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budget trip to Germany, Oct. 2017

Just returned from a wonderful trip to Germany. We flew to Munich, rented a car and drove to Bacharach, did a KD cruise on the Rhine river, (cruised the last day of the season, in some rain but still very beautiful and certainly not crowded!!), drove to Burg Eltz castle, spent two nights near Rothenburg, did the Night Watchman Tour, drove to Fussen and saw Neuschwanstein castle, visited Reutte, walked across the world's longest suspension bridge (well, my two travel companions did, I started out with them but became frightened.....)spent a night in Munich where we visited Dachau prison camp and the BMW complex. What a great trip! The fall colors were stunning. There were virtually no crowds. We were able to get tickets to any site we visited with no problem. It was such a great trip and was a great travel bargain, costing us less than 1000.00 each from Los Angeles.
I'd like to affirm some hotel choices we made based on Rick's recommendations. We stayed at IM Malerwinkel in Bacharach. Was homey, comfortable, had the most beautiful garden (even in October), a medieval tower, and grape vines behind it. The grapevines were yellow and orange and simply gorgeous...as if a medieval tower in a charming town were not enough!! The host was most gracious.

In Rothenburg, we stayed outside the city, and, as we were doing the Rick Steves city walk, met the owner of the Anneliese Friese shop. When he saw the torn out Rick Steves Germany Guide pages in our hands, he approached us and invited us in. His name is Bernie, he is tremendously gracious AND gives Rick Steves customers a discount. He showed us Christmas cards from Rick, and told us he has known him for many years. How fun!! He also gave us great restaurant recommendations. We couldn't have asked for more.
In Fussen, we stayed at the Hotel Sonne. It is directly downtown and an easy walk from the train and bus station. It is a beautiful hotel with a great breakfast buffet including Mimosas. Certainly a great start for the day!!
We did the Rothenburg Night Watchman tour. Was so fun and informative...and only 8 EU. Man!
We use Rick's guidebooks for all our trips. Can't praise them enough!!
Met so many wonderful people. We felt so fortunate that most of the people we dealt with spoke English.
We had a great time, had so many amazing experiences....was certainly unforgettable!!
Do wish we could have crammed in Salzburg, but that's a goal for another trip now!

Posted by
17742 posts

Jody, how many days? Did $1000 each include air fare? (I think not)

I'm interested in your experience at Im Malerwinkel. I "discovered" it in 2004, before Rick started featuring it, while I was looking for a path to the Wernerkapelle. I tried to visit it once but it was closed for the season.

Posted by
49 posts

Hi Lee! Yes, the actual amount we spent per person was 896.27. That did include our airfare. We had breakfast at almost all of our hotels, but that did not include other meals.(However, I must admit to being an airfare junkie...I check every day for the best deals. ) You certainly made a great discovery in the IM Malerwinkel! It was homey, the breakfast was nice and the walk to downtown Bacharach was beautiful along a little stream. I can't believe how beautiful it was in the fall. There seemed to only be a few other families there this time of year. Great for parking!!

Posted by
49 posts

Oops. I forgot to tell you that was for 9 nights!

Posted by
293 posts

Wow, Jody! You have inspired me! 3 people + airfare + hotels + CAR = $< 1000!!! (Me bowing...) R E S P E C T !

Posted by
1420 posts

It is amazing that you can stay in such a quaint inn ( Im Malerwinkel ) in a quaint tourist town for a reasonable price.

i cringe when I read of people who think they are spending 200 Euro per night and being thrifty.

If I didn't have a place to stay run by my favorite landlady, I would certainly pick Im Malerwinkel for its superb location.

Posted by
413 posts

Jodi, Wow!! We just returned from Germany last month. It was our first time and seriously the trip of a lifetime.

Can you please break down the cost of your trip? Car.. hotels.. gas.. etc. Were there other things that you did, that weren't included in your $896 per person?

We were gone 18 days and spent 5K for EVERYTHING. Airfare, hotels, car, gas, train tickets, food, entertainment, admissions, etc. This was for 2 of us.

HOW did you do it?????

Posted by
6115 posts

I'm not questioning the reality of that $$ amount, but I also would like to see the breakdown.

