Category Archives: Travel

Germany Vacation Plans and Costs

I’ve booked all of our hotels (and pre-paid some of them).  I was really antsy to get the hotels in Munich because we’re going to be there near (after the official) OktoberFest.   But the general plan is to fly into Geneva on a Sunday morning (leaving the states Saturday afternoon), then onto Zurich for a few days, then to Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna, and flying out of Vienna through Copenhagen.  We were originally booked into and out of Frankfurt, but we’d have spent two days just on trains, so I took advantage of the free change to move our flights.  I was also able to get a Saver award from Copenhagen to the states, so we’re in business class for both flights – it cost me an extra 50,000 miles.  It’s a much longer overall flight (14 hours vs the 8 from Frankfurt), but most of that is a layover in Copenhagen – I’m going to see if the airport offers any quick city tours, since I’ve never been to Denmark.

Our budget for the trip is $5,000, and I think we’ll be well under that.  The estimated train costs are $1000 if I buy the tickets separately with no discounts (next Oct dates are not available) – and only for the major routes (not for to and from airports, etc).  I need to run some numbers to see if a 3-country RailPass ($1100) is a better option or if there are discounts available to me (like the Swiss Half-Fare card).

After the train, we expect to spend $800-$1000 on “excursions” or tours and museum entry, etc.  The rest is for food.  Dad wants to eat “real” fondue in Switzerland, and last I was in Zurich it was $70 per person for cheese fondue.  Switzerland is just really expensive.

As a side note, you can spend a *lot* less on lodging if you go the hostel route, but Dad hates hostels, so we’re in 2-3 star hotels instead.

So far, I’ve spent 360,000 United Miles, 40,000 Hilton points, and $1610, with about $214 to pay.  I used =GoogleFinance(“CURRENCY:EURUSD”) and the equivalent for CHF (Swiss Francs) to get the estimated “Still To Pay”, so as currency fluctuates between now and then I know what we’re paying.  I also have several CHF and € at home that I’ve collected from my travels.

I’ve also been able to pay mostly in USD, which avoids the foreign exchange fee.  I also mostly used (2.5% cash back on hotels) to buy from Orbitz on my American Express card – which gives 2% cash back on travel purchases.

Trip Expenses

Trip Expenses

Going to Germany – on Miles!

I have just booked Dad and I on a two week trip to Germany (and Austria and Switzerland) for next October.  I paid 310,000 miles and about $300 in taxes/fees (most of which were German airport and passenger fees).  I wanted to get us business class seats both ways, but that would have been 500,000 points since business class didn’t have any saver awards available (yet), so we went with business class over, and economy class back.  I already have Global Entry, and Dad completed the application for it last week, so we should be good to go and will get to come back into the States easily.

Grammy is babysitting while we’re gone (we debated taking Daughter Person with us, and ultimately decided to postpone her first international trip until the following year), and is looking forward to it.  The tickets are changeable for free in case something happens between now and then (Grammy is 70 after all), and cancel-able for $100 (plus the $300 we already paid).  We declined the travel insurance because of that.

Now to plan out where we’re going and where we’re staying while there.

Flying with a toddler

This past weekend, Dad and I flew to Knoxville, TN.  I have a great aunt that lives there, and I wanted to get Daughter Person on a plane before we had to pay for a seat for her.  We had a direct flight both ways and we had her in our laps.

The flight from IAD to TYS was not a very good one.  Upon the recommendation of a *lot* of people online, we scheduled the flight during her nap time, and we walked the entire length of the A/B gates at IAD to tire her out beforehand – hoping she’d sleep on the flight.  No such luck – she was wide awake and about 3/4 of the way through the flight she was “all done”, and we had to try explaining to her that we had to stay in our seats and we couldn’t leave for another 30 minutes. Flights during naptime are not our thing.

On the way home, she took a morning nap, waking up just as we were about to leave for the airport.  She was a perfect angel on that flight.  Even held onto our luggage after we’d picked it up at baggage claim while Dad wet to find where the stroller was.

We took the stroller with us, but that was just something to lug around.  She wasn’t interested at all in riding in it – instead she walked everywhere – inside the airports, at the Knoxville Zoo, and we never touched the stroller.  We checked it at the counter on the way home (which is why Dad had to go looking for it – it came out at oversized baggage).  Next trip, we probably won’t bother unless we know we’ll be out all day (like at an amusement park).

We bought some of the Crayola Magic Color markers (or something like that), which only write on their special paper – we didn’t want to have to be cleaning crayon marks off the airplane or my aunt’s house.  And we took a set of flashcards.  We’d hold them up and tell her what color or what it was, and then she’d grab one and “ask” what it was.  Those have been put away for the next long trip…