Italy is one of the most sought after vacation destinations in Europe. All the centuries old layers of art, world class wines & Cuisine, and picturesque cities make this a dream come true getaway. If you are planning a first time trip to Italy, you need to first do some research. You also need to communicate with people who have experienced the monstrous hours preparing, arranging and making sure every base is covered before departing. This article is written by an individual who has made the excursion many times before. Hopefully bits and pieces of the provided information will help relieve some of the stress that comes with traveling abroad.
Hello, My name is Paul Scopel. I am the author of this article and travel writer for the site; You, Me and The Dock – in association with Travel Farther Smarter. I have traveled back and forth to Italy more times than I can remember. Hopefully you have taken the time to read a few of my adventures back to this historical country on www.youmeandthedock.com. If not, I would suggest you do so. I will try to lend some important information that will help make your trip a little more enjoyable.
Let’s get started. I would first recommend that you invest some time in learning about the locales you will be visiting. My second recommendation would be to purchase a good guide book. The Rick Steves series is one of my tried and true and can be found on the internet. Take time to research what are the important sights and activities at each stop. One more important thing to consider is learn a few of the customs pertaining to the do’s and don’ts. Knowing a few simple phrases doesn’t hurt as well.
What should you wear? Dressing in layers is a key to successful clothing choices. Choose lightweight combinations that blend and complement each other – mix ‘n match. Take no more than 2 pairs of pants. Pack no more than 5 changes of “top layer” clothing along with a few casual shirts. If planning to attend church services or mass, most churches will have a dress code regarding exposed knees and sleeveless shirts/blouses. Also plan to wear the same clothing more than once and for an extended periods of time. It could be weeks before you have time to change and/or find a laundromat. And when you do locate a laundromat, it is very expensive – per piece pricing. If the hotel and/or visiting accommodations has a service, make the best of it. I always make the laundromat a party place.
Author’s note; It is highly suggested to carry several laundry soap pods and plenty of deodorant in your checked luggage.
Who is going to carry my bag(s)? You are! Don’t overload your luggage. Remember you have to negotiate steps at train stations, hotels, and all points in between. Packing light makes it easier on the back when going from point A to Z. Most airline’s economy seats usually have a baggage limit of one bag and not to exceed 50 pounds. If you elect to take additional luggage, expect to pay the additional fee(s). Try to check your bag(s) weight with all its contents before you leave.
Batteries, valuables and electronics should be in your carry on. I use my backpack for camera equipment, a laptop/IPad and any other electronics. You can put your needed items like passports, flight and transfer itineraries in a money belt or fanny pack. Liquids should be in your checked baggage.
Author’s note; Allow a pound or 2 because scales do differ and being a fraction over will require you to pay the additional fee. I also recommend hard side luggage.
How do I keep my valuables with me safe? The best money spent on any trip is a quality money belt that fits comfortably inside your pants. They have one or two zippered pockets and are big enough to contain the bulk of your euros/monies, credit cards, vouchers and even your passport. Keeping your valuables in a purse or in your pocket invites unsuspected fingers that will quickly ruin your vacation. If you must have a money clip or small wallet, always have it in your front pockets with a zipper. Any jewelry you wouldn’t want stolen, leave at home in a safe place.
Author’s note: Ladies should wear costume jewelry like Monet instead of the “real stuff”.
Do I need to take copies? If you have ever lost your passport overseas, it’s a sinking terrible feeling. It has happened to me, but a kind soul found and turned my passport and cards into the police. The Italian people are good and honest people, but sometimes things happen. Before you depart, make several color copies of your passport page that has your picture and personal information. Make legible copies of the front and back of your credit card(s). Make sure you can read the card numbers and the customer service phone number. Put this information in a sealed envelope in both yours and your partner’s luggage. It will then be readily available if you have to go to the consulate or call the credit card company(s). Finally make a copy of your airline ticket and travel insurance policy. Place it in your carry on for easy access if needed in an emergency.
Author’s note: Do all your copying several weeks before you depart, not the night before.
