Review: Librileo Book Boxes for Kids.. auf Deutsch!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Review: Librileo Book Boxes for Kids.. auf Deutsch!I know this might sound a bit strange, but the main reason I’ve worked so hard the past few months to really get my German skills up to usable levels is that we’re leaving Deutschland by the end of the year.

Wait, what?!

Why bother if we’re not going to live here long term? Well, for starters, it’s easiest to learn a language in a country where it’s spoken all the time. And, I’m determined to not sit by and watch my boys’ bilingual skills fade away. Since we can’t be certain we’ll end up in a city with a German school, the responsibility of keeping up with the language falls to me. So, you can bet I am all ears when it comes to getting tips on how to keep up the German in America… or wherever we end up.

Yes, we can (and will) look for other German-speakers to befriend, but it’s important to not stop there. In order to become truly fluent, one must also know how to read and write. Obviously, having German books on hand is important. But, what books? How does one choose? And how do I know what level of books my boys should be reading?

EnterLibrileo.

A startup company out of Berlin and the brainchild of Julius Bertram, Librileo is a genius idea for busy parents who value frequent and fresh reading material for their children.

The child receives a monthly box of anywhere from 1 to 3 books appropriate for their age range and according to that month’s theme. Past themes have included friendship, courage, and music (see examples here). Each box is reviewed in advance by a test family and a teacher before being sent to subscribers.Thrifty Travel Mama | Review: Librileo Book Boxes for Kids.. auf Deutsch!

I was thrilled to be contacted by Librileo and offered a box for review purposes. I only review products here on Thrifty Travel Mama that I would actually use myself and this service definitely fits the bill.

My oldest son is following in his mama’s footsteps and absolutely loves to get mail. He could barely contain his excitement when I told him the Librileo box was for him. July’s theme is science (Wissenschaft), and we opened up the box to find a gigantic book about technology and the environment as well as a small booklet with a cute story about water conservation.Thrifty Travel Mama | Review: Librileo Book Boxes for Kids.. auf Deutsch!

Librileo offers book boxes for a variety of age ranges so that elementary-aged children don’t receive board books and toddlers aren’t given chapter books to chew on. Currently, there are six different age groups: 0-1, 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-6, and 6-8. Have an older child? Drop them a line here. The company is considering expanding this fall to include boxes suitable for children up to age 10.

Parents can order Librileo boxes for their children either on a one-time basis to try out the service, a recurring monthly basis, or as a set three-month subscription. Shipping is included in the price which makes the boxes a fantastic deal.Thrifty Travel Mama | Review: Librileo Book Boxes for Kids.. auf Deutsch!

The cost to buy the books yourself is about the same as going through Librileo. However, Librileo takes the guesswork out of what books to buy and if they’re age-appropriate, as well as adding a touch of fun by following a monthly theme. And, they have their own children’s book writer and in-house graphic designer who produce an extra story for the book boxes that aligns with the theme of the month. Bonus!Thrifty Travel Mama | Review: Librileo Book Boxes for Kids.. auf Deutsch!

But, what if you don’t live in Germany? We’re moving soon, and we won’t be able to take advantage of the libraries or loan books from friends here anymore. Well, Librileo has just expanded their service to include international shipping! The international boxes include the 7 euro shipping charge, which is absolutely reasonable.Thrifty Travel Mama | Review: Librileo Book Boxes for Kids.. auf Deutsch!

To read all the frequently asked questions regarding Librileo, click here. And when you’re ready to order, this link will get you where you need to go.

Once we have finalized the location of our new home, Librileo will be on our list of great ways to keep up with German culture and language outside of Deutschland. Viel spaß!

Expat and bilingual families, what are some of the ways you keep up with foreign languages at home? Signature Thrifty Travel MamaDisclosure: I received a Librileo book box for review purposes. I was not paid to write this review, nor do I receive anything if you subscribe. You can read my current review policy here.

Do Vegas Up Family-Style: 5 Kid-Friendly Activities

My memories of visiting Las Vegas as a child are of endless subdivisions and eternal buffets.  The Strip then wasn’t what it is today, and the best thing we found to do was play arcade games inside Circus Circus. 

But, boy things have changed!  As today’s guest writer Kendra Thornton points out, Las Vegas may surprise you as a family-friendly (and budget!) destination. 

Do Vegas Up Family-Style

Believe it or not, Las Vegas is one of the family-friendliest places to travel in the United States. While you may associate Vegas with the more adult-themed activities that have led to its negative reputation, it is important to know that much of this is just hype.

Las Vegas may be marketed toward those who will spend freely as they imbibe in libations; however, this can easily work toward your advantage.

Businesses frequently make it cheap to travel to and stay in Las Vegas because they know that most adults will spend big money once they hit the casinos and clubs. This makes it easy for you to utilize cheap travel packages to take your kids on less-expensive and family-friendly cultural activities that I have included on this list of my favorite Vegas hot-spots.

1. Chill at Serendipity

If you have never had frozen hot chocolate, then you are in for a treat. In the rest of the country, everyone else may be warming up to a mug of hot cocoa. However, drinking it cold Las Vegas style will be a thrill for your kids. At Serendipity 3, the fun is just beginning when you walk in and are greeted by funky décor and an exciting menu. Enjoy your frozen hot chocolate as you plan your next grand adventure.

2. Thrill at Adventuredome

Inside Circus Circus you’ll find the Adventuredome, a five-acre theme park that is sure to dazzle your kids. Here, roller coaster enthusiasts from all over the world come to find their thrills. Enjoy world-famous rides such as the world’s only indoor roller coaster with a double loop and corkscrew. Then, have fun rock climbing. Those who are less adventurous will also love the arcade.

3. Lounge on a Hoover Dam Houseboat

Even if your kids have seen it all, they still have not yet had the thrill of enjoying a stay on a houseboat. A houseboat on Lake Mead can be rented for a single night or several days. In addition to being an event to be remembered, this can also be less expensive than traditional hotel stays. On a Hoover Dam houseboat, you have lodging and entertainment covered. Then, you can take in the view while enjoying the nature-side of Las Vegas vacations.

4. Experiment with Indoor Skydiving

It may or may not be your kids’ dream to jump out of a plane. Here your kids can try it out in the safety of an indoor space. This thrill is achieved by using a wind tunnel to mimic the effects of an actual skydiving experience. As a parent, you can enjoy giving your kids a great thrill while making sure safety is a priority. As an added bonus, this is even less expensive than the real thing.

