Main TOM BIHN website
 
emailus@tombihn.com

COMMUNITY FORUMS

Welcome! We're glad you are here. This is the place to ask for bag advice, help other people out, post reviews, and share photos and videos.

x

First, select your desired search engine:

  • Google Search
  • DuckDuckGo
  • Original Forum Search Engine

User Tag List

Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 57
  1. #1
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Share
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,793
    Mentioned
    5 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Help, I'm going to Germany.

    Backstory: My father was in Nazi concentration camp as a child. He was liberated by the Russians, and made his way to the USA. Fast forward 70 years. He's never wanted to go back to Germany, until now. He wants to see the house he grew up in, and the town, and find his grandparents' graves, and just see "home" one more time.

    Yesterday: He asked my husband and me if we would like to go with him, so we said yes. Well, I didn't think he was really serious, but he immediately contacted a travel agent, and it's one day later and we are scheduled to go to Germany for 3 weeks the end of May. He's booked a river cruise, and then we'll spend a week finding where he used to live. He's already Google Earth'ed the house, and it's been torn down and a new one built in its place. He knows everything will look different, but he just wants to see the place again. Plus, there have been some very nice people in Germany who have invited him back.

    Any advice? All advice is appreciated.

    I've never been on a trip this long, or in Europe.

    I'm trying to get Global Entry for the 3 of us.

    We're flying Lufthansa business class. I've never flown them before. Comments?

    Do we need to buy a cellphone when we get there? How, what, where?

    Should we rent a car or take trains when traveling by ourselves? I know places we sightsee will be walkable, but getting from place to place may be tricky once we're off the tour.

    Dad's bringing a folding cane, and has asked the travel agent for a wheelchair. He's not infirm, but he can be a bit unsteady, and I think this is a good idea for getting through airports and whatnot.

    Any advice on clothing, weather, thing I haven't thought to bring, etc. etc.? I'm suddenly a bit overwhelmed. I'm usually the one making trip arrangements, and this happened so fast.
    Last edited by BWeaves; 01-03-2018 at 05:22 PM.

  2. #2
    Forum Member bchaplin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    2,049
    Mentioned
    10 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I think it is AWESOME that you are doing this for your Dad. You will find Germany a very easy country to travel in. A trip to Belgium and Germany was one of my earlier travel experiences to Europe and I had such a terrific time. There is well-developed infrastructure and people are nice. And, generally, speak English. You can't ask for more!

    I did a similar type of trip to Hungary with some members of my family, seeking out cemeteries where our ancestors were buried or memorialized, and renting a van so we could travel around. People were SO nice and helpful when we explained what we were doing, and we had some unforgettable experiences. I personally don't drive in other countries, but my uncle did on that trip, and we had no problems. However, we only rented the car for the smaller towns, not for the big cities. You might consider a similar strategy, and if you share your specific itinerary, I'm sure members of the forum could advise you. The trains ARE really good in most of Germany, so it all depends on exactly where you are going and what your time frame is.

    If you are flying business class and your dad is in a wheelchair, you should be treated very well. Early boarding, etc. I used to fly Lufthansa more often and thought they were great, even in economy. The Frankfurt and Munich airports are my favorites in Europe, too. Clean and efficient with lots of amenities. You will probably find it NICER than travel in the U.S.!

    As for the phone, it is certainly helpful. What do you and your husband have now? Many current phones (particularly iPhones) are unlocked*, and if you inquire about using your current service overseas and find it is too expensive, you can simply pop out the SIM card and buy one in Germany to use. I can go into more detail about this if you have specific questions. Some people don't care about having a phone, but I would prioritize it ahead of almost any other travel gear. Working phone service gives you Google Maps, texting, train schedules (and you can even use the maps to be sure you're getting off at the right place if you are as directionally challenged as me), Uber, the ability to call ahead to your accommodations, etc.


    Clothes: Again, this depends on your exact itinerary. The weather can probably be unpredictable that time of year, so layers are good. Check the weather projections a few weeks before you go, and perhaps make sure that your dad has enough warm stuff.


