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topdog1961

European Family Vacation

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casts_by_fly
20 minutes ago, topdog1961 said:

We’ll be in Bruges one day and night at least. 

 

If you’re in for a night and like to drink beer, then t’bruge is worth a visit. Get there at 4pm to get a table. By 415 they are full.  If you want beer and dinner together then Cambrinus has traditional Belgian food and 1000 beers I think. Anything you want Belgian. It get really busy so make a booking. They speak English on the phone and might have online booking. 

 

A night time walk along the canals is really nice. I hope y ought good weather and can just walk around. We’ve been in every season and the temperature doesn’t much matter but rain sucks.

 

Not sure where you will stay but air bnb is a good bet if you get a city center place. If you want to go upscale for a night then martins orangerie in central is amazing, but pricey. If you want to go upscale for dinner (Michelin type dining) then I can make suggestions. 

 

Rick

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topdog1961

Thanks again on all the info. Especially Rick on Bruges. Having seen “ln Bruges”, much of it seems familiar. Can’t wait. 

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WI Outdoor Nut

Sorry I haven't jumped on earlier Topdog - mostly because I have been in the EU 15 of the past 21 days.  Most of my last travel was in Switzerland and Italy, but did spend some time in Paris as well.  You have helped me in the past, so feel free to reach out with any other questions and if you would rather, we can talk via phone.  Just PM me for that #.  I have a few thoughts that can help.

 

-Remember, you are a guest in their country and act like it.  Way too many American's go there and act like we are doing them a favor to host us.  That is not the culture of most countries in the EU.  If you are nice, most (except the French) will be nice to you. With your kids with, tell them this as well. 

- Learn a few words and phrases of the local language.  Learn how to say hello, good bye, thank you and most importantly, where the bathroom is.  If you can ask the phrase, "Do you know English" in the native tongue that helps as well.  If you at least try speaking, it goes a long way.

- Use your credit card where ever you can.  Call your card in advance and see if they have a foreign transaction fee.  If so, find another card.  Let them know you will be traveling overseas so it is not shut down as well. 

- Cash - many places in the EU does not take plastic.  Having some Euro is good.  Don't do what I did, four of us skied Kitzbuehel in Austria on a single bottle of water and a candy bar as we only had 3 Euro. 

- Phones - as many have mentioned, most big carriers offer international plans for $10/day.  You could get a sim card while you are there and it would be less money, but somewhat a PIA.  Another option, I know at least Avis offers a smartphone that can be used for a GPS, and more importantly as a hotspot.  Then you can do anything with all of your family's phones.  I paid $10/day and four of us were using it.  But I do believe we used it too much as it appeared to throttle down as the week progressed, but we were transferring a lot of large files with the hotspot. 

- At most hotels, the wifi is pretty good.  Your whole family can catch up on their phones at that time if needed.

- Most modern cars will have a GPS.  BEFORE you leave the car rental area, make sure it is in English or you will have a tough time finding it.  I usually ask the person to also set my 1st address as they are quite different than in the US. 

- You don't need an international license to drive.  I have been to the EU more times than I can count and have never needed it. 

- As mentioned, most cars are small, and that is not a bad thing.  The streets in the towns are small because they were there well before cars were used.  This past week I had rented a BMW x5 as a complimentary upgrade.  It was WAY too big for the streets I was navigating. 

- If you run the Autobahn, left lane is for passing only.  Unlike the US, no one hangs out there, unless there is major traffic. 

- Handling speeders is done by cameras.  Don't think for a second that if there is not a cop around, that you are okay.  I have received tickets in the mail.  Last week when in Switzerland, I was told going 3-4 kph was safe.  Any more than that was risky.  It is not like the US. 

- On your rental car, make sure you note if there is any scratches or damage before you leave the rental area. 

- More than likely your rental car will be a diesel.  Don't put gas in it. 

- Tips are not required.  If you do tip, 3-5 Euro is all you need. 

- The churches there are amazing.  Most are open to look inside during non-mass times and they are breathtaking. 

