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22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

15 Apr 2019 06:43 AM

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Ever wish you could go backpacking through Europe without the backpacking part?

It’s possible to see the most magnificent places throughout the Old Continent with transportation and lodgings provided—all you have to do is go!

Here is the ideal itinerary for 22 days in Europe to see the ultimate sights:

Day 1: There’s nothing like that first sight of Europe from the window of your flight to Holland

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

The moment you’ve been waiting for months and months has finally arrived! Your international flight to Europe is about to touch down in Holland.

Day 2: You’ll never forget your first Dutch windmill

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Your first full day in Europe begins with a drive through the Dutch Lowlands. Because the majority of the Dutch countryside is at or below sea level, you will see many dikes, canals, and windmills throughout the green heart of Holland.

You’re going to love the Dutch “gezelligheid,” a kind, convivial, comfortable feeling—it’s everything you imagined Holland would be.

Day 3: Take a deep-dive into Dutch life during your day-trip to Delft and Amsterdam

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

It’s all about the canals, cafes, and ceramics during your day-trip to Delft! As you walk through the picturesque streets, medieval architecture is everywhere you look. Corner cafes offering Dutch pancakes lure you in with their sweet smells.

Be sure to stop and admire the charming canals that wind their way through the city.

In any store, you’re all but sure to find the famous blue Delftware pottery. Pick some up for your dining room at home to remind you of this charming city.

Day 4: Waffles, anyone? You’re on your way to Belgium

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Head to Antwerp, Belgium today. For lunch, sample Belgian waffles at one of the colorful cafes while admiring the guild houses surrounding the main square. If you’re a chocolate fan, you won’t be able to resist the endless selection in the chocolate shops.

Heading toward Germany, the stop at Margraten American Military Cemetery is an emotional one. The graves of over 8,000 American servicemen from World War II are here. Pay your respects to the men who fought for liberty and justice for all.

Day 5: A Rhine River cruise is a great way to see Germany

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Willkommen in Deutschland! Welcome to Germany! Glide down the Rhine River past quaint villages, medieval fortresses, and hillside vineyards known for their distinctive wines.

The village of Heidelberg and its castle exude the spirit of Germany. Explore the Old Town and imagine yourself in the days of knights and squires.

Day 6: Rothenberg is a fairytale come to life

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Nothing compares to the romantic hamlet of Rothenberg. This medieval village is straight out of a storybook.

Walk the cobblestone streets, hear the sounds of the bell tower, and stop in the many shops, including Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Weihnachtsdorf where it’s Christmas year-round.

The Medieval Criminal Museum is a must. Learn about the different devices of torture and tools of punishment from more draconian times—then lighten up as you travel the Romantic Road (one of the Top 10 Road Trips in Europe!).

Day 7: Oktoberfest is everywhere!

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Even if you aren’t in Germany at the end of September (when Oktoberfest is celebrated), you can still enjoy the experience of drinking German beer and eating schnitzel to your heart’s content.

The Hofbräuhaus is one of a kind beer hall where the celebration of Oktoberfest goes on all year long. Be sure to try the traditional foods and hoppy beers during your visit.

Day 8: You fell for Innsbruck during the Olympics; now see it in real life

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Austria’s Innsbruck is one of those European cities you will fall in love with. The Imperial City (as it’s known) has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, has incredible mountain views, and is an architectural beauty thanks to Maximilian I, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1493 to 1519.

Be sure to check out the Bavarian Palace or Tyrolean Show and Dinner to get immersed in Innsbruck’s culture.

Day 9: The Dolomites are a sight for sore eyes

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Italy lies on the other side of the Alps, a country full of history, culture, and excellent food and wine.

To the north is Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. Its sheltered location in the Dolomites gives the area a subtropical climate rich in vegetation, including oleander bushes, olive groves, fruit trees, and grapevines.

Stroll along the lakefront, visit the shops, and grab a snack at a cafe. Gelato (Italian ice cream) is a wonderful way to cool off on a warm summer’s day.

Day 10: Grab a gondola ride in romantic Venice

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Italy’s city on the water has so much more to offer than just gondola rides—but you should definitely take one anyway. Then stroll around St. Mark’s Square, marvel at St. Mark’s Basilica and the Clock Tower, and take plenty of pictures of the amazing Venetian architecture.

For a special treat, let us arrange a private dinner with wine and dessert to end your adventure in the City of Love.

Day 11: Watch the sunset on the Autostrada del Sol, or Highway of the Sun

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

While today is primarily a “travel day,” no time is wasted as you wander through the hillside of Italy. Vineyards and olive groves sprawl across the tranquil landscape. Your journey takes you on the Autostrada del Sol (Highway of the Sun).

You’re on your way to Rome. What foods do you want to try? What wine do you want to sample? What historical landmark are you just dying to see?

Day 12: Explore the cradle of Western Civilization

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Ah, Roma. This is where it all began—a city full of the history of Western world. Visit the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and a few of the major temples. Conjure your inner Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck with a trip to the Trevi Fountain.

Then take a tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. You can’t miss the Michelangelo masterpiece, The Creation of Adam.

Day 13: Eat your heart out in Rome

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

It’s a free day in one of the most delicious cities in the world.

Visit the markets, sip espresso at a cafe, grab a slice of pizza from a street vendor, and try the gelato. Do a little shopping, walk the Spanish Steps, make the most of your day.

Day 14: Yes, the Leaning Tower of Pisa really leans

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

True story: The Leaning Tower of Pisa started to shift when the builders hit the third story—they built on soil too soft to support it! Be sure to grab a picture to show your friends back home.

Then it’s on to Florence in the heart of Tuscany. Enjoy a guided walking tour of the various piazzas (town squares) complete with countless sculptures and architectural masterpieces. Shopping is fantastic in Florence—markets full of leather goods and jewelry at Ponte Vecchio Bridge never disappoint.

Day 15: Lake Lugano is a lovely break from the hustle and bustle of Florence

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Can you believe there are palm trees just across the Swiss border? At Lake Lugano, you can take a picture with leafy palm trees and snow-capped mountains in the background. The town of Lugano is known for its international banking and tourist industry. The affluent vacation here during their summer holiday.

Architecturally, the town is Italian but within Swiss borders. You’ll enjoy walking through the “Rio de Janeiro of the Old Continent” on your first day in Switzerland.

Day 16: Get your Swiss chocolates and lace in Lucerne

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Surrounding Lucerne and its lake of the same name are many mountains, including the mighty Rigi, Stanserhorn, and Pilatus. But if the breathtaking views aren’t enough to make Lucerne a must on your European “bucket list,” perhaps the shopping and Swiss chocolates will.

Swiss lace, watches, and wood-carved music boxes are all superb souvenirs to take home to loved ones (or keep for yourself!). Don’t forget to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and admire the gorgeous mountains one last time.

Day 17: Say “bonjour” to Beaune, a medieval town in France’s Burgundy wine region

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

For your first day in France, spend some time in Beaune, a well-preserved medieval town in the French countryside. Burgundy is famous for its wines, which you can sample during an independent dinner.

Visit the Hospices Museum. Once a hospital during the 15th Century, these buildings now house items used in the hospital during the Middle Ages as well as a collection of furniture, paintings, pottery, and tapestries.

Day 18: Paris, the City of Light, welcomes you

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

You’ll never forget your first look at Paris — the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomphe, the wide, tree-lined Champs Elysees, and the incredible masterpieces at the Louvre.

It’s the ultimate destination for history buffs, art aficionados, eager epicures, and incurable romantics. Dig in!

Day 19: Count the bridges on a Seine River cruise

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

One of the best ways to get up close and personal with Paris is a scenic Seine River Cruise.

You’ll see a whole new side of the city as you glide along the water. The Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower are especially impressive from your perch on the boat.

Keep your camera handy!

