2. Comfortable weather Italy's heat can be brutal in the summer. In January, the average high temperature in Florence and Rome is in the mid-50s: comfortable enough that you won't need more than a light jacket, cool enough to make you really relish a steaming cup of Italian coffee each morning.
3. Affordability Traveling in the off-season means some of the priciest parts of travel, like flights and hotels, are significantly less expensive than they are during the high season.
4. Availability Want to schedule a visit to St. Peter's Basilica or the Colosseum? With fewer visitors, places that require advance booking will have more times available for you to choose, and require less advance notice.
5. Shopping January is THE month to visit Italy if you're a shopaholic. The big semi-annual sales begin early in the month. You'll be able to score unbeatable deals on everything from shoes to clothes to luggage--even furniture, if you don't mind shipping it home.
Convinced? Come with us to Florence and Rome in January 2022.
Questions? Send an email our way--we'll get right back to you!
There are lots of great travel blogs out there. How do you choose what to read? We'd like to recommend some excellent Black travel bloggers, focusing on different themes each time. Today, check out three of our faves and their features on the Netherlands.
Black Lives Matter.
We recognize the reality, and centrality, of institutionalized racism and white supremacy in the United States (and other parts of the world). We support those protesting to demand that political leaders, and indeed every member of our society: acknowledge the systemic racism and injustice faced every day by people of color; and, take action to dismantle the levers of institutionalized white supremacy. Among others, we recommend statements on the nature of systemic racism such as this one from Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and the philosophy and goals of Black Lives Matter.
As a travel business, we also recognize the historical connections between tourism and institutionalized racism. Likewise, we acknowledge the ways in which tourism, particularly among those who come from nations with a history of imperialism (imperialist endeavors themselves both reflecting, and further contributing to, institutionalized racism and white supremacy) has perpetuated the objectification and othering of people of color. We are committed to fighting against the discourse and practices of what has been termed colonial tourism.
In addition, Leaping Hound Travel is committed to taking additional steps in support of Black lives, including:
-Liz & Adam,
Leaping Hound Travel Co-founders
Wow. When we last wrote about the pandemic, it was March 1, and while COVID-19 seemed scary, many of us had yet to acknowledge the extent to which it would soon come to affect our lives. Events developed with stunning rapidity thereafter. Just a couple of weeks later, with the virus spreading in the United States, our jobs as professors shifted to online teaching for the rest of the semester, and our state enacted social distancing guidelines in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
Now, as researchers learn more about the virus, and as multiple entities work diligently on treatment and vaccine possibilities, questions are emerging about when a return to something resembling normalcy might be possible. But with so much uncertainty surrounding continued or renewed outbreaks and the potential timelines for medical breakthroughs, there are as yet no definitive answers to that question.
Where does that leave Leaping Hound Travel? As of now, registration for our January 2021 trip to Italy remains open. However, given the current unknowns, in the coming weeks and months we will rely on guidance from organizations such as the CDC and WHO, as well as governmental travel and activity restrictions, in order to determine whether that trip can proceed as planned. We are hopeful that it will. Of course, we believe it would be an outstanding trip, but more vitally, once it is again safe to travel, we want to be able to support the places on our itinerary that rely heavily on tourism, and who will be looking to bounce back economically from the impact of the virus.
Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the above information or anything else. We get back to you super fast!
-Liz & Adam,
Leaping Hound Travel Co-founders
How about a little whimsy and fun? One of our favorite parts of travel, of course, is the food! In particular, we love sampling desserts in the countries where they were first created. Dutch apple pie in the Netherlands, for example, is very different than the Dutch apple pies you can buy in American grocery stores. Plus, from the elaborate cakes of Hungary to the waffles of Belgium, our favorite desserts have a wide range of styles and characters. What better topic for a fun quiz?
So take a break, have a little fun, and find out which classic European dessert you are!
To travel is to leave your comfort zone -- to go to a new place, with new customs, new sights, perhaps new languages. Expanding your world is one of the great parts of travel, but it can bring with it new concerns and fears, whether real or perceived.
How do we deal with such concerns when traveling? Every situation is different, of course, but it is vital to be ready to respond to unexpected, or even tragic, events. A few years ago, we were leading a group in Amsterdam, a day or two from heading to Munich, when a mass shooting occurred in Munich, outside the Olympia Shopping Mall, in which nine people were killed. Members of our group hastily contacted their loved ones back home to let them know they were safe, and that in fact we had not yet left Amsterdam. We re-reviewed our emergency plans and procedures with our group, monitored the ongoing situation closely, and kept our group updated. With no indication of further violence being likely, and with no additional government-instituted travel restrictions, we decided to proceed to Munich as scheduled when our stay in Amsterdam was over, and our group enjoyed several days there, without incident.
Right now talk of the coronavirus is everywhere. Some of our dearest friends are currently vacationing in Italy, where there have been outbreaks. Though reports suggest that risk is significantly reduced just by washing your hands thoroughly and not touching your face, and that the mortality risk is low if you aren’t already in poor health, it can still be scary to consider.
This seemed like a good time, then, to share with you how we at Leaping Hound Travel try to manage the risks of travel--how we find balance, enjoying the world and our lives, without being ignorant or reckless of potential dangers.
As the co-founders of Leaping Hound Travel, this means that we keep ourselves informed, make educated decisions for our groups, and always communicate regarding concerns and contingency plans. We know that you put your trust in us as tour leaders, and we take that responsibility seriously. If you ever want to talk more about dangers or fears one may encounter as part of travel, just email us and we’ll get right back to you.
When I decided to write about minimizing travel stress, my first impulse was to share a mix of things I actually do, things I should do but often don't, and things other people do that seem to work for them. Then it occurred to me that bare honesty is more interesting and more useful. Why should you take my advice to, say, wear slip-on shoes, when I don't even do it myself? And so I decided that I would share what I personally, actually, truly do to make things less stressful when I travel.
All of my advice comes from one central idea. Imagine a bathtub--that's you. Each time something stressful happens, even if it's small, a little more water is added to the bathtub. If your flight gets delayed, or you have to wait in a long line, those external stressors will increase the water level, but so will internal things like hunger, a blister from uncomfortable shoes, or general exhaustion. If you're stressed enough, the bathtub overflows and suddenly you're crying because the airport restaurant closed and you can't get the fries you wanted. So take away internal stressors, things that are under your control. That way, when those external things add water to the bathtub, it won't overflow. You'll be calmer and more able to enjoy yourself--which is, of course, the goal of traveling.
1. I wear comfortable clothes that still look semi-stylish.
Typically I fly in leggings and a loose tunic or tank top, and throw a shawl around my shoulders. For jewelry, I'll wear maybe one pendant necklace that's easy to slip off when it's time to go through security.
This outfit allows me to be comfortable when I sleep (more on sleeping below), but still look cute in pictures. I can use the shawl as a blanket, or scrunch it up and use it as a pillow, or just shove it into the seat back in front of me if I'm warm. It also makes going through security easier when you don't have to empty things out of your pockets, on account of not having any pockets.
I typically wear dresses while on vacation or leading tours, but for travel days, I do specifically prefer leggings. I can sit comfortably in any position, on the plane or train or in the station. Plus, if I wear the right pair, they have a bit of compression, which is good for your legs when you fly.
2. I wear Converse high-tops.
Okay, standard advice is to wear slip-ons when you fly, to make it easier if you have to take your shoes off when you go through security. But I sometimes sleep with my legs crossed when I'm flying, and I don't want to think that one of my shoes might dangle off my foot and fall off, unbeknownst to me. This is maybe an unrealistic fear, but so be it.
Converse high-tops are comfortable and I like how they look with basically every outfit I own. I try to pack as light as possible, so wearing shoes that go with all the clothes in my suitcase is a smart move. The high-top is also nice to help my feet stay dry if it rains when I have a long walk planned. And really, it's not hard to untie them and loosen the laces while I wait in line at security, so it's easy to take them off when the time comes.
Lastly--and I'm sure this is mostly just a psychological benefit--I like having the extra ankle support. As someone who's broken an ankle before (from roller derby, not traveling), I think a lot about my ankles and their stability. Does that layer of fabric really make a difference and save me from possible injuries? Eh, probably not. But it couldn't hurt.
3. I keep my carry-on bag as small as possible, though still big enough to be useful.
If I'm traveling internationally, I usually check my luggage, which makes it easy just to use an oversized purse as a carry-on bag. But for smaller flights where I only have carry-on-sized luggage, I often ask at the gate if they'll be looking for anyone to check their carry-on bag. Oftentimes they are, to save space in the overhead bins. This allows me the benefit of the checked bag without paying for it.
It's really nice to have everything I need in my big purse, sitting on the floor under the seat in front of me. Plus, the less manuvering I have to do with a heavy bag, the better.
What I actually bring in my carry-on:
wallet, passport, earbuds, phone (with books downloaded to read offline), portable charger, spare pair of glasses (in case a contact lens tears), snacks, and water
4. I carry a lot of snacks and water. A LOT.
The last thing I want is to be hungry or thirsty while trying to navigate an airport, train station, or brand new country. I don't like to rely on the schedule of food and drink delivery on a plane, either. It's easy enough to throw a protein bar and some dried fruit in your bag to have on hand when your stomach starts to growl. Ah, but I'm being fully honest here--I like trail mix that's heavy on the chocolate, and Cheddar Cheese Cracker Combos.
I also keep more water on me than I think I'll want. Even though that makes my bag a bit heavier, it's far preferable to being thirsty. Yes, I do have to pee a lot, but it's important to get up and move sometimes, right?
