Jan 9, 2015 - 8:17 PM
Welcome to MySwissAlps, Allen!
Great that you get the unexpected opportunity to explore Switzerland! If understand it correctly, you have about 5 or 6 days that can be spent on traveling before you have to get to Basel. Which itinerary is best, personal preferences. I assume you'd like to explore the mountains? If so, I would suggest to stay in the Lucerne and /or Interlaken region. They're both beautiful and don't require that much traveling from Zurich/to Basel. The mountains in the Bernese Oberland (i.e. the Interlaken region) are higher, so if you're looking for a snow experience you could best focus on this region. Interlaken itself is located centrally, which is advantageous if you like to travel around a bit. Alternatively, you could pick one of the smaller towns higher up in the mountains for the 'traditional' winter experience. Please check the pages I linked to for information on hotels, day trips, and so on.
If skies are clear, you should definitely visit some mountain tops like Jungfraujoch, Schilthorn or Rigi. Also consider a scenic train ride like the Golden Pass and maybe some winter hikes. City trips are a good alternative if weather isn't that good. Zurich, Thun and Bern for example are worth exploring.
If you'll be traveling quite a bit, a rail pass will save money. Which pass is best depends on the itinerary you plan. Generally, a Swiss Travel Pass is the most convenient option. A Swiss Half Fare Card could be cheaper if you don't plan many long journeys though. You should make the calculations you've read about to be sure.
Further tips about how to plan your stay can be found here. I hope this gets you started! Please get back to us in case you have further questions.