Category Archives: Stateside

Escaping for the Holidays

Vienna Christmas Market 3 Kitzbuehel_moon

The holidays are fast approaching.  I’m always amazed at how time seems to fly by faster the wiser I get with each year.  The nights begin to cool down everywhere.  Twinkling lights give every room a warm glow from their strung garland draped around the house.  The air has the sweet smell of fresh cookies from the oven mixed with the earthy pine needle scent from the Christmas tree.

Along with the warmth that the holidays bestow upon each of us, we also have that crazed feeling each day as the end of the year approaches.  Huge family meals are to be made, presents need to be shopped for and wrapped.  The stores are busting at the seams, there isn’t a sane driver to be found in the parking lots, nor a decent spot.  It is that time of year again, the holidays are upon us.

Christmas was always my favorite growing up.  Even though we had the hustle and bustle of every holiday with our rather large family, we would always head for the mountains of Lake Tahoe around the 27th for a week of skiing.  We would ring in the New Year with friends, fresh powder and a great feeling of being away.  While I do enjoy my home around the holidays, I also love escaping to spend the holidays somewhere where I don’t have to cook, clean and I can just enjoy the company of my friends and family.

This year we decided to pack the bags and give each other the gift of travel.  We want to spend time in the Christmas markets in Germany, have a piece of real Dresdner Stolen, and enjoy the warmth and charm of a foreign land.  I have to admit, I’m no stranger to spending this glorious time away. And since we do not travel every holiday, when we do – those memories burn even brighter for me.  Here are my top five holiday escapes I’ve enjoyed over the years.

1) New Year’s in Vienna, Austria – we loved spending the week in Vienna.  This city is so rich in culture and history.  We loved taking in the sights, palaces and markets, enjoyed a glass of Gluhwein at a street stand, or even just warming up at the Cafe Mozart while enjoying a piece of Sachertorte and hot chocolate.  We took in several of the many traditional classical concerts in halls that were older than we could fathom.  We celebrated a milestone birthday by dinning at the Rote Bar in the famous Hotel Sacher, and finished our trip by ringing in the New Year at one of Vienna’s famous gala balls.  This is a special trip – we enjoyed it on the Millennium.  Ein glückliches neues Jahr!

2.) Hawaii for Christmas – Nothing is like the lush tropical islands of Hawaii for Christmas.  You will see the traditional decorations of Christmas, but with a definite Hawaiian twist.  Experience something new – we spent the day at the beach enjoying all the tropical richness that the Hawaiian islands have to offer before dining on Abalone and spending quality time with family.  Or take in a luau with a roast pig instead of the traditional turkey of this holiday.  Mele Kalikimaka!

3.) Skiing in Kitzbühel, Austria – I grew up skiing and nothing was better than enjoying a week in Kitzbühel, the resort known for its famous tough downhill run – the Hahnenkahm.  We skied each day, went ice skating, and enjoyed a horse drawn sleigh ride.  We enjoyed a five star meal on Christmas and then celebrated the New Year with guests from all over at a private party.  The air was crisp, the slopes were a challenge, and we enjoyed all that this quaint Austrian village had to offer.  Fröhliche Weihnachten!

4.) Orlando, Florida – My first Christmas in Florida was spent at Walt Disney World, I mean who better to spend Christmas with than Mickey Mouse and friends?  The parks in the Orlando area really do the holidays right.  You haven not been to this area until you have seen it decorated for the holidays!  My favorite thing is being at Epcot and listening to the story about Santa Claus for each country – he’s different in each one as are the traditions.  New Year’s is a ton of fun at Universal Theme Parks – we personally love Islands of Adventure for the Fireworks display.  Enjoy a special meal at one of the many hotel restaurants – many have a special New Year’s reservation only menu and party.  But it’s City Walk that really comes alive this great night.

