 9 nights, 10 if you include the airport hotel the night before the trip.

We were mostly in the Berner Oberland, exploring Interlaken, Thun, Murren, and Grindelwald, with a brief visit to Zurich on our way home.

We had the obvious advantage of staying with friends for the majority of the trip, although this did not mean they footed the bill for all our food. In fact, we ate out almost every day and consumed as much local chocolate and cheese as we could get our hands on… which you’ll see reflected in our dining/grocery spending.

We also willingly took on the extra expense of premium economy and business class air travel, as well as three nice hotel stays to make our flight schedule more convenient. You could easily do Switzerland for less than this, particularly if you don’t mind flying in basic economy in the off season (and if you have the advantage of flying from closer than the west coast of the USA). You could also do this trip for a heck of a lot more.

Below is the cost breakdown for our trip, and as such the last of our spending for 2018. This is for a family of 4 during the ever-popular travel time of Christmas break.

(You can also check out our review of flying British Air with the munchkins and our tips for air travel with infants.) 

Cobbled square with Swiss flags. Castle in background.
Castle explorations in Thun.

The Spending

Lodging near the airport the night before the trip: $0 (Marriott points)

Comparable cost: $150

Parking: $0 (parked at the hotel and took the free shuttle)

Comparable cost: $120

Southwest airfare round-trip PHX to ATL: $33.60 (SW points and our Companion Pass)

Comparable cost: $1,008.00

British Airways roundtrip ATL-ZRH in business class and premium economy: $805.27 (Capitol One points and Avios)

Comparable cost: $11,693.00

Note that there are often significant taxes and fees applicable to “lap infants” for international air travel – they are not a free add-on the way they are on many domestic flights. 

Lodging in Zurich: $0 (1 night, Marriott points)

Comparable cost: $200.00

Lodging in Interlaken: $0 (6 nights with friends)

Comparable cost (based on my research on AirBnB for the same location and dates): $1,500.00

Lodging in Atlanta (on the homebound journey): $0 (1 night, Marriott points)

Comparable cost: $200.00

Trip insurance (because of that time we got stuck in London): $136.00

Trains and cable cars: $557.17

Taxis: $152.61

Groceries: $232.37

Dining out: $335.17

Other (museum, ice skating, sledding, etc): $172.75

International cell service costs: $0, because Google Fi exists.

Total: $2,424.94

Comparable total cost: $16,457.07

One kid showing off his bruised face and one kid eating fries. Mountain background.
Sledding injuries and french fries in Grindelwald.

Notes on Traveling Switzerland as a Family

If you’re looking for a springboard into traveling Europe with kids, Switzerland may be one of the easiest places to start.

English is widely-spoken, and the public transportation is super easy to navigate and generally runs on time. The country has a very safe and welcoming feel to it.

On the scale of kid-friendliness, our experience of the areas we were in was that they were very kid-neutral. No one minded that our kids were there, but no one seemed to care much either.

A few things to keep in mind:

There are many places where there is not a lot of child-proofing and excessive safety measures. It’s up to you to keep an eye on your kids near ski lifts and train tracks. There are also not always stroller/wheelchair-accessible alternatives to stairs. If you have small kids, you’ll find yourself carrying them up stairs a lot. We were glad we didn’t bring a stroller.

There was not a lot of indoor space to wait for trains/cable cars (sometimes none at all) and I didn’t see many heating lamps (even at the ski areas). The few times we got stuck standing in long lines could have been pretty uncomfortable if we had not brought ski-gear-level warm clothing for the kids.

We dined out almost every day and found that sometimes there were kid’s menus and high chairs, but more often there were not. (I’m all for the kids eating the same things we do, but I like to have the option of smaller portions for them when we have no way of storing leftovers.)

Two of the four taxis we took seemed befuddled at the idea of a car seat.

Smoking is still much more wide-spread in Switzerland than it should be. There were a couple times where was impossible to keep my kids out of second-hand smoke.

The only diaper changing station I found during that entire week was at a very expensive kid-centric beginners’ area at a fancy ski resort (and that one did not have a safety strap or anywhere to hang a diaper bag). We ended up changing our baby on sink counters and benches pretty frequently.

We did not have to purchase any baby products while we were abroad, but I’ve been told in no uncertain terms by my world-traveling mom friends that you need to pack an abundance of whatever type of diaper you use at home, because whatever is available in (your destination) will not be what you need, and it will be disastrous. So pack enough diapers, wherever you go.

None of the above-mentioned issues were upsetting for us, but they are things to be aware of if you are taking a trip across the pond with your littles.

Overall, Switzerland is a great place to travel as a family – particularly if you like mountains! I’m sure we’ll be back!

Group walking along a snowy road in the mountains
On the hunt for hot chocolate in Murren.

Interested in visiting this gorgeous country for a month or more? Check out these three different monthly budgets for Switzerland.

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