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German Rail Pass Info for Travel til May 31, 2013

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Hi - I posted some of this in the Switzerland forum. I'm posting here for any travelers who will be traveling to Switzerland and/or Germany anytime between now and May 31, 2013.

SWISS PASS
The only special right now is for 1st class travel, 4 Day Swiss Pass + 1 extra day free. Travel from February 1 to April 30, 2013 and November 1 to December 31, 2013. LAST year, they offered an amazing buy 1/get 1 free Swiss Pass in the spring. But this is not currently being offered. Byron is only notified of new promotions 24 hours in advance, so he doesn't know if this deal will be offered again.

Because shipping of the pass only takes 2-3 business days, I can safely wait to purchase the Swiss Pass until a couple weeks out from our departure date, giving me time to see if SBB makes another tremendous buy 1/get 1 free deal. If not, our party of 5 (myself, husband, son 13, son 11, and my 74-year old father) will just purchase the 4-day Swiss Pass. This pass covers travel all train travel from the Swiss border. For our train ride from Milan, the Swiss Pass will kick in at the Swiss border and the remainder of that travel leg will be included in our Swiss Pass.

If a super special promotion is offered, Byron recommended purchasing the special promotional Swiss Passes quickly, as they often stop selling them ahead of the advertised "buy until this date" time. They only have so many, and if those tickets at that rate are all sold out, the promotion is over. Byron is not informed of how many tickets they have at that rate, so it's better not to dilly-dally if it's a good deal.

German Pass
Right now there's a special promotion for 5 or 6 day German Passes. It's 20% off. Must be purchased by March 29 for travel until May 31, 2013. We examined point-to-point options, but ultimately concluded that it was cheaper and more flexible (but cheaper was the real attraction here) to purchase the 5-day German pass for us. While we'll only be in Germany for 4 days, we want to do a lot of little train trips on days 2 and 3, plus we'll have a long ride in from Basel, Switzerland to Cologne (at estimated cost of around $161 per person).

The current promotion is 20% off. However, if you are two people traveling together, that constitutes a twin pass, giving you even more savings (I don't recall the % savings). Because we are 5 people travelling, I purchased two twin-passes of the 5-day promotional German Pass. Each of those passes (good for 2 people each) cost $358 2nd class. My 11 yr. old has a 1/2 price adult pass (that includes 20% promo). It was cheaper for my 13 yr. old to be on the adult twin pass than to buy an individual youth pass. The total price for all 5 people: $837. This equates to $167.40 per person. Divided by four days, it's $41.85 per day per person. If we were staying in Germany for 5 days, it would be $33.48 per day. Amazing! This gives us total flexibility to take whatever train we want, at anytime, with no reservations required. It was a no-brainer. Plus, the KD Rhine River boats are included, so we can take the boat down the Rhine River and then the train back to Cologne (where we're staying).

Byron did mention that we may want to make a reservation for a long-leg of our journey (e.g. from Basel, Switzerland to Cologne) if we want to sit together. This costs extra. But this isn't necessary. We won't be kicked off the train, although we may need to hunt around for a free seat or, worse case, stand.

Whew. Hope this is helpful. I repeat: Byron is amazing and well worth the phone call. Even though you pay slightly more by purchasing your tickets through their agency (like, $5 more per ticket), the time he spent with me and detail of info. makes it a bargain.

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