First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

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AKBTX14
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First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by AKBTX14 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:42 pm

Hi

We have to attend a marriage (a couple of days before this Christmas) in Germany. I am planning to take this opportunity to take a vacation from Dec 26/27 until Jan 4/5/6 in Germany and neighboring countries.

We have never visited Europe before and we have 2 teenager boys. I am wondering if anyone has taken a winter vacation in Europe. Is it worth it?

Depending upon if places to visit are still open during EU holidays, where would you suggest to visit?

We plan to take Euro Rail pass to visit countries/cities (I believe being US citizens, no visas are needed).

Many thanks and regards!

livesoft
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by livesoft » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:54 pm

Just go skiing: Downhill or Cross-country or both. I recommend Austria, but there are hundreds if not thousands of places. Just book a package for at least a week so that you can become a black diamond skier if you are not already.

Something like this: http://www.skiresort.info/ski-resort/ba ... st-oswald/
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CaliJim
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by CaliJim » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:56 pm

My dream, for that time of year, would be to go to Chamonix.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamonix

But, while not the best season, if it is a first, and perhaps last, family with the boys to Europe, they need to visit the big big landmarks, Berlin, Paris, Rome; it's almost a right of passage.
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theplayer11
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by theplayer11 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:05 pm

We went to Switzerland this past Feb and had a great vacation..40+ degrees, no big deal at all. What a absolutely gorgeous country...still can't get over the beauty.
We have just booked Germany(Munich, Stuttgart) for this Feb. Wear a coat and you will be fine...take the train and visit various towns.
We had quite a few people ask us why we are going there, what are you going to do? Are you kidding me? Traveling around seeing different towns and sites is what it's all about. So many vacationers fall into the trap of having to see the so called "must see attractions or cities".

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ThePrune
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by ThePrune » Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:03 pm

If you like museums either Berlin or Munich would be outstanding destinations in Germany. And you don’t need to worry about the weather ruining a museum visit!

Museum Island in Berlin has the single largest concentration of great museums in Germany. Get a Berlin Pass and at the same time schedule a slot for the Pergamon museum. I’m not certain, though, if these museums have reduced hours over the holidays.
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AKBTX14
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by AKBTX14 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:10 pm

Thanks

We are Texans and have barely skied (tried 2-3 times) :mrgreen:

We will be landing in Frankfurt 3-4 days before Christmas to attend wedding.

I am just exploring if this could be a viable plan.

The day after Christmas, begin a train journey for 10-11 days. Stay in 2 or 3 towns for few days each and end up at a major airport like Amsterdam, Brussels, or Paris. Then take a direct flight back to USA from there or take Thalys back to Germany and reach Frankfort for departure to USA.

I am just trying to figure out a route that will be most beneficial as a family vacation. I am hoping to find someone on the forum who had taken such a journey.

livesoft
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by livesoft » Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:13 pm

AKBTX14 wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:10 pm
Thanks

We are Texans and have barely skied (tried 2-3 times) :mrgreen:
Perfect. A 10-day ski vacation with lessons every morning will get your kids going for the rest of their lives. After all, Texans go to Colorado all the time to ski. It been the college de rigueur trip for decades and still is.

Lots of things shut down for Dec 25-26 and Dec 31-Jan 2 and Jan 6, so check holiday hours for every place you will visit.
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Kelmscott
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by Kelmscott » Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:04 pm

Worth it? Absolutely! We love traveling in the off-season.

We travel to Europe during the winter often and have been to Germany many times. You'll enjoy having many places that would normally be mobbed during the warmer months all to yourselves. Just remember to pack layers -- fleece, sweaters and a waterproof jacket or shell -- and you'll have a ball. Remember, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

It's too bad you'll miss the wonderful German Christmas markets -- most end right before Xmas. Berlin's continues after Christmas, though, so if you end up there, you'll get a taste of what they're like.