5. Experience a Venetian Winter

If you would have never thought Las Vegas could be a winter wonderland, then be prepared to be surprised. At the Venetian, the halls will be decked for the season this winter. Here, you can enjoy an ice skating rink. Then, listen as real-life carolers sing holiday melodies as they roam the halls. Every night, they serve spiced cider so you can sip and enjoy the sights while visiting with your family.

This year, experience an unbelievable vacation full of holiday surprises in the amazing city of Las Vegas. Although they may say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, your family will be too delighted with their adventures to keep them a secret. Whether you explore the Hoover Dam or dine on a divine frozen hot chocolate, every moment will be savored. By exploring the other side of Vegas, your family will always remember their time in this amazing city as one of their fondest memories.

Kendra Thornton is the former Director of Communications at Orbitz. She lives in Chicago with her 3 wonderful children and loves sharing travel stories and advice from her extensive experience traveling the world.  Follow her on Twitter here.

What other bloggers are saying about family-friendly Vegas:

Would you take your kids to Vegas?  Which one of these activities would your family enjoy the most? Signature-Marigold

German Grocery Games: Coupons & Sales

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - GroceriesIn just a few weeks, I’ll be in the US for a visit.  Yay!  In preparing for the trip, I’ve started checking my old coupon and deal websites in hopes of saving a few bucks on food and other items while we are there.  It’s kind of ridiculous the thrill couponing gives me..

I’ve written before about the lack of sales and coupons in the grocery stores here in Germany.  Unfortunately, not much has changed except food prices have gone up.  A LOT.

Sugar and flour are DOUBLE what they cost when we moved here in the fall of 2010.  You can bet the Christmas cookies felt the pinch last winter.

In an effort to draw in customers, stores like Aldi are trying to show how they have reduced prices on some things.  And by reduced, I mean about ten cents off the original price.  Whoopdedoo.

Here are a few examples from their website: aldicheap1aldicheap2But, I have noticed that coupons are starting to catch on, albeit ever so slowly.  The grocery chain Rewe recently opened a new store nearby and offered customers 10 euros off the purchase of a 50 euro Rewe gift card.  That’s 20% off anything, anytime.  We only bought two because Rewe tends to be more expensive than other stores in the area.  Still, it was something.

Even more surprising, Doc Sci brought home a coupon book from the discounter Penny.  I was totally excited that he showed up with coupons and rather impressed with what I found inside.  Here’s a look:DSC_0261 copyDSC_0266 copyDSC_0267-001 copyDSC_0269 copyDSC_0271 copyDSC_0270 copyDSC_0272 copyWhile I don’t see BOGO going mainstream in Germany, I hope that the grocery stores will decide to offer more incentives to customers in an effort to help combat the inflated price of commodities.

What great grocery deals and coupons have you found lately?Signature-Marigold

Vacation Rentals for Families Big and Small

Thrifty Travel Mama - Vacation Rentals for Families Big and SmallIt’s no secret that I am not a fan of staying in hotels while on vacation.  I may change my mind when the boys are older, but for now, we stick to vacation rentals.  Hotel rooms do not offer our family of five enough space, and – even worse – they are often more expensive than renting an entire apartment.

Want to get in on the vacation rental craze?  For your next vacation, consider a private property for your family instead of a hotel room.  Here are three sites to get you started: Airbnb.com, Homeaway.com, and Vrbo.com.

Airbnb.com

Airbnb is the new kid on the vacation rental block.  Of the three sites, this one is definitely the most diverse.  The current stats on the homepage boast properties in 35,597 cities and 192 countries.  I’ve seen all sorts of interesting spaces for rent here; beyond simple apartments, you can also find houseboats, castles, off-grid homes, cottages, tree houses, bedouin digs, and places to go glamping.

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Simply enter your desired location, dates of stay, and how many guests.  I usually include the older boys, but not the baby.  Some hosts charge for extra guests (even children), so it’s important to be honest about how many are in your party.

Perhaps the key to Airbnb’s variety is that the properties available on their site are often real people’s homes.  Sure, some are managed vacation properties, but many are just some Joe Schmoe’s pad that he wants to rent out while visiting his great Aunt Edna for two weeks at Christmas.

Some properties even state this outright – one woman posted that the property was her actual home, and that if you booked it, she would just move out for a few days.  Airbnb also lists rooms for rent (as opposed to the entire home/apartment) for the super budget-conscious.

More a community than the other two websites, Airbnb requires you to create a profile, upload a photo, and enter your phone number to contact potential hosts.  As an introvert who is not big into social media, I found it rather annoying to have to give away all this information just to make property inquiries.  However, it does add an element of comfort for the owner to be able text a real person, so I acquiesced.

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If you want the entire place to yourself, click on “Entire home/apt” in the left column.  Otherwise, the search results will show private rooms and shared rooms in your desired location.  Adjust price for your budget, and filter results based on neighborhood or amenities.

A few tips on selecting a property… First, take a good look at the photos.  If the property has three bedrooms, are all three pictured?  Even more important, what is not pictured?  The apartment is supposed to have a washer and dryer, but where are they?

Second, ask a LOT of questions.  Ask how far it is to the nearest grocery store.  If there is free parking, is it right outside the house?  In a garage three miles away?

Third, examine the reviews.  Are there any for this property?  If not, why?  Is it new?  Were renters not satisfied?  If a negative review exists, did the host respond to the complaint and post a reply?

I also recommend contacting all the host for the properties where you are interested in staying.  For my recent booking (we’re going to the Netherlands in a few weeks!), I ended up reserving my fifth choice.  My first choice was not available, and my second choice only responded once to questions I asked.  The other two did not reply at all.

Currently, the only method of payment that works for most users on Airbnb is credit card.  As with hotels.com, you must pay in full for the reservation up front.  What happens to your money?  The funds are held by Airbnb and then released to the host 24 hours after the guest checks in.

Some countries allow payments via Paypal, but I was not able to get that option to work.  However, even though the property I reserved was in the Netherlands (payable in euros), I could change my country to the US and pay in dollars.  The exchange rate matched the one I found on xe.com exactly.

