Six Tips for Travel to Germany (and Any Other Country)

Tips for Travel to Germany

             1.Know before you go – events

Way back in 1985, I’d had my first ‘real’ job for a year. I’d spent the entire time saving up money so I could take a nine-day trip to England as soon as I had earned my five days worth of vacation (awarded after one year of service). I wanted to see some plays in the West End, (London’s theater district), and I wanted to travel north to see some of the places associated with King Richard III, whom I’d become fascinated with after readingThe Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters and The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.

I could have gone over at any time, but I was impatient and went over literally the day after I was awarded my vacation days – in May, 1985. I had a good time…up to the point when I went to Bosworth Battlefield: the place where Richard III had died and the War of the Roses had ended. Like most ancient battlefields there wasn’t much to see, just placards placed along a walking path explaining what had happened where. Interesting, but it needed imagination to hear the sound of horses’ hooves, men yelling, the sound of blade against blade. After I’d walked over the ground, I went into the gift shop to buy some souveniers. And there I saw a poster advertising the Re-enaction of The Battle of Bosworth Field, which was to take place on August 22, 1985, the 500th anniversary of his death. Hundreds of uniformed soldiers, lots of fighting, Richard’s final desperate charge on horseback that led to his death…Now that would have been something to see…and I was four months too early. If I had but known…

In this day and age of the Internet superhighway, when detailed information on any subject is just a click away, there’s no need to miss an event that you’d want to see ‘if only you’d known.’ Whatever your hobbies or interests are, start doing your research well ahead of time so that if an event is going to take place at a certain time, you’ll be able to plan accordingly.

(And there may be times that you absolutely want to avoid, such as dates for big sporting events, or big festivals which will attract more people than you might want to deal with.)

             2.Know before you go – the language

Unless you have a gift for languages, you’re not going to learn enough German in less than a year or so to be fluent. Nevertheless, it’s worth your while to study the language for as long as you can – simply because it will add to your comfort level. Yes, quite a few Germans speak at least some English, but not all do, and it’s a joy to be able to read and understand phrases on buildings or posters.

At the very least, you must pick up a phrase book…and don’t wait until you need to know a phrase to start looking it up in the book. Familiarize yourself with its contents…memorize the phrases for use at hotels or in restaurants…to ask for the police or other emergency services, etc.

Think you don’t have time to listen to language CDs? Of course you do! Check out some from the library, and listen to them on the way to and from work.

             3.Luggage matters

Black seems to be the luggage color of choice. It looks ‘cool,’ right? It also makes everything look alike, especially if you’re just off the plane after a tiring trip and standing at the luggage carousel anxiously awaiting your bags. So instead of black, choose red or blue or green! If you must have black bags, tie bright red bows or something to the handles to easily distinguish your bags from somone else. This wll enable you to see your bags easily, and it will prevent other people from accidently making off with your bags – which has been known to happen.

  1. Know the Airport

Depending on where you live and where in Germany you’re going, you’ probably fly into either Berliln or Frankfurt. If you’re having someone meet you – familiarize yourself with the airport. There are diagrams of the airports at their respective websites. Important: Pay attention to the steward(ess)’s spiel at the end of your trip – they’ll tell you at which carousel your luggage will be arriving. But don’t put on your headphones and tune out while you wait – five minutes later your luggage carousel location might change, and it’ll be announced over loudspeakers. Once you get your luggage you’ll go through customs. (You went through passport control first thing.) If you have nothing to declare (duty free liquor, etc.) it usually won’t take too long…you just walk through the right door. You can be met here – *or you can arrange to be met at the official Meeting Point (there’s one in each terminal – and are usually used by tour companies who want all their people to wait in one place, but you can take advantage of it too.)

You can change your dollars into euros at plentyof places here. Practically all service personnel at the Airport will speak good English, so you’ll be able to ask questions if you have to.

              5.Don’t try to do too much

If you travel a great deal, you’re the best one to know how quickly you recover from jetlag. If you’re taking your first international trip, be aware that your first day in Germany will probably not be a fruitful one. Even if you can sleep on a plane, you only get a few hours shut-eye before you are wakened. So you’ll be tired. Try to schedule this day as one where you can simply relax. Try to stay awake as long as you can, at least until early evening, so that you can sleep straight through to the next morning and thus get onto German time…but again, it’s up to you to best know how your body responds.

