Climbing the Bell Tower

August 26, 2015

belltower We were in Nordlingen, Germany, and decided to climb the medieval bell tower known as “Daniel”. It was almost three hundred feet to the top. The climb seemed like a great idea until a few minutes later when I was overcome with an intense sense of vertigo. I looked at the rickety, wooden steps to the top. They were hundreds of years old, and I imagined they could tumble at any moment. That is when the room started spinning, and I grasped tight to the handrail for support. It felt like the entire staircase was swaying side to side. As my travel companions rushed to the top, our guide from the Nordlingen Tourism Board, David, rushed to meet me.
“Do you want to go back down?”
I’ve always had inner ear problems and been prone to infections in my left ear. I’d spent the entire trip sitting up front with the driver, as my travel companions learned the first day that I don’t do well with bus rides. Yet, I have never let my proneness to motion sickness stop me from traveling. How could I ever let my vertigo stop me from climbing the bell tower?
“No way,” I said, “I have to keep going.” Slowly, one step at a time, I continued to ascend the stairs. David followed a few a steps behind me. He had climbed that bell tower hundreds, if not thousands, of times in his lifetime. He knew each and every step like the back of his hand. The room never stopped spinning and the staircase continued to sway back and forth but I thought if David felt secure with climbing the bell tower, then why shouldn’t I? The stairs weren’t swaying for him or anyone else – the feeling I had was all in my head. It gave me great comfort to have him behind me every step of the way.
The view from the top of the bell tower was incredible. I t was an incredible vantage of this medieval town, the city walls, and the road to Rome. All of this surrounded by an incredible landscape filled with brightly colored fields and gently rolling hills. The climb up the bell tower was worth every dizzy step.
view I realized that David was like a travel consultant. While he was familiar with the bell tower, the experience was entirely new and foreign to me. I could have said that it was too much and stayed back. I could have missed that incredible view and experience. Yet, it gave me reassurance to have someone behind me who knew the way.
This is not unlike what a good travel consultant would do for their client. A travel consultant is someone who has traveled; someone who’s has knowledge and experience in various destinations. A good travel consultant is familiar with these places and has traveled more times in their lifetime than they can count.
A good travel consultant will be behind their client every step of the way. From providing advice and designing a custom itinerary – to booking the trip – to managing any bumps in the road. A good travel consultant is there for you. Your travel consultant won’t travel with you and they won’t hold your hand, but they will still be behind you every step of the way. A good travel consultant will give their clients the foundation they need so that they can discover new vantage points and reach their goals.
Congratulations to David, who became a father the very next morning. That is when we received word that he would no longer be guiding us because his wife was giving birth to twins. May his children grow healthy and strong as they inherit his knowledge and experience. May they grow up to climb the bell tower of Nordlingen, and possess the courage to discover new vantage points and reach their goals!

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How to Travel Gluten Free

July 16, 2015

IMG_3841 food2I was very excited for my trip to Bavaria, Germany.  I would be exploring the land of Oktoberfest and leiderhosen, beer and pretzels.  I foresaw just one problem.  I am gluten free.  Luckily, Traveloni works with some of the finest hotels and luxury tour operators around the world.  I had made my dietary restrictions known while the trip was still being planned.  As a result, our itinerary included hotels and restaurants that were familiar with the concept of gluten free and planned our meals accordingly.  The Hotel Klosterle in Nordlingen even had a gluten free section at their breakfast buffet!

These days, hotels and restaurants around the world are becoming more familiar with the specific restrictions of a gluten free diet.  It is becoming increasingly more common and recognized within the culinary community, which makes life less slightly worrisome for the gluten free traveler.  However, it is still important to specify dietary restrictions while planning your trip so that the hotels and restaurants included in your itinerary will be prepared for your visit.  Even airlines should be made aware of dietary restrictions.

It is always obvious when a restaurant serves you something gluten free that they threw together at the last minute, while everyone else at your table gets to enjoy a thoroughly planned and prepared gourmet meal.  However, this was not the case during my trip to Germany.  Most of the time, I was served the exact same dish as my travel companions but with gluten free substitutes.  I was thankful for the opportunity to enjoy the same entrees and desserts as everyone else.

food1 Unfortunately, my dietary restriction did prevent me from tasting Bavarian beer.  Thanks to the German Purity Law, Bavarian beer is required to use a specific list of ingredients in order to be considered “reinheitsgetbot”, or pure.  While non-alcoholic beers are not uncommon, German beer purists would frown upon gluten free beer.  However, Bavaria does have plenty of vineyards and the region also makes some of the best wine in the world.  Whether red or white, wine makes for an excellent gluten-free beverage alternative.

