Experience Germany Like a Local

© 2015-2017 Polar Bear Studio LLC, All images unless otherwise noted, text, and website design, all rights reserved. Email Us

Why I Love Train Travel in Germany

There are different methods of transportation that we have used in Germany over the years. We have boarded airplanes, rented cars and traveled by train. My favorite way to get around? That would be train travel and here are four reasons why I tend to choose spending hours on a train instead of another mode of transportation.

Why I Love Train Travel in Germany

Reason #1 See More of the German Countryside
All trains have large windows where you can enjoy the landscape as it flies by (especially in the ICE high speed trains). You will see rivers, mountains, and small villages - all of which you miss when you fly or take the car on the Autobahn. Of course you can take rural roads with a rental car, but it will be slower and the driver will have to watch traffic much more than any landscape surrounding the car.

Board the train, find your seat, get comfortable and enjoy whatever you like to do. If looking out the window is not your thing, you can read, listen to music, or sleep a bit. Lots of high-speed trains have free Wifi (https://www.bahn.com/en/view/trains/on-board-service/wifi.shtml) and outlets to charge your devices and stay in contact with your family and friends back home. Just don’t get too distracted and miss your destination while enjoying the comfort of the train.

Reason #2 No Luggage Restrictions
Bringing any kind of luggage onto an airplane these days, usually results in a fee you have to pay. This means extra income for the airlines and customers are willing to pay anywhere from $20 to $75 for this convenience. Not so on the train (or your rental car, of course). Bring as many pieces of luggage as you want, or are able to pull along with you. Even pack liquids and something to drink inside the train. No one will take it away from you.

Denise and I usually share a larger suitcase instead of two smaller ones. Most long distance trains have an extra area between seats where you can store your luggage. Otherwise you can lift it onto the rack above the seats, just make sure it is not too heavy and falls on your head.

Reason #3 Less Expensive
When comparing plane tickets or car rental prices to a train ticket, the train ticket is often your least expensive option, especially when you buy your ticket in advance and factor in the hidden costs. The airline might charge you extra for your luggage, even if it is just a carry on bag. And you better buy a preferred seating position with that, so you board the plane while overhead space for your carry-on is still available.

The same goes for the rental car option, which will have you paying for fuel costs and parking, not to mention all the extra insurance fees they try to add when you pick up your car. If you want to know more about this, read our earlier article, What to Consider When Renting a Car in Germany.

The best way to get your hands on an inexpensive train ticket in Germany (usually half-off) is to book 70-90 days before your trip on the website of the Deutsche Bahn.

You can get tickets for as low as 29 € per person for long trips, but ticket prices go up as the departure date draws near, so plan accordingly, and buy early. Denise and I will create a calendar event exactly 90 days before in order to get the best train ticket price. When its time to buy, simply enter your destination, date and approximate time on the Deutsche Bahn website and you will be given a range of options to choose from. When reserving your train ticket, you pick your favorite connection and have the option to purchase reserved seating for about 5 € per person/train. There are no other fees added on after you check out. I highly recommend purchasing a seat, especially if you are on the train for several hours or travel with a larger group of people.

You will also see that some connections will be faster, some slower. Here is a ranking from fastest to slowest trains:

• ICE (Inter City Express) usually pronounced ‘Eye See Eee’, are the fastest German trains

• IC (Inter City) trains are a bit slower than ICE trains with a few more stops along the way

• RB (Regional Bahn) and RE (Regional Express) tend to be highly localized with lots of stops. You will see more of the countryside, on IC/RB/RE trains, but travel time can be up to double compared to an ICE train.

Reason #4 Simply, Faster
In Germany you might overhear someone saying, that the train is “late, again”. Some trains are notorious for running late and Germans, always punctual, are notorious for complaining about this fact. However, I still believe taking a train is the fastest option, and here is why. A train ride from Frankfurt to Paris, France will take about 4 hours. A car ride will take 5 ½ hours, if there is “normal” traffic on the Autobahn 4 from Frankfurt to Paris. It takes longer due to the lower speed limit in France, which is 130 km/h (80 mph). A train can go as fast as the tracks will let it and reaches speeds up to 200 mph on some track parts.

So driving can’t compete with taking the train, which leaves us with flying. A plane ride from Frankfurt to Paris takes only 1 hour 10 minutes. However, if you add transportation time to the airport (most are not in the city center, unlike train stations) and being there about 2 hours before your flight takes off for security checkpoints and boarding, the journey will most likely take longer than 4 hours. Keep in mind that the security check at the airport might slow you down, also. Oh yeah, and you have to pay for your bags and deal with less legroom on a plane.

