Archive for the ‘Winter Breaks’ Category

Winter Travel - Necessary & Unnecessary Items.

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Big crowds, long lines & sunburnt skin; what’s so good about summer travel anyway? Travelling Europe during winter is just as much fun and most of the time without those overcrowded sightseeing locations and long queues. One difficulty many people face is knowing exactly what they need to fold, roll and vacuum pack into their bag to ensure they have the right items to get them through their winter travels.

Here at Topdeck we have years of winter travel experience! Below are a few things that might help you decide on what to pack for your next winter trip.

Suggested clothing list..

1 pair of comfortable walking shoes (good grip for icy walkways)
1 pair of smart casual shoes
2 pairs jeans/trousers
Plenty of underwear and thick socks
4 shirts/t-shirts/long sleeved shirts
2 sweaters/jumpers
Smart casual evening wear
1 rainproof jacket and/or umbrella
1 warm jacket/coat
Hat, beanie, scarf & gloves
Sunglasses (sun + snow can be a blinder!)

Additional, but not so essential items..

Lip balm
Portable clothes line
Cold & Flu meds (just in case)
Hand warmers
Thermal clothing, or a nice animal print ‘onesie’
Portable toilet seat warmers

Items you could probably leave behind..

Coconut tanning oil
One of those hats with a fan on top
The stick usually used to barge through the summer crowds
Your ‘Hot Summer Hits’ compilation playlist
Aloe Vera after sun spray
Budgie smugglers
Borat Mankini

Of course these are only suggestions; we would love to know if you have any items that you can’t travel without in winter, along with any items you think you definitely wouldn’t need!

Still unsure what you’ll need in your bag? Check out your Pre Departure document which contains more detailed information on what you could take. This will be emailed to you upon booking, or can be downloaded from the trip page on our website.

Fancy experiencing a European winter with Topdeck?
We currently have a cool 10% off selected winter trips departing in Dec 2012 & Jan 2013!

Brugge Christmas Markets

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Brugge, Christmas and Markets are all amazing things in their own right, so imagine them all in one place!

Beautiful medieval surroundings, handmade Belgian chocolate, mulled wine, delicious food and a joyous Christmas spirit are just some of the things you can expect if visiting at this time of year. At the Brugge Christmas markets, you will find plenty to see and to do. After realising you have just eaten a few kilograms/pounds of Belgian chocolates, you will probably have the energy to get your ice skates on too. Be careful though, this might not be such a good idea after the mulled wine!

On arrival in Brugge, a walking tour will familiarise you with the streets of this fairytale town, then the rest of the day is yours! You could easily spend a whole afternoon in the main square, winding your way through the markets, peering at the gorgeous handmade ornaments while chowing down on a hot tasty bratwurst. If you’re feeling motivated, climb the 366 stairs to the top of the belfry, and gaze down at the shoppers and ice-skaters below, all bathed in the glow of colourful Christmas lights.

If you desire some quiet time, venture away from the square and explore the meandering lanes and alleys of the town. Each twist of the cobbled streets will reveal a new and picturesque sight, whether it be a peaceful canal, an ancient church, a wall displaying thousands of unique beer bottles (yes, really!) or yet another meticulously decorated chocolate shop. If you start to get chilly in the crisp winter’s air, why not duck into a cosy cafe, and warm up with some traditional moules-frites (fries with mussels – though you can swap the mussels for ketchup, mayonnaise or gravy, if you’re so inclined!). Try not to fill up too much as you’ll have a delicious included dinner ahead of you, and the chance to sample the Brugge nightlife with your fellow Topdeck travellers.

Of course, you can’t leave without sampling a traditional Belgian waffle (or three). They’ll make for a decadent lunch, especially when washed down with some of the best (and richest!) hot chocolate you’ll ever taste. You should grab a kilo or two of handmade praline chocolates for the road – after all, when will you be back in beautiful Brugge?

After your weekend of exploring, and all that heavenly food, you’ll be ready to settle in for a nap on your way back to London on board the Topdeck coach!

Interested in experiencing the Brugge Christmas Markets for yourself this year? Book now and receive 10% off for our 15th December departure. There is limited availability so get in quick!

Winter Wonder: Paris & the Swiss Alps

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

From the lights of Paris to the heights of the Swiss Alps, Topdeck’s operations supervisor Xanthe discovers the wonders of a European winter.

