Hi, and welcome to MySwissAlps!
>> Insight as to travel options for getting around (should we book private tours to take us from place to place or take the train).
Switzerland has an amazing public transport network. Trains are definitely the way to go. Please see here:
>> Should we have a "home base" in major cities and do day trips from there? Or is it best to just move from city to city on a daily basis?
For an 18-day trip, I would recommend 4 (or maximum 5) bases. Two of them should probably be Luzern and one of the mountain villages in the Jungfrau Region (Grindelwald, Wengen, Mürren, Lauterbrunnen). The others will depend on your interests and priorities. I would avoid major cities and choose small towns and villages with a railway station for your bases.
If you plan on incorporating scenic train trips into your itinerary, your overnight stops should be chosen with those routes and travel times in mind. The following map of scenic routes in Switzerland might help with your planning:
www.sbb.ch/content/dam /sbb/de/pdf/bahnhof-services/am-bahnhof/infra_services -uebersicht-karten-uebersicht-sts-panorama-de.pdf
The Wilhelm Tell Express is now called the Gotthard Panorama Express.
Travel times for the scenic routes (one way) are as follows:
- Golden Pass Line (part) from Luzern to Interlaken Ost: almost 2 hours
- Golden Pass line (part) from Interlaken Ost to Montreux: 3 hours approximately
- Palm Express (PostBus) from Lugano to St Moritz: almost 4 hours
- Voralpen-Express from Luzern to St. Gallen: 2.25 hours approximately
- RegioExpress Lötschberger (full) from Bern to Brig: 1.75 hours approximately
- RegioExpress Lötschberger (part) from Spiez to Brig: Just over 1 hour
- Centovalli Railway from Locarno to Domodossola: 1.75 hours approximately
To plan all your trips by train, bus, boat or cable car, and if you want to calculate travel time for short sectors along the panoramic routes, you can use the Swiss Timetable:
>> Summer skiing: What are the options for ski resorts, rentals, lift tickets and accommodations near the slopes? Most everything I find is information for winter visitors.
Zermatt and Saas-Fee are the only summer skiing options I can think of.
>> What cities are not to be missed? We aren't necessarily looking for what most tourists do. We like off the beaten paths that will help us fully experience the country.
In Switzerland, the main attractions are not cities, but rather villages and small towns - and the alps of course, which you should not miss! There are also many beautiful lakes.
If you make one of your bases in the Engadin (e.g. St Moritz in the Upper Engadin or Scuol in the Lower Engadin), you would enjoy a visit to Guarda I am sure. I have written trip reports about Guarda and Scuol (with photos), which you can read here if you are interested:
There is also a wealth of information on the MySwissAlps website, which I recommend you explore. Please use the tabs "Getting Started", "Where to Go", "What to Do" etc to develop an itinerary. Once you have an itinerary, we can provide feedback and suggestions on it.
>> Looking for a bit of adventure, so hiking is definetly planned
There is information here to help:
>> I read about the World's Largest Suspension Bridge, but am wondering if we have to book a 2 day hike to cross it, or are there options to cross and come back in one day?
Zermatt would be a good base for this hike. You can do a shorter version from Randa. Details are here: