Experience Germany Like a Local

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Have You Thought About Packing a First Aid Kit For Your Trip to Germany?

Have You Thought About Packing a First Aid Kit For Your Trip to Germany? Photo Credit Flickr User DLG Images (CC BY 2.0)
Some travelers think of everything - including packing a first aid travel kit for their vacation. Then there are travelers, who travel with a Spongebob Band Aid and an expired Aspirin package. However, any traveler can get sick, whether because of the change to a new climate, unusual food or bad hygiene on an airplane. A few things belong in any travel first aid kit. Medications for fever, pain, and inflammation, as well as medicine for constipation and diarrhea (the #1 travel sickness), are part of the basic equipment. There should also be some bandaging material, as well as sufficient sun protection products, especially if you visit Germany during the warmer months. Here are some tips for your upcoming Germany vacation.

Take as Little as Possible, But as Much as Necessary
The rule of thumb for this list: take as little as possible, but as much as necessary. Feel free to edit the list to your needs. Keep in mind that most “drugstores” in Germany (called Drogerien) do not actually carry any medication. You will have to seek an Apotheke for that. Look for this red symbol. Step inside and ask the pharmacist for help. Most of them speak a bit of English or have someone on their staff that can help with the language barrier.

Note: This list does NOT replace professional advice from your doctor or your pharmacist. Also, keep in mind that some painkillers and other medication, that is sold over the counter in the United States might need a prescription by a German doctor. Take Benadryl as an example, which has Diphenhydramine as a main ingredient. You can buy Benadryl in almost every store in the United States, but in Germany you need a prescription to pick up a package in the Apotheke. Different country, different rules. If you are not sure, take the over the counter medication with you on your trip.

Here is what I usually pack:
• Painkillers For headaches and general pain, bring extra ones as needed. For example, a blister pack of 10 Aspirin pills will cost about $5 in a German Apotheke. Walk into an American drugstore and the $5 will buy you a 100 pack of Aspirin pills.
• Nasal Spray • The low humidity on an airplane always dries my nose out. After using nasal spray for two days, it is usually back to normal. This is my favorite nasal spray.
Nausea & Motion Sickness • There is nothing worse than problems with your stomach and/or intestines. Grab a small pack like this. The pills are chewable and get absorbed by your system fast.
Heartburn Relief • Vacations in different countries with new dishes and beverages leads us to eat too much and often too late in the day. This stimulates the acid production in our stomach, resulting in heartburn. I usually travel with a small package of Tums.
Diarrhea • Another unfortunate consequence of eating unknown or unusual foods on vacation is diarrhea. It can also be caused by bacteria, for example Salmonella, which can be found in products that were not maintained at the right temperature. Grab a package of Pepto Bismol pills (not the liquid) and you should be taken care of if and when your stomach fights back.
Band Aids • For small cuts, I prefer the Flexible Fabric Band-Aid, which is the most comfortable Band Aid I have ever used. My dad buys long strips of it and cuts them to the desired length. For travel, I prefer the pre-cut ones. I also pack a small tube of Neosporin antibiotic cream for small cuts. And yes, you also need a prescription in Germany for an antimicrobial/antibiotic ointment like Neosporin.
Prescribed Medication • If you have a chronic illness, make sure to pack enough pills to cover you for your entire trip, plus two extra days - you never know, you could drop a pill down the drain by accident or have a delayed flight home. Carry them on the plane in the original prescription bottle/package with your name on it and DO NOT check them in your luggage. Keep them in your purse or carry-on bag. Too many bags get lost, especially if you have a connecting flight.
Sleep Aid • Not only might the over-the-counter medication have a totally different name in Germany, some even require a prescription by a German doctor. One of my favorite sleep aids to fight jet lag is Melatonin, which you can buy at any grocery store in the United States. Its not as easy to get in Germany, which requires consumers to be over 55 years old and have a prescription, sold as Circadin in Germany. We’ve also had good luck with ZzzQuil, and use that to try and sleep on the flight to Germany.
• For good measure, throw in a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer, in case you find yourself without running water or want to disinfect your airplane tray table before taking off.


Two More Things
If you have an iPhone, make sure to fill out your Medical ID, so that first responders have access to your health information in case of an emergency. You can find Medical ID Health app setup instructions on Apple’s Help Page here:

For when disaster strikes during your Germany trip: Make sure to book travel insurance for your trip, since you never know what can and will happen. A recent family vacation incident was covered by less than a $100 travel insurance policy. Otherwise a weeks hospital stay including ICU station for several days would have cost us more than $25,000. Needless to say, we were very grateful for the added insurance coverage. For a quick quote (less than a minute), check our resources page and scroll to the bottom.

Have we forgotten something? Let us know what medical essentials you bring when you travel. Denise and I hope you have a safe trip!

Photo Credit: First Aid Kit Image by DLG Images shared via (CC BY 2.0).

