Frequently Asked Questions

I get lots of emails from families living in Zurich and those moving or traveling here. Here are the typical inquiries I get and my answers. I hope this helps.

Where should I go hiking tomorrow?

Like you, we often wonder all week what we’ll do next weekend. Sometimes the weather is great and there are too many choices. Other times, rain or clouds are making it difficult to find somewhere to go.

On Fridays, I usually post seasonal and weather appropriate ideas for the weekend our MomsTotsZurich Facebook page. That’s a good place to start.

If weather is an issue, start with the precipitation maps on meteo.search.ch and see where the break in the clouds and rain are. Then look at my Map of Hikes and Activities and pick something in that area.

I’m traveling to Switzerland this summer. Where should I go?

Start with my regional guides for the most popular areas in Switzerland: Zermatt & Valais Region and Jungfrau & Interlaken Region. If you are staying in Zurich and need day trip ideas, see: 10 Things to Do with Zurich Visitors.

Is this website just for little kids? I have tweens/teens / I don’t have kids. 

The vast majority of activities on this site appeal to all ages. I started this website when my kids were babies, thus the “Tots” in the name. But as my kids have grown over the last 12 years, we’ve added many hikes and activities appropriate for older kids, teens and adults. I still try to always note if the activity is appropriate for younger children or strollers. But besides that, a hike is a hike and beauty appeals to all.

For older kids, I can specifically recommend the Challenging Hikes and adventure activities like Ropes Courses. A couple favorites below…

I don’t have a car. Which hikes are easy to reach by public transport?

No worries. Switzerland is well connected by punctual and reliable public transit, though it can be expensive. Please see my post about Family Hikes Easy to Access by Public Transport, which includes info about discount travel passes.

Switzerland is so expensive! How can I save some money?

Yes, I agree. See my post Swiss Alps on a Budget and my Budget Activities category.

How I can meetup with other Zurich families that like to hike?

We just started a Facebook group for families that would like to meetup and hike together. Outings are arranged by members of the group. Join the group here.

I’m not an outdoors person but now that I’m in Switzerland, I feel like I should “see” the Swiss alps. Is there something for me?

Yes! I realize that not everyone loves hiking as much as I do. So I try to include lots of hikes that are specifically designed for families, which usually means they are relatively short and easy and you won’t break a sweat. At most mountains, you can simply take the gondola up and enjoy an amazing view without having to hike at all, if that’s more your speed.

Do I need special clothing or gear to go hiking in Switzerland?

No, most hikes I recommend are pretty easy and don’t require more than sturdy shoes and a bottle of water. But a few items will help. Unlike most Swiss hikers, we don’t wear fancy high tech clothes or shoes, but a good rain jacket is important. A roomy day pack is good, to carry snacks and extra clothes for the kids.

What do you recommend to carry our baby/toddler on a hike?

Our MVP award goes to our beat up Bob Jogger stroller that has endured much abuse on very non-stroller friendly trails. I had a framed Kelty baby backpack, but I hated it because it was so bulky. So I used my Ergo baby carrier instead, with my kids from 0-4YO, napping for hours on my back while we enjoyed more difficult trails. I’m sure there are many new great options available these days. Try asking on one of the expat parenting forums on Facebook.

How do you find places to go?

I don’t have any magical sources of info. We do a lot of research to find good hikes that are appropriate for families and distill that info in our posts. We comb through dozens of websites and blogs to get ideas, but usually we have to still do lots of research to figure out all the details (drives me crazy sometimes!!!).

Typically what happens is that I find a pretty picture, I look up the hike on a few websites, most of which have almost no helpful info (where is the trail head? how long is the hike? where is a trail map?). Hiking websites do provide maps but often plot out super long, difficult hikes (6 to 8 hours) when I just want to hike a couple hours with the kids and see the prettiest parts. So I open up a route mapping website like GPSies and map out a shorter route, verifying that the elevation gains aren’t too much for kids. Then I check the satellite pictures to make sure we are seeing the best stuff. It takes hours sometimes.

If you want to do this research yourself, here are the websites I use for a base: wanderland.ch, waterfall.ch, My Switzerland, Schweizer Familie

I must also thank my husband who has the uncanny ability to pick the perfect place at the perfect time, like finding the only sunny place when the whole country is covered in clouds. I’m a lucky woman.

Where do you stay? Can you recommend a hotel?

We rarely do weekend trips and rarely stay in hotels, so I can’t help you there. We almost always rent apartments for a week, usually through www.homeaway.com. It’s better value, you get more room for less money, you can make meals at home (especially breakfast), you have somewhere to hang out when the kids are asleep, and you are usually in a less touristy location.

More questions? Please leave a comment.

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10 comments

  1. Hello, I used your blog to find some rainy-day activities for a friend who was visiting. We ended up in Hergiswil and I’ve written about it on my blog (out on Monday 4th Sept). However, I didn’t have a photograph of my own as I forgot to take my camera with me, so I’ve used yours (with credit). I hope this is OK. If it isn’t, just let me know and I will remove it. Many thanks!