Waking up to the Swiss Alps - bliss

Waking up to the Swiss Alps - bliss

I woke up on the third morning of my trip in utter panic: there was complete silence around me and I had one of those moments where you are convinced you’ve overslept by hours and hours so you leap straight out of bed and scramble around for some kind of time-keeping device.

Part of you actually wondering if this is in fact a nightmare and your hand will never clasp that portable alarm clock that you know must be lurking at the bottom of your rucksack somewhere.

As I was frantically searching, I reached out to pull the curtains aside a little in the hope that some light would be shed on my situation. As I did something caught my eye and I was drawn to the irresistible gleaming of an early morning sunshine persistently filtering through.

Filtering through what? I looked closer and realised that I hadn’t overslept at all - I’d woken at dawn, just in time to witness a glorious sunrise filtering through thousands of pine trees, steadily floating higher behind the breathtaking Swiss Alps and reflecting a thousand times off the thick layer of powdery snow flakes that covered everything.

As I sunk back into bed and snuggled into the cosy down duvet (or, doona), mesmerised by the view for a few more minutes, I thought about how surreal this all seemed.

Less than 48 hours before I had found myself whizzing through the “City of Lights” on a night driving tour of Paris.

We jaunted through bohemian Montmartre, the eclectic Latin Quarter, the buzzing nightlife of St Germain and past the unapologetically gothic Notre Dame, stopping or slowing for photo opportunities at all the main sights, before scooting back to our hotel for a few hours rest.

Cycling around the Eiffel Tower on California Beach Cruisers.

Cycling around the Eiffel Tower on California Beach Cruisers.

The next morning we glided along the Champs-Élysées on “California Beach Cruiser” bikes; i.e. the biggest, comfiest saddle I have ever come across that wasn’t on a horse.

I have to admit I nearly bashed into other cyclists, or lamp posts, several times because I was so distracted by staring in all the shop windows!

After we cruised around the Eiffel Tower, through the Champs De Mars, past the Arc de Triomphe, through the Louvre and back underneath the Eiffel Tower I decided to take myself on an afternoon of window shopping.

I picked up a Nutella drenched crepe from one of the infamous street vendors to fuel me on my way and headed straight for Dior (their largest flagship store in the world) followed by Louis Vuitton - also the largest of its kind (I might not be Blair Waldorf, but I can do my very best impression!).

I treated myself to a bottle of ‘Coco Mademoiselle’ in Chanel (well, Paris is the fashion capital of the world. It would be rude not to really…) and then walked a bit further down to the more affordable high street shops.

I stopped in Ladurée on the way to sample one of quite simply the most delectable macaroons ever made and then jumped on the metro to save my tired feet from walking me to the meeting point for our group dinner that evening.

At dinner, listening to everyone else’s escapades of the day (climbing the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Musée d’Orsay, getting lost in the vast Louvre museum, drinking in an Irish pub…) I realised just how varied a city Paris really is - everyone has different fantasies of it and it somehow fulfils them all and creates new ones at the same time. I was amazed at how much some people had managed to squeeze into just one day of sight-seeing, but then I guess that’s another advantage of travelling in winter – no queues!

That evening a small group of us went out to catch the raunchily glamorous show that is Moulin Rouge. We walked under the famous red windmill and immersed ourselves in an evening of light-hearted, exaggerated debauchery!

And that is how I found myself wondering at how surreal it was to have gone from all that vibrancy; the lights, feathers, glitter and designer high heels, to this tranquil yet equally impressive stillness.

Perhaps I had been too sleepy to notice that our luggage had been picked up in a sleigh or that my feet had carried me through the snow to the hotel entrance the night before.

Exploring the beautiful town of Lucerne.

Exploring the beautiful town of Lucerne.

That morning we all huddled together in the deceptive gondola (a kind of cable car) to sail down the mountain and through the clouds for a chance to explore the majestic town of Lucerne.

We sifted through the countless souvenir and specialist shops searching for the perfect watch or Swiss army knife or cuckoo clock.

To get back to the hotel we took the scenic cruise across the stunning, but slightly sinister, Lake Lucerne and then a train ride up to the top of the Mount Rigi (Queen of the Mountains) where we spent the afternoon sledging, building snowmen, making snow-angels and creating teams for spontaneous snowball fights with some local schoolchildren.

The perfect evening to end the day with was spent in the cosy hotel bar with delicious traditional cheese fondue, a few games of pool and endless amounts of gluwein (mulled wine).

As I climbed back into bed I remember thinking how thankful I was that this was only day three of my trip and there were still another 11 to go.

