Guten Tag and welcome to Episode #146! Today’s podcast focuses on a recent self-created media trip to Europe with my son Roland. Keep reading to learn how to plan your own media trip to Europe and all the details of my trip with Condor Airlines! I share the brands I worked with to make this trip happen and how you can do the same as a travel blogger.
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Summer Media Trip to Europe on Condor Airlines
Join me as I share one of my latest travel adventures with my son! Click here to listen to the full episode to hear the top takeaways and how to arrange your own do-it-yourself media trip to Europe.
Full episode >> Listen to Episode 146 Now!
Full Transcript of Show Below:
Every summer, my son Roland and I have a travel adventure and this year I wanted to visit Europe with him. He just finished his junior year of high school, which means just one year left in high school and then…. adulthood!
My hope is Roland will be visiting Europe on his own or with friends in the next year or two — whether it’s a semester abroad, a summer trip or even a gap year — so I thought by taking him to Europe this summer,he’d get a feel for navigating the trains, what it feels like to travel through a variety of cities, towns, countries, Learn how close everything is in Europe and how easy it can be to visit multiple countries and hopefully continue to teach him why travel helps us grow as humans, develops a broader frame of reference for the world, compassion for people, and an understanding that the world is a beautiful place that deserves exploring.
This was Roland’s 3rd trip to Europe — the previous was a few years ago and a trip to Iceland and Ireland. So, this was his second trip to mainland Europe — and the last time he was there was when he was four years old and with my husband, Todd — the three of us spent a month in Spain exploring everything we could find on Dali — who is one of my husband’s favorite artists.
So — I knew I wanted to go to Europe, but I didn’t have a clear idea where. I was leaning towards Germany, mostly because of the last two Viking Cruises I went on included towns in Germany and I found myself realizing the more places I visited in Germany, the more I loved it.
My 2nd goal for this trip was for us to visit friends in Luxembourg — oddly enough I have several friends who live there, but who are not from there.
So, I was quickly honing in on Western Germany and Luxembourg — as I didn’t want to have really long commute times between locations.
In the end our trip was just about 2.5 weeks and we visited 4 countries, 10 cities & towns — primarily in Germany with short stays in Luxembourg, France and Switzerland.
This trip really got its start from a hotel event I attended in San Diego for Design Hotels. This is a hotel group that handpicks boutique and design-driven luxury hotels around the world and helps to market them. All the hotels are privately owned and operated hotels with a passion for genuine, culturally rooted hospitality and tend to have cutting-edge design and architecture. At the event there were marketing reps for many of the hotels and I met two in particular who represented hotels in Germany and Switzerland.
Condor Airlines: Best Budget Airline to Frankfurt (and beyond)
I began to do some research on potential places to visit and in the midst of this, I got a Press Release from Condor airlines about a few new routes they were opening up from the U.S. to their hub destination in Frankfurt. I began corresponding with their PR and marketing company and worked out a collaboration with Condor airline for Roland and me to fly for our summer trip.
This would be our first time flying with Condor and as I began my research I learned that Condor was founded in 1956, and is Europe’s longest operating leisure-focused airline. As I said, Condor’s main hub is Frankfurt Airport, which services 61 million passengers per year which is more than any other continental European airport. Condor offers budget airfare on flights to from eight German airports to over 100 destinations in Europe, Africa, America, Canada and South America.
Condor is a best-kept secret among smart European travelers that is being discovered by more and more U.S. travelers as the airline expands their footprint.
So, part of what I am doing with Condor is helping them spread the word via my U.S. based audience that you can find some amazing deals to not only frankfurt, but to an additional 100 connections via frankfurt to other destinations in Europe and around the world. One of the things I loved most about Condor, was even though they are a discount airline,they don’t “nickel and dime” travelers the way other “low-cost” carriers do.
Checked baggage, beverages, meal, and entertainment are included in all fare classes.So many discount carriers fool you into thinking it’s a great fare, but then by the time you add on all the costs for a seat, baggage, etc you usually aren’t getting such a great deal.
As I said, All Condor long-haul passengers receive free checked baggage as well as meals and Earbuds, a pillow, and a blanket are provided for all passengers. In-flight entertainment is also included and available on seat-back screens with a choice of free and paid-for premium content, featuring more than 30 movies and 50 TV shows.
