MILITARY HOPS GAZETTE
 

VOLUME 1, ISSUE 8            JULY 25, 2003

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FROM THE EDITOR:

Welcome to the Issue 8 of the newsletter. The site milvetstravel.net  (Military and Veterans Travel Planner) is in the process  of being  updated.  San Francisco and Las Vegas are the new featured cities. I am doing a major revision of the site.  Email me with your comments, please. 

On a personal note, during my recent illness. I had time to reflect on the value of doing the site, and how time consuming it is to keep it updated.  When I started the site, I did nor realize the magnitude of this undertaking, however, it has been worth it to me, and judging from you comments to me, it has had value to you. I also thought of the time and effort Dirk, Roy, John D, and other including Tomi D have spent assisting Space Available travelers. It has to be a labor of love, because none of us have derived any financial benefit. In fact it is a major expense.
 
From a technical point of view, the most signifcant event for me was when I replaced my 56k modem with a cable modem.  It literally made the internet come "alive". The concept of being able to travel to places in the virtual world has been wonderul for me.  By adding sound, music and videos such as  movie clips, audio discussions, panoramic views, and web cams links to my site pages, it is almost as good as traveling there. Spend time viewing the Las Veges and San Francisco pages.  It is my intention to do this for all 120 pages on my site.

As several of you know, I spend a  portion of my life assisting my fellow disabled veterans. Many of them because of their physical and emotional limitations are unable to travel around the corner, never mind travel to Paris. However, the gift of traveling in the virtual world  is now possible and could significantly improve the quality of their lives.

As part of this newletter I have included Louise's  Trip to Europe last year, and other valuable airline and Briitish travel links. I need your feedback to improve the quality of information that the newsletter provides. If you have any stories or suggestions that you want included, let me know. Its your newsletter.

If any of you have any spare time and would like to assist me on the site, I would greatly appreciate it. The derived benefits will be that you will learn a great deal about web site design, and I will get a better site organization. if you are interested. contact me.


Two wonderful military travel link which includes a great deal of space available travel information is GLOBEMASTER and GLOBAL SECURITY.    ANN CRAWFORD'S-MILITARY LIVING and SKIP'S-SPACE A TRAVEL have brand new Travel Guides. Ann's new guide is a U.S. Military Travel Guide with map showing all military MWR locations. Skip's guide is an updated version of his compact Space A Travel guide. They can be purchased at most BX's and on-line. Don't travel without them .

This issue contains the following:

  • European Discount Airlines
  • European Auto Rental and Leasing considerations
  • The European ATM Currency Exchange Rip off (ThankYou Barry)
  • European and US Train Service.
  • Dover-Ramstein-Pisa-Rome-Aviano-Train Ride to Frankfurt-Ramstein-Dover-72 Hour Bus Ride Trip By Louise and comments by me ( A Big Thank You to Louise)
  • My site reorganization

EUROPEAN AIRLINES

There are many European Discount Airlines that can transport you throughout Europe at reasonables costs. To locate the airports in the United Kingdom inclding Ireland click HERE. For a complete list of all European Airlines click HERE


Airlloyd Airlines is a German airline that services the following countries from many German cities including Frunkfurt, Linz, and Dusseldorf: Germany, Egypt, Greece, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Iceland

Air Europa is a spanish airline that services London to Madrid from Heathrow and also the following cities and countries: London to Madrid. and Palma de Mallorca, Madrid to Bilbao- Barcelona,-Malaga-Tenerfe anf Madrid to Havana, Santo Domingo, and Caracas Venezaula

Air One is an Italian airline that partners with Lufthansa and services all major Italain Cities including Sicily and Sardinia from Frankfurt. The cities serviced are Monoco, Milan, Venice, Bolgona, Genoa, Rome, Naples, Pescara, Bari, Brindisi, and Reggio Calabria in Italy, Palermo, and Catania in Sicily, Alghero, and Cagliari in Sandinia, and Lampedusa in Malta.