    *By "unlocked", I mean that the phone can accept a sim card from another service. ie, If you use Verizon or AT&T at home, you can take out that sim and use a temporary one while you travel.
    ----
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Edmund Burke

  3. #3
    Forum Member 3rdCoastHighlander's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Share
    Michigan, USA
    Posts
    49
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    1. Phone- I have Verizon and called and signed up for an Int'l plan which cost me $10 for each day I used my phone, out and about. You can text, Facebook, FaceTime, etc for free when you can find WiFi, which is easy to do in hotels, cafes, etc. Just make sure that you're not "roaming" without a plan. roaming=$$$$$. Without a calling plan, turn off your internet and you'll be OK.
    2. With 3 people, traveling by car might be cheaper than by train, and also save time and allow more flexibility. Last summer I compared traveling by train and car from Paris to Madrid and for two, it was a wash, price wise. Then considering time and flexibility, the car was a better bet for me and my daughter.
    3. Cherish this time with your father. What a gift! My dad and I talked about getting him to Glasgow to see his parents' &grandparents' homes, which are still there. But we ran out of time since my pops passed away.
    4. Public transportation (Air, train, car, etc) in Germany I better, and more reliable than what we have in the US.
    5. If you have a smart phone, there are apps for maps which you can download, that don't use internet when you're walking around.
    6. I love Europe- transportation, castles, palaces, history, etc. The people are generally very helpful, even in large cities. I love Germany. Where exactly with you be?
    Last edited by 3rdCoastHighlander; 01-03-2018 at 06:41 PM.
    Synapse 19, Black Halcyon/Island with multiple organizer accessories. Black Halcyon/Island Side Kick, 7-8 TB Shopping totes.
    Briggs & Riley CX Carry-on.
    "You can't have a narrow mind and a thick passport."- Pauline Frommer
    Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.

  4. #4
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Share
    Minnesota
    Posts
    185
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Any advice? All advice is appreciated.

    I'm trying to get Global Entry for the 3 of us.


    We're flying Lufthansa business class. I've never flown them before. Comments?

    Do we need to buy a cellphone when we get there? How, what, where?

    Should we rent a car or take trains when traveling by ourselves? I know places we sightsee will be walkable, but getting from place to place may be tricky once we're off the tour.

    Dad's bringing a folding cane, and has asked the travel agent for a wheelchair. He's not infirm, but he can be a bit unsteady, and I think this is a good idea for getting through airports and whatnot.

    Any advice on clothing, weather, thing I haven't thought to bring, etc. etc.? I'm suddenly a bit overwhelmed. I'm usually the one making trip arrangements, and this happened so fast.[/QUOTE]



    Global Entry is a great idea if you can get it in time. I got it this last summer prior to leaving for Germany and England and in my opinion, it paid for itself when I returned home at Christmas. I got off the plane, skipped the customs line and went straight to a kiosk, scanned my fingerprints and walked right out. Took less than five minutes.

    I flew United Polaris Business this last time thanks to FF miles and it was truly a treat. I don’t find the flight from MSP-NUE to be too long in economy, but biz was just cleaner and more comfortable. I enjoyed the meal quite a bit, and they also had a nice wine selection (even for someone like me who isn’t a wine guy).

    What phone and provider you currently have will help for recommending options while there. As mentioned above, Verizon allows you to use your plan as normal but it will cost $10/day. I just used my T-Mobile plan on my iPhone 7+ for the last 4 months while in Germany and it didn’t cost me anything since they have international data and such included; it is just at a lower speed which was fine for me. When I go back this week for the next 9 months, I will be trying out a Google Pixel 2 XL on Project Fi and will report on that. German options are also prevalent and relatively cheap at places like Aldi. Again, depending on your phone it will be as simple as buying a SIM kit and putting it in to activate.

    Depending on your itinerary, I would recommend renting a car. For three people who will be in different places for various days (not staying consistently for two nights or whatever), the car would be the best value. Most likely it is cheaper, it will be more convenient, and it will be faster. While I’ve been living over here, the trains have been great and easy to use but I live in one place and am only one person so it isn’t economical to rent a car. Were I visiting though, a car would be a good idea.

    No advice about the wheelchair or cane, but I’m sure it will be the case that you find plenty of help at not only the airport but also main train stations and such for accessibility.

    As to weather, it will probably be colder than you’re used to from Florida but that again depends on where you’ll be. I’m from the Midwest, so being over here feels like late Fall and we are in the midst of their winter. It sounds like your three weeks will be two weeks on the cruise and then one week alone? If that’s the case I would encourage you to pack lighter than you think if only to make it easiest for storing things on the cruise and on the busses/trains/etc. I wouldn’t expect much variation in the weather, so it should be easiest enough to look at average highs and lows for May for that area and plan around it.

    In general, relax! The trip sounds amazing and I think all of you will enjoy yourselves immensely. Germany is a very nice country to visit and quite simple to get around, plus the people I’ve met are wonderful. If you speak German, all the better but I think you’ll find it easy to get around without knowing any of the language as well.

