Ahhh… a hot sauna in Europe. What could be better? Viator Travel blog runs down the best spots to get your steam on.
Wishing I was in Italy for Christmas… Culinary Diva describes the sumptuous feast and her attempts to keep up!
Hmm, I also wish I was in Munich, Germany for the Christkindlmarkt (annual Christmas Market). Looks chilly but fun.
When I was in Madrid, I had such a hard time partying– they don’t start until 1 AM! But if you want to be cool in Madrid, you gotta know not just where to go, but when.
Thinking of moving abroad? Check out what an apartment in Prague looks like. Love, love, love those views!
Want to ski Europe this winter? Um, me too. So, here’s some great tips on how to do it for less.
Coming soon… low fare alerts for over 500 airlines– FINALLY in one place. Why you should use Fare Compare from Budget Travel.
Is your travel pro a thief? Here’s how to know from Elliott.org. (Yikes! One person stole $75K before they were caught
Fares to Europe, continue to be super low. How long will this last? Well, I’m starting to get an itchy trigger finger, and may purchase my ticket in the next few weeks.
|Latest Sales & Specials||Travel Dates|
|$492 & up — Roundtrip Flights to Spain, incl. Taxes |
|Through March 25|
|$294 & Up – Holiday Fares to Prague, Vienna, Tel Aviv & more |
|Select December travel dates|
|$223 & up — Sale Fares to Europe; Travel into Spring |
|Dec. 24 – April 2|
|$447-$499 — Tax-Inclusive Europe Fares (Roundtrip) |
|$198 & up — Fly to London from Across the US |
Virgin Atlantic Airways
|Select dates through March 22|
|$219 & up — Fly Across Europe from New York City |
|Through April 2|
|$750 & up — Fly Business Class to Europe over the Holidays |
|Depart by Jan. 9|
|$155 & up — Save on Tickets to Europe |
|Travel dates: Select dates through Feb, 20|
Next round up: December 28th. Submit an article.
Italian Christmas Kitchen
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This year, we’re telling you what not to buy. Here are the Top 10 things I hope no one gets me for Christmas:
1. Binoculars. I’ve seen this one a few lists, and unless your planning on bird watching in Europe, I can’t fathom why you’d need them. Do you use them at home to look at stuff? Get by perfectly well without it? Then you won’t need them.
A better option: A multi-day city pass that lets you enter any of the museums or attractions for a set number of days. That way you can see plenty, up close and in person.
2. Adapter plugs for multiple continents. Adapters in Europe are cheap, so you can buy one when you arrive, but if you buy one before hand, don’t get convinced to buy some 7 continent adapter set. You’re going to lose them. They’re cheap anyway. And these things cost $20 bucks or more, when you can buy a single adapter for a few bucks or less.
A better option: A single adapter, and use the extra money on something useful like band aids or extra socks. (Yeah it’s not sexy, but way more practical).
3. A full sleeping bag. There is virtually no where in Europe that doesn’t have sheets and blankets. Unless you’re going to do some serious camping, then leave it at home.
A better option: If you’re wanting something between you and those hostel sheets, then a think sleeping bag liner will do the trick. It’s super compact, washable and you won’t have to wonder what exactly you’re sleeping on.
4. A multifunctional tool. Are you really going to need a tool that lets you poke holes in leather, saw through wood and file your nails all-in-one? Yeah, it’s cool to have, but you’ll never get it through security (i.e. you have to check it) and really you’re not going to need it that much.
A better option: If you want all purpose tool this flat, credit card shape tool is usually well under $10 bucks.
5. Ginourmous neck pillows. Ugh! Really? Then you have to lug the thing around the whole trip! These always seem like a good idea, but they’re pricy and bulky. I’d say skip it.
A better option: A super comfy fleece jacket, that you can use as your outer wear during cold nights and folds up into a make-shift pillow, when you travel.
6. Travel kits of any flavor. Travel nail files kits, travel shaving kits, travel toiletries kits. If it says kit, drop it. Most kits have tons of crap in them you’ll never use, and as soon as you pull it apart, you’ll start losing pieces left and right.
A better option: Figure out what you’ll really need, buy an empty kit bag and store it in there. Add a couple of unused large zip lock backs to keep your toiletries separate or to store small items that you pick up as you travel.
7. More than one guidebook. They are big and heavy and frequently outdated. Take a general guidebook or one for the country you’re spending the most time in. Most hotels and hostels have some spare copies if you need to look something up, so save yourself the trouble and leave em at home.
A better option: Use Lonely Planet’s pick and choose by chapter shopping, where you can compile the information you’ll really need, and leave the read at home.
8. Multi-purpose monstrocities: anything that claims to be a alarm clock/radio/Panini grill, is just looking for an excuse to charge more without a whole lot more value.
A better option: Need an alarm clock? Will your cell phone work? Or your watch? better to set an alarm on something you’ll have with you anyway.
9. Every single thing at Brookstone. Period.
A better option: Cash.
10. Complicated hydration kits or water purifiers. You’re going to Europe, not the Sahara. There will be clean water or bottled water. Relax.
A better option: Instead create a small first aid kit, with all the essentials: aspirin, band aids, tape and gauze, a small sewing kit, safety pins and sunblock.
And you? What’s on your Christmas (un)list?
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Brussels is not THAT boring. Hasn’t anyone seen the movie En Bruges? (Now that city… ) Europe A La Carte apologies for Trip Advisor’s conclusion that Brussels is the most boring city in Europe.
Rain, rain, everywhere, but not a drop to drink. Budget Travel covers the latest floods in Venice and Rome.
Do you love Amsterdam? Well in case you need some convincing, here are four reasons.
Christmas Markets! Gimme your Christmas Markets! This edition from Eurocheapo is all about Vienna.
Oh man, do I know this feeling. Do you feel like a lab rat when you fly? Here are some tips to deal.
Yawn. Am I really traveling? Vagabondish covers what to do when you DONT experience culture shock.
Where to find WiFi in Europe– a pretty cool directory to get you started.
If you’re visiting the UK first, then traveling around you might want to check out these: Cheap Flights from the UK to Cypress
Don’t know what to buy your budget concious traveler? Plane tickets are nice. So are euro rail passes. Ok need something cheaper? Try these suggestions from EuroCheapo.
Question: How Cheap are Flights to Europe? Conclusion: Seriously Cheap.
$399 & up — Fly to Iceland and Scandinavia (Roundtrip)
$219-$269 — Spain, Ireland & Italy from New York City
$238 & up — Europe on Sale this Winter
$178 & up — American Airlines Slashes Fares to Europe
Next Roundup: December 21st. Submit your post now.
Rain in Rome
Bored in Paris
Christmas in Paris
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I did a small poll on twitter and here’s the responses: 40% France, 30% Italy and 20% UK.
Clearly this doesn’t cover everyone’s plans so I’d like open it here.
-Where are you planning on going in 2009?
-What places do you want to hear about in 2009?
-And where would you like to send me, your intrepid author?
As I plan my travels for next year, I’ll keep your places in mind, so I can report from the locations you want to hear about most. If no one comments, then I’m just going to spend 3 months in Italy, getting fat on pasta and drinking too much wine. Sure the 100th post about how much I love fresh bruschetti might get a little boring, but after a bottle or two I’m sure at least I won’t notice.
Oh Yes, and a Winner:
Last week we had author Craig Martin on board to tell us about his new book. This week, reader NewWrldYankee was picked as the winner! Stay tuned for the winner of the Pocket Comm, which will be announced early next week!
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This summer, when I was living in Madrid, my husband contracted Mumps. An unusual affliction, and before we knew what it could be, we were both panicked at what the softball sized lumps on his jaw could be. We both spoke a little Spanish, enough to do almost everything we needed in daily life. This wasn’t daily life. Suddenly I was presented with medical vocabulary I had never heard or studied before. What’s the word for swollen? Or allergies? Or insurance card?
At almost the same time, Pocket Comms were created.
They are a series of cards that use cartoon pictures to represent common things: including medical emergencies.
The great thing about these cards? They work. The UK police department has been testing them out with citizens who don’t speak English. Normally, they’d have to wait for an interpreter, while the suspect got away. With these cards, they can flip to card and have the victim point to things like: what happened and what the suspect looked like.
If you’re traveling and don’t speak the language, you can probably get by. But, I know for my husband’s medical emergency, having a way to communicate would have been extrememly helpful.
What do you think? Would you use these cards? Well here’s your chance to find out. The folks at Pocket Comms have very generously offered a free Pocket Comms to one of our readers. Comment to enter and next week, we’ll pick a winner!
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End of the Parisian café? Let’s hope not: Au Revoir, Café?
Ok so what café should I go to? Budget Travel tells us: Paris: Restaurants and bars to visit pre- or post-Louvre
EuroCheapo really knocked it out of the park this week with these three posts:
Ah Central Europe with its Vienna and Germany and Austria countryside. Uncornered Market takes us on a tour: A Central European Eye
What the heck do you pack anyway? Matt tells us his strategy: What to Pack on Your Trip
Sick of Airports? Darren at Travel Rants, well… rants : Five Things I Hate About Airports
Wondering what to get your travel savvy family and friends? Well make sure it’s green:
21 Gift Ideas for Green Travelers: 2008 Holiday Shopping List
Love the water? Love natural hot water spas? Here’s a roundup of European spas: Getting into Hot Water in Europe
Not so much of a deal, as a warning: beware flaky airlines for your 2009 summer travel. RyanAir predicts more bankruptcies.
Prediction: Travel will continue to decrease through 2010. The good news? More travel deals for independent travelers.
Airline deals from TravelZoo:
$335-$477 — Ireland from Across the U.S. (R/T), incl. Taxes
$219 & up — Explore Spain: Amazing Air Deals, Tips & More
$198 & up — London: Top Airfare Deals and Tips
Next Roundup: December 14th. Submit your article now.
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We didn’t have a column last week, for the US holiday (plus I was on the road traveling)– so this week’s column is extra special. It’s something that I wish someone had thought of years ago. Imagine this scenario:
It used to be that you’d have to test each city: Dublin, London, Paris, Munich, Barcelona and so on and test dates. You find something cheapish, then you keep searching. Is it cheaper if I leave on Tuesday? What about if I stay for an extra week?
Now, there’s a website that does that for you!
Go to Kayak.com. Click on Buzz (left hand sidebar). Here you can search for the cheapest fares, and it will look at every date and every city option and all the major airlines and get this– Just Give You the Best Ones!
I searched for Boston, MA to Europe for Jan 2009 and here is what it found:
Here is why this is amazing:
1. It checks all the major airlines.
2. You can pick dates or not. It can tell you the cheapest dates available (airlines usually publish no more than 1 year out) or just a month you want.
3. You can pick the city you want, or just a continent. I picked Europe, and it checked ALL European destinations.
4. Once you’re done, you can have the fare updates emailed to you or you can add to your RSS Reader. See that red circle I made on the screen shot? That’s where you can get updates on the type of trip you searched for– making it hugely valuable.
So if you were thinking of spending some time in Europe this summer, you might pick a few options: June/July/Aug 09 travel dates to Europe or pick a few closeby airports (if that’s an option for you). Then click on the “Get these by email” link and Kayak let’s you set an alert:
As you can see from the screen shots, you can even pick how often they send updates.
As far as I know, no other flight website let’s you do this. I’ve already set up a couple alerts myself. If you use this service to book your flight to europe, tell me about it!
So go, check it out, and report back… is this a helpful trick?
Can’t find the deal you need for your trip? Send me a twitter @europestring and I’ll put my industry contacts to work. Know about a great deal I haven’t mentioned? Tell me, and it could end up here in next week’s This Just In.
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Did you want a free copy? Well Craig has graciously offered a free copy to one of the readers of EuropeString.com. Just post a comment below, give us a shout out and next week we’ll pick a winner to receive a free copy of Travelling Europe.
Craig, I’ve been following your podcast for a long time now, but for those readers who don’t know you, can you tell us about yourself?
Sure. My name’s Craig Martin and I’ve been travelling around the world since February 2006. My wife, Linda, and I are addicted to it now: travel’s become a way of life rather than something to do when you’re not working.
In November 2006 we realised we were learning all sorts of things we had never read about or heard about. Travelling independently isn’t well documented! We decided to start a website on it and, being a geek, I wanted to give podcasting a try. The Indie Travel Podcast started off rough and ready but we have learned a lot since then. We’ve also added articles by guest writers and video podcasts by ourselves and also people who are sending in video from around the world.
I was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand and, probably typically, I like to hike and muck around in boats or in the sea. New Zealand’s far away from everything though, so we knew we didn’t want to just go somewhere for a month. We had a stop-over in Hong Kong then hit Europe. We ended up spending two and a half years there and visited almost every country you don’t need a visa for. We spent two months or more in the UK, Spain, Austria, Italy, Turkey and Malta. We’re trying to warm up again now, so we’re spending this December in Perth, Western Australia. It’s time to save for our travels in the Pacific and then South and Central America in the coming years.
What gave you the idea to set off on this long term adventure?
There’s this Kiwi and Aussie thing called the OE – short for Overseas Experience. Basically it’s normal for us to travel and work overseas for six months to two years. Most people plant themselves in London and never make it out again.
We didn’t want to get stuck in the London trap. We really wanted to do something different and also to really travel, not just set up home in a new city. I guess it’s that culture of travel and the passion for unconventionality which has lead us to travel like this. Now that we’re hooked I’m eyeing up visiting every country in the world. Or perhaps attempting to circumnavigate the world on foot (I’ve even got a route pencilled in). We’re crazy enough, so who knows?!
When it comes to money, it’s a concern for everyone. I know there are lots of ways to finance a trip… how do you make it work?
Finding the funding for travel is no small task, even though travelling is often a cheaper lifestyle than living in most American or European cities. Taking off on this trip wasn’t an easy thing: we spent almost four years killing off our debt then saving to get us started and as an emergency fund.
We tried to do it smartly though. After finishing University we decided to do a TESOL qualification — allowing us to teach English to speakers of other languages in private schools around the world. We worked at home gaining experience and paying off our overdrafts and student loans. We lived simply, but lived well and indulged when we wanted. We travelled through New Zealand and visited Australia and some Pacific islands during that time. And all the time we were dreaming of heading off.
Now that we’re on the road, TESOL is still our major earner. At other times we have worked in call centres and retail shops and started to dip our toes into the travel writing market. It certainly doesn’t pay well though! Most people will make a lot more spending an hour in a classroom than an hour pounding the keyboard.
For someone who is just starting out, what are some of the things they can do to plan a low cost trip?
It’s a difficult topic and one I tried to condense and address in this article. If you’re looking to travel mid- or long-term then simplifying your life now is probably the best thing you can do. If your trip is less than a year away begin to sell off things you don’t use. You really won’t want it when you get home. Trust me. That money’s better off destroying your debt.
Begin getting involved in online traveller’s networks. There are lots around so find one that suits you — I like Matador and Couchsurfing, for example. Start subscribing to travel blogs and posting comments; that way you’ll be able to ask questions when you’re after some advice. Start reading as much as you can: use free resources like the internet and the library rather than spending money on new books. If you know someone who’s travelled invest in taking them out for a drink…and take notes!
If I can be cheeky, I’ll pimp my own sites: the Indie Travel Podcast is focused on independent travel and, since we’ve spent so long in Europe, it’s got lots of great advice. Eurail Stories is all about the Eurail train pass and travelling through Europe by train. I also wrote an ebook on travelling in Europe. I called it…Travelling Europe! It’s a great resource for beginner travellers and it covers things like budget airlines, train passes and accommodation options amongst other things. OK, pimping over.
Now that you’ve traveled through Europe, what are some unexpected things that you loved and what are some areas you’d avoid if you could do it again?
The things I loved are too numerous to count. Almost every day I woke up loving life and looking forward to the day. If I had to pick, two highlights would be visiting Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic and walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
We had just finished a short teaching contract and were looking for a small town to relax in for a week. Cesky Krumlov was recommended so off we went. I just remember sitting outside the Two Marys: sky stained red, a cup of hot mead warding off the night’s chill, the Vlatava River bubbling past us and thinking “life is very good”. Linda and I both started laughing with pure joy. OK, maybe the mead had something to do with it.
The Camino de Santiago de Compostela is a mediaeval pilgrimage concluding in Santiago de Compostela near Spain’s north-west coast. We took a month to walk from Pamplona to Santiago, then onwards to Finisterre and finally Muxia. Life was so simple and so good. Get up and put twenty kilometers behind you then eat, wash and relax in the afternoon heat. The trail community really makes it special though: people are walking for all sorts of reasons but there’s a wonderful cammeraderie and spirit on the trail.
What’s your advice for someone thinking about traveling?
I’d definitely recommend doing it. Go on!
Preparation will save you headaches on the road, so do that well. When it comes to planning an itinerary, however, make sure you have some rest days in there and also plan as loosely as possible. Don’t book 12 months of accommodation before you set foot out the door! At most book the first week or two weeks if you’re really nervous. You’ll need time to find your rythym and get on-the-ground recommendations from travelers. You don’t want to find yourself walled in by your itinerary.
Any final thoughts?
Plenty more, but I think people will soon start getting bored! Europe is a fantastic place to travel through: enjoy it.
Want to order a copy? Travelling Europe is available online.
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1. Don’t move around a lot. When most people budget they account for flight, food and accommodations. But hopping from city to city, even on low cost public transportation, can eat into your budget quick. Instead of doing 20 cities in 3 months, do 6. You’ll see more, spend less and come back feeling like you really “experienced” Europe– not just the inside of buses and trains.
2. Focus on time of year. June, July and August are the highest priced times of year, across Europe. Prices can nearly double (and sometimes triple, if it’s a popular European vacation spot) and you’ll be fighting the crowds. Instead, travel close to peak season but not in it. May and September are great times to visit– for cost, lack of crowds and weather.
3. Watch the market before you buy flights. Signing up for Orbitz deal detectors (with weekly emails) can give you a sense of the ebb and flow of how flights are priced. What’s the best deal this week, might be the worst the next.
4. Be thrifty on accommodation. For most people, the point of going to Europe, is going to Europe… not sitting inside a hotel room all day. Since you’ll be exhausted from your full days, this is one area you can go low budget and not miss it.
5. Learning how to use public transportation. 1 euro metro pass or 30 euro taxi fare? Figuring out how to read metro maps, find the correct bus or book your own train ticket, is huge when considering the alternative. It’s the way the locals travel too, so you’ll get a little peek into how Europeans live.
That’s it! Easy, right?
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The question of whether or not to use hostels when traveling is a highly debated one. I know before I used them regularly in Europe, I couldn’t imagine being comfortable sharing my personal space like that. While hostels are definitely not for everyone (having a laid back personality is a good starting point), here are some things you might not know about the hosteling world.
Hostels are not just for kids. There are people of all ages at hostels and while the demographics definitely lean towards the younger set (18-24) this can vary from property to property. And if you were wondering if you were too old to go, you can put those fears aside.
You get what you research. The best hostels are often booked months in advance. Using a site like HostelWorld.com not only lets you search for hostels that have the amenities you want, you can also read reviews from other travelers. While I would caution against just picking the highest rated (might also have the least reviews) you’ll find that it’s easy to spot negative trends in the comments. If 5 of the last 10 reviewers mention a bug problem, then you might want to stay away.
It’s not all party all the time. In this case it depends, but for many hostels, there are “quiet hours”. If you’re looking for a quieter place to lay your head, then you might want to avoid hostels with built in bars.
Sleeping on a bunk bed isn’t your only option. Most hostels offer several versions of the same thing: bunk beds (6 to a room, 8 to a room, 10 to a room or female only rooms). But a good percentage (maybe half) also offers privates. If you’re traveling alone, these can be a little pricey (if the bunks are $10, then the private will be about $25-30). Well worth the cost, if you want privacy. If you’re traveling with others, the cost of a private might be only a few dollars more than individual bunks.
A good hostel experience can add to your trip. There are lots of clean hostels, located in great spots in Europe. And the people there can be interesting too. Some of the highlights from trips I’ve taken have been coming home to the hostel, only to discover that someone cooked pasta for everyone. We spent the early evening eating together, sharing stories (everyone was from a different country) and laughing.
The entire hostel experience is hinged together by the travelers who use it. If it was full of abusive drunks who kept you up all night and trashed the room, then no one would use it. And while there are people who don’t get it, what you’re more likely to find is an international group of folks—some straight out college, others at retirement age—who all try to be respectful and share in the joy that is travel.
Have you used a hostel? What was your experience?
Creative Commons Pics:
RussellJSmith, Supa Pedro, & Chorcel
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