Exploring Europe? What you need to know before you go

Traveling to Europe - flight is good

If you are planning on exploring Europe this summer in 2023, here is what you need to know before you go. After returning from back-to-back small group tours this past month, I thought, I better let my followers know what’s ahead for European travel. Traveling this summer to Europe is gonna be EPIC. Just wow! From the UK to Italy to Greece and beyond, Europe is gonna be covered up!

So, here it is what to pack to where is my passport, here are my 2023 Europe Travel Tips if you are heading overseas. I am just one travel advisor and I have over a dozen families, couples, groups heading to Europe this summer. Revenge Travel is real.

European Destinations Booking Page

I specialize in custom-designed European itineraries! Whether you are interested in exploring the historic cities of Paris, Rome, or London or cruising through the scenic waterways of Europe, or soaking up the sun in the Med, I’ve got you covered. I create personalized itineraries that are based on your personal preferences, interests, and travel style. Whether you’re a solo traveler, a couple, or a group of friends and family, I can create an itinerary that suits your journey of a lifetime!



I have been exploring Europe extensively over the years and I can honestly say I have never seen the sites this crowded. From school trips to bachelor parties, family get-togethers, honeymooners, you name it, everyone is traveling. So be prepared.

Traveling to Europe - Trevi in April
Book Ahead

If you are planning to explore Europe this summer remember to book ahead. From concert tickets to dinner reservations, DO NOT WAIT until the last minute to make reservations for anything.

Most restaurants require reservations now EVEN FOR TWO people. Please don’t assume you can walk up to a restaurant and get a table for six at 7:00 p.m. anywhere in Europe without a reservation. You will enjoy kebab, pizza or Mcdonald’s. SMH! 

Museums and shows are equally packed so PLAN, PLAN AHEAD. If tickets are available online PURCHASE them in advance. Most places have QWERTY codes attached, either screenshot these and keep them in a separate album in your photos library or print them off and carry them with you. From the Book of Kells to the Sistine Chapel – THEY ARE SOLD OUT! Again, DO NOT WAIT!

Pack Light/Safe Bags

Next up packing for Europe this summer. I get this question quite a bit from clients, how/what do I pack? If you are traveling for a 9-10 day adventure, please only pack for 7 days plus of course underthings for every day. MOST airlines have a weight limit of 50# unless you have priority status with them and then the poundage goes up. If your luggage weighs more than 50# you will pay an extra fee. These luggages come in all colors, I do recommend a hard cover over a soft cover. The price difference is minimal.

Airlines vary in extra fees (be sure to check yours in advance before arriving to the airport.) The last thing you want is to have to shift things and shove or throw away clothing while waiting in line to check in.

Do I need a pick-pocket safe bag?

The short answer to this question. Yes, you do. I’ll put a few options here below for you PLEASE, whatever you do, don’t wear a backpack. This is one of the most common bags for criminals/thieves to get into.

Baggallini Everywhere Bag

If you can find an RFID purse/bag these are the best. Consider it one more layer of safety and protection. Slings across your chest are great or purses that are in your front are better.


Should we get €uros or £ before going overseas? This question is asked all the time as well. Here’s my answer.

First, if you would like to order a small amount (€100/£100) before you travel to Europe for a little safety, you can do this most times through your local bank. Many times (the exchange is typically pretty bad and there might even be a fee) ORDER THESE WAY in advance, sometimes it takes weeks.

Here are a few DO NOTs PLEASE…🙏

DO NOT exchange $ at the Airports – these are some of the worst conversions Awful exchange rates and fees to boot. 

DO NOT take/withdraw money out at exchange kiosks/machines these are equally bad!! Please, please avoid these, I call them EuroNOTs, the exchange is awful and they also charge a fee. Your €250 could turn out to be well over $300.


  1. Notify your ATM/BANK card company stateside to let them know you are traveling internationally and will be getting out money at Bank ATMs when you are abroad 
  2. ONLY USE ATM/BANK(preferably inside a bank)  machines to exchange money (right outside the bank is fine too, but make sure the ATM is a part of the actual bank)
    1. Change the language to English
    2. Use different denomination amounts for smaller bills otherwise you could get stuck with unusable €100/£100 bills that no one likes to take at smaller venues.
  3. How much should I get out? My recommendation is no more that €200/£200 per person at any time unless you plan to make a huge purchase. You can also split it up. If you are pick-pocketed (any amount is not ideal to “lose” but this is not as bad)
  4. Do your research before you go Map out the distance from your hotel/Airbnb to the closest BANK ATM upon your arrival and make this your first stop.


Another question I get asked? Which credit card do I need? When you are exploring Europe you will find pretty much everyone takes MasterCard and Visa. Hardly anyone takes American Express or Discover anymore. The few vendors that do are typically annoyed that you even asked. 

