Christmas in July

Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! We’re over halfway through July and the summer season (!) so it’s a good time to reflect on what you’ve done and hope to do for the rest of 2022 and into 2023.

Before we begin, below are a few travel PSAs…

PASSPORT RENEWAL TIMES: Current passport processing times are 8-12 weeks for standard and 5-7 weeks for expedited service. Important rule, your passport needs to be valid 6 months after your return home for many countries. If you haven’t put your eyes on your passport recently, take a minute today to check the expiration date and add a reminder in your calendar when it’s time to renew.

DRIVER’S LICENSE/REAL ID: When does your driver’s license expire? After covid-related delays, REAL IDs will now be required to fly domestically as of May 3, 2023. Details here:

I took my summer, international workcation during the first two weeks of June, and as mentioned last week, I have travel conferences in August and September. However, I’m now thinking about where to go during the 4th quarter of 2022. I prefer to travel outside of peak season, so it’s a strategic time to get an important trip onto my calendar.

At the end of last year, I went to Ireland, Miami, and on a Virgin Voyages Caribbean cruise – all very worthwhile and enjoyable trips that I highly recommend. I encourage you to think about where you want to go in the upcoming months – or if you hope to give a special 2023 vacation as a holiday gift.

It’s been a scorching week of high temperatures in the US and across Europe; London hit an all-time high. Thinking about the late fall and early winter will hopefully be cooling for you as well as this week’s theme ‘Christmas in July.’ Did you know that visiting Europe’s holiday markets is a wonderful way to experience the season? I shared some of these ideas last year, so if you missed that newsletter, read on for the scoop…

Christmas Decor and Markets

Many European cities have Christmas markets starting mid to late November through late December, although the closing day for many is on Christmas Eve. I enjoyed Christmastime/the markets in Ireland last November, Switzerland in 2017, and Copenhagen and Paris years ago.

If you relish the charm of holiday lights and decorations, visiting a European city all decked out is a memorable experience. Note – rates and availability are often at peak season levels over Christmas week, so I suggest completing travel before Christmas Eve or booking well in advance.

💎 Hidden Gem Tip: If you’re already intrigued, you can schedule a chat with me here: 

By River or Land?

Personally, I greatly enjoy river cruises and recommend them for adults and friend groups. Why you ask?

  • Unpacking once 😊
  • Convenience and ease of travel. The rivers of Europe were once the highways, so you’re never far from shore and dock right near the heart of many cities. It’s very convenient and you don’t have to drive from one city to the next in winter weather. You’re never far from shore!
  • Sleeping on a gorgeous boutique ship with only 100 other guests.
  • The feeling and experience of sailing on the river and seeing the countryside villages, farms, and castles from your stateroom.
  • Culinary excellence – the local foods and dishes are brought onboard.
  • Access to curated experiences you can’t book on your own.

As pictured above, AmaWaterways, one of my favorite river cruise lines, is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. To share the love with you, they are offering a fantastic promotion for 2022 bookings made by September 30th. Your choice: free airfare from US gateways OR 20% off your cruise fare. Added bonus – the deposit is only $20 per person! Email me to get the rest of the details.

Alternatively, you can explore the Christmas markets on a land tour… Or focus your trip on one city like Paris or Vienna! Whatever you choose, I can plan 😊

💎 Hidden Gem Tip: Wondering how to navigate travel to Europe? Schedule a chat with me here and I’ll talk you through it.

Along the Danube River

Along the Danube River, these cities have some of the oldest and most festive holiday markets in Europe including…

  • Budapest, Hungary – the gorgeous capital of Hungary offers the Vorosmarty Square Christmas Market.
  • Vienna, Austria – Vienna alone has over twenty Christmas markets! The Viennese Dream Christmas Market sits in front of the City Hall where you may hear international choirs sing carols.
  • Salzburg, Austria – see the home of the Sound of Music in all its festive, holiday glory.
  • Nuremberg, Germany – a 400-year-old Christmas market with live music, distinctive hand-crafted souvenirs, a nostalgic carousel, and a children’s steam train.
  • Regensburg, Germany – a charming medieval Christmas market with fewer crowds.

If on a river cruise, in addition to strolling the Christmas markets, you have choices of daytime biking or walking tours allowing you to experience each port city to its fullest. In the evening, return to the city to catch a concert, visit more Christmas markets, or stroll the streets to shop or bar hop.

Along the Rhine River

Another option is cruising the Rhine River which may include…

  • Amsterdam, Netherlands – see the artfull Festival of Lights!
  • Cologne, Germany – offers 8 markets including the Angel Market where angels dressed in sparkly white costumes mix among the shoppers.
  • Heidelberg, Germany – also has a gorgeous ice rink.
  • Gengenbach, Germany in the Black Forest – see the largest Advent calendar in the world!
  • Strasbourg, France – the oldest market in France next to the stunning Strasbourg Cathedral that dates to the Middle Ages.
  • Basel, Switzerland – Basel is known as Switzerland’s most traditional Christmas city where you can take a coastal ride to see the lights on the Christmas ferry.

Pro Tips

  1. Bring an extra bag (or under pack), some bubble wrap, and tape for all the wonderful souvenirs and holiday goodies you’ll purchase at the markets. Alternatively, you can use a service I recommend called Luggage Free; email for the details.
  2. Have local currency on hand to pay the vendors.
  3. Be prepared for chilly temperatures and snow – bring your woolies and boots to stay toasty while strolling.

Bonus Tip: Many Christmas markets sell a special mug for its “Gluhwein” – German for hot mulled wine infused with spices like cinnamon and orange slices. These mugs make excellent souvenirs from your trip!

Consider Christmas in July

Plan now to be in the holiday spirit later this year. Everyone who loves the holidays will adore this trip and be considered one of their best Christmastime experiences of all time!

If you are enchanted by European cities in other seasons, this is a new way to experience those beloved places. And you’ll have gifts sure to be cherished by your loved ones.

Have a few friends or family members who would be interested in traveling with you? River cruises are ideal for groups of all sizes, and there can be benefits in numbers.

Inspired? If you’re thinking about a bucket list trip, here’s the link to schedule a chat with me

💎 Hidden Gem Tip: Follow my Facebook/Instagram pages this week for more travel inspiration: or Instagram:

Wishing you and your family continued good health,


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Hi, I'm Susan Wilson

I’m the founder of Hidden Gem Travel Consulting. As your personal travel advisor, I craft custom worldwide itineraries that astound and inspire you.


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