British Midlands "BMI Baby" is a new English discount airline that offers major discounted fares to the following European Cities: from East Midlands Airport England: Dublin Ireland'; Faro, Malaga, Alicante, Ibiza, Barcelona and Palma Spain;Nice and Lyon France; Geneva Switzerland, Milan Italy, Munich Germany, Prague Czech Republic, and Copenhagen.

Buzz Airlines is a Dutch discount airline operating out of Londin-Stansted. It includes flights to Jerez (near Rota), Murcia, and Gerona Spain (near Barcelona)-flights to Caen, Paris, and Rouen Fance, and Frankfurt, Dusseldof and Berlin Germany

Condor Airlines is a major German airline that serves the most German cities including Stutgatt, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich, and Berlin, aswell as Amsterdam, Brussels, Mallorca, and Malaga, Spain and a special flight to Las Vagas.

Easyjet flies to 20 cities including Aberdeen Scotland, Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Belfast, Edinburgh, Geneva, Glasgow, Inverness, Liverpool, London Gatwick, London Luton, Malaga, Spain, Munich, Nice, Ibiza, Palma Spain (Majorca) Paris CDG, Paris Orly, and Zurich. Flights originating in London Gatwick are different from flights originating at London Luton.

Go Airlines offers discount airfares mostly from London Stansted and East Midlands to many cities including Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Glasgow in the Uk, and many European destinations including Nice and Lyon France, Bologna, Milan, Naples, Venice, and Rome Italy, Alicante, Barcelona, Bilboa, Ibiza, Malaga, Faro and Palma Spain, Munich, Copenhagen and Prague

LTU Airlines offers international service between Dusseldorf, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Berlin to Los Angeles, Fort Meyers, and Miami Florida, and Toronto Canada. It is also a domestic German Carrier and flies to an extensive list of German cities including those mentioned above plus Linz, Stuttgart, Heidelberg. Bonn, and Luxembourg City. A unique feature is that LTU offers a flight auction at US destinations at 8:00PM for 5 minutes each evening for international flights.

Ryanair is a major Irish discount Airline that services the most of European cities with the cheapest fares: Most flights originate at London Stansted. some of the cities are Dublin, london, amsterdam, paris, Oslo, Frankfurt-Hahn, Madrid, Nice, Munich, and many others.

Skyways Airlines is Swedish discount airline that services the following cities: Stockholm, Gotheberg, and Upsula and many others including Olso,and Helsinki

Virgin Express is a major Continental and International Airline that services all the European cities:

Europebyair allows you to fly to over 130 European cities for 99.00 per leg. It also has many discount fares to Spain and Italy.

EUROPEAN TRAINS AND OTHER TRAVEL INFO

Europe by train is a fascinating experience.There are high speed trains that travel up to 160 miles an hour. The list of links will assist the military traveler in traveling around Europe and the UK by train.

Seat 61 is an excellent source for train information throughout the world with updated destinations and schedules.
Rail Connection allows you to purchase your Europass prior to traveling to Europe at a significant savings.
Rail Europe is another site that allows you to purchase your rail pass in this country prior to traveling to Europe.
European National Railroads and European Rail Time Tables provides a comprehensive list of all European trains, destinations, and arrival/departure times.
Europe-Travel.net contains European train maps, river cruises, castle info, driving distances, and a multitude of other valuable travel links mostly about Germany
THE BIG CREDIT CARD RIPOFF

Thank you to the British Tourist Bureau and Barry C for this informative article

Once considered the backbone of travel spending by most visitors to foreign countries, credit cards are becoming a costly luxury. But, if you plan as much of your travel in advance as possible, you won't have an unpleasant credit card bill surprise waiting for you when you get home.

The secret is simple -- pay for as much of your travel as possible before you leave for Europe. And, make sure that you're paying in USA dollars.

Until a couple of years ago, it made no difference where you used your credit card. If you spent $100 in the USA, your bill showed a charge of $100. If you used your card in England or France to pay a bill in the USA dollar equivalent of $100, when you got home, your bill showed a charge of $100. Not any more.

