How do you research a trip to Germany?

Nov 25th, 2010, 08:37 AM
  #1  
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How do you research a trip to Germany?

I was stationed in Germany twice and from there visited a number of other European countries. I followed a given pattern to travel-research a new place or country which I have since expanded to include the internet. It is as follows:

First, I go to maps at the front of the Michelin Green Guide, a nice short-hand for things to see, grouped geographically. The descriptions in the Green Guide are fairly comprehensive, focusing on sights rather than hotel recommendations. From Michelin, I make a tentative itinerary on a computer spread sheet (formerly was an accounting pad).

Next, I look at town websites (Regensburg.de for example) and search for postings on various travel boards to help confirm and expand my itinerary. I look at ADAC "StrassenAtlas" for places worth seeing. Eyewitness guides are handy for information on some lesser know places.

Third, I open two websites: Hotel Reservation Service and Die Bahn. I am cheap. I need to know that there are rooms and train tickets that fit my budget. For my tastes, there are many great places in Germany to visit. I do not need to drop a bundle on any one place. There are no "must sees" for me. I check other guides like Rick Steves to find hotels in my price range and return to the town's website if it has a list of hotels and inns. Google Earth serves as another fascinating source for hotels and their locations.

Doing an itinerary is almost like traveling itself. I make multiple itineraries for any given trip, some with different time frames. For all that, I still get surprised when I make the trip; otherwise, I would probably give up travel.

Some friends of my wife, just buy the most recent copy of the Rick Steve's Guide and go where he tells them. They are happy with the results, which is all that counts. For me, that is like relying on GPS to tell you where to go w/o a map.

Does anyone have a radically different method of planning a trip? Suggested refinements to my plan of attack?

Regards, Gary
Gary_Mc is offline  
Nov 25th, 2010, 09:20 AM
  #2  
 
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I am always looking for those small towns that most Americans never visit. When I read posts on Fodor's that mention a small town that I've never heard of, I will research it and if it looks interesting, I will add it to my "list."

I have subscribed to German Life for a few years, and they often have articles on towns that I find interesting. This is how I first found out about Noerdlingen years ago.

I then start looking through my numerous guide books to see if any of these small towns are mentioned or others that look promising. I'm not a big Rick Steves fan as I think he is too limited in what he covers.

I also go to the town's own website and try to muddle thru the German if it isn't also in English. Then I will go to Google maps and see how I can put together an itinerary around these places. Sometimes there will be several in a geographical area that sound promising such as Sommerhausen, Markbreit and Iphofen and I will try to narrow it down based on what hotels I can find that fit our requirements.

Since in the past we have included Austria and/or Switzerland in these trips, I'll see what itinerary works best with visits to one of those places.

We always rent a car. For the two of us on a 3 week trip, we think it makes the most sense and we like the flexibility it gives us. We go through Gemut.com or Autoeurope and usually end up paying less than $250 per week for a compact car.

It's a process that can come together quickly or it may take me weeks to refine it. But I enjoy planning the trip almost as much as taking it.

Next year, we are doing something different. We are concentrating on Austria with a side trip to Krakow. Already have our tickets. I know I will miss Germany.
bettyk is offline  
Nov 25th, 2010, 09:39 AM
  #3  
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Betty, You mentioned Marktbreit. By coincidence, we are considering a day trip to Ochsenfurt, Marktbreit or both in about a week. Did you visit Ochsenfurt? Any comments on these villages?

Thanks, Gary
Gary_Mc is offline  
Nov 25th, 2010, 09:53 AM
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Sequeing into generic (not just Germany) trip planning techniques...

Nowadays I keep ongoing sets of notes in a (computer) folder named Speculations. For example, I knew I wanted to go to Sicily, so for a couple years I copied interesting posts or the names of places of interest into a text file on Sicily. When we actually decided to go to Sicily, I read a lot of guidebooks from the public library. I too rely a lot on the green Michelin guides -- though I don't find them infallible. This reading contributed more info to the text file.

When it came time to plan the itinerary, I made a personal map on Google, so I could see the relationships of the different towns and plot the driving times. The map helped me prune the itinerary to fit our alloted time.

