7 Things to Consider When Traveling to Oktoberfest

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With less than 70 days until my triumphant return to Oktoberfest in Munich, it’s starting to become all I can think about. And I may need to seek professional help soon, though I don’t think Oktoberfest Lovers Anonymous exists…Anyway, because I’ve been thinking so much about Oktoberfest, I thought I would offer you some things to ponder if you are planning a trip to attend this year, or sometime in the future. My perspective for the purposes of this post will be as someone who is an American, has been before and didn’t know a damn thing before the first time I went in 2012.

When you start to consider traveling to Munich for Oktoberfest, there are a lot of questions that come up. Things like: when is it, where to stay, how long should you go for, how do you get to the Oktoberfest grounds, how do you get into a tent, what should you wear and how expensive is it? The list could go on and on but you wouldn’t read all of that, so I’m going to answer the questions I mentioned above and hopefully you’ll learn something you didn’t know before. Ultimately, I want you to go to Oktoberfest and maybe this will help you get there!

So when exactly is Oktoberfest?
You may now think I’m crazy for even brining this up, but truthfully I had no idea when Oktoberfest started before I went the first time. A simple Internet search will reveal that it starts at the end of September and runs into the beginning of October. So plan accordingly. Also, October 3rd is a bank holiday in Germany (The Day of German Unity). Keep in mind that it’s extra crowded in Munich that day.

Whew, now that you know when Oktoberfest is, where the heck should you stay?
Munich is a very easy city to navigate. Despite this fact it is still a good idea to pull up a map when looking at hotels/places to stay to see where the property is in relationship to the Oktoberfest grounds. If you can manage it, staying somewhere within walking distance is ideal. We were a quick 10 minutes walking last time and that worked out wonderfully. If you are booking closer to when Oktoberfest starts, there may not be as many choices, but there are plenty of public transportation options to get you to the grounds as well. Another thing to be aware of is that this is high tourist season for Munich so don’t be surprised when there aren’t great lodging deals out there. But trust me, it is absolutely worth every penny spent!  

So you know the dates and you have a place to sleep, but how long should you stay for?
The length of time spent at Oktoberfest comes down to how long you want to be traveling and what your budget is. We ended up in Munich for about 3.5 days our first time around and we didn’t feel like we had enough time. Oktoberfest can be like a black hole. You might try to just “swing by,” but before you know it, an entire morning or afternoon has passed and you didn’t make it anywhere else. I wouldn’t change anything we did in 2012, but beware of the black hole!

We are rolling now! You have your dates, you’ve figured out where to sleep and how long you’re staying, but what on earth should you wear? What are those silly outfits everyone has on?!?
If anyone tells you not to dress the part when attending Oktoberfest, they are dead wrong. Lederhosen for the guys and Dirndls for the girls are seen in abundance at Oktoberfest. Now I will say this; ladies, please, please, please DO NOT wear any type of sexy beer maiden outfit seen at every Halloween party here in the states. It is considered disrespectful and rude. But if you don’t come with an outfit, you’ll want to buy one in Munich and that can be really expensive. We saw some that were 300 euros! My suggestion would be to check out eBay. There are plenty to choose from and they range in price. All us girls got traditional knee length dirndls on eBay and we were so glad to have them. It is also ok to wear tights with the dirndl, which is awesome, since it can be kind of cold that time of year. The guys did not wear lederhosen last time, but ultimately admitted they wished that they had.

Mass at Hofbrau

Enjoying a Mass at Oktoberfest, LOVING my dirndl!

Listen up! If you’ve fallen asleep, this is the time to pay attention!