Tomorrow I was off to Italy, another fascinating country that I had never visited!

Xanthe travelled on Topdeck Travel’s 14 day Winter Wonder. For more winter trips check out Topdeck Travel’s first ever winter pre-release brochure. Book now to save up to 10% off your winter experience.

Why You Should Travel to Europe this Winter!

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Baby it’s cold outside… and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Here at Topdeck we simply love the winter months – the frostier the better – because quite frankly, Europe never looks better than when wearing its winter coat.image of youth tour group in Europe in winter

Snowy streets, a festive atmosphere, fairy lights and fabulous comfort food are just the beginning. You can also look forward to fewer crowds and lower prices that come with travelling in the off season.

With that in mind we asked our Topdeck experts to share their favourite winter experiences:


  • My favourite winter destination is skiing for the entire day in the gorgeous Austrian Alps. Then coming back to my hotel in the evening in Salzburg and going to enjoy a traditional meal and beer stein in a local brewery. -Leticia
  • Salzburg is the perfect winter city. Festive Christmas markets, cosy pubs with warm fires, and mulled wine stalls everywhere you look to warm you up! -Scotty
  • My favourite winter experience is spending as much time as possible browsing the beautiful Christmas markets with a cup of mulled wine in hand. No matter where you are in Europe the markets are simply amazing! -Kara
  • Being cosy indoors sharing a delicious cheese fondue with new friends and then stepping outside to a breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps. -Meg
  • Visiting Rome’s impressive monuments and the Vatican museums are truly memorable experiences. A traditional fiery diavola pizza and espresso are always hard to turn down, well when in Rome… -Sean
  • Waking up in the morning in the Alps with a fresh blanket of powder snow at the front door ready for a full day of skiing and boarding, followed by a Jagertea (or Jacuzzi) to warm the bones and relax the muscles. -Simon
  • Explore the Christmas markets in Brugge - the medieval town that looks like a fairytale come to life. If you’re getting chilly in the snow, warm up with some delicious hot frites and treat yourself to dessert in the countless exquisite chocolate shops! -Courtney
  • Skating at a leisurely pace around the frozen lake near Vajdahunyad Castle, City Park in the heart of Budapest. Complete the day with a steaming cup of forralt bor (mulled wine) and roasted chestnuts. Pure bliss! -Anita

If the unique experience of a European winter sounds like you make sure to check out our winter trips and let us know your favourite things about winter!

Topdeck Travel has released its first ever winter pre-release brochure. Book now to save up to 10% off your winter experience.

Ski France: Les Deux Alpes

Friday, December 16th, 2011

by Kara Segedin

Boarders, snow bunnies and ski-bums listen up!

The European boarding and skiing season is ready to kick off and if you are itching to get out among the white stuff then pack your bags for Les Deux Alpes, France.

Whether you’re a relative newbie, pro or a complete beginner a Topdeck snow vacation will help you make the most of your time on the slopes.

But it’s more than just the skiing and snowboarding, it’s the whole experience. There’s the fresh mountain air, stunning scenery and the chilly nights spent soaking your muscles in a steaming hot pool after a hard day up the mountain.

And not to mention the Après Ski!

Topdeck’s Festival Manager Heather has been busy putting the final touches on the 2011/2012 ski season packages.

“Ski resorts are expensive, but with our Topdeck ski trips you know exactly how much you are going to spend,” she says.

It’s all included

All your ski or snowboarding gear, lift passes, lessons, meals and accommodation are all included in the trip price. You also get access to other ski resorts in the area, ice skating and heated swimming pools.

“Once there the only thing you will have to pay for is your drinks!”

The Mountain

Les Deux Alpes is a bustling resort in Rhône-Alpes region of France with some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Europe and guaranteed natural snow.

It has about 220km of pistes (runs) and 2300m of vertical drop. There are tracks to suit all abilities from experts to those still learning the ropes.

If you’re a snowboarder who wants to try out some tricks there is also an extensive snowpark with a halfpipe, multiple kickers, two boardercross courses and many grinding rails.

Les Deux Alpes is Europe’s largest skiable glacier and France’s second oldest ski resort. The name “two Alps” refers to the two villages (Vénosc and Mont-de-Lans) that sit either end of the resort plateau.

Snowfalls over the past two weeks have been better than expected with most European resorts experiencing significant snowfalls.

Last week, Les Deux Alpes got 30cm of new snow and further snowfalls are expected.

