Stuttgart and Neckarsulam

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And the journey continues….

With my bag situation, getting on the train was interesting. When purchasing train tickets in some parts of Europe, you have the option of getting a seat reservation.  When traveling at peak times, it’s probably a good idea to ensure you actually get a seat. Or you can be cheap (like me) and take your chances.  I took my chances and got lucky, the train appeared to be empty. I had some fun getting my 4 bags up the stairs……

Again, normally I am not traveling for 12 days, so storing my bag have not been an issue in the past. This time I asked a nice German couple for some assistance and they showed me where to put my bags, in the overhead. Why, yes I work out, I explained as I heaved my seriously heavy bags up top.  And these trip reports would be nothing if I did not tell you about yet another Rookie Mistake, I am losing count of what number at this point.  Some guy heard me speak and was like oh are you American? In hindsight, I should have said No, Haitian, Canadian, Alien, something other then admitting to being American.  If you recall, I was tired but excited, so I said why yes……. And so his life story began. At one point, the nice German couple looked at me with pity. Finally I just smiled and put on my headphones, which were unplugged, and pretended like I could not hear him.  Luckily he took the hint, until we reached Stuttgart.  He, of course, waited for me to get off the train and only after I had cleared all the stairs, said do you need some help? I tried to run away but with 4 bags, was not very successful.  So I stopped to pretend like I was consulting my map and he did not notice, thank goodness……

As part of the European Delivery Program, Porsche pays for the first night hotel, so they put us up at the Am Schlossgarten, which was located right across the street from the train station.  Beautiful hotel, they gave us a superior room on the 7th floor with a balcony. Which was nice, but it was facing west and Stuttgart was having a heat wave. To say it was hot would be an understatement.

We arrived early in Stuttgart so we could go do the Audi Factory Tour in Neckarsulam. The tour was scheduled for 1.45pm, so we quickly got changed and ran over to Sixt to pick up our rental car.  And we got lost walking over, my fault, trying to remember the directions while being jet lagged. Finally arrive at Sixt, and while filling out the rental car paperwork, they ask about additional insurance. ( Cheap Ass Alert). I said no thanks my credit card provides coverage.  Ma’am are you sure, it’s a BMW M6, wait what???? YES give me the insurance, please.

So off we go or so we try, but we not quite sure where we are going and the navigation is in German. Back to rental car office for assistance and now we are off for real.  Even pushing the pedal in the Beemer, we did not make it in time for the tour.  We were still able to check out the Forum though.

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With the heat starting to get to us, we headed back to Stuttgart and had a nice dinner, before attempting to sleep. Attempting being the key word because our room was easily 90 degrees.  Besides who could sleep when we knew was in store for the next day??????

 

 

And I am off….

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I guess I should clarify something with my posts, they are not in real time. They are days behind. So if you arre reading this thinking, hmm I think I am going to find Flo in Germany, yeah I am probably already home.

My usual travel pattern, when heading to Europe, is to take a 6:00pm departure,  so I have a chance at sleeping. Well due to the schedule for the next day, I took the 2:20 pm from Chicago to Frankfurt. Rookie Mistake #2.

I also booked my ticket late, so the choice seats where gone. Rookie Mistake #3.

So I ended up in the middle seat sandwiched between 2 men, both who where armrest hogs. The one to my left was  not as bad, elbows touch someone would move. However, the guy to my right? I am pretty sure he was trying to get his cuddle on.

So 7.25 flight time, I watched 3 movies, so maybe 2 hours of sleep? Arrived in Frankfurt at 5:20 am, ready to go to bed rather then face the day.  But the next day, was the big day, and I was way to excited to sleep.

Originally the plan had been to meet up with friends in Frankfurt and we would drive down to the Audi Forum in Neckarsulam. I had booked a hotel room at the airport so we could refresh before fhe drive.  Well plans changed, flights cancelled and I made rookie mistake 4. Don’t prepay your hotel unless your willing to lose it.

So I walked over to the Frankfurt Hilton Airport to refresh and drink about 4 expresso’s.  The Hilton was located in the Squaire, which right next to the train station for the long distance trains. So it worked out great given my bad situation.

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I had prebooked the train, at risk, because the price difference was so signficant it was worth it. Next stop Stuttgart……….

 

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Rookie travel mistakes

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I am usually a short haul traveler. I can usually travel with a carryon and I very rarely check bags. So planning for 12 days in Europe was eye opening for me.  Oh boy did I make some rookie mistakes.

1. Overpacking- there is this amazing thing called laundry, you can even pay someone to do it for you.  No need for 12 days of clothes.

2. Trains, planes, automobiles and stairs?- only pack what you can carry because at some point you will encounter a sitaution that requires you to carry,lift, pull your bags.

3. Make a list- less likely to forget something.

4. If packing multi-bags, try to put what you need the first few days in bag 1, so your not having to shift thru bags every day.

I started with my 2 rollerboards fully expanded and very heavy. I ended up with, having to do laundry at some point. But for 12 days it could have been worse.

