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Planning a trip is a hassle right? Planning one outside your home country can be much more of a hassle if you do not plan ahead. If you are going to Germany in the future here are some useful travel tips that should help you on your way.

Germany Travel Tips

Germany Travel TipsRestaurants and Bars - You do not get water for free, you have to pay for it. If you order water you will get carbonated water. In most restaurants you can request tap water and they may or may not charge you but it is most likely straight from the sink. In some American fast food restaurants, (i.e. McDonalds) you must pay for ketchup as well. Be aware that the menus at most fast food restaurants in Germany are not exactly the same. You may also notice that a sandwich that you recognize from back home may taste a little different or it could be smaller. When you enter a restaurant you will not be seated, just walk right in and pick the table of your choice!- the tip should be much smaller than you would give in the States (this is because the waiters/waitresses get paid more than in the states) A tip of two or three EUR would be considered a good tip for very good service. Supermarkets - If you shop for groceries in Germany you will notice the supermarkets have all of their large rolling carts outside in a designated area and they are locked to one another. In order to utilize a cart you must place one EUR in the cart itself, you will see the slot on the handle. Upon leaving the supermarket you latch the cart back to the other carts and pull the device out where you placed the coin, now you can retrieve your coin. When you have all of the groceries you want, proceed to the check-out counter. You will have to purchase plastic bags to put the groceries in or you can take one in yourself. If you decide to purchase one they are usually visible at the counter and normally only cost a few cents. If there is a long line do not put all of your groceries in the bag, put them back into the cart and bag them away from the line.Closing hours - On Sunday everything is closed except for some restaurants, bars, gas stations and shops at the main train station and bigger airports. Some bigger stores are realizing that they can make much more money if they open on Sunday so they are doing just that, but I would not rely on it. During the week shops in bigger cities close at 8 PM at the latest. You may see shops in smaller cities closing even earlier.Public Phones - Public phones are very rare in Germany. If you find one you will notice that they only take telephone cards. You can buy a telephone card in different shops like "T-Punkt", "Telekom", "Post", and "Vodafone" or you can go to an Internet cafe.Miscellaneous - "Bad" in front of a towns name does not mean that the people or the city is bad for example, "Bad Homburg". Bad in front of a towns name normally means that the town is designated as a healthy location normally with very clean air and water.

Hostels and Budget Accommodation 10 tips for survival

Hostels and Budget Accommodation  10 tips for survival

Budget travel would not be complete without the budget accommodation that we require to keep us in the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed. The places we either love or hate, where we meet our new travelling mates, old friends from back home, clubbing buddies, future partners, flatmates and in some cases our future spouse. By spending less on our beds we hope to spend more on experiencing the local culture. In the following paragraphs there are a few suggestions to make that budget bed all the more bearable.The quality of a youth hostel is not necessarily measured by the creature comforts it provides, such as high pressure hot showers or cable TV, but more by the people, the staff and fellow travellers that make your time there, however short, more memorable. Anyone who has spent an extended amount of time living in close quarters with other human beings will understand the physical and mental adjustments that come with it. You find out just how tolerant you really are and work out new ways to make it survivable.You may have shared a bedroom with a sibling as a child but that does not really compare to sharing with possibly, for the first time, the opposite sex and from two or three people up to 20 or more. Most travellers just beginning their travels would be shocked and horrified at the thought of dressing and undressing in front of an audience let alone putting up with all the assorted habits of a diverse range of roommates. But after a few months on the road however it all becomes second nature.Now, there has been a real renaissance in the European hostel industry recently with owners realising there is no longer a benefit in providing substandard type accommodation. The backpackers will vote with their feet and now thanks to the internet with their fingers to inform the rest of the world to avoid the place like the plague. Occasionally though you will find a bunch of individuals willing to tough it out in cramped rooms, less than sanitary bathrooms, and downright scary kitchens purely for the social atmosphere. They like who they are sharing with.A single sex dorm is usually the first choice for many first timers, but dont be fooled. Even those you would consider to maintain a reasonable standard of communal etiquette can turn out practically feral, girls included.Tip one, keep an open mind on sharing. Small dorms are preferable over large ones even if they are more expensive. You get to know who you are sharing with pretty quickly and roommates are potential gold mines for additional travel information. Sharing with guys can also be a bonus. They usually know where all the fun is going on.Heres tip two. For those trying to maintain any kind of privacy hanging a sarong or large towel from the bunk above as a curtain is one option, provided you are on the bottom. The sarong is definitely preferable as it is light to carry. And if you only take a tiny travel towel that sprint to the bathroom for a shower is made a little easier if you can wear the sarong as a wraparound. It also doubles as shower curtain in some places. It is a very versatile piece of material.Wearing flip-flops in the shower is another prime tip. Most places will ensure the showers are cleaned at least once a day but when you consider the high numbers of people using them as well coming from all over the world there is a risk eventually of coming into contact with a foot fungus. Not particularly fun nor easy to get rid of. The flip-flops keep your feet off the floor and hopefully further away from any risk of catching some fungal nasty.Tip four is for those who are light sleepers or become homicidal axe wielding maniacs at the sound of ear drum splitting snorers- ear plugs. Brilliant on long haul flights as well these things may just save your sanity if the guy in the bunk above sounds like a chainsaw on full throttle at 4 in the morning.Tip five is to carry some kind of a pocket knife. In this age of tightened airport security this may sound like the wrong advice but if it stored in your pack that is checked into the hold it should be ok. Some hostels have kitchen facilities but may lack in some vital utensils. Tin openers invariably never work, sharp knives arent, and sometimes even something as simple as a teaspoon may be non existent. A pocket knife with a decent blade length and can opener is invaluable.Tip six is to make use of the safety deposit boxes where you are staying. Ok, not every roommate is a thief. We would like to believe all our fellow travellers are just like us, out to see the world, make new friends, experience new cultures and customs, find new horizons and for the majority that is correct. Nearly everyone you will come into contact with will have a similar attitude to travel as you and would never cheat a fellow backpacker. However there is a minority out there that can make it unpleasant for the rest of us. If you are staying somewhere with a pretty transient clientele, people arriving and leaving every five minutes put all the important stuff behind reception for peace of mind. It also makes sense when going out. Only take what youre going to spend. Most places have safety boxes for free or a small fee.Tip seven is to take your own padlock. Some places have lockers but rent out the padlocks. You may also want to consider some kind of backpack chain to secure the pack to the bunk if there is no locker and you dont trust where you are staying. There are some fishing-net like chains specifically designed for packs available, fairly lightweight and they fit over your entire pack or case. Just dont lose the keys.Tip eight sounds strange but take a bungee cord. This is an elastic rope that can extend out to make a clothesline or curtain rail. Great if you have to do hand washing and cant get to a dryer. It only needs to be about 1 metre long and preferably with clips or hooks at either end.Tip nine is to take a sleep sheet and a pillow case. Most places provide linen now for an additional charge or even included in the price but where this isnt available it is handy to have a sleep sheet. Some stores sell sleep sheets already made that are treated to prevent bed bugs or you can easily make your own by stitching a double sheet down one side. Smaller and lighter than carrying a sleeping bag and easier to wash, it is ideal for travel in the summer through hot destinations. A pillow case can be useful for making a pillow by stuffing it with clothes if there isnt one and can even make do as an emergency towel.Tip ten is to accept those differences. Hostels come in all shapes, sizes and styles. There can be good and bad hostels in large and small destinations. A large and popular hostel in the city may have less atmosphere than a tiny pension in a remote village. You may find the bar, party crowd and DJ downstairs impossible to leave after a week. You could also discover the cool Aussie, South African and Canadian guys youve been sharing a room with for a month want to go see the pyramids in September when you want to go and they have transport. You may even learn your roommate has more questionable personal habits than your own. All of these experience serve to teach us more about ourselves.My last point is not a tip but the eleventh commandment, thou shalt not have any noisy plastic shopping bag of any sort in your backpack. Even the most mild mannered, easy going and placid individual will be itching to heave a meat cleaver between the ears of someone rummaging inside their plastic bags, especially if it is at 5am in the morning and all they can hear is the demented rustling of the plastic. If you must insist on having the wretched thing at least drag the pack into the hallway to find what you are looking for and leave your roommates to sleep in peace. They will thank you for it.Keep these in mind and whatever you discover through your hostelling experiences, about yourself and the rest of your fellow travellers, the good and the not so good, they will all remain an unforgettable part of your travelling adventures.

Prepare for your Disney World Visit

Prepare for your Disney World Visit

As we draw closer to the schools summer holidays, Orlando will inevitably be a dream holiday destination for many. You wouldn't be able to comprehend the number of visitors I have spoke to that have visited WDW during the high season, whether that be summer, Easter or Christmas and really weren't prepared for the crowds. This usually leads to those folks having a disappointing trip. Here's some advice.Back in the day, you had quiet times at Walt Disney World. You could guarantee that if you turned up in March the parks would be quiet. To a lesser extent this is still true, and I would still recommend avoiding all school and public holidays if at all possible. What Disney World and the other theme parks in the area now regularly doing is holding special events at the parks to draw in the visitors even during quieter times. For example Star Wars Weekends and Super Soap Weekends are huge crowd pullers. So, I'd say prepare for Disney World to be busy. If they're not then great, but if they are you'll already have the upper hand.So what planning trips should you take on board?The Disney World maps are freely downloadable online with information about each attraction. So find out what attractions your party want to ride before you go and visit these rides as a priority, fitting in the other attractions when you can.I still find it unbelievable that people visit the Disney parks and don't make full use of Fastpass, Disney's virtual queuing system that gives you a time to return to the attraction and ride with a minimum wait. Make sure you use this. If you're unfortunate enough to not be able to get a Fastpass some attraction do have single rider lines, so if you are not bothered about who you sit with take advantage of this.Above all, make sure you get to the park before the official scheduled opening time. Sometimes the parks open prior to this time so you can get a headstart on the other visitors. Beyond that, remember any plan isn't set in stone, so be flexible and have fun.

Traveling With The Little Ones

Traveling With The Little Ones

My wife and I take frequent trips with our daughters across the country. The oldest is currently seven and the youngest just turned three. Needless to say it has been an adventure and learning process on every trip that we have ever taken.The seven year old has been to Vail colorado snow skiing. Germany on a weeklong siteseeing tour, and of course to the children's mecca Walt-Disney World in Orlando, twice. She is an experienced traveller in every sense of the word. She knows the airport shuffle as well as the in's and out's of custom's and cabs.Now the three year old is a totally different story. Since her arrival the budget has been more limited. Therefore her experience is listed to the standard beach week, trip to visit relatives in Houston, and of course Disney World. She is less acclimated and has a lesser temperment for spending times in planes, trains, and automobiles. She is a squirmer to say the least. Now making a roadtrip with both of these diverse individuals takes planning and intent on my wife and I's part. We have to plan our stops and the total travel time that we are going to experience. We must avoid the naptime for changes of venues. No airlines from 1:00 to 3:00 as the three year old is sleeping during this time.We must plan to have adequate restroom breaks and stop to take them even when all is proclaimed to be well by the vehicles inhabitants. A three year old can turn in a minute from not needing to use to the bathroom to having a full emergency. Speaking of an emergency, during our trip to Vail, and snowskiing. My daughter came down with an ear ache. So when you are traveling make sure that you always carry adequate medical information with you. We had to call my daughters doctor at home to fax her records to the doctor in Vail. This delayed a full day of skiing for my daughter as well as us while we waited on the documents. While taking a long car trip to visit relatives in Mississipi my three year old who was at the time two, decided that a crying fit was in order. She screamed all the way to the Mercede's museum. We took about a two hour break and walked around siteseeing, the whole time she was just glad to be out of the car seat. While it is not a problem for adults to sit for hours on end, two and three year olds need adequate playtime to exercise their legs.So in short when planning to travel with little ones always plan time to take stops. Make sure that you have adequate documentation, and have great humor in the situations that arise. Charles Cater

Saving Money When Traveling

Traveling, particularly overseas, can be a great experience. For many people, it can also be an expensive one, which means you need to know how to save on expenses. Saving Money When TravelingFor many people, traveling is the ultimate method of rejuvenating their zest for life. On one hand, you get away from the constant interruptions of daily life that occur at work and home. On the other, you get to see a whole different way of living in another location, even if it is in your country. The only problem with traveling, of course, is it can put a whammy on your bank account. Saving money when traveling is not as hard as you think. The number one thing to remember is that practically everything is negotiable. If it is not, such as the cost of flights, there are often timing issues that can result in savings. While there are hundreds of tips, here are a few you might be unaware of. Traveling in a group is a great way to save money. Businesses in the travel industry like groups because they represent a pool of guaranteed money. If you can swing a group of 10 people for a trip, hotels, cruises, guides and such will provide you with their services for free. Just you, not the entire group. This may sound like a strange strategy, but it can work if you are mad about some location. You simply offer to provide a guided tour to the area and do some marketing. The cost of your trip is next to nothing and you may be able to write-off much of the remaining expense on your taxes. Of course, make sure to run it by your accountant. When it comes to hotel bookings, it is important to understand that the price of every room is negotiable. A hotel assigns four, five and even ten different rates to each type of room they have. Obviously, they want to get the most for it, but they offer all types of deals to attract bookings during slow times. The best way to take advantage of this is through online hotel booking sites. Since these sites move massive quantities of bookings, they usually get the lowest or close to lowest prices. You just need to compare prices, point and click. If you are traveling somewhere by plane, you are inevitably going to need ground transportation. Car rentals at airports tend to be price compared to in town options. If you must rent at the airport, the best way to get a deal is through your frequent flyer miles. Rates can be half as much as those posted at the desks. If you do not have frequent flyer miles, try to book through the online sites for the various rental companies. A number of them will be offering specials that can really add up to significant savings. Taking small steps to save money on trips can make all the difference. Follow the above advice and you should see less of a drain on your bank account.

Travel Insurance - Don't Go Abroad Without It

Your choice of a travel insurance policy is probably the most important decision you will make in planning your holiday. You will enjoy peace of mind on your vacation knowing that any unforeseen circumstances, such as a hospital stay due to sickness or accident will be taken care of.In addition, while many travelers have health insurance, it sometimes does not cover them outside of their network or outside of the United States. Most medical plans will not cover medical expenses abroad, which is why "travel insurance" coverage is vital to avoid financial disaster. Always check the details of your insurance coverage before you travel. Additionally, with out the proper medical insurance, you will not have a say on where you will be treated if you were in an accident.Generally, comprehensive travel insurance policy costs 5 to 7 percent of the price of your trip. Your policy may also provide reimbursement for lost luggage, some degree of medical evacuation insurance, accidental death coverage, medical expenses, personal liability, cancellation, loss of baggage and theft. Your policy should also include all the details of how to make a claim. Not all travel insurance plans are created equal. The cost varies from company and policy to policy. Policies may be purchased for individual trips or as an annual policy for all trips taken in the year of insurance. If you purchase an annual travel insurance policy, it will cover you for one year from the start date you choose. In some cases, it might be your best option to purchase a trip cancellation waiver and a third party travel insurance policy. Credit card companies usually provide what is called travel accident insurance, which covers accidents but not incidents of serious illness. When you travel abroad, you should always consider buying insurance that includes medical care. If you are willing to assume a financial risk (the cost of your trip), you can probably forego insurance for your domestic travel. Since 9/11, many are looking to travel insurance to safeguard their trip against any unforeseen terrorist attacks at their destination. Traveling abroad without insurance can be risky and impose long-term financial hardships if an accident or illness occurred.

Summary

Planning a trip is a hassle right? Planning one outside your home country can be much more of a hassle if you do not plan ahead. If you are going to Germany in the future here are some useful travel tips that should help you on your way.