How on earth do you get a spot at a tent?
Ok, I’m going to be honest with you. We did A TON of reading and researching on this before our first trip, so here’s an abridged version of what we learned. There are 14 tents (both big and small) at Oktoberfest and I’m pretty sure we saw maybe 4. But that’s beside the point, the fact is, getting into a tent can be tricky. We had 5 people last time and didn’t want to try and get a reservation. This is because you have to reserve and pay for 10 people, even if your group is smaller than that. Most of the time a reservation involves drinks and food so it’s not inexpensive. Instead of going the reservation route, we decided to go down to the Oktoberfest grounds early to try and get a seat. The deal is, if you don’t have a seat you can’t get any beer (which is the entire reason you’re there). Therefore, at least one member of the party has to be sitting. If you are going to try this tactic, get there early and take the first open spot you find. Our group got REALLY lucky and we found a table at Hacker-Festzelt. Our luck did run out in the late afternoon, when they clear everyone out for evening reservations. This is ok though because sometimes you might find spots outside, or you can wonder through the Oktoberfest grounds enjoying tasty treats and fun rides. Last but not least, if you go at night, a lot of the time you will find the doors to the tents closed. This is because they are full. If you happen to pass by one that’s open, RUN in and grab a spot because luck is on your side! This happened to our group one night and we got EXTREMELY lucky and got into the Hofbrau tent!

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Inside the Hacker-Festzelt tent during the day

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Outside of the Hofbräu-Festzelt during the day

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Inside the Hofbräu-Festzelt at night

Wow, that was a lot of work! You’ve made it into a tent, hooray! But how much is it going to cost you?
Every year the price of a Mass (beer at Oktoberfest) goes up. Shocking I know. But the official prices (these are 2014 prices) are released in advance, so you do have time to plan accordingly. Also keep in mind a Mass is a liter of beer, so even if the price feels high, just think about the last tall boy you bought at a football game and you’ll feel much better. This is important to think about though especially since the tents are CASH ONLY. Let me repeat, CASH ONLY. And if you tip your waitress well the first time she brings you beer, chances are she will come back more frequently. Tipping is generally done by rounding up to the next whole number. Again, bigger tip upfront = generally more frequent and better service. Traditional German food is also available at the tents and it’s usually really good. They all sell pretzels too, but those can leave a rather dry taste in your mouth. Guess that’s what the beer is for! PROST!

Auf Wiedersehen!

My 4th of July Holiday Weekend in South Carolina

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One of the ways I like to travel is by taking advantage of a long weekend to go visit friends or family. By doing this, I don’t have to pay for lodging! Since the 4th of July is near my birthday, I decided to go up to see my parents in South Carolina.

There is also a discount airline that runs from Florida to North or South Carolina (depending which airport I chose to fly into) with great ticket prices and direct flights. The only real downside is that they don’t offer a huge selection in terms of dates or flight times, but it’s completely worth it. Check out Allegiant Air for more information.

I arrived in Greenville on Friday afternoon with a few hours to relax before people came over for the 4th. We enjoyed a great evening grilling, drinking and hanging out.

Morning view at my parents house

Morning view at my parents house

Saturday we got up (slightly hungover) and made our way to Hendersonville. It was very clear when we got there that we needed to eat! And it was a perfect opportunity to enjoy a pint over lunch at The Black Rose, one of our favorite pubs.

Refueled, we headed over to Mast General Store to do some shopping. See, for me living in Florida is great, but we never have a really good selection of cold weather gear and that makes traveling in cooler months much more difficult sometimes. I ended up hitting the jackpot and got some great pieces on sale! Ok, ok I’ll be honest, since it was near my birthday I got some great presents and I personally didn’t buy a thing. But everything WAS on sale! Thanks mom and dad!

I’m also always searching for the next greatest travel accessory or gadget and after the disappointing performance of my last travel purse, I really wanted to find a new one. Luck was on my side and I found a great one (I hope)!

Before leaving Hendersonville we had to make a pit stop at McFarlan bakery. They have the best treats and the line is always out the door, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

McFarlan Bakery

McFarlan Bakery

On Sunday we went to brunch before making our way up to The Highlands. This was my first time visiting the area, but I can’t wait to go back. We did some shopping and walked around enjoying the weather.