Airbnb currently allows credit card payment in USD, CAD, EUR, and GBP.  If your credit card is not in one of these currencies, the rate is charged in EUR.

To read about my personal experience using Airbnb in The Netherlands, click here.  For more help on booking with Airbnb, click here.

Homeaway.com

If I can’t find what I’m looking for on Airbnb, I hop on over to Homeaway.com.  Current stats for Homeaway’s offerings claim 720,000 vacation rental home listings throughout 168 countries.

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Homeaway’s default is the US, but click another region below the map to search Hawaii, the Caribbean, Europe, or worldwide.

I find the listings on Homeaway to be a tad more expensive than Airbnb.  This is probably due to the difference in structure between the two sites – Airbnb charges a service fee for completed bookings, but simply listing your place is free.  Homeaway charges owners to advertise their spaces, but they does not handle transactions or levy guest fees.

Homeaway search options are more limited than Airbnb, but they are much better than Vrbo.com.  Filter results by number of bedrooms, number of guests, or by amenities such as wireless internet, parking, pet-friendly, etc.

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If price is an issue, you should know that it’s only possible to enter a monetary range per week (not per night) and in USD.  Switch to map view to search geographically.

One minor annoyance for international users is that the rates listed in the search results are displayed in USD.  Clicking on individual properties gives the user an approximate exchange rate, but it can be confusing to search in dollars when your budget is in euros.

Also note that many Homeaway properties have minimum stay requirements, some of which are an entire week.  I ran into trouble with this when trying to book our recent Netherlands stay.  However, the advantage to this is that if you are staying a week (or more), rates can be less than when booking per night on other sites.

If a weekly rate is not listed, ask the property manager for a quote.  I was able to get a booking down from $98/night to $89/night with the right dates and a pretty please.

Since Homeaway does not handle transactions, it is important to ask about any extra fees that the host might charge – cleaning, linens, parking, etc. – and payment method.  Get an invoice and a rental agreement in writing before sending any payment.  Make note of the cancellation policy before booking.  Most are quite strict.  For more help with Homeaway bookings, click here.

To find out whether or not I’d personally recommend Homeaway, click here.

Vrbo.com

Vrbo is my least favorite, but it’s still worth a look before giving in to over-priced hotel rooms.  They are owned by Homeaway, which only make sense when you figure out that the two companies have different clientele.  Vrbo has fewer listings (currently 190,000+ properties in 100 countries), but it is the older of the two sites which means it has more loyal customers and more reviewed properties.  Both charge hosts fees for listing their properties and are hands-off when it comes to payment arrangements.

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Like Homeaway, Vrbo is best for US properties, but other locations around the world are searchable by clicking on the tabs to the left.

It can be hard to navigate the listings and find exactly what you are looking for, especially when searching big cities such as Amsterdam, like I did.  Few filters are available to narrow down the options.  But, prices are displayed per night and in local currency which is a nice plus over Homeaway.

When clicking on a listing, scroll down to see details regarding amenities, pricing, and minimum stay requirements.  Keep in mind that even though search results list a nightly rate, a large number of properties require guests to stay longer than that.

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Sort by, Bedrooms, and More filters are the only search options.  Results are displayed in one column below.

Comb the reviews at Vrbo for additional information regarding potential hosts and homes, but keep in mind that Vrbo gives owners the option to display all feedback, only positive feedback, or no feedback at all.  This company wouldn’t still be around if it did not have many reputable rentals, but be extra cautious in asking as many questions as possible until you’re comfortable enough to make the booking.  Read about Vrbo’s advantages here and FAQs for travelers here.

To see how I fared with Vrbo in Salt Lake City, click here.

As always, when renting from individuals, be sure to protect yourself.  If a listing looks to good to be true (think a ten bedroom home in Tuscany for 50 euros per night), it probably is.  Each site has their own safety tips (Airbnb, Homeaway, Vrbo), but you can find additional tips here.

With a little luck and a few simple searches, you could be on your way to renting an amazing home during your next vacation for less than the cost of a hotel room but with enough space for your family.

Have you used any of these sites before to book vacation rentals?  We’d love to hear about your experience!Signature-Marigold

Ticket Talk: The Open Jaw

Hooray – it’s officially trip planning season for me!  Dark, dreary, cold, and wet outside, I’m keeping warm by burning through the euros in our bank account buying tickets.  I’m never so happy to see money go.

As with last year’s trip to the US, we are doing a multi-city itinerary.  I just can’t seem to go there and back again without at least one sideshow.

However, this year, the best deal for me was using something called an open jaw.  Say, what?  Simply put, if you were to draw your itinerary, it would be, uh, open, like a – you guessed it – jaw, instead of a basic straight line.

You know I wouldn’t do anything wonky without sharing how you could do the same.  A lot of the tips from my previous multi-city itinerary post are also applicable to open jaw itineraries.  I’ll jazz them up a smidge and throw them back’atcha below, but first, a few Q&A’s.

What in the world is an open jaw?  As I mentioned above, it’s one type of itinerary that does not go in a straight line.  The best way to explain it is to give you an example.  For me this means, I fly from Frankfurt (point A) to Salt Lake City (point B), and then from Orlando (point C) back to Frankfurt (point A).

Just so you’re in the know, another kind of open jaw itinerary exists.  Here’s an example.. fly from New York (point A) to San Francisco (point B) and then from San Francisco (point B) to Miami (point C) and terminate the trip there. 

When/why on earth would I use one?  If you want to visit two destinations instead of one, but it is cheaper to get yourself from point B to point C by a means other than the airline you are using for A to B and C to A, try an open jaw.  The missing point B to point C segment could be completed via ship, car, another airline, alien abduction, etc.  This is a popular ticket to use in conjunction with cruises that do not return to their port of origin.

Can I book an open jaw myself?  Yes!  Most major airline websites will allow you to book an open jaw itinerary online.  When you arrive at the airline’s main page, look for a small link near where you enter your city pair (departure and arrival cities) that says something along the lines of “Multi-City.”  Enter your point A to point B and the date and then your point C to point A and the date.

Can you give me an example?  Of course!  Let’s use the trip I just booked.  Our “home” airport is Frankfurt at the moment, so we always start and end there.   We have to go to Salt Lake City for one of Doc Sci’s conferences, and we need to go to Orlando once a year to take care of business and visit friends.