In the words of my Italian friends, “They don’t have Italian Express, why would we take American Express.” Amex charges vendors a higher fee and as a consumer you should be careful as well because there may also be a foreign currency fee that can surprise you on your next bill. Save AMEX for America.

Also, not a commercial but I do get asked this question a lot, which card do you use? I have a Chase Visa Travel Preferred Card to help with travel expenses and benefits, this is the easiest for me to use and for Europeans to accept. The annual fee is $95 and offers some good incentives for a frequent traveler that I enjoy.

Additionally, more and more restaurants, stores, even farmers markets are taking credit cards since COVID. The contactless free environment has arrived. So this is another reason to have a good card and not feel like you have to carry as much cash around.

I participate in affiliate programs through Amazon and other vendors if you participate in the links provided, I do earn a very small percentage and appreciate every little bit. Thank you.

Getting Sick

So some bad news something is going around. Booo! While exploring Europe I came back with some kind of virus. I just got back from Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Germany, and Austria. Upon landing stateside recently, I ran to my doctor to get tested because it felt like COVID. Luckily it was not COVID, RSV, or the Flu. So we concluded it definitely was a virus. 

It was pretty bad too. On my return flight from Ireland, the cacophony of coughs sounded like a muted classical ballad and not in a good way. 

THANK YOU!!! As a matter of fact, I had a coughing fit so bad before boarding the plane and couldn’t get my credit card to work at the vending machine I broke down and cried. Thankfully, a complete stranger offered me her full-unopened water bottle for the flight. If you are reading this and were on flight DL177 you are an ANGEL sent from above and I thank you so much!!

AND YES! I wore my mask the whole 7 hours home. Ugh… they are the worst. 

However, I would recommend wearing one on your flight as well if you have flu-like symptoms, (cough, congestion, runny nose, sinus headaches) please consider wearing a mask on the flight this summer. This virus is a doozy.

Should I get travel insurance?

Definitely before COVID, I was always hesitant about getting travel insurance, was it worth it, what does it really cover… is it just a scam? However, post-COVID, I always recommend that people purchase insurance based on their comfort level. The companies that I use specialize in traveling to Europe and travel in the Caribbean. They now have policies that include some coverage for COVID, cancellations, and unforeseen circumstances. 

As far as I know, there aren’t any insurance companies that cover a full 100% of your trip but there are several that will cover the majority of your expenses in the case of cancellation and medical (not pre-existing) while you are traveling. They are pretty good, not great. Like I said, it’s your comfort level. 

Ask for a quote?

However, I do know that medical expenses overseas especially if you have to travel for medical reasons between places can be pricey. Also not an advertisement, but if you need help sifting through options let me know. I’m happy to help. 


Here are a few passport concerns we are seeing? DON’T WAIT to RENEW or REPLACE.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: A Passport is really only good for 9 years not 10!  Apply at least 6 months before you NEED IT AND apply six to nine months before your expiration date to renew. 

If you apply for a passport it could take 6-12 weeks to arrive or longer after you have completed all the necessary paperwork. If there is a hiccup, unsigned documents, names missing, names not matching, married, unmarried names, etc. it will take a bit longer. PREPARE to WAIT! The Passport offices are backlogged with travelers wanting to travel and are trying to keep up. 


Also a frequent question. One I ask all my travelers before completing their itinerary. MOST European countries need at least 6 months on your passport before expiration for you to travel in their country. Check travel.state.gov to be sure for the country you are visiting. 

If you arrive at the airport and your passport is due to expire, you will be turned away and sometimes the expense is uber costly. So PLEASE CHECK!

Some Good news while exploring Europe!

The good news is most places are very happy to see us back. Exploring Europe doesn’t have to be uber stressful. If you are o.k. with slowing down a bit and chilling at a local park or just grabbing a drink/cup of coffee you can just relax and enjoy the people watching.


One of my favorite tips is to enjoy a FREE tour of the city or Hop on a Hopon/Hopoff bus. YES, I know they are cheesy as all get out, but they also give you great, safe transportation around the city with a bit of history. If you didn’t get tickets to something this is an EASY button and kinda fun. 

Did you know Virgin Voyages has Mediterranean Sailings? Adult-Only Cruises designed for adults!

Virgin Voyages Cruise Front Page

Check out the LOCAL SCENE

Ask at your hotel/Bnb what is happening locally. We found out Bruce Springsteen and the EStreetBand were in Dublin the weekend we were there. No, we didn’t go see them, but we did have some great chats at pubs talking about it. We did find out there was a protest for the coronation and although I was super interested we skipped that and went to a pub instead. 

Additionally, you can check out the local festivals before you go. For instance, heading to Amsterdam, London or Paris this summer, they have the most amazing markets (check out to see if your dates line up and hit a local market) super fun. In Rome, check out the Trastevere neighborhood this is amazing food and cool architecture.

This is my short list of traveling to Europe this past month, I’ll be heading back soon to Ireland for another small group tour. Thanks for following, liking, and sharing my blog. More soon!

