In August we will travel to Germany to pick our son up (in Kaiserslautern). All 6 of our children (ages 17 to 26) will be with us, and my 76-year-old father. We plan to travel for 2-3 weeks in Austria/Switz/Germany. Because there will be 9 of us, I think it may be best to rent a home in a central location, and make day trips from there. Perhaps switching locations each week? I am assuming we will need to rent two cars. We need to keep this as cheap as possible. Any advice would be deeply appreciated.
Accommodations: In Germany there are a lot of Ferienwohnungen (vacation appartments), which will hold a fair number of people (you might still need two FeWo for everyone). They come with fully equiped kitchettes, so you can save on meal costs. Ferienwohnungen ofter either rent by the week, or are less expensive for multiple days. You can find Ferienwohnungen by looking at town websites, usually www.[town name].de. If you stay away from large towns, the FeWo will be close to the center of town.
Travel:German Rail has some discount offers for groups. As long as your travel is within one German Land (State), like Rheinland-Pfalz, which includes most of the area between France and the Rhein, five people can travel all day on regional trains for around €30 (=/- depending on the Land). On weekends, you can travel anywhere in Germany on regional trains with a Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket for €37. (You can hardly put gas in a five passenger car for that per day).
Austrian Rail has the Einfach-Raus-Ticket which is comparable to the Laender tickets Lee described.
Thank you! What would you suggest for a good place to stay near Berlin?
Can you find farmhouses in the same way that Lee suggested for finding apartments? Is a pension just another name for apartment?
Thank you! I thought we would need to rent a car because the Eurail passes were so expensive per person that renting would be cheaper for a group.
I should add that most of the family are students, and one is a senior. Can we get discounts for them?
You should also consider leasing rather than renting. Even if you pick up and drop off in Germany it will be cheaper than renting.
I like the idea of renting three apartments for one week each and taking trips from there. Avoid spending all your time on the road though.
You didn't say what time of year. I have traveled with five in the fall and didn't have any trouble just calling ahead for rooms. Nine may be more difficult, especially if it's high season.
Have you considered renting a few vacation apartments in a region from where you can make short trips to the neighboring countries, like for example the Allgäu region in Bavaria?
Corinna has a good point. The Allgäu might be a good base for a week. I've stayed in the Oberallgäu four time for a week at a time. We could easily take the train to the Bodensee; I went to Lindau and Friedrichshafen (Zeppelin Museum). There are buses to Füssen. At the top of the Iller valley is Oberstdorf, a major ski town (looks like what Vail pretends to be), and from there you can access the Kleinwalsertal, a beautiful Alpine valley, part of the Austrian Tirol completely isolated from Austria by the Alps.
Check out Oberstdorf, Fischen, Sonthofen, or Immenstadt. Immenstadt is on the main line from Munich to Switzerland and would give you the quickest access to Munich or Switzerland.
I also like Oberammergau as a base for a few days. Hohenschwangau is about 1hr 20min away by bus. Linderhof is only a 20 minute bus ride away. Garmisch-Partenkirchen is accessible by train or bus and Mittenwald is accessible from Ga-P by train.
The great thing about renting apartments in Germany and Austria (I'm not sure about Switzerland) is you don't have to do a whole week to get a good rate. Most of them rent by the day. It may be hard to find one apartment in a place that will be big enough for all of you, but you could easily find a farmhouse that has more than one apartment that you can rent.
Is a pension just another name for apartment?
No. I'm not sure of the exact difference in definition for a hotel, gasthaus, or pension, but a pension is like a hotel without all the services, particularly a constantly manned front desk. Usually they just give you a key to the front door.
In Germany, an apartment that rents for a short time, for tourists, and is usually fully equiped (dishes, cooking utensils, bed linens) is called a Ferienwohnung.
You can sometimes find farmhouse accommodations under "Bauernhof", although they are not usually listed on the website of a town.
If you stay in the Oberallgäu, you can purchase an Urlaubskarte (Holiday pass) for €17 per person. This gives you unlimited use of all trains and buses in the Iller valley, including the bus that goes into Kleinwalsertal, and outside the valley to Hohenstaufen and almost up to Kempten, for an entire week. That's €2,40 per person per day. €12 per day for five people. How does €12 compare with the cost of renting a five passenger car for a day?
Last time I was there, for an additional €2 (I imagine it is a little more by now) for an Anschluß ticket, on top of the Urlaubskarte, you could travel all the way to Hohenschwangau or Garmisch-Partenkirchen, round trip.
A hotel is a hotel, with all the associated services and amenities.