5.) Caribbean Cruise – Spend your holidays – especially New Year’s Eve at sea.  Even better – cruise with a small group of friends or family.  There’s something for everyone to make them happy.  The ship is decked in all it’s glory and the nightlife is filled with shows, lounges of all types, discos and tons of extra fun activities.  We’ve cruised the Caribbean and enjoyed the holidays on island time with friends and guests from all over the world at sea.  No one does New Year’s like a cruise ship – best of all, no one has to drive (except the Captain)!

So no matter where you choose to spend the holidays this year, maybe think of traveling somewhere you haven’t been before.  We all need that little escape from the craziness, and who’s to say we shouldn’t indulge a little.  Give the gift of travel – it’s one that you are sure to enjoy and remember for years after!

It’s never too late to plan an Escape.  Need help coming up with the perfect place or want to hear more about one of our Holiday Escapes, click here!


Save up to 30% off a Virgin America flight

Airbus 320, Vigin America, aircraft, jet, passenger transport, aerial, airliner, airline,

Are you traveling from coast to coast or to Mexico between March 9th and June 15th?  Interested in saving money on your flights?  Do you like Virgin America flights?  If you answered yes to any of these, then you’ll definitely want to check this out!

Virgin America – a US based airline that focuses on cross country long haul flights and is the brainchild of Richard Branson, is offering savings off your next Virgin America flight. Visit this site to get a quick 15% off code for your next flight, invite five of your friends to do the same and double it to 30% off.

The rules and regulations are standard, but note: One time use promo code is valid for non-refundable Main Cabin ticket only in fare classes S, L, M, U, E, H, B, or V. Travel must occur between March 9, 2011 and June 15, 2011.

You’ll need to give them the required information which will automatically register you to win the Morgan Hotels SoHo invasion prize package, and you’ll be able to opt out of all marketing e-materials. But for an extra 15-30% off your next flight, why not?  I’m always in for a good deal, plus it’s on Virgin America – no downside here!

Interested in a quick getaway? Click here to see how we can help plan your next trip!

5 Things I love about … Travel

Traveling to Europe to celebrate the Millenium
Traveling to Europe to celebrate the Millenium

I inherited my love of travel from my parents.  I grew up in San Francisco which is a melting pot of several cultures.  We didn’t have the fanciest cars growing up or the latest trends in clothes, but the one thing we did do was travel.  I was fortunate to spend six weeks in Europe every summer and skied several times a year in addition to trips to several places on the west coast growing up.   We traveled on a budget, but I spent my childhood experiencing all that the world had to offer.

Helping Oma and Opa in the Garden Dresden 1971 Time with Aunt Martha in Dresden 1971

Dresden, East Germany – Visiting my Grandparents 1971

Both my parents share a love of languages and Europe.  My mother is from Germany, so I automatically grew up speaking German, and our home was a blend of German and Scandinavian cultures.  As a young twenty-something, my mother traveled as much as she could, lived in Paris for three years to learn French and ventured out to the United States to learn English and explore.  My father saw a lot of the world while in the Navy and in the Korean War.  Afterward he traveled around Europe with a friend and learned how to speak German.  Although my parents divorced when I was 8, both always continued to immerse my brother and I in different cultures.

Fun on the Beach on the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia 1971 Sailing from the Island of Brač to Split, Croatia

1971 – Beach in Brac, Croatia                                       Sailing from Brac to Split, Croatia

My husband Michael’s passion is travel.  He helped to further his travel bug by becoming an outside agent at a brick and mortar travel agency in his 20’s.  He has remained immersed in the travel business and in 2004 went into business for himself opening Elite Travel Planners.  Travel remains a passion for the both of us, and we intend to continue checking off boxes on our Travel bucket lists.

Visiting family in Finland 1974 Great Great Grandmother's home in Finland

Visiting Finland 1974                                      My Great Great Grandmothers Home

So why the history lesson about me and my upbringing?  Okay, I’ve decided to start a specific weekly blog post.  My goal is to blog about all my favorite things that I love about various places around the globe.  I hope to have a great compilation at the end of the year so enjoy.  I’d love to get your feedback as we journey along, so as I blog about all the places I love, please feel free to let me know what your favorite spots are too – especially restaurants and local hot spots!

