A Second a Day This year I have been working on a project where I take one second of video each day. At the end of each month, I then combine the clips to create a video journal montage. Each second recorded acts as a […]
When our friends, the Taylor and Hayley, invited us to join them for Thanksgiving this year, we jumped at the opportunity. They live just outside of Chicago, while Taylor is working towards an MBA at Northwestern University. This close location to the city made it […]
When I began writing this post, I was sitting in an airport doing some people watching. Hundreds of people walked by as I waited to board my plane, each one with a different level of experience in air travel. I saw many seasoned pros who appeared to know the ins and outs of air travel like the back of their hand. But, then there were the novice travelers who were unsure about what their next step should be. Which got me thinking, The Drive to Explore needs a Beginner’s Guide to Air Travel!
Believe it or not, I am the kind of person that is tentative when it comes to new experiences. I tend to worry about the unknown, but I don’t let it stop me. Instead, I get my hands on as much information as I can. Knowing those details helps me feel comfortable with the situation. If anyone out there can relate, this post is for you! I have listed as much information on the process of air travel as I reasonably could, in hopes it will help someone have a successful and enjoyable experience as you fly to a new destination.
Purchase the Flight
I’ve already written about the best ways to search out inexpensive flights, but here are a few other tips to keep in mind. When you look for flights, there are certain times of the day that are more or less busy at the airport. If you want to avoid lines, book a flight during the middle of the week, during the workday hours. Before and after traditional work day hours, as well as the days on and around weekends tend to be busy, because it helps to not miss work. Don’t sweat it if you aren’t able to find a decent priced flights during a less busy time. Just prepare to have your airport experience be more congested and slower moving.
Most airlines allow children under two to fly free, as a lap child. You must alert the airline of this when you are purchasing tickets, and their name must be on your ticket noting they are a lap child. This means that the child does not get their own seat, and will need to be on your lap through the entire flight. At the airport, you will be required to present a birth certificate or passport for this child to prove their age.
Check In to the Flight
Most airlines expect you to check in to your flight online 24 hours before your it is scheduled to take off. When you book your flight, set a check in reminder on your phone or whatever calendar you use. It’s not the end of the world if you forget, but if you are flying on an airline like Southwest, your boarding time (and thus where you end up sitting) will be based on when you check in.
Pack your Bags
I plan on doing a full post on the best practices of packing, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here are my main pointers. In air travel, there are categories of baggage:
- Personal item, which is a purse, backpack, or other small bag. The dimensions vary by airline but tends to be anything less than 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches.
- Carry on bags are the size of a small suitcase or duffel bag. They are usually around or under 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches. Always pack essentials (underwear, toiletries, a change of clothes) in this bag in case your checked bag gets lost.
- Checked bags are anything over the dimensions of a carry on bag and under 62 linear inches (the sum of the bag’s length, width, and height). In addition, these bags typically need to weigh less than 50 lbs.
- Oversize items can include car seats, strollers, sporting equipment, or anything that is an unusual size from the standard checked bag. While some items, like car seats and strollers, are free to check, most other oversize items are subject to an additional fee. Take note, you will most likely have to go to a specific oversize item location to pick up these items.
- Diaper bags may be allowed as a free item if you are traveling with a lap child under the age of two. Make sure to check on size requirements from your airline’s website before you go.
Before you Pack
Before you even start to pack, check your airline’s website for specifics of what baggage is included with your flight ticket. There are few ways worse to start off a trip than getting a hefty baggage fee surprising you at the airport. Some airlines, like Frontier, will only allow you to bring a personal item, and charge for each additional bag. Other airlines, such as Delta, will include a personal item and a carry on with the purchase of your flight ticket, and charge for checked bags. And then there are airlines, like Southwest, who will let you bring a personal item, carry on, and two checked bag(s).
Explorer Tip: All airlines have pros and cons. Do not discount the airline based on the baggage they allow or don’t allow you to bring. Look at the full picture and compare and contrast all of the criteria; ticket price, layovers, baggage fees, etc. before purchasing.
