Banned from Europe? Try these American vacation substitutes

banned from europe

Want to visit Europe this summer? Forget it: You’re banned from Europe.

Although it opened its borders to international tourists last week, Europe has barred most Americans. It seems our physical distancing and other containment measures don’t meet the European Council’s high standards.

Or, to put it bluntly, the coronavirus is out of control in America.

So there goes your European vacation. Or does it?

Yes, there are American substitutes for a European vacation

Nearly 7 million Americans visited Europe last summer, according to the U.S. government. If you miss those afternoons hanging out in the sidewalk cafés of Paris or hiking in the Swiss Alps, there’s a silver lining: There are places here in the U.S. that look and feel like Europe. And you can book a summer vacation there right now, as long as the shutdowns don’t get any worse.

“Replicating European experiences on domestic soil is a great way to whet your appetite until you can personally visit Europe,” says Limor Decter, a travel adviser for Ovation Travel Group.

Dreaming of Madeira? Try Maui

I’m banned from Europe, too. I was hoping to make it back to Madeira, Portugal, soon. I wanted to ride the cable car up to the tropical gardens at Monte Palace one more time, and maybe have lunch at Quinta do Furão, with those stunning views of the Atlantic.

Fortunately, Madeira is a dead ringer for Maui, with those soaring volcanic peaks and impossibly blue water. I can book my Southwest Airlines flight to Hawaii on Aug. 1, when the state reopens to certain visitors. Also, I won’t have to brush up on my Portuguese. Although, if I have extra time, I’ll head over to Tex Drive In on the Big Island for a dozen Portuguese Malasadas donuts. Has to be done.

A word of warning: Be aware you’ll need to be able to present a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival in Hawaii or you’ll be required to go into quarantine for 14 days. No testing will be available at the airport.

There are lots of other destinations that look like Europe

Lake Tahoe reminds some people of Lago Maggiore, which straddles Italy and Switzerland. If you’re looking for the rolling hills of Tuscany, Italy, try California’s famous wine country. There are moments when you visit Sonoma and Napa counties where you find yourself asking, “Is this really America?” It is. If you’re not ready to travel yet, wait until December, when the mustard seeds start to bloom. That’s my favorite time of year.

How about the Alps? Consider Ouray, Colorado, called the “Switzerland of America.” It’s just north of Telluride and surrounded by the usually snow-capped San Juan Mountains. I spent last August in nearby Grand Junction, and we’ve been trying to get back ever since. Insider tip: Plan your visit during the peach harvest in late summer in nearby Palisade and hike in the nearby Colorado National Monument.

Glacier Bay, Alaska, might fool you into thinking you’re looking at the fjords of Norway.
And if you were planning to cruise the Norwegian fjords this summer, well, there’s always Alaska. I sailed into Glacier Bay National Park a few years ago and often felt like I was in Europe. The cruise line I was on, Alaskan Dream Cruises, has canceled its sailings through July, but early September was a perfect time for an Inside Passage cruise.

Banned from Europe? Try these American cities

It’s not just the landscapes that make you feel like you’re back in Europe. Our cities do, too.

If you had plans to visit Spain, why not reroute to St. Augustine, Florida.? It’s the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the country. A little hot and humid this time of year – but then again, so is Spain.

Or you can visit Santa Fe, New Mexico, which probably has more antique stores and art galleries than the average ciudad. But from the right angle, you can’t tell ’em apart. San Juan, Puerto Rico, is also old, European and historic, plus you get the added authenticity of speaking Spanish.

Since I grew up in Austria, I have a thing for German-themed cities. And there are plenty of them in America. On the east coast, there’s Helen, Georgia, which looks a lot like a small Bavarian town. New Glarus, Wisconsin, which calls itself “America’s Little Switzerland” – why does everyone want to be Switzerland? – has a historic village and a brewery where they serve the world-famous Spotted Cow Ale.

There’s also Leavenworth, Washington, another Bavarian-looking mountain town near Washington’s north-central Cascade Mountains. It gets almost every detail correct, including the Maibaum in the town square. If you live in Seattle, chances are you’ve already made the 2 ½-hour drive to this tourist attraction. It’s usually crowded during the summer, except maybe this summer.

I could go on. Boston, Charleston, South Carolina, Solvang, California, Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. all offer a more continental experience. All are worth checking out if you need an Old World fix this summer.

Should you even try to replace Europe?

But can you really replace Europe? Some places in America come pretty darned close. If you drop by Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery in Solvang, the kringles are as good as they get. You might also be lucky enough to meet Bent Olsen, the fourth-generation Danish-American baker who owns the place. Other places are not so authentic, but you gotta give them points for trying.

Replacing the European vacation experience is impossible, though. The illusion is shattered by a four-lane highway with fast-food joints and gas stations. Yep, you’re still in America.

“It is not worth trying to duplicate a European vacation,” says Birgitt Vaughan, who grew up in Germany and now works for Sonoma County Tourism. “Rather, embrace what makes a destination special.”

If you’re banned from Europe, here’s how to find it in America

Almost every American town has a little bit of Europe in it. You just have to know where to look.

It’s all about the bread

If you’re looking for a taste of Europe, try finding a local bakery like the R. Weinrich German Bakery in South Philadelphia or the Yalaha Bakery in Central Florida. Places like that attract a fair number of expatriates, so you can go practice your German if you want.

Have a pint (or two)

If nightlife is more your thing, you’ll find plenty of British pubs or German breweries close by. Call ahead before visiting to be sure they’re open. If the social distancing rules and coronavirus closures don’t allow it, you can always enjoy a pint of Guinness at home.

Where’s the closest deli?

For a real taste of Europe, you have one more option: Find a nearby deli. When I visited Houston last summer, one of the highlights was a visit to Kenny & Ziggy’s Deli. I can’t do the menu justice in the space remaining. A meal here will make you feel like you’re back in the Old World.


I’d like to know: Why even bother?

I wrote this story up quickly right after the European travel ban went into effect. It was kind of a knee-jerk response. I wanted to help readers who needed their Old World fix this summer.

But as I talked to travelers during my research, including many of you, I wondered: Why are we even bothering?

I mean, the whole country is sick. Trying to capture a little bit of Europe amid this pandemic disaster of Biblical proportions seems trivial and kind of tone deaf.

Don’t worry, I will remedy that with my next column. I will more than remedy that.

Meantime, I invite you to scroll down and give me a piece of your mind. Where should our priorities lie, not just in travel, but in everything? Or have we made America great enough already?

Sharpen your knives and scroll down. The comments are open! 😡 (Michelle made me do the emojis.)

Posted in On Travel Tagged , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

%d bloggers like this: