Our 2019 Photo Contest Winners!

Here are the Top three Winners from our Annual Photo Contest.  We also had several Honorable Mentions.  Thank you travelers for all your wonderful photos!

FIRST PLACE – $200 Travel Certificate – “Fun at Munich’s Oktoberfest” – Sent by Deborah Koziacki

pretzel

SECOND PLACE – $100 Travel Certificate – “On the Norwegian Fjords” – Sent by Ken & Catherine Holmstrom

fjords

THIRD PLACE – $50 Travel Certificate – “The Dutch Lowlands” – Sent by Tim & Lorraine Ahumada

windmill

The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe 10 Tips Before You Go

Traveling in general can be nerve-wracking, but going to a new continent, full of people that don’t speak your language? That can be intimidating!

It’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous before your trip, especially if it’s your first time in a new place. But there are some things that you can do to calm your nerves and prepare for the trip of your dreams.

 
The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

1. Don’t Try to Do Too Much

When you’re flying far to get somewhere and it may be the one time you go, it can be tempting to try and cram as much as possible into each day. But there’s a more balanced approach that helps you enjoy your Europe trip.

There are two ways to get the most out of your trip. Either focus on a few places and take the time to get to know each place for up to a week.

Or, book with a tour operator who knows the area and can smoothen your transitions. Traveling within a country can take far more time than you might imagine. When you book a tour, all the transfers and details are taken care of, so you’re not spending your valuable time figuring out the public transport systems.

 
The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

2. Go with a Tour Group

OK, so we’ve talked about how booking a tour can help streamline transfers, but there’s so much more to it than that.

Good tour groups have been planning and executing these trips for years. They know the destination, and they know their customer, you. They can help you get the most out of your trip, and lift the pressure off you to do everything yourself.

In many cases, local guides will accompany tour groups, providing history and local stories that you’d never get the chance to hear otherwise. You’d certainly never find them in a guide book! For example, the local guides can point out their favorite place to eat and what local specialties to order, or more profoundly, tell you where they were when the Berlin wall fell and what it meant to their family.

 
The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

3. Find a Country or a Destination That Means Something to You

One way to make a foreign country feel more familiar is to choose a destination that has some connection to you or your family. Maybe it’s heading to England to find out more about your ancestry, or visiting the place where a family member fought in a war.

But it doesn’t have to be serious! So much has happened in Europe. Visit Prague to see where they filmed The Talented Mr. Ripley or check out the sites where the Sound of Music was filmed.

That added element of connection really helps to add a sense of depth to an unfamiliar place.

 
The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

4. Decide Whether You’re More of a City or Outdoors Person

Some people prefer to see a new place from the hiking trails, the water, or the narrow streets of tiny villages. Others like to feel ancient cobbles underfoot, exploring the alleys and byways of a new city. Whichever you decide you prefer, they each offer different things.

Cities tend to be bustling, busy places full of things to do and places to visit. But personal connection can be lacking. Spending time in smaller towns and villages can allow you to get to know locals better than you otherwise might.

The great thing about Europe is that there are plenty of options, no matter which one you choose. You can also quite easily blend these types of experiences, having a little bit of all of them.

 
The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

5. Try to Learn a Few Easy Phrases in the Local Language

One of the intimidating parts of traveling to non-English speaking places is the language barrier. But if there’s one thing you do before you go, it’s this: Try to learn a few phrases in the local language.

Ordering “due cappuccino, per favore” (two cappuccinos, please) will immediately endear you to the Italian cafe owner, easing your transition into English after that point. You don’t have to be fluent, but a little goes a long way. Oh, and resist the urge to shout louder in English!

 
The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

6. Do a Bit of Research on the History

Another way to add a sense of connection to a place is to get an idea of its history. In Italy, you can research the Roman Empire, in Germany, find out more about the World Wars, in France, you can learn about Napoleon and the food culture.

Tours and guides will be able to give you interesting information, but often, visiting a location makes more sense when you have a bit of background and a sense of its significance.