Old Edward's Inn The Highlands, NC

Old Edward’s Inn The Highlands, NC

The drive to and from The Highlands is really pretty, but make sure to bring water with you! Especially since I live below sea level in Florida, the altitude really got to me this time.

Our plan Sunday night was to get pizza at one of our favorite spots back in Hendersonville, but sadly they were closed, so instead we had a dinner at Mezzaluna in town. The restaurant was packed but we had amazing service and good food!

Sunflowers in Hendersonville

Sunflowers in Hendersonville

The rest of the evening was spent on the porch watching TV and relaxing. Overall it was a great trip with beautiful and cool weather, just what I needed.

Don’t worry, I’m already scheming my next quick trip destination!

5 Reasons Research is Important When Planning a Trip

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Now that you’ve gone through the 5 Tips for Picking a Perfect Itinerary, here are 5 reasons research is important.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Research is the single most important tool you can arm yourself with when traveling.

Because research is such a vital part of travel, and people often forget its value, here are five quick and simple reasons why research is so important.

1. Culture. When you travel abroad it is extremely critical to learn about the culture where you will be staying. Take Italy for instance. Many of the churches require you to cover your shoulders to enter, even in the dead of summer when it’s sweltering outside, while other countries have laws about words you can and can’t say. Learning about the culture of your destination will help you immensely. And respecting the culture of other countries is an important aspect of helping to maintain the integrity of traveling and also to make sure you don’t put yourself in an unwelcome situation.

2. Itinerary Activities. After you’ve planned your itinerary, how do you figure out what to do when you get there? Research! If you don’t research your destination you won’t know if there are any local festivals, holiday celebrations or must see attractions. How sad would it be if you left Rome without seeing the Vatican? Or you missed the Mona Lisa in Paris? And if you don’t do a little bit of research you may not know that Oktoberfest actually starts in September.

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3. Immunizations. When traveling abroad there are many foreign things you can encounter. An easy way to make sure nothing compromises your adventure is by arming yourself with proper vaccines. Just go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out what exactly is needed or recommended before traveling. Some vaccines are not carried at your regular general practitioner, but it is generally pretty easy to find a travel doctor in your area and it is well worth the time and potential expense!

4 & 5. Language and Currency. Knowing simple things like what language is spoken, or what currency is used where you will be traveling is also important. Some currencies are closed, meaning you can’t get them until you are physically in the country, while other places may accept multiple currencies. It is also helpful to know what the primary language is in each of your destinations. And it doesn’t hurt to learn a couple of quick phrases in that language. People are always more willing to help you if they hear their native tongue. Bonjour, Ciao, Hola and Guten Tag can go a long way.

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There are many, many, many more reasons it is important to research where you will be traveling, but these are just a few quick and simple reasons why I am so passionate about research. Even if you take 10 minutes to do some last minute googling in the airport, knowledge is power!

Stay tuned for more tips and tricks about how to plan your next adventure!

Small ways Travel Connects you with the World

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When I began traveling while studying abroad, I never truly appreciated how my adventures would shape my life moving forward, or how they would connect me to strangers all over the globe. Still, the connections that I have made and continue to make because of traveling, always have a way of catching me off guard. Whether it’s someone you meet in an exotic location that grew up in your home town, or someone you strike up a conversation with that stayed in the same hotel you did in Florence, travel connections still shock me. The world can be a pretty small place.

I’m not exactly a shy person and I tend to talk to strangers a lot about their travel experiences, and I don’t have a problem giving my advice or opinion, even if it’s not asked for.

Let’s take this past Sunday for instance. I stopped by one of my favorite travel stores in the mall to try and find a replacement backpack for my old JanSport that finally died after my last trip. While I was in the store another lady was there shopping for her upcoming vacation. She was looking for a collapsable duffle bag. As it turned out, I had just been looking at those myself and told her where she could find them. And naturally I also asked where she would be traveling to. She said Ireland and Scotland. That was all the opening I needed to tell her about what to do when she got there. Luckily she welcomed my thoughts and advice. The store clerk was also helping her out and we all got to talking about travel.