Day 20: Take the Chunnel Train to London

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

The Channel Tunnel takes you from Paris to London, your last city on the tour — and what an incredible city it is!

Hit all the famous London landmarks — Big Ben, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. London is the ultimate mix of old and new.

Day 21: Explore London on a double-decker bus

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

Today is your day to explore London however you like.

Maybe you’re into shopping—Harrods calling! Or perhaps the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London are at the top of your bucket list. Piccadilly Square has a “Times Square” feel to it if you’re ready for a little nightlife on your last evening in Europe.

Day 22: Say farewell to Europe.

22 Days in Europe: The Ultimate Sights

After a roaring trip through Europe, it’s time to head home. But don’t be sad—it’s been an amazing three weeks and you have hundreds of pictures to prove it.

Ready to pack your bags?

Can you see yourself experiencing the excitement of Europe? Get in touch today to start planning the trip of a lifetime.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

07 May 2018 03:49 PM
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Ever wanted to travel throughout multiple countries in Europe, but found the logistics too much to bear? Visiting two or more countries usually means lots of travel, which takes time and money.

But what if you could see four of Europe’s most beautiful countries in only 15 days? That’s right, you can see Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein in just over a fortnight.

And forget wasted travel days—you’ll be spending at least two nights at each of your hotels, getting to immerse yourself in the culture, and seeing many different spectacular sights along the way.

Take a look at a few of the dreamy locations you’ll be enjoying during your trip:

 

From the Middle Ages to World War II, history abounds in the Franconian Wine Region.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

You can’t visit Europe without stumbling upon historical sites, cities, and landmarks. In fact, it’s one of the things about Europe that is so special—just how much history the continent holds.

Start your European tour off in Franconia, known for its high quality wines, especially white varieties. Silvaner is a local favorite. This peachy and apricot wine is soft and smooth. Another white variety to try is Bacchus. It’s known as “wine for women” because of its highly aromatic nature—think honied florals.

But there’s more than just vineyards to see here. The city of Nuremberg lies within Franconia, known for its famous “trials” after World War II. During the war, Nuremberg was the location of the Nazi Parade grounds, which can still be visited. After the war, many Nazi leaders were tried and convicted here for their vicious crimes against humanity.

And for those looking for a lighter subject, the Toy Museum is always a delight!

 

Find out why “the hills are alive with The Sound of Music” while staying in Filzmoos.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

Interested in seeing a city most Americans don’t even know about? Austria’s Filzmoos is a spectacular secret kept by the Europeans from foreigners. And you get to stay there for three nights to truly absorb the Austrian scenery and culture.

Although it’s primarily known as a ski and hiking town, you’ll appreciate Filzmoos’ proximity to Salzburg, the setting and filming location for The Sound of Music.

Join fellow fans of the movie-musical for a tour of the famous sights from the movie, such as the gazebo for “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” Mirabell Gardens from “Do Re Mi,” and Saint Peter’s Abbey, home to the convent where Maria originally lives.

But don’t just see where The Sound of Music was filmed—live it for yourself. Okay, maybe don’t become a nun and then a nanny for seven children, but do go out into the hills and listen to the sounds of the birds flying above, the trickling of freshwater streams, trees from the nearby forests rustling, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear that “sound” Maria sang of so heavenly.

 

Be a full-on tourist in Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

Who says you shouldn’t act like a tourist when traveling abroad? Forget blending in and take advantage of all Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, has to offer.

Host of two winter Olympics, Innsbruck is a winter sport mecca. But you don’t have to ski or snowboard to enjoy the wonders of this village which is bisected by a river and majestically surrounded by mountain peaks.

Innsbruck’s most famous landmark is the Golden Roof. It’s amazing how a simple roof over a balcony could be so impressive. Built in 1500, the roof is covered in 2,657 copper tiles gilded with six kilos of gold. While it was once used for royalty, these days it’s the perfect place to be a tourist.

Another sought-out sight in Innsbruck is the exquisite Imperial Church. This cathedral holds the tomb of Emperor Maximilian and 28 bronze figures of his ancestors, overlooking him. And don’t miss the intricate carvings of his life surrounding the exterior of his tomb.

Finally, Innsbruck is a great place for souvenirs. Peruse the spectacular showrooms of Swarovski Crystal, with magnificent displays meant for viewing only, as well as jewelry and miniature figurines you can purchase to take home with you. Or stop by Grassmayr for one of their famous bells. If nothing else, at least stop by to ring one!

 

Shout “yodel-ay-hee-hoo” from atop the Swiss Alps.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

You don’t have to be a mountain climber to reach the summit of the Stanserhorn. Take the world’s only open top cable car up to the mountain-top terrace and restaurant for stunning scenery and the chance to yodel to those below.

After your adventure up the mountain and back down, head a few miles further to Lucerne, known for its lovely lake.

Lucerne is spectacle to see. Amidst mountain peaks lies this pristine lake, followed by a city featuring both the old and new. Those who appreciate historical architecture and antiques will enjoy touring the well-preserved medieval Altstadt (Old Town), while those looking for more contemporary activities will want to hit the shops and restaurants.

Another can’t-miss activity is a scenic cruise on Lake Lucerne. An old-fashioned steamer will take you around the lake to see stunning views, both natural and man-made. You will not believe some of the homes on the lake’s shores. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, anyone?

 

Learn about Cuckoo Clocks in the Fairy Tale Setting of the Black Forest

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

Spend a few nights in the fairy tale setting of the Black Forest, the area that inspired the Brothers Grimm in their story of Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. There is a special magic about the Black Forest - the forested hills and rustic villages make you feel as if you have taken a journey back in time.

Triberg, home of the World’s largest Cuckoo Clock is a good place to learn more about the inner workings of these hand carved clocks. The Schwarzwald Museum provides insight into the history and culture of the Black Forest. Did you know that Germany’s highest waterfall is located in Triberg?

 

End your journey with fun festivities in Rudesheim.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

(c) Skaja Lee

Toast to the end of your trip with a glass of sekt, a sparkling white wine from the Rudesheim region of Germany. Or if sparkling wines aren’t your thing, have a glass of brandy instead, also produced throughout the region.

Escape into a German storybook in Drosselgasse, a cobbled street filled with historical buildings, shops, and restaurants. As you walk the centuries-old streets, listen for traditional music coming from the bars. The classic German culture from fairy tales and movies can’t be contained by walls.

And if the thought of fairy tales excites you, be sure to take a river cruise on the Rhine. You’ll cruise past medieval fortresses, enchanting villages, and hillside vineyards on a Rhine River Steamer, followed by a guided tour of the unique Siegfried's Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum.

End the day with a cable car ride up to the Niederwald Monument, a must-see landmark in Rudesheim, complete with beautiful views of the Rhine Valley.

 

Flying in and out of Frankfurt makes for efficient travel.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland FRANKFURT, GERMANY - MAY 21, 2011: Empty Lufthansa aircraft standing on the handling ramp expecting boarding at Frankfurt/Main airport on May 21, 2011 in Frankfurt, Germany.

Can you believe you’ve made a circle, starting from Frankfurt, down through Bavaria, on to Austria, then Liechtenstein and Switzerland, only to make it back to Germany? This way, you can fly in and out of Frankfurt, making your travel plans much more efficient.

Flying in and out of the same airport adds a sense of familiarity. You’ve already walked through these terminals at least once, so you’ll have an easier time finding your flight.

If you book your tour with a travel company, you’ll also have the guidance of your tour operator should any unforeseen needs come up.

 

Your European adventure awaits…

Thrilled to find out it’s super easy to see multiple European countries in one easy trip? We’d love to have you on one of our tours. Fill in a few brief questions here to get your travel plans started today.