Strategic Toiletry Packing
When deciding what toiletries to pack, be aware that there is a limit to the size and amount of any liquid, gel, or aerosol that can be brought onto the plane. Passengers may only carry on liquids, gels, or aerosols that are smaller than 3.4 oz. Even then, you are not allowed an unlimited amount of small toiletries. All of the small containers you intend to bring must fit inside one quart sized plastic bag. All toiletries in the liquidy category over 3.4 oz should be placed in your checked baggage.
Explorer Tip: If you are worried about the weight of your bag, I suggest investing in a bag scale. This small device will help determine the weight of your bag before getting to the airport. No bag scale? Have a backup plan of what you could rearrange to make bag lighter.
Prepare in Advance
My final tip about packing… Have everything ready the night before or at least three hours before you are scheduled to leave. I know this sounds a little ridiculous, but having everything ready will save you a lot of stress instead of furiously trying to meet your immovable deadline.
Drive to the Airport
Give yourself ample time to get to the airport. I prefer to pad our driving time by 15 minutes (more if you live 2+ hours from the airport), just in case of an accident, unexpected hold ups, or the awful chance that your car has problems (it’s happened). During the week before, it may be helpful to check on the traffic during the time period that you expect to be traveling to the airport. Sometimes a drive that usually takes 45 minutes can turn into a two hour drive (again, I write from personal experience). If this does happen, just breathe deeply, assess the situation, and call your airline if you think you will miss your flight. They will be able to help you with what to do.
Parking vs. Drop Off
Most airports charge hefty fees to park your car in the parking lot connected to the airport. It’s a classic debate of cost versus convenience. If you will only be gone a one to three days, those parking fees may not make much of a difference. But if you are gone longer than that, it can substantially add to the cost of your trip. We have found that nearby parking lots that can shuttle you to the airport are much less expensive. Bonus, they often have frequent customer rewards for free nights or discounts after a you have parked there a number of times. This is helpful if you plan on traveling a lot. Another option is to kindly ask a friend to drop you off at the airport. Use some of the money you saved on parking to pay for their time and gas.
Airline Check in Desk
Most airlines require that you arrive at the airport well in advance to your flight’s departure. The amount of time depends on the busyness of the airport, and where you intend to go. If you are flying international, you will need to arrive approximately three hours before your flight’s departure time. If you are flying domestic, around two hours will suffice. Because of the time it takes to get your checked luggage from the desk to the plane, the latest you can check in is 30 minutes before departure (which is also the time your flight starts boarding, so you will have to run to get there on time). Plan accordingly.
Upon arrival at the airport, you have two options for your course of action and it depends on your situation.
- Go to the airline check in desk first if the following criteria apply to you: you have a checked bag or oversize item, do not have a printed or digital boarding pass, or haven’t checked into your flight online.
- Go straight to the security check if the following criteria apply to you: you only have a personal item or carry on bag, you have already checked in to your flight online, and have a printed or digital boarding pass.
If you need to go to the check in desk first, find the check in desk for your specific airline. For example, if your flight is through Delta, go to the Delta Airlines desk, At the check in desk, you will need to present an ID (drivers license, passport, or birth certificate) for people in your party ages 18+. For international flights, ALL travelers must present a passport. You will then be able to hand over your bags to be stowed on the plane and receive your tickets.
Explorer Tip: You can check strollers at the check in location or gate check during the boarding process. We have found that it is easier to push Rosalie in the stroller when we are walking to our gate because it keeps us moving efficiently, is easier to manage with checked bags, and keeps her from running off.
Everyone has to pass through security to get to the place where you board the plane. There will be signs directing you to where you need to go, and most people coming from the check in desk will head to this location. Please note, this is the area that tends to take the most time to get through. However, if you prepare accordingly, it will run smoothly.
You will first be asked to present your ID and flight ticket(s), so a security officer can confirm you are the right person for the ticket. You will then enter the area where you will need to prepare belongings for the check. Most airports require that you do the following:
- Remove your quart bag of liquids, gels, and/or aerosols and place it in the provided bin. Beverages of any kind will need to be drunk or thrown away. Empty bottles are allowed.
- Take off your shoes, jackets, belts, scarves, and pull out anything in your pockets and also place them in the provided bin.
