My wife and I made a trip to Germany BC (Before Children) in 1987 and I have wanted to get back ever since. With my oldest son graduating from college and my wanting to see the Christmas markets, it seemed like a good time to go.
Years ago my wife and I owned a toy store (We sold Little
Tikes toys - hence my computer name BIGTYKE) and discovered that we could pay many of our suppliers with credit
cards. The frequent flyer miles piled up and so we always try to fly for 'free'.
Knowing that flights on most airlines begin booking 331 days in advance, I planned to book the tickets on the first day if possible. About a month before, I started practicing booking to see if FF seats were available. As the day approached, I looked at the website at 10:01 PM MST to see if the reservations could be made. Nope, the day before I wanted to fly was the latest one which could be booked. I went to bed and happened to wake up at 3:30 AM.
On the website, the planned date could be booked. I entered the data and it said that there were no seats at that level. But when I clicked on the flight I wanted, the process continued. I was able to log into my FF account and get reservations for the lowest number of miles (20,000 per ticket)!
16 days later I repeated the same procedure although at 6:00 AM instead of 3:30. One curiosity was that the taxes going over were only $20 for the 4 tickets and about $500 coming back!
By Feb. 1, we had our plane reservations.
In August, I received an email from American - the flight times going to Frankfurt had changed. It was actually for the better as the flight to Dallas would start 2 hours later at 10:20 AM, there would be an hour less layover, and the flight to Frankfurt would arrive an hour later at 8:05 AM which is ok since we are planning to use the Quer-durchs-land train tickets which are valid after 9:00 AM.
A week later we got a change to our return flight. The flight from Frankfurt stayed the same, but the Dallas-Denver leg was changed to a different flight - giving us a SIX HOUR LAYOVER. It was also getting us to Denver at 9:20 PM - after the last Super Shuttle to Greeley.
Just before we were scheduled to go, American Airlines declared bankruptcy. A brief scare, but it was announced that they were continuing operations as scheduled. Whew!
With two adult sons (ages 23 and 21) and my wife, we would need a double bed plus two single beds. That required more effort to find accommodations than if it were two couples or just Tykewife and me.
Stuttgart took a lot of searching, primarily on tripadvisor.com, to find a place. We finally settled on a hotel near the Porsche museum.
In Rothenburg, we used it's excellent website to find a fewo for 3 days, booked at a per person rate without breakfast. With a kitchen, I figured we could eat as cheaply and to our different tastes rather than pay for the breakfast.
Salzburg. During a web search in the previous year, I had located a fewo at at farm just outside Salzburg, located just a 5 minute walk from the lokalbahn (light rail system). That would give us an apartment with a kitchen, but be just a few minutes from Salzburg. The kitchen was an important item as we would be there over Christmas and we could have a dinner there rather than have to find a restaurant.
I looked at the guest book and the reviews seemed fine. I emailed the Bauernhof with a few questions - is it actually just 5 minutes from the lokalbahn (yes) and are there 3 beds (yes). I booked the 5 nights.
Originally we planned on spending one night in the Fuessen area and made reservations at a hotel we found just searching the web. After taking a look at a train schedule from Salzburg, it was apparent that we would have virtually no chance of seeing the castles that same day, so we booked a second day. No problem.
For Bacharach I used the nice town website and Ben's Bauernhof. From the town website (a German language part - not shown in English), I learned that my first choice was closed at the time. I emailed my second choice and they replied that they weren't sure if they would be open in December. I should write in Sept. I didn't want to wait until then to secure a place, so I wrote a letter to my third choice. I wrote in both English and German. They have no email. I quickly received a letter from the Tourist Office saying that since the landlord spoke no English, she asked the TO to respond. They had space, so I wrote back to reserve the rooms for us.
So by mid-February, we had reserved all our rooms.
Over the past year we had picked up 3 wheeled carry-ons
at the local Habitat for Humanity stores for about $15 total. We also had a larger wheeled duffle bag. Going over,
we just checked the larger bag. What a stupid move! Since there was no fee for checked luggage on international
flights, we should have checked the other 3 bags.
