Thursday, May 2, 2013

My traveling tips

May 2nd - another prompt for writing today. Hurrah!

Lowenbrau Hall at Oktoberfest
Ichia Island off the coast of Naples

Educate readers on something you are good at or know a lot about.

I guess I know a bit about a lot of things... but I thought I'd take a stab at my vacation planning skills.

The most fun thing to do first? Decide where you want to go. Scope out points of interest - for us, we had never been to Naples and wanted to eat real Napolitana pizza. We had been to Cinque Terre but only on a day trip. And Oktoberfest is pretty much all you need to know about Munich in the fall. Narrow down the big things you want to see and you can start to plan your travel around them.

The second most important thing is... setting a budget. Yep. Realizing how much you want to spend on a trip can be the worst part. For our honeymoon, DH and I knew we wanted to get back to Italy.. but we decided to throw Oktoberfest in Munich into the mix. Because Oktoberfest happens in late September/early October we already knew when we would be traveling. We booked our hotel in Munich in February and it was by far the most expensive hotel of the trip, so we attempted to average about 150.00 USD per night for every hotel after that, and about 50USD per day in food (all of our hotels in Italy included breakfast, hurrah!)

Because we live in SF and are at a United hub we stockpiled our frequent flier miles to use for award flights. We paid out of pocket about 500 in airfare for all of our flights (SFO to Dulles [we had a two day layover for family events], Dulles to Munich, Munich to Naples, Bergamo to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt back to SFO). Airline affiliates and smaller European airlines are your friend.

Once we had our plane travel booked we started looking into hotels. We chose hotels that were conveniently located but also offered perks such as breakfast and free wifi (an easy way for us to communicate with our families back home). We then booked train travel to get us around Italy and ensure that we had seats (because sitting in the middle of the aisle is just not a fun way to go).

As we got closer to our departure date we went to our bank and got some Euros so we would have money for taxi or bus fare if we needed it, called our credit card companies, and packed our bags. DH and I both took a carry on to Europe and we did laundry once. Plus, we avoided any nasty fees for checking bags on intra-European flights.

And before you know it... your trip is here and all you have to do is have fun.

Some tips:

  • Start reward accounts with hotel groups, airlines, car rental companies - you name it. Anything you can accrue rewards on to use in the future or get discounts on is a plus.
  • Make a list of important things you'd like to see (and where they are located..we've been to Florence twice and have yet to see the real David. Or find him. Ooops.)
  • Call your credit card company so that you can use your card if you are going out of the country - and if you use your ATM card your pin should be only 4 digits.
  • Print out your itineraries, tickets, and boarding passes ahead of time to cut back on freaking out before you leave for the airport.
  • Charge your camera batteries and bring extra cords for charging items.

And there you have it!


  1. i have been wanting to go to europe! luckily, i am really good at packing and could easily get away with a carry-on.

    1. You should go if you have the chance! It's amazing!

  2. Thanks for these great trip tips! It's been a few years since I've traveled overseas. I would love to see Europe again.

  3. one of my bucket list goals is to visit england and have a tour of the countryside with a focus on their castles and history and what-nots - planning is not hard for me -- it's the execution piece that kills it (ends up always being "one day" or "next time"...sigh)

    1. Ahh yes I hear you... if I ever get back to the Netherlands I want to see the windmills!

  4. I'm jealous of anyone that has been to Europe (I've yet to get day though!)...but just a carry on, each, to Europe?! - please do share more on that! Love the tip of having some cash (Euros) on hand for a taxi or bus.

    1. You will get there one day!
      I took items that were easily mixable with other colors - black pants, jeans, one dress, tank tops and t shirts and a warm layer. Since it was so warm we were lucky that we could get away with packing items that didn't take up a ton of room. Two pairs of shoes - flipflops and my broken in sperrys, a black scarf and a bathing suit. We did do laundry once and every thing I packed was able to be rolled in my suitcase to save room. I'll snap a pic this week of my suitcase for Mexico, albeit that's a much shorter trip! (and I packed a duffel just in case for items that I wanted to carry with me on the way home).

  5. That is such a great tip about the airfare! Talk about a savings on your trip!


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