- Take any personal electronic device larger than a phone out of your bags and place them in individual bins. This could include a laptop, tablet, or e-reader.
- Place the bins, your bags, and folded down stroller on the conveyor belt that goes through the x-ray machine.
Once all of your belongings are headed through to be scanned, you will need to walk through a scanning machine. Young children will need to be carried through the machine and you may be required to have a simple hand swipe test. This is nothing to be worried about, it’s just protocol to keep everyone safe.
Explorer Tip: If you are planning to do a lot of traveling, it could be worth your time to invest in TSA Pre-Check. This is a service that allows you to have an expedited security check for a yearly fee. It requires an application and background check, but can save lots of time at the airport. Check out the details here.
Security Slow Downs
If you or your belongings set off an alert, you will be asked to undergo additional security checks. If you have something on your person set off an alert, you may be scanned with a metal detector wand or a pat down screening. Most of the time it will be something simple like a large button, zipper or jewelry. I’ve even had the bobby pins in my hair set off an alert.
As for bags, we have found that there are certain things that tend to raise concern. Bags filled with electronics, camera equipment, or unusual shaped objects may need to be searched. For example, an innocent Christmas ornament that looks like a throwing star may keep you at the security station for a while (true story). The security machine also shows “organic matter”. Which can range from a box of Teddy Grahams to wooden shoe horns.
Just remember that the security officers are double checking you for the safety of all. Show security officers respect and be cooperative and you will be out in no time. I also mention these things to remind you to be choosy with what you bring. If you know you have to bring anything that could appear less than innocent, plan your time for a slow down.
Children and Security Checks
TSA will allow you to bring pumped breast milk over the 3.4 oz limit. Before going through security, make sure to tell the officers that the breast milk is in your bag. I’ve had different experiences in all of the airports that I’ve gone through, but most airports will have you take out the bottle and run a scan test on it. The milk is not affected in any way. They may also test your hands by a quick and simple swipe test and do a quick exam of the bag it is in. Breastmilk pumps are considered a medical device and can also be brought through security.
TSA will also allow baby food and water for formula above the 3.4 oz limit. As with breast milk, make sure to let security officers know what it is before going through security so they don’t think you are trying to sneak things through.
Find your Gate and Boarding
Once you have successfully made it through security, find a departure sign. These signs will let you know the gate where you will board your plane. From there, use the plethora of signs to lead you where you need to go. On the way, refill water and use the restroom/change diapers to prepare for your flight. Once at gate, make sure the flight number displayed on the information board matches your ticket. It also helps to listen to announcements as gates can change or flights could be delayed.
Airlines tend to start the boarding process about 30 minutes before the scheduled departure. Your ticket will tell you the zone or boarding number that you have been assigned. An announcement will be made when it’s your time to board. Family boarding is offered on many airlines, which allows anyone with young children to board before most passengers. This helps for little ones to get settled before the plane gets crowded.
Depending on the size of the airplane, a carry on size bag may be too big for the overhead bins. If it ends up not fitting, most airlines alert you of that just before boarding. They will then take the bag to the drop zone area of the plane (aka check the bag), without a charge. Take out any medications, or other necessary/breakable items before handing over your bag and place them in your personal item. That drop zone is also where strollers should be left.
Enjoy your Flight
By this point, you have successfully made it through the airport and enjoy your time in the air. On every flight, attendants will tell you what to do and give instructions on safety precautions. If you ever have concerns, alert an attendant for assistance using the call button near your seat.
Upon arrival, deboarding will begin after a flight attendant’s announcement. If you are catching another flight, once again, look for the departure signs. These will tell you the most update gate for your next flight. If you arrive too late and miss your connecting flight, don’t worry! Go to the gate your flight left from and ask for assistance to get to your destination.
Upon arrival in your final destination, you will need to pick up any checked bags. Follow the signs to Baggage Claim where you will collect your bag(s) off of the baggage carousel. In many cases, oversize bags will be in a separate area near the carousels. To know what carousel to pick up luggage many airlines will announce it before you get off the plane. There may also be signs with your flight number listed on screens near the carousels.
