Italy: It could happen?

Italia

It’s possible that we might travel to Italy this year. It’s up in the air, so while I’m feverishly researching how to redeem miles and points to cover most of the major costs, I’m pretending that this is just an academic exercise. Why? Well, because … ITALY. If I let myself start believing that it’s gonna happen right now you’d hear an explosion ’round the world from the epic excitement.

Update: It’s too late. I’m excited. AND disappointed at the same time. You’ll see why below.

We did just blow a ton of cash recently. That’s why, until I nail down some serious money-savers, I just don’t want to commit to a big trip (aka: travel expense). Not seriously, and not emotionally.

That said …. planning IS right up my alley! Perhaps neurotically so.

Things to do

ITINERARY
This didn’t occur to me til after I started researching flights. Clearly, too excited. We won’t have that much time (in my world, enough time in Italy is months) so I figure we’ll stay in one major region despite my yearnings to go to Silicy! Naples! Italian Riviera! Anywhere and everywhere!

Realistically, we probably can’t be gone for more than 2 weeks, so scheduling no more than 4 cities is a better idea. I’m not a power vacationer, I don’t like rushing from one site to another playing Tag! with the cities and checking off a list.

FLIGHTS
We have miles and rewards points for a number of airlines and programs none of which work out as well for us as I thought it would. It turns out with all their fuel surcharges, my many British Airways Avios points are basically worthless for this. For a ticket that would normally cost about $1000, the redemption quoted was 50K points PLUS cash surcharge between $800-$1000. Seriously? Pay up all the points you can scrounge and then pay nearly the ticket cost over again? Forget it. Might as well buy the ticket and upgrade. If we can even afford the upgrade! Humph.

On further research, we can’t even fly BA anyway, they only have 3 reward flights in the prospective travel months. Really? REALLY? Sigh.

Now I’m exploring all the other major airlines that fly a few possible flight itineraries to see if I can convert SPG points into miles on a relevant airline.  Otherwise, at best, we’re paying $1400 per person to fly. Coach. Ugh. (Right, like I’ve ever traveled not coach.)  This might be a dealbreaker, honestly.

HOTELS
I did a broke-college-student sort of trip to Italy years ago but now that we’re quite a bit older (ahem, and in a lot more pain), the creature comforts are more important than even I want to admit. Also, PiC keeps saying he’s just too old to go hosteling. The belligerently PFy bit of my brain wants to force the issue and pretend we’re tougher than that but a good night’s sleep and traveling lightly is critical to my survival and there’s no use pretending otherwise. So, no dorms for us, no backpacking-style travel.

The Avios points may well work for us here, we’re able to book hotels using those points and the research is turning up mostly decent options. Location is critical in some parts of the trip, and WiFi is critical for the whole trip since I have to continue working if we do go.

IN-COUNTRY TRAVEL
Access to public transit and walking distances will guide my hotel choices. Neither of us are jonesing to drive over there and there’s little better than getting to know a country on foot, working up an appetite for the amazing cuisine.

PASSPORT
Time to renew! It’s a little embarrassing that it expired last year .. no, wait, in 2012 and I’ve been too lazy to get photo done for the renewal. The packet is ready to go: paperwork, passport, check written. No picture. Time to get off my butt and get that done.

PACKING
I know these 10-year old hand me down sweatpants shouldn’t go to Italy. So a wardrobe review to find Normal People Clothes wouldn’t be a bad idea. New clothes shouldn’t be necessary, but I do have to unearth the untouched nicer clothes.

BIGGEST WORRIES
Leaving Doggle (because I’ll MISS HIM); bending the travel universe to my frugal ways while still enjoying all the tastes that Italy has to offer (except tripe. thanks but no thanks.); and surviving the combination of international travel + working for however long we’re gone.

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19 thoughts on “Italy: It could happen?

  1. EEEEEE! Omg I am dreaming of burrata and panzerotti right now.

    What did we do… hit Rome and Venice, also Naples, Bologna, Amalfi and a few other smaller towns. Skipped Pisa, skipped Pompeii (after reading up about it decided it probably wasn’t our thing and that we’d die in the August heat), skipped Florence (not really into art/history). If there’s anything I can help with let me know….
    eemusings recently posted…Books for intelligent peopleMy Profile

  2. Up front disclaimer: I’ve never traveled to Italy. (Actually, I’m not sure I ever will, either. I don’t have a lot of desire to go there for some reason.)

