Last Ones on Earth to Check Italy off our Bucket List

We projected the map of Italy on our big screen and thanks to Google maps focused our attention at the same time to potential towns.

 

Venice in St. Mark’s Basin showing the Grand Canal, San Zaccaria and our destination “Photo by Stephen Howard”
Venice and Rome – everyone we talked to said you have to see if you never go back.

Keeping up can be just so confusing.

Every day I’m bombarded with “24 of these travel tips” and “12 of these epic awesome travel apps you absolutely need now!”

Do I really?

And “29 hacks the pros miss.”

Oh, and don’t forget those “11 critical last-minute things you’d better take care of the day before you leave.”

Or else … What?

The list goes on and on.

  • There’s stuff you don’t know about exchanging money. 
  • About your passports. 
  • And cruising through airport customs. 
  • And you’d better not mess up with Global Entry and TSA Precheck.

Arrrrgh.

Take a deep breath.

Let it out slowly.

Focus on something pleasant.

Something other than the constant noise and dust circulating in the air.

Like, our visit to Italy for the first time this past year with our friends.

Italy destinations – Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Siena, Tuscany and Rome. Photo by Stephen Howard

It was a blast.

All the anticipation and preparation.

We felt less stressed once we passed the panic phase of not knowing exactly what to do or where to turn for the best advice.

Enduring our months-long kitchen remodel fed our panic as months of planning turned into weeks.

Which turned into days.

“How will they lower the microwave without scratching the cabinets surrounding it or dropping it on the stove in time for us to leave?”

But it was almost as much fun as traveling through Italy with our traveling companions as getting together nine months ahead of our trip, drinking some dark red Tuscany “Brunello di Montalcino” paired with a new pasta recipe,  and discussing where in Italy we should go.

I said almost.

One tip that helped us enormously is for all of you other Apple TV owners.

Venice to Florence

We projected the map of Italy on our big screen and thanks to Google maps focused our attention at the same time on potential towns.

We’d pour a little more wine.

We’d discuss what each of us was eager to see and do.

Then, we could walk up to the big screen and find each town and region on the Italian map.

And right there in front of us  we could assess how long and by which transportation options we should consider.

That turned out to be a real eye opener.

Traveling time to and from all the potential destinations adds up quickly.

The group map projection technique showed us quickly and dramatically how adding too much time in transit subtracts from time allotted for another must-visit destination.

Another power hack (tip) cut through the barrage of travel articles pinging me constantly on my Flipboard and Apple News feeds.

Plan your activities over a time line like you would at work for a project.

  • 1-year ahead,
  • 6-months,
  • 3-months,
  • 1-month,
  • 1-week,
  • 2-days,
  • 1-day and
  • day of travel.
Venice in St. Mark’s Basin showing the Grand Canal, San Zaccaria and our destination “Photo by Stephen Howard”

Read some articles, do more research, and maybe more importantly talk to everyone else who had been there.

We were, it turns out, the last ones on earth who hadn’t already checked off Italy from their bucket list.

We delegated an interview with owners of an Italian restaurant along the Southern California coast in Dana Point to our traveling companions.

They thought for sure the owners maintained a family owned B&B in the heart of Tuscany which fizzled, but only after they enjoyed their dinner and a few glasses of vino.

One Year Ahead:

  • Research Websites, Guidebooks and Travel Agents
  • Budget Room, Food, Sightseeing and Entertainment Per Day
  • Refer to Per Diem Allocations for Estimates
  • Open a Savings Account
  • Find Calendars of Events for Timing Better Deals

Two pieces of advice proved pretty valuable over the first few months of research.

To sort through the hundreds of possibilities, consider this trip to be your once in a lifetime adventure.

Make certain that, if you never returned, you’d visit and do the most important activities to you.

Divide the amount of vacation time you can afford to take by three.

The result dictates how many areas you can visit without wearing yourself out.

Returning tourists in a gondola as more line up for their turn across from the Hotel Cavalletto. Photo by Stephen Howard

The last thing you want to do is feel so rushed that you can’t enjoy your holiday.

Venice and Rome – everyone we talked to said you have to see if you never go back.

Tuscany each of us agreed appealed to all of us as a change of pace, especially if a cooking class can be squeezed in.

The five towns on the western coast in Cinque Terre was an easy sell.

And time in Florence to fully appreciate the Renaissance made the cut.

Even by eliminating Milan and Lake Como we exceeded our allotment of enjoyable time per region.

Oh, I take back any snarky comment I made earlier – “11 critical last-minute things you’d better take care of the day before you leave.”

As we found out, they can be a show stopper and can ruin your vacation at the last-minute.

We’re looking at you Delta!

Part Two:  Sweet Anticipation. Getting There is Half the Fun, Right?!

Vacation Planning Timeline (Source LA Times, 2011)

One Year Ahead

1.    Research Websites, Guidebooks and Travel Agents

2.    Budget Room, Food, Sightseeing and Entertainment Per Day

3.    Refer to Per Diem Allocations for Estimates

4.    Open a Savings Account

5.    Find Calendars of Events for Timing Better Deals

Six Months Ahead

6.    Optional for Traveling Abroad  — Passport

7.    Shop for Appropriate Shoes and Break Them In

8.    Schedule Medical Appointments for Shots

9.    Get Information and Maps from Tourism Offices

10.  Inspect Camera Gear and Use New Equipment Twice

11.   Request Vacation Dates from Work

Three Months Ahead

12.   Book Tickets and Hotel, Including Travel Insurance

13.   Guard Against Pre-Existing Conditions Timeframes

14.   Prepare Tips and References for Your Work Replacement

15.   Apply for a Visa and Rough Out a Daily Itinerary

16.   Begin Filing Critical Trip Information; Use Smartphone and Thumb Drive

17.    Arrange With Cell Provider for International Calls, Data Plans

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