What are your European vacation goals?
Maybe you’re setting out to see centuries-old architecture, like the Notre Dame cathedral. Or perhaps you’re a history buff and want to see monumental memorials in person. Whatever brings you to Europe, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: It’s always a good idea to spend your money wisely!
Planning your first trip to Europe can seem daunting. You want to make sure you get everything packed into your trip (and packed into your luggage!), but you also want to make sure you get the best value for your money. Perhaps you think an escorted tour breaks the bank, but actually, it’s the perfect option for your first trip overseas! Here are nine smart-money reasons why you should book an escorted tour:
1. A Professional makes sure you get the most bang for your buck.
A professional makes sure you get the most bang for your buck! Look, it’s a serious commitment to get to Europe. Shouldn’t you savor every minute of your time there? And that’s why an escorted tour makes sense. Think about it: You’d never tackle a complex home repair — say a leak in your water heater, for example — without consulting a professional.
Sure, you could read about some interesting places to go, and honestly, you should do a little research. But if you’ve never been to Europe, wouldn’t it be better to leave the details to the pros? An experienced travel operator makes sure nothing is wasted — not your time and not your money.
2. If time is money, don’t spend yours planning an itinerary!
Let the experts handle it. Let’s face the facts: Vacations cost money. They also cost you time — time to book, time to plan, time to pack, time to travel. Well, if time truly is money, you could end up spending a whole lot of it just planning your trip. That’s where escorted tours come in.
When you take a trip designed and organized by professionals, you ensure the very best value you can get. Imagine an expert taking you around, giving the best insight into your destinations and making sure you don’t waste time on tourist-y things or inauthentic experiences. You’ll see the most important sights in each place you visit!
3. Eat smart - don’t save calories, but do save money!
Who wants to watch what they eat on vacation? C’mon, indulge a little! But don’t let your wallet suffer for it. With an escorted tour, the majority of your meals are included with the total price, meaning you aren’t going to pay a fortune for a meal every time you eat.
Best of all, your tour guide knows the quality restaurants in every city you visit—you’ll get a great meal and a great value (and avoid the overpriced tourist traps, too). Imagine sitting along a Venetian canal mid-morning, sipping caffé on the terrace of a coffee shop, soaking in the golden sunrays. How can you find that paradise? Simply ask your tour manager: Which way to pure, caffeinated bliss?
4. Dine & stay at the highest quality establishments, at the lowest prices
Wouldn’t it be lovely to stay at a four-star hotel for a three-star price? By booking an escorted tour, awesome deals like that are at your fingertips. Often, escorted tour operators have relationships with quality hotels in the cities they visit and are able to get much better rates on accommodations than you could get on your own. How can you trust that a company is able to provide such a bargain? Try looking at their mission statement or “About” page on their website.
5. All of your transportation needs are taken care of!
What can be the biggest hassle while traveling abroad? The answer is easily transportation. Telling a cabbie where to go in Germany is not so easy if you know no German. And navigating the train and subway systems can be intimidating, even for experienced travelers.
With an escorted tour service, you can forget dealing with taxis and subways to get to dozens of must-see places. All transportation is included in your tour cost and is usually well below the rates available to the general public. Plus, you’ll get door-to-door transportation without the hassle of getting to a train station. Don’t stress over how you are going to get to the remote Stonehenge—let your tour operator get you there instead!
6. Discounted prices for tour groups at popular attractions!
Tour groups often get discounted prices, and even early entry to museums and other points of interest. They can also get into exhibits or sites that may not be available without an advance reservation. In some cases, escorted tour participants may get in before opening or after closing to allow time to explore with less crowds.
Imagine a guided tour of Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel to see Michelangelo’s exquisite ceiling frescoes or a glimpse inside St. Peter’s Basilica and the breathtaking Pieta. This type of access is hard to get without advance planning and an expert guide — but those lifetime experiences make the difference between a “nice” vacation and a truly spectacular one.