Where You’ll Be Staying

A wooden and stone chalet, UCPA Les Deux Alpes Hostel is 100m from the ski area and 2 minutes’ walk from the town centre.

All rooms have rooms have shower and sink ensuite with toilets a few steps away in the corridor. The Hostel features a heated pool and a terrace overlooking the Ecrins National Park

With over thirty bars and pubs the nightlife in the resort is buzzing.

How We Do It

If you are making your own way a shuttle will collect you from either Grenoble Airport in France or Geneva Airport in Switzerland.

When you arrive at Les Deux Alpes you’ll be greeted by a Topdeck Ski Rep.

The rep is kind of like a trip leader on the Alpes. They’re there to help you out with all your questions and organise pub crawls and events for the group.

You’ll be asked if you’re a skier or a boarder and you’ll be kitted out in all your gear for the week.

Don’t worry if this is your first time skiing as everyone is entitled to 12 hours worth of ski or snowboard lessons so you’ll be speeding down those trails in no time.

What you get:

  • Guaranteed natural snow.
  • Multi-share accommodation in UCPA Hostel.
  • Lift pass with access to 3 resorts (covers 6 ½ days at Les Deux Alpes, 2 days at L’Alpe d’Huez and 1 day Serre Chevalier).
  • Equipment hire.
  • Up to 12 hours of lessons.
  • All meals at Les Deux Alpes resort.
  • Leisure pass with access to heated swimming pool and ice rink.
  • European trained Topdeck Crew and Ski Rep.
  • Awesome Topdeck après-ski.

What to bring:

  • Snow clothes
  • Travel insurance
Want to hit the slopes with Topdeck this winter? Check out the wicked ski packages our website!
Ski France: 26 December 2011, 12 February, 1 & 8 April 2012
Ski France Easter: 7 April 2012

Catching the Christmas Spirit in Bruges!

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

For her first wintry northern Christmas, Kara travelled to the magical Brugge Christmas Markets for some festive cheer!

If like me you are more accustomed to a warm and sunny Southern Hemisphere festive season complete with beachfront BBQs and long sunny days the thought of a wintery white Christmas is a magical and romantic prospect.

And you certainly can’t get a better northern Noel than with a visit to one of Europe’s Christmas Markets.

In this case, the Brugge (or Bruges) Christmas Market!

Brugge: A Fairytale Town

Brugge: A Fairytale Town

For anyone who has seen, and loved, the movie ‘In Bruges’ (Colin Farrell anyone?), the city holds a certain quirky appeal.

It’s hard to describe Brugge without using a lot of cheesy and romantic words… it’s a beautiful, breathtaking, peaceful and magical, fairy-tale town.

All these description are true – even more so at Christmas time!

With so many ornate buildings, stalls, shops and decorations it was hard to know where to turn next so my friends Kath and Becca and I needed a plan.

Our mission: to soak up as much of the Christmas Spirit as possible!

First we stopped for a look in a Christmas decoration shop. Thousands of handcrafted fairies, elves, Santas and nativity decorations hung throughout the store. The ornaments were pretty, but a bit pricey, but hey, it’s free to look!

So shiny & sparkly!

So shiny & sparkly!

Next we sampled the local mulled wine and made our way through the first of two market squares. A warm beverage is pretty much a requirement to keep warm and feel cheery at Christmas time!

The old town is fairly compact and it doesn’t take long to cover the main area on foot and even if you get a little lost down one of the town’s many walkways you’ll soon get back on track.

The main market is found in the centre of the square in front of the Church of Our Lady. There an ice-rink is surrounded by stalls selling food, produce and Christmas-themed goodies.

My total lack of coordination meant skating was off the cards, so we tucked into some tasty banana fritters instead, followed by a round of Belgian hot chips!

Far too full to climb!

Far too full to climb!

Suitably stuffed from our Belgian delights, we were far too full to climb the famous church tower so spent more time sightseeing and shopping.

My shopping basket was full of mouth-watering Belgian chocolates, locally made honey, delicate ornaments and a mini wooden tree complete with decorations.

You’d have to be a pretty big Grinch not to get caught up in the Christmas Spirit of this town. From the giant Christmas trees in town squares and fairy-lights hanging over the canal to the smell of festive delicacies.

A full on day of shopping, eating and walking really takes it out of you so by early evening we were exhausted.

Christmas cheer is everywhere in Brugge

Christmas cheer is everywhere in Brugge

What a better way to finish the day than with a special Belgian coffee – essentially a shot of coffee with a shot of a local liqueur topped with sweet cream. They also offer a rather tasty alcoholic hot chocolate! Nom!

