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5 European Christmas Markets to Visit for Maximum Holiday Cheer

One of my favorite travel experiences is finding those traditional wooden huts that seemingly pop up out of nowhere in December and fill a city with holiday cheer.  Starting and ending my days at the Christmas markets promises the ultimate holiday cheer. The Christmas lights come on, music fills the air, and the smell of delicious treats lead you through the market. Despite cold temperatures, the Gemütlichkeit will keep you warm when visiting these 5 European Christmas markets.

Nuremberg, Germany 

For more than 700 years, Nuremberg has been the destination for Christmas markets.  It is the first market I visited and it’s first on my list for both of these reasons.  There’s a reason why famous places are, in fact, famous. Steeped in tradition, the Nuremberg Christmas market is opened by the Christkind, a local woman who is elected to serve the community for two years.  In addition to local specialties (my favorite is the Nuremberg sausage) and gifts, Nuremberg offers a unique opportunity to experience Christmas around the world through a smaller sister cities market with international offerings.  To warm up, you can take a class to learn how to make your own gingerbread.  

Bonus: If you can’t make it to Nuremberg this year, there are numerous sister city Christmas markets held all over the world.  

Salzburg, Austria 

Salzburg feels postcard perfect at any time of the year, but it really shines at Christmas time.  With Christmas markets on both sides of the Salzach River and flanking the castles and palaces, every Salzburg site will be dressed in holiday cheer.  From schnapps to handblown ornaments, from aromatic bath salts to soaps, from spices to flavored vinegars, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your Christmas list in Salzburg.  Whether you are standing in Residenzplatz or standing on the edge of Hohensalzburg Fortress, you can hear music celebrating the season from every corner of Salzburg.         

Bonus: Head to the chapel where Silent Night was first performed for a special performance on Christmas Eve.  

Prague, Czech Republic

With a towering Christmas tree, continuous musical performances, and the perfect medieval backdrop, it feels like Old Town Square was made to host the world’s Christmas party.  With stalls providing kielbasa, various types of potatoes, fresh trdelnik, and Pilsner to wash it down, the Prague Christmas market is my favorite meal in Prague. The Prague Christmas market is the perfect place to pick up more Christmas décor.  Smaller but equally magical Christmas markets can be found below the Charles Bridge in Mala Strana and at Prague Castle, for the ultimate fairytale experience.  

Bonus: Escape the crowds and see the Christmas market from above by taking the elevator to the top of the Astronomical Tower at Old City Hall.  

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Whether you make it to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for the Christmas markets or not, between Käthe Wohlfahrt and the Christmas museum, this medieval village can feel like Christmas all year round.  The entire town seems to celebrate the advent season with daily concerts, presentations by local bakers and chocolate makers, and various tours through the city and its landmarks.  Day trippers fill the cobblestoned streets throughout the day, so I recommended booking at least a night or two in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  You’ll have the locals and the Christmas markets all to yourselves in the evenings.  

Bonus: Take advantage of the area’s wine tasting and send a few bottles home.  You can find beautiful wine glasses at the Christmas market to finish off the perfect Christmas gift.     

Montepulciano, Italy

We didn’t expect to find a Christmas market in Tuscany, but a late lunch reservation forced us to wander the hilly streets of Montepulciano.  As we emerged onto the Piazza Grande, Feliz Navidad blasted through the air.  Hosting a nativity scene, Santa’s workshop, and an ice rink, Montepulciano’s Christmas village is perfect for and everyone. A stroll up to the fortress reveals a Christmas food fair with plenty of vendors, tables, and places to play.  With local meats, cheeses, and plenty of handmade gifts, the Montepulciano Christmas market is a delicious stop on any Italian itinerary.      

Bonus: This market stays open until the Epiphany on January 6, so you can start in the north and make your way south for more holiday cheer after Christmas.


Feeling festive? You can also check out our favorite holiday posts here!

 

Advice Travel Planning What to Pack

7 Things You Must Not Bring in Your Carry On to Have a Hassle-Free Travel

Airport security can be pretty strict about their set of rules and regulations. For safety and security of all travelers, these rules are intentionally made for passengers to follow. They important reminders to make all plane travel safer. So, if you don’t want to be the talk of the town for making a scene at the airport or inside the plane… just remember these seven items that you should not bring in your carry on baggage!

Liquids Over 3.4 ounces or 100ml

Travelers are permitted to bring one quart sized bag filled with liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in their carry ons…  it’s a universal rule that everyone is pretty much aware of. Any liquid that is more than 3.4 ounces or 100ml is not allowed in a carry on – only with a checked bag. Airports are straightforward about bringing liquids on the plane.

So if you’re a really heavy water drinker, you may just bring your container following the required size. If it’s still not enough yet, you can always purchase a bottle of water on the plane.

As for your toiletries like shampoo and conditioner, opt for the travel-sized bottle. Or you can just ditch them altogether since most hotels would probably provide you with these essential.

Sporting Equipment

If you really must bring your sporting equipment, check your items, put them inside your checked-in baggage or be sure they fit in a bin during security check. However, balls and smaller equipment are allowed (given that they fit inside a carry on-sized bag).

Self-Defense Items

If you feel the need to bring your self-defense items (like pepper spray) for your own peace of mind, it’s important to note that they are not allowed in your carry on luggage. ​​​​​​​Most major airlines will allow you to pack up to 4 oz of pepper spray in a checked bag only.

Offensive Shirts

Remember that you are visiting a foreign land. You should be respectful of other people’s feelings… especially if it is offensive. Your shirts are no exception! Shirts printed with offensive statements is highly discouraged. In fact, flight attendants have the right to ask you to change into something more appropriate according to your destination.

Flammable Items

This is a no brainer! Anything that can cause alarm inside the plane is strictly prohibited. Some examples are fireworks, bleach, paint thinner or anything that can cause a fire inside the plane.

Heating Pads

Heating pads can be helpful when enduring long-haul flights. But then again, heating pads have a gel inside which is technically liquid. So it’s not allowed inside the plane no matter how tempting it is to be cozied up with the warmth of this pad during your flight.

Soup

Even if this is your favorite thing to eat before boarding a flight, just don’t bring it inside the plane! You can always just eat it while waiting for your boarding time. 

Advice Luxury Outdoors

5 Beautiful Islands You Must Visit In 2020

If you are already planning your holiday for 2020 – then you will definitely want to look into some of the most beautiful islands you can choose as your destination.  We have done all of the work for you – so you can have some great ideas for your next trip.  

Seychelles

The Seychelles almost need no introduction.  Although there are seasons – generally you can experience great weather all year round.  One of its most attractive qualities is that the beaches are literally unspoiled – with blinding white sands and clear blue seas.  If you are a bit of an adventure seeker – you may also like some of the hikes you can take advantage of at the Seychelles. There are different trails for novices and more experienced hikers.  For those of you who are nature lovers – you will also get to experience some endangered species such as Aldabra giant tortoises.

There are 65 different endangered species that are home to the Seychelles.  If you are planning on a holiday later on in the year – you will definitely want to go the Creole Festival where there is a fantastic party atmosphere. If you are looking for looking for ultimate luxury – you can even rent your own private island.  

Mykonos

Despite its reputation – Mykonos isn’t only a place where you can enjoy a party atmosphere – it’s also a fantastic destination as a family holiday.  They have various beaches with golden sands that fit into any criteria. There are beaches to go to for DJ’s and parties – and quieter options for families. It’s also home to some amazing accommodation.  There are fantastic Mykonos luxury villas you can rent out that have epic views.

If you are going to stay in the island – we would recommend you definitely check out some of the Mykonos luxury villas instead of a hotel.  One of the things you will notice in Mykonos is that it is full of whitewashed houses which makes for a beautiful setting, and if you are a foodie – you will most definitely want to taste some of their local culinary delights such as baklava or amygdalota.  

Hawaii

Hawaii is on most people’s bucket list and is perfect for a romantic break away.  Much like The Seychelles – Hawaii has some of the beautiful beaches in the world. The waterfalls are also a sight for sore eyes.  The beautiful rainforests will have you feeling as if you are in an enchanted island. Maui is definitely best for that. Adrenaline junkies will love the activities that are on offer at Hawaii.  There are lots of water sports to enjoy such as scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing and more.  You can even go on an underwater cruise.