Posted by
2670 posts

Hi Jody,

I’d be interested in how you were able to travel for 9nights under $900 including airfare, overnight stays, food, car, gas, admissions, etc. If I can learn how to do that, I’ll travel to Germany and Austria every year.

Paul

Posted by
413 posts

@Paul....
Same here! I'd go every year if I knew the secret!

Posted by
176 posts

Hi Jody! I'm considering a trip to Germany possibly next year, either in the spring or fall. I, too, am a budget traveler (although I admit, I'm retired from a major airline so my flight costs, as long as I fly on that carrier, are next to nothing). My husband doesn't like to to travel very often, so I usually go on trips with my two friends. My question for you is this: did you stay in triple-bedded rooms or have individual rooms? Thanks!

Posted by
49 posts

Oh Man, you guys. You make me feel really great! We have a little bit of a contest with our trips, so telling you is very rewarding to me! There are three of us, so our costs were divided by three.
Airfare 466.76 pp 1400.28 for 3.
Hotels 948.70.
car rental 188.80.
gas 151.04 .

Total is 2688.82 / 3 = 896.27
I DO have a correction, though. It is only 8 nights hotel. First night was overnight flight.
Hope this helps you! We can all travel! No hotels were luxury....car rental was through Costco.

Posted by
49 posts

To Judy: this amount only included breakfast. Other food and admissions are not included.
To slws2137 : We did share a triple room. My travel partners are married. Our rooms were usually two twins pushed together and a single bed. Outside Rothenburg, our quaint hotel gave us a double bed and a single in an adjoining room. Some of our hotels were very modest, but all were very clean and had AMAZING bathrooms. All of them!
Being single and traveling with a couple certainly wouldn't work for everyone, but my friends are the BEST!

Posted by
6115 posts

So, did you not include meals and sightseeing visits?

Posted by
6248 posts

How did you get such a great airfare all the way from Los Angeles?

Posted by
49 posts

Nancy - No. This amount only included our airfare, hotel, car and gas. We had great buffet breakfasts and usually only had another meal for the day. This is pretty individual. Our meals usually cost about 10.00 EU each. The KD cruise I think was about 35.00 EU. We took a train back to Bacharach from Boppard and I think it may have been about 8-10 EU from the machine at the train station.
Nothing we did was luxury, although my friend tasted many kinds of beer and we usually had wine with our meal.

Posted by
49 posts

Agnes: I am an airfare junkie. I check airfares every day....it only takes a few minutes and we have found some great deals. We usually build a trip around the airfare.

Posted by
2597 posts

LA is probably the best west coast city for European airfares. A lot of people on this forum have been alerted to some pretty drastic fares. Sometimes they last for only a few hours. We've flown to Europe from LAX the last few years for similar fares, $446-$700.

It helps when people post a great find. Many people on this forum check sites such as matrix.itasoftware.com or put fare alerts on several sites.

Posted by
49 posts

I really agree with Mona. It is a big advantage to live near a big international airport like Los Angeles. (the traffic around the big international airport is just terrible.....so there is a bit of a trade-off.)

Posted by
6248 posts

I'm going to guess the airline was Norwegian Air or Condor Air? I agree that LA is a good market for flights - huge population base and lots of competition among airlines.

Posted by
2597 posts

Agnes you never know. For the last two years ago it has been Air France/Delta. We've never flown one of the budget airlines to Europe but maybe they are helping to keep airfares of the legacy airlines on their toes.

Posted by
49 posts

The airline we used was British Airways who booked our return on American Airlines. They must be part of the same group. We could have taken a checked bag!!!! I don't know if I can list the sites I use, but I check airfarewatchdog every day and compare prices on Momondo. We've used Norwegian several times, though, and have been very pleased with their sales. I have a trip planned in February to Paris for 360.00 rt LAX to CDG. And one time, since I got that ticket, I saw the same trip for 349.00. When I can buy a rt ticket to a European destination for less than a domestic one, I'm going to Europe!! And Rick Steves has a guidebook for most of the places I would like to visit!!