Over the past two years, credit card issuers have been adding transaction fees to charges made in foreign currencies. These surcharges usually range from 3 to 5 percent for charges for services and goods. Currency exchange can be even more costly. Most card issuers are adding the same 3 to 5 percent for foreign currency obtained through ATM machines in Europe. However, a few are charging straight transaction fees for ATM cash advances in pounds and euros. These fees range from $5 to $15 per ATM withdrawal.

Percentage fees can add up quickly. For example, if you reserve a room directly with a hotel in Europe, you will be charged in the local currency. Say, your room for two persons is $100 a night and you reserve directly with the hotel for four nights. That $400 you thought you were paying, can cost you $420 or even more when you get your credit card bill.

Waiting until you arrive to find a room may noT help, either. Not only will you still have to pay the credit card surcharge, if you use a VISA, Mastercard or American Express, but you may have trouble finding an inexpensive room. In June, rooms at cheap hotels were far and few between in London, while next door at hotels that charged just a few dollars more, room availability was rarely a problem.

Credit card transaction fees and surcharges are especially important now, when the dollar has been a little weaker against European currencies than it was several months ago. While the credit card surcharge still may be only 3 to 5 percent, the weaker dollar means you'll pay a higher surcharge than you would if the dollar were stronger.

None of this means you should throw away your credit cards. They still can be very important to your travel plans. You'd need one to rent a car. And, you never know when you need one to get extra cash at an ATM machine. However, it would help to remember two points:

First, try to pay for as much of your accommodations and other travel in advance of your departure, in USA dollars. One supplier that accepts such reservations and often has prices lower than what European hotels charge guests directly can be found on the internet at:BRITISH TRAVEL A USA supplier of equipped apartments that can be rented for as few as two nights in Europe is at:.EUROPEAN APARTMENTS. National Express coach tickets and passes can be ordered at: BRITBUS.

Second, flip over your credit cards to the reverse side, call the tollfree numbers printed there and ask the card issuers to tell you exactly what surcharges and transaction fees you will be assessed for your spending in Europe. Then, double-check the answers you got by calling
TRAVELING AROUND EUROPE

Traveling around Europe is an interesting subject in that many countries offer unique choices and rules when traveling. In some cases they are unfamiliar to the military traveler. Some examples are boat cruises along the Rhine and Danube rivers to view the castles and fortresses, or taking a train/ferry from from Hamburg Germany to Stockholm Sweden. or from Messina, Sicily to Rome Italy.

An example of a unique rule is that rented European Union auto licenses expire in non-European Union European countries after 12 days.

Did you know that the best auto rental deal is that if you are traveling in Europe for 17 days or more, that Renault and Peugeot will give a brand new automobile, fully insured, on a short term lease basis for $25.00 a day. The reason for this largesse is that under French law, used cars are lightly taxed and a new car is considered a used car after 17 days. To get a short term lease on an automobile prior to taking your trip contact: AUTO EUROPE (Peugeot) and RENAULT

THE ARDOUS SPACE A EUROPEAN ADVENTURE OF LOUISE AND HER HUSBAND-A CLASSIC

Louise and her husband are to commended for documenting this excruitiating European Space Available adventure. Any Catagory 6 traveler who wishes to venture to Europe at this time of the year should read this trip report very carefully. It read like the Perils of Pauline.
LEAVING FROM DOVER TO RAMSTEIN MESSAGE-JUNE 9TH