What you interested in? History? Great landscapes? Historic architecture? Castles? I would be tempted to stay in Germany the entire time. So much to see!

The Mosel Valley is lovely and not too far from Frankfurt (note spelling). Munich and Bavaria are wonderful too, and accessible via high speed train to/from FRA. Berlin -- vibrant and packed with culture. But all of this depends on what you're interested in. We like to pick a few spots and use them as bases -- take daytrips from each place. It's more relaxing and cuts down on the packing/checking in time, etc.

If you stick with Germany, you won't need a Eurail pass. Even if you leave Germany, you probably won't need a rail pass! They're usually not worth it unless you're on a train every day traveling huge distances. That is NOT recommended unless you're a clueless 21 year old who is just checking off sites on a list. Slow down, or it will all be a blur. Especially with kids!

Deutsche Bahn has Laender Tickets for each region. You and your family (I think most are valid for up to 5 people, but check this) may be able to travel daily for just a few Euros. We've used them often and they're a huge savings. See more details here: https://www.bahn.com/en/view/offers/reg ... kets.shtml

You can buy long-distance tickets ahead of time on the Deutsch Bahn web site for a fraction of what the train tickets would normally be if bought the day of travel.

If you have more specific questions, the Tripadvisor Forums will help you. It's quite an active message board, filled with locals experts who will respond quickly: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g ... rmany.html

Rick Steves (PBS show) has made it his mission to introduce folks to the joy of European travel and has written very good guidebooks that are perfect for planning a trip. Although I don't agree with everything he says, his books are a good way to orient yourself and find out all the inside tips for the country. https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/germany.

Gute Reise!

AKBTX14
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by AKBTX14 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:14 pm

Thanks Kelmscott

Lots of good suggestions. I have heard about German Christmas Markets. I plan to reach Frankfurt/Bonn area on 21/22 of December. Hopefully the markets will be still there.

Regards and many thanks.

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Watty
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by Watty » Thu Oct 12, 2017 8:54 pm

I have not been there in winter but one thing to keep in mind is that most of Europe is farther north than you might realize so the days will be real short when you are there.

https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/germany ... &year=2017

I ran into the opposite situation when I was in Ireland in the early summer when the sun did not set until after 10:00PM and would rise around 5:00 AM which made getting a good night's sleep difficult.

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JaneyLH
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by JaneyLH » Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:13 pm

Skiing in Europe us a bit more challenging than the carefully groomed slopes in the U.S. For a first trip to Europe I'd recommend sticking to the major cities and seeing the classic tourist highlights. The short days are a concern for outdoor activities.

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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by j0nnyg1984 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:54 pm

Christmas in Germany is freaking awesome. I've only done it once, but plan to go back.

Drink some gluhwein and let us know how you like it. I'm not a wine drinker so I thought it was quite different. Side note: you can usually buy the little cups that it comes in for a euro or two, if you want something collectable. Mine was a cool custom cup for the town I was in, I think I paid a euro for it.

tigermilk
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by tigermilk » Fri Oct 13, 2017 4:16 am

If neighboring countries are game, Amsterdam is awesome. Great museums of all sorts. Things like the Van High Museum and Rijksmuzeum are no-brainers, but we also really enjoyed the resistance museum, maritime museum, Anne Frank house, Troppenmuseum.

Exterous
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by Exterous » Fri Oct 13, 2017 6:56 am

We've done a couple of winter trips to Europe (Including last April, smack in the middle of that spring blizzard) and have had a great time. You probably won't need a rail pass as buying individual tickets is likely cheaper. I use the site below all the time to plan our trips and to find out what train options are available along with train details, general pricing and how to book:

https://www.seat61.com/

We were in Vienna for a NYE and there are some great train options to Bratislava, Budapest, Salzburg and Munich (Or a lot more depending on your feelings about sleeping in an overnight train).