What is your favorite mode of transportation while visiting Germany? Let us know in the comments.

Bonus Germany Train Travel Resource: If you're new to train travel, do yourself a BIG favor and read Lorelei's Your Complete Guide to Using the Deutsche Bahn in Germany. Its a wonderful resource for newbies, full of photos and explanations. We thought of doing one ourselves, and stumbled upon Lorelei's and realized she left NOTHING out. Bookmark it, and you'll thank yourself later.

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive the newest posts each week and exclusive access to free planning resources like ‘Packing List & Tips for 2 Weeks in Germany’ and ‘Everything You Need to Rent a Car in Germany’.

Thank you for reading!


Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You

*Although our content is available for free, this blog currently earns as an Amazon associate. You’ll see links that are preceded by "(associate link)", and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. All opinions and recommendations are our own, and come from experience with the product or service.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You

Every year the hardest part of our trip is leaving behind our two cats, Katze and Jayla. They’ve seen the suitcases load up and wheel out, and when you try to say goodbye they’ll hide under the bed, as if that will change the impending situation. Most vacations, I leave the house in tears. My worst fear is that something happens to us on our trip, and as a result, Katze and Jayla will forever think they did something wrong and we abandoned them. This is what I do to manage their anxiety and mine, when vacation time comes.

Comfort Zone® with Feliway® Diffuser Kit
One year, when we returned from vacation, Katze had been so stressed over us leaving she gave herself a urinary tract infection. No fun! I didn’t know this was possible, and we did everything as we had normally done. My Mom came by in the evenings to give them dinner and spend time with them. The litter box was spotless. The vet said it was definitely anxiety-related. Since then, whenever we go out of town on vacation, we plug in a (associate link) Comfort Zone® Feliway® diffuser into the outlet next to her favorite sleeping spot. That was four years ago, and we've used it for every vacation since. Katze hasn't had a UTI since.

We had heard about Feliway® from my Mother-in-law, who had issues with her cat marking their suitcases while they tried to pack. When that was plugged in, he stopped marking. My Mom has a crazy cat who has a diffuser plugged in all the time. The Feliway® diffuser alleviated the confrontations she had with my Mom’s other, more mentally-balanced cats. Its well loved by our feline family, and I hope it brings your family relief too!

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Nest Cam Indoor

Nest Cam Indoor
This is definitely relief more for my own anxiety than the cats’. They have no idea what (associate link) Nest Cam Indoor is. For me, the benefit is that at any time of day, I can open the app on my phone, and I can see that the house is ok, possibly see Katze and Jayla, and even hear my ticking clock in the background. It's a visual relief that arrests my anxiety in it's place. One time I caught Jayla and my Mom watching a NASCAR race together. I knew because I could see Jayla’s face and eyes following the cars on the screen. When I was feeling homesick and missing them, that was priceless. We have one that we bought several years back, and is still supported by the current app. Its something that while its expensive at first, it will last a while. We position it by our TV in the living room, and it covers most of the hallways and the couch they love.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Securing Pet Sitters

Securing Pet Sitters
If you have family or friends around that you trust to check on the cats every day, great. Maybe they’d even be game to send photos and/or video from time to time too. Spend time before the trip to make sure they understand any feeding quirks. That’s often how cats will show they’re upset, is by eating less or turning down treats that they’d normally never miss. Jayla has had several teeth removed because of bad genetics, and she needs higher food bowls that work with her, not against her, when she’s trying to eat her wet food. We make sure the caretaker knows about that, and that it's ok if Katze eats Jayla’s leftovers. Typically the first few days we’re gone, Jayla will turn down wet food in protest of the situation. Katze has turned down her wet food if it's not chopped up like she normally has it. They’re our furry divas, and we love them.