Well my initial elation over our good luck has been somewhat tempered by reality. One flight to Ramstein disappeared all together. The flight we were aiming for at 14:25 has been postponed 24 hours. The 1800 flight is now 2300. Such is life. There are two more after the 2300--1:10 and 3 something. So we are likely to be out sometime soon. famous last words i know LOL. Dover filled up and emptied out two or three times this afternoon. We are sorry we didn't take the flight to signello. Left with many empty seats. One man drove from norfolk today and said that he decided not to spend any more time waiting there as no 5 or 6's had gotten out at all. smart guy..he took the signello flight and hopes to catch another into spain soon. I got cocky and forgot the golden rule..TAKE WHAT IS GOING. A few notes on Dover. No base transportation on sunday. The snack bar in the terminal is open. Computer is 20 cents a minute. We lucked out last night and was able to get a billet in spite of it being a reservist weekend. Had there been more space a-ers in the terminal our chances would have been nill. It is a good mile from billet to terminal. Not long unless you are dragging luggage in the midday sun. Was a little surprised that no offers for a ride were forth coming from onbasers. That seemed to be the norm over in Kadena and on Andersen. No atm in terminal. One thing i would like to stress to first time space a-ers traveling in the summer. First: it's not the best idea, but doable. But one thing i am seeing more and more here is that women are being turned away because of open toed shoes. Ladies and gents: NO SANDALS. Two today have had to hike to BX to buy tennis shoes. I will talk to y'all again after we get there.

THIS IS LOUISE'S TRIP REPORT POSTED ON DIRK'S BOARD 30JUN02
DOVER TO RAMSTEIN

Well the last time i talked to y'all we were disappointed over several c-5's having disappeared from Dover to Ramstein around June 9th. After 2 days of appearances and disappearances and 24-hour slips, we finally did get a c-5 to ramstein with a 03:00 show time Monday morning. Took off without a hitch a few hours later. I had prearranged a car rental with Options Car Rental in K-town. The charge to my card was $128 for a Monday pickup in K-town and a Friday drop off at Hahn. The Options site indicated a 10 pm closing for weekdays. However, that only applies to the major pickup/drop points (airports, train stations etc.) The office in Kaiserslautern closes at 6. We were lucky in that someone was still in the office and took pity on us. We then drove to a Formule 1 hotel listed in Mannheim.
MANHEIM

The directions from Mapquest were of no help and after driving around for 6 hours and being directed in as many different directions, we finally paid a cab driver 30 euros(!!!) to take me to the hotel while my husband followed behind in the car. If you are ever thinking of using this particular hotel, be aware that it is quite a distance outside of Mannheim. The 30 euros cut a bit of the savings we anticipated using formule 1, but for 4 nights we paid 27 euros a nite. We used this a base to explore Heidelburg, Dachau, Munchen and several little villages.
RICK STEVES

I don't know if any of y'all watch the Rick Steve's Backdoor Travel series or have his books, but while walking down the lane towards the entrance to Dachau i literally bumped into him. He was with one other person and was obviously making a personal visit, but he was very very gracious about my delight in meeting him and offered to pose for a picture with me for my scrap book.
HAHN TO PISA AND TUSCANY TOUR

On Friday morning we checked out and headed over to Ben Franklin Village (a military base in the area) and did laundry. I should have checked about billeting there, but i didn't think about it until later. From there we drove to Hahn for our evening flight into Pisa. Went off without a hitch. The hotel we arranged for through AccomodationLine was the Hotel Leonardo. At $100 a night, we figured we were lucky if only for the location (within walking meters of the Leaning Tower). But the room proved to be charming with high ceilings and painted murals on the wall. It was blessedly air conditioned also!! After a late night dinner at a wonderful outdoor cafe, we wandered over to the tower around midnight which was beautifully lit and totally deserted. Very romantic (s).

The next morning we strolled around a little more and then picked up a rental car that i had arranged for through Budget Rental Ireland. Sounds odd, but for some reason the quote was hundreds less than any other. We paid $197 for Saturday to Saturday. We headed out towards a wine villa in the Lucca area. We passed Camp Darby and wondered if it wouldn't have been cheaper to use that as a base for the Pisa Florence Tuscany tour. After 4 hours of driving to the Villa ((which was only 40 minutes outside of Pisa)) we passed Camp Darby again. Are you getting the idea that we don't do well following foreign directions?? LOL. We finally found the Fattoria Di Fubiano and it was definitely worth the trouble. The whole week cost a little over $400 euros. We had put a deposit down in April and now wish we had paid the whole thing. The dollar was much better back then. We spent the week relaxing and site-seeing. And of course saw the statue of David. Breathtaking. The following saturday we turned in the car and took the train to Rome.
ROME

