Last year we got our first opportunity as a married couple to go on a "big" trip together. Now we have both traveled overseas in separate instances, in highly organized groups where you didn't get the leeway to just wander on your own at all. We did go on a cruise to the Bahamas as our honeymoon, but that still is pretty organized and "safe".
With that said we learned a lot of traveling in Europe, as adults with a lot of freedom. Especially during the economic crisis many of the Mediterranean countries were and still are facing. It makes for an interesting trip.
1. Packing for the trip you are on, and not the pictures you want to take is crucial for your sanity. I dressed cute, but wore tennis shoes for the entire trip. The amount of walking you will do is insane compared to American standards.
2. Wear good shoes. A day into the trip we were all in major amounts of pain from walking on very uneven roads and up and down hills. Jeremy ran a marathon the week before we left, bad idea. He ended up having to stop at a pharmacy and get something to wrap up his foot to help with the pain, poor thing had a pitiful limp.
3. Bring as much medicine as you can, you won't find what you want in Italy. Main two important drugs were Benadryl and Ibuprofen. You will want both.
4. Like I said we rarely took public transportation, and we traveled between cities quite a bit. At that point I was very happy I packed what I absolutely needed and not what I wanted. A lot of the ladies in our group had big rolling bags and they fought them to death. We took the easy route and both took a backpack and one rolling bag that just fit airline limits. I packed every outfit in a gallon size bag and we had one outfit per day plus one extra a piece. I folded everything just so and squished every ounce of air out that I could. Our backpacks held some toiletries that we would need on the plane and our extra outfit just in case the airline lost our luggage. As we took off an outfit we stuck it back in the Ziploc bag and stored it in the large rolling bag. This helped out majorly for the days we were soaking wet, and for when it rained on our bags while traveling.
5. Make sure to pack dry shampoo, detergent sheets, and an antibacterial hand lotion. I suggest the hand lotion variety just so your skin doesn't get overly dried out, there won't always be easy chances to wash your hands and this makes it much easier. The dry shampoo is great because we didn't have a chance to bathe the first day...and I looked like I hadn't bathed in a week. Now the detergent sheets were handy for when I wanted to wash clothes in the sink and let them air dry. Those little lovelies could also help you cut down the amount of clothing you bring on the trip.
6. Neck travel wallets are your friend. Jeremy wore ours under his shirt and carried important documents and the majority of our money.
7. Pick-pocketers are a big problem in Italy, a couple I spoke to at our hotel watched her husband get pick-pocketed on the train and luckily stopped the lady. This is where the neck wallet comes in handy. Do not keep any money in your back pockets. If you want to keep it put it in your front pocket!
8. In the theme of pick-pockets I highly suggest cross body purses and camera straps for women. While we were in Naples a man drove between Jeremy and I on a motorcycle and grabbed my purse and camera; luckily he didn't get either because I was wearing them cross-body and he had to let go to not wreck his bike.
9. Carry a small purse and only what you need. It gets really cumbersome after a few hours, especially when your legs already hurt.
10. Be willing to change your plans at a moments notice. When we were in Naples on our free day we discovered the trains would be on strike and would prevent us from getting to Pompeii like we had already planned, and paid for. Instead we hoped a train and sped off to Pompeii separate from the rest of the group. Yes we paid for tickets we had already paid for, but by the time we found our group and got our original tickets it would have been to late. We literally caught the last train out of Pompeii for the next 42 hours. While we were in Pompeii we got to take a private car up to the top of Mt. Vesuvius those plans had originally been cancelled and had we not taken the chance we would have never done it. The rest of the group never got to go to Pompeii by the way, just those of us who made a split decision to leave Naples.
11. Expect to spend at least $500 American dollars plus maybe 200 more aside from what you paid to get to Italy in the first place. We took out $500 American in Euros and intended to stay in the budget, however things cost more so we ended up putting a little on our credit card. (This was for a 9 day trip)
12. Bring clothes that cover you up for church tours. It wasn't an issue for us in December, but you aren't aloud to wear spaghetti straps or short shorts into many of the churches.
13. Always carry extra batteries on you. I forgot to have them in my purse and my camera died while we were in Ancient Rome, the rest of that days pics were via the Droid.
14. It rains a lot, but it will clear up fast and rarely storm. Don't let the rain keep you from touring. Every day it rained and at some point it would be beautiful, had we let the rain deter us we would have traveled to Pompeii for nothing. Instead we got out there and saw the ancient city in ponchos with a broken umbrella, and guess what...the rain cleared up eventually.
I think that about sums it up. If you have any questions about our trip or about how we saw Italy on a budget you can comment or email me at labrideblog[at]gmail[dot]com.
What are some of your own travel tips and favorite places to travel?