Note: This is an expanded version of an item in our November newsletter.
A recent Facebook exchange with a dear young German friend on the Ludwigsburger Weihnachtsmarkt (and how she has grown up since we visited these storybook castle gardens with her and her family in 2002!) prompted a remark from another friend that a German Christmas market is a Bucket List item.
From the Ludwidsburg market’s page: Feel the typical Christmas scent of mulled wine, chestnuts and gingerbread, listen to Christmas concerts at the contemplative stage show, marvel at the magical illumination, the unique decoration of the square and the lovingly decorated stalls with arts and crafts gift ideas. Could anything put you in the spirit more?
While it’s too late for us to schedule for this year as the Wuebkers are spending Christmas 2010 in Orlando, we’re considering for next. Just for fun, I decided to research airfares to get an idea of what next year’s trip might entail. Pete’s sister Lisa raved about the savings obtained for the entire extended family as Preferred Customers of PassingThruTravel to Florida, so let’s see what might happen with international flights.
Ludwidsburg is close to Stuttgart, Germany, about equidistant from the Frankfurt and Munich hubs. The best we can generally do out of Minneapolis is one stop to Europe, with a plane change in Detroit or another U.S. hub. Searching PassingThruTravel.com on Sunday, November 14, for departure Saturday, December 11 and return Saturday, December 18 anytime, one adult passenger, yielded these results:
Non-Preferred Customer Round Trip Economy Fares
MSP – FRA $757 + Taxes and Fees = $911.91
MSP – MUC $597 + Taxes and Fees = $1032.00
Preferred Customer Round Trip Economy Fares
MSP – FRA $757 + Taxes and Fees = $905.51
MSP – MUC $653 + Taxes and Fees = $830.50
Interestingly enough, if we could modify our plans to travel Tuesday December 7 to Tuesday December 14 anytime, this is the search return for one adult passenger, preferred or non-preferred:
MSP – FRA $318 + Taxes and Fees = $764.90
MSP – MUC $319 + Taxes and Fees = $759.00
Having visited Munich before, I know there is plenty to see and do, including multiple Christmas markets – the most famous one being the Christkindl market in historic Marienplatz, as well as historical attractions such as the Hofbrauhus Biergarten, and the beautiful Nymphenburg Palace. My suggestion to Pete, if we were doing this trip in a few weeks, would overwhelmingly be for Munich. From there, we could easily see other historic markets in Germany, too. Resources generally mention the markets in Nuremberg, Dresden, and Cologne as some of the best.
Caveat emptor: We live in a global marketplace. When in Rothenberg ob der Tauber, our group was enthralled by the intricately blown glass ornaments in the Kathe Wolfahrt showroom. After making my selections and arranging for shipments to the U.S., it was mentioned that the Wolfahrt company had a retail store in the United States. “Where?,” I inquired. “Stillwater, Minnesota!” was the proud response. About 30 miles from my house!
After researching fares to Germany, I was intrigued to see what other destinations might be considered if one were to plan a trip to other Christmas markets in the region.
Most sources mention the Vienna and Bratislava (Slovakia) Christmas markets as less commercial, more authentic venues. Fortunately, the two cities are about 35 miles apart, about one hour by train. Let’s take a look at airfares for round trip economy, December 11 – 18 with one stop: Non-Preferred and Preferred Customer MSP – VIE $450 + Taxes and Fees = $881.66
Changing to Tuesday departure and return: December 7 to December 14, we get:
$720 + Taxes and Fees = $861.02 Non-Preferred
$720 = Taxes and Fees = $859.14 Preferred.
But wait, Prague is not far, about 4 hours by train from Bratislava. Prague is on my Bucket List – Kafka, the famous Charles bridge, and a wonderful Christmas market in Wenceslas Square with a folklore setting, petting zoo/nativity, concert and carriage rides. Non-Preferred and Preferred Customer are the same: MSP – PRG $855 + Taxes and Fees $905. It seems we might be better off flying into Vienna and then arranging ground transport between Bratislava and Prague.
What does this little exercise tell us about airfare savings using PassingThruTravel.com to book online? What we’ve been told is that overall, savings on air, hotel, car rental and other travel-related bookings occur approximately 70% of the time when compared with other online search engines. Typically, we will see prices equal to or less than other online search and booking engines.
That being said, we’ve all experienced online fare changes in a nano-second due to complicated algorithms the carriers use to determine capacity and demand for pricing variables. Airfare is definitely a commodity, and you may always be able to find a cheaper price somehow, somewhere, depending upon the amount of time and energy you want to spend. We don’t earn commissions on airfare; no travel company does.
Our best advice to you would be this: Try signing up as a Preferred Customer (easy and free!) online at PassingThruTravel.com and see for yourself! Check out the list of Preferred Customer benefits, too. Even if your fare winds up being the same, perks such as the $200,000 insurance and concierge services are free items that you would normally pay extra for.