“Silent Night. Christmas Delight”
Dec 1-9, 2024
Small Group



Holy Wienerschnitzel, if you want a totally different getaway, you’ll love our new AFS vacation of pure class and splash! Journey with us into the romantic cities of Vienna, Melk, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Lagenfeld and Munich, with a ton of fun along the way. Winter comes alive each December. It’s actually high season with festivals, classical music concerts and Waldstein.  Son of a nutcracker! Christmas markets this year are so popular, hotels are fully booked for December, but we’ve got you covered. Come visit five festive markets, each different with its own local specialties of crafts and culinary delights, and all committed to traditions dating back to the 15th century.

Leaping Lipizzaners! You haven’t seen horses dance like this. Elegant and regal Vienna will leave you spellbound. By day, we tour the Spanish riding school, Schonbrunn Palace, secret catacombs of St Stephen’s Cathedral and more. By night, we revel in the illuminated Christmas markets. On to visit Melk Abbey and then we enter the fairytale town of Salzburg, UNESCO site filled with wonders.  “The Hills are Alive!” – You’ll love our Sound of Music day touring the same places Julie Andrews fell in love with. Visit the home of Mozart and opt for sleigh rides at night. 

Oh, Holy Night! It’s magical as we head into the foothills to charming Oberdorf to visit a mass at the Silent Night Church, where the song was composed in 1818. At the museum, our guide will immerse you in the humbling story of how this Christmas classic song was born, truly a touching experience. Later, we coach into the stunning Alps of Innsbruck for a visit to Swarovski Crystal World and its fantastical Chambers of Wonders tour.

Splash and relax! Imagine indulging yourself in a Sky Spa with the Tyrolean Alps at your feet. This remarkable waterpark for adults is the perfect place to play in the snow and to relax in therapeutic waters. Bask at the Spa 3000, 7 unique saunas, 12 warm indoor and outdoor mineral spring-fed swimming pools and more to spoil yourself silly. Once a hidden gem, this trendy wellness spa has become so popular now we’ve already paid for your rooms. Get ready for an unforgettable experience that will make you never want to leave.

Finally, we visit historic Munich to tour its famous sites. Hoist your Bavarian beer stein and grab a warm giant pretzel as we dance to a live Oompah band. Then explore the endless open-air markets here filled with German delicacies and treasures. It is here where all Christmas markets began. Our past groups loved this trip of Alpine wonders. Come discover six different regions full of contrast and serene beauty for a magical Winter Wonderland holiday you’ll never forget!



Our Glorious AFS Itinerary

Click here for the Trip Tips

Click for a printable PDF itinerary

Dec-1 Depart USA

Departure – Fly USA to Vienna (return air from Munich. Air details and all coming soon in your trip tips.)

Dec-2  Welcome to Austria!                      D

Today our tour officially begins.  Vienna is a city so rich in history, culture in architectural beauty with stunning baroque architecture from Schonbrunn to the Belvedere Palace, as well as the Gothic St Stephen’s Cathedral. It’s also home to world-renowned museums, including Kunsthistorisches museum and the Albertina to appreciate works of art spanning the centuries. Music lovers are thrilled to visit the birthplace of some of the world’s greatest composers like Mozart, Strauss and Schubert. The Vienna State Opera offers unforgettable evenings of classical music and ballet. Vienna’s culinary scene is a delightful mix of traditional Austrian dishes and modern fusion. Indulge in tasty pastries like Sacher torte in the elegant coffee houses. Winter is enchanting as warm lights cast a glow while snowflakes swirl. There are inviting cafés with the richest hot chocolates and mulled wines. Enjoy ice-skating at the famous Rathausplatz. It’s a sophisticated atmosphere all around you in this elegant and timeless city.

Arrive Vienna International Airport and transfer to our hotel. (One common group transfer from airport to hotel.  Details in trip tips.) Depending on your arrival times, relax or explore this beautiful city. Everything centers around the fabulous squares of Saint Stephen’s and City Hall. Tonight we gather for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant to get to know our fellow AFS Travelers.

Overnight at Leonardo Vienna  https://www.leonardo-hotels.com/vienna/leonardo-hotel-vienna

Located in the trendy heart of the city, this modern and stylish hotel serves as the perfect base for our adventure. Located on the picturesque Europaplatz with easy access to the city’s top sights and attractions.  When you’re not out exploring the enchanting streets of Vienna, you can unwind in the hotel’s FIT & RELAX lounge or rejuvenate in your comfortable and stylish hotel room. Throughout the hotel, you’ll find eye-catching and vibrant designs that reflect both Vienna’s modernity and its rich cultural heritage.

Dec- 3    Best of Vienna Tour                        B

After breakfast, prepare for a full day revealing this classy city’s regal wonders. We start with a guided tour of imperial Schonbrunn Palace to marvel at its frescoed ceilings, crystal chandeliers and gilded ornaments. This is Austria’s most popular attraction. Vienna is the former center of the Habsburg Empire, and this place presents real history! See fantastic art and furnishings in the many staterooms. Admire the expansive gardens, courtyards, fountains, sculptures and much more. The corridors echo to the sound of Empress Maria Teresa planning royal weddings here in the 1700s. Mozart performed to the courts behind these walls. So much opulence acts as a monument to the decadence of the nobility in times past. For more details, visit www.visitvienna.com

We proceed for a walking tour of approximately 3 hours.  St Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of the city is Austria’s national symbol,
located on Stephanplatz Square, a UNESCO world heritage site. The magnificent cathedral is known for its intricately tiled roof with stunning lookout views. With its dark Gothic spires and imposing Belltower, it’s an architectural wonder both inside and out. Learn about the great historic significance and the Habsburg dignitaries buried here.  “Secret rooftops & catacombs “   Enjoy a guided tour and explore the roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral with breathtaking views of Vienna. Next to the North Tower elevator is the entrance to the catacombs underneath the cathedral, an underground burial place that contains the mausoleum of the bishops, the tombs of Duke Rudolph the Founder and 14 other members of the Habsburg family, and 56 urns with the intestines of the Habsburgs buried between 1650 and the 19th century in the Imperial Burial Vault.  For those feeling fit, from the south tower, you can climb the 343 steps up a tight spiral staircase leading up to the watchman’s lookout 300 feet above street level; it was once used as a fire warden’s station but now serves as an observation point offering great photos.

Next, we visit the famous Spanish Riding School. The Spanische Hofreitschule is the oldest and last riding school in the world, where classic dressage is still practiced in its purest form. This Institute was founded in 1572 and its very name gives away the fact that the horses were of Spanish origin. The Lipizzaner is regarded as the oldest classic horse race in Europe.

We will have our tickets to enjoy a training session. The training offers you an insight into the exercises of the riders with their Lipizzaners. You
will see both the exercise of the often still grey young stallions and the fully trained school stallions – our “white stars” – in the imperial setting of the baroque Winter Riding School, accompanied by classical Viennese music.  The training of the horses includes relaxation exercises, the refinement and perfection of lections, as well as the targeted strengthening of muscles. Training sessions keep the horses motivated and fit for spectacular performances.

At days end, our coach will transfer you to the hotel or drop you off at the city’s greatest Christmas Market! Revel in all the delights presented here.  Unlike smaller towns, which only have one main Christmas market, Vienna has over a dozen Christmas Markets.

Overnight at Leonardo Vienna

Dec-4   Melk Abbey Tour & Salzburg                  B

Salzburg skyline with Festung Hohensalzburg in winter.

Checkout and drive to Salzburg enroute stop to visit beautiful Melk. On the banks of the winding Danube River, passing crumbling castles, quaint towns with orange-topped roofs and vineyards, is one of Austria’s most iconic sites: Melk Abbey. The monastery is impossible to miss as it’s perched high on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful town below. Its sunshine yellow facade is a welcoming sight, and the twin spires and huge octagonal dome make for an inspiring scene.

Visit Melk Benedictine Abbey.  Built-in the early 1700s as a royal palace, Melk Abbey was eventually gifted to Benedictine monks who turned the estate into a fortified abbey. Today, despite being open to tourists, it continues to serve its religious purpose and is home to hundreds of pupils training to become monks. While monk sightings at the Melk Abbey aren’t guaranteed, stunning lookout points, incredible architecture and some rather shocking surprises make it well worth a visit.