Why would I need to take extra medicine? Unforeseen events such as natural disasters, theft and/or preexisting or unexpected sickness to someone in your group could cause a costly delay in your return. My wife and I usually pack 3 to 4 weeks of extra drugs in addition to the amount needed for the planned travel period. I would also advise you to use the plastic containers that have the days of the week to insure you stay on schedule. Not having your medicine can make your blood pressure rise quickly, acid reflux acts up and/or cholesterol goes to an unsafe level to mention just a few.
Author’s note: Consult you physician on a fail safe plan.
Is there any special medicine I should take with me? You and your physician know your body and its special needs. Take time to consult with them at least a month before your departure date. Consider taking a sufficient supply of an antibiotic(s) that is approved by your doctor. Europe is much stricter than the United States regarding general use of antibiotics. This could create a problem if you need to acquire antibiotics while in Italy. I would highly advise you to take a small tube of bacterial cream such as Neosporin. Better safe than sorry.
How do I protect my valuables at home? In the weeks before you travel, be discreet who you tell your upcoming plans to. Go through a checklist days before you depart. Double check A/C temperature settings – a programmable thermostat will be beneficial, water faucets turned off, all electrical kitchen counter top devices unplugged, stove and oven are turned completely off. Stop newspaper deliveries, have mail picked up daily by a neighbor or family member, or just stop delivery until you get back. Give a trusted neighbor or family member your itinerary, contact numbers and a house key. Have them stop by every other day to check on things. It also a suggested to alternate lights on and off. Stress is when you are at the airport and you think you might have left the coffee pot on.
How do I keep in touch? Check with your mobile phone carrier regarding international plans. You can purchase monthly packages which cover voice, data transmission for pictures and emails, and unlimited texting. Usually your vendor will send you a text the day the service is to begin. It alerts you that the added service has been activated and/or turned on. When purchasing the package, schedule the service date to be turned on a day or two before you leave and a day or two after your scheduled arrival back. You can also utilize FaceTime or Skype when internet is available. The reason for the couple days before is that on our last Italy trip, AT&T got the schedule right for my wife’s phone but forgot to apply the added program to my phone. This created lots of stress at the airport trying to get the service started.
Author’s note: Always confirm with your phone provider regarding your trip.
Credit Card Company(s). Call your credit card(s) providers and give them departure & return dates, as well as approximate destinations. You should also ask if there are any additional fees and charges when using your card(s) overseas. Always take a backup card just in case you lose one or get declined for one reason or another. Always carry the card company’s phone number and how to call collect. Just be sure you confirm with them a few days before your scheduled departure.
How am I going to recharge my batteries for my devices? There are two things to consider. All American devices will require an electric plug adapter. Our plugs have the two rectangular metal prongs that fit our electrical outlets. For Italy’s plugs, the two prongs are circular. In other countries, the plugs are different (UK – 3 prongs). Just simply plug the American style prongs into an adapter specifically designed for Italy. The adapters are available on Amazon and in specific retail stores. I take several so I can charge my phone, camera, and tablet at the same time. Secondly, most, but not all electric plug adapters for electronics (PCs, cell phones, tablets, cameras, CPAP) can handle the higher voltage levels in Europe. Check your device charger to see if it is rated for both 110 (USA) and 200-220(for Europe) voltage. If a 220 voltage rating is not identified, you probably need a current converter. Again, available at specific retail stores.
How am I going to handle the jet lag? Understand that you probably will not have a restful sleep on the overnight flight to Europe. On your first day abroad, stay outside and absorb as much sunshine as possible and keep moving. Have a good dinner in the early evening and be prepared to go to sleep before 9 pm. It might take a few nights sleep to reset your body’s biological cycle, but this is normal. Have a bottle of water and a snack available as you will probably awaken in the early morning hours. Simply satisfy the craving and go back to sleep.
Author’s note: Keep yourself in good health before your departure. Eat healthy, drink lots of water and take any necessary supplements that will help your immune system. Be well rested and try not to stress beforehand.
Final notes: Do a pre-flight check list several months ahead of time and check items off when they are done and/or accomplished.
Author: Paul Scopel
Photos: Paul Scopel
Associate Editor: Mareen Scopel
Published By: You, Me and The Dock – in association with Travel Farther Smarter
Technical Mastering: Matt Kemper