From here, you are off on an adventure!
Air travel can get you worked up easily. You’re having to deal with people who are from many different places. There is tightened security. You may be travelling during odd hours or over a long amount of time, which will leave you tired. All that said, the biggest tip I have is to be kind, courteous, and patient. A smile and a hello has never failed me in making traveling a better experience for myself and those around me.
Best of luck with your travels! I hope that knowing what to expect will make your exploring easier. Comment below with further questions about air travel. Let us know if there is another subject on which you would like to see a detailed list. We are always looking for ways to make your travel experience more enjoyable and frequent.
*As a disclaimer, things change from time to time. I will keep this post updated to the best of my ability, but for the most updated information visit the TSA website.
Over the last semester, Kyle has been in deep with the search for the next step in his career. Among the companies on his list, was The Hershey Company. We were ecstatic when he received a job offer and excited when the company wanted us […]
Our Thanksgiving European adventure didn’t end with our departure from Switzerland. It continued in Spain with a visit to some of our friends living just outside of Barcelona! Kyle and I met Brandon, Rachel, and their two kids when we were all living in Minnesota. […]
Last week we shared our favorite tricks and tips to travel while working with your current schedule. That post mentioned that a few years ago we had used our Thanksgiving break to visit Switzerland and Spain. In the ten days we were away, we were able to visit a handful of cities and packed in as much site seeing as we could. This made for a busy but wonderful trip for us. Below we have shared our travel log and itinerary for the first part of our exploration through beautiful Switzerland.
Somethings to note before you read… First, we planned to be moving around quite a bit during this trip. To do so, we purchased the Swiss Travel Pass. The price may seem expensive upfront, but ended up in our favor. The pass also allowed for flexible travel plans and admission to several locations were also included with the purchase of the pass. And second, knowing that we wouldn’t have a home base through most of the trip, we packed everything we needed into two personal item sized backpacks. It made for extremely lightweight travel which was appreciated because at the time I was in my first trimester of pregnancy with Rosalie. We will be posting about how and what we packed in a couple weeks.
Day 1 and 2: Traveling to and through Geneva
Except for a small hiccup during our transportation to the airport, everything went smoothly as we traveled from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Geneva, Switzerland. Neither of us slept much on the plane, but upon arrival in the morning, we didn’t want to trade sleep for exploring. The beauty of traveling in the off season allowed us to check into our room, freshen up, and repack what we needed for exploring, all while it was only mid-morning. While this may not always be the case, most hotels offer a baggage hold.
Our first destination was to visit Saint Pierre Cathedral. The main portion of the Cathedral is free to walk around and bask in the beauty of the stained glass windows, John Calvin’s chair, and the articulate woodwork. The real highlight for us was climbing up to the top of the towers, which did cost 5 Swiss Francs each. From up top, we were able to spy the Jete D’Eau fountain in Lake Geneva, many other churches and cathedrals, and a general view of the city in which we had just arrived.
After the Cathedral, we needed to change our money into Swiss Francs (CHF), and get something to eat. As we wandered around trying to find a bank, we jaunted past the high end shopping areas, beautiful fountains, and of course, lots of patisseries. I took enough French while at university that I was able to have a basic understanding of what people were saying, street signs, and to our best advantage, order food. After having a broken conversation with a girl in a particularly delicious looking patisserie, we munched on quiche, jambon et pain, and pain aux chocolate. It may have been that we were just so exhausted and hungry to think anything else, but we thought it tasted heavenly!
The day was going by much too quickly, and we had to run to get to the United Nations complex for the last tour of the day. We made it with a minute to spare, and jumped right into our tour group. It was interesting to be led through the rooms and hear about the history of the UN, and certain world decisions that had been made there. The tour was completely worth it, and I would recommend it to everyone. The only unfortunate part of our tour is that we had been awake for close to 30 hours by that point and were completely exhausted. There were more than a few moments where we had to keep nudging each other to stay awake. Thankfully, the UN was our last stop for the day. That allowed us to get some dinner, a shower, and get some well needed sleep.