Really, if I'm hungry or thirsty, my brain won't function as well. It may not be a big difference, but if I'm a little crabbier, or a little slower to notice my surroundings, that can take a toll. I want every advantage I can have while traveling. Staying full and hydrated are two easy goals to meet.
The only time I don't have a full water bottle, of course, is when I go through security. It's important to make sure you're following the security guidelines about liquid, so you aren't slowed down by an additional check, or forced to throw out your favorite water bottle. This does mean that I will often end up desperately chugging the last of my water before I reach the front of the security line. And I'm fine with that--more hydration!
5. I have something good to read.
There is a lot of down time when you're traveling. Even though (as I discuss below) I like to nap whenever possible, there is still a lot of time left when I'm waiting in lines, wanting time to pass. Instead of being impatient, I pass the time by reading a good book. Mostly I love fiction. In particular, I love to read books about foreign cities while I'm traveling. Ideally they'll take place in the same cities I'm visiting, but even if they don't, it's still nice to read about someone traveling when you're traveling too.
My favorite book (both while traveling and in general) is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. The main characters travel all over Europe in the 1950s and 1970s. There are train trips, tea in cafes in historic cities, mysterious figures... oh yeah, and Dracula. But it's as much a travel story as it is a vampire story.
6. I sleep as much as possible.
My favorite thing to do on public transportation is sleep. Trains are best for this: more spacious than planes, and with a wonderful white noise from the rails and the wind whipping past. But even on planes, I sleep. On a trans-Atlantic flight, I sleep as much as possible. On shorter flights, my goal is to shut my eyes before takeoff and not open them till we land. Just like being hungry and thirsty, being sleep-deprived makes it harder for my brain to do its best.
How do I achieve this? Well, I'm in comfortable clothes, I can cover up if I'm chilly, and I'm not hungry or thirsty, so that takes care of the basics. I also prioritize sleep over free drinks or meals (on longer flights that offer such things). Since I've packed my own snacks, I don't need to be as concerned with staying on the flight's food schedule. When the drink cart comes by, I can keep snoozing instead of groggily dragging myself into wakefulness.
Sometimes I use a travel pillow or a sleep mask, but sometimes I don't. Honestly, I go back and forth on use of a travel pillow. Shoving it in my carry-on bag can feel like more trouble than it's worth, but I do enjoy the extra cushion for my neck.
Also, full disclosure: I get mildly airsick when flying, so I take the anti-nausea medicine Dramamine at the start of flights. I make sure NOT to buy the non-drowsy variety. Dramamine makes me just sleepy enough to happily drift off. I like that advantage.
And there you have it! My honest list of what I do to make travel less stressful. Your list might have different specifics, but if you stick to the central principle and keep your metaphorical bathtub as shallow as possible, I'm confident you'll have a better time, too!
Leaping Hound Travel Co-founder
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means we may make a small commission if you make a purchase. Just letting you know!
Leiden may not be one of the most famous cities in the Netherlands, but it is easily one of our favorites. A mid-sized city only 30 minutes by train from Amsterdam, Leiden is full of charm, easy to navigate, and the home of some unbelievable sites.
Shop, eat, and sightsee on Haarlemmerstraat, a long pedestrian-only street lined with shops and restaurants. One of our favorites is La Fresh, with its incredible homemade French fries (frites in Dutch). Their fries are made in the traditional Dutch and Belgian style (cooked twice: first blanched, then fried), and they are crispy and delicious. Plus, though the Dutch are known for eating their fries with mayonnaise instead of ketchup, at La Fresh you'll get your choice of over half a dozen unique sauces. One of our favorites is their peanut sauce!
We need to start by saying how happy the overwhelming positive response to our new website has made us. People's support has been fantastic. It means so much to us. So, thanks, supporters of Leaping Hound Travel! We love you!
Let's talk about the literal "travel" part of Leaping Hound Travel. When we're in Europe, we love to travel by train. Though it can take longer than flying, there are a lot of reasons to prefer it. First of all, you don't need to arrive hours early. No need to take off your shoes as you go through security, or worry about the amount of liquids in your carry-on (and it's all carry-on!).
Welcome to Leaping Hound Travel! We're so happy to have you here.
Right now it's a dreary, gray winter in Wisconsin, and we are really looking forward to our trip to Italy in January 2021. The sun will be shining, the weather will be mild, and the pizza will be delicious.
We're particularly excited to take people around Rome, a city that has a reputation as being crowded and difficult to navigate but is actually quite manageable! Rome is a fantastic combination of modern life and ancient history, all mixed together. Want to see the longest stretch of ancient Roman aqueducts in Italy? They're just a few minutes' walk from a modern shopping mall! Want to sample gelato at one of our favorite gelaterias? It's right across from the Pantheon!