Monthly Archives: May 2013

Packing for a trip to the grandparents

We visited my parents this past weekend. I decided to use it as a chance to see if I could pack two of us into one carry on. I managed to pack three of us into a carry on. I also managed to pack an extra pair of shoes for everyone too ūüôā

For the kids I packed two pairs of convertible pants and one pair of shorts. They wore jeans to my parents house. One thing I did not pack enough of was underwear. One of my kids was having some issues and we actually ended up buying some more. It taught me to always pack two more than we think we will need and that worse case we can always buy anything that we need or forget.

How did I pack three of us in one bag? I used Eagle Creek packing cubes. I am a huge fan of these now. They help keep my luggage organized and I know where everything is. Each of us got two cubes. One for shirts/pants/pajamas and one for socks and underwear. This was great because then once we got to my parents I could easily divvy up the suitcase contents to each person. Also as the weekend continued I could make one packing cube for dirty clothes and one for clean clothes (side note:unfolded clothes take up more space – you may want to consider folding your dirty laundry).

So now I know that going to Europe with only two carry ons for clothes is manageable. Our goal is to only bring three bags with us for four people. I know the week before we go I will have my husband help me pack so that I don’t go overboard and try to bring more than is necessary.

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Categories: Luggage, Packing Light | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Car rentals – I heart Priceline

I am visiting my grandmother a week from today.  I still had not booked my car rental yet. I needed a four day rental.  When I looked up rates for a standard car they were averaging about $130 for four days.  I then went to Priceline.  I put in a bid of $15 a day and my bid was accepted.  It is very important to get the daily rate down when renting a car from the airport because of all of the extra taxes and fees.  With my $60 rental I am still paying $18.46 in tax.  However, the $76.46 four day rental for a standard car is much better than $130 for four days.

So – this goes with my other car rental posts – don’t get discouraged by high fees. ¬†You can usually find a cheaper alternative.

Saving money on a car rental – Part one

Saving money on a car rental – Part two

Categories: Rental Cars | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Train tickets all booked!

I purchased our last train ticket today. It feels great to have this all done. We will be on a total of six trains through out our trip. Two will be in the US to get to and from Newark where we connect with our international flight. The other four are in Europe.

Two of our tickets are for second class trains and two are for first class trains. In Europe they sometimes refer to second class as Comfort Two and they sometimes refer to first class as Comfort One.

We are in second class from Berlin to Munich on the City Night Line. Second class still gets you a sleeper with duvets on the bed. The only thing is doesn’t get you is a private toilet and shower but since we will primarily be sleeping we won’t need that much either. I think our sleeper is right next to the WC. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not…

We have first class reservations from Dusseldorf to Rotterdam. I also have a private compartment reserved for this trip. Our friend Angie will be on this train with us. This is an ICE train that has the capability to move 300 kph. You can actually watch the train driver steer the train in first class. To upgrade all five of us to first class cost an additional $88. I think second class would have been fine for all of us, but since we are on vacation and traveling with our friend I figured why not splurge a little bit. How often do you have the chance to see the driver steer the train? One benefit of first class on an ICE train is you can place an order from the cafe car with an attendant and they will bring it to you in your car. So once we board we can sit back, relax, and enjoy the company of each other.

Our third train ride is in second class between Rotterdam and Paris. This is on a Thalys train. These are also high speed trains. For this train we have seats that are in an aisle/window and aisle/window configuration. The seats do not recline, there are supposedly electrical outlets in each seat, but there is no free wifi. This ride is about two hours and forty minutes. If we were driving it would take us four hours and fifty minutes.

Our final train in Europe is in first class. I kept going back-and-forth on this one. I finally decided to go with first class. First, it is a longer train ride – almost four hours. Second, we will be traveling at the end of the day. We board the train around six PM after a full day of sightseeing in Paris. Everyone should be tired. These seats lean forward so you can recline and they have a footrest (I think, not sure though). Additionally first class gets you free wifi on the train – but you need to register beforehand. You also get a meal and drinks served at your seat. The cost of this is included in the ticket. Granted I probably won’t like what is served food wise but I guarantee you I will want a glass or two of wine. And I know my husband will enjoy a nice dinner. For this train our seats are centered around a table. This will be nice for the kids as if they are not tired they can draw on the table. This will also be the last thing we do in Europe – we head home the very next day. Hopefully it will leave fond memories with us.

