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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Guest post: Fresh off the plane to Germany!

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guest post: Fresh off the plane to Germany!

So a few days ago, I asked if anyone would like to guestpost.  Well, I asked, and I received!!!  Thank-you so much.  This post is actually fresh off the airplane.  One of our readers packed up kit and kaboodle and flew overseas to Germany.  After the first few weeks, she decided she had better write this stuff down.  Without further delay, this is what she had to say.

I’ve been having problems with finding current info on Stuttgart so I thought I would share my experiences so far, one week in. OK so here's how it went.

Dropping off the car was easy and took about an hour. You just have to have what they say on the website www.whereismypov.com
or on the automated phone system and you'll be good there (you can get the numbers from the website). If you have a loan on your car, make sure you go ahead and get a letter stating that it’s ok to take it out of the country. We had no problem with Pentagon Federal letting us take it out of the country. They took forever getting the letter out to me and I had to request it twice. If you carry a note on your car, please be sure to read this post.


We rented a car for a week in DC and shipped our car on May 23rd, a few days before we shipped it out of Baltimore. It isn't due in Germany until July 5thish. It took us about an hour to get it shipped and it’s an hour drive to the Dulles airport. I would not suggest shipping your car the same day as you fly out. At least in Baltimore/DC.  If you are flying out of Dulles then get there extra early. We waited in line for two hours and barely made our flight. We got to the car rental return at 4pm and our flight left at 6:54. If we had had another hour then it would have been perfect. We did fly out close to Memorial day weekend so that may have been the problem. Also, an hour layover once you get overseas is NOT long enough. You have to go through passport checks and security again...I got patted down! Fun. I would suggest at least a 2 hour layover, we ran to the airplane and were the last ones on...the plane was already boarded. Give enough time for food and drink and running around. 

Maybe you are used to foreign airports but I was so lost, the airport in Frankfurt did not flow like an American airport and everything was confusing. At least everyone I encountered spoke English. Once we were on the plane they served us drinks and dinner. We ended up not using the CARES systems but with the car rental, those car seat vests came in handy.

We have 3 car seats and we shipped them with the car since we didn’t want to mess with them at the airport…and because 3 car seats just don’t fit in one backseat. The boys slept pretty well...until my 2 year old threw up all over everything within a 2 foot radius. It was horrid. BRING EXTRA CLOTHES FOR EVERYONE (and wipes)!! I actually packed some full sized kitchen garbage bags on a prompting thinking it was stupid to do. Now I'm glad I did. It holds vomitous clothing very well. Once that was all cleaned up we had about 3 hours and 45 minutes left. The flight didn't feel that long. Overall it was a good trip. 

I was stressed out and my husband probably didn't like me that much during our travels but we made it. Driving across the country was worth it, we drove from Fort Carson Colorado to Baltimore. Even though it took 3 weeks because we visited family all along the way, it was slow and relaxed and the boys did really well. Taking off a few hours of flying time was well worth the time in the car.

Make your temporary lodging arrangements as soon as you can. They are full here and I heard them at the front desk telling someone they could only stay a week since they are booked up. Staying in the Panzer hotel is cramped. We have a one bedroom and would have to have 7 people in our family to qualify for a 2 bedroom. You would be fine in here with just 2 or 3 people. I have heard that the hotel on Patch is better for families.  All we have is a convection microwave oven that is very German and I had to borrow the owners manual from the front desk to try and figure out how to use it. I think I figured out the dishwasher. We bought a car for $3000 on the lemon lot on Panzer. It is in the PX parking lot in the very back close to the Panzer Hotel. Don’t let the name fool you, it has very nice cars. You can also look on www.bookoo.com for cars AND houses. Along with everything else you might need. It’s like craigslist but this is more popular here.

The only thing I can think of that I am wishing I had sent in my fast shipment
(unaccompanied baggage) is something to put the baby in (bouncy seat). I REALLY wish that we had sent our fast shipment a whole lot earlier. It takes the same amount of time to ship your unaccompanied baggage and your household goods (HHG) so they are only arriving one week apart. No one told us when to ship so we messed up there.  We still have 2 weeks until our fast stuff gets here and another 3 weeks until our slow stuff gets here.  We are trying to figure out how to get our iphones unlocked so we can use them. Take my advice, unlock them before you get here or wait to buy something once you get here.

