I couldn't resist designing this vacation inspired by my favorite vampire novel. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova's epic 2005 novel, is an epic story of a father and daughter chasing Dracula across Europe.
Start off in Oxford and wind your way down to Istanbul over 7 magical weeks. You'll travel by train through stunning countrysides, climb a hill to reach a castle towering above a brilliant lake, page through centuries-old books in hidden libraries, explore secluded monasteries, take tea in tiny jewel-colored shops, and of course, like Paul and Helen in The Historian, be on the lookout for vampires!
What cities will you visit? (deep breath) Here we go! Oxford, Amsterdam, Paris, Collioure, Vernet-les-Bains, Montepulciano, Venice, Lake Bled, Ljubljana, Kostanjevica, Budapest, Athens, Crete, Split, Mostar, Dubrovnik, Sofia, and Istanbul!
This is the trip of a lifetime, perfect for lovers of literature, spookiness, and the romance of train travel. Tempted? Fill out our travel interest form and simply write "The Historian" in the "where would you like to go" section (no need for additional details!). We'll reach out to you right away to begin talking about your grand adventure!
P.S. Though not intended as a guided tour, if you had a group and wanted a guide, we could do that (schedule permitting) for an additional fee.
Summer is the peak travel season for most destinations, and demand is higher than ever. How can you help your summer travels go smoothly? Here are four simple tips.
We get it. You don't get the chance to travel to Europe every day, and you want to see as much as you can. So you want an itinerary that takes you EVERYWHERE. But let's look at the opposite sort of trip for a moment. There is a lot of value in choosing a single city and staying there for a week or more. Why? Here are a few reasons.
Of course, you know yourself best, and if you love a fast pace and don't mind a lot of travel days, then go for it! We're not saying this is the only way to see the world--just that it's a wonderful, often-unappreciated one that we think more people should consider.
If you do want to see multiple cities, a great way to do so is with a small-group tour. Then you won't have to worry about travel arrangements, you won't need to use your energy figuring out how to navigate new train stations or airports, and you'll have the comfort of a knowledgeable tour guide's presence to introduce you to a new place. Even with small-group tours, though, watch out for ones that try to fit, say, five countries into one week. That often means moving at an exhausting pace. Our recommendation is to find a tour that gives you at least three full days in each city you stay in (hey, like one of ours, perhaps!).
Have you been procrastinating on getting your passport? It can seem intimidating, but it's really just a few simple steps. We thought we'd break them down, to make it as easy as possible for you. Because, of course, having a passport is the first step that leads to you, for example, eating a pain au chocolat in a Parisian boulangerie.
These steps are to get a new passport or a renewed passport in person. There are also renew-by-mail options, and (rolled out as a test last year) online renewal options. But this traditional process is currently the most straightforward and reliable at this time, in our opinion.
This is also the process to get a passport at the "routine" or "expedited" rate, but is NOT the procedure if you need a passport for an emergency or for urgent travel. You can learn more about what to do in those cases at this link.
So, let's get you a passport!
And of course, once you have that passport, it's time to use it! Fill out our Travel Interest Form and we can begin building you the perfect vacation!
Travel journalists Asher and Lyric Fergusson have created the 2023 LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index, an incredibly well-researched ranked list of 203 countries. This list does a great job of boiling down the varying factors that contribute to the safety and security of LGBTQ+ travelers into a simple-to-follow guide. They measure everything from transgender legal protections, to same-sex marriage laws, to how people there answered the survey question "Is this a good place to live for gay or lesbian people?"
As tour operators and travel agents, this is something important to us, not just for our LGBTQ+ clients, but for our company as a whole. It's important to us that the tours we lead, the countries we visit, and the businesses we patronize, are all safe for all our clients, and do not compromise on the values we hold. Back in 2021, we shared that year's index, so we wanted to make sure we shared this update.
After the full details of the country list, they also include 37 LGBTQ+ travel safety tips.