Once you’ve recovered from the flight, don’t try to jam-pack your days. That’s the “If its Tuesday this must be Belgium” syndrome. Better to get a good look at a few things than a brief look at a lot of things that will simply blur together in your memory.

             6.You’re in Germany

It’s a common point of humor – don'[t drink the water in Mexico. The same thing holds true in Germany as well. You’ll find that Germans don’t drink tap water – they drink bottled water. Follow their example.

Depending on where you are in the country, you’ll find food just like home – McDonald’s are ubiquitous, there are Pizza Huts, Kentucky Fried Chickesn and other fast-food, chain style restaurants. While its fun to go in these places and see what’s the same and what’s different…you are in Germany! Try the local food! Try the local beers – but please don’t over-indulge.

Stores are usually closed not only on Sundays, but also for a couple of hours during the middle of the day on weekdays. This includes large cities as well as the smaller towns.

Throughout Europe, the Euro is the currency of choice. You can use German Euros in France, French Euros in Germany, and so on. (The countries have their own ‘national’ design on one side, but they’re accepted everywhere.)

There is a network of highways in Germany called the autobahn…and people drive really, really fast on them. There are no speed limits. If you want to drive on the autobahn, make sure you learn the meaning of the international road signs, and make sure you know the rules of the road. Fast cars drive in the left two lanes, slower cars in the right. There is *no passing on the right hand side. Plan your journey in advance on an atlas, and make sure you know not only the name of the town you’re heading for, but also the names of surrounding towns, so that if you see highway signs listing various city names, you’ll know if you’re heading in the right direction or not.

Germany has an excellent train service, so consider going places by train.

When it’s time to go home, remember that you’ve got to get to the airport with a couple of hours to spare – so that you can go through customs, have your luggage checked, etc.

The more prepared you are for your vacation to Germany, the better you’ll enjoy it, and the more you’ll be able to remember of it as the years go by. So be prepared, do your homework, and have fun.

Air Travel in Smaller Planes Not Too Bad

Air Travel in Smaller Planes

Flew to Washignton State from California and back recently on Horizon Airlines, an affiliate of Alaska Airlines.

Horizon uses compact turboprops instead of full-blown jets. They are nimble, not as noisy or cramped as you might think, and the flight process was smooth from reservation to end of the trip.

Getting a seat is best done by consulting a great overall site, Kayak.com, which will search for you for the cheapest possible seat. From California to, say, Portland, Seattle or Spokane, Horizon always seems to be the best bet. In April, I booked a one-way to Spokane for about $125 and the return flight was $132.

Booking two one-ways has a bunch of advantages. First, it enables you to change that return flight if you have to. Second, it seems cheaper in some cases. The cheapest round trip I could find was $325.

Web check-in is fabulous. When you arrive at the airport, in this case Sacramento, you don’t have to mess with the long baggage check-in line. Instead, you enter the reservation number on your ticket into one of the terminals located right there at Alaska Airline, then deposit your bags in the Web Check-in Line, which is almost always vacant!

Airlines like using the Internet because it’s cheaper for them, and Alaska-Horizon passes that savings on down.

The Horizon turboprops definitely have a problem with turbulence, moreso than bigger jets, but seem to slice through it effectively enough, and the frame seems solid enough for a rough bashing without safety issues in the air.

Some stops are a necessary evil. For example, ny Sacramento-Spokane flight stopped in Boise, ID, and my return flight stopped in Portland. No big deal, fairly big savings and convenience.

Beats traveling by car and paying $3 a gallon for a 2,000-mile round trip.�

Avoid Motion Sickness While Traveling

Avoid Motion Sickness

If you have a queasy stomach and get sick every time you travel you will be happy to find out that there are ways to beat motion sickness. By following these tips you will be able to avoid the sickness, and enjoy your trip.