Tykeson1 graduated College on Saturday. Monday we flew to Phoenix to visit our parents and to wait for Tykeson2 to finish his finals. On Thursday, we tried to fly to Frankfurt. I say we tried because the plane accelerated down the runway and then the brakes were applied and we went back to the gate. After sitting in the plane for about an hour, we were let off. The word was that an indicator light on the wheels did not light up and they thought it was a faulty transducer. It would take a while to fix it. They then said that they had to search for the part, then later admitted that they had the part but not the tool to replace the transducer. The tool had to be flown over from Los Angeles!
Since we missed our connection, we talked to an American Airlines agent. We ended up being booked the next day on American to Miami and then British Airlines to London and then Frankfurt. We got a meal voucher from AA, ate lunch and then went home.
Friday, Dec. 16
The next day we flew without incident to Miami. About half way there, I realized that I had left my nice Tilley winter hat in the boarding area. Rats! The BA flight to London was a 747. We had the center 4 seats which had a screen on the seatback in front of us. I watched a couple of movies. None of us got any real sleep.
Saturday, Dec. 17
We arrived London Heathrow about 6:00 AM. We had to go through security again. Tykeson2 and I had no problem but Tykewife got a thorough examination of luggage. Her feet had swollen and she could barely get her shoes back on. I changed $40 at a terrible exchange rate ($1.76 + 3 pounds fee), but we needed some cash for snacks.
The flight to Frankfurt was short and a few minutes early. No one was at customs and it was an easy bus ride to the airport train station (very good signage). Because we were late and we were all tired and Tykewife's knee was really hurting her, I decided to take the ICE train (direct) rather than use the Quer-durchs-Land Ticket (2 or more hours longer with up to 3 stops). I used an ATM at the airport to get some cash. I was a little surprised that I received no receipt for the transaction. No ATM I used on the trip issued receipt.
At the Stuttgart Hbf the signage to the taxi area was poor so I asked someone and was directed to the front of the station. A fairly short ride got us to the hotel about 3:00 PM - about 26 hours after we had left our house in Arizona. We went to our rooms - a king and twin room - not adjoining and took naps, waking about 6:00 pm. Each room was a basic room with a bed, TV, desk, and bathroom. The boys' twin room had a refrigerator and oven/range in a closet. The rate was 76 Euro for each, including breakfast. Wifi was available. We got the username/password for it - no charge.
ACHAT Comfort Hotel Stuttgart
Tel - 711/820080 ~ Fax - 711/82008999
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tykeson1 and I went down to the McDonalds that is located in the building. I had nuggets, Tykeson1 a Allgäuer burger (different cheese) and we brought back a cheeseburger for Tykewife. Tykeson2 didn't want anything. We watched a little CNN in English and got to bed about 8:00 PM.
Sunday, Dec. 18
I woke up at 10 PM, midnight, and then 7:00 AM. I waited until 8 before I woke the others up. The breakfast was nice. I had cherry yogurt, 2 croissants, cereal, salami, and orange juice. They also had hard boiled eggs and coffee.
We walked 1/4 mile or so to the Porsche Museum. It is a very modern building which was built in the past couple of years. Admission was 8 euro (4 for student - Tykeson2 still qualified). The building is laid out somewhat like the Guggenheim with a ramp that you follow around the building to see the exhibits. Descriptions are in English as well as German. There is just enough variety and displays for most visitors. Any more might get too tiresome. Apparently in the old building they only exhibited 24 or so cars, which would be too few. We had initially thought about trying to have a factory tour, but we decided against it. Good thing, since with our delayed flight, we would have missed the tour. We bought a few postcards to send to a friend who used to race for the factory in the 50's/60's.
Familie Fröhlich Ferienwohnungen
91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Tel - 9861/709709
Mobile - 1745415387
Email - email@example.com
Some English spoken
18.50 euro w/o breakfast. 25 w/breakfast - we chose the no breakfast option.
We then walked into the old city to the Christmas market. It was not crowded at all, but this was about noon on a Wednesday. Tykewife bought a bell for a school teacher friend of hers. We had the 'Drei im Weggla' sausages in a bun. They were my least favorite sausages of the trip. I had a kinderpunsch in a mug, keeping this mug (actually it was one from 2010, not 2011). Tykewife bought a nice gingerbread cookie. There was a Playmobil (A toy brand we used to sell which is headquartered in the Nuremberg suburb of Zirndorf) stand but it didn't have anything new. I was hoping for an Adam and Eve set that I saw a poster of in Stuttgart. We took the subway back to the Hbf and waited about an hour for the train back. We didn't go to the toy museum as planned because of Tykewife's knee.