Posted by
6544 posts

Congratulations on finding the real bargains. Norwegian Air Shuttle is expanding as fast as Boeing gets them more 787's, and they're flying full. They're a thorn in the side of all of the big legacy air carriers, and their coming into the North American-European routes is all that's kept the industry honest.

Norwegian's now going to be going to Chicago--a very good thing. We need more budget flights to the middle of the U.S., but politics get in the way. We have to fly them out of Orlando or Ft. Lauderdale. You can also fly out of Boston cheap, and connecting flights into there can be inexpensive. Too bad the Boston airport hotel rooms required on the return leg are deadly expensive.
When traveling Germany or Austria, we like to use Bavaria Ben's website for information. He has all the great Bacharach B&Bs covered too.

Posted by
17742 posts

The KD cruise I think was about 35.00 EU. We took a train back to
Bacharach from Boppard and I think it may have been about 8-10 EU

Assuming you took the KD cruise from Bacharach to Boppard, the fare would have been 20€/P. There is a 20% discount if you show them a Bahn train ticket that got you there, but that doesn't seem likely in your case. Or, there is a 30% discount for seniors, but it doesn't sound like any of you were seniors.

The Bahn fare from Boppard to Bacharach is 6,60€/P.

It doesn't sound like you included any of those expenses in the $896 since they aren't air fare, car rental, gas, or accommodations.

Posted by
49 posts

Lee - Thank you for that clarification! I AM a senior! And the gentleman in the KD cruise booth took one look at me and said I could have a discount!!! Time for a new hairdo!!
Seriously, the amount I posted for our trip did NOT include incidentals. It was only airfare, hotel, rental car and the gas we used. The other amounts could change depending on a person's interests. Our food budget was kindof small...and we visited the grocery store a couple of times. We intentionally chose hotels with breakfast. My criteria was free breakfast, free WiFi, and free parking. We didn't always get free parking, and the hotels I chose weren't always the most convenient. We couldn't have done it without a car. It was a
phenomenal experiences for a small price. That part is possible for anyone. If you are a budget traveler, I wish you the best price for your next trip!!

Posted by
17742 posts

It just seems that you have a strange way of reporting the expenses of your trip - only air fare, transportation, and accommodations. And, in dollars.

People on this site often ask about how much their trip is going to cost them, and they usually mean including food and entrances. My rule of thumb is:
1. I exclude the cost of airfare, as it varies so much by time of year, and from where you are flying. It would probably be cheaper to fly from one of the NYC airports in March than from, say, San Francisco, in June, and when people are looking at what a trip might cost, the probably already have paid for their flights.

My next to last trip was using miles. That would certainly make the overall expenses misleading it I included air fare. I look at the cost of the trip on the ground - from the time my flight lands until I take off for home.

I probably spend a little more on air fare than some people because I insist on flying Lufthansa. In the past I've flown to Germany on United, USAir (now part of United), Northwest (now part of Delta), and Delta, and none of those airlines comes close to Lufthansa when it comes to service. Plus there are non-stop flights from Denver to Germany on Lufthansa, and, to me, the lack of a connection is worth the extra price.

  1. I report the cost of the trip in euro. In the 17 recent years I have been going to Germany, I have found most costs (except for beer) to be pretty consistent. There hasn't been a lot of inflation. When I made my first trip to Germany in 2000, the "euro" was worth 89¢; when I went 10 years later, it was $1.40 (60% higher), so may expenses, in dollars, were way higher. Did I just get dumber as to how to save money? This trip the euro was $1.18, so my expenses went down. Did I get smarter?

I suspect in your case, you expressed the cost in $US since you charged most things with a credit card, and the bill comes to you in $US.

I took the total expense you gave us ($2688) and subtracted what you said you spent for airfare ($1400) to get $1288 for transportation and accommodations for the three of you for 8 nights. At an exchange rate of 1.18 $/€, that's just under 1100€.

To that we add the cost of the KD boat cruise (minus your discount), the tour of Neuschwanstein, and the night watchman's tour, a total of $161.42 (136,80€). Did you also take a guided tour of Dachau (3,--€/P) or the BMW Museum (13,--€/P)? You thought meals were 10€/pers, which is consistent with my estimate (which has been true, on average, over 11 trips) of 20€/day for meals, beverages, and tips. For 24 people-days, that's 480€ or $566.40. So to the $1288, add about $730, for $2018, which is $84 (73€) per person day, which seem about right.