If you do end up in the Munich area it might be worthwhile to rent a car for a bit so you can see the amazing small towns and grandiose castles in Southern Bavaria. Oberammergau, Linderhoff Palace, Prien and Herrenchiemsee and, of course, Neuschwanstein. We stopped at those (and others) and after driving to Salzburg and Hallstatt from Munich. Hallstatt was also amazing but, apparently, gets over run with tourists on day trips. We spent the night in the town so we got to enjoy a quiet morning and evening in that beautiful place. If you do drive between Germany and Austria they seem to be doing boarder checks along the major highways into Germany - or at least they were when we were there. We noticed it on our way out and took non-highways back into Germany, avoiding the 1+ hour delays. All that said we're from Michigan so some snowy roads were not much of a deterrent to us. You may feel differently.
Last edited by Exterous on Fri Oct 13, 2017 6:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

neilpilot
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by neilpilot » Fri Oct 13, 2017 6:56 am

We have friends in Munich and have visited several time in the winter. Often we spend a week or so in Bavaria, and then catch a cheap flight to Malaga, rent a car, and stay in a timeshare in Marbella. Nice weather, less crowds and very interesting day trips (Seville, Gibraltar, Grenada, etc).

AKBTX14
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by AKBTX14 » Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:46 am

Thanks for giving great information. Many kind souls on this topic for helping me out. :happy

I am thinking to rent a car in EU. Our local AAA gives International Driving Permit for $20.

Looking at one car rental company www.sixt.de (I was looking for long term parking at Houston/Dallas and didn’t know that hotels also provide long term parking. It might better to park at dedicated long term parking lots near to airport).

Also, I could use your suggestions for the following:

Our Citi Costco Visa card has Travel Insurance for up to $3,000 per person (air tickets). I am assuming if we have to cancel our trip due to illness of one family member. Also covers CDW (collision damage waiver and theft up to $50,000). No personal insurance though.

Our Chase Freedom Visa has some kind of coverage as well.

We have United Healthcare and it only covers international ER visits (I don’t know the limit). I called United Healthcare and their rep gave me a quote for $182.00 ($0 Deductible, $2 million limit for family. My understanding is that this is secondary insurance). The insurance is though IMG Patriot Travel Medical Insurance. Any thoughts on travel medical insurance or IMG.

Lastly, I found out that credit card companies like to be notified of travel dates/countries and has 2.75% - 3.0% foreign transaction charge (American Express Blue Cash card figures by spending behavior, but no travel insurance for us on this card).

Anything else am I missing. Any other sort of travel advice (personal insurance etc. We have Farmers Insurance for home/auto/Term-life/Umbrella insurance. (Our T-Mobile plan gives same 4G data/free texting and calls at $0.20 per minute in EU).

Regards and many thanks again.

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GerryL
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by GerryL » Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:39 pm

I'd be sure to pack some lightweight long underwear -- even if you don't plan to ski.

stan1
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by stan1 » Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:57 pm

It's a cliche almost but dress in layers. You can wear middle layers many times to reduce the amount of luggage you take. I take only one sweatshirt with me and wear that every day over a long sleeve t shirt or longjohn. I take a "waterproof" shell jacket with a removable liner. You might find cold, wind, rain, or snow (or none of the these). Wear bulky items on the airplane to reduce the amount of luggage.

I do take two pair of "waterproof" shoes. You'll want something like a balaclava scarves that cover your head, face, ears and neck. You'll want gloves that you can put on your hands and then put your hands into the jacket pockets.

It sounds like fun. I think your sons will enjoy it! Learning how to take trains and public transit should be an experience for them. Cities with subways work well in winter since you can get around out of the weather.

I prefer to go to Europe in the off season to avoid the crowds and sweltering heat of summer. Overall off season is a much more pleasant experience.

