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All Aboard! Train Travel with Kids in Switzerland

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Trains have chugged their way into children's hearts, resulting in squeals of delight at train crossings, miniature train sets for sale at toy and hobby stores, and cartoons and books highlighting the wonders of train travel. Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling's romantic attachment to trains was wonderfully illustrated by the Hogwarts Express; and didn't all of those witches and wizards look like they were having a super time? Trains are not just the stuff of make-believe, of course. Europe's train network is vast and reaches to nearly every town and village. Switzerland's train travel system is tops. Ride the rails with me as we explore train travel with kids in Switzerland.

All aboard! Train travel with kids in Switzerland

Why to travel by train in Switzerland

Switzerland is a small country. You can travel by from one end to the other in just 6 hours. But there is so much to see, explore and experience that you may not want to miss a moment, which you might, staring down the highway in a rental car.

The Swiss Rail Service (SBB for short) offers the perfect holiday solution for travelers who want to enjoy the view, the journey and the destination at the same time. The SBB network covers nearly the entire country, even going up mountainsides, and offers some great family friendly travel incentives. There are more than 26,000 kilometers of public transport within Switzerland. That's a lot of mountains and valleys to cover.

All aboard the Swiss train

SBB Swiss train (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

Clean, safe, convenient and FUN

Swiss trains have a well-earned reputation for cleanliness and punctuality. Passenger trains departed on time an impressive 88% of the time in 2012. The local and IC (InterCity) rail cars are powered by electricity (no diesel fumes), and are clean and well-maintained. The rail cars contain dining cars and mobile food carts as well as modern amenities like power plugs built-in to seat sections for travelers to work or surf. Rail stations are centrally located in the centers of Swiss cities and towns. These train stations represent hubs of tourism activity, retail shops and restaurants. Finding free parking at the stations is easy too.

Travelling by trains is fun and exciting! The locomotives are big and impressive, especially to small eyes. Mom and dad will appreciate letting someone else do driving, so they don't have to do anything but relax, enjoy the view, take some photos, and help the kids count sheep or cows. There's room to spread out and walk around, and most of the rail cars have large scenic windows to watch the landscape roll by. The Panorama trains, like the Glacier and Bernina Express, have special viewing windows that extend into the roof of the rail car, easily showcasing all the Alpen glory to passengers. No need to strain to see the view way up top.

Riding the rails in Switzerland

Riding the rails in Switzerland (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

Picking the right train pass for your family

The SBB network has a wide variety of tickets, rail passes and travel cards to meet international travelers needs. Depending on your length of stay and how much travel you plan to do within Switzerland, the Swiss Pass offers great flexibility and convenience. With the Pass, you can choose from a four-day to one-month duration, traveling in first or second class by rail, road (public transportation) or on the water. The Swiss Pass also includes free admission to over 450 museums throughout the country (valid on the day of travel), and up to a 50% discount on mountain railways, like the Gornergrat Bahn in Zermatt or the Jungfrau Bahn. These added features of the Pass are a real bonus when you're traveling as a family—everyone's included and you can do so much more without taking out your wallet every time you board. You can purchase the Swiss Pass at RailEurope.com.

The Flexi Pass version of the Swiss Pass offers the same features, but with non-consecutive travel day choices of up to six days within one month. On our most recent trip to Switzerland, we found the Flexi Pass to be just that—flexible with how we wanted to travel. One day we chose to take a round-trip train voyage to Zermatt and a week later we embarked on a day-trip visit to Zurich. The Flexi Pass suited our holiday plan perfectly because we had a home base and didn't need to travel somewhere new every day. Plus, after a long day of sight-seeing or hiking, it was really wonderful to just walk on the train and be whisked home.

Ticki Park Kid Car

Ticki Park Kid Car (Photo credit: Swiss Travel System)

Train travel with kids in Switzerland

In terms of ticket purchasing, the SBB offers some sweet fare relief to family travelers. Kids under age 6 can ride the rails for free, when accompanied by a person holding a valid ticket or Pass. Children under 16 travel free when accompanied by adults holding the Swiss Family Card. This Card is available free of charge from Swiss railway stations or when you book your Swiss Pass online. The Card also includes the kids in all of the adult Swiss Pass benefits (i.e. free museum entry), so it's well worth your time to get a Family Card from any ticket booth when you arrive at your first Swiss rail station.

The fun for kids (and parents) doesn't stop at the ticket booth. The Swiss Rail Service has developed an entire children's program, called Ticki Park, for all under 6 train enthusiasts. Ticki Park includes a specially designed, jungle-themed family coach car, on all double-decker InterCity trains on long-distance routes within the country. There's a jungle play area, bright murals, board games for all family members, and lots of room for strollers.

On your next Swiss family holiday, think about creating some unique travel memories and enjoying the romance and convenience of traveling by train.

Have you experienced train travel with kids in Switzerland or elsewhere? Do you have a special train travel memory? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

A Note from The Curious Travel Mama: Switzerland Tourism and the Swiss Travel System hosted my family's Swiss train travel experience, which was provided without expectation or promise of a positive review. All opinions are honestly given and my own.

About Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama

Claudia Laroye lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two sons (ages 18 and 20). She started travelling at a very young age, and has never stopped. She’s had the fortune of visiting more than 20 countries on four continents, and has also lived abroad in Sweden. Claudia is passionate about family travel and about educating children through the travel experience. She is the author of the thetravellingmom.ca, and contributes to many online and print media publications. Connect with Claudia on Twitter as @travelling_mom.

Comments

  1. Lisa Goodmurphy says:

    We took the train from Paris to Geneva to visit friends for a day when we were in Europe last year and it was so incredibly easy. We have also taken shorter day trips from both Paris and London by train – it’s such a convenient and stress-free way to travel in Europe.

    We have never travelled from one destination to another by train though. Do you find it easy to manage the trains when everyone has luggage along?

    • Claudia Laroye says:

      Thanks for your comments Lisa. There is ample room for luggage aboard the trains, though we didn’t travel with lots of luggage on this particular trip. Large bags/suitcases are ideally placed in the special luggage compartments found near each rail car entrance, while smaller bags can be placed overhead.

  2. Lynn Minnick MyGREENLifeandRealEstate.com says:

    I first fell in love with Switzerland from a train window back in college. It was so beautiful I suddenly understood why I’d never met a Swiss traveler in the US – why would they want to leave this place? We came back to Switzerland this past summer, with kids in tow and with a car, and were surprised when we were stopped to pay 40 Euros for a sticker to drive on their roads even though we were driving 1 exit away.

    We also loved our train experience on the Eurostar from London to Paris this summer. Fast, very easy, and enjoyable even with the luggage & 2 kids 🙂 I’d recommend it!

  3. Hetal Kudecha says:

    Hi Claudia, I am travelling with my 6 year old to Switzerland and have taken the 8 day swiss pass with family card. Just a question – how do I know the location of the family car on a particular train? The SBB tells me whether a particular train has a family car. Is there some way of knowing where is this family car placed on the entire length of the train?

    • Claudia Laroye says:

      On many SBB train maps (at the stations & online), there should be a detailed section that shows the order of cars, i.e. 1st, 2nd class, dining, etc. The family car would show up in that ‘map’, where and when it is available. Happy travels!

  4. Swiss trains are the best! Seriously best train I’ve ever been on, the play area for kids is genius. And I heard that a few years ago they put in a Starbucks car.

  5. Thanks for your blog! This is very helpful information. We are planning a trip to Switzerland with our one year old and trying to decide whether to take the train or rent a car. We are afraid that with train travel we may still have to take a taxi from time to time, meaning we will have to drag around a large car seat. Do you still recommend train travel in this case, or what do you think would be easiest?

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      A few things to think about: How many destinations are you visiting, and for how long will you be travelling? Your child will travel for free by train, but yes, the car seat is an issue when/if you take taxis. Your choice will depend upon how much train travel you plan to do. We’ve done both, and for maximum flexibility, travelling by car has worked well for us. Car rentals, gasoline and parking in Switzerland are all very expensive, so take the time to really plan out your routes and estimate your expenditures. Then measure that against your train travel costs and amount of time you’ll need to lug that car seat around. Best of luck!

  6. If I purchase first class seat reservations, do I need to buy a ticket for my 4 year old as well to sit in first class with me?

    Thanks!

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      I don’t recall doing this when we travelled on our passes. However, things may have changed and you could be required to buy a top-up portion on the first class ticket. I would inquire at the SBB ticket office when you purchase your passes/tickets. Happy travels!

  7. Rob Bowers says:

    Claudia: Great information!! My wife and I are going to Basel for 3 months starting in June. We are going for her work, but will have weekends off and the occasional 3day weekend. We will also have our 4 and 2 yr olds with us. SBB sounds fantastic. Given the short distances between places, it almost sounds like we should consider day trips on the wkd instead of going away for the whole weekend, at least as it pertains to nearby visits. Any thoughts?

  8. HI, I would like to explore Switzerland with kids via train while sleeping in tents on campsites. Any helpful information is highly appreciated.

  9. Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

    Thanks for your comments, Rob! It sounds like you’ll be enjoying a wonderful time in Switzerland. Day trips and long weekends for those destinations that are a little further will be perfect for you and your family. SBB goes pretty much everywhere, so plan out your routes and climb aboard, or just go on a whim. You’ll have lots of choice – I’m a little envious. 🙂 Summer in Switzerland is magical! I hope you’ll do a lot of hiking and visiting the mountains and lake towns. Perhaps spend a long weekend in Zermatt, Zurich, Lucerne and Bern, as they have so much to offer too. There’s a lot packed into this beautiful country. Enjoy!!

  10. Hi.

    I will be travelling from Zurich to Interlaken, Interlaken to zermatt, Zermatt to zurich. Will the trains on these routes have Kids’s car attached?

    Thanks

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