Archive for February, 2012

Score Cheap Airline Tickets | Insider Tips

By 1800FlyEurope in Travel Tips | on February 28th, 2012

 

Our Flight Reservation Agents Divulge their Top Tips on how to Find the Best Airfare Rates

Recently I had a family member ask me for some tips on how to find the best priced, international airfare. Of course I said, “well call 1-800-Fly-Europe, and they‚Äôll help you with the quotes.” I quickly realized that this response wasn‚Äôt sufficient. I do blog for this site, so I should know these things. Right? Fortunately, I work on the same floor as our flight reservation agents, and I knew that they would be the best resource for my investigation. After all, they work incredibly hard to uncover the lowest airline ticket rates for our clients everyday. So I asked our 1-800-Fly-Europe team if they would be willing to share their secrets with me, and they were more than happy to give me their expert advice. Some of the suggestions may surprise you, and there are some common misconceptions people may have on how to go about striking the best deal.

Myth: Buy the ticket as soon as you are offered a great price, or you will lose the rate if you wait a day or even a couple of hours.

Request a Courtesy Hold

Paulsen recommended an option that you may not have heard of: take advantage of Fly-Europe’s Courtesy Hold. Do you need a few hours or perhaps a night to mull over your options before purchasing a ticket for an international flight? Our agents will gladly place a hold on your seat(s) for your desired itinerary. Now while the initial price of the flight and place on the plane are held, do be aware that the final rate can fluctuate a bit due to fuel costs, taxes, and/or currency exchange rates. Once you decide to finalize your airfare plans, payment will be needed and then your tickets will be issued.

Myth: Wait until a last minute sale to purchase your airfare. Aubry disclosed that “most airlines require at least 7 days advance notice for a booking. The closer you are to your departure date, the less availability there is, and the more expensive the ticket will be.”

“It is best to reserve your international flight as soon as you know your travel dates,” advises Marty.

“International airfare pricing is generally based on a standard supply and demand system: as the plane fills up, the prices are going to increase (depending on the flight class that is requested).” Be aware that if you plan to travel during the summer or a major holiday (know beforehand events that are occurring in the country you wish to visit) the tickets may be priced differently (higher) based on the high flight sales.

Marty also sheds some light on these last minute sales that are rumored, and said that ‚Äúmost carriers have several classes of service that they offer, and as flights start to fill up, the airlines will close the sales of lower classes of service. They then sell the same seats at a higher price. For flights that aren’t selling fast, they will open up vacancy of lower class tickets until the plane begins filling up, and in turn, airlines close the cheaper seat rates to sell the same flight space at a higher price.‚Äù So, yes, while these rumored sales do exist, they are extremely short lived. If you like to gamble, this may be the option for you.

Is there a particular time of day that is better to reserve a flight?

Yes there is! Virgil recommends to “shop early in the morning for airfare, as the availability of seats refreshes overnight.” The airlines assess and reset their ticket prices at midnight (the time zone is dependent on the location of the carriers’ headquarters). As flights begin to fill up throughout a day, the rates go up.

Are there any particular days that are cheaper to fly?

Shelley suggests choosing weekdays when making your travel arrangements and arranging your schedule (if possible) to include a stay through a Saturday. The more flexibility that you have when planning your trip, the better chances you have of scoring lower airfare. Our reservation agents will help you to search ticket rates for varying days, times, airlines, and even airport locations. You don’t have to keep all of these options open. For example, just changing the day you fly in or out of a location (Monday-Thursday are generally the lower cost days to book) could make a huge difference on the price quote.

Should you buy travel insurance?

The general consensus of our reservation agents is that it is highly recommended that you purchase travel insurance. How does spending approximately $45-$65 (4% of the travel cost) per round trip save you money? If something comes up and you need to cancel or reschedule your flight, you either stand the chance of losing the funds spent on a trip you didn’t take, or you risk the possibility of having to pay a $350 change fee to reschedule your travel plans. Circumstances beyond your control can pop up while you are abroad, and with this extra coverage comes the peace of mind that you are protected for matters such as injury/illness and lost luggage.

I love to travel. I feel lucky to have such knowledgeable coworkers who know the ins and outs to booking low cost airfare, and now I am sharing their tips with you. Let one of our reservation agents work their magic for you to book flights to Nice, Munich, Barcelona, and many more destinations.

