Air Fares

Why I love Italy

This is a different VLOG for me. In this one I talk about the reasons I love Italy and give tips to both first time travelers to Italy well as experienced Italian travelers.

The video covers several sections:

  • Why I love Italy
  • Top Reasons I love Italy
  • Museums
  • What to do in Italy
  • Finding Places to Eat
  • The Metro (Subway)
  • Time to go
  • Hotels
  • Currency (Euros)
  • Airfares
  • Hopper App
  • Driving in Italy
  • Put Italy on your Bucket List

If Italy is not on your bucket list, it should be. Watch the video below and see why so many people love and go to Italy.

– George

Categories: Air Fares, Autostrada, Beach Resorts, Beaches, BLOG, Church, Cooking, Dolce, Dolce far niente, Driving in Italy, Duomo, Eating, Eating Italian, Espresso, Europe, Exchange Rates, Ferries, Flights, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian Facts, Italian language, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Metro Travel, Money, Museums, Parking Garage, Parking Meters, Passegiata, Pasta, Pastry, Pizza, Planning a vacation, Romance, Shopping, Small Towns, Towns, Trains, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour, VLOG, Walking, Weather in Europe, Wine, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to enjoy Italy Fully

Italy is a place most people love. They may like the big cities, the smaller villages, the towns their ancestors came from, the museums, the food, the wine or the people. I love it all. Italy is a special place. This is why I BLOG about it.

Italian Wine Regions

For my wife, Jo Anne, and I; we don’t believe in tours. We enjoy getting out with the Italians and seeing and tasting the real Italy. We plan trips to big cities so that we see all the important things but the smaller villages are often a spontaneous choice. We may be driving on the autostrada and see an interesting town high on a cliff side. We get off, use our GPS to locate the town and go explore it. We usually stop at a bar first for a coffee and maybe a pastry. These small villages are not hard to navigate but many do have a lot of stairs. Remember where you parked your car or use one of the many apps to find it.

Pisciotta D-Positano aea D-Positano fg San Marino bari_seaview Beaches near Rome 2 IMG_1839 IMG_3211

We also enjoy small European hotels but do pay for a private bath. These hotels are often run by a family that is friendly and helpful. We never stay at the large American resort hotels. They are expensive and the food is not real Italian. We try to eat where the Italians eat. We get local recommendations or find places on our walks. We never eat in touristy places. The food there is horrible. Most larger cities have discount tickets for the major museums and sites. If you are spending a few days, this can save you money but more importantly bypasses the long lines waiting to get in.

Lastly, explore your flight options to Italy carefully. Some flights with several stops appear to be very cheap. Each stop adds time to an already long trip and wears heavily on your body. Some of these flights go way out of your way adding double the flight time. One I saw was from Philadelphia to Rome. It went to Chicago and then to Moscow and finally back to Rome. Why?

American Airlines

George

 

Categories: Air Fares, Bars, City Passes, Coffee, Eating, Eating Italian, Europe, Flights, Food, General Travel, GPS, Italian, Italy, Mountain Towns, Planning a vacation, Regions of Italy, Romance, Small Towns, Stairs, Tour Groups, Travel Guides, Traveling without a tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Plan a Trip to Italy – Part 7

Now we need to make an airline reservation. Airfares have been going up as the number of carries goes down (Us Air and American merger is now complete). We have seen airfares fluctuate all over the place. We were paying $1100 to $1300 per person for a roundtrip non refundable fare (Philadelphia to Rome non stop). Now it is hard to find these but they do exist. Off season you can get fares for $800 to $1,000. We have seen fares at $1,800 and some as high as $2,500 for non refundable. That is crazy!

American Airlines

Multiple stops are sometimes cheaper at $750 to $1,000 but can cost you an extra night in a hotel. We saw some that flew you from Philly to Charlotte and then the next day Charlotte to Rome. One discounted fare of $750 flew you Philly to London, London to Moscow and then back to Rome.

italy-regions

The European airlines are offering discounted fares within Europe. You might be able to find the cheapest airfare to any big city in Europe and then take a discount airlines to your Italian destination. If we chose to do this, we would spend a night or two at that city and see it. Then you are on European time and can continue to Italy.

Having a frequent flyer card can get you free flights but it takes a lot of miles (usually 110,000 to 130,000 miles per roundtrip fare). We use the Capital One Venture Card which gives you 2 points for every dollar you spend on anything with no limits. You can at any time redeem points for $.01. It becomes a discount on your account. It doesn’t have to be for airfare. That is a 2% kickback on your account.