Posted by
2597 posts

And I'm one of those people who rarely factor food into the cost of my trip to Europe since I would be spending a similar amount of money at home for eating out and groceries.

Airfare cost, however, I do factor in to my budget process because it is typically one of my largest expenses. I usually plan for >$1,000 from the west coast and if it is less, or significantly less, like the past 2-3 years I'm very thankful.

Posted by
49 posts

Hi Lee. You are right. I converted all the expenses incurred in Germany to dollars so that I thought I would be accurate. I only included my actual travel expenses....as I have said, did not include incidentals. Yes, if I used points, my actual amounts would have been less. If I flew out of New York, my airfare would have been less, it seems to me they have many sales. I didn't plan to mislead anyone. Meals and museum entrances and that KD cruise are all individual choices. In order to compare apples to apples I only listed the absolutes. I'm not the best bookkeeper. I only know the actual price of those items because three people agreed to share expenses and we had to keep records for that reason. Unfortunately......I lost money and credit cards at the airport on the way there. I had to borrow money from my travel partners to pay for everything. It certainly kept my spending in line......but was pretty inconvenient. So.....this price is what we ultimately paid, adjusted for the Euro at 1.18.

Posted by
12139 posts

Admittedly, LAX is on the whole better than SFO and OAK as a departure point, even though some pretty good deals can be had going out of OAK, as I discovered for Oct to London, which together with the flight and B&B en suite at Kings Cross would be cheaper per night than comparably going to/staying in NY Given a choice I would pick LAX too.

Posted by
6115 posts

You're lucky to live in an area with good flight prices to Europe, it really helps keep the cost of trips down. Unfortunately, I don't have that luxury. If I want a relatively short flight with only one stop, it usually runs between $1000-1500 (this is during high season when I usually travel). But, even with that, when I add airfare, hotels, and transportation (no meals or admissions) my trips usually run between $120-140/day. That sounds like a lot compared to your approx. $100/day but I travel solo and I can't split hotel or rental car costs with 2 other people, so I think I actually do pretty good, considering. I know there are plenty of people on the RS forum that travel even more frugally than I do and I commend them. Thanks for sharing your experience with a wonderful budget trip.

Posted by
49 posts

Hi Nancy. Thanks for your kind remarks. We are able to travel in the off-season. Makes a huge difference. If you saw a killer airfare deal, could you fly to lax from Portland? And I commend your bravery. I think traveling alone is a little difficult. If you can be okay by yourself and still motivate yourself to participate in new experiences, I think you are amazing. Happy travels to you!

Posted by
17742 posts

Meals and museum entrances and that KD cruise are all individual choices.

As are air fare, accommodations, and travel inside Europe. Yeah.

  1. You got a good fare out of Southern California. I don't live in that market, so there is no way to compare what I spend on airfare with what you spent. Because I prefer Lufthansa and not having to change planes in the east, I spent over twice per person what you spent, but it was an individual choice. Many times I have seen a much lower fare with times and connections not given, but I don't want to leave Denver at 6 AM and have an 18 hour layover in Spain. So I choose to spend more on airfare. That was my choice, so let's not include flight expenses in our total.

  2. No one said you had to spend money on accommodations in Europe. You could have slept in railroad stations. Or you could have camped or stayed in hostels. Other people stay in big name, chain hotels and spend a lot more money than we do. That, too, is an individual choice. So lets not include accommodations in our total.

  3. You chose to use a car. That's not usually the least expensive option. Here, because you
    changed venues almost every other day, with mostly only one full day per venue, your travel expenses
    were almost the same as they would have be using public transportation. But the method of travel is an individual choice. So lets not include accommodations in our total, either.

So, if we eliminate flight expenses, accommodations, and in-Europe travel for also being individual choices, what's left to compare? Nothing.