I learned that the clerk was originally from Israel and like most of us, would love to travel full time. And the other woman has traveled a fair amount herself. We ended up having a 30 minute conversation about how people who don’t travel limit themselves, and tend not to want to adapt and move forward with the world. Who really knows if those things are related, but we did all agree that people who don’t leave home are more narrow minded than those who travel. I left the store (after purchasing a beautiful new collapsable duffle. Still no backpack) elated and invigorated by our conversation, grinning ear to ear. Kind of like that feeling you get when you go on a date with someone you really like.

Over the years I’ve had many conversations like the one I had Sunday and I’ve made quite a few good fiends because of shared travel experiences, but it never ceases to amaze me how something so simple can instantly give you a connection to a complete stranger.

Travel is awesome!

Sand from the Sahara Desert and a print from London with a globe

Sand from the Sahara Desert and a print from London

5 Tips for Picking a Perfect Itinerary

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So if you’re anything like me, you are constantly making lists of potential destinations to visit. But what do you do when it’s time to actually plan a trip? How do you narrow down your list of amazing possible destinations, and put them into a manageable itinerary? Here are five simple tips to help you start planning your next trip:

1. Figure out who will be traveling. Will you be solo, with friends or maybe family? Also, find out what the overall physical ability of the group is. Some destinations are great for a family, while others are better suited for a group of friends. And there are destinations that pose physical restrictions, such as a trip hiking in the mountains.

2. Length of time. Once you’ve figured out who is going on the adventure, it’s important to figure out how long the adventure will last. Though a lot of the time this is dictated by vacation days and overall budget.

3. Geography. Grab a map, grab a globe, or get online. A map is one of the most essential itinerary-planning tools! Once you have your map, take a couple of potential destinations and check out where they are in relation to each other. If four are in Eastern Europe, and one is in South America, think about splitting those destinations into two trips. And it is also important to realize that what may look like the best itinerary on a map, may not logistically work out. Sometimes there just aren’t easy, quick or cost effective ways to travel between two close destinations.

4. Time of year. This can affect a lot of the things listed within the first three tips. Depending on when you travel it might make a difference on who can join. This can also be a determining factor on the length of time you are able to be gone, or want to be gone. And it can definitely impact the geography of the trip. If you are trying to ski in Switzerland, it won’t work to go during the summer!

5. Research. Once you’ve narrowed your list down a little bit, do some research! Get some books, look online, and write down things that seem interesting or fun to do in each destination. This also helps if you want to go somewhere for a specific event, like Oktoberfest in Munich.

As you start planning, keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect itinerary; perfect doesn’t exist when it comes to travel. No trip ever works out 100% how you planned it. There is also no right or wrong way to go about planning. And sometimes the best things happen by complete accident. For me at the end of the day, travel is more about the actual journey, than the physical destination.

Trip planning at it's finest!

Trip planning at it’s finest! From my 2012 trip!

What Am I Doing?

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After 7 years it’s finally happening. I’m starting a travel blog! Travel is my true passion and what I live for. If I’m not on a trip, I’m planning one. Ask any of my closest friends or family and they would agree; I’m addicted to travel. Collecting passport stamps for me, is like collecting sacred treasure.

Throughout my experiences I’ve learned a thing or two, and I thought it was time to share my knowledge with the rest of the world. You may ask yourself what makes me qualified or different than anyone else out there? The answer: nothing. Until you find something that I say or recommend beneficial, I’m just another blogger.

What is the purpose of all of this? My ultimate goal is to give young professionals the knowledge to travel. So many people in that age group think it’s unattainable, and that’s just not the case. With a little planning and ingenuity anything is possible. Stay tuned for all of my tips and tricks, and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two along the way.

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