Thinking of planning your own trip abroad? Take a look at the Fergussons' index--it might just spark some new ideas! (Anyone up for a trip to Sweden?)
It's important to us to contribute positively, in whatever small way we can, to the places we visit. To that end, we will be donating 10% of our profits from our Cakes and Coffeehouses small-group tour of Budapest and Vienna to the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. Founded in 1994, the HCLU is the leading Hungarian human rights NGO. They monitor legislation, pursue strategic litigation, provide free legal aid, provide trainings and run awareness-raising media campaigns.
The HCLU's "Equality Project" focuses on fighting state-level discrimination of the Roma people and people with disabilities. Their "Privacy Project" works to ensure that state intervention into the lives of public citizens is only to the extent that is absolutely necessary, and that the state provides services relevant to protect human rights (such as health care, public education, and social services). Their "Political Freedoms Project" works to ensure people can form their own opinions on public affairs and express their opinions about the operation of the state. They specifically focus on freedom expression, freedom of the press, the right to assembly, and the transparent functioning of the state and the freedom of information facilitating it.
You can learn more about them at hclu.hu.
We believe travel is important, but we also recognize that travel (air travel in particular) has a negative environmental impact. We already do our best to lessen the carbon footprint of our group tours by using trains, taking public city transportation, and walking whenever possible. But we want to do better.
Starting with our Cakes and Coffeehouses group tour of Budapest and Vienna in June, from now on, we will be using Gold Standard to purchase carbon offset credits for all transportation involved with our group tours--including the transatlantic flights of all group members.
Carbon offset credits aren't a perfect system, but they're a start. If you'd like to read more about them, you can learn more here. If you're interested in purchasing carbon offset credits for your individual travel, that's something we can happily add on to any package.
And, of course, if you'd like to read more about our upcoming group tour offerings, check them out here:
Cakes and Coffeehouses: Budapest and Vienna
Spirits: Dublin, Belfast, and Edinburgh
You know we focus on Europe. It's our first love, our specialty, our obsession. South America is not our area of focus, but we'd still love to help people interested in visiting. That's why we want to share information about a trip that Angela Richards, a travel advisor friend of ours, is running to Cartagena, Colombia. It's going to be amazing. (This isn't something we're trying to sell you, by the way. We don't get a commission, we have no involvement, we just think it's a great opportunity and we want to share it!)
Read about the trip in Angela's own words:
"We are headed to Cartagena, Columbia, March 9-14, 2023. We will be immersing ourselves in Columbian culture through a tour of Palenque, the first free African town in the Americas. We'll discover how this distinct African culture has been maintained for centuries. We'll also learn about traditional music and dance, folk medicine, and Palenque's unique language. There will also be a tour of the Walled City of Cartagena, which has a rich colonial history.
If you'd like to join us (and we'd love it if you did!), pricing starts at $1200 per person. This includes:
You can learn more about it and sign up here!
“Know yourself” isn't just a quote from Socrates and a song by Drake--it's also our best advice on how to have a great vacation. This is your vacation! You're taking time off work, spending money, and making arrangements for pet care or housesitting, so don't waste that effort on something that will leave you frustrated. Make sure you have a trip that is perfectly suited to you.
Here are three questions to ask yourself when making vacation plans. They aren't meant to be yes or no questions; rather, consider each question a spectrum where you might fall anywhere between the two extremes.
As you make your 2023 travel plans, think about how you would answer each of those three questions. It'll help to ensure your vacation is your vacation, something you'll truly love.
If you haven't joined a group tour before, you might wonder if one would be a good fit for you. Let's talk about that! We'll take Cakes and Coffeehouses, our June 2023 group tour of Budapest and Vienna, as an example.
Worried about doing a group tour for any of these reasons? You don't need to be if you're with Leaping Hound Travel!
You can learn more about what a Leaping Hound Travel group tour is like on our What to Expect page!