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Why I Love Train Travel in Germany

There are different methods of transportation that we have used in Germany over the years. We have boarded airplanes, rented cars and traveled by train. My favorite way to get around? That would be train travel and here are four reasons why I tend to choose spending hours on a train instead of another mode of transportation.

Why I Love Train Travel in Germany

Reason #1 See More of the German Countryside
All trains have large windows where you can enjoy the landscape as it flies by (especially in the ICE high speed trains). You will see rivers, mountains, and small villages - all of which you miss when you fly or take the car on the Autobahn. Of course you can take rural roads with a rental car, but it will be slower and the driver will have to watch traffic much more than any landscape surrounding the car.

Board the train, find your seat, get comfortable and enjoy whatever you like to do. If looking out the window is not your thing, you can read, listen to music, or sleep a bit. Lots of high-speed trains have free Wifi (https://www.bahn.com/en/view/trains/on-board-service/wifi.shtml) and outlets to charge your devices and stay in contact with your family and friends back home. Just don’t get too distracted and miss your destination while enjoying the comfort of the train.

Reason #2 No Luggage Restrictions
Bringing any kind of luggage onto an airplane these days, usually results in a fee you have to pay. This means extra income for the airlines and customers are willing to pay anywhere from $20 to $75 for this convenience. Not so on the train (or your rental car, of course). Bring as many pieces of luggage as you want, or are able to pull along with you. Even pack liquids and something to drink inside the train. No one will take it away from you.

Denise and I usually share a larger suitcase instead of two smaller ones. Most long distance trains have an extra area between seats where you can store your luggage. Otherwise you can lift it onto the rack above the seats, just make sure it is not too heavy and falls on your head.

Reason #3 Less Expensive
When comparing plane tickets or car rental prices to a train ticket, the train ticket is often your least expensive option, especially when you buy your ticket in advance and factor in the hidden costs. The airline might charge you extra for your luggage, even if it is just a carry on bag. And you better buy a preferred seating position with that, so you board the plane while overhead space for your carry-on is still available.

The same goes for the rental car option, which will have you paying for fuel costs and parking, not to mention all the extra insurance fees they try to add when you pick up your car. If you want to know more about this, read our earlier article, What to Consider When Renting a Car in Germany.

The best way to get your hands on an inexpensive train ticket in Germany (usually half-off) is to book 70-90 days before your trip on the website of the Deutsche Bahn.

You can get tickets for as low as 29 € per person for long trips, but ticket prices go up as the departure date draws near, so plan accordingly, and buy early. Denise and I will create a calendar event exactly 90 days before in order to get the best train ticket price. When its time to buy, simply enter your destination, date and approximate time on the Deutsche Bahn website and you will be given a range of options to choose from. When reserving your train ticket, you pick your favorite connection and have the option to purchase reserved seating for about 5 € per person/train. There are no other fees added on after you check out. I highly recommend purchasing a seat, especially if you are on the train for several hours or travel with a larger group of people.

You will also see that some connections will be faster, some slower. Here is a ranking from fastest to slowest trains:

• ICE (Inter City Express) usually pronounced ‘Eye See Eee’, are the fastest German trains

• IC (Inter City) trains are a bit slower than ICE trains with a few more stops along the way

• RB (Regional Bahn) and RE (Regional Express) tend to be highly localized with lots of stops. You will see more of the countryside, on IC/RB/RE trains, but travel time can be up to double compared to an ICE train.

Reason #4 Simply, Faster
In Germany you might overhear someone saying, that the train is “late, again”. Some trains are notorious for running late and Germans, always punctual, are notorious for complaining about this fact. However, I still believe taking a train is the fastest option, and here is why. A train ride from Frankfurt to Paris, France will take about 4 hours. A car ride will take 5 ½ hours, if there is “normal” traffic on the Autobahn 4 from Frankfurt to Paris. It takes longer due to the lower speed limit in France, which is 130 km/h (80 mph). A train can go as fast as the tracks will let it and reaches speeds up to 200 mph on some track parts.

So driving can’t compete with taking the train, which leaves us with flying. A plane ride from Frankfurt to Paris takes only 1 hour 10 minutes. However, if you add transportation time to the airport (most are not in the city center, unlike train stations) and being there about 2 hours before your flight takes off for security checkpoints and boarding, the journey will most likely take longer than 4 hours. Keep in mind that the security check at the airport might slow you down, also. Oh yeah, and you have to pay for your bags and deal with less legroom on a plane.

What is your favorite mode of transportation while visiting Germany? Let us know in the comments.

Bonus Germany Train Travel Resource: If you're new to train travel, do yourself a BIG favor and read Lorelei's Your Complete Guide to Using the Deutsche Bahn in Germany. Its a wonderful resource for newbies, full of photos and explanations. We thought of doing one ourselves, and stumbled upon Lorelei's and realized she left NOTHING out. Bookmark it, and you'll thank yourself later.

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If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive the newest posts each week and exclusive access to free planning resources like ‘Packing List & Tips for 2 Weeks in Germany’ and ‘Everything You Need to Rent a Car in Germany’.