On the way back from the station we stopped at the kebab place. I had a very nice (and big) pita filled with meat. Tykewife and Tykeson1 had kebab dinners while Tykeson2 had a fish stick meal. I got a punch at the Christmas market and kept the Rothenburg mug. Tykewife and I also stopped at the butcher shop for more cold cuts.
Thursday, Dec. 22
I went early again to the bakery, then got everyone up, fed, and packed. I paid for the stay and asked the Frau if she could take us to the station. She agreed. Her parking place is so tight that she banged the car slightly backing out. Oops! At the station we again purchased the Bavaria ticket. Our journey took us via Steinach, Treuchtlingen, and Munich to Salzburg. In Munich we had to walk about 10 minutes to a different set of tracks, but we had plenty of time. Outside of Salzburg there was light snow.
The Salzburg Hbf is under construction. Tykeson1 found a Burger King and then we found the Lokalbahn and purchased tickets. It was a short ride to Anthering. There was a pay phone at the station so I tried to call the bauernhof. It took some time to figure out how, but I did it. Of course there was a language barrier, but we got instructions to walk up the street. As we walked, a SUV came. It was the owner. He loaded up our bags and Tykewife, but since he had a dog carrier in the back portion, he couldn't take us guys. No problem as it was only a five minute walk.
Franz und Maria Hauser
5102 Anthering, Austria
Tel ~ Fax - 6223/2219
Mobil - 06644324639
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Some English spoken
At the Christmas market we had a brat and I had hot spiced apple juice and kept the mug. I bought an interesting metal star with a green glass center. We walked back to the Hbf via Mirabell Gardens. We passed two internet cafes on the way back to the station but also discovered one right there at the Hbf. I purchased 4 weekly passes for the lokalbahn. When we got on the train, the conductor said we had the wrong ones - that they would only get us to the city limits and not to Anthering. She reissued them, costing us about 20 euro more. She issued them with the city bus pass included, but only on three of them. In any case, neither one issued what I really wanted. There is no machine to issue the tickets, so you just have to make very sure what you want.
The lokalbahn is like a city bus - you have to indicate when you want to get off. In the daytime, it wasn't much of a problem as we could tell where we were, but at night we couldn't tell when the stop was coming up. On some trains there was a nice LED sign that would tell you and on some there was a clear announcement, but on some trains it was unintelligible.
To have the train stop to pick you up, there was a button to be pressed within 5 minutes of the train arrival. That would light up a red light to tell the train to stop.
Since this fewo does not have wifi, Tykewife and I went later into town to use the internet cafe at the station (3 euro for 1 hr). We also went to the nice supermarket adjacent to the station where we got 4 bags of groceries. We had a dinner of brats, salad and fruit.
Saturday, December 24
The day before Christmas. Almost everything closes at 1 PM today and doesn't re-open until the 27th. A day of drizzle. When I got up I went to the store. Later Tykeson1 and I went to town where he used the internet and I shopped for more food. Just before 1, Tykewife and I went again to the local supermarket. At the bank on the way back, I was able at the ATM to specify which bills I wanted. A good way to get some of the smaller bills and not just 100 and 50 euro bills. But still no receipt.
We just relaxed. I had thought about going to the Silent Night villages tonight, and we saw the steam train taking people out, but with Tykewife's bad knee and the sloppy weather, we decided against it. We considered going to the 11:30 mass, but it was too late for us. We still have some bad sleep patterns.
Sunday, December 25 - CHRISTMAS
I slept well and woke up at 7:30. The rain had stopped and the low clouds were gone - still cloudy at the mountain tops. Great views of the mountains. I walked around town, taking pictures. Tykeson2 didn't want to go on the Sound of Music tour so he stayed at the fewo while the rest of us went. I went to the tourist information office at the train station (I had asked the day before if it was open on Christmas - it is open every day). I got 3 tickets to the 2 PM tour on Panorama Tours - 37 euro each. I asked the girl in the office where the Dwarves garden was in Mirabell Gardens. She didn't know the term but I said little people and she understood. She showed me where it was. She then asked me to spell dwarf and pronounce it for her. It took her about 3 times but she got the pronunciation correct. She was proud to learn a new word.