    Don’t be afraid to try the local foods/beers either! Yeah, pretzels and bratwursts and schnitzel is common around here, but there is so much more delicious food to try.
    Boots, Bags, and Beer. (And Coffee)

  5. #5
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,257
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    My suggestions are the following:

    1) Get a copy of "Europe Through the Back Door" by Rick Steves. That book will answer most of your quesitons about traveling in Europe. You could also get a copy of his "Germany" guide book.

    2) Look at other guide books.

    3) Cell phone. What carrier do you have? I use t-mobile as stated above and it connects automatically. (You will get a text message welcoming you to Germany.)

    4) Whether or not to take trains depends on where you are going. The German rail network Deutsche Bahn - discover Germany and Europe by rail! is effecient and easy to use. You can look up routes, times and fares on that website.

    5) Weather changes of course but if you want to see average temperature for May in Germany go Accuweather.com and type in the city you want and then choose monthly weather.
    Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers. http://www.1bag1world.com

    Aeronaut(2), Tri-Star(2) Cadet , Large Cafe Bag, Travel Tray, Travel Money Belt, Absolute Straps(3), Side Effect, Clear Quarter Packing Cubes (2), 3D Organizer Cubes (4), Aeronaut & Tri-Star Packing Cubes, Clear Organizer Wallet, numerous Organizer Pouches,, Guardian Dual Function Light, Vertical Netbook Cache, Nexus 7 Cache, RFID Passport Pouch, numerous Key Straps.

  6. #6
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Posts
    38
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Even if you don't get Global entry and you get a wheelchair for your father you will all get to go through the lines the crew use so you will get through customs faster. I travel with my parents internationally all the time and they don't have GE.

  7. #7
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Share
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,793
    Mentioned
    5 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I believe the cruise is through Grand Circle Tours and starts in Basel and goes up to Amsterdam.

    I think Dad planned on having a couple of days in Basel first, and a couple of days in Amsterdam after, and then driving to Fürstenau (his hometown) and Hoxter (where this is a man who started a Holocaust museum). The man from Hoxter has been e-mailing my Dad for a few years and really wants to document everything that happened to the Jews from the area so it is not forgotten. Fürstenau is tiny, and is just north of Osnabruck and east of Amsterdam.

    I have T-Mobile and an iphone. My Dad has AT&T, I think, and an iphone. Do we need to contact T-Mobile and AT&T to see what will happen with the phones overseas? I don't want any surprises. I'm a bit of a techphobe, so I was late to getting a cellphone. I really don't understand the SIM card thing. Are there any helpful apps I should get? I don't do much with apps, but could see some being useful.

    I didn't think about Rick Steves' books, even though I read his column every week. I will get his books. Great idea. Thanks!
    Last edited by BWeaves; 01-04-2018 at 06:55 AM.

  8. #8
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Share
    Minnesota
    Posts
    185
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by BWeaves View Post
    I have T-Mobile and an iphone. My Dad has AT&T, I think, and an iphone. Do we need to contact T-Mobile and AT&T to see what will happen with the phones overseas? I don't want any surprises. I'm a bit of a techphobe, so I was late to getting a cellphone. I really don't understand the SIM card thing. Are there any helpful apps I should get? I don't do much with apps, but could see some being useful.
    Calling wouldn’t be a bad idea and they should be able to tell you exactly what your plan contains and what charges will be. If you are on the same T-Mobile plan as I, you’re good to go and when you land you’ll receive a “Welcome to Germany” text that will say what is included. For me, data and texting was free. Voice calls are $.10/min I believe.

    Not sure about AT&T, but most likely they will be more expensive than T-Mobile. I know that the last time I was pricing plans, AT&T was the most expensive.
    Boots, Bags, and Beer. (And Coffee)

  9. #9
    Forum Member bchaplin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    2,049
    Mentioned
    10 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    If you have T-Mobile you are all set! Frank or someone who uses T-Mobile can confirm the details, but as far as I know, it works internationally, for no extra cost. (I have a different service, Project Fi, which operates the same way.)

    Your Dad's AT&T phone is a different story. He needs to:
    1. set up an international plan with AT&T prior to the trip, or
    2. turn off data use completely on the phone before traveling, or
    3. replace the SIM card with a local one from Germany*
    For the first two options, should call AT&T directly or visit a store to get the details. They can walk him through the steps. Just be sure he will not incur extra charges by inadvertently roaming internationally.

    If you will be together all the time, one working phone should be enough.

