Posts Tagged ‘reduce travel stress’

Country Living – Roman Style

Today’s trip will take you to one of the larger country estates in the area around Trier built from the 2nd to the 4th century AD: the Villa Rustica. This is a general term for a countryside villa and usually was the residence of the landowner as well as the farm management centre. While the individual design depended on the vision of the owner and the architect, it usually contained certain components: the main living area for the landowner, living quarters for the workers, slaves and animals and the storage areas for the farms’ produce. Usually they had plumbed bathing facilities and under-floor heating! The wealth of the owner was apparent in the use of mosaics throughout the villa and the number of rooms it ultimately comprised.

‘Humble’ beginnings

1280px-Villa_Rustica_in_MehringInitially this villa was planned to cover a floor area of 28 by 23 meters with two corner Risalites joined by a columned hall. By the time it was finished – a couple of centuries later – it covered an area of 48 by 29 meters and had 34 rooms. A multi-coloured floor mosaic and a black marble wall panelling indicate the owner was of very high social standing and of considerable wealth. Careful restoration in the 19th and 20th century made it possible now to get a glimpse of what it was like living a well-to-do life then.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens


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Do’s and Don’ts in German Restaurants and Cafés

One of the many pleasures while travelling is that you get to delve into a different culinary world.  No doubt you’ll want to try the various regional specialties, so we make sure you get plenty of opportunities to sample different foods on a Sidetracks Tour.  In the article below we have listed some differences to be aware of when it comes to food services etiquette between Down Under and Germany, so that you can just relax and enjoy the great German food.

On Arrival

Unless it is a fancy restaurant, you don’t usually have to wait to be seated once you arrive: just walk right in and pick the table of your choice. At bars, in cafés and in informal crowded restaurants, it’s also perfectly OK to sit down next to strangers, as long as you get an affirmative response to the question “Ist hier noch frei?” – “Is this seat vacant?”.  It’s also a great way to meet the locals! Many smaller restaurants, however, will have a table reserved for regular customers, such as those from a particular company or society.  These tables will usually be labelled with a sign stating “Stammtisch”.  Don’t sit at these tables without checking with a waiter/waitress first.

Bread and Water

Unlike Down Under, it’s not customary to serve or receive water upon arrival in any restaurant or café in Germany, so you won’t find jugs of water or a water fountain to help yourself to.  Instead, you’ll need to order and pay for water and are likely to be asked whether you would prefer sparkling or still mineral water (“mit oder ohne Kohlensäure”) when doing so.  Although it’s very uncommon to request tap water (“Leitungswasser”) as a drink, requesting a glass of tap water to be served with your coffee is becoming a more commonly accepted practice these days.  Also, if there is a basket of bread and/or pretzels (“Brezeln”) on the table, don’t be surprised if you are charged for what you eat.


When you are ready to order, close the menu or put it face down on the table, and if still no one comes to take your orders, just catch the eye of the waiter/waitress and say “Bestellen bitte!” in a friendly tone.


When eating or drinking together, people ususally say “Guten Appetit” before they start and you might come across people saying “Prost!” (“Cheers!”) or “Zum Wohl!” (“To your health!”) before they briefly clink glasses.  When you join in a toast with others, it’s polite to look the person you are clinking glasses with in the eye.

To Finish

As in Australia and New Zealand, if you cross your knife and fork on your plate, it means you are just pausing in your meal.  If you lay your knife and fork side by side, however, it means you are finished and the waiter/waitress may come and take your plate away.

Your Sidetracks tour guide is also never far away and is happy to help with any advice or translations that are needed.  So you can just relax and enjoy your culinary experiences in the heart of Europe.

And don’t forget to check out part 2 – Tipping & Paying the Bill.

“Guten Appetit” and “Prost” from the Sidetracks Team!



Author: Barbara Panettieri




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Flight Booking Tips – Down Under to Europe

As New Zealand and Australia are on the opposite side of the world from Europe, it doesn’t really matter if you choose a flight via Asia or America in terms of flight time/distance. However, it might take quite a bit longer to get through security checks in the USA.

So, if you do choose to travel via the USA it does pay to check the current security regulations on this website. You can find a comparison of different airline baggage allowances here, but it also pays to check the airline luggage requirements on your airlines’ websites (see links to the most relevant airlines below).

When booking an international flight, it’s best to start looking as early as possible for the best deals – three to six months in advance is a good idea. This is especially important if you want to use your frequent flyer miles, as airlines designate a very limited number of seats for these on each flight and they go quickly.

Start your search for flights by checking a few of the major online travel providers like TripAdvisor Flights, Kayak or Edreams. These sites will give you a preliminary idea of which airlines fly your particular itinerary, what the going rate is and any restrictions that apply.