Our 2017 Photo Contest Winners

19 Oct 2017 02:58 PM

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

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SECOND PLACE - $100 Travel Certificate
Eiffel Tower by Hannah Yowell on the London, Paris & Rome Tour

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THIRD PLACE - $50 Travel Certificate
Canal in Venice by Linda Sartorius on the HEART OF EUROPE Circle Tour

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5 Reasons Europe Is Best When You’re an Empty Nester

28 Sep 2017 09:10 AM
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People have lots of emotions when that last child leaves the nest. And not all of them are bad, by the way.

Many people find a lot of advantages in the Empty Nester lifestyle. In fact theres more freedom to come and go, more time to do the things they enjoy, and often, more money to spend on guilty pleasures and postponed plans like bucket-list travels.

If you’re an empty nester who has put off personal dreams for the needs of your kids, there’s something you should know.

Now is the perfect time to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe.

Here are five reasons why it’s going to be better than you ever imagined, now that you’re on your own.

You Choose Your Own Travel Priorities

5 Reasons Europe Is Best When You’re an Empty Nester

If you’re used to taking trips with your kids, you are probably used to skipping the galleries and museums that tug at your soul because you know your kids won’t enjoy them.

You probably pretended you weren’t really interested in that botanical garden anyway, just to avoid a squabble.

As an empty nester in Europe, however, all that’s about to change.

Want to spend a day Toledo, Spain admiring the Cathedral and Synagogue followed by a sipping Sangria at a sidewalk café? Does your dream tour of Spain include hours spent wandering the Prado Museum.

Exploring the fascinating grounds of the Granada Alhambra, free from the mutters of “Can we leave now?”

If you’re an empty nester traveler, that dream is your reality. You can visit every single World War II memorial and battlefield that captures your interest without constantly worrying that your children are bored.

And if you’re doing the Big Three (Paris, London, and Rome), you can check off all those bucket-list sights you’ve only ever read about until now.

Think of the places you can visit; Notre Dame, the Louvre, Sacre Coeur, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, the British Museum, the Tate, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Navona (the list goes on and on).

You’ve got all the time in the world to see things your way.

In fact, the travel advantages start before you even leave home. Imagine being able to choose an itinerary based around the cities and countries you and your partner really want to see.

If you’d rather skip the more traditional European hotspots in favor of a deep dive into the glorious countryside of the British Isles, it’s your choice.

You shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about skipping the tourist attractions if you want.

Enjoy the Most Unusual and Delectable International Cuisine

 

5 Reasons Europe Is Best When You’re an Empty Nester

Let’s face it, traveling, especially internationally, with kids often means looking for restaurants that serve boring American cuisine like burgers and chicken nuggets.

You may even find yourself lunching at McDonald’s when your kids turn up their noses at that charming fish and chips place on the Thames you want to try. That’s a tragedy when you’ve waited for years for your dream trip to Europe.

Traveling without kids, however, means you don’t have to account for their picky appetites. You can enjoy long, leisurely meals in true Italian style, as course after course—the primo, the secondo, the contorno, and the dolce—arrives at your table.

If you’re lucky enough to find a tour of a lovely Tuscan winery or sample a sip at a Munich biergarten—all the better. When you’re an empty nester, the sky is the limit when it comes to enjoying international cuisine.

Of course, you can’t overlook the sheer pleasure of waking up early and launching your day with nothing but a croissant and coffee.

Children need three squares a day, but you’re free to eat what you want when you want. And if that’s a bite on the go so you don’t miss a moment exploring, there’s no one to whimper, “I’m hungry.”

Best of all, perhaps, is that you can order even the most unusual dishes—think morcilla (blood sausage) in Spain, escargot (snails) in France, or gerookte paling (smoked eel) in Holland, for example. No one at the table will pull a face and call you weird.

Just one more reason it’s not so bad to travel without your kids.

Slow or Fast, the Pace of Your Tour Is up to You

5 Reasons Europe Is Best When You’re an Empty Nester

Remember what is was like taking your children to the zoo? They could dawdle for hours at the monkey enclosure laughing at their antics, but they’d rush right by the exotic birds you love to watch without even a passing glance.

They were in charge of the pace.

As an empty nester in Europe, however, nothing is further from the truth. Imagine you’re on a guided tour of European capitals on the day you’re exploring Berlin. In just one day, you might—

  • Visit the Reichstag and marvel at the huge glass dome.
  • Walk through the Brandenburg Gate.
  • Take your picture at Checkpoint Charlie.
  • Explore the bombed tower of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
  • Meander through the Kurfurstendamm and do a little shopping
  • Tour the Jewish Museum and the Topography of Terror—or any of Berlin’s amazing museums.
  • Enjoy a romantic dinner at the Restaurant Hof Zwei or other swanky inn.

There’s no space in that itinerary for dawdling or naps, something you have to consider traveling with kids.

And when that romantic dinner runs late in the night? Well, there’s no curfew for empty nesters. You can even go dancing in the moonlight when you’re done if it catches your fancy.

Your Schedule Is More Flexible Without School to Consider

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Empty nesters aren’t bound by the rigid schedules of children in school, when the only acceptable times to travel are winter break and summer vacation. Which are not the best times for visiting Europe, truth be told.

Of course, you could take two weeks in summer to visit Italy with the kids, but you’d have hot weather, large crowds, and higher airfare. You might even squeeze in a trip to London over Christmas break, if you don’t mind cold, wet weather and a crush of holiday shoppers.

Europe is really at its finest when most children are in school.

Springtime in Paris is the stuff of Hollywood love stories and Frank Sinatra songs. The cherry blossoms explode over the Ile de la Cite and the magnificent chestnut groves along the Champs Elysees erupt with sweetly scented flowers.

Holland is especially colorful at Tulip Time in April and early May, when the fields are bursting with colorful flowers.

And there’s nothing like autumn in Tuscany with its magnificent colors and fabulous weather. It’s the season of festivals and celebrating the harvest.

Truffles and porcini mushrooms, lush sweet grapes, and rich black olives and fresh-pressed oil are abundant in fall, making it the best time to visit for gastronomes.

When you’re an empty nester on vacation, you don’t have to miss a thing and you can stay as long as you like.

Even a three-week grand tour of the Heart of Europe® is possible.

You Can Spend More Money on Yourself for a Change

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Be honest, when you travel with kids, about 90% of your vacation budget is consumed on keeping them happy. Theme park tickets, silly souvenirs, and $6 sodas add up fast when you go to Disneyland.

As an empty nester, however, you can spoil yourself for a change.

Treat yourself to an opera in Vienna at the Vienna State Opera House followed by a luxurious dinner with fine wine and a sumptuous slice of sachertorte slathered in chocolate ganache.

Buy that one-of-a-kind Murano glass sculpture you can set on your mantle at home to remind you forever of your dream tour of Europe.

Take in the cabaret in Paris, a flamenco dance in Spain, a fado performance in Portugal or a theater production in London.

If you’re on a guided tour, go ahead and book that optional excursion to visit the Linderhof Palace in Bavaria or enjoy a Tyrolean Show. Marvel over the crown jewels in the Tower of London, glide along in a riverboat cruise on the Seine, or listen to a fascinating explanations of Pompeii.

Buy yourself something fabulous from a fashion house on the Rue Saint Honore or the Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris. Have your portrait drawn at the Tuileries outside the Louvre. Purchase a painting from a sidewalk artist or gallery.

Indulge your interests and, visit a vineyard, tour a sherry bodega, or learn how Waterford Crystal is made.

Treat your European tour like the once-in-a-lifetime adventure it is and enjoy every minute with yourself as the star. That’s something only an empty nester can do.

Final Thoughts…

Europe is always a marvelous place to travel, with or without your family.

But empty nesters have the advantage. You can make it the trip you’ve always imagined and see everything you’ve always wanted to see. And you’ll have lovely memories to share with your kids once you get home (and maybe even a box of exquisite chocolates, too).