7. Take advantage of professional assistance should something come up.
Was your flight delayed? Did your luggage not make it over? Let the professionals help you! Dealing with unforeseen circumstances is difficult when you have never traveled to a foreign country before. It can seem impossible if there are language barriers, but your tour operator can help smooth over any difficulties.
Your tour company will also recommend travel insurance providers for additional assistance and to protect you against unforeseen situations. It’s extremely reassuring to know you’re not alone when you’re traveling abroad.
8. When you have a tour operator, fare not!
Your tour operator typically has insights into the best airfares and connections and can arrange your airline tickets for you. This also saves you time at the airport looking for transfers to your hotel, because in most cases, if your tour operator handles your airline reservations, they will be there right at the airport to greet you so you get started on your vacation right away.
9. Get a tip on — well, tips!
Save on all those little incidentals that can eat up your vacation budget. In an escorted tour, your tips for hotels, restaurants, even luggage handling are included in your package. You only need to worry about tips for your tour manager and driver (see FAQs for tipping guidelines). This makes life a heck of a lot easier for those who are not particularly math-minded!
The more you know...
When it is all set and done, you will be happy that you chose an escorted tour of Europe. Not only will you meet new people, feel safe in a group, and learn extensive information about your destinations, you will also know that every penny spent was spent wisely.
Ready to get a jump start on planning your European vacation? Get in touch today! And if you’re not quite sure, but want to know more, just request a brochure and learn everything you ever wanted to know about planning a tour of Europe.
Amsterdam, fondly nicknamed “Venice of the North,” is a very prominent city with many attractions for visitors. From restaurants to theaters, to its public parks and gardens, one can never grow bored in an area with such effervescence and antiquity.
Museum-lovers will have no shortage of venues in this grand European destination. With famous painters like Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, and Van Gogh coupled with such a colorful history, the city is a treasure trove of great art and museums. Here are five that will not disappoint:
Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House and museum is likely the most well-known in Amsterdam, thanks to the diary of a little girl. A tour of the famous home takes visitors through the very rooms where Anne and her family hid during World War II.
Diary excerpts, notebooks, historical documents, and even personal belongings are on display in the museum and visitors can gain a unique perspective on these troubled times.
The largest Dutch national museum, the Rijksmuseum is a treasure of 17th- and 18th-century masterpieces, as well as historical articles and other artwork from the Dutch Golden Age at the peak of their trade and colonization period. Visitors will not forget the experience of standing before Rembrandt’s famous masterpiece “The Night Watch” or Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid”.
In addition to paintings, the museum houses fine examples of sculptures from the Middle Ages through the 19th century. Furniture, grand tapestries, and textiles exemplify interior design of the period.
Van Gogh Museum
This museum contains the world’s largest collection of pieces by Van Gogh. Visitors can follow his life and development through his drawings, letters, and over 200 paintings. There are many self-portraits and although some of his most famous paintings are not housed here, with so many other fine pieces, visitors are likely to find a new favorite.
Rembrandt House Museum
This museum was Rembrandt’s home for 20 years during the mid-1600s. The house was originally purchased on installment when the artist received commission to paint “The Night Watch”. However, he was not able to meet the payments and eventually went bankrupt.
The house has been restored to provide a glimpse into life during the 17th century. One room is dedicated to his etchings and daily demonstrations are held of the process he used to create them. The museum is now home to nearly every one of Rembrandt’s etchings.
When you are ready to move from the classic artists of the 16th through 19th centuries, head on over to the Stedelijk museum. This museum is focused on modern and contemporary art and design with a wide-ranging list of exhibitions.
Exhibitions are rotating but have included photographs, video, book design, performance art, poster art and furniture design. The museum is cutting-edge and attempts to support modern art and artists by making them accessible to all.
There is something special to be found in a city which has been newly discovered by the West. Prague is transforming into modern Europe, yet remains timeless in its charm and beauty. The possible extraordinary experiences are endless in this gorgeous city.
