As I continue working to plan our trip to Spain and Italy this summer I wanted to share some tips and learnings I have found along the way! I’ve shared my general trip planning rules here but this post will be dedicated to more Europe planning specifics.
- Get a clear vision for your trip. I have had a vision of this Italy trip since the last time we were in Europe in 2018. My vision was always of us eating good food and taking leisurely explorations in the warmth and sunshine. Our last Europe trip was very focused on go-go-go, see-see-see and do-do-do so this trip my goal is for us to slow down a bit. I’ve also only ever been to Europe during the winter so I knew the time of year I wanted to book this trip during the spring or summer! Our upcoming trip is still very ambitious and we will certainly have days (like when we’re in Rome) that are quite packed but I want to balance that out with days for pure exploration or relaxation (hello laying on the beach in Positano, I’m talking to you). If your vision is to do and see as much as humanly possible, that’s great too! But, I think the best place to start is with an understanding of why you are taking this trip and what you really hope to get out of it.
- Get Creative When Looking For Flights. Yes, your goal destination may be Italy like ours was, but flights to your desired European city may be expensive. Once you’re actually in Europe, the flights are really affordable. You can find flights for $50 round trip from one European country to the next! Instead of only looking into flights to Rome, we looked at the surrounding countries and gosh did it pay off. We ended up finding round trip direct flights from JFK to Barcelona for $500 for the both of us! That means, in total our flights cost us $500! Once we secured those and I knew we’d be in Europe for 12 days, I started looking into flights to Italy and found them for just a couple hundred dollars for us both. So now, we’ll be doing three days in Barcelona (which is a new country and city for us), and then seven days in Italy (two days baked in for travel). Not only are we getting there more affordably, but now we’ll get to see and explore more along the way!
- When booking accommodations in other languages, get a friend to check your work. After booking flights and mapping out where you’ll be visiting, the next big thing to take care of is lodging. When looking at places to stay in Positano I found the perfect bed and breakfast. I was in love and very excited so I shared it with a girlfriend who’s been to the Amalfi Coast before. Thankfully her keen eye realized that the bed and breakfast was actually a few towns over from Positano, which is why it was at such an affordable price point. Italian addresses are written differently than addresses in the U.S. which is how I completely missed it! Luckily, the room was cancellable and I was able to find other accommodations, this time actually located within Positano.
- Be mindful when booking tours. Now that all of our flights and lodging is booked, I’m mapping out our daily itineraries which includes looking at tickets for museums and attractions. I’ve found that there are many official looking websites that offer tours for the big attractions. When booking tours I like to select companies that have been recommended by a friend, a trusted blog or come with many reputable reviews from Google or TripAdvisor. My first preference is to book directly through the official site of the museum/attraction. I also use Rick Steve’s and Lonely Planet to guide me into selecting the best tours/ticketing companies which give me the peace of mind that I’m not getting scammed.
- Take advice with a grain of salt. A big part of my trip planning is to ask those I trust for their recommendations based on personal experience. I’ve gotten some wonderful recommendations this way, like our bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, however when you start asking for recommendations you’ll get a lot of opinions. Everyone means well, but everyone has had their own unique experience. I have some friends that didn’t like Rome and others that said “oh you’re only spending two days there? I loved Rome.” Ideally when planning a trip, you narrow in on the elements that most appeal to you! I love history and am excited to see the Colosseum and Vatican however I don’t love over-crowded cities so to me hitting the Rome hot spots and then heading somewhere that we can take a more leisurely pace is what works best for us. It’s never going to be one-to-one since travel is such a unique and personal experience so remember that when you’re building out your trip.