Continue to Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart. In December, there’s magic in the air in Salzburg, with its snowcapped peaks and frost-tinged baroque architecture, transforming this picturesque city into a breathtaking wonderland. The charming old town, or Altstadt, brims with history and culture. Roam the quaint cobblestone alleyways with centuries-old buildings blanketed in powdery snow.  At night, stroll through the delightful Advent markets that illuminate Salzburg squares with a warm festive glow, whimsical sense of baked treats and warm wine wafting through the air. The Christkindlmarkt in front of the fortress remains one of Europe’s oldest and most authentic Christmas markets, dating back over 500 years! Winter comes alive with music and waltzing and an opulent cultural scene of concerts, ballet and opera. Despite its snowy landscapes, you’ll have a heartwarming encounter with winter charms here.

Check into our hotel, an ideal retreat of contemporary elegance. Enjoy the indoor heated pool, Finnish sauna, gym, free Wi-Fi and bar set in a great location.

Overnight at Wyndham Grand Salzburg


Wyndham Grand Salzburg is a modern oasis amidst baroque grandeur, our hotel offers contemporary elegance, superior service, and state-of-the-art conference facilities. Situated in central Salzburg, only 5km from the airport, we provide convenience for those seeking to explore the stunning Alps.  Indulge in a refreshing swim in our heated indoor pool, relax in our Finnish sauna, or stay active in our well-equipped Fitness Center. Enjoy the convenience of free WiFi and make use of our fully-equipped business center for increased productivity. At our BarRoque bistro and bar, experience trendy takes on traditional Austrian cuisine.

 Dec-5      Sound of Music Tour , Salzburg                                      B

Christmas decorations with red balls and a view of Salzburg.

After breakfast, we embark on our guided walking tour of the World Heritage City of Salzburg.  Then on to the beautiful landscapes where the scenes of the movie The Sound of Music were filmed!  This tour includes original shooting locations from “The Sound of Music” movie: Mirabell Garden and Pegasus Fountain, where Maria and the children danced in the movie Nonnberg Convent, where Maria was a novice, Schloss Leopoldskron, the house, where the Trapp Family lived in the movie which is now a luxury hotel, Hellbrunn Palace (singing scenes in the movie), Gazebo (now placed in Hellbrunn), where the Baron von Trapp kissed Maria for the first time Church Mondsee, where Maria and the Baron get married.  
Later, we coach through the hills to the charming town of Oberndorf – the birthplace of the world-famous carol “Silent Night”. Find out more about the history of “Silent Night” composed and first performed in Oberndorf in 1818, and take a stroll through the picturesque town. We will visit the Silent Night Chapel and Museum for a unique experience delving into the history of this Christmas carol and its creators, Gruber and Mohr. It showcases historical exhibits that provide insight to their lives and social context. You can listen to many translations of the song at your phone stations in the sound room.  Here, visitors embrace the Christmas spirit with lasting memories.  Choirs may or may not be performing in the chapel as we visit.

Back to the city with so much to do here. It’s free to visit the cool Red Bull Museum. At night, easy to arrange Mozart dinner, Mirabella palace concert and horse drawn sleigh rides.  Return to the hotel.

Overnight– Wyndham Grand Salzburg

Dec-6 –  Innsbruck  – Lagenfeld                      B & D

Check out. Depart Salzberg to Innsbruck to visit the world-famous Swarovski Crystal World. You’ll enter a realm of fantasy designed by some of the greatest artists in the world. Explore the Chamber of Wonders and the illuminated art installations around the gardens with Christmas themes here. Free time to shop for crystal art and jewelry at great prices.

Continue our drive around two hours into breathtaking Lagenfeld, a village nestled in Otzal Valley and surrounded by majestic Mountains. Check-in for 2 glorious nights at Aqua Dome Tyrol Thermal Resort. It brings wellness to a new dimension as you are carried away into a world of the most unique thermal baths, spas, saunas and swimming pools! Don your hotel robe for the full day to explore each amazing chamber. Then we gather in the restaurant for artisanal gourmet dinners.

Overnight – Aqua Dome https://www.aqua-dome.at/en/

Delight in the culinary treasures and comfortable ambiance of our rooms, crafted with natural materials, abundant wood, and inviting tones. Our modern alpine setting will envelop you in relaxation and tranquility. Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of nature and revive your body and soul.  Your stay includes – Daily Thermal Vital Arrangement with a sumptuous breakfast buffet, Dinner (5-course menu of your choice, served or offered from the thermal-bath buffet). Use of the thermal bath, sauna and fitness world.  SPA 3000 a huge area for hotel guests only, free Wi-Fi, fresh fruit and robe in room.