I priced itineraries with United, Delta, American Airlines, and Lufthansa.  Delta was the cheapest of the bunch, so I pressed on from there to find the bottom dollar deal.  The ticket prices were still higher than I wanted to pay, so I dropped the middle out of the itinerary (Salt Lake City to Orlando) which lowered the total cost down over 300 euros per person, a significant savings.  Ironically, the flights offered on the same dates but with an open jaw itinerary were also much, much better (note that this isn’t always the case – but it was a very nice surprise).

Most airlines are notorious for charging exorbitant one-way fares… but not Southwest.  A ticket on Southwest between my point B and point C only cost about 160 per person.  So, I will still flying all my segments (as opposed to driving between my point B and point C), but I will ultimately pay less by using two different airlines this time.  Southwest doesn’t fly between your points B & C?  Try AirTran, JetBlue, or Spirit.

How do I know if an open jaw would be cheaper for me than a multi-city itinerary, all with the same airline?  You’ll have to do your homework, of course!  Price the itinerary with and without the point B to point C segment.  Also, try reversing the order of the two stops you want to make (go to point C first and then point B) even if it’s only for comparison’s sake.

And, in case you missed my previous post with all my multi-city itinerary secrets, here they are again… remixed for the open jaw.

Tips on Booking Open Jaw Itineraries

Be patient.  It takes a lot of work to search multiple combinations of dates and cities, let alone just trying to figure out which airline is the cheapest for your particular route (for more on airlines, alliances, and hub cities check out the practical tips for booking multi-city itineraries in my previous post).

Don’t expect to get what you want by just typing in a few simple searches.  If you know it’s going to be a while before you get it the price and schedule just the way you want it, then you’re apt to be less frustrated.

And, unless you really know what you are doing and you’re totally sure of your plans, don’t book on a whim.  If you think you’ve found your perfect itinerary, have another pair of eyes look it over with you to double check all the details.

Be flexible.  Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are generally the cheapest days to fly.  I say generally, because sometimes loads (the amount of passengers) are lower on other days on certain routes.  However, you won’t know this until you start searching (as I said, be patient!).

Try your itinerary a week before and a week after.  Pay attention to your calendar, noting any holidays.  Also, if it’s peak season at your destination(s), prices just may be high, period.  Your job is to find the lowest in the date range you are available to travel.

Be persistent. One advantage that open jaw itineraries have over multi-city itineraries is the ability to search using Flexible Dates with some airlines.  Still, it’s a rarity (or perhaps even an impossibility) that your perfect itinerary will be the first date and city combination you search.  Keep looking.  Try alternate airports, alternate order of stops, etc.

Be discerning.  How will you get from point B to point C?  Yes, flying is convenient, but sometimes it’s not always the answer.  Weigh the drive time (but be realistic about how far you can go in one day with kids!) versus the money (four tickets at $250 is quite a chunk of change, but you will also have to pay for the car rental, gas, perhaps a hotel room or two).

Don’t forget your time is valuable as well, so consider how much time you’d spend in transit while flying vs. driving.

Be smart.  Do your homework.  Consider all the costs of flying a separate airline from point B to point C.  What are the baggage fees?  Are there fees for choosing a seat?  Would you have less stress if your itinerary was all with one airline?

Be realistic.  How much flying and driving can your kids handle?  How many different beds can you sleep in before you swear off traveling all together?  Are you better off paying an extra $25 per ticket to avoid taking toddlers on a red-eye flight?  Think about what’s important to you, your family, and then make the best decision with what you’ve found for a happy vacation.

How about you?  Have you booked an open jaw itinerary before?  Any other tips I may have missed?  Questions?

Booking German (Deutsche Bahn) Train Tickets Online

Thrifty Travel Mama | Booking German Train Tickets Online

Help for travelers and traveling families traveling by train in Germany

Are you planning a trip to Germany and need to get around by train?  Then this post is for you!

The German rail system is excellent, and most of the time it is the easiest and most efficient way to travel in country.  Follow along as I walk you through how to book tickets yourself – online at bahn.de.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

Here’s the DB (Deutsche Bahn) home page.  Yes, it’s in German, but don’t let that scare you.  It’s rather easy to change the language.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

If you’re English-speaking, I recommend changing the country to Germany.  I’m sure I had a good reason for doing this a few years ago when I started booking tickets online, but I’ve forgotten it by now.  If you prefer to choose USA or UK/Ireland, go for it.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

Enter your starting point and destination in the first two fields on the left-hand side of the page.  Select the dates of travel (select Return journey for round-trip), and the times you would like to depart or arrive.

Though it is possible to book a train ticket with more than one destination, I won’t be covering that in today’s post.  If you’d like to try your hand at it, click “Further Search Options,” and enter your stopover(s).

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

Now, select the number of passengers in each age range.  It’s important to note that certain discounts can apply if two or more adults are traveling together and if one or more adults are traveling with children.

Awesome news for families – there’s no charge for children five and under!  Children aged 6 to 14 also travel free provided they are accompanied by their parent(s) or guardian(s).  Only enter the number of children five and under if you’d like a seat reservation for them.  I’ll get to seat reservations in a minute, but in case you are wondering at this stage of the game, I always enter my three children in my search whether or I actually reserve a seat or not.

Discounts are only given for those carrying a German BahnCard, Austrian VORTEILScard, Swiss HalbtaxAbo, or a Voordeelurenabo card from the Netherlands.  More on BahnCards below… It’s worth noting that discount cards will be checked on board, so don’t claim to have one if you don’t.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

Next, you’re going to see a page with several train options based on the criteria entered on the homepage.  Here are some things to pay attention to!

First, double check the exact name of the station.  Big cities (such as Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, etc.) have multiple Bahnhofs (train stations).  Tief means underground, and refers to a particular part of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof.  Frankfurt Flughafen (Airport) and Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof are not the same!  However, at the Frankfurt Airport, Fernbahnhof (long distance trains) and Regionalbahnhof (regional trains such as those going to the city of Frankfurt) are two areas of the same station.

Triple check your dates and remember that Europeans use the DD.MM.YY format.

When determining which train to select, the number of changes should be considered.  Ideally, nonstop trains are everyone’s first choice.  But, they may be more expensive or unavailable between the two cities you selected.  From personal experience, if you are making your way to/from an airport with luggage, it is worth it to pay extra for a nonstop train if that is an option.

