Tour Groups

How I Plan a Trip to Europe

Planning a trip to Europe can be expensive and frustrating. In this video I give ideas for saving money, planning and creating a trip that will be fun and memorable. Don’t spend your time running around a city and traveling between cities. Enjoy life in Europe. Be a European while you are there. Make contact with locals, communicate, observe life around you. Enjoy the museums and sites but also savor the food and wine. Watch the Europeans around you. How do they live their lives?

The video below will help you plan a memorable and rewarding trip to Europe. Buon Viaggio…

Ciao,

George

Categories: Air Fares, Airplanes, Bars, BLOG, Cafè, cornetto, Eating, Espresso, Europe, Fish, Flights, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Itinerary, Metro Travel, Money, Mountain Towns, Museums, Panini, snow, The holidays in Europe, Tour Groups, Towns, Trains, Traveling without a tour, VLOG, Weather in Europe, Wine, YouTube | 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 can I survive without a Tour?

English: icon for smartphone (smart phone) rel...

English: icon for smartphone (smart phone) related content (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

YES, YES, YES!!!! You really can survive very well without a large formal tour. Huge bus tours stop at restaurants that make food for a large number of people quickly. This is not the Italian way. They also can not get you into small mountain towns. The roads are to steep and narrow.

We are firm believers of not taking tours in Europe. Many people say to me that they need a tour for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Hard to plan and I am not a planner – Planning today with the internet and smart phones is easy. GPS will prevent you from getting lost.
  2. I might miss something important – There are great guide books and Apps that will tell you about the top 10-20 things in a city. You can not miss anything important. They will also guide you through museums, castles and churches.
  3. I don’t speak the language – Large modern cities have many people that cater to tourists and can speak some English. When you speak, speak slowly and use basic English like you where talking to a child. Learn the basics like Hello, Good morning, please, thank you and how much is it.
  4. I might get lost – As we said use a GPS App on your smart phone to get you around. If you don’t have one, rent one.
  5. I am afraid to find my way around – This is pure fear … FIGHT IT! You can get around and you will find great things to see, great restaurants to eat at and meet very friendly people.

We help plan trips abroad without tours. There are so many forms of information on the internet today about travel. You have to be aware some are peoples opinions that are not the same as yours. This is true of formal tours as well. They may go to places you don’t care about. They most certainly will go to tourist places to eat (and get kick backs from these places) which are NOT the best food in these countries. Our rules are:

  1. Don’t eat at tourist restaurants or near tourist attractions. The food is for tourists not locals. Get out with the locals and go to their restaurants. You will be amazed at how good the food is.
  2. Number 1 & 2 above – trips are not hard to plan. Buy a tour book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. These books show top attractions and top things inside these attractions. You really can not miss anything important. With a map or a smart phone, you can layout where all of the attractions you want to see are. How far apart they are. You can plan what you can do each day. Next decide if you will walk, take a taxi or public transportation. Taxi drivers speak enough english to get by. Buses and Metros are easy to find and travel on. In big cities there usually is a metro stop near every major attraction. There are smart phone apps that determine where you are (GPS) and tell you where nearest metro stop is. They even guide you as you walk. Once at the metro they tell you what train to get on, which direction to go, how many stops to yours and the name of your stop. Once off the train they once again guide your walk to your attraction.
  3. Number 3 above – English is the universal language, French speak english in Italy, Japanese speak English throughout Europe. Most big cities have people who know enough English to help you. Attractions hire people who speak english as well. We like to learn some words in the country’s language we am visiting. They feel good when we try to speak their language.
  4. Number 4 & 5 above – You really can’t get lost with a good map or better yet a smart phone. Smart phones are getting cheaper each year. Plans for foreign use are cheaper than ever and at least one company is offering free foreign usage. You really need a data plan so you can use the internet. Many apps require communication with a server on the net. Map apps show you where you are and how to get to another destination like your hotel or the next attraction you want to visit. You never have to be afraid of getting around again.
  5. Be polite and kind to other people you encounter. You are their guests. They are NOT your servants. If you are friendly and nice most people will return the same to you.
  6. Exchange your money at banks not airports! Check rates they vary a lot. Use credit cards to get cash or purchase items. They charge a slightly higher exchange rate and most today do not charge extra foreign fees.

Most important is just relax and enjoy your adventure. Eat and enjoy the food, drink the wine, speak to the local people and see the sights. Take plenty of pictures and you will create a memory you will never forget. Most important be romantic, live like a European and enjoy yourself. You can do it!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Cash, Europe, Exchange Rates, Food, General Travel, GPS, Money, Mountain Towns, Museums, Phones, Romance, Small Towns, Smart Phones, Tour Groups | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

What is a good vacation in Italy

First and foremost DON’T try to see all of Italy on one trip unless you are there for a year! The single worst mistake a tourist makes is to try to see too much. The second biggest mistake they make is to join an organized tour group. The third mistake is people have funny feelings about bars.

Italy is good so more of Italy is better RIGHT? WRONG! If you haven’t been to Italy pick a large city to be your center of focus:

  • Venice – for the unusual city it is. The canals instead of roads. The food and the history.
  • Florence – for the museums and history. The Renaissance started here.
  • Rome – because there is no other city like it in the world. The history the architecture and the food.
  • Naples – because many Italian-Americans came from here. The food and the pizza.

These cities are all great in history, food, wine, architecture and people. Pick one and enjoy it. From there you can do small trips out to see smaller cities or sites like the Alps. All of these cities have airports but with the exception of Rome, you will have to make a connection somewhere in Europe.