Dec-7 – Aqua Dome                             B & D

Aquadome Austria The whole day free to relax at Aqua Dome! The staff will brief you on all outside options to play and detail all spa facilities.

Tobogganing fun- Whether racing down the mountain or leisurely through the snow-covered winter world, experience the Ötztal landscape on skids.  Wurzbergalm near Winklen  provides some exciting toboggan runs.  Take a leisurely hike along the wide forest path toward the Nisslalm. Once you have reached the top, enjoy a hearty snack with the innkeeper Albertina before returning to the village on the toboggan.

Längenfeld suspension bridge:  Since 2013, a new architectural highlight has been swinging high above Längenfeld: an ultra- modern 82-metre suspension bridge at a height of 150 metres. Starting from Burgstein, you can reach the suspension bridge in just a few minutes.  Cross the suspension bridge to reach the hamlet of Brand – here, you will find the Brandalm and ancient farms witligght


h spectacular views of the picturesque Ötztal valley in the glorious winter sun. This mountain hike takes around three hours up and back.

Overnight – Aqua Dome https://www.aqua-dome.at/en/  Be sure to rest here for the full day tomorrow.

Dec- 8  Munich city tour and Christmas Markets               B & D

We start with a guided walking city tour of Munich’s iconic sites. We stroll along sites including the Town Hall, the Old and New Pinakothek, the former artists’ quarter Schwabing, and we go all along the impressive Ludwig and Prinzregenten streets lined by magnificent buildings, Theatiner church, Hall of Generals, Frauenchurch House of Arts, Bavarian National Museum and the Angel of Peace. The elegant Maximilian Street takes us back to the center of town, with a view of the Bavarian Parliament, Deutsches Museum, Royal Palace and the Opera House. In the ancient part of town, we point out the well- known Hofbräuhaus, the medieval town gates and the colorful open-air market (Viktualienmarkt).

Then we depart to one of Germany’s most famous restaurants, the lively Hofbrauhaus with nonstop fun! Toast your new AFS friends farewell at a place you’ll never forget. After dinner, driver will drop us off at Marienplatz Square to explore the endless open-air stalls of Christkindlemakt.

 Overnight:  Maritim Inn Hotel Munich.  Overnight at this 4-star hotel our groups love for its prime location in the heart of everything. Only a few steps away from Munich’s main rail station that can whisk you anywhere. 40 kilometers to the airport. It’s located in an inner courtyard to ensure pleasant peace and quiet despite its central location, near Marenplatz, the old town hall and other major sites just a short walk away. In the hotels indoor panorama swimming pool, you can escape the hustle of the city and enjoy relaxing views over the roofs of Munich. Free Wi-Fi, bar, sauna, Wintergarden restaurant.  It’s a five minute walk to the train station for Trane’s direct to airport.   www.maritim.com

Dec- 9 Depart Munich                   B

After breakfast, check out on your own and walk to the airport for your flight home. Many of our past groups here extended more time here on their own at the trip’s end.


Deposit: $500 (after April 1 deposit is $500 plus 50% of the tour cost to guarantee Aquadome rooms.)

Land price $3150 pp twin share (price based on 25 participants)

Payment schedule: 2nd deposit due Apr. 1st, 50% and final due on Sept 1.   $90 pre-paid gratuities will be added to your final invoice later for guides, drivers and local staff for your convenience.

Included- seven nights first class accommodation, buffet breakfast daily, meals listed as per program (B,L,D) farewell dinner in Munich, welcome dinner in Vienna, deluxe coach for all transfers, tour director, AFS GTL, all monument entrance fees, local English-speaking guides, tickets to visit Schonbrun Palace, one-hour training session in Spanish riding school, private guided tour Sound of Music, Silent Night Chapel, all applicable taxes.

Not Included –  Air from USA, travel insurance, gratuities $90 that will be added to your invoice before final payment.

Itineraries are prepared up to a year ahead and things can change.  Modifications may be made.   All rooms are run of house.

Have you read the Trip Tips yet? Then Click Here



Christmas Markets & Aquadome Travel Trip Tips 2024

Prepare to be thrilled by 4 breathtaking regions tucked deep inside Europe for a winter Alpine adventure like no other! With Vienna, Melk, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Lagenfeld and Munich, I wonder which place will be your favorite. Each day is filled with fun and scenic beauty. Our past groups loved it, and we made your 2024 vacation even more special. 

We have a wonderful group of 24 travel lovers. Get to know each other on your private Facebook page. See below. Deanna knows these regions well and is excited to lead you. More details will come to you by email as we near departure. Anticipation is half the fun!

Trip Tips are designed to answer trip-related questions. It’s your responsibility to read this information.  Updates and addendums will be posted here.  Some travelers have lost their entire trip for not reading what we send on visas, air details, inoculations, etc.  Check back from time to time.

  • PAYMENT DATYES: 50% due APR 1 and Final due  SEP 1. Wetravel is our booking management company. It allows you to pay by check electronically without a fee. Please follow the instructions below. If you choose to pay with a credit card, a processing fee at the time of purchase the amount displayed in the upper right-hand corner of your payment screen. To pay online for free, simply enter your checking account routing and account numbers. Alternatively, you can write a check to Adventures For Solo Travelers. Include trip name of country name so that we can apply it correctly. Then text a picture of the check to 770-432-8225, and we will enter your payment without any a processing fee.

Your fearless GTL (Gracious Trip Leader, not a guide but a liaison between our guides and group to ensure things run smoothly.)

Deanna P GTL
Deanna Purdie GTL

Deanna Purdie:  Based in Atlanta, making her way around the globe with over 60 countries visited…mostly solo until finding out about AFS in 2017.  With degrees in Photography and Graphic Design from SCAD, she enjoys helping others capture and create interesting posts for Social Media that your friends are sure to envy. Also, with a background in IT/Communications, she is able to help solve any tech issues you may have with your devices or apps.  She enjoys a healthy active lifestyle of working out, skiing, snorkeling and hiking.  Always researching and learning…she has been studying and speaking French for the past 8+ years and will be sure to have at least 2-3 new Travel Hacks and tips for you each trip!

Deanna is a great asset to AFS, not just because of her capable skills in leadership and her wisdom, but it’s her joyous enthusiasm in guiding others in exploration!

Trip Prep:
• Read the revised Heading Abroad with AFS, especially if you are new to AFS.
• Ensure your passport is valid 6 months after return date with two blank pages – these are Visa pages, not addendum pages.  Take a photo of your passport to store in the cloud or bring a copy. If you lose your passport, US embassies now except a digital copy from your email.
• To speed through US Customs download Mobile Passport. Look in your App Store for details.
• Notify bank and cc company of travel dates so they don’t block charges.
• All airline rules differ. It is imperative to read your airline rules on their website to ensure a smooth departure! Always check your flight before departure.

 Fitness level – Moderate walks and activities daily.  (Know your limits! AFS trips are generally a soft adventure with moderate activity. All included extensive walking. As we age, we think we can do what we used to do but discover on the trip an activity is too strenuous and are slowing down the entire group. We cannot be responsible for booking a trip beyond your skill level and physical stamina. Please be respectful of your fellow AFS Travelers and consider choosing an itinerary that is more conducive to your needs so you can thoroughly enjoy your trip!)

General Air Info –  Route changes can happen now. Airlines must notify you of such and protect you if problem with flight.  Consider flying in early to ensure you’ll be there once trip begins.   Always download and use your airlines app! Use app to track your booking, delays, bags, to show boarding pass and to contact them. If you have a flight problem go to the airline’s website “contact us” page or reach them by text, social media, Skype or call their international number.  Also, premium credit cards often offer many air perks, assistance, insurance, lounge passes, global entry and more. Read more at www.tpg.com for best cards.

Considering flying business class?  Many want to but don’t realize fares range from 4K to 9K. We do have two good contacts for AFS that can get seats at nearly half cost by combining award miles….  ali@above9.travel  Ph. (855) 777-6336 or britney@business-class.com 305-390-4132 or see skylux.com or business-class.com.  Tell them Suzy sent you.

 Group Air:  None. Sometimes we offer group air but find few people book sometimes find better rates on own direct from hometown.  This provides you better flexibility to go early or extend at trip end.  I know we will not meet the minimum required to make a group booking since this is a small group.