Last time I did a fare search I found them as low as $229.99, one-way. In the United States and Canada, Condor currently serves Anchorage, Baltimore, Fairbanks, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax in Canada with non-stop service to Frankfurt.
I also have to say, on my flight to Frankfurt, after our meal and one movie, I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until I woke us up for breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.
Why Eurail is the Best Way to Travel in Europe
The next step was figuring out how we would travel once we arrived in Germany. Originally, I planned to work with a rental car company and drive, so we had flexibility to stop along the way if we saw anything interesting, but after some feedback from several friends I quickly decided to travel via Eurail.
I reached out to the Eurail marketing team and applied for two 15-day continuous passes. They were really easy to work and responded super quickly to my initial request, which is always great.
They offered the passes In exchange:
– # social media posts about the Eurail trip, tagging Eurail in the photos and captions.
– # original, previously unpublished article(s) and or video(s) about our Eurail trip on my website, with relevant links to Eurail.com
– # original, high-quality photographs of our travel experience
They were also open to any other collaboration ideas, and told me not to hesitate to reach out so we can kick off this collaboration by ordering the Eurail Passes for us.
Choosing Eurail and travel by train was the best decision for traveling in Europe!
Here are a few reasons why:
- Train travel, in general, is fun and relaxing — at least once you board the train.
- There were so many ICE high-speed trains — making travel quick to many of our destinations.
- I could work. Once we were on board, I could relax, or write, or edit photos or work on social media.
- Most of the trains had wifi. Huge plus!
- It’s a good workout! A lot of stations don’t have elevators.
- Sleep! I could take a nap if I wanted to (and after the stairs and sometimes a sprint to catch a train, a nap was needed).
- The scenery! I could stare out the window for hours looking at the lovely countryside.
- Meeting people. It was great chatting with other travelers.
- Food and drink. The food car was a nice plus to grab a snack.
- You don’t get lost! Which I can guarantee would have happened more that once if we were driving.
- Travel class for Roland. He was in charge of making sure our Eurail passes were filled out for each train trip and for reading the train times and making sure we were at the right platform to catch the train.
Itinerary and Hotels for Media Trip
Next, was getting our itinerary and hotels in order. My media contact for Condor Airlines naturally had a lot of connections in Germany and first put me in touch with Frankfurt tourism which lined up our hotel, hop-on-hop-off passes and Rhein-Main Cards that covered more than 70 attractions in the region.
From frankfurt I planned to head to Trier then Luxembourg and wanted to dip into France, so i chose Colmar and then we’d head to Zurich and then back into Germany to visit a few more towns. I had left a few holes in our itinerary so we could play a bit of the trip by ear — as much of a planner as I am — I also love to have some wiggle room and am always glad I do.
I wanted to have a nice mix of small towns and villages as well as a few larger cities. So, our final itinerary was ….
Our first stop and direct flight with Condor Air was to Frankfurt am Main, one of the five biggest cities in Germany and a major airport hub. Frankfurt is a city dotted with skyscrapers and home to the European Central Bank and known more as a financial hub that a tourist city.
Many people fly in and leave, but not everyone realizes it’s worth stopping to spend time in the city. Frankfurt is well-worth a day or two of exploring especially for street art, beautiful bridges, wonderful museums, and delicious restaurants.
Germany may be famous for its beer and beer gardens, but the city of Frankfurt is famous for apple wine. In the old city, you’ll find apple wine pubs where the apple wine is handmade and poured from the traditional “bembel”, which is a blue and white stoneware jug. These pubs serve traditional german food and was a highlight for us! We also are huge fans of the hop on-off bus — especially after a long haul flight. I love taking the tour of a city when I’m jetlagged and then getting off and exploring by foot. I feel like I’m still accomplishing something, even if it’s just wandering through town when if I’m tired and foggy-headed on day 1.
From Frankfurt — we planned to meet with my German friends from San Diego who now live in Luxembourg, Felix and Louisa and their boys. They moved to San Diego about the same time we did and are both scientists who were on a work program doing super sciency stuff when we met– both doing studies through UCSD for a few years.
