With a 2:30 PM arrivakl from the states, you'll not find easy to use the most common method of controlling jet-lag, which works well for red-eye flights or morning arrivals. That is, as soon as possible after arrival, get a long nap. Then , force your self to stay up until something resembling a normal bed time on the local clock....such as 9PM.
Include exercise in the waking hours, to help tire yourself out.
That procedure often help avoid the "wake up at 3AM and can't go back to sleep" syndrome, which in turn ruins your first several days.
Maybe go directly to Lugano?
With a 1430 arrival time,, you have a good chance of catching the 1547, arrive Lugano at 1850. he airport is very fast. On my periodic Delta flights, the luggae is opn the carousel before I reach it, or within 5 minutes after. The train staion is 5 minutes walk from the exit of the arrival hall and customs. The kluggae carts are free and go up and down the escalators while heavily loaded.
Change time at Zürich Hauptbahnhof ( main station) is 10 minutes, which is fine, since you come in on track 5 and leave on track 7, and can use the mid track pedestrian underpass to go one platform over.
Arth Goldau seems like very short connection time, but the trains are on opposite sides of the same platform and the setup is designed to expedite that connection.
To be really safe, plan on the 1647. Only change in Zürich HB, not at Arth Goldau. Arrive Lugano at 1850. Lots of time at the airport for buying tickets, coffee, etc. Sleep on the train?
Don't go right to Lugano ?
On balance, however, i agree with your concerns, and would indeed stay in Zürich if you go on to Lugano the next day. A daytime ride over the Gotthard Pass route is a special event.
Zürich is my favorite city in Switzerland, but it is not so good for first time tourists. It takes some getting acquainted with. So, you could take a stroll around the old city on both sides of the river to fill the time before bedtime.
Instead, I think if I were aiming for your itinerary, I would go directly to Luzern upon arrival....trains every 30 minutes take about an hour, and the ones at xx47 require no change of train at Zürich. The ones at xx18 do require a change, which may be a little tight, because you have to get from track 32 to track 8. which is not quite such an easy connection if you do not know the station layout.
However, it is doable- here is the map:
www.sbb.ch/content/dam /infrastruktur/trafima ge/bahnhofplaene/plan-zuerich-hb-a4.pdf
And, if you miss the connection, the next train to Luzern comes along in 30 mites +/-
Your ticket will be good for any time that day, or if you chose a Swiss Rail Pass, it covers any train.
If you took the 1647 from the airport, you'd be in Luzern at 1749 with no change of train. That gives you time to buy train tickets at the airport, or have a snack and a coffee.
I'd then spend a couple of days in Luzern, and take either the Wilhelm Tell Express ( boat plus train) or train only (faster) to Lugano.
Leaving Lugano, I'd get to Domodossola (not trivial...but could be very scenic depending on route) , then go through the Simplon Pass to Brig, thence to nearby Visp thence to Zermatt. [There are other ways to do that, also not simple]. From Zermatt, you could come back down to the Rhone Valley at Visp and at either Visp or Brig make the choice of gong to Montreux via Martigny, thence to the Berner Oberland via the Golden Pass route via Zweisimmen, or the alternate choice to go first to Spiez and Interlaken ( via Kandersteg...super scenic), thus to the Berner Oberland first. Both Interlaken and Montreux have good train service to Zürich by fast routes through Bern on your way home. You could stay in downtown Zürich and catch your plane with no trouble, or stay at the airport. On your way to Zürich you could stop for a couple of hours at Bern or go direct to Zürich.
If, as you suggest, you might not go to Zermatt, you could go from Lugano to Luzern to Bern to Montreux, or other possible fairly straightforward routes.routes.
Luggage lockers at Bern, or the left luggage office, if you want to explore for a few hours.
<<" 5-18, 19, 20 stay in Berner Oberland -- I had thought about staying in Wengen, but then to have to travel back and forth to Wengen each day, I thought staying in Lauterbrunnen Valley might be better. ??">>
Look at the map linked before, plus this one:
www.swissholidayco.com /Public/Assets/User/fi les/Map-of-Jungfrauregion1.jpg
Interlaken is the gateway to the region, but is not much of a tourist destination.. Good for rail connections, boat connections, accommodations. To get a feel for the area and have a real alpine experience, you should stay at Wengen. Lauterbrunnen, Mürren or Grindelwald. If you are not going to explore the area, and generally look around elsewhere...you are right. Stay in Interlaken.. but, then, why bother to go there at all. ;-)
You should note that Wengen is only about a 15 minute train ride from Lauterbrunnen.
Here is a little bit of good information:
In the high Alps, around the Jungfrau, May is low season.. Many hotels are closed, but plenty are still open. Not enough skiing customers or hiking customers for the rather large number of hotels, so some shut down for maintenance or vacation for the staff.. Closed hotels start to reopen at June 3, and most are back in service by June 15. May has poor to no skiing, and the high trails may be snowed in...or not. Low trails - on the valley floor, and Mürren to Grütschalp, will almost certainly be open. Cograil train runs all year. Great if you get a good day or part of a day....and you have given your self several days to have a chance to catch good weather. Many "ski" lifts are shut down in May....but, if there is a lot of snow left, they may open on weekends.
Lots of detail, but it may help you think about your itinerary in a different order. Postponing the Zermatt leg until you have been there for 4 or 5 days will get you more familiar with the travel process, and have you pretty much on the clock to aid your thinking processes..
Luzern has enough good stuff of every possible kind to consider spending more time there....but, then, what do you give up? My choice would be Lugano, but most people like Lugano better than I do. ;-)
Use the "Where to Go" section of the website to help you consider the various cities and regions:
Oh yes- the Rhine Falls... If you've seen Niagara you'll consider the Rhine falls a non-event. Powerful, especially in the Spring, but not very high. If, however, you come from Kansas, and have not been to Niagara, you'll enjoy them. The high thin waterfalls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley appeal a lot more to me. Definitely just my personal opinions.