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Budget for a week of Christmas markets?

Hi folks. We are blue-skying a trip to S. Germany/Alsace for Christmas markets this year. I've been enjoying the thread Jennifer started below, about what to do and where to go.

I would love your thoughts on my first shot at a budget. We're thinking just over a week for dh and me, and including Strasbourg, Rothenburg od Tauber, probably Freiburg or Heidelburg, and also smaller towns TBD. (I'm thinking in CA$ but I know that's not the standard in this group.)

Leaving out transatlantic airfare--we are flying from a small Canadian airport, so "it is what it is".

--Thinking we'll fly to London then get a cheap continental flight--EasyJet is showing €87 rtn to Basel in Dec.
*understand I'll have to coordinate that carefully, and make sure I'm not using up the savings in transferring from one airport to another, or losing too much time to the stopover.

--Seeing great car rental deals on Sixt for the time period, including snow tires, about US$300. (We have insurance and aren't afraid to insist on it with the rental agencies. Dh is very comfortable with a standard, and lived in Germany for a year. He still remembers fondly being "the fastest thing on the autobahn" with his Canadian driving skills in a snowstorm!)

--ViaMichelin is telling me about €150 for gas and tolls on a meandering route through that area. I can see adding another €50 for this, and/or in additional parking charges

--Hotels, looking at budget to mid-range, clean and basic. E.g., Hotel Zum Breiterle in Rothenburg is coming up at about US$120/nt in the first week of December. Using an average of US130/nt for 8 nights.

--Food. This is where I could research for a looong time without good results. Thinking, hotel supplies breakfast most days, a light lunch and a gasthaus supper. Or noshing our way around the markets. US$120/day for both of us.

--Additional US$60/day or so for misc costs/"entertainment" (read: gluhwein, wurst, and lebkuchen!)

--NOT Including any significant purchases beyond the trinkets and food. We might splash out on a Christmas pyramid, but that's an investment in family heirlooms, not a trip expense!

So, that brings me up to about $3000 for 8 days, excluding the airfare that will get us as far as London.

Does that seem realistic? What am I missing?

Posted by
1283 posts

The biggest savings- NO car!!!! Can't stress that enough. I've done many of the towns on your itinerary, and the towns are well-served by the train system. And- you haven't budgeted for the expensive daily parking fees.
In fact, Strasbourg closes access to the town by car from about 10am-8pm during the markets, so you will most likely be parking outside of town.
For Rothenburg, you will want a taxi from the train station, probably 10 Euros at most. There are great hotels in Rothenburg around 100 Euros , with breakfast. The markets here are small, but the town is fantastic!
When we were there in 2019, we ate dinner almost every night at the markets. The main courses were generous and under 10 Euros. Gluhwein is about 5 Euros, and you decide if you keep the mug, or return it for the 3 Euros deposit. In Strasbourg we did get a good dinner in the department store cafeteria- can't remember the name.
I would recommend saving on food by eating at the markets, and pay a little more for the hotels, so you can be in the city centers. Also, I'd recommend booking now [refundable, of course], as many of the good hotels can be fully booked by June- this was my experience, especially on the weekends.
I'd recommend going from Colmar/Strasbourg to Stuttgart [and nearby Esslingen.] We found fantastic markets in these towns, and Esslingen is incredible: street entertainment, costumes, parades, Middle Age games of skill....
And hotels in Stuttgart are a good value.

I want to go back just thinking about it. You'll have a memorable experience. If you search my posting history, I have 4-part trip reports posted mid-Jan, 2020.
Safe travels!

Posted by
1593 posts

My wife and I average 150 Euros per day for the both of us, everything except the flights to and from Germany, so I think $3000 for 8 days us fine.

Posted by
76 posts

Thank you Pat, I intend to look up your TRs! There's nothing like a first-hand story for the details. Honestly, it would break my dh's heart not to drive there...so that may be a sacred expense. I will do some research on parking costs, thanks for that.

Stephen, I am mightily encouraged that you make it work for €150/day. Can you tell me more about how you manage accommodations costs in particular?

Posted by
1283 posts

Hi! I looked up the actual date of the Trip Reports- Jan 12, 2020. Because TRs easily get separated when posted, [and have a word limit, so can't write REALLY long ones] the OP's here suggested I link all of them under one thread. So if you scroll downward in that thread, you'll find all 4 parts.
Have fun!

Posted by
528 posts

We go over every other year for the Xmas Markets. We eat the FREE breakfast in the hotel and we eat most of our meals in the market because the food is cheap and delicious and the atmosphere is so fun. The variety is HUGE, so you won't get bored. We find food over there relatively cheap (and remember, they don't tip 20% like we do, they round up or tip 10% according the RS Europe Through the Backdoor - a book everyone should read!!). Do know that most of the Xmas Market Vendors want cash, so we do end up taking out lots of Euros from the banks over there. Def go ahead and book your hotels and do so close to the markets as it's so fun to be close by - the hotels close to the markets fill up VERY fast. We NEVER rent a car, the train is so easy - have you considered NOT renting a car - parking during Market season is a nightmare.

Posted by
76 posts

Pat, found your TR thanks for all the detail! I admit I am most drawn to your description of Esslingen (did I get that right?) and Rothenburg! Great detail.

Chinalake, more great detail about food! If we can take advantage of market noshes for the most part, that seems like a great idea. Thank you.

Posted by
7883 posts

Chinalake. You are a tiny bit mistaken about the tipping. Yes, they DO tip in Germany, just not like they do in the US. 5-10% and only if you liked the service. If service was bad, it is ok not to tip. Rounding up is fine but it should come out to an ok amount. If your bill was 49.50€, you would not round up to 50€ and think it was enough. Servers depend on tips here to a certain extent and often have to tip out to the kitchen and bartender making their drinks.

Posted by
1593 posts

JoAnne - I stay at either a small b&b or an apartment in smaller towns. But the towns are not out of the way villages, but include some big tourist centers such as Bacharach and Rothenburg odT. Rarely over 50E per night.

Two places I have booked for next year are both 45E (room with shower with breakfast) and large apartment w/o breakfast.

Posted by
2094 posts

-Thinking we'll fly to London then get a cheap continental flight--EasyJet is showing €87 rtn to Basel in Dec.

Why? With your planned itinerary flying to e.g. Frankfurt would make a lot more sense.

And I agree with Pat, skip the car. It seems like you are planning to visit a number of towns and cities that are well connected by trains and buses so renting a car for the trip would just be an expensive headache. Parking in the places you want to visit can be tricky. First you have to find somewhere to park, which is not the easiest, and then you have to pay for it. And to be honest, you might want to budget a bit more than €50 for parking. On the other hand, the trains in the area are fast and frequent and affordable. And if you take the train, there is nothing stopping you enjoying the Glühwein at the markets!

Posted by
7883 posts

Your budget for hotels is way too high. You can find lovely hotels for far less.
Getting 2 different tickets to get to Germany doesn't make any sense at all, nor does a stop in London. Are you flying with AirCanada? They must fly into one of the cities you are going to, as I have flown them many times from Frankfurt. How would you get home, cause you don't mention that.
Maybe rent a car for just one day for that autobahn memory, but otherwise, use the trains. You will save money, you can watch the scenery and enjoy a glass of wine, glühwein, or beer without worry.

Posted by
76 posts

Ooo. Ms Jo and Stephen, I am greatly encouraged! Will start some research and seek out some different options. I am thinking these are more likely to be small independents and less likely to show up on booking sites? I prefer to book directly, but often use booking.com to identify the options.

As far as why London, Frankfurt isn't cheaper when your starting point is Halifax NS. I can get a pretty decent flight to LGW for under $800 pp (then a quick EasyJet add on will get us right where we want to go). The next cheapest European destination I can get is Paris, for about $850 pp. (Still considering that, but we're still stuck getting from Paris to Alsace.) December makes it harder, as the few budget airlines that serve eastern Canada generally suspend their flights around the end of October. That said, I'm definitely keeping Frankfurt and Munich on my search list, as one good deal could change everything.

Oh--but maybe we have train experts? (Though not a Germany itinerary--so I may be outside of this group's interests now!) I looked briefly at dummy dates to train from Paris to Strasbourg, and the best I could see was about US$225 rtn for two. That's more than the EasyJet flight from London. I used Trainline, and I believe Ouigo results were in the mix, so I was surprised at the cost.

Posted by
1593 posts

For Germany the best place to look for places to stay is the town website which usually has the format www.TOWN NAME.de Wikipedia also usually lists it.

These websites usually list ALL the places to stay. Sometimes ( but not very often )if there is an English language website, it will be an incomplete list. I did have one case where the apartment was not listed on a town website, but was on booking.com. I only looked there because I had seen the apartment described in a bike tour journal.

Posted by
76 posts

Just checked yhz-fra again and it's about $500 more pp ($CA) than yhz-cdg. And direct on Sncf site I'm getting a cheaper train connection, more like €100 rtn for 2. So that's looking better!

Posted by
2094 posts

As far as why London, Frankfurt isn't cheaper when your starting point
is Halifax NS. I can get a pretty decent flight to LGW for under $800
pp (then a quick EasyJet add on will get us right where we want to
go). The next cheapest European destination I can get is Paris, for
about $850 pp. (Still considering that, but we're still stuck getting
from Paris to Alsace.)

For your plan, Frankfurt would be my first choice. But Paris is also a good option, and in my opinion a much better choice than London. Charles de Gaulle to Strasbourg is about 2 hours by direct TGV.

I looked briefly at dummy dates to train from Paris to Strasbourg, and
the best I could see was about US$225 rtn for two. That's more than
the EasyJet flight from London. I used Trainline, and I believe Ouigo
results were in the mix, so I was surprised at the cost.

I did a dummy booking at oui.sncf and Charles de Gaulle to Strasbourg seems to cost around €50 per person, and you can get tickets as cheap as €38 if you are lucky. Avoid 3rd party booking sites for the best prices.

Posted by
76 posts

Thanks Badger. I will definitely keep looking for sales to FRA or MUC, but am feeling better too about the Paris option. Especially in winter, I'll feel better if I'm only dealing with one airline/ticket. I wish the French train system was more long-term-planning-friendly, but I am fairly satisfied with the options at this point.

Posted by
2094 posts

If it was my trip and I couldn't find tickets at a good price to Frankfurt, I would probably just book the ticket to Paris. The difference is not that big. Lufthansa has a bus route between Strasbourg and Frankfurt airport that is pretty convenient, but the TGV from Paris is pretty easy to handle as well.

And people don't buy train tickets half a year ahead, 1 or 2 months before the trip is probably the most common. But look at the schedule in August or September, and it will probably be very similar in December.

Posted by
8188 posts

I agree with those that recommend flying into Paris. You could also search a multi city option and see about flying into Frankfurt and out of Paris, or visa versa. If you think you’ll be that far south in Germany you could also consider Munich. Flying open jaw makes more sense for you, or choose a circular route to return you to your starting off point for a round trip flight.

I also agree with the poster who suggested renting a car for one day so Hubby can drive on the autobahn, but the rest of the time use the train.

Posted by
76 posts

So it's been a while since I posted here--and a while since I've travelled, but that's not usual these days! I just wanted to say thanks for your generous responses to my questions. What a great, welcoming community! Personally when I can't travel (not quiiiiiite yet, waiting for the Cdn gov't to change their travel advisories), there's nothing I like better than talking about and planning travel. So I have particularly enjoyed our conversation! Thank you again.

Posted by
7883 posts

Using dummy dates in Dec. Rome2Rio, both Lufthansa and AirCanada came up with flights costing between 850-890€, with one stop in Toronto before going on to Frankfurt. That sounds reasonable to me. These are flights into Frankfurt. Certainly check with the companies directly, as I was just fooling around with it.

Posted by
5910 posts

JoAnne, is driving the autobahn what your husband is interested in? If so, its not worth the experience. People from NA assume that its all unlimited speed. It isn't. And if you want to drive fast where you can, you'll need a car with bigger motor, or you'll be run over by the big Mercedes and BMWs. Its no more fun than the US interstate, just without annoying billboards. And parking in towns is no joke.

Posted by
76 posts

Parking is definitely a consideration, but we'll be sure to do the required research, as it seems that it will be an issue.

I know a lot of people don't get this, but we're road trippers. We just love driving. We once drove from St John's Newfoundland to Victoria BC. That's as "cross Canada" as you can get, with a total of 6750 kms in 10 days. Another great trip was Tampa Fl to Lafayette LA (return), about 2500 kms. We used to drive 10 hours for a cheaper airfare. (When the kids were little and money was tighter, we'd drive from NS to Manchester NH to get a cheap flight at the start of our trips to the US.) My dh has happily driven on all of our European trips, and lived in Germany for a year before we were married, driving a very old (original) VW bug. I think you're either a road tripper or you're not--for us, it's part of the fun, even if it's just interstates and ausfahrts!

Posted by
76 posts

Aww, thanks Ms Jo for looking at that! It does look like AC has the best options for us. I've put myself back on their mailing list, and will give it a couple of months for something good to come up! I've also put myself on the mailing list for Air France and Lufthansa, as the European carriers tend to have better consumer protection than AC, as the pandemic shown us. And thanks to code shares, they're usually the same flights...

Posted by
528 posts

roadtrippers or not - the Xmas Markets aren't the time to be a roadtripper. You won't find parking. It is super crowded. You will spend ALL your time dealing with a car and NOT exploring the Markets. Save your roadtripping for another destination. A car will be a HUGE hassle and VERY expensive. Do like the Germans and take the train. We go over every other year in December and NEVER ever think of getting a car. Even the Europeans in other parts of the EU like Amsterdam take the train to the German Markets over driving there. You can't even get a car into the OLDE TOWNE areas where the markets are. There are plenty of road trips to be had, but the Xmas Markets aren't a road trip destination. Either take the train, or do a Xmas Market River Cruise. We did NOT care for the markets in Munich or Frankfurt, but Munich is an easy airport to get home from.

Posted by
528 posts

Have you seen the post today on these forums from someone who lives in Alsace??
''FYI for folks planning on visiting Xmas markets in Alsace this winter -- the odds of Xmas market happening this winter is 50-50 at best, and towns can cancel in the last minute if virus situation takes a sudden nose dive. Strasbourg Xmas market is the headliner that brings in the crowd, if Strasbourg calls it off, all smaller towns will follow suit.
Without Xmas markets, Alsace in cold/dark/rainy/bare-tree/dark-by-4:30pm November-December is at its least attractive. If Xmas markets are not happening, I'd recommend skipping Alsace and going to Côte d'Azur instead. There are warmer temperature, blue sky and sun in Côte d'Azur (I lived several winters there), and many folks on this forum like Côte d'Azur.
If you are coming to Alsace this winter, it would be prudent to fly into a French Airport, instead of flying into Germany or Switzerland, in case border-crossing is restricted.''