Now that I have been home for several months and made it through the holidays I am finally going to update this page. My motivation is coming from several friends going to Italy soon. I hope my insight will make their trip the best experience.
There are a few things to keep in mind when booking the hotels for your trip:
1. Location: I suggest finding a hotel (or vacation rental) close to the train station or other major sites. This will help cut down cab fees.
2. Ratings: Check on Tripadvisor.com for the ratings and reviews for the hotels you are interested in. This is helpful to see how clean, friendly, size, location and any other issues the property may have.
3. Elevator: Make sure the hotel has an elevator. Even if you have just one large bag and one carry-on it is difficult to get up several flights of stairs.
4. Price: Check for discounts on hotels.com or other websites to get an additional discount. You can find discounts through emails or web searches. It is usually a promotional code to put in during the booking process.
5. Rewards: If your hotel offers a rewards card, sign up for the club benefits.
Book your train tickets for the high-speed trains before you go on raileurope.com (you can find the link to the left). During the summer especially these can book up. These trains will cut your travel time in half and is well worth the extra cost. Read the difference between the benefits of first class and second class. See if it is worth it to you to pay the higher fee for those benefits.
Things to make sure to bring with you for an enjoyable trip:
1. Shoes: Bring sandals or flip-flops (which ever is most comfortable) with you, no matter what time of year it is. These do not take up much room, when it is unseasonable warm, these are nice and refreshing. Bring comfortable walking shoes in different styles, 3 different pairs to switch out with daily.
2. Clothes: Check with the weather and pack according to the season. Always bring a sweater for the plane. Look online and see what the locals are wearing, try to blend in with the locals and wear similar clothing. Make sure if you are packing a sun dress, you have a scarf or something to cover your shoulders (some places you must have your shoulders covered to enter). Do not over pack! Wear your jeans, pants, shorts or skirts 2 or 3 times. Pack plenty of underwear (this is small and doesn’t take up much room). If you pack in the same colors, you can interchange outfits. Remember if you do not have and you need it, buy it when you get there, if you forgot to pack it.
3. Ear buds: For the plane and your Ipod. Bring the ear buds comfortable for you. Put these in your back pack or purse because you can use them on the city bus tours. I found the head phones offered hurt my ears. Once I plugged in my own it was much more enjoyable.
4. Snacks: Bring small packages of nuts, crackers or granola bars. Carry them in your back pack or purse. If you are in line somewhere and get hungry, this will tie you over until you can stop and eat. Bring a small bottle of water with you. You can refill this bottle at the hotel.
5. Camera: Make sure you pack your adapter for your battery. It is nice to have a small camera that can zoom in and has night-time settings. Your phone works for back up.
6. Adapters: Magellan’s (you can find the link to the left) sells a really nice adapter that can handle curling irons and blow dryers. These generate a lot of heat so you need the heavy-duty kind. The small ones are good for your phones and cameras.
7. Luggage: I have talked about this before, check one bag and bring one carry-on. If you have to purchase luggage for the trip, get the luggage with 4 wheels. These are nice, you can push and do not have to always pull them. Pack all your clothes in the carry-on and leave your checked bag empty as possible. When coming home put all your clothes in your checked bag and your keepsakes in your carry-on (you have to check any liquids).
Before you leave do a little research:
1. Language: Learn the basics of the language. Hello (or typical greeting), please, thank you, goodbye, train station, where is the toilet, do you speak English, and how much? Do not expect people to speak your language. If you try to speak their language, most likely they will speak English and are very helpful.
2. Sites: Write down the sites you want to see. You can maximize your time by seeing all the things on your list while you’re in that area. Check them off as you go. This will make sure you do not miss anything.
3. Food: Look up the food you want to eat. Each region has specialties, research what they are and try them in that particular region. If you have any allergies look up what recipes use that item and what it is in that language.
Part of the excitement of going is actually the travel to get there. The flights to Europe or anywhere overseas is long. Most of the time you are flying overnight and arriving early in the morning. It is important to try to get some sleep. This is not always easy. Try to stay up the first couple of hours. Eat your meal and watch a movie. Then try to sleep the last 4-5 hours. This will make the time go faster and you will feel not so jet lagged when you get there. When you are finally there and checked into your hotel, go out and start exploring. Eat your meals the same time you usually do. This will keep the jet lag at bay.
Enjoy every minute and take lots of pictures. Find out the name of the foods you eat and really loved, write them down. When you get home maybe you can find a recipe and duplicate it, then you can relive that part of your trip. I hope to see pictures and hear about your wonderful travels.