If you are in Frankfurt I'd consider adding Paris and London via the chunnel. Or Amsterdam and Paris. Or to be honest you could spend 7+ days just in Paris.

theplayer11
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by theplayer11 » Fri Oct 13, 2017 2:24 pm

a little cold sure beats heat and crowds imo

halfnine
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by halfnine » Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:23 pm

As to layering, I would only use multiple layers if planning on doing outdoor activities. But, if you are only planning on being in the cold as an interlude to spending time indoors, then wear whatever layering you would need to be comfortable inside and then one incredibly warm winter jacket for outside.

Personally, I would pass on skiing in Europe. Plenty to see and do in Europe during the winter. While skiing, generally, can be done more economically in the USA.

Kelmscott
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by Kelmscott » Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:33 pm

Sixt is good. But also look at Kemwel and AutoEurope. They're brokers. You won't need an international drivers permit, your US drivers license will be just fine.

However, I wouldn't rent a car. Europe's public transportation system is excellent, there's no reason to rent a car. It's such a hassle, anyway -- you don't want to spend time looking for parking, wondering what the street symbols mean, dealing with the hassle of figuring out parking kiosks/tickets, etc. Many medieval towns, for example, don't have parking in town for visitors -- you'll have to park on the fringe of town and walk in, anyway. Driving on highways and the Autobahn is not for the timid. Never, ever cruise in the left lane -- it's a deadly place to be, with cars coming out of nowhere, zooming by at 100+ mpg. Police cameras everywhere and the fines for speeding are high.

It will be cheaper and more convenient to take the train. You can stretch your legs, use the wifi, eat a meal, have a beer and watch the landscape go by. Trains put you in the heart of towns, where you can just walk from there. With the Deutsche Bahn regional passes, your whole family could travel for a total of about $25/day. Total! Round trip. Much, much cheaper than renting.

Chase United Mileageplus cards don't have overseas transaction fees so it may be worth getting one of their cards. You'll also get bonus award miles if you sign up for a card.

Yes, definitely notify your credit card companies re: travel dates. And also notify your bank for ATM travel notices ... don't want to your cards frozen re: fraud alert while you're overseas. I also "pad" my dates on the alerts and add more days on both ends, just in case my trip is delayed.

For insurance, check out www.InsureMyTrip.com. I've never used them, but I know lots of folks who have.

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Watty
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by Watty » Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:46 pm

AKBTX14 wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:46 am
(I was looking for long term parking at Houston/Dallas and didn’t know that hotels also provide long term parking. It might better to park at dedicated long term parking lots near to airport).
....

Our Citi Costco Visa card has Travel Insurance for up to $3,000 per person (air tickets). I am assuming if we have to cancel our trip due to illness of one family member. Also covers CDW (collision damage waiver and theft up to $50,000). No personal insurance though.
One trick that I do to get to and from the airport is that in the US I will rent a one way rental car pick up at a suburban location near my home the day before my trip then drop it off at the airport on the way out of town. I do the reverse when I return. The price will vary greatly between companies since some will have a high drop off charge but I can usually get one for less than $40. Be sure to check the hours and location of the suburban rental car locations since they can have limited hours and be tucked away in some hotel or car dealership.

American Express has a plan you can sign up to provide primary car insurance for about a $20 fee per rental which is better than the normal CDW. People have reported having good service with that when there was a fender bender since dealing with things like "lose of use" with the rental company can be tricky. I use that when I am driving in Europe. You really don't want or need a rental car when you are in large or even most medium size European cites especially near popular tourist areas.. In addition to dealing with traffic parking is expensive and often extra at hotels. Driving in a foreign country is a bit stressful at best and at that time of the year you will also be driving at night which is additionally stressful. If you do drive then either rent or buy a GPS, in many areas the street signs are pretty minimal compared to the US.

With four people you would also need to get a fairly large rental car and some streets in Europe can be very narrow. I was in England last spring and the rental car I got had a button on the dash board to electronically fold in the side rear view mirrors to help you get through tight spots.

With this being your first trip to Europe, and being in the winter, I would suggest not getting a rental car. If there is some must see place that works better with a rental car then you can rent one for a day or two. The public transportation is really good there and if you need to you can take a taxi or Uber to where you want to go. Typically I will arrive in at city at the train station then take a taxi to my hotel because I have luggage and don't want to get lost then use public transportation while I am in the city.