Total travel time can also be used to narrow down your options.  The main factor in travel time is the type of train used on the route.  Here’s a crash course on a few types of trains you might see:

  • ICE (Inter City Express) trains are the fastest but often the most expensive.
  • IC (Inter City) trains are a little slower than ICE and not as luxurious.
  • RE (Regional Express) and RB (Regional Bahn) are much slower because they make multiple stops along the route.
  • S (S-bahn or Schnell-bahn) are often only used in a regions, not usually between big cities.  They are commuter trains and may have limited seating and facilities.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

Another deciding factor for me personally is the amount of transfer time between trains.  Five minutes or less is generally not enough time to shuffle two preschoolers, a baby, a pram, four suitcases, and two frazzled adults from one train to another.  I find ten to fifteen minutes to be ideal.  Any more time than that and the boys start going stir crazy trying to entertain themselves on a very boring train platform.

It’s also worth noting the platform numbers.  If the numbers are, say, 4 and 5, you probably do not have far to go, and a tighter connection may be doable.

Of course, if the train is late, then all bets are off and even your ten to fifteen minute cushion may disappear into thin air.  Not that a German train would ever be late…

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

Once you’ve chosen your train, it’s time to take a look at price (or did you start with price and then narrow down from there?).  All routes have standard fares that usually only change once per year.  But, a certain number of tickets on each route are offered at the Savings Fare (also called Sparpreis).

Savings Fares can be up to 50% off and a super deal if you nab them in time.  The best time to secure a Savings Fare is when the route opens, 90 days prior to departure.  After that, it’s anyone’s guess how long they’ll be available.  Savings Fares are not available within 3 days of departure.

Lest you find yourself in shock, I should let you know that the price displayed on the first leg of your itinerary is NOT the full price for the journey.  The full price for both legs will be calculated once both train routes have been selected.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

So since we’re thrifty around here, it seems only right that we’d always choose the Savings Fare if available, right?  Wrong.

Savings Fares come with very specific conditions.  If you book the 9am train from Mannheim to Frankfurt (Main) Hbf and pay the Savings Fare, you MUST take that train, or you lose your ticket.  If you book the 9am train from Mannheim to Frankfurt (Main) Hbf and pay the Standard Fare, then you may take ANY train on that day provided the departure and arrival points are the same (even if the route is slightly different).

When would a Standard Fare be worth the extra money?  In my experience, the only time I have considered coughing up full price is to and from the airport.  Let’s say you arrive on a 12pm flight.  You estimate two hours to clear customs, collect luggage, find the train station, and get yourself to the platform.  But, what if your flight is delayed and you arrive at 1pm instead of 12pm?  Despite your best efforts, you may not make the connection, and Deutsche Bahn is not interested in excuses, only in correct tickets.  Consider the best and worst case scenarios, and choose wisely!

Once in a while, I have seen First Class fares that rivaled (or beat) Second Class Fares.  What is First Class and why would you want to pay more for it?  Here’s an honest review.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

After selecting the fare, you may or may not be given the recommendation to purchase a BahnCard and save immediately.  A BahnCard 25 gives the user 25 percent of all fares, Standard and Savings.  A BahnCard 50 gives the user a 50 percent savings on Standard fares only. 

Should you get a BahnCard?  Well, it depends on if you are a resident (definitely yes) or a visitor (maybe).  The temporary BahnCard (ready to print and use immediately) is normally valid for only 30 days.  The actual BahnCard is then shipped to you (as far as I understand, it’s fine to ship a BahnCard to a foreign address).  If you’re a visitor, you’ll either need to order it in advance so that the card arrives before you depart for Germany, or you’ll need to time the purchase just right so that you will only ever need the temporary card.

I’ve had a BahnCard 25 every year I’ve lived here.  It pays for itself with two roundtrips to Frankfurt Airport.  And for those who are residents with a partner and children, the BahnCard 25 is a sweet deal.  The partner card costs only 10 euros for the year!  You’ll need to visit a DB office in person to apply for a partner card.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

Then, choose how to proceed with the booking.  If you don’t plan on booking with DB again, just select “Book without registering.”  Otherwise, subsequent bookings are much faster if you register.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

The most convenient (and cheapest) way to ticket the journey is online via .pdf.  (I have yet to try the Mobile Phone Ticket – this is a new feature since I last used DB in September 2012.)

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

Now, it’s time to think about seat reservations.  On the one hand, seat reservations are quite convenient and a blessing when trains are SRO (yes, this frequently happens during peak travel times and holidays).  On the other hand, they cost money, and if the train is empty you may feel like you wasted your cash.

My general rule is to pay for seat reservations on any journey over 2 or 2 1/2 hours, with two exceptions:  traveling alone or during children’s sleep times.  We often have to take the 5am train from our city to the Frankfurt Airport.  I find it best to reserve a compartment, keep the children in pj’s, and then have them lie down across two seats for an hour-long nap.  We have also had the boys nap successfully going to/from Berlin and Hamburg.

What are the different types of seats available?

  • Open Saloon – main compartment.  Seats are similar to airline seats: two across, foot rests, tray tables.  Seats may or may not be facing direction of travel.
  • Open Saloon with table – four seats around a table in the main compartment.
  • Compartment – six seats in a closed cabin.  The four seats closest to the window are around a small table.  The two seats closest to the compartment door have a small side table.  I always chose this type of seat reservation when possible.
  • Parent-and-child Compartment – similar to a Compartment, but slightly larger.  I’ve only ever seen these on ICE trains.  Since there’s only one per train, they book fast.  If you risk having no reservation and want to try to sit here (please do not try this if you do not have children!), the compartment is usually located between the dining car and the first class coaches.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

The next page will show whether or not DB was able to accommodate the seat reservation request.  In this case, the parent-and-child compartment was not available, so alternative seats were assigned.  If you don’t like the seating arrangements provided, go back and select another type.  If no suitable arrangements can be made, it’s up to you whether or not to pay for the reservation.

Thrifty Travel Mama's Guide to Booking German Rail Tickets Online

DB is as strict as the airlines when it comes to matching tickets with identification cards.  Therefore, it’s of the utmost importance to select a means of ID that you will no doubt be carrying on your person at the time of travel.  Input the name(s) correctly, and double check.  Take note that if you’re using a government-issued ID card, you may not use a credit card to pay for the ticket(s).