We had intended three days in Rome but the heat became unbearable so we shortened it to two. We stayed at the Hotel Miami. It was on Via Nazionale and an easy walking distance to the Spanish steps and the Fountain--going. Coming back it was all up hill. The room was beautiful and elegant and only 124 euros a night. The italian subway system is very very easy to navigate and we were able to easily find the Vatican and the collesium using it. We wish we had known how close our hotel was to a Metro stop. We took a taxi from Termini Station to the hotel and was charged 35 euros. It was one metro stop and one block away! Live and learn. Leaving we definitely took the subway back to Termini.
AVIANO AND PORDENNONE MISADVENTURE!!!

Editors note. Read this section carefully . This fate could happen to any CAt5 and 6 Traveler this time of the year

I had called Aviano very early in the morning and was told was told that there were 50 plus seats available on the Patriot express. The show time was 6:00. We hopped the next train out to Pordennone. I had called billeting and they are probably still laughing, so i called the Hotel Duomo-- recommended here. He said he definitely had room that night and off we went. The train broke down midway. We did not arrive into Pordennone until 23:00 and grabbed a cab to the hotel. The hotel however refused to let us in as they close at 9pm. Nice huh? We are glad that we held the cab, because we would have been truly stranded at that point. The cab took us on to Aviano (44 euros all together). That option was not much better. We thought we would see if there were any cancellations at billeting or at worst sit the night out in the lobby. Wrong. Everything at Aviano closes at 23:00.<

We looked lost and a soldier who was heading home offered to drive us around to the hotels in the little village. Nothing available. We went back to the base and talked to the guards at the entrance gate. We told them our story and asked if they would mind if we sat out the remaining few hours till show time at the shuttle bus bench. Aviano is NO place to be without guaranteed reservations and a car. I would never recommend anyone do this, but these soldiers were absolutely wonderful to us. Inasmuch as the air terminal is virtually miles away from the billeting area of Aviano, the idea of our trying to walk there in time for showtime was something they wouldn't hear of. They called for, what they called, a "courtesy ride" and with only a gentle admonition about getting to Aviano before 23:00, they took very good care of us.

While we would have been very grateful for just a ride to the entrance of the air terminal to wait it out, they insisted that we first visit the shoppette to get something to eat and drink, hit the ATM and the bathroom. They then took us to the terminal,gave us a six pack of water to hold us through the next few hours and indicated that they would continuously pass by to make sure we were ok. We thanked them profusely. It was a beautiful night. We sat on the bench and waited. Less than an hour later that beautiful night turned into the most horrendous thunder lightening and rain storm i have ever seen. There were porta-potties zooming across the parking lot in front of us and a window behind us blew in. Within seconds they were back with the offer of blankets and a van to stay in. We thanked them for the trouble but indicated that we were fine and they didn't have to worry about us. (i don't know, but i think they were enjoying having something to do).

The rain lasted for a few hours and i guess it prompted everyone to head to the terminal early. By 5:00 the area was packed. Mini-van after mini-van arrived, all carrying at least a zillion kids. Since SpaceA-ing, i have come to despise mini-vans. LOL. Needless to say, they never got past Cat3's. The "plenty of big birds heading up to Ramstein" that i was told about when calling regarding the PatEx, turned out to be 2, with limited seats on both. The show time came for the first one and a certain amount of CATs 1,2,&3 were selected. We were told they were waiting for some dutypax. They were going to hold off for another hour and a half and if they still had not arrived they would open this to the remaining Cats. I think that the spirit of showtime should have applied, but when they did decide to go on without the duty's, they allowed even those who came in for the next show time to take the seats what could we say? There were so many left in the terminal for the next and last one later that evening, and with nothing scheduled for the next day at all, we decided to take the train up to Ramstein.
THE TRAIN TO FRANKFURT AND TO RAMSTEIN

