I'm getting ready to go on vacation!! For most of my adult life, going on vacation was not a big deal. We love to travel, and it was not unusual for us to go on at least 2 or 3 big vacations each year, with lots of smaller trips in between.
But then things changed. It started with the pandemic and the world getting shut down in 2020. And then just as things were starting to open back up, we decided to move to South Carolina, which kept us busy for most of 2021.
And to be honest, some of the Covid travel restrictions - including testing requirements to return to the U.S. after a trip abroad - kept me away from attempting a trip outside the U.S. until recently.
But the time has finally come. We have a 2-week trip to Italy planned for the beginning of November. And this is the first of several trips we have lined up as we head into the first half of 2023. As excited as I am to finally get away and return to our traveling adventures, I'm a little nervous too. Do I even remember how to "vacation"? Keep reading to find out!
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Planning, Planning, Planning!
So, I am that annoying person that typically has trips planned out 12 months in advance. This upcoming trip was a bit different, however.
The way this trip started was that my favorite band - The Cure - announced a European tour for the fall of 2022, and one of the dates of the tour happened to fall on my birthday. Tickets went on sale in December of 2021, so I did something I rarely do and bought the concert tickets for Milan and decided I would figure out how I was going to get there later (#JustBuyTheTickets).
Even though I bought those tickets almost a year ago, I didn't book flights or really start planning the trip until July of this year. I think I kept waiting for something bad to happen. The ups and downs of everything during Covid - the concert is canceled, the concert is on, the concert is canceled again - honestly left me apprehensive that this tour wasn't really going to happen.
So while I definitely feel good about the plans I've made, I also feel a lot less prepared than I normally would be for a trip. Who knows, maybe that will be a good thing! We'll have a chance to be more free with our time and what we do while we are there.
Always Be Prepared!
We were so used to traveling before, that the things that I needed to do to get ready for a trip were automatic. But with this trip, I keep thinking I'm forgetting something. Which is probably why I woke up in the middle of the night a few nights back in a panic, thinking that I needed to check the expiration date on our passports (even though I knew in the back of my head that they were fine).
Since I am currently running through all of these things in my own mind, here are some of my tips for the things you need to do BEFORE you go on your next vacation.
Tip #1: Check the expiration of your passports (if traveling out of the country) and/or your driver's license. Keep in mind that for many countries, your passport cannot expire within 6 months of your date of travel. If you don't have a passport and are traveling domestically, you may want to consider getting a Real ID if you don't have one yet.
Tip #2: Even though Covid travel restrictions have been lifted almost everywhere, be prepared for them to change. If you've been vaccinated, take a picture of your vaccine card. Take masks with you, even if they are no longer required where you are traveling. Rules can change with little to no notice. Take home tests with you as well.
Tip #3: Make your credit and debit card companies aware that you are traveling. And make sure you know how to contact them if you need to while you are away. Every credit card company has an app now that you can put on your phone and monitor activity on your card. Keep an eye on it while you are traveling to make sure you don't have any fraudulent charges occurring. And always travel with more than one card in case one gets compromised while you are gone.
Tip #4: Prep your house before you leave. Stop the mail and newspaper delivery, or ask a neighbor to pick those things up for you while you are gone. Let a trusted neighbor know you will be gone and consider giving them access to get inside your house if needed.
Pack Like A Pro!
I am also one of those annoying people that pack for a trip a week in advance. When I am going on a longer trip and I know I need to optimize space in my luggage, I like to plan out what I'm going to wear each day. This is in stark contrast to my husband, who usually just throws some stuff in a suitcase right before we head to the airport.
As I'm writing this, we are less than a week out and I've only packed two things - my electric converter kit and a rain jacket. I do plan on spending some time over the weekend getting packed, and I have started a list of things I need to remember to take, but this "last minute packing" is pretty unusual for me. Here's some of my packing tips.
Tip #5: To create more room in your suitcase and to help prevent wrinkles, roll your clothes instead of folding them. Packing cubes are also a great option to help optimize space and only cost around $20 or so. Click here to check out a set on Amazon.
Tip #6: We'll be in Italy at the beginning of November, so the weather will likely be sunny and warmer during the day, and chillier at night. Layers is the key! I like to start with a base of a t-shirt or lightweight short-sleeved shirt for every day, and then pack a couple jackets and a couple of scarves. Not only does this allow you to adapt to different temperatures, it also allows you to change your look each day while minimizing the clothes you take.
Tip #7: All you need is a couple pairs of comfortable shoes. Unless you have plans for a fancy night out, don't pack fancy shoes. If you are going to Europe, you will be walking - a lot! In addition, the sidewalks in Europe can be very uneven and might even be cobblestone. Two pairs of comfortable shoes should be all you need.
Tip #8: One of the best investments you can make if you travel and check bags is a luggage scale. There is nothing worse then getting to the airport to check in for your flight, and finding out your bag is too heavy. I've seen many a desperate soul frantically trying to stuff some of their clothing into their carry on while standing at the check in counter. You can get one for around $10, and it will be the best $10 investment you can make. Click here to purchase one on Amazon.
Tip #9: I have said it before and I will say it again... if you are going to Europe, take Rick Steves with you! In my opinion, Rick Steves is THE expert on Europe. I have used his books every time I've gone to Europe, and have never been disappointed with any of his recommendations on everything from hotels to restaurants to tour guides. He also includes great walking tours that you can do on your own, along with lots of other tips. I'll have his Italy book with me the whole trip. You can order yours here.
Tip #10: Make sure you have important papers - and copies of important papers - with you. If traveling abroad, you will need your passport. I also highly recommend taking a picture of your passport just in case it gets lost or stolen. Covid vaccination cards are no longer required in most places, but it's not a bad idea to keep yours with your passport just in case. Take pictures of the front and back of your credit cards as well. Unfortunately, pickpockets are pretty prevalent in Europe, and particularly at tourist attractions. Be smart about what you carry with you and where you carry it. If you don't need it with you, leave your passport in the safe in your hotel room.
And We're Off!
Ready or not, we're heading out in a couple of days! I'm looking forward to just getting away for a couple of weeks and immersing ourselves in the culture of another country. I've missed the excitement of visiting a new place. And while I'm a little anxious, I have a feeling that will all melt away as soon as we step off the plane.
Make sure you follow me on social media - FB, IG and Twitter - for posts throughout our travels. And expect a blog post with all my tips about Italy after we return! Ciao!
Has it been awhile since you took a big trip? Are you feeling some apprehension about traveling? If so, let me know! Comment below or e-mail me at email@example.com.
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