It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!
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When NOT to visit Hawaii

I have really struggled with writing this blog, vlog, and podcast for my recent visit to Hawaii this past February, I am still a bit traumatized. For sure, if you travel as much as we do, you are not going to win them all. I struggled even with the title, Hawaii – #epicfail or Hawaii in February really bites, but landed on this When NOT to visit Hawaii. 

Traveling absolutely has challenges always.  However, after completing my Travel Agent State of Hawaii specialist course I thought I had all the details even when not to visit Hawaii. As it turns out, Hawaii does not have 72-degree sunny days every single day and there is a rainy season. Now I know that is why the airfare and accommodation rates drop just a bit to fly and stay on the Big Island. 

I’m leading in with a really uplifting article I know but I gotta be honest, right? So here’s a recap of what became a hysterical, but sad tale. I am giving YOU all the details so you know when NOT to visit Hawaii.

Schedule a Travel Planning CONSULT TODAY!


It rained 9 out of 10 days this past February 17 – 27 on the BIG Island, so I apologize for all the gray depressing photos and videos it was truly out of my control. We did explore and have moments of Aww for sure. This island had a huge draw for me because of all the hiking, snorkeling, and sea life I had read about. 

Also, in my defense, I Googled before going “When not to visit Hawaii?” and February isn’t even listed as being a bad month, The Hawaii Vacation Guide says to avoid June through November.

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Holy costs a lot! 

I know as a Travel Advisor/Agent that Hawaii is the most expensive US destination next to Alaska but we were unbelievably unprepared for how much more it would be. After all, we visited Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Belgium. Hawaii surpassed them all. Whatever you have budgeted or spent before you hit the island, be prepared for a bit more. At some point, we just went with it. What are you going to do? Ya gotta eat and that’s what credit cards are for.

One breakfast at the resort we ordered avocado toast, a ham and cheese croissant sandwich, two coffees, and an orange juice and it was $70 with tip. No kidding. We learned very quickly to find local places that were affordable and decent. 

TRAVEL TIP: You can lose a little weight and save money on trips like these by splitting meals. #notkidding  HA! 

One of our favorite affordable stops was Island Gourmet Market located near Waikoloa Village Resort and within walking distance. It is a little bit of a walk (30 minutes or about 1.5 miles) but there is a shuttle from the resort too. (It’s $10 per person for the roundtrip ride.) 

We found many more local places that were unique throughout the island too and I’ll share that below in Good Eats. We stayed in the Waikoloa resort area for five days and then made our way west to the Kilauea Military Camp and Hawai’i Volcano National Park. Additionally, on this visit the volcano that has been moltening for over 20 years was dormant during our stay, hahaha, we just couldn’t get a break.


VOLCANO & Staying at KMC

Our favorite part of the trip was literally this stay at the Kilauea Military Camp. I know a “stay” here is not accessible for everyone. Active duty and retirees only are allowed to stay in the camp. However, it is close by in the National Volcano park is The Volcano House we enjoyed the gift shop here and a few very nice meals. 

Kilauea Military Camp

The Military camp has cabins and houses that date back to the 40s and President  Eisenhower actually stayed here while visiting too. Stays are based on rank and a full COL and above can stay in the Eisenhower House. We enjoyed the smaller one-bedroom cabin closer to the parade circle.

Our cabin had a fully handi-capable bathroom, mini-kitchen with coffee service,  living room with a firep

lace, and two double beds. It was super cozy on rainy days to just curl up on the couch with Netflix and watch the rain come down outside. 

Cozy Cabin

The camp also has a General Store and was reasonably priced. Thankfully, it is open to the public. You do not need to be a military service person/retiree to use the General Store at KMC. It had a lot of food items, clothing, etc. we loved having access to while we were there.

KMC General Store - visit Hawaii
Kilauea Military General Store

Within walking distance of the cabins, hiking trails abound. When the volcano is active, visitors and staff say to go at night to see the ground all aglow. Again, it totally bit because it was too foggy and rainy. I definitely recommend taking a few trails we met some wildlife and incredible scenery.


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50% off the second sailor.


When you visit Hawaii, you will want to try out the restaurants and there were plenty of good eats around the island. Here are a few restaurants we really enjoyed. I can find more in my upcoming blog and vlog on Where to EAT on the BIG ISLAND of Hawaii, here are some of my favorites.

Bombay Chicken Bowl

Waikoloa Resort Side

Big Island Gourmet Market

We enjoyed breakfast and lunch here. It was affordable and fresh and close to the resort area. One morning we stopped for pancakes and an egg sandwich and then for lunch, we enjoyed a steak sandwich and Reuben with curly fries.  

Island Greens

Fresh greens and salad options with fresh meat and fish, or vegetarian. Great service, inside a mall and close to the Big Island Gourmet Market. Check out these pics, it was refreshing to have this option as well and a bit different. 