The rest is rather simple.  Just enter your personal data, payment method, confirm the details, and purchase.  If you chose online ticketing, the ticket will pop up after payment is processed.  A copy is also sent to the email address you provide on the personal data screen.  Print out the ticket(s), bag your selected form of ID, and show up 10-15 minutes prior to the train’s departure.

Enjoy your trip!

Thrifty Travel Mama – 2012 – A Year in Review

Whew!  2012 has been a wild ride, full of experiences and surprises.  “Year in Review” posts are all the rage in the blogosphere, so despite my inclinations to do the opposite, I’m jumping on the bandwagon.

In January, I went fully frugal.  I shared my source for Free DIY Passport Photos.  I pointed you to the European Backpacker Index, a tool for researching expenses in European cities.  Oh, and I saved you from having to run to the store at the last minute by showing you how to make your own brown sugar.

February brought me a birthday, and Doc Sci took me to Milan (sans kids) to celebrate.  We ogled da Vinci’s Last Supper and the views from the roof of the Duomo.  We got caught in Carnival madness, and stuffed our faces with risotto, bread, pizza, and (of course) gelato.

I went crazy in March trying to make our awful concrete student housing apartment more homey on a very small budget.  I spiced up the kitchen, bathroom, and front entry.  I constructed a ginormous cork board wall in the living room and plastered it with photos.  I somehow also found the time to completely finish Rosetta Stone German and post a final review.

In April, our little family went home to the US for 3 weeks, stopping in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.  We soaked up the sun, and made kid-friendly activities a priority.  Among the boys’ favorite was our trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Back in Germany, May was part work and part play.  Doc Sci and I both took week-long intensive German courses.  We also managed a date night to the movies, complete with popcorn and assigned seats.

Doc Sci let us tag along with him to Berlin in June.  He attended a brainiac conference while the boys and I played at Legoland.   And speaking of brains, I got mine to work long enough to pass my German driver’s license exam.

In July, I switched to extreme nesting mode.  I stocked the freezer with a gazillion meals, and organized our life into one happy turquoise notebook.

I took a six-week break starting in August to bring our third and final little traveler into the world.  His birth story is the kind nightmares are made of.

We ventured out to Frankfurt in September to get the little guy his passport when he was only two weeks old.  And good thing, too.  Later that month, Big Foot found himself coasting through five countries on four planes, five trains, and two buses, in the span of three days.  No sweat for a seven week-old.

In October, I posted reviews of flying Delta Airlines and easyJet with a baby.  I should’ve shown you these fashionable Oktoberfest pull-ups, but I was too busy scoring freebies for babies and mamas in Germany.

November was an exciting month for us.  We bought a car!  Doc Sci wrote a fabulous guest post detailing the adventure.

We took our car on a little road trip to France in December.  It was all the travel we could muster in between the zillions of Pinterest projects that filled my days and nights before Christmas.

Every year has its highs and lows, surprises both good and bad, and 2012 was no different.  It’s just how life goes, and I’m thankful to live it with my awesome-amazing-how-could-I-describe-you-in-just-one-word husband and three blessed boys who make me laugh every day.  Here’s to 2013!

On Why I Can’t Call It Quits With Delta Air Lines (and a Trip Report!)

Thrifty Travel Mama - Flying Delta Airlines with KidsI said I would never do it.  But then I did it anyway.  And now I’ve done it again.

I just can’t seem to shake off my bad habit of flying Delta Air Lines.  I keep coming back, but it has nothing to do with customer satisfaction (because we all know there’s next to none of that).

Why, why, WHY do I do this to myself?

For one simple reason… when I’m in a bind, Delta is always the cheapest.

Last fall, I needed to be at a dear friend’s wedding.  I had no flexibility in my dates or airports.  Delta was the only airline that offered a ticket I could afford.

This fall, the boys’ Grandpa suddenly left us and went to live in heaven.  We needed to fly back to the US to say goodbye, and take care of business.  We hoped it would be possible for all five of us to go.  Again, I had no flexibility in dates or airports.   And, once more Delta was the only airline with four seats at a price we could afford two days before departure.

Darn, you Delta!  Are you trying to win me back?

If so, it (almost) worked…

Trip Report: FRA – BNA (and back)

When researching my options for flights from Frankfurt to Nashville, Delta consistently came up with the cheapest fare and the best schedule for our needs.  However, when flying with three kids I have learned that cheaper sometimes is not necessarily better.

Notably, being confined in a metal tube over the Atlantic for 9 hours is absolutely the pits if there’s nothing for the wee ones to do.  Not wanting to find myself in such a predicament again, I consulted SeatGuru and made absolutely positively sure that we would have AVOD devices for each seat on both Delta international flights.  I simply could not handle being stuck in 1983 jumbo jet hell again especially considering the stressful circumstances surrounding our trip and the fact that we would now be flying with THREE boys.

After booking tickets, I called Delta to let them know I’d be traveling with an infant.  This time I was prepared for the archaic practice of having a PAPER international ticket for Big Foot issued at the airport in Frankfurt.  So old skool you are, Delta.

Since we were flying with three children under the age of five, the Delta gate agents graciously granted us the row of bulkhead seats on both international flights.  This meant we could use the bassinet for Big Foot (and this time I didn’t break any rules).  Having a little bed he could nap in from time to time proved invaluable.  I could free up my hands to cut chicken, peel pasta off the floor, or sneak away for sixty seconds to the lav (by myself!).

Doc Sci was able to sit one row behind me in the aisle.  We took turns, alternating naps and movie time with meal and child minding duties.  The movie selection on the AVOD was impressive both for kids and adults.  The food tasted a gazillion times better than our last trip down the aisle with Delta.

The flight attendants on these trips seemed overly nice and surprisingly helpful.  Not quite on the caliber of Asiana Airlines, but getting up there nonetheless.  Perhaps executives have actually been listening to customer complaints and doing something about them?!  Nah, it can’t be.

Or could it?  I actually let myself think, well, maybe I was wrong.  Maybe Delta isn’t so bad after all.

But then they lost our car seats.  And I lost all warm fuzzies I might have had.

