Which is the easiest, cheapest, most reliable way to get around the East Coast? Props to Gary Butterworth for a great post laying out the pros and cons of car-free travel options.
Archive for September, 2007
Improving on an idea many of us are familiar with from the frozen foods section of our local grocery store, many DC retailers are seeking to lure shoppers with free candy, wine, beer, manicures, yoga and even palm readings. You don’t need to buy, you just need to know where to be! You can find a detailed list of freebies showing addresses, telephone numbers and websites here.
I recently received a reminder from the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg that it may be nearing time to vote in certain U.S. elections. The 2008 general election is still over 400 days away, but maybe your state, county or city is holding a primary or election this fall? And maybe you’ll be abroad on the big day?
First place to look and see if this will even affect you is your state’s Secretary of State’s website. You can find a link to all 50 states here.
It is best to complete all necessary registration and absentee ballot requests by the end of September, to ensure that everything reaches you in time for your vote to be returned and counted in the election. There are still a couple of September days left, so get on it!
An interesting development in travel, largely inspired I assume by the hassles of airplane security and the increasing cost of jet fuel, is the entry of delivery companies into the luggage transport field. Dana blogged about a couple of services for business travelers taking this idea to the extreme over at the Geek Buffet.
Today while I was looking at shipping a package via DHL, I discovered a new service they’re offering within Germany. They’ll transport up to 31.5 kg (70 lbs) of luggage for a flat 13.90 euros. If you want them to pick it up, that’s an extra 3 euros.
Regardless of whether you are traveling to deepest Bavaria or the Müritz National Park up in the North, your travel bags will arrive at your destination normally within two working days. The only exceptions are the islands in the North Sea and the Baltic where the delivery normally requires four working days. No surcharge will be claimed for transport to these vacation islands.
If you’re flying within Germany on a low-cost carrier and need to transport a lot (or simply heavy) baggage, this could actually save you money over excess luggage fees (RyanAir, for example, charges 8 euros/kg over 15 kg and maxes out at 25 kg total per passenger). Or if you’re hiking from one mountain to another and want to pare down your stuff, it’s likely worth the 14 euros to pick it up at your final hotel or destination.
If you can fit your suitcase in a box (max. 120x60x60 cm), you can save money using their traditional package handling service. If you pay online, you can have up to 31.5 kgs with home pickup included delivered within Germany for 12.90 euros. For boxes, they advertise next business day delivery.
Even the lazy can schlep lots of luggage on a budget!
Exciting, I know, two freebies on one Friday. . . saw this one waiting for a tram in Brussels this evening.
Brussels has been celebrating its sixth Mobility Week, which culminates this Sunday, September 23, in Car Free Sunday. In order to encourage the Bruxelloises to discover how easy and wonderful it is to travel via public transportation versus private vehicles, the city has outlawed all non-emergency traffic and MIVB/STIB (the Brussels Transport Authority) is making all forms of public transport free for the day. If you happen to be here, you too will benefit from no fares and increased service this Sunday. Bon voyage!
Every year once per year, a number of Philadelphia museums open their doors for free to anyone with a student ID. It’s called College Day on the Parkway and will take place next Saturday, September 29th. Participating institutions include:
- Philadelphia Museum of Art
- U Penn: Institute of Contemporary Art and Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
- Moore College of Art and Design: Galleries
- Rodin Museum
- Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site
- Free Library of Philadelphia
- Academy of Natural Science
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
- Fabric Workshop and Museum
- National Constitution Center
For this event, the museums even run a complimentary shuttle service to ease your visit. If you stop in at at least three of the institutions, you can enter a raffle for prizes like movie tickets or restaurant gift certificates. Would love to hear back from anyone who makes it to this event!
So the train isn’t for everyone, or you’ve waited till the last minute and there aren’t any cheap fares left. That’s okay, because there are lots of Germans looking for passengers at the last minute. Ride sharing, what Germans call Mitfahrgelegenheit, is another way to beat high rail prices. It’s safer than hitchhiking but less reliable and sometimes slower than the train. But at 1/6 to 1/2 of the price, how picky can you be? Here’s how you do it.
The most comfortable way to travel across Germany is naturally by train. Deutsche Bahn, the German Rail company, is one of the companies everyone in Germany loves to hate, but that is largely because so many Germans are comparatively dependent upon rail travel. Yes, sometimes trains are late, sometimes connections are missed — but if I had to choose between two extra hours in a bus, a plane, or a train, I would naturally choose the train. At least you can walk around, get up and go to the bathroom or the restaurant car, and compared to the other two, train seats are (still) relatively spacious. The fast ICE (pronounced eee-say-eh) trains deliver you to your destination faster than a car can (Hamburg-Berlin in 1.5 hours vs. 3-4 hours driving; Berlin-Cologne in 4.25 hours vs. 5-6 hours driving). So what’s stopping you already?
Oh right, the exorbitant ticket prices! If you think taking the train is still too expensive, you could benefit from the following tricks for booking the cheapest tickets on German Rail.
I’m on a convoluted trip with my mom that starts in Brussels (at the time she booked, the cheapest direct flight to Europe), takes off to Italy (on one-cent RyanAir tickets), and then comes back. The cheapest route to Brussels from Berlin was via Cologne, from whence Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) offers 19 euro one-ways to Brussels. I ended up using a ride share to Cologne and am taking the train all the way back at the end of the trip. Later this week I’ll post about both forms of travel and how to find the best price using one or the other. Today I want to write about the Cologne main train station and how to avoid its overpriced luggage storage and bathrooms. (more…)