A Hotel Garni is a hotel with breakfast, but no restaurant on the premises.
A Pension is a family run place, like a B&B in the United States, their services vary.
A Gasthaus is a country inn that also has rooms for rent.
Privatzimmer are rooms for rent at a private residence.
Ferienwohnung is a vacation apartment rental, sometimes you might get breakfast and linens and towels. Ask about that.
Bauernhof is a farm with rooms to rent, ranging from simple to luxurious, depending on the farm.
Hope this helps
Consider Salzburg as a base city. You could tour the Bravaria area of Germany from there, as well as a great deal of Austria. Innsbruck is a nice day trip from Salzburg. The countryside around Salzburg is beautiful!
Corinna, great. I've always wondered, and I have looked for this information on the DEHOGA website, but I couldn't find any. Now I have access to an expert.
So, I understand Hotel and Hotel Garni, but what about Gasthaus? Do they have to have a restaurant on the premises? What about Gästehaus? I've been in Gästehäuser without restaurants. Is the only requirement of a Pension that they be family owned and operated. I can't think offhand of a Pension that I have been in the wasn't.
I have stayed in a number of Privatzimmer (and they really were rooms in a private home. The owners lived there.), but they called their place a "Pension".
I would not suggest renting two vehicles and trying to follow one another, etc., however if you do not want to do the train and want your own vehicle,I have been the driver of a van that held nine people on two separate occasions for photography workshops and it was really quite easy. If anyone has driven in Germany before, the freeway, although fast, is actually very organized in how the Germans drive. Read up so you know what you are doing, but we loved the freedom. There were also plenty of places to park the larger vehicle in most tourist areas. Really had no problems. The vehicles are mostly all manuals, but they may have some automatics if needed.
We all loved being together and packing our picnics in the back and stopping when we felt like it.
I'm still waiting for an official answer, but in the meantime I have noted something. In looking at several Unterkünfteverzeichnisse on .de websites, I have noted that every Gasthaus, Gästehaus, or Gasthof was associated with a restaurant on the premises. I guess that is what you mean by a "country Inn that also rents rooms". But then, how is that distinguished from a hotel that also has a restaurant.
Maureen, it's Ferienwohnungen (apartments), not Fereinwohnung (apartment)
I'd suggest getting a Ferienwohnung (sometimes listed as FeWo) over getting rooms at a hotel, pension, or B&B. You'd end up paying about triple what you'd pay for an apartment. 2-3 bedroom apartments can easily be found for the same price as a double. Keep in mind that breakfast is not included with most apartments.
You can find apartments at farmhouses at www.landtourismus.de or looking at the sites for the local tourist office like Lee suggested. Just make sure the farmhouse you're looking offers Ferienwohnung and not just Zimmer.
interesting questions! I was afraid somebody would ask them ;-)))
Because it isn't quite as clearcut as one would like:
A Pension is actually a small hotel, privately/family run, basically what Americans consider a B&B. Services often consist only of housekeeping, and breakfast, and you will not always have somebody at the reception. In matter of fact, in many cases you are given a key for the front door, and expected to let yourself in at night. This type of establishment is called Pension in german-speaking Central Europe. By its nature, it is of course also a Gästehaus (Guesthouse), even though it is very seldom called by that name.
Hotel Garnis are usually are little bit more upscale and pricey, offer more services and have a staffed reception (though not always!).
A Gasthaus, however, is NOT a Gästehaus, but an inn where simple, relatively inexpensive, regional food is served, and that very Gasthaus MIGHT also have guest-rooms to rent - or not . . ;-))
Gasthaus, Gasthof or Wirtshaus are the same thing by another name.
A restaurant is not a restaurant in the American sense. In german-speaking Europe, a restaurant is more upscale, and usually more expensive than a Gasthaus (inn).
Europeans love to go out to eat, as you might have noticed already. They will only go to a restaurant for special occasions. Otherwise they will eat at a Gasthaus/Gasthof/Wirtshaus.
Does that makes sense??!
And while we are on the subject:
travelers SHOULD do as the locals do:
save the restaurants for a special celebration, otherwise eat at the Gasthaus/Gasthof! You'll save money and get good, often EXCELLENT!, local food.
Christi-Take a look at vrbo.com or homeaway.com. They have rentals in all price ranges and sizes. Yes, even castles. I've used homeaway.com here in the states and been pleased. At the very least, it's good fun travel porn-fun to look and fantasize.
We are following your conversation carefully. Thanks for the information. Keep any more ideas coming, we really appreciate it!