If you’re ready to plan your empty-nester European tour of a lifetime, get in touch today. Why not spend Paris in spring next year?

Spain’s Alhambra Fortress Stands the Test of Time

18 Sep 2017 02:58 PM

For hundreds of years since the Alhambra’s inception in the 9th century, the sprawling, fortified complex in Granada, Spain has fascinated both the privileged few who lived within its walls and the travelers from around the globe who now visit this spectacular sight.

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Alhambra means “Red Castle” in Arabic, but it is more than just a castle.  Located on the River Darro, the Alhambra is composed of five main sections:  The Alcazaba served as the military stronghold; the highest ranking officials of the Court lived in the Alhambra Alta, the upper village; the Nasrid Palaces housed royalty throughout the Moorish period; the Charles V Palace was built for the Christian Emperors; and the gardens of El Generalife provided royalty a peaceful place to relax.

The various structures represent the finest of Muslim architecture during Spain’s medieval period.  The Alcazaba fortress is the oldest and was built with several towers, such as the Torre de la Vela (Watch Tower).  The Alhambra is known for its intricate water system of canals and fountains, some of which can still be seen today.  The Nasrid Palaces contained multiple halls, chambers, and luxurious baths for the kings.

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The construction of the Charles V Palace marked the end of the Alhambra’s Moorish period; however, the Christian Emperors did not alter any of the characteristics of the other existing parts, allowing present-day visitors to see the preserved and restored architecture in its original form.  Walking to El Generalife lends a beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada and crowns an awe-filled excursion for any sightseer.

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Miguel Angel Gomez Braojos, a guide at the Alhambra who has a long line of ancestry in the area, observes “Visitors are amazed by the good condition of the buildings and other features.  With the Alhambra dating from the 9th century, travelers expect to be visiting ruins, but are delighted to find several full-standing buildings, towers and walls telling the history of this enduring site.”  While guiding a group traveling with Image Tours, Miguel Angel endearingly tells them “The Alhambra is something unique in the world, a medieval Arabian palace built by Muslims and preserved by Christians for 500 years.”

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The Alhambra is a stop on our 15-day SPAIN & PORTUGAL Tour, which also features Lisbon, Seville, Costa del Sol, Cordoba, Baeza, and Madrid.  Our 2018 departures include May 10, September 6, and October 11.  To see a detailed itinerary of this tour, click HERE.

To request a free 84-page Europe Tour Brochure that includes the Spain & Portugal Tour, contact your Travel Agent or click HERE and we will have one of our partner Travel Agents send you one right away.

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

29 Aug 2017 06:44 AM
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Unless you are a Scandinavia-enthusiast, chances are you probably don’t know a whole lot about the northern European countries that gave us vikings, Thor, and lots of amazing fish dishes. But just because these countries aren’t showcased the same way that the United Kingdom, France, and Germany are doesn’t mean you should write them off.

The Scandinavian countries provide beautiful scenes that look like they are straight out of the movie Frozen (without having to hear that song 1,000 times during your trip!). And using a guided tour to see them is definitely the best way to travel the Nordic countries. In fact, here are 10 reasons why:

 

1. Researching all of the best places to visit (like Denmark’s Hans Christian Andersen House) takes too much time on your own.

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

If you’ve never been to Scandinavia, chances are you aren’t too familiar with its history or the best sights to see. An escorted tour ensures you see all of the important monuments, castles, museums, etc., without having to take the time to do the research yourself.

Take the Hans Christian Andersen House in Odense, Denmark, for example. Many of his stories have inspired pop culture hits today such as The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, and The Snow Queen (read up on them all here). You should definitely visit if you’re traveling through Scandinavia, but without a tour operator, you might not even have known it existed.

Everyone has heard of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, but have you ever heard of Gamla Stan? Literally meaning “Old Town,” Gamla Stan dates back to the 13th century and is the birthplace of Stockholm. Walking down the ancient cobblestoned streets feels like you’ve been transported back in time. The colorful buildings lining the roads and water add to the quaint and tranquil atmosphere of this medieval town.

While you may have thought to visit Stockholm, you might not have known about the charming suburb of Gamla Stan. Thanks to guided tours, missing out on beautiful and unique destinations is never a problem.

 

2. Travel through all of the Scandinavian countries and then some.

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

Imagine planning a trip to a European country. You want to make sure that wherever you go you will see the best of the best, right? Now imagine you are planning on visiting more than just one country. How about more than two? Three?

With a guided tour, not only will you see all the significant spots of Scandinavia, you can also see most of Northern Europe. In fact, it’s entirely possible to see a total of seven countries during your tour of Scandinavia and the Baltics.

Remember that trip you were planning yourself? Do you think you’d be able to cover seven different countries, seeing all that you want to in efficient amount of time? Don’t worry! The expert tour operators will handle all of that for you. All you need to do is pack your bags, hop on a plane, and enjoy Northern Europe!

 

3. Or if you’re pressed for time, stick solely to Scandinavia.

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

Life is busy. It’s hard to commit to over a week of travel, let alone two! But life is also short. It’s important to live it to the fullest, which means getting away and embarking on eye-opening adventures. And while seeing the majority of Northern Europe is a possibility, it’s not necessarily for everyone.

Can’t commit to being away for more than two weeks, but still want to see the heart of Northern Europe? By dropping the Baltic countries, you can still see all of the superb sights Scandinavia has to offer in only 12 days. This way, you won’t feel rushed while touring all four countries, but will still be home in less than two weeks.

 

4. Enjoy authentic, but tasty, meals all throughout your tour.

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

Let’s be honest—the best part about any vacation is taking a vacation from your healthy diet. You’re splurging on traveling to Europe, why not splurge on your calories for the trip too? And great news for the foodies—most of your meals are included on a guided tour!

Your tour company chooses hotels that serve daily breakfasts, usually buffet style (foodies rejoice!), that include a selection of breads, fruits, cold cuts, cereals, and more. Lunch is usually on your own, which is a fantastic time to explore the local cuisine for a smaller price than a dinner.

Speaking of dinner, while most are included with your tour, there are optional dinner excursions you can easily add on that also enhance the cultural experience. There could be no better way to immerse yourself in the Scandinavian experience than with a Viking Dinner. Enjoy an authentic, multi-course feast from the Iron Age, when Vikings ruled the seas. Food is prepared with spices that would have been brought to the Nordic countries during that time period, and each diner gets a glass of mead with their meal.

 

5. Nordic country-hopping is no problem when you’re on a guided tour!

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

Crossing the North Sea might seem daunting if you’ve never been before—should you fly across or take a boat? If a boat, what ferry system should you use?

Plus English is not the native language of any of the countries you will be visiting, and while it is commonly spoken globally, is it really worth the risk to find a cabbie who has no idea where you want to go?

Let your tour service take care of all of your transportation needs (including airport transfers)! That way, you know you are using a safe and reliable service while abroad to travel through Scandinavia and the Baltics.

 

6. Don’t let the different languages hold you back from the beauty of Scandinavia and the Baltics!

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

There’s a great possibility that if you travel Scandinavia on your own, you could find yourself in a restaurant where all you hear is this. While we all love the Swedish Chef, it might make for a better dining experience if you know exactly what it is you are ordering.

If traveling with a tour company, however, your tour operator will have planned to visit destinations with English-speakers, but if a situation arises where the local language is needed, your tour operator will help navigate any language barriers. It would be a shame to miss out on something spectacular simply because neither you nor anyone you are traveling knows the Nordic languages.

 

7. If you are spending a lot of time and money on a trip, shouldn’t you let the professionals help?

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

Let’s face it—traveling to Europe isn’t the same as a domestic trip. You are spending a lot of time and money on your tour of Scandinavia, so shouldn’t you invest wisely and hire the professionals?