Day 3: On the Road in Search of Castles
Around 3:00 am Kyle and I rolled over in bed wide awake, and neither of us could get back to sleep. At that point, we decided we might as well get a good start on our day. We got ready for the day, packed our backpacks, and headed to the station for the first train out of Geneva.
The train took us along the banks of a misty Lake Geneva. The sun was just starting to rise, revealing the snow capped mountains on the other side of the lake and vineyards and farms blanketing the hills. It was a beautiful view to take in while eating the pastries we had picked up at a patisserie the train station. About an hour into the train ride we got off at the colorful but still sleeping town of Montreux, then caught a bus just a walk down from the train station to take us almost the rest of the way to our destination.
Chillon Castle sits on the edge of Lake Geneva, it’s stereotypical castle shape perfectly silhouetted against the jagged mountains behind it. It felt like we were stepping back in time as we wandered through with our tour group. First stop was into the dungeons, were we learned that some recognizable names had found inspiration here. The poet Lord Byron wrote The Prisoner of Chillon based on the story he was told of a man chained to a pillar for 6 years. He even left a his mark on one of the “seven pillars of Gothic mould”. It was also not surprising to hear that Alexander Dumas and Victor Hugo gained inspiration for their literature through Chillon’s dungeons.
The dungeons were dark, ominous, and eerie, but the rest of the castle presented large rooms filled with intricately painted decor, massive fireplaces, iron-plated windows, and beautiful wood and stone work. When the tour continued to the outdoors and into the towers, we were amazed to learn that this castle actually began as a Roman outpost built on what appears to be a stone island, about 20 feet out on the lake. Its strategic placement led for it to be developed into a fort, then a small castle around 1005 AD. During the next 6 centuries, it was taken over and developed on many times until it reached its current height and magnitude.
Explorer Tip: If you are interested in visiting Chillon Castle, it is free with the Swiss Rail Pass (which we purchased because we were going to be on public transportation so often). To save money, you can also download an audio-guide app on your phone which costs much less than the audio-guide you would purchase there. Honestly, we liked it so much, we would have paid full price for everything just to visit, but it’s nice to know there are less expensive options.
We tried to time our trip back to the train station as best we could but ended up missing our train by about ten seconds because we went to the wrong side of the platform first. However, that turned out to be in our favor because Montreux had come alive and was bustling with people. It also allowed us to get our first taste of a European Christmas market. As we walked through the market, I munched on a banana and chocolate crepe and Kyle had vin chaude maison. This is a traditional Swiss dish that starts with pickles, onions, and boiled potatoes. Then a large wheel of cheese is placed under a heater. As soon as it gets bubbly and melted, it is scraped over the vegetables. Delicious!
Making sure to leave enough time to get on our next train, we soon found ourselves riding up into the mountains to Gruyeres. We were on a quest to find another castle there, but were pleased to see such beautiful surroundings as we rose higher on the slopes. Not realizing there were multiple train stations near Gruyeres, we jumped off one stop too soon and ended up having to walk along the highway for about two miles. This gave us the first glimpse of the Castle of Gruyeres, standing proudly at the highest point in the valley.
By the time we hiked up to the Castle of Gruyeres, we had taken in the exterior and were ready to explore inside. This castle was owned by a series of Dukes starting in the 11th century, though much has been added on throughout the following centuries. We absolutely loved the faux-tapestry paintings in the dining hall, stained glass windows, and other relics that were displayed through the museum. I especially enjoyed learning the story of a group of female villagers who protected the castle from siege by lighting the horns of their goats on fire and set them running loose down the hill towards the attackers.
We had heard that any stop to the Castle of Gruyeres needed to be followed by a treat at Le Chalet. This quaint restaurant, located just next to the castle, housed many specialties, including framboises avec creme (raspberries with cream). The cream was so thick that it coated the raspberries and balanced out the tartness. It was so rich we could barely finish one helping between the two of us. But we couldn’t stay long. Night had fallen, and we needed to get to the next train station, which turned out to be only a half mile down the hill from the castle. From there, we rode a series of trains and a bus to make it to our next location, in Bern.