We took the bus to Mirabell and walked around. The Dwarves Garden is fenced off in winter so we couldn't see it. We took more pictures where I took the picture of my Dirndl clad sister 41 years ago. The start for the tour is next to a Catholic church. After I got out Tykewife went in to look. There weren't many kids with the parishioners. Signs of the population implosion I guess.
The tour bus was full. Tykeson1 sat next to an Australian. There was a family from Georgia (the country, not the state) sitting across the aisle. The tour guide was very good. We saw the place that was used as one exterior, the wall where Maria got off the bus, the gazebo (now at Hellbrunn). We drove by the Red Bull HQ at St. Gilgen (very modern) to Mondsee where the wedding church is. I thought in '87 we drove right to the church. Now you park about 1/2 mile away and walk. Tykeson1's camera was good for the low light - especially since the sun was setting. Tykewife bought a souvenir book in the church and then we had a cake at the nearby cafe. We were the first back to the bus because we wanted to get a drink at the gas station store - open on Christmas Day - next to the bus parking lot. We just missed the lokalbahn so we had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. Weekdays they frequently go every 15 minutes.
Tykewife made spaghetti for her and the boys. I had some spareribs that I was able to broil. They were ok, but not as good as I make at home.
Monday, December 26
I got everyone up at 9:30. Tykeson2 was resistant to going, but he eventually decided to go and of course he later said he had a great time. Tykeson1 and I went to the bank again and then we all went to the train station. We were almost there when the train went by. Oh well, we had to wait a half hour. But in the big field by the station, there were men cracking whips. They had spots set up several yards apart and then the 8 men or so would start cracking their whips. Sounded just like a volley of guns. Interesting and it helped pass the time. The whip-cracking is a New Year's tradition to drive the winter away. I guess they were practicing. Not much of a winter so far this year.
At the Hbf in Salzburg, I went to the ÖBB office to ask about the combination ticket to the salt mines. The girl checked that the mines were open and then issued me the tickets - 23.80 each. We took the train to Hallein and then waited 30 minutes for the bus to take us to the mines. We just missed a tour and so we waited an hour for the next one. We looked at the Celtic Village next door to get a look at the life of the first salt miners. Their houses were better than I would have guessed.
The tour was given in German and English. Very nice. More walking than I remember so it was hard on Tykewife. They had a movie shown in three parts with Italian and English subtitles. It gave insight into the politics of Salzburg as it related to the mines. We did two slides and the boat across the salt lake. Lots of fun and interesting. We had over a 30 minute wait for the bus, so when a taxi driver asked if we wanted a ride to the train station, we said yes. He had brought a fare from Salzburg and was trying to make some money while he waited for the return. It worked out well as we were able to get a train sooner. I cooked turkey legs and a thigh for dinner. It was different using the oven where I didn't really know what I was doing. But it came out ok.
Tuesday, December 27
We paid our rent and Maria drove Tykewife and the bags to the station while we men walked. At the Hbf we bought a Bavaria ticket and were on our way. It was a beautiful clear day. In Munich we had to walk from one end of the station to the other but we had plenty of time. We next transfered at Bissenhofen. Next time I will print out all the intermediate stops so I will know how many stops until our transfer point. In Füssen we took a taxi to the hotel. We could have taken a bus but we didn't want to hassle with the bags on the bus. The front desk of the hotel is closed from noon to 3:00 PM so we took trains that would get us there just after 3.
Hotel Schwangauer Hof
Füssener Strasse 113
Tel - 8362/8400
72 Euro per room including breakfast
We had a king room with a shower and a twin room with a bath. Both had a balcony. From the king room there was a view of Neuschwanstein. Most of the side we could see was covered with scaffolding. The view from the twin room was obscured by trees.
After settling in we took the bus back to Füssen. I forgot that our Bavaria ticket covered the bus also so we wasted 1.40 Euro on each ticket. We went to the Tourist office and found out where an internet cafe was. We wandered around the pedestrian zone and eventually found it. After catching up on email and facebook, we ate at a nearby Kebab restaurant. As usual the portions were very big and I couldn't finish my big sandwich. Tykeson2 hadn't come into town so we got a slice of pizza for him at a nearby pizza joint.
