Posts Tagged With: planning

Planning a trip to Italy

There are two types of travelers- First are the ones who plan and execute it all on their own and the second are the ones who outsource the planning and execution and go with a travel operator on a well planned trip.  Both have their pros and cons – While it is time consuming to plan your own travel arrangements, itinerary and accommodation, it offers far more flexibility and you can spend your time the way you like it. However a planned tour by an agency will take care of all your needs but you need to stick by their rules, schedules and itineraries.  We belong to the first category of travelers. We decide what we want to see, do all our planning, book our tickets, figure out where we want to stay, use a map to figure out where to find anything, and enjoy  exploring on our own! I am going to give you a few pointers on everything that needs to be planned through in this space.

passport

Visa

Italy being a part of the European Union requires a Schengen Visa for Indian citizens which needs to be given atleast 15 days of processing time before one can fly. The Visa list simplifies what needs to be get done – Airtickets, Insurance, accommodation and internal travel arrangements and having your finances in order is what is required. You can find the complete list of documents required here.  The process of submitting a visa application is fairly simple and one need not go through any travel agent. Just take all the required documents with two copies of everything, fill up the forms also available on the online, visit the VFS office that manages Schengen applications and submit the documents. It should not take more than two hours to do that. Once the visa is stamped, you can collect it from the same place. In Mumbai, there is no need for any appointment for a Schengen Visa and one can just go directly walk into the VFS office in BKC to submit the documents.

Booking flights – I expect we could have found sweeter deals in our flight booking had we booked earlier, but well, we didn’t plan well. But if you are reading this, and would like to plan a trip to Italy, watch out for International discount days at major carriers from three months in advance and you may just land a deal as sweet as Rs 25-30K return fares as did some co-travelers.

Accommodations – Here is the thing about Europe where lodging is concerned..As compared to India where decent hotels can get astonishingly expensive at not less than Rs 8K a night, in Europe there is a vast range of places one can book for all sorts of budgets. From hostel accommodations for the solo intrepid travelers, to lavish suites at 5-stars and the mid-range hotels ranging from Rs 3K-8K, it is easier to find a place in the heart of the city. One just needs to look out for the right place. And it is not just hotels and hostels. A vast segment of tourists prefer to rent a home for a few days through sites such as airbnb or booking.com. This further increases the options around the sort of neighborhood you would like to live in and the kind of amenities you can have and one can experience life the locals lead. With a one year old in tow, we had little choice but go for homes that had kitchens we could use for our little picky eater (though we are pickier about what she eats!).

Travelling within the country: This is again that requires a good deal of research. Having zeroed on the destinations you would like to visit, the next step is to check on the cheapest and the fastest ways to get there. Be it a rail pass, cheap airlines, or high-speed trains. All or none may require pre-bookings. Italy has its railway Trenitalia which we used for booking our tickets in advance before we left. Train fares in Italy are not fixed and can fluctuate based on demand and supply. It is best to reserve train tickets in advance or be prepared to pay much higher amounts later. We preferred the high-speed trains to all our destinations that took almost half the time that regular trains did.  If you are thinking about purchasing a train pass, make sure you compare the prices with single leg ticket journetys. In Italy reservations are required on the high speed trains and EuroCity/International trains, and therefore the hop on-hop off convenience is not really there. For more on train reservations read here

Sightseeing and reservations: Italy is a destination that sees millions of tourists every year. All the major tourist places are inundated with these hordes of tourists and you will encounter long lines to get inside anywhere. But some pre-planning can help avoid these long lines.  What needs to be done is make reservations early on or buy the City Tourist Passes. Since there are a lot of options and a lot of places where you may need reservations, I am going to keep this for another post, you will be soon able to read.

Packing

Finally, only our packing remained and this is the most important piece of all. Whatever you do, travel light! Pack few clothes and do your laundry and well, shop in Italy! If you however need those four pairs of shoes to match your outfit, be prepared to lug your suitcases on the roads and through stairways in places such as Venice which has no cars.

Next – About Passes and reservations

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Categories: Europe, Italy | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Italian Holiday

Italy in three words is Art, Food and Touristy!  As I look back on my recently concluded trip at the beautiful country of Italy, so many images flash by – Pizza at the Piazzas, religion in Renaissance, art with architecture, hordes of tourists, leisurely outdoor lunches, chilling out with Gelatos, the symphony of the bands playing at the square, the grandeur of the Colosseum, my one year old daughter SSS chasing fluttering pigeons..