    As for apps, I recommend:
    Google Maps
    TripIt
    some form of text messaging that will work for everyone in your group, at least on wifi (iMessage is fine if you all have iPhones); otherwise, WhatsApp
    Yelp or TripAdvisor
    DB Navigator (hope I have this right; I think this is the app I used for the train schedules in Germany)

    *Note: Replacing the SIM card just means that you switch cell phone service. The SIM is a major part of what provides the cellular connection. In your Dad's phone, if he removed the AT&T SIM (and safely stored it for his return; this is really important), and then purchased one in Europe, his phone number would temporarily change and he would basically have local service. This may be too complicated. If the international plan AT&T offers is reasonable, that might be the best bet.
    Last edited by bchaplin; 01-04-2018 at 07:32 AM.
    ----
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Edmund Burke

  10. #10
    Forum Member kathryn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Share
    Minneapolis
    Posts
    698
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    BWeaves, this sounds like an incredible trip for your family, and I hope that you all have an amazing time!

    Lots of great advice from others in this thread already.

    My experiences (in economy) on Lufthansa have been good. In business I'm sure you'll be really comfortable and well taken care of. Frankfurt and Munich are nice airports, as @bchaplin said. I think Frankfurt has a reputation of long lines for immigration, but with business class and a wheelchair, you should get fast tracked.

    I agree with two recommendations above for T-Mobile as a phone provider, if that's possible for you. You won't (necessarily) be able to get full 3G/4G speeds, but even slower data is useful, and it's all included in your regular bill. In particular, the Deutsche Bahn website and app were indispensable for me while I was in Germany. Sign up for an account, and you can even use the app to purchase e-tickets.

    The trains and public transit in Germany are excellent, so you would be able to manage without a car.

    I didn't drive on my trip to Germany, but I did ride around in Berlin and its outskirts with a friend driving. It seemed very similar to US driving in/near a big city. Were I in your specific situation, I would rent a car, and I would pay extra for the GPS system rental, if that's an option, to make navigation easier. I think that you'll really appreciate the flexibility it offers you to travel on your own timeline.

    If the opposite end of the year (September) is anything to go by, weather will be changeable, so you'll want layers and a raincoat. I wished I'd brought gloves and a hat, and ended up buying some cheap ones there.

    All of the people I met there were helpful and kind. In the big cities many people speak English, and even in places, like Sassnitz on Rugen, where many people didn't, I was able to communicate well enough with a few memorized phrases and recourse to Google Translate (another reason to have a phone with data!).

    Enjoy your time in Germany!
    "I'm more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares.” ― Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette

  11. #11
    Forum Member kathryn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Share
    Minneapolis
    Posts
    698
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I forgot this in my first post, but Maps.me is what I use when traveling. I find that it does off-line (i.e. without data turned on) navigation better than Google maps. Just make sure you download the maps for the area while you're on wifi, and you'll be all set.

    It's great news that you have T-Mobile--do call them to check your plan and confirm, but it's likely you'll get free unlimited text and data while in Germany (and the Netherlands for that matter) without having to do any additional set up, or pay anything extra. Calls on my plan are $0.20 per minute while abroad.

    Having done the SIM swapping thing, I can't tell you how much nicer it is to just turn on your phone when you land somewhere new, get a text saying "Welcome to [country]!" and be all set. Smilie

    Calling AT&T is worth it, to check your options for overseas coverage. If it's really expensive, you're probably fine having a single phone that's on data (yours), and your dad can leave his in airplane mode with wifi turned on. There are tons of free wifi hotspots, and almost all hotels will have free wifi.
    "I'm more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares.” ― Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette

  12. #12
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    1,257
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Regarding T-mobile, unless you are on their pay as you go plan, you get international service. This includes free texting, free data and calls are 20 cents/minute. It will work within a few minutes of arriving. Turn the phone on just after you land and you should be connected by the time you are in the terminal. You will get a welcome text. As soon as you cross the border into the Netherlands, it will automatically switch and you will receive a welcome text to the Netherlands. When you return to Germany, you will switch back to German cellular service but you will probably not receive a text. (Keep this in mind, T-Mobile is actually a German company so the service works fine there.) In some areas you might get 4G data service. There is no need to fiddle with sim cards.

    However, call T=Mobile and ask for tech support to make sure your phone is set up for international roaming. If not, it just means "flipping a switch or two" in settings and they will walk you through it. Very simple.

    In regards to AT&T, I have no idea.

    In case you didn't realize it, there are no more border checks between Germany, Switzerland and the Netherands--it's like traveling between states in the U.S.. Germany and the Netherlands both use the Euro as currency. Switzerland uses the Swiss Franc.

    A couple of extra points....alert your bank and credit card companies about your trip just prior to leaving so they don't block your ATM or credit cards for fraudulent use. And, the best way to get currency is via a bank ATM. Just make sure your passcode is four numbers.