Foster’s Kitchen

Big-time loved Foster’s Kitchen. The staff was professional and attentive and ready to serve. Our plates were so fresh and pretty. Even though it was raining and windy outside we enjoyed upstair porch seating in Kona and had a great lunch. We enjoyed an appetizer of pimento cheese and cajun shrimp, Thai Chicken Salad, and Grilled Fish of the Day with veggies. 

TRAVEL TIP:  If you visit Hawaii during busy times, especially in these resort areas, I would recommend making reservations in advance.

IBEROSTAR Grand Bavaro

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Travel must be before October 31, 2023

Hilo Side

Hilo Bay Club

Considered to be THE BEST RESTAURANT in HILO – we were pretty thrilled to find a seat at this super popular eatery. Again with the gray skies but when your cocktails are made to delight, you can overlook the gloom and doom. We enjoyed lovely crabcakes here with remoulade sauce, I had the Bombay Fried Chicken Bowl with curry, potatoes, chimichurri sauce, curry yogurt slaw, and sweet heat pickled onions. YUM!! I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Kula Shaved ICE

I know. WHAT! Wendy, are you nuts? In this weather? A shaved ice take-out window is a FAVORITE restaurant? Absolutely, shaved ice is an island favorite. Today, for breakfast, I enjoyed an ACAI bowl with oats that was life-changing. HA! As Jon says “leckerschmecker!” We shared the bowl because it was so big and it was filled with fresh berries and sauces. 

On our visit to Hawaii, most of our activities were washed out, so I can’t really write about all of them, it’s just too sad. However, here are a few that I loved.

Visit Hawaii – Activities to do!

SWIMMING with the Manta Rays

My absolute favorite activity on the island was this special night. If you visit Hawaii, Hawai’i island you must swim with the Manta Rays. It is an unbelievable, unforgettable experience. 

For more information on the tour click this LINK. Our boat was smaller but not too small thankfully because it was extremely choppy on the water. It’s about a 40-minute boat ride out to the Manta Ray location. I met some honeymooners and families, and everyone said they were looking forward to this experience. 

This was an amazing experience and I had so much fun doing this and meeting these gentle sea creatures. Be sure to check out the vlog for more underwater footage. We met in Kailua-Kona at the docks and made our way into the dark night, hold on tight, cause it was a bumpy ride. Be sure to check out the vlog coming out soon for video footage!

TRAVEL TIP: Definitely bring some SeaBands they will help with the motion sickness. 

Black Sand Beach
Black Sand Beach

My next favorite activity was visiting Black Sand Beach. This unique and unearthly-looking beach is a tourist highlight when visiting Hawai’i Island. We had another overcast sky and the water was a bit too rough to get in and play with the turtles. Instead, we sat along the coast and watched the waves rush in. During our visit, there was a Sea Turtle napping that was protected by wildlife workers. 

There’s a souvenir shop where you can purchase some t-shirts, and sweaters (wink) when the temperature drops and winds start blowing. HA! 

Gift Shop & Essentials

Parking is a bit tricky if you don’t mind walking a bit. There’s a much larger parking lot before you get close to the beach. You will have to walk by some abandoned buildings that look a bit sketch. It was a little easier to park there than right near the beach.

TRAVEL TIP: The Black Sand Beach is also super hot, so be prepared, you will want to get wet. 

Rainbow Falls

We happened upon Rainbow Falls on our first trip to Hilo. Hilo is a big town on the west coast of Hawai’i island. It is the tropical side and has more rain, so I was prepared for a bit more. Locals had told us the roads to Hilo had been washed out. Some were not driveable so we looped around the island in what was probably an unconventional way. Although we saw massive rushing waters, no rainbow was to be found, since we needed just a bit of sun for that.

Rainbow Falls is right in the heart of Hilo and a very easy stop while you are visiting. There was plenty of parking as well. Additionally, on a sunnier day, you could enjoy a hike up to the top of the falls. The views from this trail were a bit different.

As you can see, the sun was just not meant to be our friend in Hawaii. So when NOT to visit Hawai’i? I would definitely skip January and February again. Jon and I hope to come back someday and visit Kauai Island and perhaps Maui. Now that I know when to go it should be able to have sunnier brighter days. 

The Hits kept COMING!

As we were making our way to the airport we got some fantastic news. (Note the sarcasm) It was snowing in Los Angeles and our flight would be a 6-hour delay departing Kona at 4:00 a.m. You might think these hiccups don’t happen to travel professionals, but let me assure you, they happen to us all. My friend, Kelly sent me a pic from LA while I was there.

We made the best of it! Really cool human things happen when you face these dilemmas and people unite. They help each other, frequent travelers get it and go with the flow, and after all…

It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!
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Christmas Market Cruise along the Rhine

Phew, has it been a hot second since I’ve had a minute to sit down and write and create? This past Christmas Market holiday season I was in Europe for 54 days! What an incredible blessing, I spent several weeks on private small group Christmas Market Tours along the Mosel and one week on a Christmas Market cruise along the Rhine aboard the MS Oscar Wilde of the Riviera River Cruise Fleet.  

I am so excited to share my week on the Rhine exploring this gorgeous ancient river lined with castles, vineyards and sweeping hills. And bonus, it even started to snow while we were sailing. Like a nice little European Snow globe.


We arrived a day early for a pre-stay to visit the Christmas Markets in Cologne and I’m super glad we did because it was a Monday and Mondays are totally not as busy for Christmas Markets as the weekends are. 

Köln got its name for being the first Roman Colony outside of Rome. There is a fantastic Roman-German History Museum in the heart of the city, but it is under construction at the moment so we missed out on having a tour there. But Jon and I went a few years back and I learned all about the Roman occupation and development of this area. 

Cologne is fantastic and has about 9 Christmas Markets to see. When I was living in Germany, I visited every single year and of course, developed a few favorites. 


Christmas Markets in Cologne

Köln Dom Market

Underneath the bastion of the Köln Cathedral is the Dom Market, this is a must and you can’t miss it!  The massive Christmas tree is a highlight for the Dom Market, and the market is massive with a maze of stalls twisting around selling a great assortment of goodies, including from German classics like Käsespätzle (bouncy little egg dumplings tossed in cheese) and French Favorite,  Raclette  (which is stinky Munster cheese melted on bread.) churros, crepes, bratwursts and pork sandwiches abound. Yes, the smells are intoxicating. 

 The next closest Christmas Market in Cologne is the HEINZEL WINTER FAIRYTALE, definitely one of my favorite markets and super easy to get to from the Dom Market as it is just around the corner.

It is definitely one of the prettiest and most decorated markets and has an ice rink right in the center. The little wooden huts are adorned with creative gnomes and wooden carvings of characters from a fairytale it is so cool.

The vendors are a bit similar but they had a few different ones this year including handmade ornaments, a wood carver a jeweler that made authentic and original pieces.



Taste of Italy Group Tour


This market is right in the heart of Neumarkt in Cologne and a little bit of a walk but totally worth it. Considered the contemporary market the houses are brightly lit and resemble a winter wonderland. 

Their vendors range from star lights to Flammkuchen and Smoked Salmon on a wooden plank. The bratwurst stalls about with grilled onions and brotchen and there was even a popular “Käthe Wohlfahrt” little house in the center of the market. 

Harbor Market

One of the tastiest and scrumptious markets is the Harbor Market or as I like to call it the Chocolate Market. Located in Cologne harbor and about a 15 minute walk from the Dom Market, you can enjoy a peaceful stroll along the promenade. 

Harbor Christmas Market along the Rhine

This market also has a Ferris wheel overlooking the Rhine and harbor canals as well as having an international flare. A few vendors there sold Indian Cuisine as well as Argentinian fare. This market has about 70 stalls as well, making it not too shabby. If you need to hop into the Lindt Chocolate Museum to warm up – well that wouldn’t be too bad either.

These are just a few of my favorites in Cologne, you could certainly see more if you add days before or after your cruise. Christmas Markets in Cologne typically stay open until right before Christmas Day.

christmas markets along the rhine


Feet sore? Take the Train

Cologne has this great mini train you can take all over the main town to visit each of the Christmas Markets. In each market, you can find where to pick it up, how much it is and the route. We were thinking of hopping on and trying this, but decided to get our ®FitBit’s charged up instead. If you have kiddos with you or somebody with mobility issues, this is a great idea.


We boarded the riverboat on Tuesday evening and were greeted by attendants eager to grab our luggage and check us in. Check-in was a super easy process and after a quick rest a dinner we made our way to the lounge and had a brief introduction by the Boat Tour Directors, Diogo, and Hugo.

Cologne at Night from the Boat

We sailed through the night to our first destination Rüdesheim.


I love this little river wine town. Jon introduced it to me back in the fall when he was serving overseas again while in Wiesbaden. It truly is enchanting, with cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, wine tastings in cellars, and hillsides covered in vineyards, so of course, I couldn’t wait to return. Riviera River Cruises partners with local tour guides and tour companies who were just amazing. I’ll talk more about our tours coming up. 

Christmas Market in Rüdesheim

The Christmas Market in Rudesheim is on practically every street, right off the dock and so easy to get too. There were very interesting and different vendors here as well including a vendor selling sheepskin and wool items in a yurt. I’ll tell you what it was super warm in there and I didn’t want to leave. Part of the Market skirts the river’s edge making it really easy to get and forth to the boat.


Our next city on the tour was Koblenz. This confluence town (Latin is Koblenz)  has been split many times between France and Germany. . A story and struggle of power and control of the river and this town.