So that was my experience traveling in Europe, but what happens when gluten free travelers visit all-inclusive resorts in Mexico or the Caribbean?  Most high-end properties, like the Secrets Capri or El Dorado Resorts in Mexico, are going to be accommodating to individual dietary restrictions.  Sandals Resorts in the Caribbean are also known for providing fantastic service and options for those with dietary restrictions.  At the Sandals Montego Bay, I enjoyed a gluten free fire oven pizza from the beachside snack bar that was absolutely delicious.

I recently stayed at the Now Amber in Puerto Vallarta and had a wonderful culinary experience.  One day, I went to their pool snack bar, called the Barefoot Grill, I was dismayed to discover that they that they didn’t offer any gluten free options.  The staff addressed my situation immediately by directing me to the Oceana Restaurant, which sent someone to my lounge chair for specialized service.  They offered to prepare anything from their menu (with the exception of desserts) just for me gluten free.  Not only that, but the restaurant served the food to me by the pool so I could still sit with my friends while they enjoyed a casual lunch from the snack bar.

rumcheese If you are more into sweets, you may find that your all inclusive dessert options are more limited, especially if you eat at an a la carte restaurant.  Making a whole batch of gluten free baked goods for just one person may challenge efficiency.  Therefore, get ready to enjoy lots of ice cream, and if you’re vacationing in Mexico, I hope you like flan!

In Jamaica, I stayed at the Iberostar Grand Montego Bay, which provided the most superior gluten free experience I’ve ever had.  Upon check in, the front desk staff had me meet with the concierge to discuss my meals and dietary restrictions.  When I first got to the room, I found that our mini-bar was stocked with Red Stripe Beer.  After a quick dip in the pool, I returned to our room to discover a full size bottle of Appleton Rum waiting at our mini-bar!  This was a gesture on behalf of the staff so that I could still savor the tastes of Jamaica without disrupting my dietary restriction.

Overall, the concierge and butlers at the Iberostar Grand provided the most superior service I have ever encountered.  They were attentive and accommodating, and when I ordered room service at two in the morning, they knew exactly which late night menu items would be gluten free.  The buffet at the Iberostar Grand had plenty of gluten free options as well.  With plenty of fresh seafood, caviar, and fancy European cheeses, there was no shortage of delicacies for me to enjoy.

Traveloni will always recommend the hotels and tour operators that we trust to provide the utmost customer service.  We strive to ensure that our customers’ needs are met.  That is why we provide personalized consultations to assess your situation before we start planning your ideal vacation.  The goal is utilize our knowledge to provide comfortable, safe, and healthy travel options with recommendations and itineraries designed for you on an individual basis.

Make sure you tell your travel agent if you are gluten free or have other restrictions so that they can recommend resorts and tour operators that are able to accommodate your needs.  Whether you are gluten free or have other requests, the travel specialists at Traveloni are ready to help you plan the perfect vacation!

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Activities to do for first time travelers to London

June 30, 2015

London activitiesIf you’re planning a trip to London for the first time one of the first questions you might ask yourself is what attractions and activities to do while visiting. When taking a vacation to London, one thing you don’t need to worry about is a lack of things to do as you will be spoiled with options to chose from. If you are unsure of what activities in London for your first trip here, these are some of our favorite things to do.

1. The Tower of London

If you’re a self proclaimed history buff you simply can’t visit London without visiting the infamous Tower of London. While visiting you will be able to get up close and personal with the Crown Jewels and take a guided tour by a Yeomen Warder, who’ll be sure to share a few of the Tower’s spine chilling stories with you.

2. The London Eye

For an unbeatable view of the Thames, head to London’s South Bank where you’ll be able to take a scenic ride on the London Eye, which is a large Ferris wheel that was completed in 2000 to celebrate the new millennium. If you are person who is afraid of heights, this might not be an attraction for you as it does go quite high in the air. If you can handle the heights, it truly is a must do activity as it allows you to see London from a different perspective.

3. Madame Tussauds London

If you’re interested in the possibility of getting your photo taken with the Queen, Kate Winslet, Brad Pitt, Nelson Mandela and Yoda all in the same day, be sure to head to Madam Tussauds London, one of the world’s most prestigious wax museums. Madame Tussauds’ wax figures are so life like that you may have to take a double take, just to make sure that you’re not standing next to your favorite celebrity in the flesh.

4. Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is one of London’s most recognized sites and is also must do activity for first time travelers to London. After getting a photo with a Beefeater outside the palace’s world famous gates and witnessing the changing of the guards, make sure to take a book a guided tour of the 19th century palace, which serves as the Queen’s official residence.

5. Thames Hop-On Hop-Off River Cruise

River cruises depart from Westminster Abbey every forty minutes and cruise past a variety of London’s iconic landmarks including Big Ben, the Tower of London and the Houses of Parliament. If you’re interested some cruises even allow you to hop off your boat to explore a site, before hopping on a subsequent boat and resuming your river cruise. If you have the time, I highly recommend booking one of these cruises as it will allow you to see a lot of the main attractions.

6. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

If you’re a Harry Potter fan don’t leave London without visiting the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, where you’ll get the opportunity to explore your favorite sets from the Harry Potter franchise. Examples of which include the Great Hall, Diagon Alley and Ollivanders wand shop.

When taking a vacation to London, one thing you don’t need to worry about is a lack of things to do. If you’re interested in taking a trip here and exploring everything that London has to offer, contact one of our travel experts who can help plan a London vacation you’ll always remember.

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Bavaria, Germany: The Romantic Road

June 4, 2015

munichFor most couples planning a honeymoon or romantic getaway, Germany may not be the first destination that comes to mind.  However, the region of Bavaria offers a great alternative for those who prefer to immerse themselves in history and culture over spending their days lounging by the pool and laying on the beach.  It is a route that takes travelers along the Danube River, towards spectacular sights and incredible experiences.  A journey down Germany’s Romantic Road offers a richness of culture, food, history and architecture unparalleled to other destinations.


Best known for the celebration of Oktoberfest in autumn, this city is alive with reasons to celebrate year round.  In the spring, Bavarians celebrate their asparagus season by preparing this vegetable in a variety of ways.  For fine dining, have a seat at the restaurant Spatenhaus and relish in asparagus accompanied by other Bavarian culinary delicacies.  Asparagus can also be purchased fresh at open-air markets, where visitors can peruse the stalls for handcrafted items and other souvenirs.  Another way to enjoy this city is from one of the numerous beer gardens, where authentic reinheitsgebot, or beverages that pass the German Beer Purity Law, is sold.  To Germans, beer is not just a good time.  It is a significant aspect of Bavarian culture.  In 2016, Germany will celebrate the five hundred year anniversary of the German Beer Purity Law, which makes it the perfect time for beer lovers to pilgrimage to the many breweries and beer gardens of Bavaria.

Munich also offers an extensive art collection on display at the Neue Pinakothek, a famous art museum.  Spend an afternoon gazing upon classical sculptures and medieval paintings.  This museum’s collection even features modern pieces, including some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous works like “Sunflowers” and “Water Lilies”.  Another Munich site worth visiting is the Nymphenburg Palace, where you can tour the incredible rooms and lavish interiors of this 17th century royal complex.  The palace is surrounded by the meticulously kept royal gardens, offering the perfect atmosphere for an afternoon stroll.  A great nature park in Munich to explore is the English Gardens, where you can watch surfers from around the world catch a wave on the river.


This quaint, quiet town is located at a point where the Danube and Wornitz rivers meet.  It has parks and walking paths leading along to the ruins of a castle.  Walking down the cobblestone streets, one might notice the historic church and brightly colored buildings.  These structures were first constructed hundreds of years ago when most residents of Donauworth were illiterate.  The bright colors were used as a means for signifying what kind of business each building contained.  The buildings are maintained with their bright colors intact to this day.  Along the town’s main road is a shop where you can buy traditionally brewed beer, wine and elderberry liquor.  These drinks are poured from the spouts of hundreds of bottles and barrels lining the walls of the shop like a candy store.