When arriving in the US on an international flight, passengers must collect their checked luggage.  After wheeling it through customs, bags must be re-checked.  If you’ve never done it, it’s quite simple.  Roll your suitcases (and, in our case, car seats) up to the nice baggage handlers, smile, say thank you, and watch as they put the items on the conveyer belt.  That’s all there is to it.

When we dropped off our car seats in Atlanta, little did we know we’d be kissing them goodbye for a while.  Said car seats did not go to Nashville with the rest of our belongings.  They stayed put in Atlanta for three days.

After traveling at least 20 hours with three boys, the last thing I want to do is deal with the Delta lost luggage guy.  I want to go eat at Chipotle.  But I couldn’t.  You can’t go anywhere in a car with kids – without car seats.

Unfortunately, this Delta agent just happened to be a single guy with no kids.  I could care less about the marital status of the man on the other side of the desk.  But if he has no children, that means he has no experience with car seats.  Or car seat laws.  Or car seat styles.  Or car seat weight limits.

What started out as a nice offer to loan us some Delta car seats turned into a nightmarish battle of trying to convince him first that my two and four year old were not going to fit in infant carriers.  Next, I had to try and explain how I had meticulously researched rental cars and prepaid for the exact one that would fit our three car seats, not any ol’ loaners.

Anyone with Cheerios plastered to the car upholstery knows that car seats have varying widths.  We own a Sunshine Kids Radian which boasts the ability to fit three across the back seat of a regular car due to the skinny bum width.  We also own a slimline booster.  Both of these were somewhere in the Atlanta airport instead of carrying our kids to a delicious burrito dinner.

Round and round I went with this guy trying to explain to him that the Graco car seats he was offering were not going to cut it.  For starters, T-Rex was over the weight limit for the one available.  But even more than that, those two Graco seats with their cup holders, arm rests, and sun roofs just plain old weren’t going to fit in the car.  And seeing as Delta wasn’t going to pay for a bigger rental car, we were at an impasse.

After getting a supervisor involved who also did not have any experience with kids, we took the car seats to the actual rental car and demonstrated that no, we were not trying to make a quick buck off Delta.  These seats do not fit!

In the end, we had to pay to add a smaller seat to our rental car agreement.  The Delta supervisor would then reimburse us for the extra cost of renting the seat.  When we left the Nashville airport several days later, we’d be issued a check equal to that amount.  Oh yes, and you better believe they were going to throw a travel voucher in there, too.  That was the least they could do for THREE hours of utter nonsense.

On the third day of our five day trip, we received our car seats.  Delta delivered the long lost seats to our hotel, picked up the loaners, and took responsibility for returning them.

When we checked in for our flights home, we requested to talk to a supervisor about our situation and receive reimbursement.  By the way, Delta calls their supervisors “red coats,” so use the lingo if you need access to someone higher up.

This time, I got a super nice guy (albeit again a dude who lacked experience with kids) who had heard about our story.  Apparently, mamas with kids who insist their children ride in car seats that are suitable for their age, weight, and the vehicle in which they’re riding are BIG NEWS.

Before issuing the check to cover the cost of the rental car seat (which, by the way, I would not have had any way to deposit), Mr. Nice Red Coat asked me if I would like to have four, $100 vouchers instead of one, $100 voucher and a check for $40.  Well, duh – of course I would like more money for travel… although of course it means having to fly Delta again.

But now that the car seat fiasco was behind us, we could focus on getting home to Germany.  Fortunately, it was much like the trip to the US.  Again, we had the bulkhead row.  Again, the kids went nuts pushing the buttons on the AVOD devices.  Again, the food was better.  Again, Big Foot napped here and there in the bassinet.  Again, I thought the flight attendants were more helpful than I remembered.  Again, I wondered if Delta was really that bad.

Will I break up with Delta for good, or will I keep coming back for more?

Only time – and travel – will tell.

Free Baby Stuff for Mamas in Germany

Two of the things I miss the most about living in the US are free samples and coupons.  It’s not that they’re nonexistent in Germany; it’s just that they’re so rare they might as well be.

So you can imagine that I was quite excited to stumble across this post which contains links to all sorts of freebies for pregnant ladies and new mamas.  I wasn’t able to sign up for all of them, but I have been really pleased with what I have received.

All the baby coupons I have received thus far!

Here’s a rundown…

Hands down, the best goodies have come from dm’s babybonus program.  If you don’t know dm, it’s the German version of CVS or Walgreens.  This store offers your normal drugstore fare plus a great selection of baby items including clothing.  Each location has a changing table in it with complimentary wipes and diapers.  I haven’t seen parent-oriented service like that anywhere else in Germany save IKEA.

I love that dm has two different welcome packets – one for when you’re pregnant and the other for after the baby has arrived.

Items received from the dm pregnancy welcome packet (Willkommens-Paket zur Schwangerschaft):

  • 10% off your purchase, no minimum
  • A full size tube (150ml) of massage cream for prego bellies
  • A coupon book with savings on diapers, wipes, and other baby products as well as toiletries and pregnancy items (valid for more than 6 months)

dm babybonus welcome packet.

Items received from the dm babybonus welcome packet:

  • Soft rattle toy
  • Orthodontic pacifier
  • Samples of moisturizer and body lotion for mama
  • Sample of dm’s diaper rash cream for baby
  • Another (thicker) coupon book with similar savings to the pregnancy one (also valid for more than 6 months)

The next best box came from real,-.  You can read about how I love real,- here.  I first received a letter confirming my enrollment in their familymanager program that included only two coupons, one for baby gear and one for baby clothing.  I was a bit disappointed until I found a surprise from real,- in my mailbox right after Big Foot was born.

Box from real,-.

Items received from the familymanager Hallo Baby welcome packet:

  • Samples of Pampers wipes and one diaper
  • Purple Pampers baby socks
  • An iron-on logo to decorate a baby onesie and provide free advertising for real,- (ha!)
  • A lotion sample for mama
  • A coupon book with in-store savings on baby and household items (valid for more than 3 months)

Though I tend to frequent dm more, Müller is another great drugstore that also sells office supplies, department store perfume, toys, and entertainment media (CDs, DVDs, electronic games, etc).  I can attest that their Mein Baby program is well worth the five minutes it takes to sign up.  Though I wasn’t given any free samples, one could argue the contents were quite a bit more valuable.

Super thick coupon book from Müller.

Items received from Müller’s Mein Baby mailing:

  • Coupon for €5 off €20 (not limited to baby items and no expiration date)
  • The biggest coupon book I’ve ever seen in Germany with savings on pregnancy, baby, household, and family items as well as toys (valid for more than 6 months)

Honorable mention: Pampers Village The website states that if you sign up, you will receive coupons, newsletters, and a free box with items in it from the maternity ward where you give birth.  I never did receive the box, but perhaps the fact that I didn’t actually end up on the maternity ward after Big Foot was born had a little something to do with that.  However, I did receive coupons, and I successfully stacked a manufacturer’s coupon and a dm coupon when purchasing Pampers diapers.  Score!

If you’re actually signing up for all these freebies, I’d recommend skipping the registration for HiPP’s Mein Baby Club I only received a sticker to hang in the window of a car I don’t own and a coupon for 20 euros toward an account for the baby.  I thought that was rather generous… until I read the fine print.  In order to claim the money, I had to appear in person at the bank to verify all my information as well as the baby’s.  I understand that the company would like to know to whom they are giving their money (and that nothing is ever really free), but what new mama has time for an extra trip to the bank of all places??

Anyhow, it’s been great fun to sorta kinda coupon again.  I’ll take all the savings I can get!  If you’d like additional links to baby freebies in Germany, check out this blogger’s list.   Meanwhile, I’ll keep checking my mailbox for more money-saving goodies!

Searching for Deals in Deutschland

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - Finding DealsI’ve lived in Germany for almost two years now, and I still miss coupons.  And Slickdeals.  Oh my, do I miss Slickdeals.

And, while Germans in my corner of the country are obsessed with saving the planet, it seems like they aren’t really interested in saving money.  And, that’s a shame, because the truth remains: stuff in Germany is expensive.

So, what’s a thrifty mama to do?

Shop around, and shop online.

Here are the best ways I’ve found to save money on items we need for every day life.

Food.  Every weekend, I check the Aldi Süd and Lidl websites.  Special offers and sales are listed for the upcoming week.  Food discounts on regularly-stocked items are actually quite rare.  If a sale exists on food, it’s almost always for a name brand (and often the store brand is still cheaper) or it’s a measly 10 to 50 cents off the normal price.

Aldi Süd ad. This one just happens to be for “American” week.

When I do spot a sale on something we eat regularly, I buy as much as my fridge/freezer/pantry can hold.  Unfortunately, sales on food items are not on a rotating schedule like in the US, so I have no idea when (or even, if) that same item will be on sale again.

Lidl. de website – ads for the two sales every week are listed across the top.

More often, food sales offered by Aldi and Lidl are for “ethnic” food (and I use that term very loosely).  For instance, during Asian week, I buy sesame oil, chow mein noodles, stir fry kits, etc.  These special items are usually offered 2-3 times per year.  I’m sure there’s a yearly schedule online somewhere for when certain items will be available, but I have yet to find it.

Household Goods.  Aldi and Lidl also regularly offer an array of household goods at very good (for Germany) prices.  The quality varies, but it is usually much better than 1 euro stores and cheap import stores.  I’ve found great prices in both stores on toys, cheap house shoes, kids costumes, office supplies, kitchen gadgets, linens, etc.  Again, all of these items make an appearance 1-3 times per year, and once the inventory is gone, it’s gone.

The other great place to find deals on household goods is Amazon.de.  I often will compare the prices I find on Aldi and Lidl with Amazon.  That way, I know if 9,99 is a good price or not for a king-sized fitted sheet.  Amazon sometimes has sales, but I have not found any to fit my needs yet.

Amazon.de carries a wide variety of items from Big Bang Theory t-shirts to English books to cooking utensils to vacuums and (almost) anything else you can think up.

As in the US, Amazon.de offers a prime option.  It’s cheaper (29 euros per year, I believe), but not particularly necessary.  Germany is a much smaller country, so shipping time is not as long here as it is in America.  Almost everything I order from Amazon.de (with or without prime – I’ve had two prime trials) arrives at my home within 1-3 days.  Plus, orders over 20 euros come with free shipping anyway.

Clothing and Shoes.  Semi-annual sales (January and July) seem to be the best times to buy new clothing for cheap.  Department stores (even the expensive ones) have decent markdowns as do the discounters like H&M, C&A, etc.

I buy almost all my kids clothing, toys, and gear at flohmarkts.  Most people sell items that are in good condition (sometimes like new or brand new), and bargaining is acceptable.  I also find it easier to let boys be boys in second-hand clothing.  If their jeans rip because they had an epic time learning to ride a bike or playing soccer, I don’t care because I only paid 2 euros for the pair instead of 20.

And, speaking of bikes, every bike the boys have had has come from a flohmarkt.  I’ve also purchased a bike seat and other bike accessories at flohmarkts.  Unfortunately, these markets are like garage sales.  I never know if I am going to find what I am looking for – I just have to go and have a look around.

Zalando is the German version of Zappos.  I have not personally ordered any shoes from here, but friends have told me it works the same way as it does in the US – shipping is free both ways.  Order as many shoes as you like, and return what you don’t want.

Zalando – thousands and thousands of shoes.

Electronics and Appliances.  For both of these categories, I have found Amazon.de to have the best deals.  Sometimes local electronics stores will have sales, but the prices are still often not as good as Amazon.  And, even if they are the same, Amazon delivers for free whereas the stores do not.  So far, we have purchased a washer, dryer, and a TV from Amazon.  All were delivered gratis.

The only other place I’ve found online (and, actually, I didn’t find it – a friend sent me the link) that seems to be a good place for electronics and the like is dealdoktor.de.  This website regularly has deals for iPads, cell phones, TV’s, and the like – all of which are terribly expensive in Germany.  Occasionally, I’ve seen deals for shoes, clothing, toiletries, etc.  And, just a tip, I find Deal Doktor easier to read in Google Reader than on it’s actual website.

Deal Doktor website – a bit confusing and overwhelming visually. Subscribe via Google Reader for easier viewing (and to stay on top of trending deals).

The only other trick I have up my sleeve is to stock up on food, clothing, etc. while in America.  Even with the cost to check an extra bag on my flight, the cost of items in America still usually comes up cheaper than in Europe.

So, what about you? What deal websites or tips/tricks have you found to help save money while living in Europe?