It is such a pretty town filled with incredible architecture of the baroque style. Our local tour led us to the Basilica St. Castor, the Deutsches Eck (or the German Corner) represents a statue of King Wilhelm II  overlooks the Rhine and is a symbol of refuge and a memorial to the King who helped unite the two borders. There’s a funny story that goes along with the tour of why the statue is facing the way it is – but you’ll have to take the tour to find out. 


MAY 19 – 27, 2023
The Christmas Markets in Koblenz

The Christmas Markets of Koblenz are also in the heart of their old town and were filled with yummy stalls of Christmas treats and German favorites. One of my favorites is the local Krebbelcher pancakes or potato pancakes and you can order them with applesauce or a creamy ranch garlic sauce. YUM! Take it all in and remember, each market may seem similar you have to pay close attention to the differences too. It’s fun to research before you go.


I visited the city of Bonn in 1988. It has been a long time since I saw this gorgeous city. Definitely holds a special place in my heart. The university town of Beethoven’s birth is filled with baroque buildings, Beethoven’s birthplace, after our local tour, we headed to the museum and enjoyed a quick tour of where Beethoven spent his first 16 years of life.

Christmas Markets in Bonn

The Munsterplatz Square in Bonn like this magical city if filled with amazing color, sites and smells. With the backdrop of the baroque city hall and main town square, you can imagine yourself in the 1800s enjoying hot gluhwein like Beethoven and his family did. Every day there is a musical concert that takes place and although we weren’t there at night we enjoyed walking through the city from market to market.

There are more than 180 beautiful hut-style stalls with Christmas decor and Santa on top of the Stalls.

Christmas Market Tips

First of all, wear good shoes, you will walk a lot. Warm-lined boots too for the cobblestone! 

Also, be prepared to have Euros, some vendors do take visa, but most prefer cash. There are ATMs throughout the cities, just please don’t ever use the exchange EC machines, they offer the worst exchange and also charge a fee on top of that. Avoid these like the plague. 

Follow the illuminated lights. In several towns, you just need to follow the stars, and lights and they will lead you to the path of the Christmas Markets! Follow the light. HA!

About the BOAT

First of all, the staff was incredibly amazing. Friendly, professional and many were from Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Shout out to Daniel, Maria, Milena (from Serbia) our housekeeper Alona and of course Ivan at the Bar. Everyone was kind, generous and knew their jobs very well. I had the great opportunity to meet Diogo and have a great interview with him to talk about the ships highlights. Be sure to check that out soon on my YouTube channel.

Diogo and Hugo

We booked a Ruby-level room on the Oscar Wilde which is nice size cruise room and we were centrally located on the ship too. All middle and upper deck cabins have floor-to-ceiling sliding doors with a Juliet balcony and of course, we had gorgeous views of the river and coastline.

The bathrooms were huge and had marble floors Villeroy and Boch sinks as well as upgraded amenities in our room including coffee and tea service.


The Bistro is a boutique-type dining option on board. With a different menu and offering than the main dining room. You do need reservations for this restaurant which offers a different view off the ship as well as while we were sailing. 

The ship also has vegetarian options available as well.

All meals on board all included AND because Riviera is an English fleet on one day, you will experience High Tea! Omgoodness, this tasty and incredibly beautiful display is a presentation all unto itself. We thoroughly enjoyed High Tea on the boat.


Local tour guides – Hildrudt Bonn Tour Guide – supports local communities and the economy with interesting stories, myths, and legends of the town. Riviera partners with guides who are passionate about sharing their city or town with others. 

Are you Interested in a European River Cruise? 

We have ONE MORE cabin left for our small group for the popular

Blue Danube River Cruise April 14 – 21,2023 

This spring we will enjoy another Riviera River Cruise departing and returning from Budapest Hungary. This European River Cruise is so popular and there’s a reason why, we will stop in Bratislava, Slovakia, Vienna and Salzburg, Austria, and more. If you are interested please let me know soon! Flights are still available and I would love to have you join our really fun group!

When should I book my River Cruise?

When should you book your cruise? Well, before COVID, I would tell people to just sit back and see if there would be a special, not anymore. Holy cow! Talk about your revenge travel! According to this Forbes article written last June, people are READY to travel. After the January 2023 wave season, we just had I can tell you that is so true. So when should you book one? When you think about it! Mostly because it will probably not go down in price or have limited availability if you wait. Riviera River Cruises can ONLY be booked through a Travel Agent! Plus, we will take care of you from flights, pre- and post- stays!

Thinking of traveling yourself? Click on my New Traveler Profile Form Below to get started with a consultation!

Looking forward to the NEXT CRUISE!

My small group was so delightful on this Christmas Market Cruise and we had such a great time connecting, enjoying the ship, ambiance, and of course shopping. If you would like to go on a CHRISTMAS MARKET CRUISE IN 2023 please let me know, email me at wendy@travelwithwendy.net.