The first impression is breathtaking. Walking can be precarious in Prague as you find yourself looking up to marvel at the ornate architecture. Gargoyles, spires, and statues cling to the corners and rooftops of the centuries-old buildings.
Prague was one of the few European cities to remain relatively intact after World War II. The unique and spectacular architecture left standing is reason enough to visit the city.
Going beyond the architecture, Prague offers some of the finest opportunities in the world to experience world-class music in an intimate setting.
The city has a great and proud musical tradition with its best known composer, Antonín Dvorak. Even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was enraptured by Prague. It was there that he held the world premiere of his opera, Don Giovanni, in 1787.
Mozart’s Symphony No. 38, or the Prague Symphony, was written in 1786 for the city. He felt the people there appreciated his music more than any other European city, including Vienna, where he spent most of his life.
Prague is home to nine principal orchestras along with several Baroque ensembles and choirs. There is an air of casualness about the classical music scene. Concerts are often free or impromptu and tourist attire is generally suitable. However, if attending a concert in one of the churches or cathedrals you are expected to dress appropriately.
Examples of famous music venues include The Smetana Concert Hall, which is a spectacular art-nouveau building. Other music venues include the Prague Castle which offers free concerts within the castle grounds. The Mirror Chapel in The Klementinum is a complex of buildings that dates back to the 1200s, where Mozart played one of the organs. Churches may also have free concerts or may grant visitors free admission during rehearsals.
St. Nicholas Church was completed in 1735 and stands on one corner of Old Town Square. It is not only magnificent to see with its white façade and ornately decorated walls, but is also one of the premier acoustical experiences in the city. Classical concerts are popular here and, with early arrival, you may find yourself sitting in the front row experiencing Mozart’s Requiem. The lead soprano will practically be in your lap and, if you feel mischievous enough, you might just lean forward to pluck a few notes on the first violin.
The conductor will pause between each movement to allow the notes to echo through the church, high up into the corners of the rafters. This alone will bring a smile from deep inside, every time.
This breathtaking city is full of moments like these, allowing you to experience beauty, music, and a passion for the arts that lives only on the periphery of most cities.
You can experience Prague and many other world cities on the 16-day Capitals of Central Europe Tour by Image Tours Inc.!
At the end of January, my business associate and I traveled on different domestic schedules in order to see both sides of the connecting New York experience.We both took the Singapore Airlines flight and experienced a tremendously wonderful flight in addition to the comfortable transfers we experienced.
The Singapore flights were wonderful. We were on the new Air Bus A380 aircraft. The flight attendants were extremely attentive and helpful. In addition to handing out menu booklets showing the dinner choices and breakfast service they also provided us with a small flight kit with socks to keep your feet warm if you wanted to remove your shoes and also a small toothbrush and toothpaste. Prior to each meal service they passed out hot towels in order to ‘freshen-up’ before eating. There were two meal services on each flight. The food was plentiful and delicious. Throughout the flight they made frequent rounds with trays of water, juice, and wine and happily brought you additional or other beverages upon request.
The staff is continuously walking the aisles to see if anyone needs anything, always with a smile and an eagerness to provide service. For example, I was reading a magazine and a flight attendant came by and turned on her light for me.
The on-board toilets were stocked with additional toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand lotion and mouthwash.
The plane is set up with 3 – 4 – 3 seating. The seats were very comfortable and each was supplied with a pillow and blanket. We could notice that the seats and leg room were wider than the domestic flights. Although I believe it only differs by an inch, it does make a big difference in your comfort. Each seat was also equipped with a personal entertainment system with a plethora of movies, TV shows, games, and music to keep you well occupied.
I had a wonderful vacation, transfer experience, and a tremendously pleasant flight. I hope my story inspired you to embark on the same journey and experience the same if not more pleasant vacation as I did.