If you do not have a rental car you can also stay in hotels that are right in the historic section of the city and that will have a lot more ambiance than staying at some chain hotel five miles away just because it has parking.

You can see the Rick Steeves web page, and the links on it, for tips for how to handle the money.

https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/money

You have plenty of time to get a no foreign transaction fee credit card and you can even get a good sign up bonus for most cards.

I would highly reccomend getting his books for where you will be going to.

Do get and use a money belt. Generally speaking large Europe cites are safer then similar large US cities since you are much less likely to be mugged in Europe but more likely to have your pocket picked or purse snatched. I always use a money belt everywhere in Europe, not just the high risk places.

Split up your Credit and ATM cards with your spouse so that if a wallet or purse is lost and you have to cancel the credit cards the other person will still have cards that have not been canceled.

Carefreeap
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by Carefreeap » Fri Oct 13, 2017 4:54 pm

Kelmscott wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:33 pm
Sixt is good. But also look at Kemwel and AutoEurope. They're brokers. You won't need an international drivers permit, your US drivers license will be just fine.

However, I wouldn't rent a car. Europe's public transportation system is excellent, there's no reason to rent a car. It's such a hassle, anyway -- you don't want to spend time looking for parking, wondering what the street symbols mean, dealing with the hassle of figuring out parking kiosks/tickets, etc. Many medieval towns, for example, don't have parking in town for visitors -- you'll have to park on the fringe of town and walk in, anyway. Driving on highways and the Autobahn is not for the timid. Never, ever cruise in the left lane -- it's a deadly place to be, with cars coming out of nowhere, zooming by at 100+ mpg. Police cameras everywhere and the fines for speeding are high.

It will be cheaper and more convenient to take the train. You can stretch your legs, use the wifi, eat a meal, have a beer and watch the landscape go by. Trains put you in the heart of towns, where you can just walk from there. With the Deutsche Bahn regional passes, your whole family could travel for a total of about $25/day. Total! Round trip. Much, much cheaper than renting.

Chase United Mileageplus cards don't have overseas transaction fees so it may be worth getting one of their cards. You'll also get bonus award miles if you sign up for a card.

Yes, definitely notify your credit card companies re: travel dates. And also notify your bank for ATM travel notices ... don't want to your cards frozen re: fraud alert while you're overseas. I also "pad" my dates on the alerts and add more days on both ends, just in case my trip is delayed.

For insurance, check out www.InsureMyTrip.com. I've never used them, but I know lots of folks who have.
+1 I'm "liking" this post but I think your other one was spot on as well.

We lived in Bonn, Germany from 2009-2012 and I agree with your suggestions. Driving in the snow when you're not used to it takes some doing. This is not the time to test out your Autobahn skills. As you say, the drivers are rather unforgiving and as a matter of law you are not supposed to drive in the left lane unless you are passing and you are not allowed to pass on the right. Also the changing speed limits are bound to get a novice an expensive ticket. Parking in larger European cities is a PITA and expensive.

The Rhine Valley areas are generally mild but not always! Our first winter in 2009 hit Bonn with 8 snowstorms before Christmas. I told my husband we had get somewhere where there was no snow to shovel! We wound up doing a long weekend in Madrid. 8-)

I think for a first timer the train is more interesting than flying. I used to take the Thalys every few months to visit my BFF who has lived in Paris for nearly 30 years. I always enjoyed the trip. But you can get cheap inter-city flights on carriers like Ryan. Just be warned that they charge for everything and luggage restrictions are very different than the U.S.