 
The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

7. Plan Around Holidays

Your own constraints may dictate when you’re able to travel, but if you’re free to go whenever you like, we suggest planning around all types of holidays.

In the summer months, the schools throughout the northern hemisphere go on holiday. That means that between June and August many resorts and attractions will be at capacity. August is also a popular time for local Europeans to take their own holidays, closing many restaurants and shops, as well as a few attractions.

In winter, some attractions will be closed over the Christmas and New Year period, affecting your ability to visit them. If you want to find out more about these holidays, you can check out the Image Tours brochure for a full page on the different holidays celebrated in Europe.

 
The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

8. Factor in Seasonal Attractions

Some places offer something extra special in certain seasons. Try visiting the Netherlands during the Dutch tulip season, for a profusion of color you’ll hardly be able to believe. Visit Munich, Germany in late September when the Oktoberfest is in full swing with a festive atmosphere and opportunities to mingle with locals over beer, brats and pretzels.

Slovenia is known for its incredible fall foliage; Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France share the Alps, which is a fantastic place to visit any time of year with different but equally beautiful landscapes during each season. There are so many incredible seasonal sights to see!

 
The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

9. Costs Vary from Country to Country

One thing everyone wants to know is how much they should budget to spend per day while they are on holiday. Unfortunately, that’s a very difficult question to answer. It depends on so many variables.

For example, costs vary significantly from country to country. Traveling in Portugal, for example, can be quite affordable, whereas Switzerland is notoriously expensive. What you choose to do in each country will also affect your costs. Fine dining will cost more than street food, and some attractions cost a lot while others are free!

You can use this in your favor though. Work out where you want to go, then tailor the amount of time you spend in each place depending on how much you have to spend in each location.

 
The First Timer’s Guide to Visiting Europe: 10 Tips Before You Go

10. Nervous to Drive? Trains, Planes, and Coaches

Most of Europe drives on the right side of the road, as in the US, except for the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus. Public transport in Europe is generally pretty good, with trains operating in most cities and between most major hubs.

Not everyone wants to drive themselves around on holiday. We get that! Driving can be really tiring, especially when you aren’t familiar with the area. That’s another reason to book a tour. With Image Tours, all transport is included in the cost, by whichever method makes the most sense.

 

Pack Your Bags

So although travel can be nerve-wracking, we hope these tips and tricks help ease some of your fears.

One of the very best ways to see a new place for the first time is with a tour operator who has been in business running tours to your destination for years. If you’re ready to start planning your first trip to Europe, you can get our free travel brochure with all of our trips and tours.

Get Savings of $600-$1000 per Couple on Select Europe Tours

SPECIAL SAVINGS are available on the following Europe tours when you book the Tour & Air from Image Tours by 2/12/20:

15-day  HEART OF EUROPE Circle Tour

15-day  Germany, Austria, Switzerland Tour

16-day  Capitals of Central Europe Tour

17-day  World War II Memorial Tour

The special savings applies to all departures and varies depending on the tour, departure date, and departure city.  Our listed prices include the savings and are per person based on double occupancy.

To request a FREE Europe brochure, call your Travel Agent or click HERE.   The brochure will include exact dates and prices for each tour from over 100 U.S. departure cities.

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

“This was the most meaningful tour I have ever been on. I wish every American had the chance to go on this tour.”
G. Brown – Moline, IL

It would be hard to miss the marks left across Europe from World War II. The war hit the continent hard, destroying much in its path. Many monuments, buildings, cultural artifacts, and of course lives were lost during this time.

While the war significantly impacted the 20th century, we wouldn’t be where we are today without it. It’s important to take time to visit the places where the world was so drastically altered, and there’s no better way to see it all than with a European World War II Memorial Tour.

 

1. Learn about the Nuremberg Trials where they happened

In 1945, the war was finally over. But the leaders of the Nazi party still needed to answer for their crimes. And so, the Nuremberg Trials took place in Germany, bringing many to justice.

Nuremberg was chosen for a few reasons: its Palace of Justice remained relatively undamaged and had a large prison to keep the war criminals. Nuremberg was also an important platform for Nazi rallies. Having the trials there marked the end of the Nazi era.

While visiting Nuremberg, stop by the Nazi Party Rally Grounds where many of the propaganda speeches took place to get an idea of the scope of these rallies. You can also visit the Palace of Justice to see exactly where the trials occurred and justice prevailed.

 

2. Reflect at Dachau Concentration Camp

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

The Dachau Concentration Camp was the first of its kind in Germany. It opened in 1933 as a prison for political prisoners, but was soon turned into a death camp. Those who were not executed worked as slaves, often suffering from malnutrition and injuries. While the prisoners consisted mainly of Jews, other groups of people, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, artists, the mentally and physically disabled, and homosexuals were also held captive.

As you walk through the camp, reflect on what happened here. Think of how you can ensure the world will not abuse or kill people simply for their heritage, beliefs, disabilities, or other differences. Our differences are what make us special, they should never be what separates us.

 

3. Visit Hitler’s vacation home and the filming location of the Sound of Music

Near Salzburg is Eagle’s Nest, a hideaway mountain home of Hitler’s. It was presented to him in 1939 as a gift for his 50th birthday. An ornately decorated elevator takes guests the final 124 meters to the top of the mountain. Inside, you can see the remains of a red, marble fireplace. The marble was a gift from Mussolini, but Allied soldiers chipped off pieces as souvenirs after their victory.

Salzburg is also the birthplace of celebrated composer, Mozart, and the filming location of one of the most beloved movies of all time The Sound of Music. Many old Hollywood films were filmed on sound stages, but The Sound of Music was filmed on location in Salzburg.

 

4. See the grave of Erwin Rommel, aka the “Desert Fox”

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

Erwin Rommel was a German general forced to choose death after being suspected of a murder plot against Hitler. Rommel bit into a cyanide capsule in exchange for immunity for his family.

Visit his grave near Ulm, a German town on the northern edge of Germany’s Black Forest known for its record-breaking church steeple at Ulm Minster—it’s the tallest in the world.

 

5. Experience the Lorraine American Cemetery

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

One important site for Americans in France, is the Lorraine American Cemetery, the largest American cemetery in Europe. Stop to pay your respects to the almost 11,000 fallen American heroes laid to rest there. As you walk around, be sure to check out the many monuments and memorials throughout the cemetery, paying homage to those who lost their lives for our freedom.

The Vosges Mountains were the site of heavy fighting in the fall of 1944. The town of Saverne is nearby, and its liberation bolstered the French Army and other Allies towards winning the war just a year later. Pushing the Germans out of Saverne and nearby Strasbourg was not an easy fight, but it helped the Allied forces and France enormously.

Visit Fort Hackenberg, part of The Maginot Line, intended to prevent German forces from crossing into France, which did not succeed.

 

6. Visit the grave of war hero George S. Patton in Luxembourg

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

Every American knows the name, George S. Patton. He was instrumental in winning the war for the Allies and liberating Germany from the Nazis. You can see his grave when you visit Luxembourg’s American Cemetery. Check out the Luxembourg National Museum of Military History in Diekirch for even more World War II history.

Belgium’s Ardennes holds the Mardasson Memorial, a star-shaped tribute to the soldiers who were injured or died in the Battle of the Bulge, the bloodiest battle for Americans in World War II. All 50 states are inscribed on the walls as well as 10 passages commemorating the battle. If you’ve seen the show, “Band of Brothers,” you’ll be interested to see the fox holes used by the Easy Company.

 

7. Take in Reims, where the war ended

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

See Reims, the city where the Second World War ended. German General Alfred Jodl signed papers ending the war in both the East and the West on May 7, 1945. With the Soviet Union and Allied Forces coming at the Nazis from both sides, there was no other option. General Jodl was tried, convicted, and subsequently hanged during the Nuremberg Trials, but later found not guilty in 1953.