While here they had their first baby — but since moving back to Europe, they both got jobs in Luxembourg and had a 2nd baby. When I was in Europe with my sister for the Viking Christmas Market Cruise from Basel to Amsterdam, they were able to meet for an afternoon, but Roland hadn’t meet the younger boy.
Roland and I took our first high-speed train from Frankfurt’s main station to Limburg, Germany, which was just a 30-minute trip to meet Louisa. This is the town where she grew up and was in town visiting family. So, she took us to meet her mother, who lived in this amazing house that was a converted monastery and was also used by the Nazis during the war. Limburg is also where some of the Americans arrived for the liberation.
We spent half the day, touring the medieval town, visiting the famous painted Limburg cathedral, the local Saturday market & lunch at a favorite local spot! One of the highlights Among the medieval half-timbered houses in the old town was the Haus der sieben Laster, with carvings representing the 7 deadly sins. This was truly a treat — touring the city with locals.
From Limburg, we jumped in Louisa’s car and headed to Trier to meet her husband and boys. This was a town I really wanted to visit because it’s Germany’s most ancient city. Some of the ruins in town date back to B.C at one point the town was capital of the Roman empire for a period of time. They have a fun city tour by choo-choo train that the boys loved but also shared amazing facts and history about the town.
This was the home of Karl Marx and is also known as a wine town — there are wine cellars under the streets in the main town. It was a perfect stop. Lot’s of fun for the kids — there were a few rides set up in town and we all stopped for spaghetti ice — my first ever spaghetti ice. Which if you haven’t had it, you must. It’s ice cream pressed through a spaghetti device making the ice cream into long strands and then it’s topped with a variety of toppings, but I got the traditional strawberry.
After a very full day exploring, we headed to a small town about 30 minutes from Luxembourg city, where we were house guests of my amazing friends for several days. We had some great quality time to catch up, able to celebrate one of the boys birthdays, enjoy some delicious homemade german food including one of my new favorites — Flammkuchen which is a specialty of Alsace and regions on the German-French border.
It is a more delicious version of pizza, which Felix was nice enough to make gluten-free for me! So, it’s dough rolled out very thinly and covered crème fraîche, thinly sliced onions and lardons and baked. So, so, so good! And of course, we also explored Luxembourg City.
Luxembourg is small but regal. In the downtown you’ll find the palace, parliament, the Casemates du Bock underground tunnels which were also were used as a bomb shelter for 35,000 people during World War II & a crazy clear bottom elevator.
And, as I mentioned I happen to have another friend living in Luxembourg — a friend who I’ve known since my pre-marriage days in Los Angeles — Doug Petrich who is @petrichdouglas on Instagram. Ladies — he’s worth following!
He is one of the best friends of one of my roommates from my post-college days in LA and a full-time model who at this time was traveling the world doing runway shows and if memory serves I believe I remember a few Calvin Klein underwear ads.
Today he is a part-time model and full time daddy — and I got to catch up with him one afternoon with my german friends and then on the last day in Luxembourg when Felix took Roland to the University hospital in Luxembourg to see a very interesting procedure, that I’m not officially allowed to share all the details of — but suffice it to say Roland has had a passion to be a surgeon since he was a little boy and this was the highlight of his entire trip!
So, while Roland was off at the hospital, Luisa and I dropped the kids off at school and then she brought me into Luxembourg city to meet Doug before she headed off to work — and for the next couple hours Doug took me on a whirlwind tour of the city on his motorcycle and then we ran back to his house, turned the motorcycle in for his car, picked up Roland and he dropped us off at the train station to head for Colmar, France.
Colmar was included in our itinerary for a few reasons. 1– it was a day trip on one of my Viking Cruises and I have always wanted to see it after the rave reviews from the other cruisers on the trip AND I wanted to do 4 countries during our trip AND Roland had never been to France.
Colmar is located in the Alsace region and the old town has cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. A Gothic 13th-century, the Eglise Saint-Martin church stands on central Place de la Cathédrale and the whole area is walkable. There are horse-drawn carriages, a waterway flowing through town where you can hop on a Gondola, an abundance of Michelin star restaurants. I found it quite adorable! If I’m being honest Roland said it was a perfect place for retired people to visit. So, maybe not the most teenager-fun location, but I loved it.
