Guest Blog Series - We've asked travel experts to offer their tips and tricks to planning the best European road trips. This guest blog post is written by Cara Goldsbury of the popular travel blog, Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Travel & Life blog. Read on to learn 10 tips for luxury travel in Europe.
I'm constantly asked my favorite tips for travel in Europe”everyone wants to know what will make a vacation extra special. With so many luxury options to choose from, it's certainly a tough question. I've narrowed it down to my top 10, those I personally utilize time and time again.
1. Fly business or first class
What's better than crossing the ocean in upper class? Fly business or first class in a sleeper seat - even your own mini-suite - and arrive rested and refreshed. It almost guarantees expedited boarding, nice wine, a tasty meal, and a few hours of shuteye. If you really want to be spoiled then book yourself on Emirates' A380 aircraft from New York to Milan in an indulgent first class suite with privacy doors, its own personal mini bar, meals served on Royal Doulton bone china, and access to one of the two on-board showers stocked with Bvlgari toiletries and organic Voya products. Or maybe Air France's La Premiere first class with four curtained private suites on certain flights of its B777-300ER aircraft with a futon mattress and comfy duvet, table lamps, fine wines and champagne, and menus by famous chefs, including Joel Robuchon, Guy Martin, and Daniel Boulud.Or forget flying and sail over on a luxury cruise ship, arriving with jet lag in your rear view mirror. While you're at it, why not book a roomy suite where you'll not only get plenty of rest and relaxation but supreme pampering? My favorite suite choice is Silversea's Royal Suite where private butler service takes on a whole new meaning.
2. Let someone else do the driving
What a luxury to sit back and relax while your own private driver takes you wherever you wish to go. No jostling luggage at the train station, no airport security to deal with. Just step outside your hotel door and be whisked away in your luxury sedan. Traveling by private car allows for stops at that quaint Michelin star restaurant, out-of-the-way charming villages, and special sites that are just too hard to get to with train or air travel. If I had taken a train or flown between Munich and Prague I would not have discovered Regensburg, Germany, a medieval charmer, or historic Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic on my drive outside of Prague. I oftentimes find that a private driver is not much more expensive than the price of two first class rail tickets.And then there's your airport arrival. Start your vacation off on the right foot and have a driver pick you up. I love spotting my name on a placard at the airport gate, held by a driver ready and waiting to get me to my hotel without the hassle of taxi lines.
3. Book with a Virtuoso travel advisor
Specializing in luxury travel, Virtuoso advisors are insiders who can not only save you time and money, but also offer special perks and benefits. Virtuoso hotels offer breakfast daily, complimentary upgrades when available, and a value added amenity such as a resort or spa credit. And some hotels offer extra special amenities: a round of golf (Gleneagles in Scotland); your choice of a pizza making class or wine tasting or language class (Hotel Castello Di Casole in Italy); a 2-hour wine discovery tour including the owner's private cellar with wine tasting from the estate (Chateau de Berne in France); a boat tour through the canals (Intercontinental Amstel Amsterdam); a tour in a horse-drawn carriage (Alpaga Megeve in France). Remember, you can't VIP yourself!
4. Stay in a 5-star hotel or boutique hotel
There's nothing better than a vacation where you feel the hotel's deep commitment to connecting with their guests, a place where you are recognized on arrival, where the staff cares about your preferences and truly appreciates your business. You're not going to get this special service at a cookie cutter, 3-star chain hotel. Stay where that personal touch is of utmost importance, where you are more than just a room number, where attention to detail creates a memorable experience for each and every guest. You get what you pay for.
5. Rent a luxury villa
Would you like to spend a week or even a month in luxurious and peaceful seclusion complete with concierge service, a local chef, nanny service, and an array of bespoke services? It can actually be more affordable than you think. Just compare a week in a luxury four-bedroom villa to a week in two, 2-bedroom suites in a 5-star hotel, and you'll be shocked at the savings. To make the deal even sweeter, travel with friends who will split the bill with you. And think about renting in shoulder season when crowds have thinned and pricing is even more lucrative.
6. Make friends with your hotel concierge
Sometimes I think there's nothing a good hotel concierge can't do for you, at least within reason. Luxury hotel concierges are the ultimate insiders with a super network of connections. Do you need last-minute tickets to a sold-out show, a table at a seemingly booked restaurant, or help with a replacement passport? The best concierges can oftentimes make just that happen or, at the very least, offer an alternative that is sure to please. While concierge services are free, don't forget to tip, particularly if someone has gone out of their way to pull strings for you; even better, tip right away upon your first introduction. After all, what they can accomplish just might be the highlight of your vacation.
7. Treat yourself to a private guide
For a hassle-free trip find a reputable, certified guide, such as an art expert or historian, to show you around. A great guide can customize your day according to your preferences and personalities, walk you past long lines at major attractions by pre-purchasing tickets, obtain behind-the-scenes access, and steer you to the most reputable retailers and restaurants. Along with that personal touch you'll come away with a better understanding of a city or country's history and culture. After all, guides are locals themselves!
8. Personalize your experience
Have your travel advisor or hotel concierge plan for something over-the-top and out of the ordinary, meaningful experiences that connect you with a community or your own family. A private after-hours tour of the Sistine Chapel, a Porsche drive through the Black Forest, a helicopter ride over Athens monuments, a private yacht cruise along the Amalfi Coast, a soccer class from some of Lisbon's biggest names in the game, a hunt for truffles in France, or a private balcony from which to watch the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. The world is at your command!
9. Savor at least one acclaimed Michelin star restaurant
From rustic, authentic dishes cooked from the simplest ingredients to avant-garde molecular gastronomy, Europe is overflowing with an embarrassment of seriously great Michelin star restaurants. The holy grail of fine dining quality, Michelin reviewers concentrate entirely on the food in making the reviews, not on decor or service. So for foodies it is absolutely first-stop shopping. Seriously, how can you go wrong?
10. Find a fabulous hotel bar
I have to say it. I love terrific hotel bars, and the classier the better! It's my go-to place after a long day of touring where I order a lovely glass of wine or a dignified cocktail, sit back, and soak up the atmosphere. I actually plan my evening around which hotel bar I'm going to visit before dinner. So do a little research or have your travel advisor do it for you, so as not to miss some of these exciting gems. I still dream of the rooftop Terrat at the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, the art-deco Bassoon at the Corinthia Hotel London, The Merrion's Cellar Bar in Dublin set in the original 18th Century wine vaults, The Hassler Bar in Rome with it's 1940s setting and tucked away location, and the wood-carved American Bar at Seville's Hotel Alfonso XIII.
Pin and start planning your luxury vacation!
Cara Goldsbury is a luxury travel and lifestyle blogger on a relentless quest to see the world in style. She has over 35 years of experience in the travel industry, and, in the course of her many travels within over 50 countries around the world, she has stayed at the most luxurious resorts, dined at the finest restaurants, and has been lavishly entertained.Visit her at Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Travel & Life
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