Organized large tours are not fun. They feel safe for some and that is why most people join them. I hear excuses like: “I don’t speak the language”, “I will get lost”, “I might miss something import” or “Where will I stay”.

  • I don’t speak the language – If you learn simple phrases like Buon Giorno, Buona Notte, Grazie, Quanta costa, etc you will do fine. Most of Italy’s large cities have people who speak English to some degree especially in the tourist areas.
  • I will get lost – With todays smart phones and GPS you can’t get lost. Program in your hotel’s address so you can always get back. Look up each attraction you want to visit in a day and place addresses into the GPS. Now simply look at your map to determine where each is relative to the others. Pick your first attraction and go. Then the next and so on until you are done. Then select your hotel and return to it. For longer distances you can take a bus or subway. They are safe and fast. Your hotel can help you select the correct line and understand how to get a ticket (biglietto).
  • I might miss something important – There are many tour guide books at your local book store or online. Pick one that is for the city you have chosen (not a general Italy book). Some list top ten attractions and then top ten things to see at each attraction. You will see more than any organized large tour and you can spend as much or as little time at each place as you like. This is important since we are all different. You never know what will attract you until you are there.
  • Where will I stay – Hotels are everywhere! Go online and search for deals. Make sure you get one in the city near the attractions and not at the airport. Get one with a private bath. Size shouldn’t matter (at least with hotels). Hopefully you are there only to sleep. Get out and enjoy the city and the life within it.

Italian bars are NOT like American bars. They are not places to get drunk in (although you can). They are family places. In the morning you get your breakfast here (if it was not included in your room). Coffee and a sweet roll. At lunch you can get a panini (sandwich) or sometimes pasta and a soda, beer or wine. Most bars have gelato as well. In the evening you can have a cheap meal r sandwich and a glass of good wine. Italians do not believe in drinking without food. It is bad form. Happy hours serve drinks and small plates of food to be eaten along with your drink.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Bars, Eating Italian, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Museums, Phones, Regions of Italy, Tour Groups, Trains, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Small Towns in Southern Italy Pictorial

Our pictorial continues with small beach and mountain towns of southern Campania, Italy.

Vallo della Lucania

D2 - IMG_0181 D4 - IMG_0185

Castelnuovo Cilento

E4 - IMG_0202 E6 - IMG_0208

Marina Casal Velino

IMG_0935 IMG_0939 IMG_1506

Paestum

H3 - IMG_0337 H5 - IMG_4752

Salento

J9 - IMG_0440 JA - IMG_0444

Acciaro

IMG_0944 IMG_0947

Santa Maria di Castellabate

IMG_0976 IMG_7379

Maratea

IMG_1062 IMG_1072

Old Town Agropoli

IMG_1111 IMG_1122 IMG_1125

Pisciotta

IMG_1138 IMG_1143 IMG_1144

Wherever you go in Italy, you see old beautiful towns. Each make their own foods, wines and olive oils. Give yourself and your tastebuds a vacation … go to Italy and experience the real people and places. Don’t settle for a tour with bad food. Enjoy life and be romantic!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Agropoli, Beaches, Campania, Casal Velino, Castelnuovo Cilento, Cilento, Eating Italian, Europe, Italy, Maratea, Marina Casal Velino, Mountain Towns, Paestum, Pisciotta, Small Towns, Tour Groups, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So you have picked your city! Now what?

OK you did your homework and picked your perfect European countries to visit. You have a list of cities to visit and the major things to see in each city. Now what? How should you get around Europe? You have three choices:

  1. Tour – which I would never do
  2. Trains – European trains are fast, on schedule and comfortable. They are also very easy to use.
  3. Rental Car – Cars are the most convent for small cities. They should not be used for large cities.

Trains – European trains between major cities are fast and travel faster than cars do. In France they travel much faster than cars do. You can buy tickets in America on-line but you pay a premium plus an increased exchange rate. In Europe there are machines that can be put into English and are easy to use. You enter where you are going, choose one way or round trip and pick your train (time). They take credit cards and your tickets are printed at the machine. You can also go to a window and speak to someone. They normally speak some English. There are usually lines at the windows. However you buy your tickets don’t forget to have them validated at machines by your track. Validation says you are using this ticket. It is an honor system and the conductor may never get to you to check your tickets. If you are checked onboard and do not have a validation stamp, the fine is very high. Online tickets may have “No Validation Needed” stamped on them. These are good for only the train listed so validation is not necessary. From big cities to small cities there are trains but they are local trains. They are slower and usually stop at each city along the way. Europe’s train system is extensive and can get you to or very near your destination town.

Rental Cars – Rental cars are convent at most airports. You can usually pickup your car in a parking garage or lot attached to the terminals. There are many companies including the American rental companies and the European companies. We usually don’t use the American companies because they are more costly for the same car. We like Eurocar. I also pay to take the insurance. It is easier to deal with an accident if you have insurance from the rental company. If you are using a rental car you really should have a GPS unit. You can rent these with the car for an additional fee. You can also use the one on your smart phone. We bought the Tom-Tom app for our iPhones. We have one for the USA and one for Western Europe. They each cost around $50 but we have had them on two different phones for 4 years now. The app can show traffic (for an annual fee). They also know where speed cameras and gas stations are.

Make a note on your smart phone and carry a printed copy (in case you lose your phone) of all hotel names, addresses and phone numbers. You should also have your itinerary with a list of city names you are going to visit. Europeans are friendly and will help you out as needed. Be friendly and polite. It is customary in Europe to say “Please” and “Thank-You”. You should know how to say these in each language you will encounter. Now just enjoy your trip. Create some memories!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Car Rentals, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, General Travel, GPS, Hotels, Tour Groups, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: