Kathy McCabe is an American who lives, works, and breathes Italy. She publishes a monthly newsletter called “Dream of Italy,” and she recently came on my weekend show to discuss the “Ten Commandments of Planning a Trip to Italy.”
Let me see if I can give them to you in 50 seconds.
First, practice acceptance—admit you’ll only be able to see one region well in a week-long trip.
Second, buy your plane ticket now. There’s limited lift to Italy, and if you don’t act now, you may not get the dates you want.
Remember September is high season. Personally, I love the Amalfi Coast in early October, and the swimming is still just fine.
Stay at least two nights in each hotel. Don’t rush. With travel time, two nights is a minimum.
Pre-book train, museum and opera tickets, and maybe even restaurant reservations if you’re considering a Michelin-starred restaurant during prime summer months.
Plan travel around special events and festivals.
Get a tour guide, get to know the locals, and accept the fact you’re going to get lost from time to time.
Check out Kathy’s web site for advice on visiting Italy and her events calendar and tips on how to get to know locals.
It happened to my daughter and her family who were flying from London to Spain two weeks ago on holiday. My five-year-old granddaughter’s passport was due to expire in about three days shy of three months.
The family couldn’t board because you can’t go from the UK to Spain and return if you’re passport is only valid for less than three months. Fortunately they were able to get an emergency passport from the US Embassy in London so they could travel the next day, but you may not be that lucky.
US travelers to Europe need a passport with more than three months of life left, and many countries around the world require more than a six-month window.
So look at your passport. If it’s seven or eight months away from expiring, it’s time to renew. Don’t let a vacation be ruined because you’re not paying attention.
Try to leave early in the morning. That holds true not only for folks driving to their destination. It’s also true if you’re flying–flights can get backed up in the course of a day.
If you’re flying, try to make do with carry on only. Why risk your luggage going awry? Why pay for a bag? Work hard—you can do four days of clothes in a carry-on bag. Mail or send by ground shipping anything else if you need to. It’ll probably be less than the $25 it’ll cost you to check a bag each way.
Bring your own food for a long drive or flight or train ride. It’s almot always going to be better than whatever you get while traveling, especially when flying.
If you’re flying, know what flights on all airlines go to your destination in case your flight is severely delayed.
Start setting aside now all the chargers you need for your electronic devices or toys that might help keep kids amused. Avoid last-minute, panicked packing when we all tend to forgot crucial items.
A passenger was severely delayed on a Delta flight from Paris to Seattle recently. The plane had a mechanical issue, and then the crew had to be swapped because the initial crew had been too long on the clock. The flight arrived to Seattle about six hours late.
But this passenger knew that any flight coming from Europe was subject to European Union rules regarding delays. Which happen to be very generous. The passenger wrote to Delta quoting a clause in the EU list of passenger rights stipulating he was due $825 in compensation.
That’s because his flight arrived at his destination more than three hours late. And guess what? Delta promptly wrote him back, told him he was right, and said a check would be coming his way for $825 soon.
So keep that in mind should you get stuck in Europe. Because I can assure you, your US-based airline is unlikely to mention it to you.
You’d check to see how many United miles you have, right?
While that’s a logical first step, it might not necessarily be smart to cash in United miles for that United ticket. Do you have miles on US Airways? US Airways is an alliance partner of United’s, at least until its merger with American Airlines. So right now you can use US Airways miles to get a United award ticket.
And here’s the point. That ticket from San Francisco to China using United miles requires 65 thousand miles for a coach ticket, 120 thousand for a business class ticket.
But if you use US Airways miles, you’ll shell out 5,000 less for that coach ticket and an impressive 30,000 fewer miles for a biz class ticket.
But you would only know that if you took the time to check US Airways’ award schedule. I learned this by reading a daily email on frequent flyer awards I receive from MilePoint.com. Sign up for it.