  2. As a Switzerland newbie, I frequent your site for ideas of things to do with my five year old son. I’ve found it more helpful than anything else. So, thanks!

  3. Thank you for a great and informative website! We are traveling to Switerland and Italy this August. We plan on staying two days each in Bern, Interlaken,Lucerne, Como and then Zurich. I was wondering how you feel about staying just two days in each city. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed or rushed with my family. We have two children 4 and 8 and we plan on using trains and public transportation to get around. Any tips or thoughts would be great to hear. Also, would you consider buying a half fare Swiss card or a full fare card for travel? Thank you kindly.

    1. What a fun trip you have ahead of you! Where you stay really depends on what you want to do. If you are focused on outdoor activities, I would personally skip Bern and spend more time in the Interlaken area. Como seems the odd man out because it’s in Italy and so far from your other destinations. Visually I much prefer Swiss lakes to Lake Como, but Italian food is better and more affordable and the culture is more fun. If I were you, I’d do Como on a different trip and this time stay in Switzerland and maybe go to Zermatt instead. In Lucerne, there are lots of mountains to visit in that area, so that’s a good amount of time. One full day in Zurich is plenty – I’d put that extra day on one of your other destinations.

      Also, your trip will be highly dependent on the weather. It could be that it rains the whole time you are Interlaken or one of your other destinations. So you will need to be flexible and perhaps travel outside your hub to find better weather.

      If you are relying on public transportation, you should definitely get a travel pass. I’m not an expert on all the regional passes, so it’s hard to recommend the right one. The Jungfrau pass costs CHF 180 for three days, including all transport in the Jungfrau region. That would be a good deal for those three days. But you are also traveling from region to region. The one month half-fare card might give you better savings overall. It costs CHF 120/adult. That will get you half-fare on all public transport (trains, buses, ferries, trams) and on most mountain transport. Price out a few of your trips to see how quickly you break even. Your 4 year old will travel free everywhere. For the 8 year old, buy the SBB Junior card, which costs CHF 15 this year. Then s/he will travel free everywhere with you. Hope this helps. Have a great trip!

    2. Thank you so much for the info. If you had to pick between Zermatt and the Ticino region of Switzerland, which would you pick? And where in the Ticino region would you go? We plan to go from interlaken to lucerne and then somewhere else. Or interlaken to Zermatt? then Lucerne. There are just so many wonderful places to visit. I appreciate all of your wonderful input. Thank you kindly.

  4. Hi Tanya,
    First of, I wanted to thank you for all the detailed, thought-out information you provide to families like ours that allow us to get a full picture of what it’s like to live in Switzerland with little ones. Our family is moving to Zurich in mid August and reading your site and following you on instagram has allowed me to really picture myself there.
    I have a 2 year old girl and we will be moving to there for 2 years. I wanted to ask you if there are any resources you recommend to finding a place to live out there or anyone you’d recommend I talk to (my husband will be working in district 4 and we’re looking for a 2 bedroom apartment).
    Also are there any specific areas that you would recommend over others that are family friendly (and toddler friendly)? I know it’s fairly easy to get around the city but still wanting to get your thoughts, looking for something somewhat economical, as it is expensive to live there.

    Finally, you mentioned you moved there when you first born was about the age of ours, any tips or tricks to make the transition process easier?

    Thank you so much in advance for any feedback you may be able to give us.

    Agustina

    1. Hi Augustina. Thanks for the kind words about my website. I hope you have many wonderful adventures in Switzerland once you arrive. To answer your questions about moving here, you might find my interview on Expat Arrivals helpful: http://www.expatarrivals.com/article/interview-with-tanya-an-american-expat-living-in-zurich I love living in Zurich city with kids, but of course, it depends on your neighborhood. It’s hard to give specific recommendations. It’s best to ask on one of the swiss expat parenting forums for advice on a particular neighborhood you are considering. My friend Kate wrote an excellent post about moving to Zurich with links to resources. Check it out: http://www.mominzurich.com/moving-to-zurich/ I hope this helps. Best of luck!

    2. Awesome! thanks for referencing both of those, I was actually chatting with Kate over Fbook just last weekend, she was very helpful as well. I didn’t know you were from SD! So are we 🙂
      This may be a silly question, but I’ve noticed you bring your bob with you on a lot of hikes but also around the city. I want to grab one before we go and bring with me. Do you have the kind with the locked in front wheel or the swivel one? Only asking because i don’t know what’s best for all terrains.

      Thanks!

      Agustina

    3. Hello fellow San Diegan! We had a Bob with a locked front wheel. It was good on rough trails, but annoying in the city. We bought ours a long time ago. Maybe they have versions that lock and unlock so you have both options. I had a different stroller I used in the city and mostly only used my bob in the city when there was snow. Good luck. It’s so hard to choose between the various options.

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