Reims is famous for more than just World War II—all French royalty have held their coronations at the Reims Cathedral since the 9th century.

 

8. Find peace while exploring Caen and Pegasus Bridge

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

Caen, in northern France, is the site of a famous bridge that played an important role in stopping the Germans. The British captured Pegasus Bridge, keeping the Germans from a counter-attack after the Normandy invasion. See the bridge and think of our British friends.

In the spirit of friendship, head on to the Caen Peace and Memorial Museum, which recognizes all who favor peace and continue to fight for it.

 

9. Spend a solemn day strolling the Normandy Beaches

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

If you’ve ever watched the opening of Saving Private Ryan, you know the American troops’ arrival on the beaches at Normandy was a gruesome day. Visit the beaches of D-Day: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

The bloody battles fought on these beaches opened up the possibility of an Allied victory. Walking on the same sand upon which the combat took place is humbling and solemn, but it helps keep alive the memory of those who died for their fellow citizens.

Pointe du Hoc, a German fortification, is also nearby. See where the Germans set up their fortification and how the Allies captured it.

 

10. Visit the Dutch bridges that were key in the Allied war

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

The Netherlands’ position next to Germany made it a great location for war efforts for both sides. The Allies’ Operation Market Garden’s air and ground strikes set out to liberate the city of Arnhem. However, the ground troops never made it to the bridge, coining the battle “a bridge too far”. The bridge and other sites of this failed operation are still around today.

Visit the Waal bridge in Nijmegen, a city liberated by American troops during the war. This is the site of the crossing by American paratroopers which was decisive in taking control of this strategic asset.

 

11. End your journey at the Ludendorff Bridge, the last standing on the Rhine

11 Places Every American Should Visit to Discover Europe’s World War II History

Close to the end of the war, Americans captured Ludendorff Bridge, the last standing bridge on the Rhine River. That was March 7, 1945, exactly two months before the end of World War II.

These days, you can enjoy a riverboat ride past enchanting castles, idyllic vineyards, and charming villages. Taste the distinctive Rhine wines and end your evening with a festive dinner before your return home. Thanks to the heroics of so many people many decades ago, Germany is a different country today.

 

Remember the fallen…

We know that a tour like this isn’t for the faint-hearted. It is, however, important to remind ourselves of the freedom we fought for in the war. If you’d like to experience these important places for yourself, get in touch to sign up for our World War II Memorial tour today.

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

There’s nothing quite like a trip to Europe. You can experience hundreds of years of history, art, architecture, and culture all in one trip. And in the spring and fall, you can add in spring flowers or blazing branches of red and gold.

Picture yourself strolling along a Dutch windmill in the height of spring tulip season. Or exploring Vienna on a crisp, bright fall morning. There are so many reasons why we think you should plan an off-season trip to Europe, but here are a few of them.

 
Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

 

1. Lower prices on everything; from airfares to hotel stays

Yes, that’s right. Traveling in the off-season has immediate rewards to your pocket, leaving you more money to spend on having fun! Outside of peak season, many airlines and hotels will have great specials saving you hundreds of dollars on the basics. You might even get discounts on the ground, like happy hours and meal specials at restaurants.
 
Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

 

2. Thinner crowds mean less time standing in line and more time exploring

Do you think anyone goes all the way to Europe to stand in line? Obviously not, but in summer, it’s a necessity. In spring and fall—when the vast crowds are much smaller—you can expect lines to be shorter at all major attractions.

You might even experience the rare pleasure of a relatively empty flight on your way over, giving you more room to spread out. Public transport should also be less pressured, allowing you to travel in much more comfort once at your destination.

And, without the crowds, your photos are bound to turn out better. Rather than rushing from place to place, trying to find a gap to take a photo without a crowd of tourists in it, you can take your time. Your photo albums will thank you.
 
Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

 

3. The landscapes and scenery will take your breath away

There are many beautiful places in the world, but Europe in spring and fall is something special. In spring, flowers bloom and birds sing, adding a riot of color to every scene. In fall, the landscape appears to blaze with the vibrant reds and golds of the fall foliage.

Experience Holland in tulip season during spring or Germany during Oktoberfest for the most incredible display of color you’ve ever laid eyes on. In Prague, fall is also one of their least rainy seasons! That means you can enjoy seeing the sights and their incredible fall leaves at the same time. Head up to Prague’s Petřín Hill for the best views of the city in all its fall majesty.
 
Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

 

4. Less traffic means less time commuting between destinations

Our tours generally travel as a group, taking guests from place to place by motorcoach. But any road travel will subject you to traffic. In summer, there can be loads of traffic, clogging up the major sights, as well as making transfers between cities much longer. In the off-season—once all the families and kids are back at school—there’s far less traffic.

Open roads mean more time exploring and more time to enjoy the unique feel of each destination. Less traffic also puts everyone into a better mood, from the locals to the tour operators and visitors. It’s generally just nicer for everyone!
 
Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

 

5. Cooler temperatures are perfect for traveling

If going to the beach, watersports and all-night partying is your thing, then summer is the right time to visit. But if you’d rather take a hike or explore the cobbled streets of a village, cooler temperatures will make it a lot more comfortable.

Before and after summer, you’ll have the pleasure of exploring your destinations in much more comfort. And since the temperatures haven’t dropped that far, you can still enjoy an ice cream or a glass of white wine.
 
Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

 

6. More locals and authenticity

One of the key reasons we travel is to experience other cultures. In the summer, Europeans tend to flee the popular tourist spots, leaving them to the hordes of visitors. In fact, August is one of the most popular times to holiday for most Europeans, including shop and restaurant owners.

Once the crowds vanish, the locals return and you can experience a much more authentic version of these European destinations. Enjoy a walk through one of Vienna’s many parks with locals walking their dogs and enjoying the last of the day’s light. See groups of men sitting outside cafes on the street enjoying a coffee together.
 
Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

 

7. Experience more culture

After the heat of summer, the European cultural calendar explodes. No matter what you enjoy—from theater and music to food and drink festivals—there’s something happening.

Experience the original Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, or one of the many vinobraní (wine festivals) held in Prague in September. In Amsterdam, you can enjoy walking through the many art galleries and museums, and even take in a few shows at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival from 5-15 September. The smaller towns tend to schedule local festivals and markets in spring and fall, adding the delight of stumbling upon a special local event which will often become the highlight of your trip.

 
Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

 

8. Service is much more personalized

When the crowds have died down, everyone can breathe. This means that rather than trying to shuffle you along so the next in line can get in the door, you’re given a lot more attention. From the waiter at the local restaurant who shares insider information with you or the shopkeeper who helps you find just the right gift; there’s no end to the delights that less pressure brings.

Take advantage of this by chatting with your hotel concierge or the host at the restaurant. After all, the locals have a much better understanding of their city and you can learn so much by just asking.
 
Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

 

9. Everything is easier, leaving you to enjoy your holiday

From flying and public transport to traffic and queues, there’s just no end to the things that are easier when there are fewer people around. Head out early in the year and experience the joy of spring blooming all over the continent. Or, take advantage of the clear, crisp weather and even the odd Indian summer day, and tour Europe in the fall.

 

Ready to go?

In one trip, you can experience the delights of a cheese factory, a boat ride and enjoy the medieval architecture of Maastricht. Cruise down the Rhine, and learn more about Nuremberg and Rothenburg. Enjoy the Oktoberfest atmosphere in Munich’s Hofbrauhaus and visit an Alpine village. See the city of Vienna, where the Sound of Music was set and experience beautiful Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square) in Prague.

Can you picture yourself strolling down the canal yet? If you’re ready to start planning your trip to Europe, take a look at our Heart of Europe tour and make it a reality. Not quite ready? Sign up for our brochure and we’ll send it through to you free of charge. Just think of it as food for daydreams.

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