Europe & Britain | People & Stories

Why Imperial Europe was the perfect tour for our pandemic-delayed honeymoon

Luiz and Jonathan met at a friend’s birthday party back in 2010, moved to Canada and got married before the pandemic, but it was only recently that the pair escaped to celebrate their love with a vacation abroad. The duo, originally from Brazil, joined our Imperial Europe tour as a delayed honeymoon trip.

For Luiz, who works for Trafalgar at our head office in Toronto, it was his first time taking a guided tour. For his husband John, it was his first guided tour and his first trip to Europe. Let’s hear about how it went…

EXPERIENCE IT: Imperial Europe

For your belated honeymoon you both joined Trafalgar’s Imperial Europe tour. Can you share a few highlights from the 10-day trip?

We had never been on a group tour before, but it really makes a difference having an expert Travel Director and the Local Specialists as our guides. You don’t just get to know the place as you see – you actually hear about the whole history of why something is the way it is. Even in between cities while on the bus, our Travel Directors do an outstanding job of explaining and contextualizing everything.

Everything is really taken care of – from the transfer from the airport to the hotel, to having all check-ins managed for us. It was really those things we never knew we appreciated (or needed) because we had never experienced them before.

We loved getting to know people from all over the world and seeing things through their perspectives too. All the exchanges and relationships are so valuable. There were people in our group from New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, USA… and for people like us, who enjoy making friends and learning more about other cultures, just by spending time with them (be it at breakfast, dinner, or during the excursions) was its own rich experience.

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Tell us about some of the stops on your Imperial Europe tour?

Munich was a great welcome to the whole tour. The old centre was beautiful and I loved to see everyone gathered to watch the Glockenspiel. Regensburg was also so lovely! We had free time, but at the end everyone from the group met up at this place that had a signature sandwich – which, according to the Travel Director, they have been serving for centuries.

Prague was our favourite place of all. It’s hard to just name one reason because it is absolutely captivating in all aspects.

Visiting Slovakia was wild. No one ever expects to say “Oh, I went to Slovakia this summer”. The capital (Bratislava) really feels like a small town, but it’s so charming in its own way. Day 4 is super cool because you start in Prague, pass by Bratislava and sleep in Budapest. So three different countries, three different languages, and three different currencies all in the same day.

Budapest also had our hearts. Just staring at the Parliament from across the river was so magical. While we were there it was St. Stephen’s Day (the patron of the country). The place was packed, but it was so incredible to participate in that special moment.

On to Vienna – I mean, there are really no words. Schonbrunn Palace is just an iconic sight. We got to do their garden maze – we love mazes, haha! Vienna is picturesque. Every turn is a piece of history… and to think that, at some point in history, Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky, and Freud were there at the same time. Wow! 

Salzburg needs no comments or introduction… As Sound of Music fans, you can imagine how excited we were to see some of the locations where the movie was filmed.

And Innsbruck was a perfect way to close off the trip. We spent time together with a handful of other guests and we really bonded. I stay in touch with them to this day! We walked up the City Tower, sat at a café to watch the town’s police band playing. It felt like just being with friends on a Sunday afternoon.

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What types of activities do you like to do while travelling?

We really like to feel as if we’re locals. We enjoy taking public transportation, eating local food at local places, visiting any and every attraction we read about online in anticipation of the trip, and taking lots of pictures. In general, we just really want to feel what it’d be like if we actually lived there. 

And we always try to get as much done as possible. We get very tired and never rest because we walk all day long looking for something else to discover. We really need vacations from our vacation, haha!

EXPERIENCE IT: Imperial Europe

What was it like joining a group tour for honeymoon? Did you get enough time to yourselves?

You know when you’re in school and you love being part of a group, but you also love having your best friend there sharing everything with you, and knowing what they’re thinking by just looking at each other? That’s what it’s like. You go through amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but you get to do it with your best friend right there sharing every minute of it with you. And trust me – being in a group is NOT a downside. You make friends in ways you would never imagine.

People saw us as a couple, and they treated us respectfully. We originally come from a country where there’s a lot of prejudice for being gay, and on all past trips we’ve felt self-conscious of whether we’d be accepted or if we had to act as if we were “just friends”. But in this environment, we never had to worry about it. We could simply enjoy it knowing we were being respected as we are – and really, we were. People liked us, we made lots of friends, and we got to connect not only to the destinations we were visiting, but also to all the stories of the people who were travelling with us in the group.

There’s free time built into all Trafalgar trips – and for people like us, who also like to do some exploring on our own, that’s a perfect combination. We got to see everything (and some more) with the Travel Director and the group, but then we also had some moments for ourselves to just go around town and explore.

We also extended our trip for four days after the tour, rented a car and drove down to Switzerland so we had some extra time away just the two of us. 

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Luiz, you work at Trafalgar HQ and know the brand well. Was there anything that surprised you? 

