Transportation Tips

Vienna, the city of palaces!

It is amazing how many beautiful buildings and palaces you can find in Vienna (Wien), Austria. The emperors kept building and building new palaces and beautiful buildings.

Flying to Vienna
You can fly into Vienna Airport (VIE) in Schwechat (in German Flughafen Wien-Schwechat). The airport is around 11 miles from Central Vienna and around 35 miles from Bratislava, Slovakia. In Slovak the airport is called Letisko Viedeň-Schwechat. Vienna International Airport makes a good hub to base your travel into the center of Europe.

Getting to Vienna by train
Take a train to Wien Mitte which is like 10 minutes walking distance to the stunning St. Stephen’s gothic cathedral (Domkirche St.Stephan or Steffl). Vienna has lovely pedestrian streets. From St. Stephen’s, you can stroll on the Graben to Kohlmarkt to Heldenplatz.

Heldenplatz
Once you get to the Heldenplatz, you can find your way around to see various magnificent buildings in this area. Check out the Hofburg, Neue Burg, Maria-Theresien-Platz and Albertina. There is also the Volksgarten and Burggarten (Castle Garden). You can also visit the Schmetterlinghaus (Palm Haus). There is really one fascinating building after the other.

Viennese Food
Take some time off to enjoy some good Viennese food. The emperors knew how to eat. You may wish to try Wiener Schnitzel (cutlet) and Tafelspitz (beef). Try some really good desserts such as Kaiserschmarrn (fluffy pancakes with apple sauce and powdered sugar), Viennese Apfelstrudel , and Sachertorte (chocolate cake) with your coffee (melange) at the local cafes. Cafe Demel is a famous bakery and chocolatier that you could visit.

Summer Palaces
You will need more time to visit the Summer Palaces of the Habsburg rulers located around the city. They are spectacular. Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens are really huge. You can also visit the magnificent Belvedere Baroque Palace and Gardens. You can see the great display of wealth of the emperors. This city is really a city of palaces!

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Cruising the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean has many beautiful places that can be explored by ship. The Mediterranean itself can be a destination. Enjoy sailing on the blue waters enjoying your favorite food while visiting with friends or family.
Each Cruise package has many different options. Cruises may divide the Mediterranean between the Western Mediterranean and Eastern Mediterranean (Adriatic Sea). The Western Mediterranean Cruise may visit places like Barcelona (Spain), Marseille (France), Monte Carlo, Civitavecchia (for Rome, Italy) and Naples (Italy). Eastern Mediterranean cities may include Venice (Italy), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Athens, (Greece), and Santorini (Greece).
There may be trips inland to cities like Florence (Italy) and Rome (Italy). You can either sign up for the cruise tours at port or venture on your own self-guided tour or hire a local guide at lower expense. So you can have both the convenience of the cruise package or your own custom itinerary.
There are so many things to do on a cruise. For an example you can have a great family reunion with members of the family of different ages all dining together on the cruise. The ships are handicap accessible and so both young and old can find things to do together. Each can choose to enjoy the cruise at their own pace. Lay on deck and soak in the sun. Enjoy the pool. Eat to your hearts content. Watch the entertainment on board. Sleep in your own cabin. Get a cabin with an ocean view so you can enjoy the views. It is a basically a floating city. The cool thing is this “hotel” takes you from one city to another!


The Romantic Rhine

You can cruise the Rhine from Amsterdam, Netherlands via the German Heartland to Basel, Switzerland. Rhine starts its journey from Lake Toma, in the Swiss Canton of Graubünden and winds its way to Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The Rhine actually passes through Switzerland, Liechtenstein , Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands. There is so much history along the Rhine. It used to be the boundary between civilized Europe and untamed lands beyond. There is so much to see along the Rhine.

Rhine Falls, Switzerland
Rhine Falls or Rheinfall in German is Europe’s largest waterfall. In some ways resembles the Niagara Falls between United States and Canada. Rhine Falls is located near Schaffhausen , in Switzerland just across from the German border.

