Last week I recapped our trip to Italy and even showed you what to pack and wear for a vacation like this one. Even though those posts were lengthy, there was still a lot of information I didn’t cram in there.
When Finn & I were planning our trip, we consulted a lot of travel blogs and did plenty of research. So hopefully these travel tips will help if you’re planning your own trip to Italy or even just abroad!
Spread out the Planning Schedule
An international trip with multiple destinations is an overwhelming vacation to plan. You need to do a lot of research into where to go, how to get there, where to stay, what to do, where to eat, etc. It can be A LOT if you try to plan it all at once. Instead, I recommend spreading it out a bit.
Finn and I put monthly dates on our calendars to sit at the dining room table, drink wine, and book things for our trip. Not only did this get us super excited about our upcoming vacation, but we would tackle one big task each month. First, we figured out where and when we wanted to go on our international trip. The next time we booked our flights. Then the hotels…so on and so forth. Splitting it up into manageable tasks like this makes it less overwhelming and a heck of a lot more fun.
Book Things in Advance
I also encourage you to book activities and train tickets in advance. A lot of the popular destinations in Italy let you buy tickets online and even make a reservation for what time you want to come visit. This will help you avoid long lines at these super crowded hot spots.
While you book your activities, book your train tickets too. We took high-speed trains between cities (which was great!) and made all of our reservations in advance. This kept things way easier when we were in these jampacked train stations trying to figure out where the heck to go.
In terms of a timeline, we did our best to book far in advance. Airline tickets about 6 months out, hotels about 4 months, and then the train tickets and activities in the final 4-6 weeks leading up to our departure.
Print out Documents
Now that you’ve booked everything, print out all of your tickets and reservations and keep them in a folder. We bookmarked ours with each city so it was easy to thumb through and find our printed documents.
Try the Trip.it App
A reader told me about this travel tip and I am forever grateful! Essentially you forward all of your confirmation numbers to the app and it compiles an easy to read itinerary that is accessible on your phone. If you can’t remember what time your flight or train is, you can pull it up and all of the necessary info is on there (confirmation number, address, telephone, etc.) We used this continuously throughout our trek through Italy.
Check out Your Phone Plan
We wanted to have internet and texting capabilities while abroad, so we ended up buying a plan for our trip at $10 a day. This was worth it for us because we could text one another, check our emails, and most importantly…navigate throughout town. Be sure to check with your phone provider to see what they have to offer.
Use the Maps.Me App
If you don’t get internet on your phone, then definitely download the maps.me app before you leave home and download a map of the cities you’re visiting. You can then drop “pins” at all of the major destinations (hotel, airport, restaurants you want to try, etc.) Then the app will give you directions to each of these sights (even without wifi!).
Avoid Jet Lag
We took an overnight flight to Rome and even with some Tylenol PM, I didn’t sleep a wink! I decided that my best plan was to stay up the entire day and try to make it until bedtime without taking a nap. Fueled by multiple cappuccinos and adrenaline, I ended up staying up about 37 hours and was deliriously tired when it was finally time to hit the hay. But the next morning I woke up feeling great and was fine the remainder of the trip.
Eat Like a Local
In order to really get an authentic Italian experience, we were very particular when it came to restaurants. Here’s how we made sure that we only ate at the best places in every city we visited…
- The cafes near the popular tourist spots are chock-full of tourists. Go at least 4 blocks away from these hot spots so you can get a better meal at a much better price.
- If there are pictures of food on display outside on the menu, avoid it.
- If the waiter or host is urging you to come sit down and dine, don’t go in there.
- Look for spots where the locals are eating and you’re probably getting a much better meal. If you’re surrounded by people speaking English, then you probably should dine elsewhere.
- Use google maps to check ratings on places. If we were choosing between a few restaurants we always read the google reviews and only went to places with a score of 4.3 or higher.
- You can take your food to go at a lot of places. We would get pizzas and paninis to go and just find a cute piazza to sit and enjoy!
- We would make our own little happy hour at night and buy a local bottle of wine, some cheeses, and meats. This was an inexpensive way to tide us over until our late dinners. Make sure to pack a bottle opener in your checked bag!
- We made reservations for dinner a few times throughout our trip and I highly recommend that. You can often call in the day of and get seated no problem, but if there is a spot you’re dying to try definitely give them a ring the day before. And remember…the locals eat around 9 or 10 pm, so eat late to get the real experience!
We didn’t take one taxi on our trip, even when heading to our hotels with our suitcases. Instead, we were always so eager to stretch our legs and explore, that we found it best to walk everywhere…even if we had to pull our bags on the cobblestone streets. Walking helps combat all of the calories we consumed, but it also allowed us to get a better lay of the land and check out areas we might not have noticed in a taxi.
These travel tips helped us immensely as we planned our trip, and then as we enjoyed our vacation. I’m sure we have lots of travelers reading, so add your tips in the comments below. I’d love to hear how you take advantage of your vacation time to make the most of your trip!Casey