 Important Air Dates –  December 1-9. Fly on December 1 into Vienna and out of Munich on December 9. Land starts December 2.

 Doing Own Air–  Many airlines fly USA into Vienna and out of Munich: United, American, Delta, Air France, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, KLM, and more.  JFK flights are always the cheapest. Google Flights lets you put in fare alerts when prices drop. I know some in this group are airfare savvy, so please share if you find a good deal.

We like Google Flights.  3rd-party booking engines like Expedia, make it easy to book, but it is nearly impossible to handle air problems.  Buy direct from airline or pay a travel agent to ticket you.  If you need help air with the economy seat,  our guy Delhi can help; email flights@diversedestination.com with your exact air dates, destination, passport name, and details with birthdate.

Transfers–   we will have one common group airport pick up on Dec 2 to accommodate as many as possible if flight times are similar. Take a taxi to hotel Leonardo Vienna: https://www.leonardo-hotels.com/vienna/leonardo-hotel-vienna. Or you can take Uber, Bolt, or the new fast airport Express train that takes you right to the city center.

(With travelers arriving and departing on different days and times, it is insurmountable to manage. Group air airport transfers are based on set time. Without group air, there can no longer be any pick-ups or drop-offs.  Unfortunately, now like other tour companies, transfers are your responsibility. (We’ve spent weeks each trip making spreadsheets of each person’s air to send to the supplier and then flights change. We then hire a guide, driver and pay airport parking fees. Last year in groups only half showed up as guides waited hours looking for others. Sometimes no AFSers showed up without informing us.) Transfers are not expensive. First, google your arrival airport website to see transfer tab. More details later.Suggestions to appear like airport bus, taxi details, Uber and more. Then connect on group Facebook page to set up sharing transfer cost if you like.  If you go early and check-in AFS hotel before group arrives, it’s your responsibility to change rooms with your roommate if necessary day one when trip begins.)

Meet Up With Group- Again, we meet on DEC 2 at hotel. A time will be set later depending on group transfer.

Baggage– Think light to ease your burden, not like you’re fleeing your homeland.   1 carry-on bag & 1 medium suitcase not to exceed 45lb checked bag – weigh on a bathroom scale.  Apple AirTags work great to track checked bags when the airline cannot, also good for carry-on.   Leave space for great souvenirs. Be sure to attach ID inside and out of carry-on and checked bag.

Packing-  Google weather a week prior departure.  Temps average 32° low and 45° high.

Pack warm clothing like sweaters and long-sleeved shirts, as well as layering pieces such as cardigans and scarves. Totally casual trip with versatile clothing to layer. Bring down a down jacket, thermal underlayer, gloves, wool hat and scarf, and winter boots. Also, swimsuit, sunglasses, day pack. Aquadome provides robes.

Read Packing 101 in Heading Abroad with AFS

Packing for the Aquadome requires considering the cold weather and winter conditions. Firstly, it is essential to pack warm clothing such as thermal layers, heavy coats, hats, gloves, and scarves to stay comfortable in the chilly temperatures. Additionally, waterproof and insulated boots are necessary to navigate the snowy terrain around the Aquadome. Don’t forget to pack swimwear as the Aquadome features indoor and outdoor pools with thermal waters. Lastly, pack a good quality sunscreen as the sun’s rays can be intense even during winter.

Cool travel hacks from our AFSers! Pack overnight outfit in your carry-on, liquid IV packets to hydrate, use packing cubes, downy wrinkle spray, Apple AirTags, extra nylon bag to check laundry home, tons of US dollars for extra tips, fully charged travel banks, less is more, get global entry.

Electric– Cell phones and tablets do not need a converter; you only need an adapter plug.  AFSers often leave charger cords in room, so be sure to double-check your room before check out. All properties have hairdryers.  See https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com

Type C two-prong round 2-prong round plug

Money Matters – Always bring some cash!  You will need some cash for personal tipping, meals, and shopping. $300 cash should suffice.    Change currency on arrival at airport, bank, or hotels or withdraw local currency from an ATM.  Note -independent ATMs are risky due to skimmer scams. Safest ATMs are at airport and banks rather than independent ATMs found in restaurants etc.. Always shield your pin number when entering.  Bring newer bills 2016 on as some countries won’t take old or slightly damaged bills.