It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!
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Visiting Ireland! Dublin and Galway

Visiting Ireland, Dublin and Galway this past fall for a quick weekend adventure with my friend Candy was a blast! Not only did I have the opportunity to re-visit Dublin but this time, we took a jaunt over to Galway on the west coast. This was a great opportunity to discover more because I will be taking a small group tour to Ireland this spring!

Most Americans who have Irish heritage at some point want to visit Ireland. I absolutely love this country. This was my fourth visit. Not only do I share an Irish background (on my maternal side) but the friendliness, natural beauty and heart of its people is what I identify with the most. Here are a few highlights from our short weekend while visiting Ireland.

Getting there

Taking hops across the EU continent is quite different than hopping around America, that is for sure. On a whim, Candy gave me a shout out to take a trip to visit Ireland this past September. For a flight to Ireland from Germany on short notice, it was about €200 on Aerlingus that included my luggage.

When I was living in Germany from 2014 to 2019 taking “hopper” flights on smaller airlines was very affordable. Sometimes these flights sang to the tune of €36 round trip but we all knew that wouldn’t last forever.

After the pandemic and a shift in tourism economy prices it has jumped a bit. Thankfully, it wasn’t too awfully bad. AerLingus is an official airline of Ireland and I also enjoy Eurowings (a branch of Lufthansa.) These are both reliable and trustworthy airlines if you need to fly in and out of Ireland from mainland Europe. There are also flights from Ireland to the states as well.

Getting Around

How to get around when you are visiting Ireland can be one of the most stressful elements of your trip. However, I have discovered there are several ways to travel around this country including public transportation that is really quite lovely. Candy and I hopped the bus from the airport to our hotel and then also again from Dublin to Galway.

When you are visiting a European country, public transportation (bus/train) can be a bit nerve wracking too, thankfully we all speak English so we had a slight advantage on this trip.

Here are a few tips to consider when you take public transportation in Ireland.

  1. Plan ahead – prior to your Irish adventure take a look at the different routes you might be interested in.
  2. Book On-line – post COVID travel sometimes requires not only printed tickets but tickets that are scannable or through an app. Check this out before you travel.
  3. Enjoy the Ride – we took advantage of the Eireagle from Dublin to Galway and also the City Link from the Dublin Airport to downtown Dublin. This was an extremely reliable and safe way to see the country.

Traveling in 2023?

Highlights in Dublin

This being my third time visiting Ireland, I had a few ideas of where we were going to stay and what we wanted to see in Dublin. Candy is as much of a travel addict as I am. She had done some research too.

Ha’Penny Bridge

The Temple Bar area is one of the most beloved while visiting Ireland so I would be remiss if I left this area out. There are a plethora of YouTube videos, Pinterest posts, etc. touting this “party area” of Dublin. You will have your choice of pubs to choose from.

Dublin Medieval Castle

The forboding Dublin Castle and fortress just a short walk from The Temple Bar area is worth the trip. If you are a castle lover, the history is quite amazing. Only guided tour tickets are available on the day of arrival. If you purchase advance tickets (these will be self-guided only)

Originally built in 1204 for the King of England its imposing stature within this modern city is astonishing. A major fire broke out in 1684 although much of the Viking structure stayed intact. The grand courtyard which anyone can walk through looks almost the same as it did in 1204.

If you are a history buff, you will geek out on this tour. The end of British rule in Ireland began in 1922 when Michael Collins became the new electorate of the independent state.

Ha’Penny Bridge

This iconic pedestrian bridge in Dublin is really beautiful both day and night. You will definitely want to stop and take a few photos. This bridge was built in the 1800s to cross the River Liffey for pedestrians and is made of cast iron. There are lots of seagulls so be mindful. 😉

TRAVEL TIP: The best place to take pictures of the Ha’Penny Bridge is along the O’Connell Bridge just one block away.

General Post Office

The General Post Office or (GPO) is FREE to visit in Dublin and has an incredible history. Depending on your level of historical interest, you may decide to spend one or two hours touring the office. It is still a working post office, however, so be sure to sign up for a tour.

O’Connell Monument

As you are walking along the streets of Dublin while visiting Ireland, you will notice monuments and statues of Irish heroes and activists everywhere. David O’Connell was an Irish political activist and co-founder of the IRA (Irish Republican Army.)

Known as the “Liberator” and securing the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, He successfully campaigned for the freedoms of the rights of Irish Catholics. There are many monuments around Dublin in honor of David O’Connell. O’Connell street has been a street of commerce, trade, and community for decades.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is a magnanimous structure that is incredible to visit. It’s awe-inspiring spires and gothic design are breathtaking. Visiting the cathedral is quite easy, however if you would like a formal tour, I would recommend purchasing advance tickets. There is daily entrance into the cathedral however to understand what you are looking at and its history, I would recommend a tour. They run throughout the day and quite often, so be sure to ask if you call ahead.