Winsurfing in Cefalu, Sicily 1986 Walking the Beach in Maui with Dad 1975

Windsurfing – Cefalu, Sicily 1986                                    Beach with Dad in Maui 1975

5 Things I love about Travel

Getting there

There is nothing like that feeling of just having boarded the plane or just walking into my cruise ship stateroom.  The excitement of it all.  I love getting there.  This started for me when I was young.  I remember even in the car headed to the mountains to go skiing, my favorite part was usually about an hour from our destination, seeing what the countryside looked like, listening to my then Walkman and just getting excited for what lay ahead.

I always plan well – books (and now my kindle), Swedish fish, cards and a cribbage board, ipod, and of course dove chocolate. I’m famous for taking pictures along the way. I love the feeling of approaching our destination.  The excitement for a few days or weeks of being away.  Just the fact that you know you are away from the phone, mail, email and the day to day stuff that weighs you down.  There is nothing like knowing your on your way or just about to get to your destination.

Ready for a European Adventure in 1971 Boarding Overseas National Airlines in 1974

Ready for Europe 1971                             Boarding Overseas National Airlines 1974


Phrasebooks are a must if I’m traveling somewhere where English, German or Spanish aren’t the spoken language.  This is an essential part of traveling for everyone.  I love learning all the must know phrases – Please, thank you, how much does this cost, excuse me, where is the bathroom, and of course the phrase I would like… I love phrasebooks by Lonely Planet and Rick Steve’s the most.  For me they must be small and handy – something I can throw into my purse or backpack and they must have easy to find catchphrases.

Visiting my family in Dresden with my Husband 2000Windsor, England 1985

Dresden, Germany with my husband 2000                          Windsor, England 1985


What’s the point if we can’t relive our travels!  I was so excited when the digital revolution came about.  And I have been known for going overboard on pictures (900+ pictures on an Alaskan cruise).  The beauty of taking pictures is that you get to remember the little things about your travels.  I love taking pictures of the culture, food and atmosphere. For me it helps to capture the flavor of my travels.   I used to scrapbook, but just don’t have the time to capture all the magic this way anymore.  I don’t know what I would do without Kodak and Snapfish that offer a great digital option for putting your pictures into a bound book of your travels.  For me, pictures are a must.

Skiing in Lake Tahoe 1987 Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Germany 2000

Skiing in Lake Tahoe 1987                       Schloss Neuschwanstein, Germany 2000

Dining Out

Definitely one of my favorite things to do!  I love experiencing a different culture through food.  Now I’m not the most experimental eater, but I do love trying new things.  And one of the perks of dining out is getting to know your waiter a little for some local insight.  It’s a great way to get the scoop on that hidden gem or locale.

Dining out is a few hours of concentrated time in a local establishment.  Michael and I usually get to know the owner or manager which generates fun memories for us.  We love going back to a favorite spot either at the end of the week or next trip.  On our last trip to Sorrento, Italy we returned to a favorite restaurant and the owner came out and said Paisan – so great to see you again – there’s nothing like that!

Dinner with friends in Germany 1986 Celebrating my 30th Birthday at the Sacher Hotel in Vienna, Austria

With Friends – Germany 1986                           Sacher Hotel – Vienna, Austria 2000

Different Landscapes

For me, traveling is about getting away from home and looking out at a different landscape. There is nothing like going for a walk or run and taking in the new scenery.  Some of my favorite landscapes include the ocean (doesn’t matter which one), any beach with palm trees, Yosemite, any mountain range, classical cities like Vienna, Rome, London, Paris, San Francisco – you get the point and small quaint towns.  One of my favorite things to do on vacation is curl up to a picturesque window at sunrise with a good book.  For me, this is one of the best parts of a vacation, as at that moment I truly know that I am away from it all.

Skiing in Obersdorf, Germany 1988 Traveling the Eastern Caribbean with 40 Friends and Family

Skiing in Obersdorf, Germany 1988                           Eastern Caribbean Cruise 2007

So now you have my top 5 things that I love about Travel, what are your favorites?