Lake Bodensee
Lake Constance (Bodensee in German) is one of the lakes on the Rhine. Bodensee borders Austria, Germany and Switzerland. You can basically visit all 3 countries by boat. Principality of Liechtenstein is around 30 minutes by car from the Bodensee (Lake Constance).

Basel, Switzerland
Basel, Switzerland on the Rhine is a good transportation hub to pretty much get anywhere in Europe, especially to your Alpine destinations. A good place to rest and sight see in the lower elevation before going up into higher altitudes of the Alps.

Mainz to Kobenlz, Mid Rhine, Germany
The mid Rhine is probably the most romantic part of the Rhine. German towns from Mainz to Kobenlz, Germany will take you back in time. Take the Rhine ferries to slow down and soak in the beauty.

The Moselle River to Luxembourg
The Moselle River meets the Rhine River at Kobenlz. Moselle can take you all the way to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (Luxembourg actually means Little Castle). Towns along the Moselle such as Zell and Cochem are simply breathtaking.

Heidelberg, Germany
Take another detour along the River Neckar (Neckar meets the Rhine at Mannheim) to Heidelberg, Germany. Heidelberg is both romantic and picturesque. It is definitely worth the detour.

Netherlands
Keep following the River Rhine and you will end up in Rotterdam, Netherlands which is Europe’s largest port with plenty of good places to eat and shop. For the romantic side visit Amsterdam.


Lauterbrunnen Valley to Jungfraujoch Switzerland

Switzerland is also known in Latin as Confoederatio Helvetica. That is why their internet domain is .CH. You will need to use the Swiss Franc (CHF) when in Switzerland.

Flying to Switzerland
If you are flying from the USA, you would probably fly into either Geneva (373.6 m – French speaking area of Switzerland) or Zurich (408 m -German speaking area of Switzerland). Basel Airport ( EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg ) is also an option but it is actually located in France. Basel EuroAirport serves Germany, France and Switzerland.

Altitude Sickness
Take your time in these lower elevations to acclimate to the altitude. You should drink plenty of water as you recover from your flight especially if you are flying across the Atlantic from the USA.

Interlaken
From any of those cities, you will need to get a train to Interlaken ( the city between lakes Brienz and Thun at 566m). Interlaken is a good base to explore the Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Bernese Oberland. The train system is excellent in Switzerland and runs on time like Swiss clockwork.

Bernese Oberland and the Lauterbrunnen Valley
There is so much to see in the Bernese Oberland (Bernese Highlands) area. You can use Interlaken as a base camp to travel further south in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Interlaken has all the modern conveniences you need. If you are not into too much walking, just ride the train from Interlaken Ost Station to Jungfraujoch. Jungfraujoch (Virgin Pass) is the highest railway station in Europe or Top of Europe. You will be going up in elevation from 566 meters in Interlaken to 3454 meters in Jungfraujoch.

Jungfraujoch
There is more than one way to get to Jungfraujoch. You can take the train from Interlaken (566m), Zweilütschinen (652m), Lauterbrunnen (795m), Wengen (1274m) (car free), Kleine Scheidegg (2061m) (beautiful place to stop) and then on to Jungfraujoch (3454m). The other option is to take the train from Interlaken, Zweilütschinen, Grindelwald (at 1034m another very beautiful place), Kleine Scheidegg and on to Jungfraujoch. Take one way up and another way down as the journey can be the destination on this route. You will pass through Alpine scenery and then on to see the snowy peaks above timber line. Jungfrau stands at 13,642ft or 4158m. Jungfrau, Eiger (3967m) and Monch (4107m) peaks form a massive range overlooking the Lauterbrunnen valley.

The Lauterbrunnen Valley
The Lauterbrunnen Valley is a must see area of Switzerland. The contrast between the snowy peaks with the green Lauterbrunnen valley with many waterfalls is a site to see. The picturesque Lauterbrunnen village with the 300m high Staubbach Falls cascading down the mountain is breathtaking.

Wengen
From Lauterbrunnen, you can take the cogwheel train to Wengen (car free) to get a gorgeous view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Take time and smell the mountain air and soak in the Alpine scenery. Beautiful view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley for your photos for instagram.