Using a guided tour gives you the best value for your time abroad. Tour guides are professionals; they do this for a living. They will ensure you have the trip of a lifetime! How so? Your tour operator will know the history of a particular area, the best places to visit, and how to efficiently navigate the countries.

Don’t risk it—book a guided tour and protect your memories of a truly once-in-a-lifetime trip.

 

8. Feel safe traveling through Northern Europe in a group setting.

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

That age-old adage, “safety in numbers,” has stuck around for a reason. Pickpockets, thieves, and others of the like are more inclined to prey on the lone traveler or those traveling in pairs. With a group, there’s a greater chance of the perpetrator being caught or seen before they can even act.

The other good news? With a tour operator, there’s less of a chance that you’ll even be in an area where these sorts of crimes occur. Your tour company will choose reputable hotels in safe areas. If you were to book a hotel on your own, could you truly know that it was the “best” place to stay without ever having been there?

 

9. Ensure access to historical Scandinavian sites and monuments.

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

What could be worse than reaching the museum or monument you’ve most wanted to see and finding out they are about to close or they are too full to allow you in?

Tour groups reserve their spots way in advance to ensure admission to popular attractions—and they dedicate enough time in the schedule for travelers to fully appreciate them. Your tour operator may even be able to get you into these places before or after regular visiting hours for a private viewing! Wouldn’t that be amazing for the fascinating Viking Museum on the Bygdoy Peninsula of Oslo or the marvelous Skansen Open Air Museum in Stockholm!

 

10. Need any help at all? You’ve got it!

10 Reasons Why a Guided Tour Is the Best Way to Travel Scandinavia

Even the most prepared traveler can’t keep errant baggageman from losing their luggage. Should that catastrophe (because let’s face it, lost luggage is a catastrophe) happen to you on a guided tour, you are not alone.

Tour companies give you comfort because you know that if anything goes wrong, you’ve got someone on your side working to fix it. They are full of helpful travel tips and recommended travel insurance coverage for those just-in-case moments. For any need (lost luggage, forgotten toiletry, etc.), simply reach out to your tour operator and they will assist you in making things right! Traveling on your own means having to solve these problems—alone. Wouldn’t it be better to have someone in your corner?

 

Redo att gå? (That’s “Ready to go?” in Swedish!)

If you are ready to broaden your horizons and travel the Nordic and Baltic countries of Europe, be sure to click here to get in touch with us today.

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

10 Aug 2017 05:50 AM
13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

If we’re being honest, does anyone really need a reason to visit Europe? Of course not! But just in case you’re curious, one of the many reasons that make the Old Continent so special is how easy it is to country-hop!

Once there, you can see so many of Europe’s diverse and noteworthy countries within a single trip! Truly, it’s possible, and not only possible, but incredibly enjoyable.

Here’s the perfect itinerary for an unforgettable tour of seven European countries in just 13 days:

 

Guten Morgen, Deutschland! Good Morning, Germany!

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

Finally, after months of waiting, planning, and anticipating, you’ve made it to Europe for the first time—phew! And your first country to see? Germany!

After an easy navigation through Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport (most of the employees know English and can point you in the right direction), it’s time to travel through the tranquil German countryside. Journey southwards to Schriesheim, a small town just north of Heidelberg, and where you will be staying the night.

As you settle in, you may appreciate the definition of the German “Gemuetlichkeit,” which expresses the feeling of comfort, coziness, and leisure you will experience in the days ahead.

Once your things are settled, set out for an afternoon of sightseeing in nearby Heidelberg, famous for its university, castle, and Old Town.

The romantic remains of Heidelberg Castle sit atop a hill, overlooking the city below. In the last 800 years or so, the grand structure was beaten, battered, and bruised, both by man and by nature.

Although many different invaders did their part in destroying the castle, the beginning of its ruined fate began in 1537 when the top floor was struck by a lightning bolt. Just a little over two hundred years later: a lightning bolt would strike the castle again, this time sealing its fate.

Despite its unfortunate circumstances, the castle remains one of the most visited archaeological sites north of the Alps and is truly a sight to behold.

 

Roam the romantic streets of Rothenburg, a town straight out of a story book.

Ever wished you could travel to the past? Well, although you can’t actually visit the 1500s, there’s still a way to feel like you have. Medieval Rothenburg brings the past to the present with its timber-framed houses and fanciful shop fronts; the whole village feels like a fairy tale.

Take time to explore the cobblestone streets, winding your way to Town Hall. There, climb the bell tower for a bird’s eye view of the quaint hamlet. Or, for a more circular view of the town, walk along its borders, atop the city walls.

While Rothenburg’s architecture alone is a sight to see, it’s worth mentioning a couple of sights indoors. The Medieval Criminal Museum exhibits excruciating torture instruments, such as thumb screws, dunking cages, iron maidens, and the ultimate executioner’s axe.

If you’re looking for a lighter point of interest, try Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Weihnachtsdorf where it’s Christmas all year long. Classic German Christmas ornaments, figurines, and other assorted decorations can be bought here to enjoy for holidays to come.

End your day by traveling the Romantic Road to Adelsreid and partake in a well-earned libation while listening to the whimsical accordion.

 

You can’t leave Germany without an Oktoberfest experience!

Munich, the capital of the state of Bavaria, embodies the essence of Germany.

Meander through Munich’s Marienplatz, a pedestrian-only zone, where historical and modern architecture are cleverly combined. The spectacular Rathaus, or town hall, towers over the square. The Glockenspiel clock tower enchants visitors with its 43 bells and melodious music. Shops and restaurants adorn the square for a truly leisurely time.

Before departing from Germany, lunch at the Hofbrauhaus, which boasts an Oktoberfest experience year-round. Even for those who have not acquired a taste for beer, the traditional and festive atmosphere is a treat for all!

Although your time in Germany is about to end, you’ll be back for a final day before your trip is over.

 

Bask in the beauty of the Austrian Alps.

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

It’s a new day in a new country: Austria. While you may know Austria best from a certain musical, no movie can do the beauty of this country and its breathtaking mountains justice. You must see it for yourself!

The alpine town of Innsbruck, most famous for hosting the Winter Olympics twice, provides a stunning setting for your first full day in Austria.

The capital of Tyrol, Innsbruck sits amongst the awe-inspiring alps and is bisected by the Inn River. No matter where you look, each direction has a worthwhile view.

No time in the Alps would be complete without a little yodeling. And who doesn’t love a good ol’ dinner and a show? Eat a quintessential Austrian meal of weiner schnitzel (pork) served with french fries and apple strudel; however, the real treat that follows your meal is the Tyrolean show. Delight in Tyrolean folk music, traditional dance, and expert yodeling to cap off your evening.

 

Sip Italian vino while viewing Verona.

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

As Monty Python once famously said: “And now for something completely different.” Italy begins a new chapter in your European journey.

Move away from the cool Alps to the subtropical climate of Lake Garda. Due to the unusually warm temperatures for such a high altitude, vegetation flourishes around the water, including citrus trees, olive groves, and grapevines.

Wander around the lakeside or mill through the charming local shops. If it’s a particularly hot day (or even if it’s not!), you might enjoy some refreshing gelato as you stroll beside the stunning lake.

Continue your Italian travels to Verona, William Shakespeare’s setting for his star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. It’s time to indulge in a glass of Italian wine while having your dinner al fresco (that’s outdoors).

Glide through the city of Venice by gondola.

 

When you’re this close to Venice, you have to visit!

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

The city, completely built on waterways, is a one-of-a-kind experience. Grab a gondola and glide around the narrow water channels, under bridges, or to a coffee shop for café.

While famous for its waterways, Venice is also known for its glass and art of glassblowing. Marvel at the skill by artisans or maybe find a souvenir made of Venetian glass to remember your time visiting.