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Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You

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Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You

Every year the hardest part of our trip is leaving behind our two cats, Katze and Jayla. They’ve seen the suitcases load up and wheel out, and when you try to say goodbye they’ll hide under the bed, as if that will change the impending situation. Most vacations, I leave the house in tears. My worst fear is that something happens to us on our trip, and as a result, Katze and Jayla will forever think they did something wrong and we abandoned them. This is what I do to manage their anxiety and mine, when vacation time comes.

Comfort Zone® with Feliway® Diffuser Kit
One year, when we returned from vacation, Katze had been so stressed over us leaving she gave herself a urinary tract infection. No fun! I didn’t know this was possible, and we did everything as we had normally done. My Mom came by in the evenings to give them dinner and spend time with them. The litter box was spotless. The vet said it was definitely anxiety-related. Since then, whenever we go out of town on vacation, we plug in a (associate link) Comfort Zone® Feliway® diffuser into the outlet next to her favorite sleeping spot. That was four years ago, and we've used it for every vacation since. Katze hasn't had a UTI since.

We had heard about Feliway® from my Mother-in-law, who had issues with her cat marking their suitcases while they tried to pack. When that was plugged in, he stopped marking. My Mom has a crazy cat who has a diffuser plugged in all the time. The Feliway® diffuser alleviated the confrontations she had with my Mom’s other, more mentally-balanced cats. Its well loved by our feline family, and I hope it brings your family relief too!


Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Nest Cam Indoor

Nest Cam Indoor
This is definitely relief more for my own anxiety than the cats’. They have no idea what (associate link) Nest Cam Indoor is. For me, the benefit is that at any time of day, I can open the app on my phone, and I can see that the house is ok, possibly see Katze and Jayla, and even hear my ticking clock in the background. It's a visual relief that arrests my anxiety in it's place. One time I caught Jayla and my Mom watching a NASCAR race together. I knew because I could see Jayla’s face and eyes following the cars on the screen. When I was feeling homesick and missing them, that was priceless. We have one that we bought several years back, and is still supported by the current app. Its something that while its expensive at first, it will last a while. We position it by our TV in the living room, and it covers most of the hallways and the couch they love.


Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Securing Pet Sitters

Securing Pet Sitters
If you have family or friends around that you trust to check on the cats every day, great. Maybe they’d even be game to send photos and/or video from time to time too. Spend time before the trip to make sure they understand any feeding quirks. That’s often how cats will show they’re upset, is by eating less or turning down treats that they’d normally never miss. Jayla has had several teeth removed because of bad genetics, and she needs higher food bowls that work with her, not against her, when she’s trying to eat her wet food. We make sure the caretaker knows about that, and that it's ok if Katze eats Jayla’s leftovers. Typically the first few days we’re gone, Jayla will turn down wet food in protest of the situation. Katze has turned down her wet food if it's not chopped up like she normally has it. They’re our furry divas, and we love them.

If you don’t have family or friends nearby that can watch them, it's time to bring in the professionals! Visit the website for the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) to begin your search. It will help locate nearby licensed and insured pet sitters. It's a good indication that who you are hiring is responsible and takes their profession serious if they’ve become members of the NAPPS. If no one is registered in your area, ask your veterinarian for a referral.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Blankets

Blankets
Normally our couch throw blankets are folded up on the arms of the couch, but when we’re away from home, I spread them out flat in a few places, one where Jayla lays a lot, and another on our bed. Two reasons, one, if the girls have anxiety-caused upset stomach episodes, or their well-meaning-family-member-turned-pet-sitter has given them too many treats, the blankets protect the furniture and are easier to wash. The second reason being it's an additional comfort source for them that they can burrow into if they wish.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Keep Suitcases Out of Sight

Pack in Another Room
Our cats definitely understand what a suitcase signifies. One time Sebastian got down our biggest suitcase from the attic, and set it out in the hallway overnight. Jayla left us a smelly present inches away from the suitcase for us to discover the next morning. Since then, we try to sneak the suitcases through the house into the guest bedroom where we can close the door. This isn’t usually too hard, when the cats are out in the catio it's easy to get things tucked away out of sight. Since Sebastian likes to start putting things away for the trip sometimes a month ahead of time, it's better that the cats don’t even know it's vacation time. I would hate for them to be anxiously anticipating our trip for that long. We typically will bring out the suitcases from the guest bedroom for final packing the day before we leave.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Pet Trusts

Pet Trust
At the first sign of turbulence on the flight, my panicked thought is “Oh No! What will happen to the cats!” This is something we’ve been talking about doing forever, and plan to do. You can legally make plans for your pets in the event something happens, and even set aside a trust fund for their care if you’re not quite sure that your possible caretaker would have enough funds to support them. If you’ve never considered this before, here’s a Pet Trust Primer from the ASPCA I recommend looking at to get you started.

How Do You Manage?
Do you have other tricks up your sleeve for managing travel anxiety for your cats and you? Do share! Comment below, or reply via email. Every little bit helps!

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler