Five Tips to Help you Pack for an Extended European Holiday

skd188823sdcIf you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you love the idea of abandoning your everyday life for 3 or 4 weeks and heading to a favorite spot for a long vacation. Every year, plenty of lucky travelers do just that, taking the opportunity to truly immerse themselves in the culture of a location or to simply chill out on the beach, in the mountains, or even in a favorite city.

Packing for such a trip, however, can be daunting, especially if you haven’t done it before, and in these days of excessive baggage charges, even those who can afford that extended vacation are extra careful about bringing along too much luggage. So, how do you pack so that you have what you need for your treasured trip? How much is too much and what are the essentials?

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Spend your Next New Year’s Eve in Sparkling Paris

178624000No doubt your plans for this New Year’s Eve celebration are already in place, but it’s never too early to think about where you want to be next year when the clock strikes midnight and ushers in 2015. If a trip to Europe is on your mind, why not choose the capital city that provides the most excitement and dazzle for that special night of the year…beautiful Paris, France?

As European capitals go, Paris is the one most associated with great parties. While London knows how to do the “pomp and circumstance” and Rome is a historic masterpiece whenever you visit, Paris offers the kind of fun that makes you want to jump in the air and shout Happy New Year and kiss the stranger beside you. (more…)

Our 5 Favorite European Ski Resorts for Families with Young Children

178432179If you’re an avid skier who totes their kids along whenever you go on a ski vacation, no doubt you’re always in search of a new spot where you can enjoy intermediate or expert runs while the kids enjoy quality ski programs designed just for them, whether they are strapping on their first pair of skis or already have a few notches on their ski poles. After all, you want them not only to learn from the best but also in an environment where they’re safe and well-tended.

In the Alpine countries, many children ski from a very young age. Hence, the resorts offer quality programs that allow them to get a good start and learn properly. Many of these same resorts include excellent beginner runs that allow children to test their skills at a proper pace, gradually making their way to something more difficult when the correct time arrives. These resorts also offer other fun perks for kids, like special non-skiing programs to keep them busy while mom and dad are on the slopes.

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Making Sure your Luxury Hotel is REALLY a Luxury Hotel

181978844It’s happened to lots of travelers. Maybe it’s happened to you, too. You make hotel reservations at an upscale hotel – perhaps on the recommendation of a friend or family member – and you’re disappointed It’s not what you expected and doesn’t really meet your expectations for a top-notch luxury establishment.

But what does “luxury” really mean? What qualities define the word “luxury” where hotels are concerned? Is it the rooms? The amenities? The location? The service? The answer is “yes”, all of those things are important to a hotel that has been deemed 5-star. In addition, the hotel normally has to meet certain criteria to earn that designation, and often you’ll find quite a difference between those establishments and the ones ranked just one star below.

However, with the rise of internet travel sites (there are thousands of them!), anyone can call any property a luxury 5-star hotel and get away with it, in most cases. It’s also easy for any of those same sites to call a particularly nice hotel a luxury hotel, even if it doesn’t meet the criteria that most designations demand. Even wonderful sites like TripAdvisor, which provide you with (usually) honest reviews of hotels at all levels, may not tell the true story.

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When Winter is Over…Celebrate Spring at Disneyland Paris!

153205744Snow, unfortunately, has already pummeled the Midwestern and Northeastern U.S., eliciting sighs and groans from those who’ve had to make their way across icy roads or spend hours shoveling the white stuff. Even if you like snow, it doesn’t take long to get the winter doldrums, especially if you live in a region where it falls regularly from December through March.

So, why not give yourself something to which you can look forward? Why not plan a spring trip to a destination far away from your snowy town? And what would chase away the winter blues faster than a trip to one of the “Happiest Places on Earth?” If you’re a Disney fan, perhaps you’ve been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland California a gazillion times. So this year, plan a trek to Disney’s location abroad – the wonderful Disneyland Paris, where everything is still quintessentially Disney, but just a little different.

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The Top 10 Ski Resort Activities for Non-Skiers

157955430Okay, so your group of best friends wants to go on a once-in-a-lifetime ski vacation to the Alps, Dolomites, or some other great, snowy European location, but you don’t ski. Furthermore, you’re not even interested in learning to ski. As a matter of fact, even thinking about strapping on skis conjures up thoughts of broken legs and run-ins with wayward trees. No way! You’re not skiing!

So, do you miss this grand opportunity for an unforgettable vacation just because you don’t ski? Absolutely not! At Europe’s many ski resorts, there are tons of things to do besides ski, both outdoors in the snow and indoors where it’s warm and toasty. So don’t just sit there…ready, set, go!  

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Treat Yourself to a Stay in One of Florence’s Top Hotels

86803778Ah…Florence. This amazing city, the birthplace of the Renaissance, is so full of incredible architecture, art, and other beautiful sights that you’ll almost tire of saying “ooh” and “aah” as you make your way through its historic streets. It’s truly everything you’d expect from an Italian city…and then some. You’ll want to spend days and days exploring!

But by the time you’re finished visiting the Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, the Boboli Gardens, and all the other spectacular spots in and around the city, you’ll be ready to enjoy more beauty – the kind that comes with a stay in a five-star luxury hotel. Florence certainly has its share of upscale lodging offerings and they don’t come cheap. It’s an expensive city overall but if you’re used to the best-of-the-best where accommodations are concerned, you’ll be pleased with the offerings.  Here’s a few of our faves!

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Celebrating Christmas in Rome is a Magical Experience

154059329Rome is always bustling with tourists, especially in the summer when Americans and other visitors are most likely to take their vacation and head abroad. In the winter, there are still plenty of guests who make their way to this historic gem, though crowds do indeed lessen and many find it a much more tolerable time to visit. Truly, Rome is magical during the cold months, especially during the holiday season when there’s so much to see and do and the city is dressed in its Christmas finery.

If you’ve thought about a trip to Rome during the holidays, you won’t be disappointed in the experiences available to you there during that special time of year. If you don’t mind the cold weather, you can enjoy outdoor activities as well as those taking place inside the many wonderful venues you’ll find throughout the city. And, of course, you’ll marvel at the twinkling lights, stately trees, and all the other symbols of the holiday!  (more…)

Opera is Alive and Well at Europe’s Most Spectacular Opera Houses

177434221If the names Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, and Wagner thrill you to the core and if you’ve always wanted to hear Aida, Madame Butterfly, The Magic Flute, Das Rheingold, or other favorites performed by Europe’s great opera companies, now is the time. During the winter, opera is in full swing and you can enjoy unmatched productions at the world’s most magnificent opera houses if you’re visiting during the height of opera season. Most opera company rosters run from October or November until June, so winter visitors are treated to some of the best opportunities to hear Europe’s great opera artists. Ask your travel agent to purchase tickets (or check schedules) before you go so you’re not disappointed. In the meantime, here’s a list of great opera companies/houses you might want to include on your itinerary.

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Europe’s Small Ski Resorts Offer Fewer Crowds and a Different Kind of Atmosphere

93249029Do long lift lines get you down? Do you worry about your kids skiing down busy pistes crowded with less-than-careful skiers? Are the large, trendy ski resorts simply not your thing? If so, you’re not alone! There are plenty of skiers who prefer to forego places like Chamonix and St. Moritz in favor of smaller resorts that provide a more relaxed – and definitely more charming – vacation experience, whether you’re traveling alone, with your significant other, or with the entire family.

These smaller resorts often represent a substantial savings in cost as well, but most skiers who choose them over the larger resorts say they do so simply for the peace and quiet. Also, winter vacationers who like these spots note that they’re not necessarily looking for lively après ski scenes. Nevertheless, you won’t be bored as most of these places come accompanied by a lovely village in which there are generally plenty of low-key places to hang out at night and enjoy dinner and a drink.  (more…)

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