Christ’s Church Cathedral

Is the United Church of the Dioceses of Dublin and is quite a unique structure, you can’t help but notice in Dublin. The building connects to St. Michael’s Tower, however, it is temporarily closed.


Absolutely one of the MUST-Do’s while visiting Ireland is to experience the LIVE MUSIC scene. Candy and I found a few places. Our first experience was at The Old Stovehouse (see below) where we also grabbed a bite to eat as well. More info will be in the vlog on my YouTube Channel.

Pints of Cider and Music

Darkey Kelly’s

One of the best-known pubs in Dublin for traditional Irish music and is located in one of the oldest parts of Dublin we well. Darkey Kelly was a woman believed to be involved in witchcraft but recent information proves her innocence. This was a very cool bar and its history is really morbid and quite shocking. Murder, serial killings, and more. Candy and I really enjoyed the live Irish music here and a few pints of cider.

Here’s a map for two days of discovery below to help you plan your itinerary! Be sure to follow me on Wanderlog

Map created with Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android
Highlights in Galway

Galway has had a lot of press lately thanks to Ed Sheeran and his “Galway girl.” However, in the travel and tourism world, Galway has been well-known for quite some time.

Quay Street & Buttermilk Lane – The Latin Quarter

Strolling up and down bustling Quay Street is so much fun. Filled with shops, restaurants, museums, and churches, Quay Street seems to always be busy. Definitely carve out enough time to visit, shop, and grab a bite to eat. I would definitely say this is an huge attraction to Galway.

Saint Nicholas Collegiate Church

Medieval Church is located in the heart of Galway. Founded in 1320 this Anglican Church with humility in design and structure had a few famous visitors like Oliver Cromwell and Christopher Columbus. St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church was a fun visit for Candy and me, there is a very old walled-in area of the church where you can totally feel the medieval vibes. We even enjoyed a private tour as well. (see more in the vlog)

We had the most amazing tour of the Church. Check out the vlog coming out soon.

Spanish Arch & South Park

As you explore Galway make your way to the Spanish Arch and South Park. Maybe you’ll want to grab some fish and chips and pop a squat at the park. From this park, you will be able to watch the boats come in and out of the harbor. Maybe you’ll want to sing a version of “Brandy, You’re a fine girl.” For some reason, when I am in a European harbor town like this one, I start humming that tune.

Trip map created using Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android
Surprises in Galway & Dublin

While we were in Galway, it was fun getting a glimpse at one of the CIE Coaches that was on tour. I am proud to be partnering with CIE for my upcoming 2023 Irish Adventure tour around the country. CIE has been in business for over 90 years! Hard to believe.

Fish and Chips

One of our favorite specialties in Ireland is Fish and Chips. Candy now lives in Italy and had been craving this classic dish so we became inspired to try as many as we could, from east to west. From Dublin to Galway, visiting Ireland requires at least one sampling of fish and chips(fries.) Here are a few we sampled…


The Old Stovehouse in Dublin – our first stop in Dublin was in the Temple Bar district. We were looking for excellent fish and chips and live music. We found both of them.

Another visit was to the famous Leo Burdock Traditional Fish & Chips. Thankfully, we arrived right at opening so our fish and chips were not only hot and fresh, delicious too. The first in line we grabbed our hot meal in a bag and found a nice park bench nearby. If you are looking for a traditional Irish experience find a location in Dublin and enjoy.


Our day trip to Galway would not have been complete had we not found a great Fish and Chips restaurant here as well. Along the famous Quay Street is the Quay Street Kitchen. Maybe it was because we were a stone’s throw from the sea or maybe it was because this nautical town embodies Irish sailor life, but this was my favorite fish and chips this trip to Ireland. Fresh herbs and spices, tartar sauce that was more a remoulade sauce and excellent chips (fries.) We enjoyed with a great cider because Candy and I aren’t Guinness drinkers but love a good cider.

So come to Ireland!

Hopefully this blog has wetted your appetite to take a hop across the pond. Now is a great time to visit! If I can help you plan an adventure or you would like to join my group this spring, either way, Ireland is calling. Erin go bragh or Ireland Forever! Come learn more, see more, have fun and enjoy the adventure!

It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!
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Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky! Home of Bourbon, Mohammad Ali, Jennifer Lawrence (one of my favorites), the Kentucky Derby, riverboats, baseball bats, great eats, and more. Welcome to the Bluegrass State. This was our first trip to Louisville this past November and after our visit to Lexington last year, I knew we would return to Kentucky for another visit. I really love this state. So we headed up north from Alabama to see what tastes and treasures await us.

Louisville has an interesting history. Located on the Ohio River, Native American tribes of Cherokee, Arapaho, Iroquois and the Shawnee lived here prior to the 1850s when settlers came to the area to trade and move west. Considered to be founded by George Rogers Clark (brother of William Clark of Lewis & Clark Expedition.)