I am very excited about all of our train travels. I think this is because the love of traveling on a train is in my blood. My grandfather used to love trains and I think his dad used to work with trains. If my grandfather was still alive today he would love to hear about all of these trains that we are taking. I know he will be with us in spirit.

Categories: City Night Line, Deutsche Bahn, Thalys, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Booking City Night Line tickets – is 6 AM too early for a drink?

This may be a long post, so I apologize in advance. I am going to try to add a lot of detail since I had trouble finding information on the Internet.

When I first looked into the City Night Line trains I learned that to get the best fare you could book your ticket and reservation 92 days in advance. ¬†But what I couldn’t figure out was why it seemed like certain sleeper cars were already sold out 92 days in advance. ¬†Then I finally realized you could book a sleeper reservation around 180 days in advance and then purchase your ticket separately. ¬†Since we are traveling with a 4.5 year old and a 7 year old I did not want to take a chance that we would be stuck in seats and I decided to reserve an economy four person sleeper. ¬†When I made this reservation the UK booking agent told me there would be a cancellation penalty of 15 Euros per person if I needed to cancel it. ¬†That was okay with me.

This morning (at 6 AM Eastern time) I needed to purchase the ticket portion of the night train from Berlin to Munich. ¬†On the City Night Line website (they are a part of Deutsche Bahn) it showed a four person economy sleeper car plus tickets was 261 Euros. ¬†I had previously paid 188 Euros for the sleeper reservation. ¬†Actually…I had paid that equivalent in pounds since I made the reservation with the UK Booking Center. ¬†But to make things easier to follow I’m converting everything to Euro’s using today’s exchange rate. ¬†Anyway, ¬†that is a difference of 73 Euros that I should have needed to pay for the tickets since the Saver Fare was available.

So early this morning I call the UK booking number and I ask to purchase the tickets with my reservation. ¬†The operator seemed kind of confused. ¬†My theory is that the only people who actually reserve the sleeper cars are those with Eurail passes or German Rail passes, etc. ¬†For them they already have the tickets and don’t need to get those at a later date. ¬†Anyway he proceeds to tell me that it will be an additional 343 euros to purchase the tickets and would I like to do that right now. ¬†I tell him that does not make sense because I can purchase a reservation plus tickets for 261 euros online. ¬†He tells me that the reservation I have is for a fully-flexible ticket and as a result I must pay the extra amount. I then asked him if I have a fully flexible ticket, then can’t I cancel that ticket? ¬†He said, “one moment please”. ¬†When he returned he told me that I could cancel the tickets but it would cost 15 euro per ticket to cancel. ¬†I told him to cancel the reservation and I would rebook it, online. ¬†It was much cheaper for me to cancel this reservation, lose the equivalent of 60 euros and book the saver fare on the internet.

Why would I bother making a reservation for a four person sleeper car you ask? ¬†Well, today marks 91 days until our night train. ¬†When I looked to see what was available there are no longer any four person sleeper cars available. ¬†They don’t have as many of these as they have doubles or singles. ¬†So those go pretty fast. ¬†I was lucky that I got one on a saver fare. ¬†We could have probably done two doubles if necessary, but this is our first overnight train and I want to share the experience as a family. ¬†I also wasn’t sure what would be available 92 days out. ¬†We are traveling to Europe in the summer when lots of other people travel. ¬†I felt much more comfortable knowing I had a four person sleeper reserved than taking a risk that one would not be available when it was time to book. ¬† Additionally, if I had not been able to purchase the saver fare then at this point it might have made sense to purchase a German Rail pass since we’ll be on multiple train trips throughout our trip. ¬†But as long as I can buy all of those tickets on a saver fare the rail passes are not worth it.

I am thankful to have this reservation done with..though I am still waiting for the credit to show back on my credit card! ¬†Worse case I can dispute it with my credit card company if it never appears. ¬†All of our future reservations can be done on the Internet. ¬†Hopefully no complications will occur with those. ¬†To add to the complication of these reservations I had to constantly convert euro’s to pounds to dollars. ¬†Not fun. ¬†The man is quoting me prices in pounds but on the Deutsche Bahn website train prices are in euros and I am used to dealing with dollars.

Finally Рas a side note Рwhen I went to book our new reservations and tickets the first credit card I used did not go through due to a fraud alert.  I called that credit card company after making my purchase with another card and told them as a result I used another credit card provider. My credit card company provided me with a $25 credit without me even asking!  So it makes that 60 cancellation fee I paid feel like a smaller cancellation fee.

Categories: Berlin, City Night Line, Deutsche Bahn, Financial, Munich, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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