  1. Do not eat a heavy meal before you depart on your trip. This will upset your stomach and cause it to become irritated during travel. Try to eat something light such as crackers or a piece of bread.
  2. Try to stay facing forward during your trip. By turning around you will throw your body out of sync. Also, try to keep your eyes affixed on an object that is straight ahead.
  3. Keep a carbonated soda handy. By sipping on this you will be able to combat any uneasy feeling that may start to come about.
  4. Consider taking medicine before leaving on your trip. There are plenty of motion sickness tablets available on the market today. The most popular and effective is Dramamine.
  5. Fresh air can go a long way in helping to fight off motion sickness. If you start feeling nauseated open the window and take in some fresh air.
  6. You may have a medical condition that is causing you to become sick during travel. Consult with your doctor, and he or she may be able to cure you of your problem for good.

Advice for Couples Planning a Trip

Couples Planning a Trip

When a couple decides to travel, it is a time for unwinding and bonding. Taking the time to separate from the every day routines and problems is good for most relationships. It is important that couples lay out some ground rules before dashing off on a trip togther. Even couples who have a long marriage bond need to have some guidelines to improve the quality of the trip.

If the couple traveling together are just two friends heading off together, the rules are still much the same. The primary difference is that the question of who pays for what needs to be addressed from a more detailed perspective. Unless one partner makes it clear that the cost does not need to be divided, plan on a 50/50 split.

For the married or committed couple, the traveling rules change only slightly from that of friends. Splitting the cost of the trip is not an issue because it is paid from shared funds. Instead of worrying about who will pay when or should a meal ticket be split, more effort should go into itinerary, the overall cost of the trip, and mode of transportation.

Choose the destination and purpose of the trip together.

Couples almost always travel to spend time together and enjoy some new experiences. This may mean an entirely new place to visit or an opportunity to spend more time enjoying or exploring a familiar place. It could be a romantic get away to a favorite or meaningful spot. The key is to make sure that both halves of the couple understand the why behind the where.

It is never good if she went for romance and shopping, and he went for golf and sleeping. Both of these goals can be attained, but probably not together. This needs to be worked out before the trip even gets to the financial stage. Often, the destination is dependent upon the purpose. It would be rare to go to the beach and not intend to partake of the sun and surf. A snow skiing resort would bring another obvious reason for choosing a given destination.

Work Out a Budget Both Partners Like.

Trips that run short on cash are not very much fun near the end. For that matter, it can make for an uncomfortable trip if you are worrying about money the entire time. Plan your trip within your means. A trip to Europe is not a good choice if you only have $500 to spend. Small budgets usually imply a trip of less distance and less duration. You can still accomplish many of the goals for traveling. You just have to plan a trip that fits the budget.

You also want to avoid having a great time on a trip and come home and file for bankruptcy. Well, that is, unless that was your plan. It still would not be a very good one. Keep traveling within your personal budget, as well as, establishing a traveling budget.

Pick the Mode of Travel.

You can go by car, train, jet, or ship. The trip can even combine several of these. If you are traveling a thousand miles to take a cruise, you will want to decide well ahead of time if you will drive or fly. You might even choose a bus, but not many couples will. A trip to Cancun will almost always require flying. Make sure that you and your partner are both comfortable with the mode of transportation.

Agree on Food and Lodging Needs.

As a couple, you need to layout plans that include what type of lodging is acceptable to both parties. Younger people tend to want cheap while older couples look for a little more luxury. The same is true for eating. Some couples will choose a cooler and sandwiches. Others will want a full service meal several times per day. This is simply something to consider within the realm of your likes and your budget.

Road Trip Travel Tips for Maine Vacations

Road Trip Travel

Maine is a beautiful vacation destination for anyone who enjoys wildlife, breathtaking mountain views, picturesque coastlines, and outdoor activities, but before you take to the roads of Maine, you should know what you’re getting yourself into.

Road Trip Travel Tips for Maine Vacations

Roadside billboards are illegal on Maine highways, so ugly ads will never distract you from the natural beauty of the land. The passenger (not the driver!) should always have a camera ready. Some of the best scenery in Maine can be seen from your car and in most areas, it is safe to pull over to snap a few pictures.

