At home in the chic, down-to-earth seaside village
of Edmonds is the Travel Center for Rick Steves’
Europe. Approach the building from 4th Avenue,
just off Main Street, and you’ll get a sneak peek of
the exciting travel possibilities to come with its classic red
brick exterior and sculptural stonework. Enter under the
watchful gaze of gargoyles. Five steps beyond the cheerful
“Open” flag clapping in the breeze and you’re inside a onestop
resource center for European travel.

The Travel Center contains everything you’ll need to
know before you step on the plane or even start dreaming
of an overseas excursion. You’ll find maps, books, DVDs,
travel bags, accessories, free classes, one-on-one consulting,
tour sign-ups, and a resource library with fireside seating
area. You’ll also find a well-traveled staff on hand to answer
questions about everything ranging from international cell
phone usage to rail system know-hows and the best foodie
hot spots in any given city.

The Travel Center staff is quite possibly the best resource
you’ll find inside. All staff members regularly travel abroad
and possess different skill sets and expertise. Their advice
is hard-won. You won’t find guesswork here, since staff
members probably visited your destination very recently,
maybe even last week.

“Everyone has someone they can connect with. That’s why
(the Travel Center) works so well,” said Jenn Schutte, manager
of the Travel Center. For example, if you have questions about
traveling with kiddos, ask Schutte. This 22-year veteran of
Rick Steves’ Europe travels yearly with her two children and
knows what it takes to have a good time, stay on budget, and
keep the whole family happy. According to Schutte, the Travel
Center is its own destination. People from all over the country
travel to see it and plan their trips with the Travel Center’s
staff. “Our travel center came before almost everything else,”
Steves wrote to me from Normandy. “Even back in the 1970s
when I had my piano studio on 4th Avenue. My recital hall
doubled as a clubhouse and lecture facility for travelers.
Today, even though we enjoy a national presence with our
teaching, I am committed to having our public gathering
place for travelers to share and learn. As I used to say back
in the 1970s, ‘We’re all in the same travelers’ school of hard
knocks…and it’s ok to compare notes.’”

Rick Steves’ Europe, which includes the Travel Center,
has come a long way since the days of his hometown piano
studio on 4th Ave. Most know Steves from his more than 100
public television shows or have used several of his travel guide
books — most notably Europe Through the Back Door, which
he self published in 1980. The book is now updated yearly
and published by Avalon Travel Publishing. Steves’ weekly
travel show can also be heard on NPR or you can read his
syndicated column in newspapers across the country. Time
Magazine, 60 Minutes, The Washington Post, and several other
prominent media outlets frequently interview Steves for his
know-how and inside travel scoops. (Here’s an inside scoop:
Look for future shows on Romania and possibly Cuba.)

Steves’ mission is to make travel accessible, affordable,
smart, authentic, and perspective broadening. “When an
American travels, he or she has a chance to not only have a
fun vacation but to become better connected to our world.
It’s my joy to design the information we gather through our
experience in such a way that it helps our travelers enjoy
maximum travel fun and meaning for every mile, minute,
and dollar during their vacation,” says Steves.

The more we experience other cultures and meet new
people, the better we understand our world and appreciate
those in it. If you’re traveling for the first time or hundredth
time, Rick Steves’ Travel Center is the place to gear up with
tips, tools, and accessories.

After polling the staff on hand, be sure to check out
some of their favorite accessories including: Packing Cubes,
which keep all your personal items organized to avoid the
typical clothing explosion at each new destination; the Velocé
Shoulder Bag, a perfect size day bag that doubles as a one- or
two-shoulder backpack; and the Hide-A-Way Tote that can be
folded up smaller than your hands and expanded to a carry
on size bag to bring home purchases and souvenirs.

If you’re not ready to travel on your own, try one of the
Rick Steves’ Europe tours, which also double as a training
ground. You’ll get language lessons and how-tos along the
way so you’ll be ready for next time. More travel tips and
information can be found on the in-depth Rick Steves’
Europe website. Bon Voyage!


"Steves' mission is to make travel accessible, affordable, smart, authentic, and perspective broadening."