Winter Family Travel: Germany and Austria

Winter Family Travel: Germany and Austria

I'm an overthinker in terms of trip plannings, especially when it comes to bringing an active toddler for an international trip. The thought of extra planning plus safety cautions is enough to give me an initial panic attack. For this most recent family trip to Europe, I was worrying so much that I would wake up at 3am and couldn't fall back to sleep. If you are like me, who likes to go on trips but just exhausted by all the thoughts and "what ifs" that comes with it, this post might be a light holiday read for you. I want to list the things that initially concerned me, mistakes that we actually made, and how those struggles eventually turned out.

First of all, is it worth traveling overseas with toddlers? The answer is yes, well... mostly yes.
  • Toddlers are too young to remember everything from trips. If you ask my baby what he enjoyed the most about the trip, his first three words will be elevators, trains and lollipops! It is kinda sad that he didn't remember that first snow day, the tranquil lake or the Zugspitze Summit. But I think an easy way to fix that is to take as many pictures as possible and make a travel album to document every precious moment and read the travel book to the kids back home. 
  • Toddlers are curious about everything, which makes traveling more fun and a lot more work than traveling without them. To be honest, it was more like a "parents workout retreat". We spent most of the time watching and chasing the kiddo so that he won't run away, fall, or break anything. But that's just like every weekend at the park or any public places. I have grown a very thick skin in terms of yelling at my kid in the public, which gives me some confidence to feel comfortable "managing" my kid during traveling. Even the worse scenario happens, people overseas probably won't ever see me or my kid again, right?
Family Winter Travel in Austria, Europe
Family Travel in Europe
Sometimes overthinking is the way that pursuing perfection messes with the brain. It took me two weeks just to research and finalize the "perfect" itinerary for the trip. There are many places around Munich that are worth visiting. Here are some of my thought process: Possible cities to visit are Berlin, Austria, and Switzerland. I was reading travel forums ALL night to see what people recommended, and how many days to spend in each city. I was overwhelmed by the different itineraries. Each place has some amazing sceneries. I want to do it all!

However, it is just impossible to fit in everything in less than 10 days. I don't want to spend all the time in commuting between cities. I have to figure out what the goals are and what my family values the most:

  • The situation was: we had two huge luggage, which would be a pain to drag them every day from city to city. So I decided to only pick 3 cities, and stay in each city for 3 nights.
  • Which cities? Berlin is about 6-hour train ride (one way) from Munich, which would be a big waste of time on the road. So I took out Berlin. Switzerland has many beautiful mountain cities to offer, but most of the summit mountain trains and tours are not operating during late November. It's a bummer but we will have to visit it another time. Austria is only 2-3 hours away from Munich, and most of the spots that we want to visit are open!

So here's the final itinerary that's definitely not perfect but worked out for us in the end:
  • The first day was fully dedicated to travel: Flying in Munich, heading straight to Salzburg, Austria. Based in Salzburg for 3 nights. Many day trip options around Salzburg and walking tours inside the city.
  • The next three days were based in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which is about 2 hours south of Munich. It's a ski town that has many day trip options to the mountains, castles and royal palace.
  • The last two nights were spent in Munich. Munich has the biggest Christmas market during winter holiday seasons. We did all the shopping and beer drinkings. From there, we flew back to the State.
Most of the places that we visited were very kid-friendly. We pushed a stroller almost everywhere (buses, trains, cable cars), and it was the easiest way for my kid to nap on the road. Even though the weather might not be sunny and clear, we managed to take some great photos for our travel album. If you and your family plan to visit Germany and Austria, here are some of my top recommendations:

1. Hallstatt, Austria - the most picturesque town in Austria. You can watch my IG story here.
Winter Family Travel in Hallstatt, Austria
Lake view, Hallstatt, Austria
Winter Family Travel in Hallstatt, Austria
Skywalk, Hallstatt, Austria
2. Zugspitze Summit, Bavaria - the highest peak in Germany. More video and pictures on IG
Winter Family Travel in Bavaria, Germany
11 F degrees at Zugspitze Summit, Germany

Winter Family Travel in Bavaria, Germany
Family photo at Zugspitze, Bayern, Germany
3. Lake Königssee, Berchtesgaden - an emerald-green lake in the Bavarian area
Winter Family Travel in Bavaria, Germany
Playground by Lake Königssee
Winter Family Travel in Bavaria, Germany
A restaurant near Lake Königssee

4. Christmas Market, Munich, Germany - the most popular place during winter
Winter Family Travel in Munich, Germany
Shopping at Munich Christmas Market

Winter Family Travel in Munich, Germany
The Marienplatz, Munich, Germany

5. Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg - the biggest fully preserved castle in Central Europe
Winter Family Travel in Salzburg, Austria
At the bottom of the Fortress, Salzburg, Germany

Winter Family Travel in Salzburg, Austria
After a short hike, taking in the grand view of Salzburg city

Now behind the glamours and the IG perfect photos, some of the other highlights, or should I say, the laughable mistakes from the trip:
  • My kid rolled off the bed in the middle of the night even though he slept in between me and my husband. Screaming, tears and busted lips...
  • The stroller got stuck in the turnstile gate while the baby was napping inside. Scared me to death when I saw the turnstiles pressing against his body.
  • Poor baby had stomach flu and we had to cancel the day tour to the Neuschwanstein Castle.
  • He acted out when missed a nap, and couldn't stop crying on the train full of passengers. 
  • We have missed our trains during the trip (some trains in small towns only run once in an hour). We've also done some other things like jumped on the wrong trains and bought wrong tickets...
But in the end, I guess it's all part of the traveling experience. We came home safely and happily, with tons of interesting stories to share. As I'm writing the blog post, I feel like I went through the journey all over again. If you have any questions about traveling to Europe, drop a comment below and I will try my best to answer your concerns.
Winter Family Travel in Germany and Austria

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