- For flying across the pond, it is best to find somewhat to sleep.  For me, 2 glasses of wine and a Benadryl and I am out.  I usually fly business class so a bit easier.  In coach, the neck pillows work great.  Ear plugs and eye mask are good too.  Have your family try what helps them sleep prior to the trip.  If you can get 4-6 hours of sleep, you should be pretty good the next day.  Fight through taking a nap and attempt to stay up at least until 9 pm that 1st night.  Use a sleep aid that first night there as well.  Most of the time, then by day 2, I am good to go. 

 

Reach out to me with any other questions.  Have fun on your trip!

 

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Uplander

Responses here give you plenty of fine advice for travel nitty gritty.

 

However, you say you’re going to be based in eastern Germany, with little more than a week available, yet everyone seems to be sending you west, sucking up precious time.

 

How about heading east to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Warsaw?

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topdog1961
16 hours ago, Uplander said:

Responses here give you plenty of fine advice for travel nitty gritty.

 

However, you say you’re going to be based in eastern Germany, with little more than a week available, yet everyone seems to be sending you west, sucking up precious time.

 

How about heading east to Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Warsaw?

 

Sorry. Munster IS west Germany. I’m just to used to looking at a map from the US perspective, and all of Germany is east of us. At least that’s the direction we are flying. We can easily visit Cologne, Amsterdam, the North Sea, and Bruges in a few hours drive. It’s just a question of how much time we have. 

 

The passports did come in, big yea. I reserved a rental vehicle yesterday. Unfortunately I had to get a mini van because we will at times be traveling with us 4, plus our exchange student, her sister and mom. So it’s not a small vehicle. I did get vehicle collision insurance as a benefit of using my Chase credit card as mentioned on this thread. Thanks, it saved me $. I also had a concern about liability insurance, as my State Farm agent told me mine did not cover me driving in EU. However, it’s included in the rental fee for most EU rentals, including Hettz, mine. 

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topdog1961

Hopefully things are falling into place for tomorrow’s departure. I called Lufthansa to add one checked bag because the family didn’t think they could make it on one carry on and a personal bag. I was surprised that each ticket came with that, plus a 50lb checked bag, even in economy class. I’ve heard good things about Lufthansa. I didn’t tell the Mrs this, otherwise we’d have 4 fifty pound checked bags plus carry on. I’m telling her I bought one. 

 

Verified I have international roaming on our sprint phones which gives us free text and day and 25 cent per min international calling. 

 

Still waiting on my seed amount of Euros to arrive at my bank. Fingers crossed.

 

Notified the credit card bank of our travels. 

 

Studied european road signs. Still need to learn a few German phrases but got tomorrow for that. 

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WI Outdoor Nut

Good Luck and I hope all goes well.  If you can, post during your travel.  Always great taking us along!

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topdog1961
On 6/5/2019 at 3:06 PM, Dave in Maine said:

 

4.  Germans are a little more formal, or perhaps less casual, than we are when it comes to dressing.  Keep that in mind.  Pack a light jacket or sportscoat for when it cools off.  Nothing ratty or even on the road to ratty.

 

 

What about colors for men?  My wife went out and bought me a bunch of fruity pastel shirts. She says it’s summer there too and she likes me in those colors. Nice shirts but the German exchange student boys and their families I met seemed to dress in conservative darker earth tones, at least the men. I just don’t want to scream American tourist. 

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Marc Ret
44 minutes ago, topdog1961 said:

 

What about colors for men?  My wife went out and bought me a bunch of fruity pastel shirts. She says it’s summer there too and she likes me in those colors. Nice shirts but the German exchange student boys and their families I met seemed to dress in conservative darker earth tones, at least the men. I just don’t want to scream American tourist. 

 

Just follow the Griswolds' lead, you guys'll blend right in...

 

image.jpeg

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Dave in Maine
10 hours ago, topdog1961 said:

 

What about colors for men?  My wife went out and bought me a bunch of fruity pastel shirts. She says it’s summer there too and she likes me in those colors. Nice shirts but the German exchange student boys and their families I met seemed to dress in conservative darker earth tones, at least the men. I just don’t want to scream American tourist. 