Road Trip Travel Tips for Maine Vacations

Leave your shiny new BMW at home. Rent a car if you plan on traveling anywhere outside of the big city of Portland. Driving along Maine’s roads can be quite an adventure. Everyday behind the wheel is exciting when the roads have potholes, frost heaves, wildlife, mud, dirt, dust, falling rocks, logging trucks, old pick-em-up trucks that seem to throw objects under your tires, and big rigs that spit rocks at your windshield.

Road Trip Travel Tips for Maine Vacations

Be extra cautious of our road signs and take them seriously. ‘Falling rocks’ really does mean that rocks are likely to fall down a mountainside and hit your windshield. In the Greenville area, “Moose Crossing” means that moose are likely to not only cross the road, but stand in the road, lie in the road, and sleep in the road. Also beware of beavers and porcupines. Even though they have not been given the honor of official road signs, these smaller animals can be just as dangerous if you swerve to avoid hitting them.

Road Trip Travel Tips for Maine Vacations

When driving up and down hills, you must adjust your vehicle’s gas peddle accordingly. Tourists from Florida are easy to spot because ‘flatlanders’ go 20 mph up the hill and 90 mph down the hill. It takes some getting used to, but it is possible to maintain a steady speed while driving over hills.

Road Trip Travel Tips for Maine Vacations

The spring frost indicates many things. Summer is right around the corner, flowers will soon be in bloom, mud season is here, and road construction must begin. Maine roads have improved drastically over the last decade or two, but that improvement also comes with a cost. Road construction in Maine can cause tardiness, stress, confusion, and the occasional mental breakdown.

Road Trip Travel Tips for Maine Vacations

If you’re traveling to Maine in the winter, be courteous and cautious around plow trucks. If you’re traveling to Maine in the spring, don’t bother going to the carwash to clean the mud off your car until the end of your trip. If you’re traveling to Maine in the summer, be prepared to spend hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic in popular areas, like the one and only road to Bar Harbor. If you are traveling to Maine in the fall, try to pay attention to the road ahead of you. I know the changing leaves are pretty, but leaf-peeper rubber-necking can be dangerous and my car’s bumper can’t handle another rear-end collision!

Travel from Lahore to Karachi

Travel from Lahore to Karachi

After gazing on Mughal monuments and feeling the beat of pounding drums at Sufi shrines in Lahore, many travelers choose to head south to Pakistan’s financial capital, Karahi for some fun in the sun, upscale nightclubs, and modern skyscrapers. From rambling through the ramparts of Old Lahore to an all night beach rave in Karachi, you might be in for a culture shock, but here’s how to get there.

Train

The cheapest option is the train. The Fareed Express #38DN leaves Lahore every morning at 10:00am and arrives in Karachi at 12:35pm the next day. That means your train journey will be at least 26 1/2 hours if the train is running on time. Trains in Pakistan are not known to be exceptionally punctual or safe. There are 5 possible classes for this train, including the full berth AC class for 1810 rupees ($23), the full berth EC (Economy) for 790 rupees ($10), a full seat in economy for 710 rupees ($8.90), a half-berth for 480 rupees ($6) and a half seat for 400 rupees ($5). Sitting on half of a seat for 26 hours is certainly not the most comfortable way to travel to Karachi, but it is the cheapest.

To see fares, timetables, and addresses of booking agents, you can check out Pakistan Railways online. Tickets are usually booked through a travel agent in order to avoid the inevitable chaos on the station.

Bus

A safer, more comfortable, and faster option is to the take the bus. There are many different bus companies that ply the route from Lahore to Karachi, but Daewoo is by far the most comfortable and professional. For women traveling alone, Daewoo is the best choice. The Daewoo station is located near Calma Chowk, while other bus companies operate out of the main bus station in Old Lahore. A one-way ticket on the Daewoo bus costs 1900 rupees ($24), and buses leave from the station five times a day. You can book tickets at 11:00am, 1:00pm, 5:00pm, 11:00pm and 1:00am. The journey takes 21 hours, a good five hours less than the train.

To book tickets, you can call the Daewoo office at 111-007-008. From Lahore, dial 042 first. You can book 48 hours ahead and you must arrive 30 minutes before departure to hold your seat.