Explorer Tip: There are three main languages spoken in Switzerland; French, German, and Italian. Up until this point, we had been in the French area, but in Bern we had stepped into German. While we tried to speak as much of the local language as we could, we were very grateful that most people we conversed with also spoke English. Do your best to speak the local language, but know that in many circumstances, you will still be able to communicate.
Day 4: A Beautiful Day in Bern
Even before we came on this trip, Switzerland held a special place in my heart. Many of my ancestors on my mother’s side are Swiss; mostly from Bern and Zurich. I knew that my visit to Bern would be a special time for me to connect to that part in my heritage, and was thrilled to explore where they may have walked and lived. Because of this, Kyle and I wanted to be able to see as much of the city as possible during the day we stayed there. We found the best way to do this was through a free walking tour.
We met on a corner near the train station for a 2 1/2 hour tour. According to our guide, records of settlements in this area date all the way back to 300 – 200 BC, however, 1191 AD is a more commonly known date of when a city first came into existence. The center of the development took place on a plateau in the peninsula of land shaped by the River Aare, thus creating a natural barrier on three sides of the city. The fourth side was protected by a wall to fortress the main city. Throughout the passing of time and expansion of the city, the wall was expanded further out from the peninsula. That area remained Old Bern, and the more recently developed land, New Bern.
Our guide walked the group by the Federal Palace, National Bank and then down into the lower area of the city along the River Aare. In medieval times, this is where the poor lived, as the area was prone to flooding. We were also told stories of a secret language known as “Miter English”, which was really nothing of the sort but confused the soldiers and aristocracy. After another climb up to the top of the plateau, we were greeted by Cathedral at Munsterplatz, a beautiful cathedral and surrounding park built in the 15th Century.
My favorite part of the tour came near the end as we were approaching the archaic astronomical clock, which was once a part of the original Old Bern gate. Each hour the clock puts on a show; different parts of the clock rotate, a rooster sounds, and a bell is rung to mark the hour. Considering the technology of the 13th Century when this was built, by medieval standards, it is pretty astonishing. Kyle and I also got a good chuckle out of a centuries old tradition. Apparently, Bernese boys cannot call themselves a man unless they urinate on the side of the clock tower. This tradition continues today, but thankfully, there is now a urinal and a stall to prevent any indecency problems that would most certainly arise.
Feeling like we had gotten an excellent look at Bern, we stopped for an early dinner, then walked back to our hotel, picked up our packs, and then caught a series of buses and trains to take us to our next destination, Interlaken. We had just walked through a beautiful day, but what we didn’t know then is how much the next day was going to heighten our senses and love of Switzerland.
Explorer Tip: In Bern, as it is with many European cities, most restaurants close between meals. Most meals in Switzerland cost at least 30 Swiss Francs, so budget for that expense if you plan to eat out each meal. We tried to lessen this expense by picking up portable food at a market and through finding hotels/hostels that served breakfast. Bread, cheese, fruit, and chocolate were constantly stored in the pockets of our bags. Also, Don’t waste your money on bottled water. The numerous fountains in Switzerland have drinking water that rivals what you purchase at a store.
Day 5: Up to New Heights
We arrived at Hotel Rossli late at night, so when we woke up the next morning we were greeted by the charming streets of Interlaken and the towering Alps. Our plan was to get into the mountains, so we didn’t linger long. Soon we were on a train up into the canyon town of Lauterbrunnen. From there we caught a gondola and one final train to take us to the mountain town of Murren. All of these modes of transportation are included in the Swiss Travel Pass we mentioned above.
Murren was quiet and quaint in the off season, so we followed the yellow diamond signs with the word Wanderweg (translates to trail). For the next four hours, we wandered trail after trail. Some were steep and muddy, some covered in snow, but we didn’t mind either because we were in the most incredible looking mountains that we have ever seen. Click here to see more hiking trails in this area.
When we got hungry, we started on our way back down. Along the way, we happened to walk through the part of the mountain filled with little farms and livestock. While we had been hiking, there always seemed to be cowbells tinkling in the distance, making the hills seem almost magical. At first we thought they were all the way down in the base of the canyon. As it turns out, the were just a short ways down our hiking trail. Even now, when I think of hiking there, my memory hears that echoing chime of bells in connection with the view.