At the end of January, my business associate and I traveled on different domestic schedules in order to see both sides of the connecting New York experience.
Similar to my departure, my return was equally pleasant. After passing through passport control, collecting my luggage and going through customs, I exited into JFK Terminal 4 where informational kiosks and airport staff were waiting. I was immediately assisted by an airport staff member who promptly found the “Airporter” representative. The shuttle to LGA arrived within 5 minutes, and again, my luggage was loaded for me and we were on our way. I was at the Continental check-in area at LGA within 25 minutes of leaving JFK. My layover on the return was only scheduled to be 3 hours. Although I was a little anxious about this due to the fact that I had to go through passport control, get my luggage and go through customs – it was absolutely fine! Even with standing at the luggage carousel for 20 minutes waiting for the bags to be unloaded I still had plenty of time to get from JFK to LGA, check-in for my flight, get a cup of coffee, watch a little airport CNN and be at my gate for my domestic flights with time to spare.
After I was all settled, I met up with my business associate asked about her second experience transferring within JFK…
|At the end of January, my business associate and I traveled on different domestic schedules in order to see both sides of the connecting New York experience.My business associate had domestic flights that brought her directly into JFK to connect to Singapore Airlines |
My business associate arrived into Terminal 3 at JFK and then had to get to Terminal 4. Her transfer, although only with her carry-on bag, took her the same amount of time as my transfer took but required a great deal of walking including stairs, escalators, circuitous corridors and confusion . . .wondering “am I going the right way?”
After we arrived at our destination, my business associate and I then compared our experience and decided to do it once more on our returning flights and see who would feel more comfortable with the transfers. The following blog post will entail more of my returning experience filled with the anxiousness and comfort I felt due to the wonderful service the LGA/JFK transfer service provided…
|At the end of January, my business associate and I traveled on different domestic schedules in order to see both sides of the connecting New York experience.|
I had domestic flights that required a transfer between LGA (Laguardia) and JFK to connect to Singapore Airlines. My business associate had a domestic flight connecting directly into JFK.
Upon my arrival into LGA I figured I had a little time to spare since it usually takes some time for the luggage to come out - so I took my time in the terminal and went to the bathroom and stopped into the “Au Bon Pain” deli to grab a sandwich to eat en route to JFK. From the terminal, I took an escalator down and was immediately at the baggage claim area. Upon reaching the baggage claim – only 15 minutes after disembarking from the plane – the luggage was already completely unloaded and the carousel had already been cleared!!! I simply grabbed my bag from the Continental baggage office (only a few steps away) and was happily on my way. Within 100 feet of the baggage claim was a kind gentleman assisting with transfer services. I told him I needed the shuttle to JFK and he promptly found the “Airporter” representative to assist me on the next shuttle. The shuttle arrived within 10 minutes (it operates every 20-30 minutes). The cost was $12.50 (payable by cash or credit card). The driver was courteous and promptly took my heavy suitcase to load for me. He asked where I needed to go at JFK and I told him I needed to go to Singapore airlines. The transfer took 25 minutes – he dropped off some other passengers first at another terminal and then brought me to Terminal 4. Upon entering Terminal 4 I was within 200 feet of the Singapore airlines check-in counter. In total it took me just under 1 hour from domestic flight disembarkation at LGA to Singapore Airlines check-in counter at JFK and I did very minimal walking to get where I needed to go.
Terminal 4 at JFK has a host of restaurants and shops to help pass the time. There are also places to just sit at a table and relax while you wait for the Singapore check-in counter to open or to wait before proceeding to the gate. The Singapore check-in counter opens about 4 hours prior to the flight departure.
As we checked in for our Singapore Airlines flights, it felt good to have my suitcase with me so that I knew it would be on the international flight. My travel companion felt less confident about her suitcase which was hopefully being transferred by the domestic carrier to Singapore Airlines.
Wondering about my travel companion’s experience? Wait for the upcoming blog post…