For the most incredible vista and romantic experience, stay at the Cityhotel Danauworth.  Each room of this hotel features large glass doors that open up to amazing views of the village and countryside.  Have dinner in the restaurant or on the outdoor patio, where you can watch the sunset while savoring a glass of Bavarian wine.  For an even more romantic experience, take a zille ride for two down the river.  The zille is a small wooden boat that is propelled by a boatman, who will handle the navigation while passengers relax and enjoy the river and natural surroundings.  It is not uncommon to see wildlife, like white swans, while riding the zille.  Appreciate the traditional architecture and gaze upon the stone city walls from the vantage of cruising Danauworth’s waterways.


nordlingen2Rich not only in culture and history, Nordlingen is interesting to those who enjoy science and astronomy as well.  Fourteen thousand years ago, a meteorite struck the earth in this location creating a giant crater.  As a result, the entire valley is called the Norlinger Ries, or Nordlingen Crater, and is covered in unique sediments and minerals that were created as a result of the impact.  These sediments include thousands of miniature diamonds that are contained within the stone used to build many of the town’s structures.  You can learn more about the Nordlingen Crater and other astronomical phenomena at the Ries Crater Museum, which is associated with the UNESCO International Network of Geoparks.  This museum has extraordinary pieces on display including a piece of moon rock from the Apollo 16 mission as well as a portion of the meteorite that collided with Russia in 2013.

While the city that lies in the center of the Nordlingen Crater is first mentioned by recorded history in the year 898, the discovery of Roman ruins suggests that people had inhabited this area long before medieval times.  What is most incredible about this city is that the exteriors of most of Norlingen’s buildings have been well preserved so are almost exactly as they were during the middle ages.  Take a walk through the old tannery district and then proceed to the 13th century “Stone House of Nordlingen”.  This is the town hall where you can gaze through the bars to the dungeon, or “Fools House”, where they once tortured accused witches and other prisoners.  In fact, one of the most famous witch hunts of all time happened in 1590 in the city of Nordlingen, and you can visit the same square where these trials occurred.

A trip to Nordlingen is not complete without a visit to the gothic style Saint Georg’s Church and a climb to the top of its 90 meter bell tower, which residents refer to as “Daniel”.  Inside the tower, you will see what looks like a giant wooden hamster wheel.  This was actually part of an elevator that was once powered by the manpower of prisoners who were forced to run inside the wheel.  The view from the top of Daniel encompasses the entire Norlingen Crater as well as the city walls that surround this medieval city.

nordlingenNordlingen is one of the only towns in Germany that has its original defensive city wall intact.  Visitors can walk along the top of this wall and enjoy even more incredible views.  There are only five entrances to Nordlingen that are accessible by cars, and they are through what were once draw bridges over the moat.  These entrances include what our tour guide referred to as “murder holes”, or the spaces where they would pour boiling water or oil onto invading soldiers.  What was once the moat has been drained and is now used for recreation.  This park that surrounds the entire city includes a bike path, playgrounds, sports fields, an ice skating rink and even a mini-golf course.

While the exterior of Nordlingen’s medieval architecture is incredible, visitors will find that the interiors of these structures are equipped with modern conveniences.  Electricity, plumbing and WIFI are all standard amenities to the hotels and restaurants of this town.  The city is great for walking and exploring with little traffic as many residents prefer to ride their bicycles over cars.

Take a journey outside the city walls to hike the Geopark Ries.  Providing even more spectacular views of the crater, explore Roman ruins as well as the Ofnethöhlen Caves.  This is the site where archeologists found thirty-three decorated and artfully arranged skulls.  Evidence suggests that the skulls belonged to mostly women and children who were beheaded during prehistoric times.

Replenish from hiking at Jaghous Alte Bürg for some lunch with your Bavarian beer.  This restaurant is located in the forest with both indoor and outdoor seating.  It is run by a jäger, or a local hunter, who catches wild boar, venison, and other game.  He then joins his wife in the kitchen to prepare the local delicacies for the restaurant’s guests.  It would be hard for any Bavarian culinary experience to be any more authentic than it gets at Jaghous Alte Bürg!


Drive through the grand entrance of yet another defensive wall to enter the Renaissance city of Neuburg.  This city is home to the Neuburg Castle, built in 1530 for Prince-Elector Otto Henry.  The palace now houses an extensive Baroque art collection.  Under special request, you can visit the gorgeously breathtaking rococo library, which resembles the library from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Inside the library are thousands of books, many of which were taken from monasteries hundreds of years ago.  A lot of the volumes were written by hand before the printing press became widely available.  In order to preserve the books, there is no flash photography allowed inside the library.  Visitors must make prior arrangements in order to see it.  Ask your travel agent to set this up before you go because the library is definitely a must see for anyone who appreciates history and literature.