Capital One Venture

If you plan to travel often to Europe as we do, you will need a card similar to this to help reduce overall airfares. There is a bonus program now that offers 40,000 points if you use the card and spend $3,000 in first 3 months That is a $400 bonus). You can easily do that by putting all your bills on the card and using it at every store you visit.

Airfare shopping is important and may be your most expensive single item. Experts say that booking an airfare between 20 and 22 weeks prior to your trip date will yield the cheapest fares. Being flexible on dates you travel can also reduce fares a lot. Leaving on a Tuesday or Thursday usually yields cheaper fares than a Friday through Monday.

Travel well!

George & Jo Anne

 

 

Categories: Air Fares, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Traveling without a tour | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Plan a Trip in Italy – Part 4

Where to stay is a big decision. There are many types of places to stay in Italy:

  1. American Hotels – These are large chain hotels with larger rooms (smaller compared to rooms in America) and usually the most expensive option.
  2. Italian Hotels – These are smaller hotels with smaller rooms at a very reasonable prices. Breakfast is often included with the room charge. You can get a private bath in your room or share a bath in the hall. We prefer private baths. Be sure you have this if you also prefer it.
  3. B&B’s – Like anywhere in the world these provide rooms and meals. The price is expensive and usually between the price of the large hotels and the smaller Italian hotels.
  4. Agriturismo – These are nice small family owned hotels that are part of a farm or ranch. The food is locally grown (usually on their property), organic and delicious. Rooms are modern and comfortable. You can usually also contract for lunch and lunch & dinner as well.
  5. House or Apartment Rental – These can be the largest and best priced depending on the area especially if you are traveling with other couples. In Paris we were four people and rented someone’s apartment. It was large, comfortable with two bedrooms and two baths. The price was cheaper than two hotel rooms.

Once you decide on what type of place you prefer, investigate options in the cities you will visit. Use sites like TripAdvisor to get other people’s opinions of the property. Remember that their opinions can be very different from yours. We never worry about negative reviews that say small rooms. We expect small rooms in Italy.

TripAdvisor

Be sure to investigate where your hotel/rental choice is located compared to the sites you want to see. Try to get centrally located hotels (these can be the most expensive but will save time going and coming to the sites).

Booking your hotel with airfares on discount sites like Orbitz can get you a discount on the hotel. Check multiple sites and compare prices. Look at pictures posted of your choice and determine if it is the right choice for you. Booking hotels on discount sites usually charge your card when you book not when you arrive. Hotels in Italian are Albergo or just Hotel (the H is always silent in Italian).

IMG_1570

If breakfast is not included do not pay extra for it. Breakfast in Italy is very cheap. You find a bar near your hotel (they are everywhere). At Italian bars you can get Caffè (espresso), Cappuccino, Coffee Americano (an espresso in a larger cup with more water) and mastery choices. A Caffè and cornetto will cost you between 2 and 4 Euros ($2.20 to $4.40). Italian croissants are called cornetto. They come plain, filled with chocolate or jelly and filled with cream. Pastries in Italy are not as sweet as in America. They are delicious.

IMG_2059

Tomorrow we will look at car rentals for your trip if you plan to drive.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agriturismo, Air Fares, Bars, Coffee, cornetto, Espresso, Europe, Food, Hotels, Italy, Pastry, The holidays in Europe, Traveling without a tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How to get Cheaper Airfares!

Subregions of Europe (UN geoscheme)

Subregions of Europe (UN geoscheme) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you been searching for cheap airfares to Europe with no success?  Airfares are up and some are ridiculously high especially non stops. What can you do? Beware they are all the very similar but marketing tricks can suck you in. Buying your airfare a year in advance, when they are first available, can cost a big premium. There are some rules to know:

  1. Off season – If you travel outside the normal tourist season you can get substantial discounts. The destinations are much less crowded as well. You do have to be aware of climate or you could end up in a snow storm.
  2. Discount Sites – Theses sites usually offer the same prices as the airlines if you are buying only an airfare. They can provide discounts if you add in hotels or car rentals. Hotels can be at a substantial discount.
  3. Last Minute Travel – If you are retired or have a job where you can travel on a moments notice, you can save substantially. Be aware you might also be locked out from over booking. Airlines drop prices as the departure date nears and there are seats available. The more seats open the more discount they will offer.
  4. Look 3-4 days around your departure date – Checking prices before and after your departure date may help to find cheaper fares. Flying Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday instead of weekends can save you money. Most airfare sites offer an option to take the dates you entered and show you 3-4 dates on either side. They then highlight the cheapest fares.
  5. Non Stops – Non stop flights are cheaper but you might have to spend several hours to 10 hours in a connecting airport. This is not how you want to start or stop a vacation. I saw one airline offering very cheap fares Philadelphia to Rome but it connected in Moscow. That is way out-of-the-way. Some connections require and extra over night. You either sleep in the airport or you have to get a hotel room which reduces the savings.
  6. Choose your Airport – Where you depart from can make a big difference in airfares. Here in the northeast leaving from New York Kennedy can save $400 to $500 per ticket. That more than makes up for parking or van services.

Doing your homework and being a little flexible can save you a lot of money. Maybe even your hotel costs. If you are going to be staying at hotels in Europe use services that will discount hotel fees to get your airline dollars.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Air Fares, Europe, General Travel | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

How to Plan an Italian Vacation

We are planning a trip to Tuscany and then our home in Campania. Tuscany is a popular spot for vacationers. Here is what we do before boarding the airline:

1) Get a general idea for timeframe. This is important to determine airline costs, clothes to bring, and sites to see.

2) Price your airlines and hotels. Remember saving a few hundred dollars on an airfare that adds 10 hour stop overs is not a wise use of your money. We choose Italian hotels but insist on private baths.

3) Pick the main cities you want to see. Don’t try to do all of Italy in a week or two. All you will see is the inside of planes or trains. Good size trips are a) Northern Italy (Milan, Verona, the lakes and Venice), b) Tuscany, c)Rome and Orvieto and Pompeii, d) Naples and Capri, e) Amalfi Coast, f) Southern Italy and g) Sicily.

4) Now look around each city on a map and see what small cities are close by. Research them on the internet. If you find a great city plan on a visit. Maybe it is to see a festival or a museum or taste wine.

5) Now list the top ten things you want to see in each place. More than ten starts to use up a lot of your time. If you are going to a major museum list the top ten things in the museum you want to see.

6) Determine how you will travel to each city and in what order. Will you need a car or go by train or plane?

7) Now estimate the amount of time you will need in each city. This is critical in doing the things you want to do.

8) If your total time is more than you can take, cut something out. If you have more time, add it to tight cities.

9) Make a list of hotels, addresses, phone numbers and costs as well as museums, etc. This will help when you arrive.

10) Make a check list of what to pack and what to do before leaving like Passports, Euros, turn water off, camera, umbrellas, etc.

The most important thing about traveling in Europe is to be spontaneous. If you find something unexpected, add time to enjoy it and cut something else out. The important thing is not to check off everything on your itinerary but to create lasting memories. Be romantic and enjoy the country that created romance…Italy!

City Passes sometimes look expensive unless you are going to see most sites included but can still be worth the money to save hours of time avoiding lines. City Passes usually allow you to go to the head of the line and have minimal or no delays.

Also don’t miss out on enjoying Italian life:

1) Try some gelato
2) Local wine
3) Pastries
4) Expresso
5) Pizza
6) Pasta

George & Jo Anne

Categories: Air Fares, Amalfi Coast, Capri, City Passes, Eating Italian, Espresso, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Milan, Mountain Towns, Museums, Naples, Orvieto, Pastry, Pizza, Pompeii, Regions of Italy, Romance, Rome, Sicily, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Trains, Tuscany, Venice, Verona, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Dollar vs Euro

Yesterday we talked about can you afford Italy. Any discussion on cost in a foreign country has to take into consideration the conversion rates. Last year it cost $1.34 to buy 1 Euro. That was the World Bank Rate. Your actual costs were higher depending on where you buy the Euros. Banks add-on .10 to .15 cents and exchange booths at the airport add-on much more! The best conversions are often with credit cards. They add-on an amount but not as high usually as banks and exchanges places. Many credit card companies now offer no fee foreign purchases. They still tack on cents to the World Bank rate but do not then charge an addition fee for foreign purchases.

Today the rate is $1.08 per Euro. That is a savings of $.26 per Euro from last year. If you spend $3,000 that is a savings of $780. That will buy you something nice on your trip. Europe has not been as cheap in a long time. Now is the time to book a trip and enjoy romantic Italy. The lower exchange rate makes hotels, meals, gifts, purchases and tours bought in Italy cheaper by 25% from last year. Airfares are the same since you buy them with dollars. If you purchase a local airfare or train tickets while in Italy it also will be 25% cheaper.

Enjoy the savings while it lasts. Check off another item on your bucket list!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Air Fares, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, Hotels, Italy, Money, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Airfares

Do you fly non-stop or do you try to save a little on a stop or two? We get airfare deals in email all the time. Most are scams. You see the sucker price and say to yourself, “WOW what a great price to Italy!” Then you click on the price and all the listed airfares are higher. You have been suckered! We fly non stop Philadelphia to Rome. Many flights with stops have extremely long layovers. The last thing we want to do after an 8 to 10 hour flight is wait in some airport for another 8 hours to catch a connecting flight.

Our non stop gets us to Rome and then we have a 4.5 hour drive to our home in Italy. Yes we could fly into Naples or Salerno and be much closer but again we are sitting in an airport for longer than the drive time. Besides getting off the plane and renting a car starts your adventure. Driving and looking at the sea and mountains is exhilarating. We can see many small towns on the mountain sides around us.

We usually stop at an Auto Grille on the Autostrada to get something to eat and stretch our legs. All in all, the time goes by quickly and we are in Italy. Soon we are taking the exit for our all town and our anticipation heightens.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Air Fares, Auto Grills, Autostrada, Car Rentals, Driving in Italy, Europe, Flights, General Travel, Italy, Southern Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tired of Airfare Scams?

We get really tired of the airfare scams going on in the airfare business today. Basically all the discount sites offer the same airfares as the airlines except at last-minute when seats are unsold. The discount sites offer good deals in packaging hotels in with an airfare. We get emails about airfares from Philadelphia to Rome all the time. The normal fare is between $1200 and $1350 roundtrip per person. The emails state airfares as low as $750. If you click and go to the site there are never any $750 airfares. There may be $950 which is still good, right? Wrong! These airfares have long layover stops in some city. Some layovers are as long as 11 hours. After a 7 to 8 hour trip, do you really want to sit in an airport for 11 hours and then fly another 2 to 3? To us it isn’t worth the savings. We can go non stop to Rome from Philadelphia in 8 to 8.5 hours. Then we are in Italy ready to rent a car or take public transportation.

You don’t want to start a vacation of a lifetime with a horrible travel itinerary. If the savings are important to you, then stay at the city your plane lays over in for a few days. This way you’re not stuck in the airport and you can begin your vacation. Some airlines may up the price if you get off in the layover city. Check first.

European air trips are long for most Americans that have never flown over the pond. There are ways to make the flight go by fast:

  1. Sleep if you can. Even if you can get a few hours it will help.
  2. Watch movies. Most of these planes have monitors in the back of the seat in front of you. You can select movies free from a large list of titles.
  3. Play games. These plane entertainment systems have games as well as movies.
  4. Read a book. This is the perfect time to catch up on your reading.
  5. Write your own book or those letters you have always wanted to write.
  6. You can catch up on email or Facebook time. Most airlines offer internet WiFi on their planes for a small price.

Before you know it breakfast is being served and then you are landing at your destination. Enjoy your travels.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Air Fares, Europe | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Euros and Europe

Tis the season to travel to Europe! The dollar is down compared to the Euro which is great for us. Not long ago we were paying $1.40 to buy a Euro. Today it’s $1.24. That is about 13% better! Imagine a 13% discount on your travel expenses. This time of year is crowded with Americans and airfares can be up. You still can find a good fare if you shop. Many Americans like to travel over Thanksgiving week or the week after because they get 2 extra days. If you go Thanksgiving week you only take off 3 days and get 9 days of vacation. If you go the week after you take 5 days of vacation and get 11 days of vacation.

Christmas is also a great time in Europe. You can feel the holiday spirit in the lights and stores around Europe. In northern Europe you have an excellent chance of a white Christmas. Join the Europeans in a bar, pub or restaurant. Warm yourself by the fire and enjoy your food and drink slowly. Look around you and observe the European way of life.

Europe is romantic! Go and rekindle your relationship. Don’t travel to 21 cities in 21 days. Don’t hop country to country. Pick your favorite spot and enjoy a relaxing time with the person you love. Hold hands and stroll the streets slowly. This will make memories you will never forget.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Air Fares, Bars, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, Money, Romance, snow, The holidays in Europe | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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