I can't stress enough that you need to pack light! Elevators and escalators are infrequent in all but the largest airports (like Frankfurt) and nearly non-existent in train stations. You will be hauling those heavy suitcases up and down stairs everywhere. Make everything do triple duty and have everyone carry (and be responsible for) his/her own bag which shouldn't be bigger than what we in the U.S. call a "carry-on". You will thank me later, trust me. Buy a cheap bag at a grocery store to ship stuff home. Better yet bring old clothes that you can throw away at the end of your trip and use that space for your souvenirs.

an_asker
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by an_asker » Fri Oct 13, 2017 7:30 pm

AKBTX14 wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:10 pm
Thanks

We are Texans and have barely skied (tried 2-3 times) :mrgreen:

We will be landing in Frankfurt 3-4 days before Christmas to attend wedding.

I am just exploring if this could be a viable plan.

The day after Christmas, begin a train journey for 10-11 days. Stay in 2 or 3 towns for few days each and end up at a major airport like Amsterdam, Brussels, or Paris. Then take a direct flight back to USA from there or take Thalys back to Germany and reach Frankfort for departure to USA.

I am just trying to figure out a route that will be most beneficial as a family vacation. I am hoping to find someone on the forum who had taken such a journey.
We've been to Europe twice - for a week each -in the last few years. First time was right after Thanksgiving - spent two days in Paris, took a train day to Berlin, and spent two days in Berlin then flew back. In Paris, we used a combination of daily passes and individual tickets - there are a few good websites to research. To go from Paris to Berlin, we had to change trains in Frankfurt and in Hannover. That was a fun trip, though it took all day. We left in the morning (10 am) from Paris at about 50 degrees and reached Berlin in the evening (6:30 pm) at about 27 degrees (17 degrees with windchill). We went the fastest we ever had gone on land in the TGV at about 320 kmph (200 mph), then changed to German ICE trains.

The second trip - we visited Switzerland. Had two bases - the first in Lauterbrunnen and the second in Zurich. Swiss railway is fantastic, but the train pass system will even have a math major tearing his/her hair in frustration. I gave up trying to compare the Europass vs the Swiss pass(es) and just went with the Swiss day passes. Switzerland was all I had expected it to be, and more, though I have to confess that the Swiss are very good salesmen in that they good a fantastic job of promoting their country and scenery (they do have excellent transportation that interlinks trains, boats, trams, funiculars, buses, etc seamlessly).

I suggest visiting the Flyertalk trip reports forum to read up more on places to visit and things to see. The trip reports are awesome, if you ask me!

Exterous
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Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by Exterous » Sat Oct 14, 2017 4:07 pm

AKBTX14 wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:46 am
Our Citi Costco Visa card has Travel Insurance for up to $3,000 per person (air tickets). I am assuming if we have to cancel our trip due to illness of one family member. Also covers CDW (collision damage waiver and theft up to $50,000). No personal insurance though.

Our Chase Freedom Visa has some kind of coverage as well.

We have United Healthcare and it only covers international ER visits (I don’t know the limit). I called United Healthcare and their rep gave me a quote for $182.00 ($0 Deductible, $2 million limit for family. My understanding is that this is secondary insurance). The insurance is though IMG Patriot Travel Medical Insurance. Any thoughts on travel medical insurance or IMG.

Lastly, I found out that credit card companies like to be notified of travel dates/countries and has 2.75% - 3.0% foreign transaction charge (American Express Blue Cash card figures by spending behavior, but no travel insurance for us on this card).

Anything else am I missing. Any other sort of travel advice (personal insurance etc. We have Farmers Insurance for home/auto/Term-life/Umbrella insurance. (Our T-Mobile plan gives same 4G data/free texting and calls at $0.20 per minute in EU).