Armed with this information, you can head directly to the appropriate airline website to see if the same flights are any cheaper. We recommend checking on the following airline websites for flights to Europe from New Zealand:

Air New Zealand



Singapore Airline

Emirates Airline.

And here the direct airline links for flights to Europe from Australia:

Air New Zealand



Singapore Airline

Emirates Airline.

If your trip includes more than one destination (e.g. if you want to fly to London and back from Frankfurt), select ‘Multi-city’ or ‘Multi-Stop’ on the flights page, then book one segment at a time. This is sometimes referred to as an ‘Open Jaw’ itinerary.

If you can be flexible, it pays to try shifting your itinerary a few days either way, as this can make a significant difference in fares. You’ll usually find the best deals on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, as this is when most airlines launch their fare sales.

Don’t forget to check out part 1 of our flight booking tips – general long-haul flight booking considerations. Feel like you want to get into ‘flight mode’ already? Check out the latest Air New Zealand in-flight safety video!

Wishing you a pleasant and uneventful flight ☺

Barbara Panettieri and the Sidetracks Team




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General Long-haul Flight Booking Considerations

Get a flight with the fewest and easiest connections possible, to cut down on your overall flight time. If you do have to kill some time at an airport during transit, here are some great suggestions by Lonely Planet – and have a look at the comments, too ;-).

Maybe consider breaking your journey half-way with a stop-over somewhere if you can spare the time. Otherwise, it is possible to book an airport hotel for a few hours in most major airports, allowing you to stretch out, rest and enjoy a refreshing shower.

Most airlines let you choose your seat when you book, so to avoid being squeezed in the middle of a row, pick a seat as early as possible. Consider an aisle or exit row seat for leg room, or a window if you want to sleep. Note that the last row of seats in the plane usually don’t recline.

Try to avoid seats near the toilets/lavatories, as other passengers will be accessing these regularly (sometimes forming queues) and may disturb your sleep with accidental bumps to your seat and noisy conversations. Noise and light from the toilet door opening may also be disturbing.

And last but not least, review your ticket carefully when you book it. By double-checking your dates, destinations, and exact spelling of your name, you can avoid a lot of potential stress later.

Once you start your Germany Tour with Sidetracks you can just relax and enjoy – we always endeavour to make your European adventure completely hassle-free for you! For  flight booking tips we have specifically put together for New Zealand and Australian travellers see our article on long-haul flights from Down Under to Europe – part 2.

Looking forward to showing you the heart of Europe, Barbara Panettieri and the Sidetracks Team






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Long-haul Flight Tips

The long flight to Europe can be daunting to those from Down Under but our frequent trips between Germany and New Zealand mean that we have plenty of tips to ease you into your European adventure.

Tip #1: Pack early to avoid last minute stress and board the plane well-rested!

During the Flight

Bring a pair of thick socks and swap them for your shoes after take-off. Make yourself as comfortable as you can by requesting any extra pillows or blankets that you need and get as much sleep as possible.  We all know that plane seating is cramped, so remember to get up for a walk around and a stretch at regular intervals to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis and to ease any general discomfort.

The air in a plane is very dry and you may feel dehydrated. Limit your alcohol consumption and drink lots of water to keep you feeling comfortable (a plus of this is that needing to get up for the loo will give you a great excuse to stretch those legs!).  So you have a drink handy whenever you need it on the flight, bring an empty drink bottle with you through pre-flight security and fill it up from a water fountain in the boarding lounge or ask a flight attendant to do this for you on the plane.

Bring some eye drops to use whenever your eyes feel dry (these may now be carried through security), and apply moisturising cream to your face and hands frequently. And don’t forget to bring a toothbrush to freshen up.

To check restrictions applying to liquids, aerosols and gels in your carry-on luggage, see the New Zealand Aviation Security Service website.

Many airlines offer vegetarian, Kosher, Halal and other “special” meals to be ordered in advance. And because the airlines have to specially prepare your meal, it is usually better than the standard food fare. Plus, passengers with special meal requests are almost always served first ;-).

On Arrival

To help relieve the effects of jet-lag and get over it faster, set your watch to your destination time zone and make sure you eat and sleep at the same time as the locals.  Try to resist that daytime nap and enjoy being in Europe!

For more tips on flight bookings check out our articles General Long-haul Flight Booking Considerations and Flight Booking Tips – Down Under to Europe. And in Part 1 of our favourite travel tips you can find New Zealand and Australian Government Tips on Visas, Passports and Insurance.

Looking forward to showing you the heart of Europe on a Sidetracks Germany Tour, Barbara Panettieri and the Sidetracks Team







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