Air

The most expensive, most comfortable, and fastest option is by air. Two airlines fly regularly between Lahore and Karachi: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Air Blue. One-way tickets on PIA are 6000 rupees ($76) and up, depending on how far ahead you book them. You can book at any PIA office or at most travel agents. Air Blue offers special online fares and e-ticketing that is easy for travelers. One-way tickets from Lahore to Karachi are currently 5250 rupees ($66) with the special online discount. When you print your e-ticket, you will still need to get a paper standard ticket at the Air Blue office in the departure area before checking in. Air Blue flights are twice a day and take about two hours.

As you can see, it’s really up to you how you travel from Lahore to Karachi. From flying in style with a business class seat to being crammed into a train car like a sardine for $5, everything is available!

How to Pack Light for a Trip to Europe

Pack Light for a Trip to Europe

When traveling in Europe, it’s important to pack for the occasion. If you are staying in multiple destinations, it is a good idea to pack lightly. Some airlines charge extra fees for luggage that exceeds their weight limit. If traveling by train, it is a difficult to swiftly board and exit with a lot of baggage. It is also a chore to find space for all your bags on a crowded train. You can maximize your space by following some simple tips in this article.

It should be fairly easy to find hostels or hotels with laundry facilities near by or in-house. This makes it easy to pack fewer clothing and maximize space by minimizing the dirty laundry you carry around. Coin operated laundry facilities are usually inexpensive compared to the burden it can cause to tote extra clothing around. For a three week trip, it is a good idea to take two pairs of jeans, one pair of shorts, two pairs of walking shoes (in case one gives you blisters or gets wet), socks and underwear for no more than five days, one jacket, one sweater and no more than four shirts. This offers a lot more luggage space and makes for cargo that is easier to carry in a smaller bag.

There are certain things that will be less hassle or even cheaper to buy while in Europe. Electrical outlet converters are easy to find in train stations, grocery stores and airports. They also often cost about half the price in Europe than in the U.S.

Packing food is generally not ideal. It’s hard to know how food items will fare in the flight. Flying to Europe, there is usually at least one lay over and with all the luggage handling, there’s no way to know how much of a mess it may have made in your bag. A few granola bars or a small package of crackers is not going to make much of a mess and may come in handy when you land and at the airport and they’re selling a bag of chips for $6.00. But plan on buying most of your food at your destination instead of taking up valuable room in your bag.

It’s a great suggestion to buy travel containers for your toiletries or buy travel/trial size toothpastes, toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, shaving cream, etc. to conserve room.

Remember that a lot of hotels or hostels will have a blow dryer to use so you won’t need bring one.

It’s a long trip from home to hotel and you may have to walk with your luggage from the train station or bus. Keep your cargo as minimal as possible to make your time on foot less awkward and your trip less stressful.

Travel: Review of the eBags Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel

eBags

There are some trips that simply require the use of a duffel bag and the eBags Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel is ideal for the ski trip, adventure trip, or other weekend getaway. Stocked with various necessary compartments for storage the eBags Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel is one of the top choices for a casual easy to use duffel bag.

Those travelers who prefer the use of a duffel bag will find the features of the eBags Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel to fit the bill for organization, convenience, space and size for a weekend getaway or adventure type getaway. There are a variety of easily accessible compartments all designed to insure the traveler has a space for everything.

The eBags Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel features an exterior zip front pocket which is ideal for travel documents and small items that need to be accessed quickly. There is also a large upper compartment that measures approximately 21″ x 14″ x 3.5″, which is made with an easy to access u-zip opening, a small secure zippered top pocket for last minute items or items that needed to be stashed quickly, a meshed pocket under the lid, secure tie down strap for securing contents and removable fiberglass rods for those who prefer a free form design (www.ebags.com).

In addition to the above mentioned features the eBags Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel has a completely organized lower compartment that contains two zippered mesh pockets, a sturdy EVA bottom, and a moveable shelf for options with organization based on preference. One of the top features of the eBags Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel is that it allows the traveler to pack the way he or she prefers by using the bag as a single large compartment or by organizing double compartments. For those who tend to over pack, the unique wheeled duffel bag also has an expansion gusset and there is a zippered pocket to store away the Add-A-Bag feature (www.ebags.com).