It won't matter what colors you wear.  You're going to scream "American tourist" regardless of what you wear.

Don't buy/wear Trachtenmode (the lederhosen getups).  

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1971snipe

Pretty much everyone I saw in Germany dressed like me, jeans and shirt.  I even saw a few cowboy boots.  One guy where I worked wore a different t-shirt every day, which I would translate via Google.  My favorite one said "Die Antwort ist Nein".  There's lots of immigrants in Germany, from the middle East, Africa and other parts of Europe, like Romania.  In Hamburg a few years ago, most cab drivers, and many shop owners, were from Afghanistan.  

Anyway, hope y'all have a good trip.  

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topdog1961

I’m really liking Lufthansa so far. Not only did we get a checked bag of up to 50lbs with every ticket (taking one) and a carry on, I printed out boarding passes this morning and we all sit together. Most airlines charge extra for those things. All this despite buying the mystery tickets on Priceline and flying economy. 

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WI Outdoor Nut
23 hours ago, topdog1961 said:

I’m really liking Lufthansa so far. Not only did we get a checked bag of up to 50lbs with every ticket (taking one) and a carry on, I printed out boarding passes this morning and we all sit together. Most airlines charge extra for those things. All this despite buying the mystery tickets on Priceline and flying economy. 

having flown most major carriers, I will state Lufthansa is a good one.  However, I have been burned a few times by booking what I thought was Lufthansa, and it ended up being a United flights.  On the long, over the pond flights with united, not once did I have what I would call a good experience.  They are usually old, cranky flight attendants that really don't want to be there.  Glad your 1st leg is working out okay!

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casts_by_fly

Enjoy! Can’t wait to see pics and a report here. 

 

Rick

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topdog1961

The trip here yesterday was hell. For awhile I wouldn’t have given you 50 cent for the whole continent. Lufthansa was nice, even got free cocktails, but sleeping in those cramped quarters with kids screaming was next to impossible. We left O’Hare at 11pm Tuesday and landed at 2pm local time in Frankfurt, totally exhausted. We walked what seemed 3 miles to get our luggage, then wondered around a long time before we found hertz counter. We ended up with a huge van, a Citroen diesel 6 speed. We put our host family’s address in the GPS and off we went. What Was supposed to be a 300 kilometer 3,5 hour drive turned into 5.5 hours of stop and go traffic jams. I learned later that today is a big Catholic holiday and most people take a 4 day weekend. That added to the traffic. But once we turned off the freeway we found beautiful rolling farmland and the roads got narrower and narrower. Any doubts were dispelled when we met the family of our exchange student. Her parents are divorced and she lives with her mom and grandparents, all in the same house. We had a nice traditional German dinner off the BBQ, wurst, marinaded chicken, pork and turkey. Also potato and Kraut salad, and of course a great Pilsner beer and wine. 

 

We awoke serenaded by Tauben, which appear to be overgrown pigeons and are everywhere. Plus church bells that have been ringing for 900 years. I’m told I may get a chance to ring them. Billerbeck is a nice German town. I’m impressed how everything, including new construction, appears built with a air of permanence. Brick and masonry construction with tile roofs. I walked around town this morning and was able to ask a stranger “where is the bakery” and “is it open”, which unfortunately it was not due to the holiday. 

 

Pictures can’t do the church justice, it’s huge and beautiful. The big one is “only” a little over 200 years old, but the smaller one has be around 900 years. We’ll tour the big church later and go up in the tower of the smaller one and perhaps I’ll get to ring those 900 year old bells. I’m told the church in Munster dwarfs even the big one here. We’ll tour it Saturday and visit the farmers market near it. Today we are heading  to the North Sea to spend a night. We’re hoping to go out on a fishing boat and see them catch crab and shrimp, which we will eat fresh. 

 

The huge white Citroen van pictured below has a diesel 6 speed manual and got 13,5 k/L which I believe is about 32mpg. It’s peppy, quiet and smooth. Why can’t we get that in a 4x4 truck in america?

 

Im trying to figure out how to compress files on my new phone so I can add pics. The app I used to use is no longer available. 

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