Posted by
855 posts

$1000 for airfare, lodging and car rental for 8 nights is pretty darn good! For reference I just came back from a 7 day trip to Oktoberfest last month and all told each person spend on average $2200-2500 total (airfare, lodging in double rooms, local transportation, food/drink/museums).

I've noticed flights have been very cheap to Germany this fall and it looks like you also benefited form that. For example on Condor airlines we have several people fly form Austin to Munich and PDX to Munich for less than $600 round trip. This pricing pressure kept United and Lufthansa flights down as well (but not as low as Condor).

Congrats on using your planning skills to make a value packed trip!

DJ

Posted by
49 posts

Thanks, DJ. It was so beautiful, wasn't it? I'm sure things cost us less because it was after Octoberfest. It must have been a fun celebration to take part in!! I would love to go back. Maybe someday!!!

Posted by
12139 posts

In Munich you can bet prices will go down after an event (Oktoberfest ) and after a Messe (trade fair). In June it was shown to me at check-out that the following Monday the price for a single I paid for at the Pension would be 10 Euro lower than the nights I stayed there since those days coincided with a Messe taking place in Munich. I had told the proprietor that I noticed the price higher by 10 Euro than normal, which is 47 Euro.

Posted by
855 posts

Yep, Motel One was triple what I normally pay and beer/food on the fest grounds were double in price (11€ for one Maß! Plus I drank double the normal volume as well). If it had not been Oktoberfest my guess is the trip would come in around $1500.

DJ

Posted by
17742 posts

I would never go to Munich for Oktoberfest. I was there once. I arrived in the morning at MUC, took the S-Bahn to the Hbf, walked down to Marienwiese, looked around, went back to the Hbf and went on to Oberammergau. I used to belong to a German club that had Oktoberfest celebrations and I've been to the Hofbräuhaus. Pretty much the same thing. Go to Munich at any time and spend time at the Hofbräuhaus. It will cost you a lot less.

By the way, we were just in Bavaria for three weeks (20 nights) in October (but not in Munich or at Oktoberfest). Our total expenses airfare, transportation in Germany, lodging, meals, admissions and miscellaneous, everything, came to less than $2500 per person, for three weeks. That's about $800 per person per week.

Posted by
2063 posts

Hi, Jody. Thanks so much for sharing your trip to Germany. I greatly enjoyed reading about your experiences... and the enthusiasm of your review! Count me as one who is impressed by your budget travel skills. Thanks for sharing the breakdown of costs for your trip, too.

My question is what you thought about Neuschwanstein. A lot of people on the forum think its over-rated. I must admit I loved it, with the high-point for me being standing on Marienbrücke (Mary's bridge), looking down on the palace.

Posted by
12139 posts

Bravo! If flying out of LAX to Frankfurt or London is markedly cheaper than out of OAK, I'll make that LAX connection. So far, OAK is showing the lowest flights in terms of itinerary planning for next summer.

Posted by
49 posts

Hi Dave. I really enjoyed Neuschwanstein Castle. I took the most beautiful picture from Mary's Bridge, (although I don't think there are any bad pictures...) I'm glad we visited there, and would do it again! We also visited Burg Eltz, near Koblenz. It is beautiful, and untouched, and owned by the same family for 33 generations. Amazing. Still have some afterglow from a wonderful trip!

Posted by
2063 posts

Thanks for the response, Jody. I'm working on a one-week Rhine trip next fall for Rhein in Flammen at St. Goar/St. Goarshausen. Burg Eltz is on the list of places to visit! i'm looking forward to it!

Posted by
49 posts

Hi Dave. You are going to have such a wonderful trip. The fall colors (and I'm not sure we there during the most colorful time) are honestly breathtaking. St Goar is quaint and inviting. We took a little shuttle (2 EU) from the parking lot at Burg Eltz. The castle is not visible from the parking area. When the shuttle rounded the curve and the castle became visible, there was a soft, communal gasp. I still am amazed at the beauty.

Posted by
122 posts

Hi Jody!

First off - no criticism from me - only praise! Nice job planning and executing a great vacation. Thanks for sharing your vacation details. It’s always interesting to see what and how other people travel. As long as you loved your trip that’s all that matters and is sure sounded like it was a good one.

Happy travels!
Amy