I called ahead and got billeting and took an overnight train to Landstuhl. A minor miscommunication caused us to be on the wrong end of the train that split during the night. Ours went clear to Frankfurt. It took considerable stubborness and insistence on my part that we had reserved seats and were directed where to sit and that we were not responsible for a being on the part of the train that did not stop in Mannheim to catch the local to Landstuhl. We paid over $200 for the tickets and not only did they not want to provide the transportation back to Landstuhl (another $65) they actually wanted us to PAY for the extra miles to Frankfurt. I was not a happy camper at this point. Neither of us was budging and my husband had visions of the Die Bahn calling security to haul me off. I never raised my voice, but i never stopped asking for the next ranking supervisor. Finally they agreed to send us back on a local train (their idea of punishment) which actually arrived 10 minutes before the next express would have.
WAITNG AT RAMSTEIN AND MEETING JUNE

This got us to Ramstein rather late Wednesday afternoon. Nothing going. And we were told that there had been nothing for a few days. We caught the shuttle to billeting and planned to make the 1:00 am next show time. I called ahead and was told that the show time had moved to 7:30. Caught the morning shuttle in time. But no luck. Nothing all day. Back to billeting and arranged for a cab to get us to a 03:30 show. Didn't get on that one either. A flight turned up with a RON in the Azores. We have been having such bad luck with the RON's that decided to pass on it and keep our fingers crossed for the next two c-5's that day to Dover. The gamble paid off and we left for Dover around 4pm. I did get to meet June from this board who has since posted that she took the RON Azores flight. Glad to see it all worked out for them. She is a lovely lady and very friendly. I regret that i didn't take the opportunity to talk with her some more. I think the fatigue and the disappointments caught up with me.(not to mention the fact that i allowed my husband to color my hair in italy following directions written in italian and my hair was day glow orange and the correction only made it worse) I did, however, display my red bandanna every where we went and saw a grand total of ZERO in return LOL. It would have been nice to at least see one. I am glad June recognized it and came and introduced herself to us.
DOVER AND GREYHOUND

We landed in Dover around 6:30 pm. We had hoped to land at a base further west (hey it happened last year for us, so we were delusional LOL)) and decided to gamble on that with the idea that we could always get a greyhound last minute. We called a cab upon arrival and walked to the main gate to meet it. It arrived at the Greyhound station at 8 and a bus was leaving at 9pm. We spent the next 74 hours going from one bus to the next. I would NOT recommend this to anyone. It seems easy and relaxing but it is stressful with on's and offs continuously and it seemed endless. All in all that was our trip.
LOUISES SUGGESTIONS AND OBSERVATIONS

I know this is too long and hope that it can be deleted easily to free up the space. Observations: :

  • Dover needs better base transportation now that they do not allow cabs on base.
  • Showtime is not always strictly adhered to. Aviano is impossible to navigate without a car.
  • Ramstein's new terminal nice enough but lacks that commaraderie (sp?) atmosphere of the old one. Big barn like structure with a lot of wasted space.
  • Check In and customer service area on opposite sides. "Check in" arrow confusing to arriving paxs. Especially if arriving to an empty terminal.
  • The Check in people will look to see if you are in the computer and will tell you "yes, you are definitely listed" but it is absolutely necessary to go to customer service to make sure you are handed a slip.
  • There is no ATM in the terminal.
  • The USO has computers available for 15 minute use. It is a pleasant place depending on the on-duty at the time. Subway is open 7 days a week.
  • The only problem with vogelweh billeting is trying to make middle of the night show times. We were right on base and had difficulty getting a cab to arrive at 2:30 am.

I guess all in all i was not impressed with the new terminal. It is relatively new and neither of 2 water fountains work anymore, block seats are wobbling and many tiles are already missing grout. I guess i am tired and nitpicking so i will end.


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