Lots of things! We obviously trust the product we sell, and we hear a lot about past guests returning and saying how our service and our Travel Directors make a difference – but the only way to really experience it is on a tour. Some nice things were –

  • Bus time is not lost time. That’s a misconception. You really enjoy bus time because you get to relax – and often nap! But you also get an introduction from the Travel Director to the destination you’re going to.
  • Seat rotation! I didn’t know that was a thing, but it’s an important one. Not only it helps ensure you’re never at the back or the front of the bus, but it also allows you to connect with different people around you every day throughout the trip.
  • Airport transfer, the porterage and care with luggage handling, the check-ins taken care of for us… all things I didn’t know I needed and now I’m spoiled.
  • You do have to wake up super early, and OMG, that was tough for me!
  • The kindness of the crew. We hadn’t brought an umbrella but our Travel Director Jonathan lent us his spare umbrella. It’s those little things that make you feel appreciated and taken care of.
  • The chance to hear it straight from the past guests’ mouths. As I said, we hear about people coming back and doing another tour with us, but it was so nice to hear it directly from them and why.
  • It’s 100% about connecting with people – a true social experience. And by that I mean – know that you will make new friends. My husband John is a super introvert. He’s not one to talk to people or get attached easily (this was actually something he was dreading a bit in anticipation of it), but by the end of the trip, he had become friends with everyone, and he actually came to miss them on those extra days in Switzerland just us. He formed bonds with people, he enjoyed helping the other passengers get their bags into the overhead carriage. He got so invested in hearing stories about everyone’s families and their hometowns. I mean, truly, we could never expect to connect with the other guests, with the Travel Director, Driver and Local Specialists the way we did.

Can you share a favourite memory from your honeymoon?

Wow, so many I could share…

  • Our meals together were extremely special – be it the Szentendre lunch, the Be My Guest dinner, Marchfelderhof in Vienna.
  • Everyone singing Sound of Music on the bus as we passed by the lakes and mountains in the Optional Experience. That was special! Plus, just us twirling for a TikTok fail moment right after our group picture!
  • Saying goodbye was heartbreaking and special in a way. We don’t know if we’ll ever see them again, but you finish the trip really wishing you would. They’re your gang at that point… And I guess that’s why past guests get together and travel with us again and again…
  • We got to see Jason Derulo at the airport. But we didn’t ask for pictures!

If you could return to just one destination on the Imperial Europe tour, where would you choose and why?

Prague, for sure. Another team member in Canada had already warned me, but I didn’t believe her. It’s such a special city in all aspects… The atmosphere, the people, its beauty, the food. The people were the nicest, and everyone spoke English and didn’t make us feel bad about not knowing their language. We were greeted with a smile everywhere we went. 

Then the beauty… be it the Old Town, the parks, the architecture… Natural and artificial beauty come together to create mesmerizing views on every corner. And there is SO much to do. Don’t be fooled into thinking Prague is just a one-day stop. I would have easily stayed there for at least four days.

And a hidden gem we got to do in Prague was: riding the Paternoster Lift in City Hall. I love elevators (I know, weird). Maybe you know what a Paternoster is, but in case you don’t – it’s this continuous-motion, old elevator that was very common in the late 1800s and early 1900s. One of the last ones remaining open to public visitation is in Prague’s City Hall. IT IS SO COOL! It may seem lame, but it’s such a unique experience!!

Where are you dreaming of travelling to next? Where else is on your bucket list?

We want to see everything and go everywhere, but our current top five are:

  • Trafalgar’s Balkan Adventure: This year we hope to go on our another multi-country, fast-paced, off-the-beaten-path trip and we’ve been craving it since last year. 
  • Trafalgar’s Capitals of Scandinavia is our plan B. We watch a lot of travel bloggers on YouTube and we saw these videos from this Ukrainian guy called Anton travelling across Norway, and WOW. Scandinavia soon became part of the bucket list.
  • Croatia and Slovenia – which we’ve had on the list since forever but haven’t had a chance to go yet.
  • Japan. This is a bigger commitment because we need at least two full weeks and to save up.
  • Iceland. We wanted to try a long-weekend getaway this year, but we haven’t been able to lock it down yet. We’ll see…

GET INSPIRED BY: Balkan Adventure

Do you have any tips for other honeymooners considering a group tour?

Do pre and post extensions. Not only it helps with the jetlag, but it softens the landing back to reality. And it’s a great way to have extra alone time during the trip.

If you’re looking for a more leisurely travel style, then choose to stay at the same place for longer instead of doing the multi-country trips. Really, you may think the pace is light because it’s a big group (and Trafalgar guests are generally in their 50/60s), but it can get quite hectic.

Do your research before travelling so you make the most of your free time. You can ask your Travel Director and they will have great tips for you. But there might be things that are very unique to you and only you know you will enjoy (like the Paternoster!).

Anything else you want to add?

Travel really is transformative. The other day John bought all the ingredients to make homemade schnitzel and German beer. He turned to me and said: 

“You have no idea how much your job imprints on people’s lives in a positive way. Today I had to buy all this because I missed our trip, and it’s something perhaps I wouldn’t have experienced had we not gone on a Trafalgar tour.  We got to hear about the history behind this dish and learn about those cultures as we tasted it. And now I’m recreating and bringing that moment of our trip back to my life… It’s just magical.”

Are you thinking of taking a Trafalgar tour for your honeymoon or to mark a special occasion? Let us know in the comments…

Luiz is the North America Brand & Communications Manager for Trafalgar and Costsaver. This was his real experience and opinions from his Imperial Europe tour.

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