I’ve begun to travel as of 2016. Real travel. Not a trip to the beach or to a neighboring state but what I consider “real” travel. At 50 years old I set out on my first-ever international trip. My destination… Rome, Italy.
It was 10 years in the making.
In 2006 I got my passport because I was “determined” to go to Italy though it had been my #1 wish list destination for even longer than that. Every time Under the Tuscan Sun would show up on a cable channel my desire was rekindled. Still, I never managed to allow myself to actually plan a trip and book travel. No travel companion. Not enough money. Not enough vacation time. Not enough… whatever. You know how it goes. I’m good at talking myself out of things I really want to do. Especially when it comes to spending big money on myself.
In October of 2016 I reached my breaking point. Shit or get off the pot as the saying goes. Or as my daughter says, it was my mid-life crisis. It was a “now or never” moment, or so I told myself. Doing a little research of where to stay, reading some other opinions about the various rioni (districts) of Rome and investigating what to see – I sat down (after writing down two hotel names then let my grandkids “Pick a hand” to determine at which of the two would stay) and booked my travel one night. Just like that. A month later at the end of October I, as a single, middle-aged woman, solo traveler was on a plane headed (after a short stop in some place called New Jersey) to Italy for my one and a half week adventure.
Sounds easy, right? In some ways it was. In others, notsomuch. Two days before I was to depart my son was in a car accident and my beloved, loving dog died unexpectedly and on the day of departure after checking my bags I realized I left my phone at the house! If that isn’t the universe trying to disrupt my plans… I’m not sure what is.
Since I’m not really sure how I’m going to unpack my trip for you (see what I did there?!) I think I’ll start with how I booked my trip.
Travel Sites. They are both good and bad. You still have to do a reasonable amount of cross-checking to make certain you’re getting a good deal and the hotels they have are decent – whatever decent means for you. Since I’m not a high-end travel type, I get a pretty broad range of options. Picking the right one for me comes down to cost, availability and hotel destination.
I typically use Expedia for booking travel. I also do a good amount of glancing and cross-checking on Trip Advisor and Hotels.com. Some of the low fare watch sites can come back with discount fares thought for me I have yet to book anything from them. I tend to like one stop shopping that come with bundle deals. I’m also not a fan of AirBnB. I don’t think they rates are all that great, to be honest. I’m sure there are some good deals and some people rave about it, but once all the fees are added in… I’d rather just stay at a hotel for the same cost per night, oftentimes less than I can find on AirBnB.
Not knowing all the ins and outs of travel bundle deals, I’ll be the first to admit I’m in no way an expert at what to watch for, be aware of or avoid entirely. What does seem to be the case, at least from what I’ve noticed is that the flights seem to be a little more direct and a little less expensive than what I have cross-checked at the airline site directly. As with anything it depends on where, when, timing, stops, etc. Your experience may vary.
When it comes to selecting the hotel, I tend to prefer the smaller hotels rather than the chains we’re used to in the United States. I also prefer to be in neighborhoods that have a vibe to them. This combination tends to get me in the 3 star hotel range. Then it’s all about reviews. What have other travelers said. What was their experience at the hotel. Is the hotel responsive, the staff friendly, etc.
In a nutshell, I do just enough research then pull the trigger. If I go too deep and pontificate too long, I’m stuck in analysis paralysis. I also didn’t want this first trip to be completely planned out beyond the ‘how am I getting there’ and ‘where am I staying’ part.
Read more about…
Day 1, Arriving in Rome
Day 2, Ostia Antica
Day 3, Rome
Day 4, Vatican City
Day 5, Rome
Day 6, Rome
Day 7, Venice
Day 8, Rome
Day 9, Homeward Bound