    If you’re not wanting to stay in hostels, I highly recommend the Rick Steves’ travel guides for suggested accommodations. I went to Spain in 2011 and found great places to stay that fit my budget yet weren’t hostel-like. The trick was to look for hostales, which are NOT hostels, but smaller hotels often run by families or that operate as small businesses. Two of the three cities where I stayed were found through the Rick Steves’ guides; the other one I found through Airbnb. I was able to take a 10 day trip for just over $2K, and that included an amazing deal on airfare that was just over $600.

    That was three years ago, though, and perhaps Spain is a cheaper destination. I think your approach to scale back the number of cities visited sounds like a smart plan. Have fun planning the trip! Even if you don’t go this year, you’ll be better prepared to travel in the next year or two.
    Linda recently posted…How to survive a Chicago winterMy Profile

    • Some days I think it’s fun to plan things without the pressure of actually TAKING the trip (by which of course, I mean actually paying for it) but yes, I love being prepared well in advance so that we have good options.
      I’ll be looking around some more!

  3. Avios is best used for expensive short haul flights due to fuel surcharges.
    It is possible to get lots of miles from signing up credit cards. I would suggest you have a look at one of the frequent flyer blogs about these offers, and the most efficient way of using the miles.

    • I’m discovering that, about Avios. I’ve already done a whole round of credit cards, though (previous post) so at least that’s done!

  4. Husband & I went for our very belated honeymoon in October 2013. We did it the grand old American fashion: Tour Group. We did not want to plan anything, drive anywhere, take public transportation or figure out how we were going to get from one city to the next. They did EVERYTHING for us. I have never stayed at a hostel and at this point in my life I probably never will. Most of our meals were provided by the tour company with a few exceptions. Food improved as we traveled south. Our trip began in Venice and continued on to Florence, Asisi, Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri. I fell in love with ALL for different reasons but would probably not return to Florence or Pompeii. I would go back to Rome 100x over. Our favorite restaurants in Rome were: Da Francescos, Giggetto Al Portico, and I hear The Library Romantic was excellent but we didn’t get to eat here. Looked beautiful when we walked by. If we were younger and had all the time in the world we probably would have done it differently. But it is whatever works for you! I very much enjoyed drinking wine with reckless abandon (by Italian standards, that meant 3 glasses at a time) w/out having to worry about driving.

    • How funny, I felt like I loved Florence (in the rain) more than Rome (in the sun). Which is backwards, when you think about it. I’ve also never tried an American tour group, having been put off by the descriptions from other people who go from 6 am to 10 pm.

  5. Yes. Go.
    I went with my best friend and backpacked through Europe including Italy. We went to Milan, Venice, Florence, Pisa, and Rome. It was great. I loved the art and architecture. Great food.

  6. DO IT! Can you and husband each get a United MileagePlus card? They have targeted 50,000 miles sign-on bonuses, and a flight from SF to Europe is 60,000 miles / person round-trip if you can get the Economy Saver ticket.

    We are going on a European trip this summer (already kind of regretting/but-not-really about the expenses). Our flights are $1,250 a person and that’s the cheapest I can find from CA to Europe in July (and we are flying out of Warsaw to get that rate. RT from London or Paris are $1,400-$1,600).
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted…Would you invest in the MyRA?My Profile

    • We’re already maxed on new cards so we’re not going that route – plus United just devalued their miles again, though not for Economy. I just hate United for long flights. Flights to Europe are so damn expensive.

  7. We just got back from Europe. We used points and miles to get free hotel and flights. The hotel was possible with a credit card that started us out with many points and then DH job, he spent almost sixty nights in their hotels last year for work. Because of DH standing we were upgraded to business class flights and executive lounge both at the airport and the hotel with their free wine/beer and hot and cold appetizers and free hot breakfasts.

    We chose a city with reasonably priced train fares and took a day trip to two cities. All in all for eight nights was less than $900 for us both.

    Italy is delightful, except for the gypsies. My husband wasn’t paying attention and he was robbed. At least is was the last day of the trip, so it didn’t color the vacation too much. It was worth taking a day tour of the city and another to Florence. The tour guides can park where other cars cannot and we were able to see a lot in a short period of time. The Florence trip was actually cheaper than taking the train. Go, have fun!! The daily lunch specials for $5 eu are delightful too.

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