Through this blog I am going to take you through our trip right from how we planned it out and how we should have planned it out!

Why did we choose to go to Italy?

Italy was a dream travel destination for many a year for me. Three reasons finally saw us zeroing on Italy – Good weather, Amazing art and Culture and great Food! And thus.. Italy fit all our expectations and we locked down our air tickets about a month in advance.

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Deciding what to see

Once our return flights were booked, the next step was deciding the places we wanted to see in Italy and book our accommodation accordingly. Italy is a country with points of interest for varied tastes. One may want to see every major Art gallery there is in places such as Rome and Florence, or visit quaint towns in the country such as Lucca or Pisa, or do a wine tour at Tuscany or click a photo of the Coliseum and move on to the next tourist destination or hike in the scenic coastal town of Cinque Terre. There is much for everyone and it is quite necessary to prioritize based on what one likes!

What did we finally see?

With a baby in tow, we decided to stick to the tourist trail and not the off-beat trail. We also decided to take it easy and enjoy the vacation instead of simply hopping from one site to another. Italian cities have a lot of history and culture in them and we finally decided to visit Rome, Florence and Venice as our key destinations. If at all we had time, we could make day-trips around these places to places such as Pisa, Lucca or a trip to the famed Tuscany countryside.

Next blog – Planning the trip to Italy

Categories: Europe, Italy | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Are you an impulsive traveler or a planned traveler?

There are travelers who plan months ahead of time, draw up long lists of packing, scheduling, itineraries, do their research, make the bookings, and carry the right phone numbers. Then there are the impulsive travelers who do pick up a backpack and just get out there figuring out things on their way. Well, while it is usually smooth sailing for the planned travelers, the latter rough it out, end up sleeping in a barn, or spend exorbitant amounts. But the impulsive travelers usually have a story to tell for eternity.

Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not packing right and improper planning led us into a soup several times. I went dressed and packed for summer to Switzerland one April and spent a pretty penny buying woolens. I spent exorbitant amounts on flimsy raincoats from a souvenir shop in Disneyland when it poured heavily all the time. We got stuck out on the streets of Cusco, Peru at midnight because our travel agent did not confirm our hotel booking; and more recently almost being caught for driving without a license in Mauritius (I had very conveniently forgotten to carry my driving license)!

But when things have to go wrong, they will. Like when I visited Oman. Despite all the planning, we nearly missed our flight because of a miscommunication and the cab driver went to the airport to pick us up instead of picking us from home and dropping to the airport! The dash to the airport, making sad faces to the boarding pass authorities to let us in, and the final dash towards boarding certainly made for an exciting start to the holiday!

While bungling up is quite awful during the journey itself, in hindsight, there are several positives to it after you come out of unscathed. One, you learn to plan for that eventuality. Two, you may end up seeing something more splendid when you lost your way than you had set out to see. Three, you have an interesting experience and memory <and in hind sight, things always look rosier>. Four, you feel stronger, having survived what you did. Five, Distress brings people closer, so if you are in that arduous trek in a group, you might just make those friends of a lifetime. Six, and the best part, you have a story to tell everyone around you and have people hanging on to your every word!

I hope things never go wrong at all on your trips!  But if they do, when you come out of them, you are a wiser and a stronger person. A teeny bit of planning always goes a long way in smooth sailing on the most impulsive journey! A few tips for the impulsive travelers –

  1. I know you hate to book early, but during the peak tourist season, it is advisable to book your hotel and travel ahead of time.
  2. Check the weather and pack right. You don’t want to spend unnecessarily on what you have and be saddled with it forever.
  3. Carry dry high energy food and water if you are venturing on long drives/treks to places where you may not get any.
  4. Always check with the local tourist office for information (There usually is always one at every airport or point where you check into the place).
  5. If you are planning to drive down to the place, make sure you have enough gas, check the tire pressure, ensure the spare tire is in good condition, carry a toolbox and note down the emergency contact numbers of your car maker’s towing services
  6. Make sure you carry proper documentation and identification proofs with you
  7. And yes.. don’t forget to drop an out of office message on your office mail.. so that the boss/other office colleagues do not bother you

Plan ahead or just go at the spur of the moment, be happy with the tales you bring back. Safe and Happy Roaming!

Categories: Other Travel Blah | Tags: , | 21 Comments

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