Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Your ticket to Europe can be expensive. If your schedule permits, fall and spring airfares are less expensive. We tend to go during these off-peak times for the added advantages of cooler temperatures and smaller crowds.
When considering a trip to Europe, we start early. We use Kayak.com’s email “Price Alerts” to keep tabs on the latest prices. For example, if we are considering a trip in late September or early October, we start looking for tickets in early summer. Kayak allows you to receive daily email alerts for several cities at the same time. We tend to fly into Munich, Germany but we get alerts for Frankfurt just in case there is a significant price difference. We receive daily notification because sometimes a low fare is only good for a few days.
We don't use trains. If you want to investigate train travel, consider using Eurail passes. We refer you to the Rough Guide's First-Time Europe or Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door for excellent information on train travel within Europe.
We do know that many farms are near villages that have excellent train connections and you can usually arrange for the farmer to pick you up at the station. Many areas such as the Black Forest provide free or discounted bus and train travel with the price of the room or for a flat fee that includes admission to essential sights in the area. Here is the information about the Black Forest Card.
We always rent cars because they offer the mobility that we need to travel country roads and stay in small villages. We can usually get a reasonable price for a small car. Again, see First-Time Europe or Rick Steves for advice on rental car agencies. We have had great luck with AutoEurope. We use our credit card to cover the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). If you use your credit card, be sure to call your credit card company before you leave.
1) Ask them how much do they cover if the car is a complete loss. It should be at least $50,000.
2) Ask them how many days your card covers the car. We go for three weeks, so we need 30 days.
3) Ask them to send you a “coverage letter” to take with you to Europe.
On one trip, I failed to get a coverage letter and got stung paying more than double the price of the car for the company’s insurance.
Additionally, diesel gasoline is cheaper than regular in Europe and the diesel cars are fantastic. Also, remember that most rental cars are stick shift. You will pay more for an automatic transmission.
When driving to your favorite country road village, you will need a good map or atlas. We recommend regional maps by Michelin that are 1:300,000 scale. You could have problems with larger scale maps because they don’t show the smaller back roads you may want to travel. You will pay extra for a rental car with GPS. Take your own or use your phone.