Zurich, Switzerland | Design Hotel: Atlantis by Giardino
From Colmar, we headed to Zurich, Switzerland by train and to our first Design Hotel; Atlantis by Giardino. The hotel is focused on wellbeing, relaxation, Ayurveda and is just outside the city at the foot of Uetliberg mountain. It was time for a bit of pampering, relaxing & enjoying the hotel & surroundings!
This is the type of hotel I enjoy enjoying! It’s not a hotel meant for merely resting your head at night. Atlantis is a 5-star superior hotel. It’s a hotel celebrities like to visit and the list is long.
From the hotel, there are many hiking & biking trails as well as wonderful views & many llamas and other animals. Beyond the gorgeous scenery around the hotel, is the hotel itself, a post-war modern gem of architecture with details around every corner including sculpture, art and They describe the hotel as the ultimate in luxury combined with tranquility and Mediterranean hospitality.
The pool is gorgeous and then there is the spaaaaaa! Oh, and the food is delicious; including a Michelin star restaurant and the everyday Hide and Seek restaurant with serving fusion dishes with an ayurvedic twist. Breakfast may have been one of my favorite experiences at the hotel — a delicious extensive buffet also, tying in healing with their morning elixirs and delicious healthy foods.
One of the days in Zurich, I had to tear myself away from the serenity of Atlantis and make my way into the city for a city tour with Visit Zurich. We headed to the main train station that dates back to 1871 and is quite impressive to meet for our city tour.
We arrived a bit early, so we headed to the Landes Museum which has exhibitions on Swiss history and during our visit a really interesting exhibit on photography as well as one on torture through time and religion. While my son isn’t enamoured with medieval quaint towns with half-timbered homes, he loves museums, especially that focus on history or natural history.
We then met for our tour and headed toward one of the richest and most expensive shopping streets in the world, Bannstrabe and then into the old town to dive deep into the history and culture of Zurich. One of the first things pointed out was that all the free-flowing water fountains in town have fresh, clean drinking water and they are everywhere. There are 1234 water fountains in town, and somehow this is super interesting to me —
Zurich is a Celtic city that was then taken over by the Romans and then taken over again and again for it’s strategic vantage point of the river. Part of Zurich is a hill that overlooks the river, which made it quite the coup to rule.
The city has an impressive 26 Nobel prize winners, its the city where Albert Einstein taught at the university.
You’ll find the biggest clock in Europe in Zurich as well as the apartment Lenin lived in for one year while he planned the Russian revolution.
I also happened upon a chocolate shop from famed Avant guarde artist, Der Teufelhof Basel, Switzerland is the most interesting hotel property I have ever visited Dieter Meier. Dieter Meier is a Swiss musician and conceptual artist. He is the frontman of the electronic music group Yello. The reason this was meaningful, if because when I stayed at Der Teufelhof Basel a few years ago, the room was designed and decorated by him.
Honesty, I feel like I need to re-visit Zurich — I got a good overview with the tour, but there is so much more. We had just ½ a day in the city and I’d especially love to revist in winter to experience it. a day trip does not do it justice.
Konstanz and then Offenburg | Black Forest Train Line
From Zurich, we headed to Konstanz and then Offenburg via the Black Forest Train Line. This was spot in our itinerary that I had not pre-planned, but I had done some research about the most beautiful train routes in Germany and this was one of them. Passing Lake Konstanz was beautiful and would have been a great stop for a few days in warm summer weather. And then heading into the Black Forest was a treat.
We stayed in Offenburg, which is located in the state of Baden-Württemberg and very close to Strasbourg and borders on the Rhine valley and in the Black Forest for a night. The town is small and cute. Very easy to navigate — we arrived during a total downpour — but luckily it ended not long after we arrived at our hotel, so there was time to explore the town and get some photos.
Visiting Munich was also, not on our original itinerary, and we added this in especially so we could visit Dachau.
Last time I was in Munich was about 25 years ago with my friend Sherri during a 9 month trip to Europe. The only thing I remembered about our time in Munich was the beer gardens. Or maybe that is the only place I visited? I really don’t know.
