EXPLAINED: How to travel (without stress) in Germany this Christmas

The Local
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EXPLAINED: How to travel (without stress) in Germany this Christmas
Travellers board a train in Bremen on December 24th 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

Whether you're travelling by car, train or plane, here our are top tips for a smooth travel experience within - or from - Germany over the holidays.


While many people in Germany are looking forward to visiting friends and family - or even just the ski slopes - over the holidays, they probably not rejoicing over traffic jams, or packed flights or trains.

Here are some of the top tips for a smooth journey, regardless of which form of transport you're using.

Train travel

In preparation for the holiday rush, Deutsche Bahn (DB) will not only operate 80 special trains over Christmas, but has also set up 40,000 additional seats. 

But you can further minimise stress with some booking hacks before you get on board.

Book tickets in advance. The further in advance you book, the less likely you are to get hit with a higher price.


Trains at off-peak times, meaning at night or especially early in the morning, are less in demand and therefore cheaper. Those who can should take advantage of these offers.

Take a (slightly) longer journey: Direct trains are often more expensive than train connections where you have to make a change more often. This is especially the case with regional trains, where there are numerous special offers such as the Schönes Wochenende Ticket and Quer-Durchs-Land Ticket. 

A Deutsche Bahn ICE train leaves the long-distance train station at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

Take advantage of Deutsche Bahn's passenger load indicator. On both the DB app and website, you can view how full trains are your chosen time of travel.

Consider ‘checking’ your bags. There is no luggage restriction for train travel in Germany, but if you don't want to lug around heavy suitcases full of presents, you can use Deutsche Bahn's luggage service (Gepäckservice), which starts at €14.90.

Seat reservations are recommended during the Christmas vacations, including in the more spacious Familenbereich for those travelling with small children.

Bring a face mask (or two) as the legal requirement to wear an FFP2 mask continues to apply on all DB long-distance trains throughout Germany.

READ ALSO: 5 tips for stress-free train travel in Germany over Christmas

Travelling by car or bus

Know when (or when not) to travel. The busiest days on the main routes in Germany are expected to be Thursday, December 22nd, and Friday, December 23rd, according to German motor association ADAC.  

That’s because all of Germany’s 16 states start their school holidays around this time. Many German employers also give their workers time off starting on these days.

On both days, regular commuter and rush-hour traffic will join forces with holiday travel traffic, resulting in some very full roads. Those wishing to avoid sitting in stop-and-go traffic should, if possible, avoid this period.


Consider travelling on holidays themselves. On the actual bank holidays, roads are less busy than on most other days of the year. Especially on Christmas Eve (Saturday, December 24th) and Christmas itself (Sunday, December 25th), ADAC experts expect quiet traffic, as most families are already gathered together for a gemütlicher Abend (cozy evening).

On Boxing Day (Monday, December 26th), many drivers will be returning from visiting relatives and family, so if you can, consider staying put at your destination for an extra day or two. 

Traffic queues on the Autobahn near Hamburg.

Traffic queues on the Autobahn near Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

Prepare for the post-Covid holiday rush. Travel to southern Germany and Alpine countries like Austria and Switzerland will be significantly stronger than in pre-Covid years. However, many holidaymakers do not start their skiing vacations until after Christmas Day.

Skiers should plan for a little more travel time on the long-distance roads to winter sports resorts (such as the Tauern freeway, Brenner and Gotthard routes). Although there are no longer Covid checks at the borders, there may still be lengthy waiting times, especially at the Austrian-German crossings.

If you are traveling to the mountains, you should also check whether the pass roads on your route are open before you start your journey, as this may depend on the weather.


Use digital vignettes. Travelers who need a toll sticker for their holiday or are traveling on toll roads can save time waiting at gas stations near the border by purchasing a digital toll sticker in advance or using the electronic toll system.

During the winter vacations, for example, there are always long queues to buy the Austrian toll sticker at gas stations near the border. If you get a vignette beforehand at an ADAC office, you can save a bit of time. Alternatively, the digital vignette is available for Austria.

Tip: If you buy the vignette on the Internet, be sure to double-check the prices. Dubious sellers often charge twice as much.

On Christmas and New Year's Eve, ADAC roadside assistance is available around the clock throughout Germany. You can reach them on 08920 20 40 00.

Plane travel

Most people travelling by plane over Christmas have already booked their tickets in advance, and can’t avoid the sea of stressed travellers flocking to the Flughafen around Germany. But they can still stay somewhat Zen (or sane) by:

Checking in early: Many airlines will allow travellers to check in for a flight up to 48 hours in advance, and some up to a week early. Some airlines offer the option of checking in and checking baggage at the airport the evening before. If you want to save time on the day of travel, ask your airline if they offer this service.

Busy scenes in Hamburg Airport for the start of the Pentecost holidays. There are changes to entry rules for Germany from June.

Busy scenes in Hamburg Airport for the start of the Pentecost holidays. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Having some patience: Due to the ongoing staff shortage, check-in or even boarding can take longer than air travelers are used to. Especially during the holidays, you should therefore allow more time before departure and also observe the current flight displays for the check-in, departure and arrival areas.

Avoiding packing gifts in carry-on luggage: Airports and airlines are enforcing increasingly strict limits to how much luggage you can bring on board. This is to reduce waiting time at the security checkpoint and speed up boarding and deboarding. Ask the airline or airport about the regulations and think carefully beforehand about how your Christmas gifts can still be taken on your trip.


Checking local restrictions: There is no longer a general mask requirement for air travel in Germany.  However, following the relaxation of the EU recommendations for mandatory masks on board aircraft, this does not apply to all flights. For example, masks still be need worn on routes to and from Spain.

Most other countries, including the US and UK, have made masks optional for travellers. 

"Travelers should expect a fairly normal pre-pandemic travel situation this winter, but should be on the lookout for any destinations that are still imposing restrictions" said Tom Boon, Aviation Expert at Simple Flying based in Frankfurt, told The Local.

Preparing for strikes: While there are currently no strikes planned at airports around Germany, as in previous years, airport workers are already striking in countries such as France and the UK. If you’re travelling to one of these places - or simply have a layover there - plan for delays and know your rights if your flight is postponed or cancelled. 

But snowy weather could be another cause for delays. "If people are going to see disruption and flight cancellations this winter, in my opinion, this will more likely be from the inclement weather," said Boon, who's own Nuremberg to Stansted flight was cancelled twice amid a bout of bad weather at the weekend.

READ ALSO: What are your rights in Germany if your flight is delayed or cancelled?



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