Gimmelwald Village
Or from Lauterbrunnen, take a cable car to Grütschalp and then by mountain rail to Murren. Then hike downhill to Gimmelwald Village to go back in time. Enjoy the alpine scenery, the flowers and breathe in the fresh mountain air. It is well worth it. There is even a gondola that goes to Schilthorn from Gimmelwald for more exploration. The options seem endless. You can be lost in the Bernese Oberland and loving it.


Flying KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Schiphol International Airport Netherlands

Schiphol International Airport Netherlands

Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport  (AMS) is a good place start your trip to Europe or connect to the far corners of the earth. Flying KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from the US to Europe gives you plenty of good flight options. You get good flying times  and good connections.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (merged with Air France) resulting in another major hub in Europe which is Paris–Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). Delta Airlines (merged with Northwest Airlines)  partners with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to provide most of the US side of the connections to Europe. Major hubs such as Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) and Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport (MSP) makes connections to Europe a breeze.  For an example an easy connection from Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport to either Minneapolis or Atlanta and then non-stop to Amsterdam.

AAmsterdam Schiphol Airport

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Once you get into Amsterdam, you can connect to pretty much anywhere in the world. There is even a non-stop flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL KLIA1 or KLIA2 Malaysia), which then connects you to pretty much anywhere in the Asia Pacific region.

 Amsterdam Schiphol Railway Station

Amsterdam Schiphol Railway Station

Amsterdam Schiphol Train Station is the place to start your train connections. You can even connect to Belgium right from Schiphol Airport Train Station.

Amsterdam Centraal Train Station Netherlands

Amsterdam Centraal Train Station Netherlands

Amsterdam is only like 20 minutes away from Schiphol Airport. Take a train to Amsterdam Centraal Train Station from which you can get on a train to pretty much anywhere in Europe.

 


Dubai International Airport

The world has become a much smaller place. Most flights to the Pacific Rim are usually via the US West Coast.  Of course you could fly from Chicago, USA via the North Pole over China to say Hong Kong. Do consider another way to get to the Pacific Rim via Dubai. You would have then circumvented the globe by going over Europe, Turkey, Iraq and the Persian Gulf to get to Asia or Australia. Qantas and Emirates have partnered to offer codeshare flights. Transiting via Dubai Airport to the Pacific Rim was easy. There is no need to leave the airport. Just relax and take a break and you will be on your next flight to your final destination.

New York to Dubai

Flying Emirates Airline New York (JFK), USA to Dubai (DXB), UAE and beyond

The new Dubai (DXB) Terminal 3 is a beauty. Dubai International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world.  Flying Emirates Airlines is an experience. Food was great and the planes were new. The flight attendants were multi cultural and fluent in multiple languages. Most of them looked like models. Emirates passengers can eat at their lounges. The buffet was good and complimentary.

You will find both Western and Asian toilets at the Dubai International Airport. You can get all the modern conveniences of shopping in Dubai. This airport is like a huge mall with many places to both eat and shop. While you wait to board your next flight you will have plenty to do. You can get around the airport and everyone serving you was able to speak English.

You can also people watch. East meets West.  You can hear languages from all over the world. Shops are staffed by mostly foreigners from outside of United Arab Emirates. You can find the whole world transiting through this airport. A sampling of people groups, for an example Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians, Middle-Easterners,  Central Asians, Russians, Indians, Indonesians and Australians. Watch people with different ethnic clothing headed to different destinations, for an example some dressed for pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

There are also spas, health centers, medical facilities and hotels within the airport. Dubai International Hotel is located in Terminal 3. So the airport is pretty much a “city” of its own.


Making the Road Trip More Entertaining for the Family

How many more miles?  How much longer?  I’m BORED!

Sound familiar, parents?

One great solution that our family loves during our longer road trips is to listen to Adventures in Odyssey.  It’s a radio show done by Focus on the Family ministries.  Don’t confuse it with an audio book.  I’m sure that some of those can be nice, too, but these are dramas, with actors’ varying voices, sound effects, etc.  Just when everyone is getting on each other’s nerves, it’s great to stop and listen to a show together, laugh together, and enjoy each other’s company again.

There are a variety of collections available.  You start off with just a single CD if you’re not sure if your family will enjoy them or not.  For example, Amazon has this one:

One thing that we like about these CDs is that the whole family listens and enjoys them together.  It’s all part of a shared fun family memory, instead of each child being busy on their own device.

If you find that your kids enjoy them as much as ours do, and honestly we adults enjoy them, too, here are a few collections that are great.

Here’s our favorite collection (so far!):

In The Ultimate Road Trip, you’ll find that every story has a theme of some kind of vacation or road trip adventure.  For our family, these were the first we listened to on our first trip from the middle of the country to the East coast, so they have become classics that we go back and listen to again.  In fact, we also listened to the same stories on our trip to the West coast, and many other road trips as well.

Another good option for a starter CD would be this one, to explain all the main characters for those not familiar with the radio show:

If you would like to work on character development as well as entertain, there are themed collections, such as this one that includes different stories that highlight the importance of being honest:

This one is just a few episodes focusing on Respect:

Or, how could you go wrong with a special collection of fans’ favorite episodes?

These are just a few suggestions.  The main thing is to make sure to keep the road trip a fun family adventure, and these CDs help you all listen to the same thing, rather than each child listening to their own device on headphones.  You can laugh and enjoy the shows together.


River Thames Cruise London United Kingdom

Thames London United Kingdom

Thames London United Kingdom

London Thames Clippers

London Thames Clippers

 

I had very little time in London on one of my trips but sure made the most of it. It was raining but I got into a Thames Clipper (fast river boat), stayed warm and dry while watching one landmark after another go by. You can really see a lot by just taking a ride in one of these beautiful Thames Clippers.

London River Cruise

London Tower Bridge – River Cruise

I started from the Emirates Air Line (which is a cable line that goes across the Thames River), with an aerial view of London. It is a beautiful view if you don’t mind the heights. I then took a Thames Clipper to London Eye. Worth every penny spent! Once you get off at the London Eye, you can walk across the Westminster Bridge to Big Ben. You can take all the photos from the Westminster Bridge with the Big Ben and the Parliament buildings in the background. Walk a little further and visit the Westminster Abbey. It is gorgeous. There is an Underground Tube station (Subway Train)  nearby that will hustle you to your next destination.

Westminster Tube Station London

Westminster Tube Underground Subway Station London United Kingdom


Schiphol International Airport Amsterdam Netherlands

Schiphol Train Hub Amsterdam

Schiphol Train Hub Amsterdam

An amazing airport where you can shop, dine, sleep, shower, check into a hotel and it is all integrated with a sophisticated transportation hub. It is also beautifully designed to make you feel like you have room to rest and relax! You can pretty much fly from anywhere to every where. They have places where you can securely lock your luggage and leave the airport for a trip into Amsterdam or connect to major European cities by train. The airport is clean and green (eco friendly). Most locals speak good English, friendly and helpful to travelers. The security screening process is also efficient and fast given the number of passengers that are routed from this airport.

Schiphol International Airport Netherlands

Schiphol International Airport Netherlands

Schiphol is the hub for the KLM (Royal Dutch) Airlines. Many other Premium and Low Cost Carriers fly via Schiphol Amsterdam. There is no need to drive or take a train to get to your low cost airlines if that is your choice.  This makes the airport a great hub to start your journey into Europe or other continents.

Schiphol International Airport Netherlands

 


Hong Kong International Airport China

Hong Kong International Airport China

Hong Kong International Airport China

This is a major transportation hub in the Pacific Rim. You can get from pretty much anywhere in Asia to the USA from Hong Kong. We flew Cathay Pacific. You can get all the Western food and tasty Chinese food at the airport. Our kids got their McDonald’s. The bathrooms are clean and the airport is run efficiently. The airport is a huge mall.  It is a great place for a break after the long journey across the Pacific Ocean from the United States.

Hong Kong International Airport China

Hong Kong International Airport China