Travel Tips for Getting Ready for Travel to Italy (and Beyond)
Before you go
1. Check your passport. Your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your travel dates. Also be sure to check visa requirements for your destination country. Be sure to make copies of your passport and any other important documents. I always keep a photo of my passport on my phone.
2. Get travel insurance. Purchase travel insurance to cover any unforeseen emergencies or medical expenses. It’s required for Radiant Jane Retreats. Here’s a list of different travel insurance companies to consider.
3. Plan your itinerary. If you’re coming on retreat, where do you want to go before and afterwards? How long do you want to be away? Do you want to visit a couple of major cities or would you rather take a whole week to see one area? You can use my travel guides to research other parts of Italy. If there are experiences that you know you don’t want to miss, such as a morning visit to the Sistine Chapel or a skip-the-line tour of the Accademia Galleria in Florence, then be sure to book them ahead of time.
4. Buy your flight. Google flights and Kayak are both great websites to search for your flights. Remember that most flights are refundable for 24 hours so that gives you some time to confirm the other pieces of your travel.
5. Plan your transport. Italy has an excellent train system that is both reliable and reasonable. If you’re traveling mostly between cities, you can count on the trains for getting around Italy. Download the Italian train app and set up an account before you go. Then you can easily check routes and buy tickets when you’re ready. If you are doing more countryside traveling, you might want to rent a car.
Renting a car can be a great option for visiting Italy, and for Tuscany in particular. By renting a car, you can easily venture off the beaten path and discover the hidden gems of Tuscany. Just be prepared for narrow winding roads in some areas, especially in rural parts of the region. Also, make sure to familiarize yourself with local driving regulations and parking restrictions, as they may vary from what you're used to at home. Also it’s important to note that Americans renting a car in Italy need an International Driving Permit. This can be obtained in person at your local AAA office.
6. Book your hotel or apartment stays. The best guest houses and B&Bs fill up early, so do your research and make your reservations as soon as you book your trip. Read through reviews to find the things that are most important to you. Do you need it to be really quiet to sleep? Or do you like a generous breakfast? Those kinds of details often show up in reviews. Look for refundable rooms just in case you have to change plans at the last minute.
7. Pack light. A lighter load will make your journey more comfortable and flexible. Be sure to bring those essential travel accessories. Check the power outlets and voltage requirements of your destination and bring appropriate adapters. Do you want an airplane pillow and eye mask for the long trip? Do you have durable luggage tags for any checked baggage?
8. Make sure you have plenty of your essential medications, including prescriptions. Pack these with you in your carry-on luggage so that you have them with you at all times. You should also carry emergency contact information, and it’s a good idea to put this with your medications.
9. Research your destination. Do a little research about customs, language and dress codes for where you are traveling. To learn a little Italian, download DuoLingo and practice getting the basics down before you arrive. Even learning to say Hello, Please and Thank you can get you a long way in a foreign country. In Italy, it’s considered disrespectful to wear sleeveless tops or short skirts inside of churches and cathedrals, so bring a scarf if you are traveling there in the summer.
10. Download the Google Translate app. You can load an entire language within Google Translate onto your phone that can be used when you don’t have cell service or wifi. If you’re traveling in Italy, it’s a great idea to download Italian into the app so you can type out your question and show your taxi driver, shopkeeper, or person on the street what you’re trying to say. I’ve had many conversations via Google Translate!
On Your Trip
1. Get on top of jet lag. To get over jet lag quickly, try adjusting your sleep schedule to the new time zone before your trip. On the plane over, stay hydrated and avoid alcohol and caffeine. After you arrive be sure to get exposure to natural sunlight during the day as well as some light exercise. Take short naps if needed, but don't oversleep during the day.
2. Be open-minded. Embrace new experiences, cultures, and cuisines with an open mind. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Try new foods, even the ones that you might not usually like. Let yourself be surprised by how something tastes for the first time. Engage with locals, ask for recommendations, and participate in local activities to gain a deeper understanding of the culture.
3. Stay flexible. Be prepared for changes in plans or unexpected delays. Flight delays and cancellations seem to be a regular part of traveling these days. Build as much time as possible between connecting flights and be sure to have a book or something you enjoy with you for those long waits. Try to make a game out of adapting to the constantly changing situations. Remember that you can trust yourself to solve problems that arise, even if you have to ask for help.
4. Take breaks. It is common to try to cram too much into a trip to Europe, but it’s not very enjoyable to sightsee all day long without having a minute to take it all in. Build in time to sit in squares and people-watch. Join the Italian custom of an afternoon drink. Even if you are alone, you can use the time to catch up on writing in your journal or filling in your sketchbook. Find a balance between sightseeing and relaxation, ensuring you don't get overwhelmed.
5. Be safe. Be vigilant with your belongings, especially passports, money, and electronic devices. Let someone know where you are. Load maps and addresses onto your phone while you have wifi, or write them down. If you get lost, you can always show the address of your hotel or where you are going to a taxi driver or a friendly local.
6. Respect the environment and the local culture. Be a responsible traveler and leave no trace. Take a water bottle along so you don’t need to buy plastic ones. You can fill a bottle from the water fountains in Italian squares which are supplied with clean mountain water. Wander through neighborhoods on foot or rent a bicycle to explore places at your own pace. Figure out how to use local transportation, one of the wonders of Europe!
7. Join some group activities. Especially if you are a solo traveler, you might enjoy participating in group tours or activities to meet fellow travelers and share experiences. In order to avoid the crowds, you might consider seeking out unconventional or more unique experiences, such as cooking classes, volunteer opportunities, or nature walks.
8. Take part in leisurely meals. A meal in Italy, as in many parts of Europe, is an event. People tend to dress up a little bit for dinner, and you can often spend several hours at the table. Embrace the experience of slow food (a movement that started in Italy). Ask your waiter for recommendations. Be curious about daily specials. Chefs love to cook for open-minded patrons. In busy towns, it is recommended that you make reservations, especially for dinner.
9. Visit local markets. Explore local markets for the vibrant atmosphere and to try local foods. Markets are great for artisan cheese, produce, pastries and sweets. Talk to local vendors to find out about specialties from the area. Markets are also a great place to get locally made souvenirs.
10. Enjoy the moment. It may seem obvious but often we forget to be present and savor each step of a journey, because we are preoccupied with where we are going next. Take the time to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of each stop along the way. Traveling can sometimes be challenging, so practice patience and kindness towards yourself and others.
Remember, travel is about creating lasting memories and embracing the journey. Enjoy every minute of your adventure! Allow room for spontaneous adventures and unexpected encounters, as they often lead to the most memorable experiences. Follow your instincts and make the journey truly your own.
PS. If you need more help with trip planning, we offer that service for a fee at Radiant Jane Retreats. Just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you're dreaming of Italy, check out our upcoming retreats!