Regards and many thanks again.
If your cards charge foreign transaction fees you may want to look at getting a card that doesn't as those can add up fast. There are a variety of good travel cards out there that don't charge foreign transaction fees and provide things like primary rental car coverage, travel insurance, lost\delayed baggage coverage, travel delay compensation and even medical coverage. Sometimes you have to pay for the trip with the card to qualify, sometimes you don't. Personally I like the Amex Platinum for the medical coverage it offers for just carrying the card. Some may not. While some Citi travel cards require the entire trip be purchased with their card the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve do not so using things like miles, vouchers, etc do not void the coverage, although their length of baggage delay before the coverage kicks in is a bit longer. (6 hour delay instead of 3). I'll be honest - I am not sure about the exact limitations and T&C of most cards since I find the Chase Sapphire cards have worked well during the myriad of travel mishaps we've had but I believe the big three are still Chase Sapphire Preferred\Reserve, Citi Prestige and Amex Platinum with Barclays Arrival+ nipping at the heels. Often they waive the annual fee for the first year.

If you do get a card with a 0% FTF make sure you always select the option to pay in the local currency. If you're presented the option to pay in USD decline it as the establishment is doing the conversion for you and its almost certainly a significantly less favorable rate than you will get through your credit card company. If they do not give you the option to pay in the local currency, object. They are required to give you that option. If they persist, call your credit card company later and do a charge back for the difference.

One note of caution - we've occasionally had difficulties with some automated kiosks (typically at train\metro stations or parking) taking Chip and Signature cards so you will want to have a Chip and Pin card (ATM or Barclays Arrival+) or cash handy just in case.

Our bank reimburses two non-network ATM charges a month so we'll typically find an ATM and do one or two withdrawals of cash to cover our trip. As of a couple months ago the BNP banks we went to (and I believe Deutsches Bank in April) allowed us to determine the denominations we wanted so no worry about finding a place to break a 50 or 100. I can't say if this is true for Europe since I've never tried but I've seen some pretty terrible exchange rates offered at "Currency Exchange" locations in major transportation hubs like airports and train stations so I always try and wait till I'm at an actual bank and use the ATM.
Kelmscott wrote:
Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:33 pm
However, I wouldn't rent a car. Europe's public transportation system is excellent, there's no reason to rent a car.
I would disagree with this a little depending on where you are going. While we have done many trips where we never rent a car we have also had trips where we have and its been incredibly useful as well as trips where we wish we had rented a car. Salzburg to Hallstatt is a 1 hour drive or a 3 hour train ride with 3 connections. Prien am Chimesee to Oberammergau or is a 1 hour 45 min drive or a 4 hour train ride with 3 connections. Parking is easy and free to cheap for those locations. Figuring out stations and time tables particularly for buses can be tricky, luggage lockers may not be available (or may be well hidden), dragging luggage around a train, bus or ferry station during a connection can be a hassle, and time tables inconvenient for the desired destination. I am not saying someone from Texas who may not be familiar with snow driving should rent a car in the winter to drive to the places I mentioned, more that these are examples of situations where we much preferred having a car over public transportation and that I think saying there is NO reason to rent a car is a stretch depending on itinerary.

AKBTX14
Posts: 38
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 2:46 pm

Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by AKBTX14 » Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:22 pm

Thanks again for suggestions.

I will decide between a train and a car depending upon weather/time.

I am thinking to rent a airbnb in Bonn for 5-6 days (2 bed 1.5/2 bathroom). Any thoughts?

I was researching online found out that boots work well for winter vacation in EU (buy raincoats locally in EU depending upon weather).

halfnine
Posts: 716
Joined: Tue Dec 21, 2010 1:48 pm

Re: First Winter (Dec/Jan) Vacation in Europe. Any suggestions please!

Post by halfnine » Tue Oct 17, 2017 4:07 pm

AKBTX14 wrote:
Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:22 pm
Thanks again for suggestions.

I will decide between a train and a car depending upon weather/time.

I am thinking to rent a airbnb in Bonn for 5-6 days (2 bed 1.5/2 bathroom). Any thoughts?

I was researching online found out that boots work well for winter vacation in EU (buy raincoats locally in EU depending upon weather).
Unless you are really looking at being outdoors at the extreme end, shoes and an umbrella with and an insulated jacket should work just fine.

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