A bit about my family for my Fodor friends: My wife Deille and I have been married for 20 years. We met while I was stationed in Germany in the early 90s. Her family is still all in Germany and every other year we go back to visit them. We also have two daughters, Elisabeth who is 6 and Hannah who is 3. I started doing travelogues to share with family and friends about 10 years ago and eventually started posting them to Fodors. Hopefully you enjoy.
It is only a few more days before we depart on our annual family vacation and I thought I would provide you with a rundown of our plans and destinations for this trip.
This year’s vacation will feature two new destinations for me. The first stop will be in Iceland which has been on our bucket list for some time but only through coincidence did it make it onto our itinerary for this trip. The second area is Friesland, which is the region in the northern part of Germany bordering the North Sea. This is where Deille and her family spent their vacations for years when she was a child. She has always wanted to show me the area and now after twenty years of marriage we are finally getting there. In the past I have been resistant to the idea of going to this part of Germany. Having a huge interest in medieval history this area has always been far down the priority list for me, as it is not known for its castles or other medieval sites. Making my wife happy, however, is high on the priority list and she again made it very clear on our last trip that she wanted to share this area with the girls and I.
Getting to the point where we could actually leave on this vacation has taken many months of planning and preparation. When we started down the path of planning this trip we knew that we were going to spend most of the time in Friesland and that we could not leave until the start of Elisabeth’s summer break. It was this second point that made the planning of this trip such a challenge. Normally we have made the journey to Germany in the shoulder season (during the spring or fall), but this year we would be travelling in the high season. This meant that ticket prices would be much higher than I was accustomed to paying, even before high fuel prices came into the equation. My initial research into ticket prices towards the end of last year was very sobering. I knew that if I waited there was a chance that there might be some specials in February or March, but there was also the chance that ticket prices would also just continue to climb.
I initially looked into our normal favorites, British Airways and Lufthansa, but the prices were just too over the top to be considered. They were starting at close to $1500 per ticket. I have driven many cars that have cost significantly less than that over the course of my life, and while I was often taking my life into my own hands every time I got behind the wheel, I at least had decent leg room. I looked briefly at some of the U.S. based airlines including U.S. Airway, Delta and United (I did not tell my wife that I looked at United… but explaining why would increase the length of this already long travelogue considerably) but the prices were not much better unless we were willing to change planes more than twice with long layovers.
I decided to get creative and so I started looking at flights leaving from other cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, etc. It was in this way that I discovered that Icelandair was starting service out of Denver. To celebrate this they had some very attractive fares which, even after adding the flights between Phoenix and Denver, saved us a significant amount of money. The best part was that Icelandair has a policy of allowing stopovers in Iceland with no additional ticket costs. So we were able to plan a three night stay and see a bit of Reykjavik and the southwestern part of Iceland before continuing onto Amsterdam. From Amsterdam we will then make the three hour drive to our vacation house in Friesland. This is better than the 5 hours it would take us to drive from Frankfurt, so this turned out pretty good all around. Since I purchased the tickets I have not looked at prices again, as I do not want to know what they have done and if I made the correct choice to purchase when I did. This is a very good tip that I picked up off of one of the travel forums I frequent.
After arranging the flights we set about finding a vacation home to rent for the duration of our stay in Germany. We decided to get a large 4 bedroom house where Deille’s parents and sister can also stay while they are with us. It is very convenient to have her mother over in Germany to arrange deposits and such. We will be staying in a little town called Esens and we will be less than 5 km from the coast. We are not sure what every day will entail (hopefully naps will be common) but we plan to visit a few of the islands offshore, tour the cities of Emden, Oldenburg and perhaps Bremen, and I have plans to join a friend for a daytrip to Wolfsburg and a tour through the Volkswagen plant.
In addition to the planning we have done for Germany we have also prepared for our three nights in Iceland. We have reserved a family room at the “Bed & Breakfast Keflavik Airport” which I guess is really more of a hotel by U.S. standards than a Bed and Breakfast. They will provide transport to and from the airport and have also arranged to have a rental car waiting for us at the hotel. While in Iceland we plan to do a self-driven Golden Circle tour and spend a day doing museums in Reykavik. We are still in the air about visiting the Blue Lagoon as Deille has no interest in getting in the water. I guess this will end up being a game time decision, but then again when you are travelling with a six and a three year old all plans are always subject to change.
More to follow...
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