So wrap up warm, don your best carol singing voice and head to the Brugge for the Christmas Markets!

If you fancy a stroll around Brugge with a hot bevvie in hand, why not join Topdeck’s overnight trip to the Brugge Christmas Markets!

Magical Brugge

Magical Brugge

Baltics Christmas Explorer - ho-ho-ho

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Topdeck Travel’s Amelia Lawrence experiences her first white Christmas in the Baltics

Christmas, to most of us Australians, means a few things. Hot weather. Cold swimming pools. Delicious seafood lunches. And yet we still listen to Bing Crosby dreaming of a white Christmas, which Santa dashes through the snow and Frosty the snowman comes to life one day. So what is a white Christmas really all about?

We started our white Christmas adventure in Riga, a city famous for its UNESCO World Heritage listing and with an architectural style unrivalled in Europe. Our local guide showed us the Art Nouveau architecture the city is famous for, as well as where to sample some local dishes. We eventually settled on a tiny hidden gem of a restaurant, tucked away in the narrow, winding cobblestone streets in the Old Town, where we indulged in cold beetroot borscht, delicious local sausages and some pickled mushrooms – apparently a Latvian delicacy!

Hot chocolate break!

Hot chocolate break!

One of the great joys of Christmas in Europe is the chance to visit the Christmas markets, and during the Christmas season Riga hosts a small Christmas market, where we warmed ourselves with mulled wine whilst deciding which festive Latvian decorations we couldn’t live without!

Church of the Saviour of Spilt Blood, St. Petersburg

Church of the Saviour of Spilt Blood, St. Petersburg

From Riga it was on to Russia’s St Petersburg! This amazing city becomes a winter wonderland during December, which was great news for us as it meant very few tourists and almost no lines at the major attractions! It wasn’t until we embarked on a guided tour of the city that we understood what white Christmases are all about – the city’s sites are even more picturesque when covered with layers of fluffy white snow! Sure, it’s cold, but considering that at The Hermitage Museum we seemed to be the only tourists, what’s not to love? After a day of snow and ice we indulge in a sumptuous hot Christmas dinner, and we’re finally starting to get the white Christmas spirit!

After our first white Christmas, we journeyed across the plains to Tallinn, Estonia’s gothic capital. This spectacular city is a panorama of medieval history, culture and charm. We spend our time exploring within the ancient city walls, where the local sites are held within a maze of narrow cobbled streets and looming spires. It’s then finally time to try some delicious Estonian meals, warming ourselves up on hearty soups, delicious meat dishes and even some delicious Estonian rhubarb pastries!

After eight days in the Baltics, we’ve come to realise that while a white Christmas may not be what we’re used to – but it certainly makes for a new and exciting way to spend our holidays!

Interested? Check out this year’s Baltic Explorer

For more information about Topdeck’s range of Christmas and New Year trips, including the 8 day Baltic Explorer Christmas trip, visit

Great Early Bird Savings in 2010 - offer ends soon!

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Book now and get huge savings on European trips this year! EuroHotel, EuroClub, EuroCamping & selected Explorer trips all have big savings waiting to be snatched up! (some exclusions may apply). See full details of the offer here.

If you’re looking for something warmer to escape the drudgery of winter, you’ll be glad to hear that Topdeck Down Under is now fully operational and we’ve got plenty of new trips in Australia & New Zealand up for grabs! Check ‘em out!

Christmas Extravaganza! Save up to 20%

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Why stay home this Christmas when you can travel? Especially when Topdeck have offers that save you up to 20%!

Check out our awesome Christmas travel offers! Or read our latest newsletter for more Christmas goodies!

Topdeck Wins at the BETA Youth Travel Awards 2009!

Monday, December 7th, 2009

BETA, the British Educational Travel Association has announced the short listed nominees for the British Youth Travel Awards 2009. With a record number of submissions received this year, the short listing judges had a tough task to whittle down the entries, and Topdeck made it into the final three in the ‘Most Innovative Marketing’ category for our ‘Don’t waste winter!’ campaign.

The award ceremony took place Thursday 3 December in Central London. Hosted by Dick Porter, the awards were a great opportunity to meet others from the youth travel sector as well as honoring the best in their categories.

Happy to announce that Topdeck was the winner in the ‘Most Innovative Marketing’ category!

Big thanks to everyone who voted! :)