Trip Tips

What should I take?

The three most important things you need as an international traveler are your passport, comfortable walking shoes, and a good attitude. Passport applications can be obtained at a main post office or downloaded from the internet at http://travel.state.gov/passport/. Apply immediately if you need one, or if your passport has expired.

Make a photocopy of the first two pages of your pasport, and a copy of your airline ticket or e-ticket confirmation. Keep the copies separate from the actual documents.

Please limit yourself to one checked bag per person on the flight over. You will be responsible for handling your own baggage, getting it on and off transportation, and to your room, up stairs, etc. Lay out the bare minimum, then take only half of that! Make it easy on yourself. Pack light. Comfortable walking shoes that can manage cobblestones and stairs are a must. Layered clothing can easily adjust for indoor/outdoor changes in temperature. Check www.weather.com to see forecasts for cities we plan to visit. For excellent packing tips go to www.ricksteves.com and choose “Plan Your Trip” then “Travel tips.”

It is a good idea to put your name and address on a label insde your suitcases as well as outside. Also, give copies of your itinerary with hotel names and phone numbers to family or friends.

"Trip clothing" –our friends laugh, but if we have shirts, slacks, underwear, socks, etc. that are reaching the end of their usefulness, we take them along to discard after use, freeing up space in our baggage for things we want to bring home! Bring your own washcloth if you need one. You rarely find them in European hotels.

What about electrical appliances?

European electrical current is 220 or more. Their wall outlets accept plugs with two round posts instead of the American flat ones. So you will need an adapter plug, and possibly a converter, depending on which appliance you want to use. Most of the hotels we use have hairdryers.

Money?

Local currency is required for purchases and incidental expenses. ATMs provide the easiest and most affordable access to Euros. Be confident that you know your pin number. ATMs, are available 24 hours. There are many exchange offices for converting dollars or travelers checks, but rates are often poor, fees high, and opening hours limited. Master Card and Visa credit cards are widely accepted.The Capital One card does not charge users a foreign exchange fee. If given the option always request the charge in the local currency--Euros--rather than in US dollars

Keep spare coins available for pay toilets. Take advantage of the free facilities before you leave restaurants, museums, etc.

Telephones

Some US cell phones work in Europe if you get authorization in advance from your provider. Telephone cards can be purchased at newsagents and tobacco stores to make inexpensive calls to America from payphones and sometimes from hotel rooms. Some cities have call centers for inexpensive international calling from their booths. Be wary of charging toll calls to your room. They can be expensive.

Your family can call you for pennies a minute in your hotel room using Skype or something similar. There is generally no charge for you to receive a call in your room. You might want to let your family know Italy is 7 hours ahead of Central Standard Time. So 2:00pm in CST is 9:00pm, for example, in Rome. If they call you at 9:00PM from CST, it will be 4:00AM in Rome.

Security

Thieves and pickpockets can blight your trip. Never leave valuables unattended, and never carry valuables in any pockets. Use a neck pouch under your shirt or a money belt inside your slacks. Gypsies are especially skillful and active in Rome on public transport and in popular tourist spots. They are often young girls with babies and children aged 10 to 14. But thieves can also look like nuns or priests or business men. The Italian people will often give tourists a signal to watch out for known thieves when they see them. Be especially on guard in crowds. Interactions with aggressive people on the street can be costly. Rose sellers and costumed gladiators expect fees.

Travel books

Browse through the travel books at major bookstores or a public library to get an idea of what you will see and how to use your spare time in each city. We have found Rick Steve’s, Fodors, Frommers, and the DK series to be quite helpful. These companies also have web sites with useful information.

Personal fitness

You can make your trip more enjoyable by being fit. The central historical core of the cities we will visit offer cobblestones, many stairs and uneven surfaces. They are best seen and appreciated on foot. If you don’t already have a regular exercise routine, start walking today.
Remember to pack prescription medications in your hand bag.Take medication in its actual prescription bottles. Bring your non-prescription needs with you as well.

For the night flight over

Eye masks, earplugs, and an inflatable neck pillow might help you rest on the flight through the night. Some people take something like a Tylenol PM at the beginning of the flight to increase the possibility for sleep in a sitting position. It is generally better on your system if you drink plenty of water and get up a few times during the flight. Airline food is seldom award-winning. Take some dried fruit or an apple and some almonds, etc. just in case.

Once there

It is generally assumed that the best remedy for getting past jet lag is to adjust to the new schedule as soon as possible. Change your watch to your destination's time when you depart the USA, and get as much sleep as possible on the flight. Then fight the urge to sleep the first afternoon there. Staying moderately active outside during the daylight hours helps set your body’s clock to the new time. Help present a positive face for Americans by keeping a passageway open on the sidewalks.

Drinking water

Clean, refreshing drinking water flows constantly from most of the abundant and beautiful fountains in Rome. We’ve always used the water from taps in Italy and Germany for drinking. Bottled water is available con gas (with bubbles) or non con gas (without). Unless you specify tap water, waiters will bring bottled water to your table. Prices are usually listed on the menu.

Shopping and meals in Italy

Most shops in Italy are open from 9:00 to 1:00 and from 3:30 or 4 to 7:30. The prices displayed include taxes. Many of the better places for lunch don’t open until 12:30 or 1:00PM and it is often difficult to find a good restaurant that opens for the evening meal before 7:30 or 8:00PM. Note that most eating places display a menu outside and many of them show a pane e coperta--bread and cover charge--per person. Sometimes service, servizio, is included in the prices and any added tip would be nominal. Pizzarias usually offer the lowest priced meals. Trattorias include more choices and Ristorantes the higher prices. Most places serve your meal in courses. Soft drinks are quite expensive. Bottled waters are more reasonable, especially if sharing a liter with the table. For some reason Italian eateries resist separate tickets at the table. You can always ask for separate tickets, but be prepared to split the bill among yourselves if you are eating out in groups. There are many opportunities on the street for great, inexpensive fast food snacks or meals, tasty sandwiches, and remarkable pizza by the slice. One of our favorites is potato pizza. We do recommend poking around in an Alimentari or a Supermercato (grocery store) for cultural and culinary enrichment. You can find good prices there for chocolates, spice mixes, and pastas to bring home for gifts.

Italy is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and Rome gets a major share. Flexibility and pazienze are required. We hope you will understand if conditions on the ground cause us to alter plans and substitute sights on this tour. The hospitable Italians make the visit fun—they are a population of actors and most of them are so very good.