A typical Venetian dinner concludes your evening with your choice of either a crisp white or smooth red wine.

 

See the “Rio de Janeiro of the Old Continent” in Switzerland.

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

Can you imagine both snow-capped mountains and palm trees being within eyeshot? Known as the “Rio de Janeiro of the Old Continent,” at Lake Lugano in Switzerland, you can actually see both. At such a scenic stop, why not have some lunch and soak it all in?

St. Gotthard Tunnel (a whopping 11 miles long!) takes you from the Italian side of Switzerland to the German side. Lake Lucerne and its surrounding towns await on the other side as well.

The monstrous tops of Rigi, Stanserhorn, and Pilatus look down from above, providing a beautiful backdrop for some pictures. Make sure to get a good night’s sleep for tomorrow’s tasty treats!

 

Sample Swiss chocolate and shop for souvenirs in Lucerne.

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

The city of Lucerne may sit at the bottom of Pilatus, but it can hold its own against the towering mountain. Impressive bridges cross over the Reuss River, the most famous of which is the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge).

See the wall of Old Town where eight watchtowers still remain or visit the Lion Monument, a stone carving that commemorates Swiss soldiers, who defended Louis XVI during the French Revolution, but lost their lives.

Sightseeing isn’t all there is to do in Lucerne: Shopping thrives here too! Delicate lace, luxurious watches, and wood-carved music boxes are just a few of the items that can be purchased amongst the various stores. But the real treat to buy while in Lucerne is decadent Swiss chocolate.

What’s the point of a vacation if you can’t indulge just a little?

 

Soak in stunning scenery as you travel from Switzerland into the Wine Region of France.

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

Time for the fifth country during your first European travels! Leave behind the Swiss Alps for the French countryside. Here you will travel through rolling hills, enchanting villages, and lush vineyards.

France’s wine region of Burgundy overflows with dry “Pinot Noir” red and “Chardonnay” white grapes. Why not sample a glass of your choice with lunch?

Stunning views grab your attention, whisking you to another time and place where life was more simple and relaxing. Enjoy the rest of your trip to Troyes before a big day in Paris tomorrow.

 

From the art to the architecture to the wine—Paris will leave a lasting impression.

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

What isn’t there to do and see when visiting Paris? Love art? See ancient and Renaissance works in the Louvre. Or perhaps you’re more of an Impressionist fan? The Musee d’Orsay features the best of the best (Monet is a particular favorite), along with other modern works.

The city’s architecture doesn’t disappoint. From the Notre Dame Cathedral to the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe, there are impressive historical structures wherever you look.

Maybe you’re most excited to wine and dine in the City of Light. That’s understandable. French patisseries lure you in as you walk by with their sweet aromas of decadent desserts and flaky croissants.

Don’t forget to grab a glass of sparkling wine: Champagne pairs well with chocolate-anything.

 

Antwerp offers the best of Belgian foods and culture.

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

Time spent in Belgium is short and sweet—make that very sweet: Belgian waffles and chocolates await! Antwerp is the second-largest city in Belgium (behind only Brussels). Here you may hear people speaking Flemish, which is similar to Dutch.

Saunter around the Grand Square, peek in and out of shops, or simply grab a bench and take in the sights and people to fully embrace the Belgian culture. No matter how you choose to spend your time in Belgium, you will certainly appreciate it.

Traverse across the border into The Netherlands, or Holland. The entirety of the western side of Holland lies below sea level, which is why there are so many of the famous dikes, canals, and bridges.

Windmills are also frequently seen throughout the country, traditionally used to grind up tradeable goods. These days, modern windmills provide wind power for The Netherlands. Rest up for Amsterdam!

 

The best way to see Amsterdam is by boat!

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

Did you know that Amsterdam has more than 60 miles of canals? That’s a lot of area that can be covered by boat. What a relaxing way to see a city!

Amsterdam is built upon a dam on the river Amstel, hence its name. Although it has been around since the middle ages, Amsterdam has become a must-see travel spot in just the past couple of years. Dutch art, such as pieces by Rembrandt (the most famous of which is The Night Watch), can be found in the Rijksmuseum, which opened in the late 19th Century.

Don’t miss out on the amazing shopping available in Amsterdam! Vintage and high fashion boutiques make up “The Nine Streets.” Or if those really aren’t your styles, perhaps you’d be more interested in the Bijenkorf department store, which is sure to have something for everyone. The Kalverstraat offers both fashion and a variety of Dutch souvenirs.

Should fashion not be your cup of tea, per se, you may enjoy the Bloemenmarkt or Floating Flower Market, the only one in the world. Holland’s famous tulips will be there along with many other floral favorites.

 

Finish your journey along the Rhine River.

13 Days in Europe: A First-Timer’s Itinerary for an Unforgettable Tour

After a wondrous journey through the heart of Europe, it’s time to once again visit Germany for the final day. This time, see Deutchland by boat on the Rhine River. As you look out over the water and onto land, you’ll see endearing villages, medieval fortresses, and hillside vineyards as you pass by.

One of your final sights to see: Loreley Rock. Legend has it that a fair maiden’s bewitching chant caused a boatmen to crash into the side of the rock. While that won’t be your fate on this voyage, it’s always fun to appreciate the local folklore.

Get your last glimpse of Germany in the festive wine village of Rüdesheim, your final hotel destination for this trip.

 

Ready to go?

Are you ready to travel through the Heart of Europe? Get in touch to start planning your first (or maybe fifth?!) European adventure.

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

06 Jun 2017 09:52 AM
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Arranging the European vacation of a lifetime doesn’t just happen two weeks before you depart.

It can take months to get all the details in order and properly prepare for your trip.

In fact, the best time to start planning your trip to Europe is up to a year before you take your trip.

Why? Here are 10 surprising reasons to book ahead:

 

1. Get the best possible discounts by booking your tour up to 17 months in advance.

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

It’s no secret that if you wait until the last minute to purchase a tour to Europe, you’ll probably not get any early booking savings. In order to avoid steep costs for your international flights, buy the tour with air several months in advance.

While research shows that domestic flights are best priced around 54 days in prior to departure, for foreign flights, the earlier you reserve your seats the better.

Generally, international flights are available for booking 11 months in advance, and escorted trips can be booked up to 17 months in advance which means in June, you can schedule your trip through October of the following year.

If you are already planning to travel in 2018 then why not lock in your price, getting the best deal in the process?  And when you want us to take care of your flight just book the tour with air inclusive and we will take care of finding the best flight that will match up with your escorted Europe trip. We always offer the best prices to those clients who book the earliest.

 

2. Plan your Pre- and Post-Tour Extensions when and where you want.

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

By booking escorted Europe tours months prior to your trip, you have a better choice of extensions.

European travel is incredibly popular, especially during the summer months. With a little advance planning, you can create great extensions — maybe even stop over in a city you’ve always wanted to explore for a few days after the tour is complete.

Popular extension cities like London are perfect for a short visit before or after your tour—but it takes time to do the additional planning.

Wouldn’t you love to see more of Big Ben or the Tower of London after your British Isles tour? That’s the beauty of planning your escorted Europe tour booking months in advance - with a little advance planning, you can see even more places on your bucket list.

3. Avoid sitting in the dreaded center seat at all costs.

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

Let’s be honest for a second: no one likes the center seat.

At some point during your transatlantic flight, you are both the “disrupted” and “disruptee.” Doesn’t it always happen that when you’ve just reached the best part of your book, the person at the window needs to stretch their legs? Or perhaps when you need to do the same, the passenger on the aisle has reached REM sleep?

Avoid the center seat dilemma by booking in advance. Then the only problem will be deciding between more leg room on the aisle or getting to see beautiful landscapes from the window!