Hawaii is also home to Haleakala, which is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, based in Maui.  If it is a romantic vacation, you are looking to enjoy – then you will love the scenery. As well as the lush beaches, you will find spectacular sunsets and sunrises that look as if they have come straight out of a postcard.  

An Insider's Guide To Oahu, Hawaii

Capri

If you haven’t been to Capri – it should definitely be on your list of destinations for 2020.  There is so much to enjoy including the world famous Piazetta.  Here you will find different cafes that are open for early risers to enjoy an early morning cappuccino – to those of you who would like a late-night glass of wine. 

If you really want to experience the island of Capri, you should do you can do so by boat. You could spend a few hours exploring their coves and grottos and experience something a little different.  There are also regular boat tours that you can enjoy to take you around the island. You can indulge in some fantastic food dishes when you head to Capri. There is of course the caprese salad that contains, mozzarella, basil leaves, tomatoes and olive oil which can be fond pretty much everywhere you go.  The home of pizza also isn’t too far away. In fact, it’s an hour away in Naples. There is also lots of nightlife in Naples. Dinner time is normally around 10pm – and you will find that some of the nightclubs don’t even open until 12am. Most people who stay in Capri tend to have a bit of a disco nap during the day so they can stay out later at night.  If you love your wine, then Capri should also be on your list of destinations. Sit back, relax and enjoy a Chianti.  

The Most Picturesque Hotels In Italy

If you want to make your next holiday a bit more special – then make sure you research these fabulous islands for a trip of a lifetime.

Advice

Catch Flights AND Feelings: How I Do Long Distance While Traveling

Catch Flights AND Feelings: How I Do Long Distance While Traveling

Catch flights, not feelings! Why not both?! In a world full of “thank you, next!”, dare to think love is limitless. As I approach my seventh 20th birthday anniversary, I definitely did not picture it like this. I believe that it’s possible to do both… and manage a long distance relationship while traveling too! Let me rewind a little bit, and tell you about how this all got started. 

Catch Flights AND Feelings: How I Do Long Distance While Traveling

November 2013, we were at a 1920s themed Murder Mystery party at our community college. Juan and I were just friends at the time. He looked at me like I was the last Coca-Cola bottle in the desert, and I don’t blame him. That night, we exchanged numbers and talked nearly every day, even to this day. We also found out we were neighbors so we spent a lot of time together. 

In July 2013, we both obtained a scholarship to study abroad in Beijing, China. We explored the city, learned about the Chinese culture and language. We officially became a couple while visiting the Temple of Heaven. 

Catch Flights AND Feelings: How I Do Long Distance While Traveling

After one year of dating, we began our long distance relationship to pursue our studies in different universities. Although the distance has been a challenge, we are now closer than ever. During the holidays, we often spend it at home in Miami or plan trips together. 6 years later, after exploring 12 countries together, our love has gone the distance. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Catch Flights AND Feelings: How I Do Long Distance While Traveling

It has not always been easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. Sometimes it is difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. But we have worked out our issues as they arise. What has keep our relationship lasting and healthy is: communication, trust, effort, and honesty. 

My advice to anyone considering a long distance relationship is: 

  • Always be honest about your needs, wants, and wishes. 
  • Be transparent about what your boundaries and what you are willing to offer.
  • Remember relationships do not have to hold you back or make you unhappy. 
  • You can both be independent and do your own thing, while being a part of each other’s lives.
  • It takes more than love; it takes a lot of effort on both sides.

Currently Juan is Cairo studying abroad for the year, while I pursue my graduate degree in New York. Juan plans to join me in New York next fall. And, he is coming to visit for a week next month!


What do you think? Can a long distance relationship last? If yes, what does it take? Let’s connect and let me know your thoughts below or on my latest blog post.

Advice Guides Insider Tips Outdoors

Five Beautiful Botanical Gardens Around the World

As an avid traveler, I love pounding the pavement in a city I’ve never visited before. Urban architecture and artwork never ceases to impress and inspire me. But there’s one non-negotiable must-do that’s always at the top of my trip list: botanical gardens. Below are a few of my all-time favorites any wanderlust should add to their itinerary.

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

Walking distance from Melbourne’s bustling central business district – known as the CBD to locals – lies 90 acres of open air space. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is filled with an array of lawns, lakes, pavilions, and paths. Several entrance gates lead to a vast range of collections from bamboo to ferns and palms to roses, with many rare species of trees and foliage. You don’t have to be a botany buff to appreciate the Australian Forest Walk or Water Conservation Garden, but the Garden does have an education team that offers programs for those who want to learn more. It may take multiple visits to soak in all that Melbourne’s garden has to offer; luckily it is completely free of entry. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria hosts wellness experiences, family activities,  art exhibitions, guided walks, and more throughout the year. Or you could simply bring a picnic and soak in your surroundings before hitting the nearby beach or city. 

Innsbruck University Botanical Garden, Innsbruck, Austria

Two hours outside of Salzburg is the small, charming town of Innsbruck. Tucked away in the Austrian alps, Innsbruck is a prime location for year-round sports like hiking, skiing and mountain biking. But plant lovers are also in luck: the University of Innsbruck happens to have a lush park with three gorgeous ‘gram-worthy greenhouses. Each steamy greenhouse houses orchids, ferns, cacti, and more tropical plants. The real stunner is the indoor pond flecked with giant lily pads, surrounded by luxurious palms. The greenhouses are open every Tuesday, Thursday, and first Sunday afternoon of the month and cost just two euros to enter. Wander the rest of the botanical garden for free and explore over thousands of plant species from around the world.

Malahide Castle and Gardens, Dublin, Ireland

A peaceful outdoor retreat can be found thirty minutes outside of Dublin’s city center. Malahide Castle is a popular tourist destination, and daily tours of the medieval home fill up fast. The grounds around the 800 year old castle are equally as impressive: 260 acres are filled with gardens, greenhouses, the Republic of Ireland’s only butterfly house, and a fairy trail that’s perfect for kids. You may run into brightly colored peacocks who call the gardens home, which was originally created to grow vegetables and herbs for the castle kitchen decades ago. The last owner of Malahide Castle was enthusiastic about exotic plants and rare flora, and transformed the kitchen gardens into the existing landscape. Explore a rose garden, Victorian Conservatory, a geometric greenhouse and much more. Malahide also screens movies and hosts concerts, yoga and more events when weather allows. P.S. – their onsite cafe and food market is insanely delicious as well. Tickets for the gardens, butterfly house and fairy trail are 7.50 euro for adults, and are included in the 14 euro guided castle tour ticket. 

Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri 

Not only one of the oldest botanical gardens in the United States, the Missouri Botanical Garden was also awarded National Historic Landmark status. 79 acres of indoor and outdoor space with more than 20 individual gardens make up this serene space. Historical structures, including founder Henry Shaw’s townhouse built in 1849, make this botanical garden unique. Victorian era architecture – like a  stone cottage from the late 1800’s and a brick greenhouse constructed in 1882 – give a glimpse of the past, while newer builds like the Climatron geodesic dome conservatory are equally impressive. Multiple museums, a maze, koi fish pond and more round out the garden grounds. The Missouri Botanical Garden hosts events throughout the year, including the jaw-dropping nighttime Garden Glow with over one million lights; the only tradeoff being chilly temperatures. The garden is open daily with free admission for kids 12 and under, and $14 for adult visitors. 

Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, Colorado

It may be relatively small, but it’s substantial. Denver’s botanic garden on York Street, near downtown, is 24 acres of diverse plant life from around the world. Explore Gardens of the West, highlighting greenery that’s native to Colorado, and international gardens with foliage from China to South Africa and beyond. Colorful ornamental gardens with fan-favorite annual blooms, shady low-light gardens and water gardens with aquatic plants make up the rest of Denver’s collection. While Denver may be known for breweries and sports teams, the Mile High city makes outdoor space a priority with over 200 parks: the botanic garden being the most memorable. The York Street gardens are open all year with $12.50 entry fee for adults, with weekly events ranging from sunrise yoga to botanical illustration for an additional fee. There is a second Denver Botanic Gardens location at Chatfield Farms in nearby Littleton on working farm and native plant refuge. 

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