Make sure you sit down for a Bavarian Feast at the restaurant called Arco Schlösschen.  There, you can enjoy a gourmet meal on a romantic terrace that has spectacular views of the Neuburg Castle and Danube River.  For starters, the restaurant brought us warm lambs lettuce with bacon, bread dumpling, weibwurst carpaccio, Bavarian obatzda savory cheese spread and tartar of smoked fish with horseradish.  This was all served upon a “flying platter”, or a glass plate that was balanced on top of wine glasses.  For the main course, the chef served spanferkelhaxerl, a giant pork knuckle wrapped in bacon on warm Bavarian coleslaw with bread dumpling.  Is your mouth watering yet?

Outside the main city of Neuburg is the Audi Driving Experience.  A major draw for those who enjoy cars and driving, check out the latest Audi models before you gear up and take a spin around the Audi race track.  This attraction is so popular that you must book it at least six months in advance!  If you want to stay somewhere that is in close proximity to the Audi Driving Experience, consider checking in at the nearby Wittelsbacher Golf Club and enjoy a few rounds of gold while you are there.


Situated on the Danube, Naab, and Regen rivers, the entire medieval center of Regensburg is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Inhabited since prehistoric times, the Romans built a fort in Regenburg in the year 179.  It wasn’t until 1245 that this city became a free imperial city, and it continued to serve as a major trade center throughout the middle ages.  You can imagine what the bustling streets of the medieval center of commerce must have been like as you explore the cobblestone alleys and gaze upon its many towers.  There is even a building from the middle ages that was built into preexisting Roman ruins, incorporating the two architectural eras into one structure!

Stop for a quick bite or purchase some mustard at the nine hundred year old Regensburg Wustkuchl, or Sausage Kitchen, on the bank of the Danube.  This restaurant claims to be the oldest sausage kitchen in the world.  While by the river, take a ride on the Donaustrudel.  This original fourteenth century boat was used to transport salt during the Renaissance.  Today, visitors can board this vessel and enjoy a cruise on the Danube.  The boat serves snacks and drinks, because a trip to Bavaria just wouldn’t be complete without a cruise down the Danube with pretzels and beer.

If a trip through Bavaria along Germany’s Romantic Road sounds intriguing, call Traveloni and speak to one of our specialists.  Traveloni consultants can use their knowledge, contacts and experience to design a customized journey through Germany or anywhere else in the world that you’d like to travel.  We understand that trip planning can be overwhelming, which is why our travel professionals are here to help.  We’ve been there, we’ve seen it.  We know where to go and the best way to get there.  Give Traveloni a call at 800-510-5642 and let us plan your trip of a lifetime!

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Tips for Flying with your Kids

May 17, 2015

So just recently a friend of mines took her two year old son for the first time on a plane and from how she described it, it sounds like 5 hours of hell. She mentioned that as soon as she got on the flight he was crying and wouldn’t sit steal and the whole time she was praying that she would arrive at her destination without everyone around her hating her. When I think back to flying with my own kids when they were younger, I must admit that it wasn’t easy. I remember before I had kids I would always think to myself how fun it would be to fly with your own kids but this was hardly ever the case. If you’re looking for some tips that can help hopefully make it easier to fly with your own kids, you can try some of these things that I have done over the years that has helped.

Whether it being for a quick flight or for a longer one, you need to make sure that you bring things that will keep your kids occupied. I will admit as compared to my time, which wasn’t that long ago, it is a lot easier to keep kids entertained with the types of devices that are out today. One essential to have to help keep your kids entertained is an iPad. With this you can have a lot of different things that can keep them busy from games, videos, books and a lot more. With this one recommendation I have is scheduling different things you can do with them for your flight. For longer flights you might want to create a schedule of things to do such as starting off with some games in the beginning of the flight and then maybe watch a movie and followed by reading them a story to hopefully help them fall asleep.

Over the years with flying with my three kids, one thing that I learned to do is to bring something for the people sitting around you. When I first started flying with my one year old, I would bring ear plugs for everyone sitting around me just in case. As my kids got older and knowing that they don’t sit quietly for long periods of time, I would bring snacks or other types of things and hand them out to people sitting next to me before the flight took off. Another thing that you might think about doing is talking to the people sitting next to you and let them know that if at any time your kids become to much for them to let you know so you can handle the problem. While this might seem like a lot, it is always a good idea to make sure you think about the people sitting around you.

If your kids are anything like mines, it will also be important to pack some food and drinks for your flight. While some airlines still offer food and drinks, it is important that you pack your own as well in your carry-on. I know for me when I used to fly with my kids, this used to be my go to thing to keep them happy.

While flying with your kids for a vacation can be tough at times, I think it is well worth it as you get to take them some place new where they can experience different things they can’t find at home.

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