In terms of comfortable handling the eBags Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel is ideal. In addition to having the option of wheeling the bag, there is also an easy to reach handle, and the front feet double as a second handle, in addition to the top lift handle which adjusts to three heights providing many options. Everyone has his or her own preference, but for those travelers who enjoy traveling with duffel bags the eBags Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel is a great bag and provides all of the necessary features and space needed for a quick getaway. The eBags Mother Lode TLS Mini 21″ Wheeled Duffel was found for approximately $170.99 (www.ebags.com). For more information visit the official web site for the retailer mentioned.

Top Ten Money Saving Ideas for a European Vacation – Part 1

Money Saving Ideas

With fuel prices dropping, air travel is becoming affordable again. That’s the good news. The bad news is that traveling in Europe is still expensive. But there are some things you can do, both before departure and during your vacation, to save some money on your European trip. Europe is a fascinating place, rich in culture and history, and you owe it to yourself to go there sometime. With that in mind, and realizing that most of aren’t exactly rolling in dough, here area some ideas for keeping your European vacation budget within reasonable boundaries.

  1. Pre-book Excursions

With the Internet, it has never been easier to make advance arrangements for tours of museums, palaces, historic sites, and other places of special interest. By booking ahead of time, you’re factoring in the cost on the front end and guaranteeing that you see the attractions of most interest to you. You can also sometimes avoid waiting in interminably long lines.

  1. Shop for Airline Deals

This may seem obvious, but shopping for the best prices on airline tickets involves more than searching Expedia and Travelocity. Now, there are “best of the best” sites like Airfare.com and Kayak.com that actually search other travel search engines and give you pricing options you might not be able to find on your own. Also, don’t forget the cost savings available if you can be flexible on your travel dates or fly during off-peak hours.

  1. Use Public Transportation

In Europe, you can get almost anywhere by some combination of trains, subways, or buses. Particularly in most large cities, you can also buy discounted public transportation passes for a day or even a week. Travel like the locals: use a train or a bus. Sure, a taxi can drop you off at the front door of your destination, but it can also be a budget buster.

  1. Carry Your Own Food and Water

Food is a major cost in Europe, especially in the larger cities. When possible and practical, buy food in a grocery or supermarket (yes, they have them, even in Europe). Buy breakfast items ahead of time and eat in your room instead of in the hotel cafe or a bistro. Make your own lunch, and carry it, with a large bottle of water in a day pack (buying drinks of all types, including water, can seriously add up). Save eating in a restaurant for a special treat. In places like Rome and Paris, refill your water bottle instead of buying a new one. If you’re traveling to out of the way places, you should probably do a little advance Internet research to make sure the local water supply is dependable and sanitary.

In Part 2 of this article, I’ll give you six more ways to cut corners on your European vacation and still build a lifetime of memories.

Travel for Wine Lovers

Travel for Wine Lovers

Wine connoisseurs, are you planning a vacation to wine country? You may interested in knowing that you don’t have to leave the country to experience great wine country travel. All 50 states in the U.S. have at least one winery. Because of climate and geography, many wineries are clustered together in the state. You can get the most out of your winery travel by planning ahead.

California has over 870 wineries. Napa and Sonoma Valley are the top wine producing regions in the world. With over four million tourists every year, it is estimated that 80% of the travelers visit the same 20 or so wineries. Popular wines from these regions include Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. There are several ways to tour these wineries. Most popular are by train, bus and limo. For an ever bigger thrill tours are offered by balloon, boat, bike, horseback and hiking.

If you want an east coast vacation, There are over 200 wineries in New York. New York’s cool climate produces fresh flavors, enhancing the flavor of your favorite wine. Popular New York winery regions include the Hudson River Valley, Long Island, Lake Erie and the Finger Lakes. The first commercial winery in the Hudson Valley was established in 1837, it is still in operation today renamed as the Brotherhood Winery located in Washingtontonville.

Virginia houses over 100 wineries. The most common locations in Virginia are the Chesapeake bay, Hampton Roads, Appalachia, Blue Ridge, and the central and eastern regions. Virginia has been making wine since the 17th century. It is written that Virginia has some of the most distinctive and high quality wines in the U.S.

Wherever you chose to travel, be assured that you can find a winery. Coast to coast, or off the beaten path, your next great bottle of wine is just around the corner