“So where you off to next?” you know you’re a globetrotter when that’s the first thing people ask you. I can’t believe it’s almost been one year since our Euro trip! For anyone who is planning on traveling to Europe this year or sometime in the near future, this post is meant for you. There is seriously nothing better than to be able to travel with no strings attached…by strings I mean children! The most common advice I have gotten before getting married was “travel now before there are any kids in the picture”. I’ve always had a love for traveling, but those words gave me that extra encouragement to squeeze in as many trips as humanly possible before babies. Being able to see the world with your significant other is seriously such a beautiful thing. Not to say that kids aren’t also a joy, but I’m not the type that can handle screaming babies on 10 hour flights…
So last year, John and I decided on booking for Greece and Italy…can you think of any 2 more romantic destinations? I had previously taken a trip with my mom to Paris and Barcelona and although it was not my first time in Europe, it was a first when it came down to planning out my entire itinerary. When I look back at our trip, it was nearly perfect. Not to say there weren’t flaws because I definitely would have done a few things differently, but that is the whole purpose for this post. So you all can plan to perfection! Here are some important things to keep in mind:
1.TRANSPORTATION: Choose a reliable airline that you feel comfortable flying with. After all, this will be a longer-than-normal flight. Contrary to popular belief, traveling overseas is actually not that bad nowadays! Many people see flight times of 7-10 hours and immediately get intimidated but today you get the convenience of a touch screen monitor in front of your seat with hundreds of new movies/shows/music/games all at your finger tips. Time really does fly (no pun intended). Make sure you go with a well-known airline and look into the model of the plane before booking. Also, if you are visiting multiple cities within a country, make sure you look up and book necessary train tickets (all Euro express trains are SO comfy that you won’t even notice the time because of the gorgeous views). Note: if you ever plan on visiting Italy, please do not leave without making a stop to Venice! You will thank me later 🙂
2. HOTEL: One thing to keep in mind, is most European hotels (especially in congested cities like Paris and Rome) are boutique hotels. Meaning, small, cramped, with TINY barely functioning elevators. Unless you decide to stay at an American hotel, expect to be uncomfortable. If you’re not claustrophobic and you don’t mind the smaller sized hotels, you will end up saving a ton of money. BUT if you are like me, and cannot stand tiny cramped spaces, then I recommend doing some research on more spacious hotels (that will probably cost you a bit more). Also another huge thing to keep in mind when booking your stay is LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. If your hotel is located 25 miles out from the actual city you are visiting and you think you’ve outdone yourself with all the money you have saved on booking, think again. Chances are, you will be spending a fortune on a taxi/mode of transportation and also wasting precious vacation time. Find a hotel that is local to or within a reasonable distance of all the site seeing. This way you can try and minimize your usage of public transportation and simply walk everywhere. I was extremely satisfied with all three hotels we booked for our stay. If you are ever in the area, here are a list of all the places we stayed and why I recommend them:
- Santorini, Greece: Santorini’s balcony- located in Imerovigli which was the village within Santorini that had the best view of the sunset right between two peaks. Our hotel had private outdoor Jacuzzis which was nice for unwinding at night with a spritzer. Everything in Santorini is exclusive so there’s no way you can go wrong with booking a hotel. One thing I would do differently next time would would be to book closer to Oía since it was more lively and full of the Instagram-worthy photos of all the white homes and churches!
- Venice, Italy: Centurion Hotel- GREAT LOCATION. This was a 5-star hotel for cleanliness, spaciousness and location. Although it was across the Central Canal from St Marcus Square, it was a 5 minute (courtesy of the hotel) boat ride across the canal which was so much easier than the 20 minute walk! Located right next to Santa Maria Cathedral, this hotel is quiet, quaint and tucked away in a private location. Modern, updated, yummy complimentary breakfast with a gorgeous cozy patio. We were greeted with a bottle of Italy’s finest Champagne in our hotel room and any hotel that appreciates their guests is a place that will definitely be on my list for revisiting in the future. John and I had such a great time in Venice we are eager to go back!
- Rome, Italy: Hotel Grand Plaza- Best location yet! Not only was it in the heart of the high end fashion district, it was right down the street from the Spanish Steps and a 15 minute walk to the Fontana De Trevi. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect hotel! We saved so much money on taxis since we walked most of the time. I really loved that this hotel had a beautiful rooftop patio decorated with lemon trees and draped purple flowers. Great for evening views and vino!
3. ACTIVITIES: Okay, so I’m sure you sort of have an idea of the things you want to do and places you want to see before you book your trip, right? Well you can NEVER be too prepared especially when it comes to a foreign country. I cannot stress this enough guys, but really DO YOUR RESEARCH. Winging it doesn’t always work out for the best. Having a solid itinerary set before you go is so crucial, which means extensive research of things to do and also utilizing a lot of trip advisor and google maps. Here’s my secret: after I’ve done all the possible web surfing and Trip advisor reading and I feel like there are still some things missing on my to-do list, I will type in the destination on Instagram and go through people’s photos and experiences. Almost nine times out of ten I find a unique spot that was not covered on the several trip advising websites. Although some reviews are helpful, everyone has different interests so it’s hard to go by what other people recommend hence why instagram makes it much easier to get a better idea of doing something specific to your taste. Social media FTW!
4. RESTAURANTS: Since my husband and I are shameless foodies, we love to get the full “Anthony Bourdain” experience when it comes to dining in different countries. And yes, that means binge watching Bizarre foods and Anthony Bourdain: No reservations prior to our trip. Although I do recommend ALWAYS making reservations if possible…especially to the popular sought after spots. Tip: AVOID CAFES/ RESTAURANTS/ DINERS THAT ARE WITHIN A 1-MILE RADIUS NEAR TOURIST TRAPS. They are most likely over priced, and not appetizing. John and I were starving after visiting the Vatican so we stopped by a restaurant right next door that served pasta and let me tell you, it tasted exactly like Chef Boyardee right out of the can, plopped on to our plate. Do your research on authentic and gourmet restaurants around your area that have a rating of 4.5 stars or higher (so you can guarantee something good on the menu). PS. when in Rome, do as the Romans do…eat plenty of Pistachio Gelato! When deciding on a good Gelateria, sometimes the places with the longest lines have the most average gelato. Keep an eye out for the real stuff…it’s all about trial and error. We tried so many different Gelaterias and each had a unique flavor of pistachio (some more authentic than others). Here is a tip: if it looks creamy and rich, it is legit! Gelato should never look frozen.
- Santorini – Volcano Blue (best time to go is right before sunset), Katharos Lounge, Strogoli
- Venice – Ristorante Quadri (St. Marcus Sq), Alle Corone
- Rome – Ginger (MUST TRY), Palatium Enoteca Regionale, That’s Amore, Hotel Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese & Ladureé for pastries and espresso
A few words of advice while traveling outside of the US: travel light, keep your cash somewhere safe, ALWAYS have your passports on you, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. You can never be too careful especially with everything happening in the world nowadays. Safe travels!!!