Wednesday, December 28
Another beautiful day - perfect for visiting the Crazy King's Castle. A thick frost formed on the trees - very scenic. A decent breakfast of cereal, bread, egg, juice, and cold cuts. The bus stop by the hotel is on the route to the castles. We just missed the 9:08 bus and had to wait until 9:48 for the next bus. I think there were more frequent buses on school days. There were not many people in the visitor center and we were able to quickly get tickets for the 11:20 tour in English for Neuschwanstein (we were only doing the one castle). Because of icy conditions, the bus to the castle was not running. There was a big line for people to ride up in the horse drawn carriages. And we saw no carriages in sight. So we decided to walk up. It was tough for Tykewife as it was a fairly long, uphill walk. We soon saw several carriages, each taking about 10 people so we should have waited and taken one. Oh well! There was no problem getting in the right line at the right time. I had read several places that this was somewhat complicated. I don't know what they were talking about.
The tour was very nice with a good young woman tour guide. There were a lot of stairs and Tykewife had a tough time but she made it. It was easier after the guide told how many steps there were between floors. The interiors are very opulent. Tykewife and I had done a skit in German class about 'A visit to Neuschwanstein', so it was fun for her to see it in person. Especially the Throne zimmer which we have used as a euphemism for the toilet these many years!
We took the horse carriage down the hill - half price of 3 euro. It was worth it. At the bottom there was a group of 4 men blowing on alpenhorns. Fun to watch. We were hungry and went into a cafe for our only real sit down meal of the trip. We had all finished our meal while Tykeson2 was still eating his "Farmer's Plate" of sausage, sauerkraut and potatoes. I don't think I have ever seen him eat so much food at one time.
Later in the day Tykeson1 and I walked to town (about 1.4 km) to again visit the internet cafe. We also went to the Woolworth store where Tykeson1 bought an inexpensive backpack (10 Euro) to make packing a little easier. I checked at the train station about the train to Bacharach tomorrow. Online I had only come up with a schedule that also included a bus portion. I was a little leery about relying on the bus and was glad that the clerk came up with an all train schedule. Later that evening we watched the World Series of Poker with German commentators.
Thursday, December 29
It was to be a long day of train travel. The cheap ticket would have been the Quer-durchs-Land Ticket but that would have gotten us to Bacharach after dark, about 5:30 and would have taken 4 transfers. I decided to bite the bullet and use the IC train for a 4 hour segment. It was 328 Euro instead of 60. Ouch! We still had 3 changes - at Kaufbeuren, Kempten, and Bingen, but there was plenty of time for unhurried transfers. On the first leg we met a girl from Wisconsin who was in Europe teaching English in Prague. She was enjoying all her free weekends and Christmas break to travel around.
I had emailed the Tourist Information Office yesterday to inform Frau Orth of the time I expected to arrive. After we got to Bacharach, we started walking to the rooms. We just found the street and she was there to greet us. It is a small street and we almost missed it.
Haus Irmgard Orth
Tel - 6743/1553
Little English spoken
We had the entire 3rd floor - a king room and a room for each of the boys. Actually one of the rooms was a twin and we probably would have had the boys in the same room if we knew, but I guess the way we worded our request, they thought we wanted separate rooms. No problem as both boys were glad to have their own room after being in the same room for two weeks. We paid 38 Euro for the king room, 30 each for the others. The king room had a shower/toilet with it - small but ok. The boys shared a bath/toilet off the hall.
We asked about internet and Frau Orth though that the Tourist Info Office had one. We found the office, but it is closed between Christmas and New Years. I'm glad someone was monitoring the email and were able to relay our arrival time to the Frau. We walked along the Rhine a while. I had planned on eating at the Cafe Rusticana, highly recommended by BavariaBen, but it was closed for renovation. Instead we found a combination pizza/kebab place where I got a big pita sandwich and two pizzas for the rest.
We were quite tired and got to bed very early.
Friday, December 30
We had a nice breakfast - egg, bread, excellent honey, coffee and hot chocolate. That was the first place we had the hot chocolate. Perhaps it was available at the other places if we had known to ask. Frau Orth had asked us last night what we had wanted to drink.
At the train station I got the Rheinland-Pfalz pass. Unlike the Bavaria ticket, it depends on the number of people so it was 33 euro. I tried to figure out how to get to the airport the next day but the station is unmanned and there was just a ticket machine and I wasn't sure, so I decided to check at the Koblenz Hbf. We rode down to Koblenz, seeing some of the castles along the river and the Lorelei. I know some of the posters on some of the Germany travel forums say that taking the train is better or equal to taking the boat. I have never seen such wrong advice. I would much rather have been able to take the boat, but the public boats don't run this time of year. It does appear that some tour company boats do some sailing from Koblenz.