Master Card and Visa accepted on ship.  Amex is not.   Credit cards are far safer than using your debit card. I use my credit card for most purchases.  Many cards now offer no foreign transaction fees.

Gratuities –  It is protocol to tip our local guides, assistants, porters, wait staff, drivers and ground staff. Guidelines have increased globally.  $90 will be added to your invoice before final payment for ease of distribution why your trip leader throughout each day.

Tipping on own – If service is stellar, feel free to give more directly.  All we tourists leave behind is our reputation. I carry a stash of US ones in an envelope to draw from as needed.

Communication– Internet is available on shore at the usual places like restaurants, coffee houses etc. With smartphones, be sure to check with your provider for rates and coverage for international phone plans before departure. Data Roaming rates can be expensive. To reach home – Texting, iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook messaging when using WIFI. Be cautious using public Wi-Fi without using VPN. Without VPN never open attachments or view financial or personal accounts on the Internet while abroad.  Phone calls, text messages, and data usage of all kinds, it is crucial to understand that, unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, every use of your phone incurs a data toll. That means that viewing and downloading email, browsing the web, viewing social media, and mapping all incur data charges, as do applications that we sometimes assume to be “free,” such as Skype and WhatsApp. Unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, however, WhatsApp is using cellular data, so you are getting charged at your provider’s international roaming data rate.  Facebook Messenger Phone is an easy free way to make calls.

Retail Therapy – Endless unique handicrafts in the Christmas markets. Also, fancy nutcrackers, beer steins, cuckoo clocks, art, Swiss watches and army knives, jewelry, premium chocolates, and more. Great time to do your Christmas shopping.

Websites:  aqua-dome.at.  www.visitingvienna.com, salisburg.info, Innsbruck.info, www.Munich.travel. Please go to the side for valuable info on all the places you will visit.

Amending tour pre-or post-trip. We honor your independent spirit, but encourage you to extend more days at the trip’s end when you’re acclimated well to the destination.  If you add another country, we often see many AFSers on Facebook urging others to join them what do you consider the cost of tours, transport, hotels, etc.  Stopovers are great to add, but understand AFS has no responsibility for the quality of your trip.

Private Facebook Group Page  –  The benefit of the Private FB Group Page is that you have an opportunity to introduce yourself to your fellow travelers before departure and share trip photos during and after the tour.  The link can be found in your Wetravel welcome letter after your initial deposit.  (We found that some never read the Trip Tips jumping right to the Private FB Group Page assuming they will get all trip info needed. Often, they only receive rumors or misinformation. All important information is ALWAYS emailed to each participant and posted in Trip Tips under UPDATES. Nobody misses a thing.)

Emergency Contact – AFS phone or text 770-432-8225, or email us at https://www.afstravelers.com/contact-us/    More contacts will be provided with your Final Docs email 2 to 3 weeks before departure. Your guide can handle a call home for a true emergency. Do not expect to use your trip leader’s cell phone; you’ll need to use your own.

Cancellation Penalty –  At booking, we sent you our terms and conditions. Click here for our Terms & Conditions  and here for for Cancellation refund policy   In part it states “a written request for cancellation through email or text with your name and cancellation specifics to 770-432-8225. Please be aware that when a refund is due, a $155 administrative fee will be charged for each cancellation.

Travel Insurance– While travel insurance is optional, in today’s world we highly encourage you to get standard coverage to cover trip interruption and cancellation.  Best source for all is www.insuremytrip.com.

Travel Psychology 101  – Prepare for your departure joyfully with no contempt before investigation upon arrival. Please understand that with travel, things are not like at home and changes may occur. Great trips work best for those with an open mind, flexible attitude and adventuresome spirit.  If changes occur, embrace them with serendipity. Who knows?… The unexpected may prove to be a better experience.  Adapt and go with the flow with a laid-back attitude.  Be spontaneous. Be tolerant of foreign cultures in respecting their centuries of traditions. Embrace the differences. Be curious, not shy. Smile – locals will sense your energy of kindness and kindness always begets kindness.  Our common goal is to experience different cultures, make new friends, get great photos, have large fun, and return home safely with memories worthy of recollection.

The best spirit of an Explorer requires the openness of a child – Suzy

“When traveling, remember that a foreign country isn’t designed to make you comfortable.  It’s designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clinton Fadiman