If you don’t have family or friends nearby that can watch them, it's time to bring in the professionals! Visit the website for the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) to begin your search. It will help locate nearby licensed and insured pet sitters. It's a good indication that who you are hiring is responsible and takes their profession serious if they’ve become members of the NAPPS. If no one is registered in your area, ask your veterinarian for a referral.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Blankets

Normally our couch throw blankets are folded up on the arms of the couch, but when we’re away from home, I spread them out flat in a few places, one where Jayla lays a lot, and another on our bed. Two reasons, one, if the girls have anxiety-caused upset stomach episodes, or their well-meaning-family-member-turned-pet-sitter has given them too many treats, the blankets protect the furniture and are easier to wash. The second reason being it's an additional comfort source for them that they can burrow into if they wish.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Keep Suitcases Out of Sight

Pack in Another Room
Our cats definitely understand what a suitcase signifies. One time Sebastian got down our biggest suitcase from the attic, and set it out in the hallway overnight. Jayla left us a smelly present inches away from the suitcase for us to discover the next morning. Since then, we try to sneak the suitcases through the house into the guest bedroom where we can close the door. This isn’t usually too hard, when the cats are out in the catio it's easy to get things tucked away out of sight. Since Sebastian likes to start putting things away for the trip sometimes a month ahead of time, it's better that the cats don’t even know it's vacation time. I would hate for them to be anxiously anticipating our trip for that long. We typically will bring out the suitcases from the guest bedroom for final packing the day before we leave.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Pet Trusts

Pet Trust
At the first sign of turbulence on the flight, my panicked thought is “Oh No! What will happen to the cats!” This is something we’ve been talking about doing forever, and plan to do. You can legally make plans for your pets in the event something happens, and even set aside a trust fund for their care if you’re not quite sure that your possible caretaker would have enough funds to support them. If you’ve never considered this before, here’s a Pet Trust Primer from the ASPCA I recommend looking at to get you started.

How Do You Manage?
Do you have other tricks up your sleeve for managing travel anxiety for your cats and you? Do share! Comment below, or reply via email. Every little bit helps!

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!

The Best Fragrance Travel Hack

The Best Fragrance Travel Hack: Scentbird

After years of packing regular size fragrance bottles or leak-prone atomizer sprayers in my checked-luggage, I finally found a better solution. One of my biggest travel nightmares is to have my fragrance leak all over my suitcase or have the bottle confiscated by the TSA due to a new liquids ban. I heard about Scentbird when I was searching for a better alternative to atomizer sprayers and signed up for a subscription last summer. This is the best fragrance travel hack I’ve found.

How to Travel Light With Your Fragrances & Prevent Spilling and Breakage

How to Conveniently Pack Fragrances
This subscription service sends you a fragrance vial with a 30-day supply for $14.95 per month. For your first order you will also get one of their twist-top tin cases. This case keeps the glass vial from breaking and protects the sprayer. This is the solution I was looking for when packing fragrances. You can switch out the glass vials by pulling it out of the case and inserting a new one. The vial has enough fragrance for 30 days, based on 4 sprays per day from the 0.27 oz / 8 ml bottle.

Smelly, Happy Vacation Memories
My first vial was filled with L’Homme by Yves Saint Laurent and I took it with me on vacation to Lake Constance in Germany. Scent has the magical ability to transport us back to a specific time and place with one sniff, and whenever I smell L’Homme, it reminds me of the great time I had visiting Lake Constance. Our sense of smell is very complex. Odors are processed differently than, for example, our sense of touch or our sense of sight. Whatever we smell gets processed by our olfactory cortex, bypassing the brain where ALL other senses get routed through first. That’s why smells attach to memories without us consciously registering or processing them. This is exactly what L’Homme by Yves Saint Laurent did for me.

Save Your Empty Subscription Vials
In my case of falling in love with the scent of L’Homme, I used up all the cologne in the vial within about 6 weeks. I missed having the scent in my collection and bought a regular bottle of it a couple of months later. Thankfully, I had kept the empty vial, because you can unscrew the sprayer and refill it with fragrance from a larger bottle. That way you have another month of your favorite fragrance in a perfectly sized container and do not have to worry about taking your large bottles with you during your travels.

Getting Started With Scentbird
The very first thing that Scentbird had me do upon subscribing, was to complete an interactive quiz to find a fragrance for me. There were questions about my idea of a “perfect vacation”, or the choice of a preferred drink. Based on your answers, Scentbird gives you perfume recommendations. Finally, select the fragrances that sounds best to you (from over 450 scents total) and place them in a monthly queue, from which you will receive one fragrance to try per month. Besides the small form factor, which makes it perfect for traveling, I also love the fact that I can try a scent before committing to a larger, expensive bottle.

I found and paid for my subscription for months now, and I’m really happy with the service. I’ve since become an affiliate of Scentbird because I believe they offer value to International Travelers. If you make a purchase after clicking on my links, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Their current promotion is a 25% off coupon with code NEW2017. Just click here and enter the code at checkout.

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!

Show more posts about traveling in Germany

Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler