Monday, March 23, 2009
Can't decide on a city vacation or village escape? Enjoy the best of both worlds by training it on daytrips from the perfect Swiss "homebase," idyllic Kandersteg in the heart of the glorious Bernese Alps. Stay at a cozy family-run hotel (we have many suggestions) for about 80 Swiss Francs per person a night (now under $75 per person), including breakfast and dinner daily. That's less than the cost of just the room in a big Swiss city!
Then use your Swiss Rail Saver Passes each day for eye-popping excursions by rail, postal bus, and/or lake steamer to your choice of the best Swiss cities and hideaways. Bern, Muerren, Fribourg, Gruyeres, Lauterbrunnen, Sion, and other gems are easily accessible by train from Kandersteg, conveniently located smack in the middle of several major rail lines.
With an early a.m. start, you even could ride the stunning Centovalli "100 Valleys" train, for example. It winds its way from Kandersteg to Brig, dipping down into Domodossola, Italy before looping back into Switzerland to Locarno. (in the Swiss Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, on the tip of Lake Maggiore at the foot of the Alps) Ask us about the chocolate factory tour in a nearby village!
The wonderfully convenient Swiss Rail Pass also entitles travelers to free admission to over 400 museums/attractions all over Europe's tiny alpine country. What a deal!
We think there's nothing more relaxing than "hub and spoke" vacationing, and one of Europe's most "user-friendly," multi-lingual travel destinations is tops on our Europe list. With a cozy Kandersteg hotel as your base, you unpack only once and then return to the peace and quiet of your alpine village every evening just in time for a hearty "home-cooked" meal.
Go to http://www.myswitzerland.com to see which alpine festivals ("customs and markets") coincide with your trip dates. Or better yet, plan your getaway around the dates of some of the festivities, colorfully authentic slices of old world Switzerland. Join that herd of flower-bedecked, bell-toting cows and the costumed farmers making their way to the high alpine meadows.
And if you are a wine, cheese, and chocolate aficionado, your tastebuds are in for a real treat in Switzerland. On the morning of your return flight to the USA, hop an early morning weekday train from Kandersteg back to Zuerich's Kloten airport. Gute Reise! Bon voyage! Buon viaggio! Happy travels!
With dreams of alpine vistas, creamy chocolates, and glacial lakes spinning in our heads,
The Trip Chicks (Atlanta)
Sunday, March 8, 2009
(photo courtesy World Money.com)
It's a Sunday night in ATL & we're talking about some of our favorite ways to travel smart on a budget. Thought you'd like to see a few of our tips. The rest will be in our upcoming book! Here we go:
* Use FareCompare.com & other "fare aggregator" sites to see the best airfares offered by many airlines.
* Monitor the ups & downs of your airfare between your town & your intended destination (fare alerts) at Farecaster.com.
* Buy international airfares through an experienced travel agent for the best consolidator/wholesale deals in high season; otherwise, consider traveling in low or shoulder season to your destination to save big.
* Be flexible with your travel dates, if possible. Buy your ticket immediately if a good fare pops up. "You snooze; you lose," esp. in the airfare world.
* Go to whichbudget.com or flybudget.com for great inter-European, etc. fares to places more "under the North American tourist radar"...i.e. certain eastern parts of Europe, Scandinavia, etc. Then buy airfare from your gateway city to the more affordable European hub & connect on a "puddle jumper" to your destination. (i.e. fly into London Gatwick on Delta/British Airways) & get a separate ticket to Dubrovnik on easyJet, Monarch, etc. Not recommended for packers who take a lot of luggage or travelers extremely particular about roomy seats!
* Use those soon-to-expire frequent flyer points for your complete ticket or to get a partial discount on your fare.
* Explore the U.S.A. & Canada! Find the perfect campsite listing in Kampgrounds of America's online camping directory: http://www.koa.com/ Or, head to our national parks for affordable lodging near the best of America's natural wonders: http://www.nps.gov/
* Consider staying in hostels to save money. From castles to more rustic digs, many of these budget accommodations are no longer only for youth. Good sites to check out: hostelbookers.com, hostels.com, hostelworld.com, or hostelz.com
* Join homestay programs like Coachsurfers, Servas, Women Welcome Women World Wide (5W), Hospitality Club, etc. Not only will your wallet smile, but you'll meet some fascinating people too.
* Rent an apartment, stay on a farm, & overnight in a convent or monastery. There are some wonderful opportunities out there both in North America & worldwide. For organic farmstays: wwoof.org. For apartment rentals: vrbo.com, interhome.com, homeway.com. Check out our post January 14, 2009 "Sleeping Pretty on a Beer Budget" post for more details.
* Tourist offices & chambers of commerce are terrific sources of free info.
For a listing of many world tourist offices, go to: towd.com. Remember to time your museum visit for the day admission is free or greatly reduced. Advance research before your trip can pay off royally!
* Spice up your stay with a neat folk festival, free concert, or other local happening. In addition to the tourist office sites, this one offers a good overview of events: whatsonwhen.com
* Many shops/stores give discount coupon booklets for savings on local attractions. (movies, concerts, skiing, etc.)
* Eat your main hot meal at lunch time when specials are common.
* Buy supplies at a deli or grocery store & picnic in your room or outside (depending on weather) for suppertime. Carry healthy munchies in your small daypack to stave off hunger during the day. Avoid impulse eating.
* Ask a local (esp. college or university-age student) where he or she most enjoys a good affordable meal. We've discovered many a great restaurant value by following a person-in-the-know to a favorite hole-in-the-wall. Believe it or not, university cafeterias ("Mensas") in Europe are often open to visitors of all ages.
E. Local Transportation:
* Recheck your rental car rate just before you go on vacation. If the price is lower than before, you can score even a better deal.
* Consider rail passes, esp. in the countries "with the more expensive cost of living." Twin passes (for 2 or more travelers joined at the hip for the whole trip) can be a great value. Did you know for example, that the Swiss Rail Pass is valid on lake steamers, on private mountain railways, & for free admission to over 400 museums all over the country?
* Get in shape before you leave. Use local transport, your feet, & bikes for the environment, your wallet, & your waistline. Happy travels!
Ann Lombardi & Wendy Swartzell
The Trip Chicks 404-320-3033