In Koblenz I went to the Deutsche Bahn office and got tickets to the airport tomorrow. Tykewife saw an internet cafe next to the station and she and Tykeson1 went there while Tykeson2 and I walked first to the Rhine where we followed it to the Deutsches Eck. There was some signage showing the way back to the Hbf, so we followed them. We were getting hungry and got a nice big brat at a storefront eatery for only 1.20 euro.
The internet cafe was also a casino, so when Tykeson2 and I went in, they 'carded' Tykeson2 to make sure he was over 21. He is.
Back in Bacharach, Tykeson2 and I walked up to the castle. My brother and I had stayed there - it is a youth hostel- 41 years ago when we were cycling through Europe. The trail is very steep and it was muddy. I fell on my rear end on the way down, but was not hurt. I though we would eat again at the pizza/kebab place, but it was closed until late January. Lesson to be learned - Bacharach is not the place to visit this time of year. We did find a grocery store open and we got the fixings for a picnic meal. We got to bed early since we would be getting up early tomorrow.
Saturday, December 31
Last day of the year. We woke up at 5:00 and got ready, then walked to the train station for our 6:30 train. We had a change in Mainz and then the train went directly to the airport. We took the bus from the airport station to our terminal. We checked in with American Airlines, and checked through 4 of our bags. We had to show our passport for the first of 4 times, and answer the security questions. I hope the staff is trained to tell if someone is lying because only an idiot would not answer the questions properly. Through passport control and then security. As usual, Tykewife was selected for a more thorough exam. This time it was because a small knife we had gotten in Alaska was mistakenly put in her carry on. They did not confiscate it as they would have in the US. I guess security realized that no one could commandeer a plane with a 2 inch blade.
One more time showing our passport before we boarded the plane. It was a long 11 hour flight to Dallas. The in-flight entertainment was not as good as British Airways. We had two meals and some snacks on the way. In Dallas we had no problem getting through customs - they just waived us through. We did have to go through security again - no problem this time. A six hour layover before our flight to Denver. In Denver we waited about an hour for the Super Shuttle bus. It took us to Loveland where we transfered to a van that got us home right at midnight and the new year. 27 hours from when we woke up that morning.
Some Lessons Learned
For the fifth time, I have been unable to start my trip at the scheduled time. Missing bicycle, British air controller strike, bomb scare, engine repair, and this sensor problem. It reaffirms my decision to never plan anything except getting to the hotel on the first day!
The biggest lesson I learned was to use the wealth of information available on the internet. As I sent email reports to friends, more than one was amazed at how inexpensively we were able to travel. Thanks to Ben's site for turning me on to fewos. The weather was warmer than I expected. It was around 35 F most days. That meant the precipitation was rain rather than snow. I would have preferred snow. I had prepared for colder weather and I took too many warm clothes. In Colorado, I have a pair of boots that I wear just when I go out in the snow. I didn't want to take them on the trip, so I bought a new pair of boots. What a mistake. They felt ok when I would walk the dog for an hour, but when I wore them all day, they started to hurt my feet. I ended up giving them away when I got home. I should have thrown them away the first day of the trip!
Tykeson1 had been pestering for a digital SLR camera for a year or more. When he received some money for graduation gifts, I encouraged him to get the camera before the trip. A great deal from Amazon.com for a Pentax KR. He took great pictures, especially under low light conditions.
I would have liked to go on the trip earlier in December, but we were constrained by the boys' final exam schedules. The two days at Bacharach were not worth the time - better in the other seasons - not winter. I also would have gone in the order of Rothenburg, Salzburg, Füssen, and Stuttgart. But since we wanted to go to the Stuttgart Christmas market, this order was not possible.
Although we went to 4 Christmas markets, we really didn't spend much time at them. They were fun to visit, but we didn't buy very much at all. Since I will probably never get to Germany at Christmas time again, I am glad I made the trip, but I am glad that we had lots of other things to do on the trip.
Next time we will check as many bags as possible, keeping the problems we seem to have at the security checkpoints at a minimum!