 

Stroopwafels | Dutch Karamel Waffle Cookies

By 1800FlyEurope in World Cuisine Wednesdays | on February 22nd, 2012

World Cuisine Wednesday

If you have never tried a stroopwafel, you are in for a treat! After one bite of the thin, waffle cookie with a caramel-like filling, you can not help but be hooked on this Dutch specialty. Legend has it that in the early 19th century a baker from Gouda in the Netherlands combined leftover ingredients to create this culinary delight.

To make the cookie portion of the stroopwafel, you will need either a pizzelle iron or a specific type of waffle maker (the average North American mechanism’s ridges are to deep for this job). I am going to suggest that you simply buy a package of Belgium waffle butter cookies to prepare your very first batch (you can find these at stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods). Then after preparing the following filling, you can take the sweet to the next level by following a recipe like this one at dianasdesserts.com.

Yield: 15 cookies

Set aside: 2 packages of Belgium Butter Cookies (there should be about 30 total)

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup golden syrup (this comes in a little tin can and can be found at the same store as where you purchase the cookies)
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

Instructions:

  1. Heat all the above filling ingredients in a saucepan over medium until it begins to boil, and then lower the temperature a bit (not quite to medium low).
  2. Continue simmering until it has reached soft ball stage (about 235-245 degrees Fahrenheit). If you don’t have a candy thermometer, the liquid will begin thickening (large bubbles begin forming and they are a lighter caramel color) after approximately 5 minutes. With a spoon, allow a few drops of the hot mixture to drip into a cold bowl of water. If the syrup filling is ready, it will keep a ball like form while submerged but will lose its shape once it is removed from the water.
  3. Allow the contents to cool a bit (about 10 minutes), so you don’t burn your fingertips completing the next step.
  4. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the filling on one cookie and then gently press the second cookie on top and enjoy!

Outdoor markets, grocery stores and even vending machines sell these fabulous waffle cookies in the Netherlands. A traditional way to enjoy a stroopwafel is to rest one over a steaming cup of tea or coffee to warm it before taking the first bite. Now, if you really want to experience the real deal (the waffle cookie will be softer and absolutely worth the extra work), you will need to book flights to the Netherlands so that you can purchase the golden, caramel filled cookie while it is still warm from the waffle press at an open-aired marketplace.

 

 

5 √úber Cool Bikes | Cycling Culture in Europe

By 1800FlyEurope in These Five Things | on February 13th, 2012

 

Being from the U.S. where it’s common practice to drive a couple blocks to the corner store for a gallon of milk, relying on your two feet as a means for transportation is something our country could learn a little more about.  I will admit that I am absolutely intrigued by the biking culture in several of Europe’s largest cities.  A broad spectrum of bi(tri+ axles)cycles can be observed pedaling along the busy, metropolitan streets on any given day. While you may have to do a double take upon catching sight of some of these funky looking, multi-wheeled vehicles whirling by, but be assured that each one serves a utilitarian purpose.

The Dog Trike

Alistair Marks (A veterinarian and avid cyclist) from Edinburgh faced the dilemma of having to drive to work if he wanted his two pups (Peta and Biba) to  safely accompany him to his practice.  Unfortunately this was burning up petrol (which costs about $10 per gallon) and doubling his daily commute time.  The solution?  A dog trike, of course!  Alistair custom built a bike featuring two heavy-duty wheels and a large dog crate in the front.  When a steep hill comes his way, there is a battery operated motor that will assist with the climb.

 

 

The Beer Bike

First, it should be noted that the experienced guide steering this bar on wheels is also the vehicle’s official designated driver, and there is bartender in charge of responsibly serving those partaking in the tour.  The beer bike offers people a unique way to see the city of Amsterdam while pedal powering the craft and enjoying cold, amber brew at the same time.

Streamlined Scandinavian Cargo Bike

Erik Nohlin (Industrial Designer MFA) has improved and modernized the form of a typical cargo bike.¬† He has applied the principals of Swedish minimalist design (think IKEA) to the old, carrier style and has created a streamlined version of it.¬† Why is his work considered so innovative?¬† Aside from today‚Äôs European communities that embrace bike culture, it is more convenient, economical, and green to use than an automobile.¬† When gas prices are at nearly $10 per gallon and the charming (yet congested) narrow streets of city centres can‚Äôt accommodate cumbersome delivery trucks, well, it just makes sense to refine the cargo bike to meet and exceed people’s transporting needs.

 

The Velotaxi

Let someone else will do the pedaling for you.  You can find this ultra-modern version of the classic (buggy like) rickshaw all throughout Europe (and the world).