Lauterbrunnen and Wengen
After a quick lunch at Skyline Shop and Bar, which offered amazing views of the canyon, we headed back down the way we came up. On our way out, we stopped in Lauterbrunnen to visit the towering Trummelbach Falls before heading to the train station. Missing our train by a minute, with the next one not departing for another hour, we decided to take a little detour and take another train to up to and down from Wengen. Though on the other side of the canyon, it was included with our Swiss Pass and we had time to kill, so we jumped on, merely to check out the scenery.
Back near our hotel, our evening plans included indulging in classic Swiss cheese fondu at Restaurant Chalet and a chocolate show at Schuh. Unfortunately, The downside of only using a backpack to carry your stuff means that you run out of clothes pretty quickly. We had planned it this way because we knew Hotel Rossli had a washer and dryer available. The rest of the night was spent washing and repacking. We didn’t mind, though. This day had definitely been the highlight of our trip, as as amazing as it had been, we were exhausted.
The next morning we woke up to the sound of rain, which meant our plans of going into the mountains again were not going to happen. Instead, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast at our hotel and then took to the streets of Interlaken and Unterseen. With the mist hovering just above the top of the buildings, it almost felt like we were walking through a fairy tale village. That is, until it started pouring rain.
Speiz and Thun
At that point we decided to go on a quest. We had an address for my great great grandma’s house and we were hoping to find it before leaving the area. According to my phone, it was within a twenty minute train ride from Spiez, on the outskirts of Thun. We arrived in Thun, ready to go find it, but ended up going on a wild goose chase. The directions were faulty, leading us down a beautiful, but ultimately wrong route. In the end, we didn’t end up finding the house, but we did end up finding another castle, and enjoyed the tight winding streets and architecture of Thun. After a day of wandering and exploring, we welcomed the final relaxing train ride to our final Switzerland destination, Zurich.
Zurich Christmas Market
It was our last day in Switzerland, and we were determined to soak in as much of the city as we could. Having heard so much about it, we couldn’t leave Zurich without visiting the famous Zurich Christmas Market. Located in the Zurich Main Station, it looked more like a small Christmas village rather than a center of transit. While there were treats in abundance, our favorite part was looking at the handiwork from craftsmen from all over Europe.
Wanting to see as much of Zurich as possible, we set out on another free walking tour. Starting at Fraumunster Church, founded around 853 AD, we wound through the narrow streets to other sites like Grossmunster Cathedral, built in the 12th century, and Saint Peter Church, with the largest church clock in Europe. Among the famous landmarks were frescos and fountains, cobblestone streets and cafes with fur lined dining chairs. It was easy to get caught up in the charm and history.
Best Hot Chocolate at Conditorei Schober
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One of our favorite things to explore are National Parks. When we move to a new location or start researching a trip, one of the first things we do is to check out what National Parks are nearby. Upon moving to Indiana, we knew we would be within driving distance (6.5 hours) to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Naturally, that was put on the top of our Explore List, and plans for a trip began.
After some research, we decided to stay in Gaitlinburg, Tennessee, as it is located mere miles from the entrance of the park. It is also filled with things to do and places to eat in the evening when the it gets dark. To top it off, some of our closest friends, Troy, Jocelyn, and their two kids, recently moved to South Carolina. Which made meeting them in Gaitlinburg a great middle ground (almost). We love sharing our adventures with friends, especially when one of their children is the same age as Rosalie.
This trip took place during Kyle’s Fall Break, which also allowed us to swing into South Carolina for a couple of days. Most of our time there was spent enjoying quality time with Troy and Jocelyn and their kids. However, having had a glimpse of the Carolinas, we can’t wait to go back and explore some more.
Wondering what we did each day? Check out our exploration vlog with all of our adventures.
Come back soon! Next week we will be sharing our favorite tips for road tripping with a toddler! In the meantime, get out and explore!
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Island Park, Idaho is the perfect escape from the wear of everyday life. Every time I have been there, our time is composed of two things; relaxing and playing. And maybe eating our favorite comfort foods. This is a place […]