I have a lot of places I want to go, so keep a lot of text files going -- for Greece, Turkey, England, Slovenia....

I use the German railway site for all Europe. And TripAdvisor for hotels. But I contact the hotels individually. We seem to get better rooms that way.
Mimar is offline  
Nov 25th, 2010, 12:04 PM
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Actually, Gary, we ended up in Iphofen. Lovely little place with one of the prettiest medievel gates (Rodelseer Tor) I have ever seen.

http://travel.webshots.com/photo/135...11574650EfkKBF

We never did get to Ochsenfurt or Markbreit though but we did a day trip to Dettelbach and Karlstadt am Main, both of which we enjoyed very much.
bettyk is offline  
Nov 25th, 2010, 01:15 PM
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I have had good luck asking my non-American friends for suggestions. They tend to know of lesser-known (but equally charming/scenic/interesting) places than those that typically attract Americans. Also people married to Germans who live or have lived in Germany. (I don't usually ask my German friends, because they have often seen less of their own country than I have. Not because they don't like to travel, but because they usually travel outside of Germany.)

Of course not everyone has non-American friends or friends married to Germans. In that case, I do admit to relying on guidebooks (seriously, Fodor's has some truly excellent suggestions, for Germany at least - especially their "off the beaten track" ideas, which do actually tend to be off the beaten track - that's how I found Burg Hohenzollern, one of my favorite castles) and websites like Trip Advisor. Since we frequently travel for scenery and scenic drives, it is not too hard to find good, accurate recommendations. Hotels and restaurants are more difficult, but I've never gone wrong with a place that has received top marks on Trip Advisor.

Once I have a good idea about where I want to go, I start looking at the local websites, and also do a Google image search so I can get some good visuals from a broad range of perspectives.

The web has really transformed my travel planning and taken out a lot of the guesswork. A miraculous invention!

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
hausfrau is offline  
Nov 26th, 2010, 07:54 PM
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I find it helpful to click on the 'links' button that many b&b/bauernhof/gasthauses may have on their websites. This often leads to various tourist organizations that highlight places or attractions that I have never heard of.
bigtyke is offline  
Dec 9th, 2010, 12:25 PM
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I make a list of places I definitely want to go, then I do a search on forums and google to find places in the surrounding area that look interesting as well. When I come across a place I've never heard of, I google image it, and see what comes up. Then I google map it to see if it fits into my itinerary. I use eurotrip (great resource) to map out my itinerary wishlist and then whittle it down to what is actually realistic. Also, I research how I'm actually going to get place to place. Sometimes you'll have to make connections cool places that you might want to spend some time at.
karli822 is offline  
Dec 9th, 2010, 12:50 PM
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I am cheap. I need to know that there are rooms and train tickets that fit my budget.>

Just in case you are traveling by train in Germany within the next six months - there is a special on a German Railpass where you buy a 3-day pass but get two extra days free - 5 days for the price of 3 - but you would have to start the pass by sometime in May - and buy it before sometime in December - not sure of exact date but saw the promo. In any case for researching German trains try not only bahn.de but www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com - all have tons of great info - the latter two lots of itinerary suggestions.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 9th, 2010, 01:07 PM
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The first thing you need to buy on Amazon is :
"Knaurs Kulturführer Deutschland", 1300 pages written by Germans for Germans in German.
Unfortunatly the cover shows a picture of Neuschwanstein.

Maybe there's an English edition too??
logos999 is offline  
Dec 9th, 2010, 02:25 PM
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We ask ourselves five basic questions:

1. What do we want to do (outdoor activities in the country, enjoying a city's cultural offerings, spending time with our relatives, exploring a new area)?
2. When do we want to travel?
3. How much time do we have?
4. What's our budget?
5. Can we do this trip with public transportation?

After answering those questions, the destination more or less reveals itself. Whether other Americans go there or whether it's been written up in guidebooks like Rick Steves is not a factor we bother with. We've been equally happy with our travels to Munich (included in Rick Steves) and Muensterland (not included), Baden-Baden (included) and Detmold (not), Dresden (included) and Sylt (not), the Moselle (included) and Hattingen (not). And so on.
FoFoBT is offline  

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