Copenhagen Cargo Bikes from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Forget the Mini Van and the SUV

Fit a family of five all on one bike?¬† No problem!¬† Biking in cities (like Copenhagen and Amsterdam) is a way of life.¬† These bustling metropolises have more people who pedal to their destinations than drive, and there is a respectful coexistence between bikers and those driving automobiles.¬† Should you decide to partake Amsterdam or Copenhagen‚Äôs excellent bike share programs, make sure that you are familiar with the location specific bike etiquette first. Once you have become acclimated to the local road rules, you will truly begin to appreciate the beauty of European bike culture. If cycling just isn’t your thing, no need to worry Auto Europe will help you to find the best car rental rates.

 

 

4 European Chocolate Indulgences

By 1800FlyEurope in Destination Highlights | on February 6th, 2012

February 14th brings to mind candlelit dinners for two, red roses, cards displaying heartfelt acclamations, lovingly selected pieces of jewelry, and luscious, melt in your mouth chocolate delights. For me, Valentine‚Äôs Day gives me the perfect excuse to indulge in fine chocolate, and if I‚Äôm not coupled up for this jour de l’amour (day of love), I‚Äôll gift myself with a few pieces of a cocoa satiated sweet. Europe boasts some of the world‚Äôs most divine selections of chocolate indulgences. Read on to discover a few of my top choices.

Parisian Chocolatiers

A prime romantic destination for lovebirds, Paris has an incredible assortment of chocolatiers (chocolate artisans). Christian Constant is the owner of one such shop (of the same name) that should not be missed. He is located on 37 rue d‚ÄôAssas and has acquired a number of awards for his confectionary masterpieces. Feast your taste buds on a raspberry ganache or Constant‚Äôs legendary palet d’or (a fresh cream based, delectable chocolate).

Italian Gelateries

Gelato may, at first glance, have an appearance similar to ice cream, but once you take a spoonful of this rich, velvety Italian specialty, you will know otherwise. It is made in small batches and is renowned for having a soft and creamy consistency. Ice cream has a higher butterfat content ratio, too. Perhaps one of the best gelateries in Rome is Giolitti. The original creamery site from 1900 can be found near the Pantheon on via Uffici del Vicario, 40. Only the freshest ingredients are blended together in creating their gelato, and there are absolutely no preservatives added when preparing any of their 70 flavors. Treat yourself to two scoops of heaven, one serving of chocolate and the other of black cherry.

Belgium Pralines

Neuhaus is a well known name amongst Belgians and is notorious as being the inventor of the Belgium Praline. This legendary chocolate immerged from an unlikely source, an apothecary. Jean Neuhaus opened his trade in 1857 after he had moved to Brussels from Switzerland. At first, he sold just a small variety of sweets. However, in 1912 his grandson (Jean II) was given the freedom to branch out on the business’ candy production and from this venture, the praline was invented. His creation was a success, and soon after this development, the pharmaceutical side of the business was discontinued. A praline is a combination of nuts and chocolate, the family secret recipe is absolute bonbon perfection. Today are over 1000 shops dispersed throughout Europe. The Neuhaus’ brand offers several chocolate and nut variations of their praline.

Swiss Champagne Truffles

Teuscher(both the family and shop name) is the creator of the luxurious Dom Perignon infused chocolate truffle. The company was founded in 1932 by Dolf Teuscher, Sr. in Zürich, Switzerland. They now have stores scattered across North America, Asia, and Europe, but if you happen to be in Zürich, visit their main location on Bahnhofstrasse 46. Dolf Teuscher, Jr. is the predecessor in charge of present business operations. If I could select any sweet that my heart desired for Valentine’s Day, the Champagne Truffle would be my number one choice, hands down.

I bought some candy from a vending machine to munch on before I began typing this entry because I thought it would bring me creative writing inspiration. As I popped each multi-color, hard-shelled chocolate piece in my mouth, all I could think about was that what I was eating could not even begin to compare to the choco-goodies listed above. A trip to Europe this spring may be exactly what I need, especially if the chocolate I buy myself for February 14th fails to impress. In preparation for this likely disappointment, I’ll begin searching for flights to Paris and Zurich right way.  Imagine savoring a champagne truffle with the Swiss Alps in the backdrop, can anything top that?

 

 

Departure Information
Depart: 
From: 
To: 
Return Information
Return: 
From: 
To: 
Fare Type Round Trip     One Way
Passengers  Adults
  Children under 11