Planes, trains, and lots of bags; Germany, France, and the UK.
August 11, 2009 5:35 PM   Subscribe

InsaneLast-MinuteEuropeanTravelFilter: How to get one procrastinator and three bags from Berlin to France and England. Read on, it's probably crazier than you think!

I'm coming from Canada to do a semester abroad in Glasgow, and I'd like to do some traveling before the start of term. Currently I'm finishing up a summer program in Berlin. The plan is to meet a family friend in Reims, travel around France with them, visit my aunt in London (with a few days in Hampshire to see the partner), then head up to Glasgow.

A couple of problems with this pretty good plan. The first hurdle is that none of the tickets are booked yet. Strictly speaking I should be out of Berlin by the 17th, but am considering spending a night in a hostel or begging the institution to let me stay another day if the saving is significant enough.

The second complication is the three bags I brought over. I'd started out one hard suitcase and one soft bag, but added another suitcase to keep under the weight limit. The two hard suitcases weigh 30 and 50 pounds (about 14 and 23 kilos) respectively, and the soft bag weighs 50 pounds (23 kilos). Lugging three bags around Europe seems like it would be a nightmare, and very costly if I fly an airline like EasyJet or Ryanair. It seems around 108 GBP to ship two suitcases from Germany to the UK according to this site, assuming the same rate applies backwards. Is shipping one or two heavy bags to London a good idea, or not cost-effective?

If I'm traveling by train, I'd think that the bags would be less of an issue. However, booking by train at the last minute seems rather costly. I've been poking around the Deutsche Bahn website for ages and can't get it to tell me how much money a ticket would be before asking me to put in a credit card number. I remember seeing a fare of around 230 euros (Berlin-Reims) on another rail site, as opposed to 88 euros (Berlin-Paris, assuming Paris-Reims will be a cheap train journey) from EasyJet on the 18th. A random thought also occurred - would it be more cost-effective to fly on a better airline, even perhaps first class, if I can take my bags with me?

My question in all its barely suppressed hysteria basically boils down to this - when making travel plans within Europe at the last minute and with considerable baggage, is it better to take the train or fly, and should I keep my bags with me the entire way or ship two of them up? I'm having trouble conceptualizing all of this, and the partner and I have been at our wits' end trying to figure it all out at the last minute. I hope the all-knowing hive mind can give me some much-needed guidance!
posted by Devika to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
 
Oh, forgot to add that I don't have a place yet in Glasgow, which is why shipping the bags up there isn't an option. I've been avoiding student housing on the recommendation of friends who spent a year at Glasgow Uni, but I might cave and beg student housing to let me in if I don't find a place soon.
posted by Devika at 5:45 PM on August 11, 2009


Contact user multivalent and ask him nicely if you can ship your bags to his job. He's the warden at a Quaker Meeting House in Glasgow, and the Quakers do stuff like this all the time. Also, if you speak to him on the phone demand that he pay you for the privilege of stewarding your bags by shouting "you pay GOWWWD!". This will endear you to him.
posted by nímwunnan at 6:41 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can't you ship the bags to the university? Try contacting the student exchange office and ask them if they can help you out with storage and provide a shipping address.
posted by ye#ara at 8:22 PM on August 11, 2009


I've been poking around the Deutsche Bahn website for ages and can't get it to tell me how much money a ticket would be before asking me to put in a credit card number.

Yup, it won't do that for some journeys. E-mail them or use SkypeOut or another cheap solution to call them - they have the fare (as they are happy to charge you!) but can't display it online immediately.

Re the overweight bags: Look into the bus as well - Eurolines are who you want to deal with. One of my enduring memories was taking the bus-ferry-bus across the Channel on the night/morning of Christmas Eve with dozens of Africans in front of me checking in at Victoria looking like they'd cleaned out Harrods or something the night before. It's a fun journey and there's a little casino on the ferry! Go during the day and take cool photos, too.
posted by mdonley at 10:10 PM on August 11, 2009


I'd take the train and take the bags with me if I were you, I doubt you'll get any cheap plane tickets anymore for next week.

Berlin - Strasbourg (ICE to Mannheim, IC to Karlsruhe, TGV to Reims) is around 140 Euro (bahn.de will show you the price for that, no idea why it won't for Berlin - Reims). I've seen a special offer (39 Euro) for that route a few times when around on the site but every time I continued the booking it said there was no contingent left, you might be in too late for that now. There is, however, a special offer for Berlin - Strasbourg in ICE first class, which is a few Euros cheaper than 2nd class currently. You can get from Strasbourg to Reims for about 60 Euro according to TGV Europe.

If you buy a ticket from Berlin to Karlsruhe with the ICE and then take the TGV from Karlsruhe to Reims you'll pay about 120 Euro for each ticket, which is a bit more expensive. You'd only change trains once though so taking your bags with you should be a bit easier.

Berlin - Paris still has special offers left for 139 Euro in first class in that week (regular 2nd class is 180-200 Euro), maybe that's an option, too.
posted by starzero at 11:02 PM on August 11, 2009


Hi hi, as nímwunnan says I worked at the Quaker Meeting House in Glasgow. I'm in London at the moment though.

Shipping them to the meeting house wouldn't work at the moment as I'm not there, but you could ship them to my flat. My girlfriend could pick them up, we have enough corridor/cupboard space to store them. Our flat's like 3 minutes walk from the Uni too.

We also might have a room for a while in September.

memail me if your interested in any of this.
posted by multivalent at 2:49 AM on August 12, 2009


multivalent -- what kind of payment do you accept in rent, btw?
posted by nímwunnan at 3:12 PM on August 12, 2009


Thanks, everyone! Insert obligatory five bucks' worth comment here. Seriously though, I'm very grateful and considerably calmer. I shall take up multivalent's generous offer, as I've the feeling Glasgow will be unwilling to store my stuff. I've bought a plane ticket to Paris, and will take the TGV to Reims. I'll head to the post office soon to send off the baggage. Turns out Deutsche Post owns DHL and they have pretty reasonable rates.
posted by Devika at 6:05 PM on August 12, 2009


nímwunnan - as you well know... YOU PAY GOLLL.
posted by multivalent at 2:49 AM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


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