 

4. Ensure your spot on the tour of your dreams.

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

Not only do seats on a plane fill up quickly, so do spots on a tour. Why wait, risking that the tour you’ve always dreamed of will be sold out? And if you’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, you won’t want to compromise with your second or third choice.

If you book ahead, you are virtually guaranteed to get a spot on the tour and departure date that works best for you.

Check out our 2018 tour dates to see what’s available.

 

5. Get your ducks in a row before you go.

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

There are lots of details involved in international travel—give yourself plenty of time so there’s no last-minute stress.

For example: Your passport. Do you have one? If not, you’ll need a couple of months between applying for it and receiving it.

If you already have a passport, double-check that it’s valid at least six months from the date of your return flight or you’ll need a new one.

How’s your luggage situation? If it’s been awhile since you took a long trip, you may want to shop around for a new set of luggage with a good quality carry-on bag meeting today’s FAA regulations. Planning ahead means you can wait for a good sale!

Pick up a guide book and do some research about the places you are visiting. Make a list of the things you absolutely want to see while you’re in Europe.

Finally, go over your packing list to make sure you have everything you need for stress-free international travel—don’t forget comfortable walking shoes.

Talk with your cell phone service provider about international plans to save you expensive minutes. Buy outlet adapters so that you can charge digital cameras, cell phones, laptops, and other electronics.

 

6. Learn a few foreign phrases and enhance your experience.

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

Learning simple words and phrases may come in handy while traveling abroad. For instance, you may want to grab a taxi back to your hotel after a night at the Vienna Opera House.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know a few German phrases for tourists?

A little foreign language also makes for a great conversation starter when getting to know your fellow tour mates. Exchange the phrases you acquired before the trip with others, picking up some new conversation starters for your language rolodex. When in Rome, as they say!

 

7. Pick a time of year that best suits your schedule and best suits the weather.

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

Vacations provide an escape from our busy, busy lives—and sometimes, it’s hard to find two or three weeks to spend on yourself unless you plan many months in advance.

And of course, once you find your vacation sweet spot, you want to make sure the weather will be pleasant in your dream destination. A trip to Spain and Portugal, for instance, would be a completely different experience in October than in July.

The smart thing about reserving your tour well in advance is that you can see your favorite cities when they are at their best.

Haven’t you heard? You’ll love Paris in the springtime. And for that matter, London and Rome aren’t half-bad, either.

 

8. Organizing a trip abroad can be time consuming - take time to plan around everyday life!

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

Life never stops, it never slows down. Summer months are full of vacations, weddings, sporting events, and more. As you move into fall, holiday activities pack your schedule, and before you know it, it’s a new year.

Arranging your European tour a year in advance lets you work vacation-planning around all of life’s activities.

Take time between school events, sports activities, business trips - you name it - to research all the sights you want to see and foods you’d love to try.

 

9. The kids are back in school, so you have more time to focus on your dream trip.

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

September is back-to-school season for your children and grand kids. And that means you have a little more to spend on yourself and planning your bucket-list tour of Europe.

And if you’re planning a family adventure together, you’ll have everyone’s school schedule for the following year so you’ll know the best times to book.

 

10. And finally, planning a trip to Europe is just plain exciting! Why wait to get started?

10 Surprising Reasons Why Savvy Europe Travelers Book Their Tour a Year in Advance

The joy of a lifetime adventure to Europe goes beyond just the day you climb on the plane until the day you return to home base—the whole planning process before you go is packed with anticipation and excitement.

Who doesn’t love having something to look forward to? (And the sooner you book, the more time you have to dream about your journey and plan for each bucket-list experience you’ll check off your list.)

See yourself in Europe next year? Contact us today to get the planning process started.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

02 May 2017 02:58 PM

spain-portugal

Centuries ago, Spain and Portugal ignited the Age of Discovery, which led to the exploration of the Americas, along with many other important trade routes and islands. Had these explorers not left their homes, civilization would never have expanded to the world we know today.

Make 2017 your year of discovery, and where better to start than in the countries that began it all. Here are 14 gems in Spain and Portugal where you can begin your personal Age of Discovery.

1. Wander through Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal.

Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe, predating Paris, London, and Rome. Many believe the Phoenicians founded the city as a port, but many other cultural groups took charge of Lisbon before the Portuguese, including the Romans and Muslims of North Africa (Moors).

Moorish architecture can still be seen today throughout the city dotted between the styles of the Portuguese homes and buildings. Although it is a waterfront city, Lisbon is also situated upon rolling hills. Trolleys transport people up and down the streets to make traveling through the capital a bit easier. Whether you prefer to walk or ride, see all that Lisbon has to offer.

2. Climb Belem Tower, built in the early 16th Century.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Lisbon sits on the Tagus River, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula that runs from Spain across the border into Portugal, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1514 and 1520, the Torre de Belem, or Belem Tower, was constructed to protect Lisbon from river assailants.

The tower was used primarily for military purposes; the main bulwark has two levels for firing cannons at different lengths. However, the tower also contains different rooms, including the Governor’s Hall, where the first governor’s office was located, as well as a chapel on the fourth floor.

3. Visit the Monument to the Discoveries.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Lasting from the 15th Century to the 19th Century, the Age of Discovery brought about many revelations such as the trade route to India by sea and the exploration of the Americas.

Prince Henry of Portugal became known as Henry the Navigator after leading many voyages in the 15th Century, which began the Age of Discovery. In 1960, 500 years after Henry’s death, the Monument to the Discoveries was completed in Lisbon to honor his accomplishments.

4. Explore Portugal’s ancient Alfama District.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

The Alfama District is the oldest district in Lisbon. Walk through the narrow streets between ancient buildings or take in all of the sights from your seat on the tram.

Looking for a great Portuguese souvenir? Shops carry items such as hand-painted ceramic tiles, silver jewelry, embroidered linens, and more that make for wonderful keepsakes or gifts. Walk the streets and you may be lured into the Alfama cafes by the beautiful strumming of guitars playing fado melodies. You won’t want to miss this passionate music when you visit the charming Alfama District.

5. Enjoy a day seeing the sights of Seville.

Explore the many historical and cultural sights that Seville offers. Start your day by paying your respects to Christopher Columbus for discovering the Americas at his tomb in the Cathedral of Seville. Afterwards, stroll through Maria Luisa Park and admire its beauty, full of ceramic-tiled benches, fountains, monuments, and more. There you will also find the massive Plaza de España, built in the late 1920s for the Ibero-American World Exhibition. Magnificent towers flank the semi-circle shaped complex and showcase the beautiful architecture of designer Aníbal González. Don’t miss the ornate ceramic tiles dotted along the structure or the Vicente Traver fountain found at the center of the plaza.

6. Spend an evening relaxing in Seville.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

While visiting Seville, Andalucia’s largest city, enjoy nightlife as the Spaniards do (this is especially great if you’re an empty-nester and can stay up past bedtime!). Dinner is served late, usually not until around 9 or 10 o’clock. It is also a smaller meal, unlike the siesta-inducing lunch.

Enjoy dinner tapas-style, that is with a couple of small appetizer-like plates that can be shared with friends. Converse, eat up, and enjoy supper in Seville.

7. Be mesmerized by the romantic Flamenco dance.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

The Flamenco is a traditional Spanish dance style that many describe as emotionally intense. Danced to Spanish guitar, it is a deeply moving dance where the women are known to have their back in an arched back position, a stiff torso, and ballerina-esque arms.

Dancers often make use of props during their dance, including fans or castanets, which add to the drama. The precision dance movements match the strumming of the guitars for what is sure to be a memorable, musical evening.

8. Discover Jerez, where love for wine and horses meet.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

While still in the south of Spain, stop in Jerez and enjoy its most famous exports: sherry and the noble Andalusian horse.

Sherry is produced from white grapes grown right outside of Jerez. Sherry tastings can be found at bodegas, or wine cellars, around the city.

