Swap 2018 Holiday Hustle for European Christmas Wonder

The hustle and bustle of the holidays is starting to wind down, children are headed back to school, and New Years’ Resolutions are in full swing. A holiday by definition is “day of festivity where no work is done,” but rushing to overcrowded shopping malls, midnight gift-wrapping, and running around for holiday traditions can be more exhausting than it is enjoyable. If you’re ready to rest, rejuvenate, and experience the most wonderful time of the year, it’s time to start planning an enchanted getaway sure to put twinkle back in next year’s holiday season- visiting Christmas Markets in Europe. It can be hard to choose just one market, so I’ve created a “top five” list of destinations and ways to explore them by train, bus, or boat.

Strasbourg, France:

One of the most magical Christmas Markets is in Strasbourg, France. In 1992, the deputy to the Mayor decided to open up market stalls across the city, naming it the Capitale de Noel, or The Capital of Christmas. The markets return to the city each year, along with a famous Christmas tree, illuminations, wooden chalets, bredele cakes, and hot wine. Whether you have one day to visit or plan to extend your stay, you’ll find plenty of local culture and warm unique sights at the Capital of Christmas.

Budapest, Hungary:

The capital of Hungary has not one but five Christmas markets for visitors to explore during the holidays. The Christmas Market on Vorosmarty Square is dubbed the “oldest, richest, and the most spectacular” of the markets in the city. This market stays open during the Advent period, offering handmade gifts until Christmas Eve, with gastro stalls, folk art, and design stalls open a little longer. This market offers many delicious smells and tastes, including sausages, grilled vegetables, potato dumplings, Chimney Cake, and mulled wine. While warming up with these traditional eats, you can experience old-fashioned Christmas lights and musical performances.

A smaller, but just as popular Christmas Market also centrally located in Budapest is the Basilica Market, offering mulled wine, Hungarian snacks, laser-mapped Christmas displays, ice skating, and folk dancing. If you’re looking for a quieter getaway off the beaten path, the Advent Fair in Obuda is held during the Advent weekends.

Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt also offers hundreds of years of history, and a list of “must see/must enjoy” items while visiting. The market is known for its festive eats and drinks, like Nuremberg sausages, gingerbread, and hot mulled wine. Guests can explore the market by stagecoach tour, purchase unique gifts from around the world, and even pay a visit to a Children’s Christmas Market, complete with Merry-go-round, a Christmas Bakery, and a Santa Claus house.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna also offers multiple Christmas Markets with shopping, eats, and activities that appeal to all ages and all personalities. One of the most striking parts of Vienna’s Christmas markets are the backdrops. There are markets in front of City Hall, in front of the baroque architecture of the famous

Belvedere Palace, in front of the famous Schönbrunn Palace, and more. Experience traditional Austrian culture sure to awaken the holiday spirit at any one of these attractions.

Munich, Germany

The roots of Munich’s traditional Christmas Market dates back to the 14th century, making it a unique attraction for both locals and tourists. At the Munich Christmas Market, visitors can enjoy Advent music, sip berry mulled wine and snack on fruit cake while browsing German Christmas decorations and Third World Fair trade goods. The biggest draw of the Munich Christmas Market is the tree in front of the new town hall and the 2,500 candles lighting the entire square.

If you’re intrigued to book your vacation to any one of these Christmas Markets, there are a few ways to tour them. If you want to travel by train, a rail vacation will take you to the heart of the city, with independent or guided tours of multiple markets, a chance to enjoy all of the local eats, and hotel stays included. If you would prefer a cruise, you can spend anywhere from 5 to 16 days on a river cruise exploring some of the top markets with guided tours. You could also take a bus tour of the Markets, with the option to add in a short river cruise to see the wonder from the water.

Travel Insurance: Always Question Your Purchase

Finally ready to take that long-awaited getaway or crossing off another destination on your Wanderlist? When you’re daydreaming about beaches with white sand and clear waters, a tropical cruise, a family trip, or a tour of small towns rich with history, are you also thinking of smooth travel, great weather, and perfect health? The reality is, not all vacations will go off without a hitch. Just like it’s necessary to purchase car insurance, home insurance, and health insurance, travel insurance is equally as important. In order to protect your picture-perfect trip, make sure you ask your travel agent plenty of questions and know exactly what your insurance quote covers.

Plan as we may, life is unpredictable. Sickness, emergencies, financial troubles, and even flight delays can throw a wrench in vacation plans. So far in 2017, 18.82 percent of flights were delayed and 1.77 percent were canceled, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. If you’re unable to take a trip or have to cut a trip short for any reason, travel insurance kicks in to protect your wallet.

Travel agents hear it all when offering insurance to their clients. “I have health insurance,” “My credit card offers protection,” and “I already have insurance from the cruise line” are some of the most common objections. Truth is, most health insurance plans don’t cover international travel and many hospitals outside of the United States request hefty cash payments before treatment. Many credit cards don’t offer extensive protection and in most cases cruise line coverage doesn’t cover trip cancellations, but allows for trip postponement along with stipulations.

The most common types of travel insurances are trip cancellation and trip interruption. Trip cancellation kicks in if you need to cancel due to events that happen before the trip, like illness, injury, or even jury duty. Cancellation insurance can cover any non-refundable payments and deposits from a trip. Trip interruption covers events that happen during the vacation that forces the client to leave the trip early. Trip interruption can cover prepaid expenses, the cost to return home, and the cost for travel to finish out the trip. There are even travel insurance perks for lost baggage or missed connections - so you’re covered every step of the way!

How do you know what insurance is right for you? Whether you’re booking online, direct from a cruise line, or with an agent, you can get expect a wide range of quotes for insurance. To make sure you have the right coverage for you and you know exactly what you’re buying, ASK QUESTIONS! It’s a major buzzkill to find out you’re not covered in the middle of a travel emergency.

That’s where a travel agent’s expertise comes in. Your travel agent will match you with the right insurance and make sure you know what you’re buying. Protect your wallet and your sanity, so when vacation time comes, you can step out of your daily routine and into travel bliss.

“Travel Agents Aren’t Extinct”

In the age of the internet, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for, usually within a few clicks. That want for quality products at cheap prices has spawned new brands advertising products that are simple, cheap, and quick. This quick and easy mentality is great for products like razor blades, contacts, hotels, car rentals, even organic foods, but just because it’s available for “cheap” online doesn’t always mean its the best deal - in particular, travel.

Discount travel deals pop up all the time and can appear to be “too good to be true.” After all, meeting with a travel agent is costly, time-consuming, and a “thing of the past,” right? Think again! There are many misconceptions about working with a travel agent, the most common being that travel agents are “extinct.”

Misconception #1: It’s Easier to Book Something Online Yourself

The first common misconception about finding your dream vacation is that it’s easier to book something online yourself. When booking online, it’s often through a discount website with certain restrictions on the travel deals. There are certain dates and times that may not be available, there are limitations on flight times, and many times there are no refunds or cancellations.

When trying to find the “ideal” vacation, it can take the average person more than 42 hours of online research. Even after this research, you may end up settling for what appears to be a “good deal,” but it could have hidden implications. A travel agent can provide knowledge and expertise about certain hotels, cruises, and resorts and can help you break free of your comfort zone.

Misconception #2: Travel Agents are Costly

Another common misconception about working with a travel agent is that they are costly. The truth is, working with a travel agent won’t cost you a dime! Travel agents are typically paid by cruise lines, resorts, and tour companies. Airlines are the only suppliers who don’t usually pay the travel agents, but if air travel is part of the package that you book, it doesn’t typically cost you any extra.

Travel agents also have early access to deals and promotions and can compare offerings side by side to get you the best rate. An agent will take the time to ask you questions about your specific wants and needs to make sure you find the best vacation at the best price. Working with a travel agent may actually save you money!

Misconception #3: I’ll be Pushed to Travel Somewhere I don’t Want to Go

Has a 30-year-old rumor about a distant relative that was backed into a vacation nightmare kept you from working with a travel agent? Since travel agents are paid directly through the destinations that they book for clients, they are motivated by helping their clients pick the best vacation that suits their particular needs.

A travel agent will take the time to get to know you, asking questions to learn about your particular taste and vacation wants and needs. While you may be presented with some options that are outside of your comfort zone, your travel agent will always consider your preferences to choose these options.

When working with an agent, you can also travel with purpose. Agents can offer itinerary that are built to your destination, including shore trips while cruising or land tours around the world.

Misconception #4: Working with a Travel Agent is Old-Fashioned

Just like phones and cars have evolved to be smarter with time, travel agencies are also fresh and cater to the fast-paced world, whether you’re looking for an old-fashioned getaway, or an adventure-seeking trip across the globe.

Travel options exist out there that are completely online with no “human touch,” but in the travel agent world, that personal interaction is coming around again. More than 32 percent of people turn to travel agents to help them book vacations, according to MMGY Global’s 2016 Portrait of American Travelers survey. Out of those surveyed, 28 percent of Millennials said they had used a travel agent in the last 12 months.

Working with a Travel Agent is Unique

Working with a travel agent is unlike working with a computer program, using algorithms and discounts to find vacation destinations. When you work with a travel agent, you can find your dream vacation along with free service, advice, and access to deals and promotions. You can explore options for cruises, tours, vacation resorts, and vacations with custom itinerary all in the same place.

There are also payment plans, so instead of having to front the full amount, there is time to make payments leading up to your vacation. It’s really a no brainer that a travel agent can help you find the vacation of your dreams and your budget- without adding any gray hairs to your head in the process.

Who Pays the Travel Agent?

The thought of working with a travel agent can seem daunting at first. I keep getting approached to answer questions such as: "why should I use the a travel agent, when I can go online and book a trip myself at no additional cost?" You can! You can spend hours and days researching multiple destinations, looking for great deals and promotions, reading about various resorts and tour companies to see what they have to offer. OR you can call your travel agency (Trabeona Travels) and have the agents use their travel expertise and do the "dirty work" for you! FOR FREE. Travel agents get compensated by cruise lines, tour companies, resorts, hotels and other vacation vendors such as Apple Vacations. The only time travel agents may charge a service fee is when a client books air only or car only vacation. Airlines and car rental companies do not compensate travel agents for bringing in new and repeat business. Other than that- sit back and relax! A good travel agent will ask you hundreds of questions to better understand your vacation needs and help you discover a perfect vacation option for you. How can Trabeona help? Through our affiliation with Avoya Travel we have access to unpublished rates and promotions. To search for cruises, tours or resorts check our online portal. If you have any questions regarding your vacation package involving cruises, tours, all inclusive vacations or customized itineraries, contact us and we will make travel happen! Remember, generally speaking it doesn't cost a dime to work with a travel agent.

Best of travels,