So, it turns out there is more than beer in Munich. While the city might be famous for Oktoberfest & it’s Hofbräuhaus, founded in 1589… Bavaria’s capital, is also home to centuries-old buildings including a palace in the Altstadt (Old Town) and Marienplatz square with landmarks such as Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (town hall), with a glockenspiel show that chimes and reenacts stories from the 16th century.
We did a daytrip from Munich to the concentration camp of Dachau. I think I have as many notes from this tour as I do for all the other locations we visited combined! This was one of the first concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Built in March 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler was appointed as Reich Chancellor.
Dachau served as a model for all subsequent concentrations camps in the Third Reich.
Visiting the place where more than 200,000 people from 30+ countries were imprisoned & more than 43,000 died was overwhelming to say the least. It was also an important piece of history to share with my son & to remember… this Nazi concentration camp didn’t exist so long ago.
Mellrichstadt, Germany — Design Hotel
From Munich we headed to Mellrichstadt and our 2nd Design Hotel — BioHotel Sturm, a hotel focused on rustic lodging, organic dining, and decompressing spa time.
This hotel was perfect timing and allowed us to relax and connect with nature. Absolutely wonderful to have a few days to lounge outdoors, enjoy a wonderful spa and delicious food.
The hotel is eco-conscious from its gardens to hotel design, the cleaning products and locally sourced menu. In fact, it is the first bio-organic hotel in the biosphere reserve within the Rhön.
The hotel exterior is beautiful wood slats and looks more like an art piece than a building. The grounds are beautiful and natural — meaning they allow what will naturally grow happen and it’s a beautiful mix of grass and wildflowers. There is an extensive flower garden, as well as herb, fruit, berries, fruit trees and vegi’s grown on the property and used by the kitchen for meals and to make tea, marmalade, and are present in almost every dish prepared by the chef. The garden is also there for guests to enjoy — not just to walk through, but to help themselves to the beautiful food growing.
They also have beehives on the property and everything is pesticide-free.
And the swimming pond is really a highlight…. With dragonflies swirling above, the croaking frogs, and the rippling flow of the waterfall were pure zen! In fact, the goal of the outdoor space is to create a feeling of peace and comfort and relaxing on a chaise lounge in the shade near the pond was just about as perfect as an afternoon can get.
The hotel also has a wonderful spa. Included in the stay are six stations with sauna’s, steam rooms, cold room, Swedish shower, relaxation room.
There is a second spa area with outdoor showers, sauna, yoga room that is meant to be an extension of the outdoors and open for all to use.
Now, let me share something that I got a bit of flack about. The outdoor lounging areas, pond and spas are all clothing optional. The spa facilities such as saunas and steam rooms are also co-ed. I shared this on my FB page — that Roland and I were a bit surprised at first, but hey, were American’s. I’ll admit I can be uptight about nudity — just my own. I don’t care what other people do.
But, I surprised myself, and have to say it didn’t take long to see the absolute beauty in the idea of doing what feels comfortable and that is their philosophy — relax and be comfortable. So, I did and I’ll leave it at that.
And I haven’t even gotten into the food. Locally sourced, organic as much as possible, delicoius. The entire experience left us bothing feeling relaxed and rejuvenitated! I am so happy we had this experience near the end of our trip, because I think at least I enjoyed it even more because it was exactly what I needed — time to connect to nature and relax.
From Mellrichstadt we headed to Mainz for the last few days of the trip. I absolutely loved Mainz.
The town of Mainz has the only church in Germany with stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. He started on the windows in 1976 at the age of 89 and the project took three years to complete.
He is one of my favorite artists and it was absolutely amazing to see in person.
As well as the Chagall stained glass, the town was the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg (the 15th-century inventor of the printing press). We arrived on the last day of the annual weeklong Gutenberg festival— which was similar to a street fair in the U.S. delicious food stands, beer tent, live music and rides.
The town also has a love of theater & performing arts & lots of statues to symbolize this. There is also a lot of Roman history & quite a view if you can find the correct little street to walk up (took me quite a while!). I loved wandering around this town and felt like this was a place I could come back to and stay for a few weeks or months. There was a lot I didn’t get a chance to see and it was a small town feel, with a lot of the ammenities of a bigger city. I loved it.
