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Vacation tips from travel pros

Vacation tips from travel pros

Travel isn’t just their passion, it’s their way of life – Katja Birrer and Walter Schärer tell all about eventful city trips, tours and destinations on their travel blog travelmemo.com. They also offer practical tips on remarkable design and boutique hotels, gourmet restaurants and golf resorts. In other words, their blog has just the right travel tips to suit nearly any travel style.

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Walter Schärer and Katja Birrer, Founders of travelmemo.com

Walter Schärer and Katja Birrer, Founders of travelmemo.com

How did you come up with the idea of creating a travel blog?

Walter: It all started with having to devise a social media strategy for work. While doing the research, I noticed that blogs are really the central element of any social media strategy. I wanted to try it out myself and, since I used to work in the tourism industry, a travel blog was the natural choice. So it was actually a bit of a coincidence. We’ve been writing our blog at travelmemo.com for eight years now and are still learning a lot. In fact, our blog is more a research and study project on the topics of social media and content marketing.

Katja: Of course, we’ve developed a passion for blogging too and it’s nice for us to have a hobby we can share as a couple. Actually, we complement one another quite well. We use our blog to tell people about our travel adventures. On it, we describe city trips, destinations, gourmet restaurants plus design and boutique hotels that we recommend. We really don’t care whether a hotel has five stars or not – what we prefer are small hotels that offer either some sort of unique flair or additional services. In other words, a blend between experience and indulgence. That’s why our blog’s target group is the over-30 crowd.

How do you plan your trips?

Katja: Sometimes we’re contacted directly by hotels, destinations or their PR agents and asked if we’d like to visit a hotel or destination in exchange for a report on our travel blog. If the proposal suits us and fits our niche, of course we’re more than happy to do it. The important thing is that our reports don’t lose any of their authenticity. Mostly, though, we decide on our own where we’ll be traveling and ask the hotels or destinations whether they would be interested in a collaboration. We don’t always receive something in return. If we go on an outing or discover a quaint café, they quite frequently pop up as the subject of one of our articles.

Walter: For us, blogging has become a way of life: Whenever we go somewhere, we always have our camera and laptop in tow.

Paradis Golf Club, Mauritius

Which destinations do you recommend for active vacations?

Walter: The Red Sea in Egypt is ideal for novice divers, for example. You can fly from Switzerland to Egypt in just four hours; the water is pleasantly warm and you’ll find an enormous variety of fish. Diving around the Maldives, on the other hand, is truly sensational: it really doesn’t get any better than that! Anybody who’s already seen it all but is still looking for that special kick should try cave diving in the cenotes of Yucatán. An absolutely unforgettable experience!

Katja: With golfing, it depends on whether you prefer golf courses in the mountains or on the seaside. We’ve already been to Spain, Portugal and even Mauritius and found breathtaking golf courses along the coasts. If you’d rather go golfing in the mountains, however, you don’t need to travel far: Switzerland, Austria and even South Tyrol are ideal.

When it comes to hiking, on the other hand, we really have a hiker’s paradise right here in Switzerland. We’ve been rediscovering the Swiss mountains over the past few years. When you think about it, it’s all right on our doorstep.

Walter: We just recently visited Vitznau on Lake Lucerne, for example. From there, you can get to the Rigi where you’ll find 120 km of hiking trails. If you hike along the rock trail, for instance, you’ll have an amazing view of both the lake and the mountains – nothing but panoramic vistas as far as the eyes can see!

Trogir, Croatia

What about some tips for vacations on the seaside?

Katja: We’re not your typical seaside resort guests who spend a week just laying around on the beach. We combine our beach vacations with rounds of golf, hiking or a road trip. Take last year. We drove along the coast of Croatia where we visited several picturesque coastal towns. It was fantastic!

We were even pleasantly surprised by Ibiza. Given its reputation for being a party island, I had resisted going there for many years. But Ibiza offers so much more: There are so many little bays to discover, stylish hotels in quiet locations and excellent restaurants and beach clubs – partying isn’t the only thing to do on the island!

Which city trips would you recommend at the moment?

Katja: Cities in Eastern Europe, like Sofia in Bulgaria or Vilnius in Lithuania, are destinations that are becoming increasingly popular among tourists.

Walter: These cities are a bit more exotic than other “run-of-the-mill” city travel destinations and have their own special groove: Despite the fact that they radiate a kind of old-time flair, they still feel hip and modern at the same time. And this special blend is precisely what sets these cities apart!

Antwerp is another insider tip and you can even get direct flights from Zurich now. The city is a perfect destination for shopaholics, design enthusiasts and gourmets alike.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

What has been your best travel experience to date?

Walter: One unforgettable trip was our flying safari in Botswana. Anybody familiar with safaris knows that Botswana, unlike Kenya and Tanzania, is positioned as a luxury destination. Accordingly, only a small number of tourists are allowed to enter the country. The result is that you’re often traveling through the wilderness alone, just with the ranger instead of having 20 other Jeeps within sight at any given time.

But the accommodations in Botswana are sensational too: Our tent was nearly larger than our whole apartment! Of course, the wilderness and nature are still the most spectacular part of the trip. Seeing an elephant suddenly stroll by while you’re brushing your teeth is breathtaking!

Katja: Botswana’s unspoiled countryside is unbelievably magnificent, there’s no denying it. Shrubland, savannas and the swamps of the Okavango Delta make for an awe-inspiring spectacle of nature. And seeing all those animals in their natural habitats is a special treat.

Where are you going next?

Katja: Next we’ll be flying to São Miguel, an island in the Azores. Since you have to go through either Lisbon or Porto to get there, we’ll be adding a stopover in Porto with an outing to the Douro Valley. We’re really looking forward to it!

For more information about the blog and travel tips, go to travelmemo.com.

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