Russ and Elke's European Travel

It's not only what you see, it's how you see it

Russ and Elke's European Travel is a small company run by husband and wife team Russ and Elke Beck, a professional travel agent.

Over the years we have experienced some fantastic places, people, food and wine.  Out of our love for travel developed the idea to create very exclusive, intimate and interesting itineraries and let our clients experience, taste, smell, touch and hear what has given us so much joy in our travels. 

Don’t get drunk, just follow these tips when flying

     The trials of flying can even rattle the most experienced traveler out there. And though we have ways to make things easier on ourselves I would strongly advise against consuming illegal substances or get obnoxiously drunk before boarding a plane.

     After many years of traveling I have to admit that I’m still not crazy about flying, but what options do I have to get to those more exotic destinations? And all of you out there who need to get from the East Coast to the West Coast, you probably feel my pain. Since I can’t walk on water and get sea-sick on ships I’m kind of limited in my choices.

     So wonderful steel bird, you are it!

     Russ and I have crossed the Atlantic Ocean in both directions too many times to count, but I still get the same jitters I felt the first time I boarded a plane to visit the United States from my home country Germany. Looking back on that day, I can only be compared to an overly excited puppy. Upon taking my seat I pressed my nose to the window and I watched in amazement as all the bags disappeared into the belly of the plane. I buckled my seat belt tightly and checked it four times to make sure I was secured properly and not going anywhere before shifting my attention to the flight attendants safety demonstration.

     I felt instantly overwhelmed and was concerned that I wouldn’t remember all the directions given on dropping oxygen masks, inflating life vests or how to use my seat cushion as a floating device. All that talk just made me more nervous. We hadn’t even left the ground yet and here they were telling us what to do in case the plane fell out of the sky.

     Today I understand this is routine procedure, but then I was ready to bolt. Who likes to hear about worst case scenarios, when already a bundle of nerves? To this day  I’m still not a fan of takeoff or landing, as my poor husband will tell you, since during those parts of the flight I squeeze his hand almost as hard as during labor.

     Thank goodness for the free drinks on most international flights. A glass of wine or a cocktail takes the edge of nicely. Again don’t overdo it, because unruly, drunken behavior just gets you escorted off the plane. Know your limits!

     Most flights to Europe depart in the evening from the US, so dinner is served to all travelers. There are differences of course.The smells coming from behind the curtain, separating us from first class, were most certainly more enticing than the mediocre choices we were given. It generally is just a question of beef, chicken or vegetarian pasta. No chefs preparing meals served on nice plates and  champagne in crystal flutes in economy class. But hey…. you get what you pay for right?

     From our experience food and service on international carriers tend to be a notch better than their American counterparts.The crew is happier, the food is better and there seems to be a bit more comfort, which goes a long way when stuck for hours in a confined place. But don’t kid yourself, none of it is a walk in the park unless you are in first class in one of those flat beds with down pillows and comforters. For the average traveler to Europe the flight is between 8 and 10 hours long, depending on destination and connections.

     During that time I tend to get a bit stir crazy in my tight space, my legs swell to elephant size, my nose dries out and my butt is in constant movement to find a more comfortable position. I can not sleep on those long flights unless I self medicate with sleeping aids or another cocktail... There are those travelers, which I envy that fall asleep as soon as the plane takes off and don’t open their eyes again until it touches down. Good on you!

     To make my flight experience more comfortable I purchased some travel socks, which keep the circulation in my legs going and make it possible for me to actually fit my feet into my shoes before disembarking. I bring my own set of noise cancelling earphones, so I can relax while listening to some music without being constantly reminded that I’m still 30000 feet above the ground.

     My choice of beverage when the cart rolls up and down the aisle is water once I have reached my allotment of cocktails, so I stay hydrated and have to get up occasionally to use the restroom. This in turn stretches my crammed body parts. If you have trouble with your legs do some in space exercises, like lifting your toes, lifting your heels and rocking back and forth. I also suggest to check for special meals instead of going with the run of the mill packaged, mystery foods served to the masses. That is especially important in case of food allergies.

     In my bag of tricks I also carry lotion, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a brush or comb. That way I don’t scare the immigration people off with my wild looks or bad breath. After retrieving my luggage, I find the nearest restroom, and put myself back together as good as I can. Believe me it is necessary.

     As far as booking flights I highly suggest to book them well in advance, since the last minute deal myth is definitely just that a myth. The closer to departure the higher the rates. Special fares and lower prices sell out first, and if you actually like your travel companion you might want to reserve a seat next to them instead of being separated by sixteen rows of other travelers.

     On our Italy trips Russ and I have flown into Rome and Milan, with Rome being a much bigger and therefore more hard to navigate airport. We also discovered that generally flights into Milan run a little cheaper than those to the “Eternal City” but of course it depends on what area in Italy you are visiting.

     If you join us on any of our tours, I’m happy to help you with your flight arrangements and guide you through the at times confusing and challenging world of the airlines and their booking systems.

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