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Convenience Money

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I am normally a pretty frugal person. Well about certain things. Sometimes I am not a frugal person, but then again I don’t have to be because I was frugal other times, so it balances out. Or so I like to think.

A few years ago, I planned the “trip of a lifetime”** or so I thought at the time. I researched and studied the travel blogs and bloggers, and figured out how to book a first class trip to Bali, Indonesia for 12 days for almost free.

So here I am going on this fantastic trip and I start being “cheap” about stuff. Not frugal, mind you, full on cheap. It was at that moment I decided I could give myself a pass and use something called Convenience Money.

Convenience Money is set aside amount of money that can be spent “guilt-free”. Convenience in the sense that there was probably a cheaper option, but this one just works better. Like paying for someone to get my Indonesian Visa and get by bags in Bali, yes I could have done it myself, but for $20 money well spent!

So rather then get upset about “over” paying, I just started assigning a value for convenience for each trip. Like when I order room service instead of going out to eat. Or when I decide to take a taxi instead of taking the train. Before this concept, I would stress about oh I could have saved $5, but now I just think hmmm this taxi ride was such a great idea!

So stop penny pinching and enjoy the trip. Setting a budget is important, so if you are hit with unexpected expenses, you can plan for it. And use common sense, convenience money is not meant to be stupid money. Still spend wisely, just don’t let the little things potential ruin your trip.
For the record, I had saved money doing some things cheaper on my Bali trip. Like opting not to take the nice hotel Mercedes from the Conrad Hong Kong, but instead opting for the free bus to the subway. Yes I honestly felt a little tacky rolling out of a hotel that cost $1,500/a night (I got it for free) and asking for the free bus. But if I had not taken the free bus, I would have not able to afford the room service hamburger. So it balanced out.

And of the $100 convenience money I had assigned for the trip, I came home with $40 and great memories!

**”Trip of lifetime” is no longer a phrase I use. Calling a trip “trip of a lifetime” puts unnecessary stress on it to be perfect. No trip is perfect. So I prefer “a trip in my lifetime”.

50 before 40

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I’ve given myself a travel challenge, to visit 50 countries before I turn 40. So while I am open to suggestions of where to go, it might be helpful to know where I’ve been.

While trying to compose the list of countries,  I had to learn what is considered a “country”.  The United Nations acknowledges 193 countries. The US State Department recognizes 195. Other sources site 196.  Given that it’s not possible to get a straight answer on what is considered an actual countries vs territory, I am a little unclear how many I’ve actually visited.

For the sake of my challenge, I am going with 196, in hopes that it put me that much closer to 50.

So here is my list, in alphabetical order.

1 Argentina
2 Australia
3 Austria
4 Belgium
5 Bosnia and Herzegovina
6 Canada
7 Chile
8 China
9 Croatia
10 Czech Republic
11 Dominican Republic
12 France
13 Germany
14 Haiti
15 India
16 Indonesia
17 Ireland
18 Italy
19 Jamaica
20 Japan
21 Kenya
22 Korea, North (If the DMZ tour counts)
23 Korea, South
24 Mexico
25 Montenegro
26 Netherlands
27 New Zealand
28 Panama
29 Singapore
30 South Africa
31 Spain
32 Switzerland
33 Tanzania
34 Thailand
35 Turkey
36 United Arab Emirates
37 United Kingdom
38 United States
39 Vatican City

I am looking forward to discovering 11 countries before I hit the big 40. I am even more intrigue, however, to discover what those 11 countries might be.

Driving in Europe

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I’ve traveled the world, 6 continents and 39 countries, but outside of Canada, I have not driven in other countries.  Given that I like to be prepared when I travel, I’ve been researching the rules of the roads for the countries that we will be driving through.  I’ve learned some interesting things.

*Do not pass on the right-Oh how I wish American drivers would follow this simple rule.

*The Autobahn does have speed limits- The autobahn is the highway in German. While parts have no speed limits, parts nears urbanized areas do. And it’s enforced.

*You can get a ticket for driving in flip flops- Yes, especially if you are in a accident, even if you did not cause the accident.

*France- too many rules to list-like you must have a safety jacket or vest, your vehicle must have a breathalyzer, if you get pulled over and if the driver has been drinking everyone in the car gets a ticket.

*If you wear glasses, you must have a spare pair in the car- like I need any excuse to purchase another pair of glasses.

It’s good be informed. I am still a little nervous about driving around the various countries, at least I will be prepared driving in the right lane, with my sneakers and orange vest……….

 

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To Air or Not to Air, that is the question

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When researching hotels for my upcoming trip to Europe, I noticed that it cost more to get a room with air conditioning. So the frugal person I can be, thought for a minute, air or no air. What surprises me is that I even considered it! There are just certain necessities one needs when it’s warm. I could bend on location, room size and maybe even lack of room service, but I am not willing to suffer through no air conditioning.  I would rather travel less but travel well then travel more and be hot!

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