    Wear some type of moneybelt. There are many different types but the concept is the same: They are worn under your clothing and hold extra money, passport, credit cards, etc. It is deep storage not to be used for every purchase. In a wallet or purse, you carry just enough money for the day and perhaps one credit card.

    What airports are you flying in and out of? As for driving, it probably makes sense for the three of you to do that from Amsterdam to Furstenau and then Hoxter. Trains would take much longer and involve a few changes.
    Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers. http://www.1bag1world.com

    Aeronaut(2), Tri-Star(2) Cadet , Large Cafe Bag, Travel Tray, Travel Money Belt, Absolute Straps(3), Side Effect, Clear Quarter Packing Cubes (2), 3D Organizer Cubes (4), Aeronaut & Tri-Star Packing Cubes, Clear Organizer Wallet, numerous Organizer Pouches,, Guardian Dual Function Light, Vertical Netbook Cache, Nexus 7 Cache, RFID Passport Pouch, numerous Key Straps.

  13. #13
    Forum Member b1gsky's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2015
    Share
    Germany
    Posts
    697
    Mentioned
    11 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Since last June you can't simply buy a SIM Card and pop it in, you have to verify your identy via a passport or id card. In case of Aldi Talk that means downloading an app, creating an account, doing a video chat and checking in via E-Mail. And it might take a while until they unlock it. Same goes for other providers, but with some stores it might be easier because they do it for you (Aldi doesn't because it's first and foremost a supermarket). Sounds like this would be way too complicated for you. I would look into using your own phones.

  14. #14
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Share
    Orlando, FL
    Posts
    1,793
    Mentioned
    5 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Thank you all!!! Great information. Very helpful. I'm starting to get excited. I know it's months away, but when you're old, time goes by so fast.

    Now I just have to figure out which of my many bags to bring.
    Last edited by BWeaves; 01-04-2018 at 11:00 AM.

  15. #15
    Forum Member K9TB's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Posts
    252
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    A few thoughts...

    Especially if you are a self-described 'technophobe' get the AT&T international plan for your Dad. My Dad used to visit me a lot in Germany, and once he decided not to get the plan because he planned on being on only wifi. He wanted to save money. Well, something went wrong and he got a big bill for using data without the international plan.

    If you book train travel, you can usually pay extra to have a reserved seat assignment. It used to be about 5 euros per ticket (each direction/leg). I thought it was worth it because I hate walking up the train aisle looking for a seat. In your case, I would want to be sure of having 3 seats together and I wouldn't want your Dad walking on a moving, wobbly, train.

    If you rent a car and drive, be sure to read about driving in Europe/Germany. make sure you are familiar with road signs. Two concepts that Americans driving in Germany were often surprised by...
    1. "Priority" roads. In the US, we keep driving until something tells us to stop (Red light, Stop sign, Yield sign...). In Germany, at an intersection you yield to traffic on the right. So at every intersection, look to the right to see if someone is there, and stop (or slow) to let them enter the roadway. This is true unless your road is marked with the "Priority" sign. Then you just keep going.
    2. Pedestrians have the right of way, and will assume that you know that and will stop. So they will just enter the roadway. Be on the lookout!

    This is based on my memory of a few years, so check to be sure that I'm right. in any event, read the rules!

    I'm sure there are other places on the internet to read about German driving rules, but the US Army has a lot of info for service members who have moved to Germany and are stationed there. Some of the info is military specific, but some is just general driving info.
    Drivers Handbook Registry of Motor Vehicles | U.S. Army Europe

    Here is the handbook...
    http://www.eur.army.mil/rmv/Documents_PDF/aep190-34.pdf

    Road signs begin on page 58. Priority road sign is #301 and following. Umleitung (detour) (another important one!) is 454.
    Look at the quiz questions, especially #52 and following. Those questions show you 3 cars in an intersection and basically ask you to figure out who gets to go first.

    If you are renting a car, watch out for drop off fees if you pick up a car in one country and return it to another. I wanted to rent a car in Germany, and drop it off in a different country. The one way drop off fee for France was 500 Euros and the drop off fee for the UK was 1000 Euros. This was on top of the car rental fees. So we hired a car and driver to take us across the boarder! It looks like someone in an above post went from Paris to Madrid, so maybe things have changed.

    This does sound like it will be a very special trip. Would love to hear about it when you return.
    Last edited by K9TB; 01-04-2018 at 02:39 PM.
    What's better than o-rings? More o-rings.

Page 1 of 4 1 2 3 ... LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •