Family Info and great history
1. Is airfare included in the Trip price mentioned in the detailed Itinerary?
No, only costs within Germany, such as the hotels, meals and busses are covered by your Trip costs mentioned in the itinerary. Each participant is responsible for their own flight arrangements. Most flights to Germany leave in the evening and arrive very early in the next day in Germany. So you need to look for flights that leave on the 19th July and arrive on the 20th, in Hamburg. We will have the day in Hamburg to relax and recover from a bit of jet lag.
Also if people want to add days to their trip before or after our trip that is possible. You just have to make sure you are in Hamburg on the 20th, during the day sometime. We will formally start the evening of the 20th and you are expected to be in the Hamburg Hotel that evening. After we end in Berlin, you also have the option of staying more days there or traveling on to other destinations if you would like.
2. When should I make flight reservations?
From the Internet I read: “On most airlines, international flights open up for sale 335 days (11 months) before departure. For Europe flights a study in 2014 found the lowest fares were available 276 days in advance.” (9 months). So for a trip in July 2016, best time to book appears to be September to November 2015.
3. Should I exchange money from Dollars to Euros before I depart the USA?
No, best and cheapest is to use your Bank ATM Card at an ATM machine in Germany. As this is an electronic transaction it is cheaper than using agents who deal with paper currency. These days, all bank cards seem to be accepted in overseas ATM's. You can of course check with your bank on this to make sure. Also if you have a credit card that does not charge financial fees for foreign currency conversion that is best. Some credit card companies can both give you a lousy rate of exchange and charge $25.00 individual transaction fees on top of lousy exchange rates. So know what your credit card charges you before you go. It may encourage you to use cash more and less credit cards. I would also encourage you to only use ATM's in Europe at the larger banks and not use the ATM's at local bars, gas stations, or the like. There is potential for fraud and it is safer to use the ATM's at big reputable banks.
4. What type of luggage should I bring?
Wheels are good!! Please, please don't overpack. Leave room in your suitcase for things you want to bring home. Washing out in the hotel room sinks is always a good option. One bigger bag checked per person is usually included for free on international flights. As an example United Airlines provides first bag free on flights to Germany but second bag is $100.00. Each bag can be up to 62.0 linear inches (157cm) L + W + H and 50.0 lbs (23 kg) per bag.
A smaller carry on is also good. You may want to think about a wheeled carryon bag for each couple. You can then travel with your meds and personal items (camera, phone, chargers, book, etc) being always with you during the day on the bus or during the flight. Then the big case only comes out in the evening.
5. What is the weather like? What outer clothing is important?
Summer is similar there as here in the US, but probably a bit cooler and not so hot. So a light sweater or jacket is important as well as some rain gear. A small fold-up umbrella is always a good thing to have along. Most days will be in the 70's, but once in a while it can get as hot as the 90's on rare days. Rain is more likely than very hot weather.
6. What about Laundry in the hotels on the trip?
There are not a lot of good options here. They don’t really have a lot of Holiday Inns, or Comfort Inns in Europe where there are coin operated laundry rooms. So your options are either sending out, which is very expensive, but convenient, or doing it yourself. If you send out laundry at a hotel in Europe, you will definitely need to do this only at a hotel where we stay 2 nights. This means either in Bramsche or in Mainz, both relatively early in the trip, so probably not worth it. Finding a washer / dryer will be difficult in any of these hotels. The European approach at home is usually a washer only, and hang drying. If they have a dryer, sometime it is a combination washer /dryer in same unit, which means cycle times over an hour for sure and sometimes up to 2-3 hours. So not very convenient.
Best is to just wash in the hotel sink, and then hang dry in a window or over a tub. Which means clothes of quick drying material is best, such as nylon or polyester blends of cotton. This implies that you should probably bring along a bottle of Woolite or something like it from home. Hard to find there in Europe, but hotel bar soap has worked for me over the years. Also even hotel shampoo!
7. What should I pack?
You don’t want to be bogged down with a lot of weight! Keep it light is the mantra. Clearly clothes that can serve multiple purposes are best. Such as those zip off pants legs that turn pants into shorts, or sweaters for dressing up day clothes for evenings. I would clearly suggest shoes other than running shoes, as these are not at all what the Europeans wear, and you will really stand out as American tourists with them on. (As if we won’t already, ha!) But the Germans consider athletic shoes as “Turnschuhe” which should only be worn when working out. They can’t imagine touring sites and museums with workout clothes. So Ecco, or Merrill shoes are typical of what you will see over there. But make sure they are comfortable and not new. There will be a lot of walking so make sure you buy any new shoes now and ensure they are worn in before you go!
Money belt or neck wallet is helpful, Or make sure you keep your valuables in an inside deep pocket usually in front. Don’t keep in back pocket or purse that can be easily reached. You really only need a credit card(s) ATM card for getting Euros, and your passport. Go through your wallet or purse before you leave and leave home all that other junk. Maybe your health insurance card or other important info. I usually like to keep a paper copy of my passport and my travel itinerary, in case my smart phone goes haywire.
See this link for more info.
See also: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/packing-light/ricks-packing-list