After sampling the white wine, head over to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art to see Andalusians. Bred as war horses, the breed became increasingly popular throughout the world, but in the 19th century the population was threatened as many wars (and the opposition) diminished their numbers. Thankfully, these magnificent horses have made a comeback so the world can enjoy them.

9. Stand less than 9 miles from the coast of Africa - while still in Europe.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

The Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet at the Strait of Gibraltar, a narrow waterway that separates the coasts of Spain and Morocco. At its narrowest, the strait is only 8.9 miles in width, which means that Europe and Africa are only separated by less than 9 miles!

The name of the strait comes from the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, a peninsula that shares its northern border with Spain and juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. Located on Gibraltar is the Rock of Gibraltar, which the Romans referred to as one of the Pillars of Hercules.

10. Shop, swim, and sip at Costa del Sol!

When visiting Costa del Sol, or the Sun Coast, it’s important to follow the three “S’s” - shop, swim, and sip!

Shop along the beachside avenidas, where you will find Mallorca pearls, gold jewelry and Lladro figurines. Swim in the Mediterranean Sea, an ancient body of water that touches Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

And finally, sip sangria on the beach to cool off or in the evenings when socializing with your friends and travel mates. Whether you’re into history, the sights, or the nightlife, the Sun Coast has something for you!

11. Enter the pages of Don Quixote by traveling through La Mancha.

If you’ve read Don Quixote by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, you may remember that our protagonist encounters giants he must slay …which in reality are only windmills. While the story of Don Quixote may not be real, the windmills and terrain that inspired the story are! Travel through La Mancha on your way to Madrid. Be sure to see the impressive Monument to Cervantes, with figures of Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza, which stands on the Plaza de Espana in Madrid.

12. Transform yourself into a Spanish Royal while walking the halls at the Madrid Royal Palace.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is full of many museums, captivating sites, stores with world-class shopping. Make sure you allot enough time to see it all, including the Royal Palace of Madrid.

The palace is the residence of the Spanish Royal Family. It is known for its baroque and Moorish architecture. Here you can see many pieces of art and other relics, including the world’s only complete Stradivarius quintet. You’ll feel like royalty when visiting this palace of splendor.

13. Appreciate Spanish art, such as the Guernica by Pablo Picasso.

You’ll definitely want to take in all of the culture when you visit Spain—and Spanish art is a huge part of it. No place is better to see Spanish masterpieces than the Reina Sofia Museum.

Here you can see many works of art, including Guernica by Pablo Picasso. One of the founders of the Cubist movement, Picasso painted Guernica to show his anti-war sentiments after the bombing of Guernica in 1937. You’ll also see striking sculptures and other art forms when visiting the museum.

14. Travel back in time while visiting Toledo, the Imperial City.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Toledo differs from many other cities in the world in that three very different cultures coexist - Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. Together, these different worldviews have created a diverse and beautiful city full of museums, churches, synagogues, and mosques. Walk the cobblestone streets and see the medieval architecture, traveling back in time to another world.

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Final thoughts…

Discovering Spain and Portugal can be much more than just a sight-seeing excursion. Experiencing in person how people of the past combined different cultures to create beautiful art and architecture can teach us many things about our current times.

If you’re interested in your own Age of Discovery in Spain and Portugal this year, why not get in touch today?

Five European Villages You’ll Fall in Love With

25 Apr 2017 09:48 AM
When travelers first think of a trip to Europe, it’s the large cities such as Rome, Paris, and London that are usually at the top of their wish list to see.  But for many who have been to the Old World, it’s the time spent in the smaller villages that they remember most fondly.  Villages are intimate places … easy to explore and ripe with opportunities to mingle with the locals.

Here are five European villages you are sure to fall in love with:

1. Innsbruck, Austria

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

The Alps dominate the landscape in this winter sports village.  The mountains are so close it seems as if you can reach out and touch them.  Hiking is naturally a popular activity in Innsbruck and it’s just a short stroll across the Inn River to the foot of the Alps.  The Winter Olympics were held here in 1964 and 1976 and a ride to the top of the Ski Jump Tower offers a breathtaking panorama.

Innsbruck was the seat of royalty beginning in the late 1400s and that is reflected in the architecture of its many beautiful landmarks.  The most notable is the “Golden Roof” balcony in the village’s quaint historic section, built by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I for viewing festivals and other events in the square below.   The roof of the balcony consists of over 2000 golden tiles.  Whether it’s for natural wonders or man-made beauty, Innsbruck is always a traveler favorite.

 

2. Verona, Italy

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Made famous as the backdrop for Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’, this medieval village sits in northern Italy to the west of Venice.  Although the lead characters in the tragedy are fictional, there is a 14th century residence that claims to be the home of Juliet, complete with a stone balcony where eternal love was declared.  A bronze statue of Juliet rests in the court yard and touching it is said to bring you luck in finding your true love.

The most impressive landmark in Verona is its first-century Roman arena.  The architecture is similar to the Colosseum in Rome and originally this outdoor venue held 30,000 people.  The arena is still used today for opera performances and in recent years for rock and pop concerts.   Much of the seating inside has been modernized, but some of the ancient stone seating is still used for events.

 

3. Riva del Garda, Italy

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

To visit Riva is to experience a slice of Italian heaven.  Riva is an historic resort village that sits on the northern end of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake.  The panoramic views as you approach the lake are some of the most stunning in all of Europe.  Garda is a long and narrow lake formed by glaciers and the sight of the mountains rising out of its turquoise-colored water creates a dramatic sense of awe.

The pedestrian areas along the harbored waterfront are lovely to stroll and gelato (ice cream) shops beckon when you need a rest.  There is also a beach and park for relaxing.  The “Torre Apponale” bell tower, old city gates, and narrow meandering streets attest to Riva’s medieval history.  You may also detect some Austrian influence in the architecture as the village belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 at the end of World War I.   Other resorts in Italy may get more buzz, but it would be difficult to find a more picturesque setting than Riva del Garda.

 

4. Volendam, The Netherlands

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Volendam is a small fishing village offering a large sampling of Dutch culture.  Here, you can still see locals dressed in traditional clothing from head (lace for the ladies and fisherman caps for the men) to toe (wooden shoes).  Walking along the tiny harbor, you can see an amusing variety of boats on the water.  If you continue along the harbor street, you may find yourself walking between two rows of small homes where neighbors compete for the tidiest entrance and window displays.

Along the water, there are shops that sell the pretty blue and white Delft pottery as well as many other souvenirs. There is also a cheese shop where you can watch a video on how the cheese is made.  Friendly cafés invite you in for coffee and Dutch apple pie, while street vendors offer delicacies from the sea such as smoked paling (eel) and raw herring.   Also be sure to try Dutch pancakes or poffertjes (mini pancakes).

 

5. Rothenburg, Germany

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Walking into this Bavarian village is like stepping into a fairy tale.  With its timbered houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and wall surrounding the town, Rothenburg’s medieval atmosphere will make you feel as if you’ve traveled back in time.  This charming village of just over 11,000 people is situated on the Romantic Road in the south central part of Germany.

There’s so much to explore here.  Climb to the top of the town hall bell tower for a bird’s eye view of the village or stroll the foot path atop the village wall.  For a refreshment, stop by a bakery to sample some strudel or sip apple cider from a street vendor in the town square.  As you might imagine, there are many interesting shops to check out such as Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Weihnachtsdorf, a sprawling, year-round Christmas shop.  There are also several unusual museums including a Medieval Crime Museum, History Museum with Town Dungeon, and Doll and Toy Museum.  You’re certain to find the village of Rothenburg a magical place with a little something for everyone!

 

If this is the year you want to start looking at a trip to Europe, request our FREE 84-page Europe Tour brochure today.