No one will unlock it here and the German internet is really weird....so far....at least in the Panzer Hotel. All incoming calls and texts in Germany are free no matter what service you use. I bought a phone for 14 euros and am doing the prepaid thing here until I figure out my iphone. I am not going to do a contract, too much involved I hear and the prepaid thing has been great so far. If you go to TKS
(a phone contractor located on most of our posts in Germany - they provide home phone/cable/tv service & cell phone service/prepaid....basically a middleman that provides this stuff in English with itemized bills).  You can do prepaid or a contract. For unlimited data it is 10 euros a month. If you are just going to use the phones here then all you have to do is walk into a store and point out the phone you want and its active once you put in the number from the phone card. It ended up being about $115 after we bought 2 phones and 2 phone cards.  Please be sure to read this article on the cell phone system and phone choices in Europe.

We found a house by looking on the bulletin board at the commissary on Patch Barracks. It wasn’t listed with housing and no realtors are involved so it’s allowed.  Housing seems to have a lot of drama so I’m glad that we found a house so quickly without using them. I have heard that once you find a house that you like you should jump on it. They don't last long. I would say the average size of a house here is about 1400 sq ft. We like everything about the house except that it is a little far from work. The Stuttgart housing website seems to be out of date but as of now they told us there is nothing available on post and didn’t give us an option of being on a waiting list…not sure if that’s because of my husbands rank or not (E8). 
You can now find the Stuttgart Housing Office on ahrn.com.  Just sign in with a government or .mil email address to access overseas listings.

As far as home phones go…my observations so far are that Magic Jack is the least reliable with the crappiest reception but the cheapest and calls to and from the states are free. Vonage only works if your internet is working (along with Magic jack) and so that is why Skype is my next option because even if your computer is down, it will still forward calls to whatever phone number you input. Skype is costing me around $60 a year for a stateside number and then you have to have Skype credit or a calling plan for Germany in order to forward your Skype number to your German home or cell phone. The down side to Skype is when you call out you have to use your computer.
Although, you can buy a Skype phone.  It looks just like a cordless phone and runs off your router, so you can use it even when the computer is off.  So my plan is that I'm going to get a home phone through TKS and they offer unlimited calls to the US. So people from the states will call you on your Skype number so its free for them and you will call them on your TKS home number so its free for you. Otherwise you would never get calls from the US.....maybe that’s not a bad thing though :) It's about 50 Euros a month for home phone and internet...another 20 Euros for Cable TV. 


Awesome and what a wealth of information!  Thank-you again!  As you can see...there are a lot of things to think about during the move, but you can make it work if you are well prepared.

My next post, I will cover something on iphones.  I just recently bought a second-hand iphone over here...I paid under $200 for it...in fact, it was closer to $150...and used it a whole week on all the free wifi networks and my wifi at home....it is honestly the best thing since sliced bread over here...that's just me talking!  There are some amazing apps you can use over here, and I have already made good use of the thing...more on this later!

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5 Comments:

Blogger Creations By Trees said...

Another thing I wish I had packed in my unaccompanied baggage is camping chairs and camping table. We have air beds in our uab but nothing to sit on.

June 9, 2011 at 8:20 AM  
Blogger Four of a Kind said...

Great post. I've been in Panzer Hotel for 76 days so here's a few more tidbits. It's only 220v plugs. Don't go buy a transformer because the hotel lends them out. There is bulk storage for your luggage and other things you will not need in your room for your stay. This was great for us because it has allowed us to buy bigger things for our house that we don't need in the hotel room. Patch has a thrift store that is pretty great. And the library on Patch rents out movies and video games. The ACS lending closet (right across from hotel) lends out strollers, pack n plays, etc. Also if your quick ship gets here and you can't take possession of it, you can still drive to the warehouse and get out things you might want right now. It's not far and we were able to get the big jogging stroller and some of the kids toys. Everything on Panzer is walkable. We walk the whole post several times a day! Oh and the little commissary is closed on weekends. We got here on a Friday and couldn't go until Monday. That's all I've got for right now.
~Amanda

June 9, 2011 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger chris said...

WoW!! We are on our about 3 weeks out till we are off to Stuttgart and sooo LOVIN your post!! TY so much for all the tidbits and it is wonderful to hear you are IN Stuttgart!! Especially since we know noone there and our sponsor has yet to help out with letting us know anything...still waiting on a forwarding address... I did contact lodging and yes to no avail they had no room at the Inn..lol..and they have already written up a statement of non availibility for us...but now we need to find an acceptable hotel for us...Family of 5 and a small dog(15 lbs)..so any suggestions would be great! I love love love your post since I am a little nervous about this move.. Thanks a bunch for sharing!!
C

June 9, 2011 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Janice said...

Thanks for the phone/Internet info. I will be looking for the post about the iPhone! Thanks for sharing your info!

June 9, 2011 at 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris-Try SI Suites. They allow pets, the rooms are spacious, there's a train right down the street, and Kelley Barracks is right down the street, too.

June 25, 2011 at 9:12 PM  

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