Sponsors and Collaborations
And all I have to say, is I was so happy to have had these shoes! Trips to Europe always include a lot of walking and I enjoy exploring by foot, so if I can, I’ll walk instead of jump on a bus or trolley.
Turns out I walked 63.8 miles on this trip— averaging 4.5 miles a day & the most I walked in one day was 9.9 miles (or 21,940 steps).
I’ve also been having some early signs of plantar fasciitis which is inflammation /pain in my heels).
The shoe has a patented twin arch support system that distributes weight over the entire plantar surface. This means I could walk, walk, walk around all day and my feet weren’t tired, sore or sweaty.
Because the shoe doesn’t have any lining, it’s designed so your feet will stay cool during the hot summer months.
For any of my vegan friends; the shoe is Vegan!
Weighs only 7 ounces, making it perfect for travel.
I loved them. Super comfy & I highly recommend them!
My goal for this trip to Europe was to pack light. Because I have to admit, it’s not something I’ve mastered even after so many travel adventures! So, I teamed up with Anatomie for this trip & packed smart with a small collection of simple & classic pieces.
All pieces in the collection are wrinkle-free, comfortable & flattering. They are also super stylish! I felt quite put together!
I brought a very small wardrobe that all fit in my carry sized suitcase as well as a computer/gear bag. I haven’t gotten to the point where I can fit everything in my suitcase — but many that will be next.
I don’t know if anyone else is obsessed with travel cubes, but I can’t live without them — especially on trips like this with a lot of moving and basically never unpacking.
So, for my wardrobe, I brought a simple black dress, a jean skirt, a pair of strechy jean, and I practically lived in the Anatomie Skyler Travel Pants which I got in black.
- 1 pair travel yoga/ joggers and I brought the Anatomie Andrea leggings and 1 black skirt
- I brought 6 tops that I could mix including and match including the Anatomie Charlotte v-neck as well as
- 1 black tank & 1 white tank
- 1 pair of pajamas
- 2 pairs of socks
- 10 underwear (including my favorite Clever Travel Companion undies with hidden pockets).
- 2 bras
- 1 Wrap
- Sun Hat
- Light Jacket or raincoat (I brought the Travel City Slick jacket by Anatomie)
- Bathing suit
- Bathing suit cover-up. If you stay at a hotel with a pool, it’s so nice to have a cover-up to wear when you walk from your room to the pool or spa. Just Make sure to choose one that is lightweight and no-wrinkle.
Most of my core pieces were from Anatomie, which is a women’s luxury travel clothing line. Their clothes take up almost no space in a suitcase. Because of this, I was able to pack in one carry on for a trip for just over 2 weeks! Quite an accomplishment for me!
If you’d like to check out Anatomie Travel Clothes use code ALEXA10 for a 10% discount & I’m adding the link to the shownotes that will automatically give you 10% off your purchase: https://anatomie.com/?rfsn=2722276.e52594
I also brought a Wrap (to dress a few outfits for dinner). I worked with the Mer-Sea and brought their cotton tassel wrap. It is lightweight, it’s super cute and takes up almost no space. It can also double as a sarong or scarf. Unlike many travel wraps that need to be dry cleaned, this wrap is machine or hand washable.
I also have a 20% off discount code for the Mer-Sea wrap: PERFECT20
You can check out my full packing list at 52 Perfect days & I’m also linking to it in the shownotes. In fact, I’m going to link to everything mentioned in the shownotes, so head to BITW.com Episode #146 for all the connections and links.
Please don’t forget — if you are thinking of visiting Europe — Condor airlines offers budget airfare on flights to from eight German airports to over 100 destinations in Europe, Africa, America, Canada and South America.
Thank you for listening and please connect. I’d love to hear what you are up to, where you are traveling next and of course let me know any questions you have about the world of travel blogging.
Connect with Alexa, Break Into Travel Writing & My Travel Blog
Hope you enjoyed this episode and are inspired to think about how you can set goals for your blog in 2019! Interested in hearing the full podcast? Click here to listen now!
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