Sam paid for his auto rental in advance before leaving for Europe. He got an excellent dollar-guaranteed rate and avoided the three-percent foreign transaction charge that his credit card would have imposed had he waited to pay in Europe. When he finished the rental, however, the rental company handed him a bill for the local road/registration tax, a fee of about 10 euros. Since Sam was returning to the U.S. and wanted to get rid of his euros, he paid in cash. Big mistake. You see, there was also minor damage to the car, which the rental car company routinely billed to his credit card a few days later. When the rental company sent Sam the bill in the U.S., he turned to his credit card for reimbursement under their free CDW coverage. In order to be eligible for credit card insurance, however, the renter must pay the entire cost of the rental with the credit card. Since Sam had paid for an item (the road tax) on the car rental invoice in cash, there could be no reimbursement. He had to pay for the damage himself. Fortunately, the car was only scratched and the repair bill was about $630. Had it been totaled or stolen, Sam would have been on the hook for its full value.

It's easy to book rental cars online. Payment is often not required to hold a reservation. Problem is you might get one too many.

Let's say you book Avis online, then call Gemut.com for a quote and find they have a lower price, also with Avis. You book the car with Gemut but, because there was no payment involved with the first booking, you forget all about it. Now, at the rental counter the agent uses your name to call up your booking in his reservation system. Maybe he sees two bookings, maybe he just sees the first, higher-priced booking, and that is the one he uses to print your contract. In your jet-lagged state, you sign the documents that are put in front of you without giving them much scrutiny. When you return to the U.S. you get a nasty surprise, you paid the higher rate.

Of course, Gemut.com will fully refund your second, unused, prepaid booking but you're stuck with a rental that cost more than you planned. Avoid this by canceling all bookings except the one you want, and make sure the rental agent is handed a copy of the voucher you were sent by Gemut.com. (Get an email quote on a European car rental, or, if you prefer, phone Andy at 800-521-6722 x 3).

At the "Sightseeing Tours” link, book any of nearly 1,700 daytrips, tours, castle dinners, and local public transportation deals prior to your departure for Europe. You can, for example, book the "Sound of Music Tour" for $47, a Royal Castles day tour from Munich for $62, and a Dachau tour for $27.

The new Havenwelten Bremerhaven (Harbor Worlds) tourism complex has won the 2009 German Urban Planning Prize. The structure is described as appearing from a distance to be a ship or a cloud.

Climate House Bremerhaven 8° East, winner of Germany's Clean Tech Media Award for 2009, takes visitors around the world in a single day along the 8th longitude east (Bremerhaven's longitude), to experience a variety of climate zones.

Bremerhaven's top tourist attraction, however, remains the German Emigration Center (European Museum of the Year Award in 2007), which tells the story of the seven million Europeans who emigrated through the port to the New World. The interactive experience helps visitors search for ancestors who were among the seven million. Visit the Bremerhaven Tourist Center's Website.