On Tuesday, I talked a little about how my upcoming trip to Europe will be quite the unplanned adventure for someone who is normally a planner. However, I don’t want to be completely blindsided going into a foreign country, so I have done some research and preparation. I have no idea what to expect (except great things), but the research I have done has eased a few of my worries (How do the trains work? How do I order food? How do I get money? Things we don’t even consider not knowing how to do when we are in our own country). So, I wanted to share a bit on how I have gone about planning without planning, if that makes sense…
- Do The Basics: Obviously if you are going out of the country, you need a passport. You should also have an idea of where you are going (mine started as broad as “Italy”), and I suggest getting a book by Rick Steve’s to read more about the country’s culture, how to get around, and important information about specific locations within the country. I read the entire Rick Steve’s book, soaking up information. I imagine myself like a lost child going into a foreign country, not being able to read or speak, although this might be a little extreme for Italy, I don’t know! First-timer here :)
- Decide Locations: I realize that some of the adventurous people out there pick a country and that’s it. They pack up a bag and just go, jump on a train and see where it takes them. Sounds like fun, but it makes planning on a budget a little difficult, especially during peak travel seasons. Using the Rick Steve’s book as our guide, we decided to pick the main cities we wanted to see, where we would sleep and how long we would stay, and how we would get from one city to the next. Having this very broad itinerary was very helpful in booking the basics, but still gives us plenty of flexibility to adventure within each place.
- Make A List: Yes, my favorite, I always have to find a way to incorporate a list. Make a list of the top places and things you want to see within each city. You may even want to prioritize it with the must-see and maybes if time. Remember, some places might require advanced planning to purchase tickets. I think there were only 2-3 sites that required us to book ahead. This was really nice because we don’t risk waiting in lines or not getting to see those monuments, but it still left us with lots of play time where we aren’t on a set schedule the whole trip.
- Stop: After those plans, I didn’t plan anything else, which is a big surprise for me. I will admit that I wrote down a few places to eat, but that was because I’m a picky eater and it was my “just in case I’m lost and starving and I don’t know what to do” list. But that’s it.
For those who are interested, I decided to share my preliminary lists of tip #3.
- 3 Days in Paris: Notre Dame, St. Chapelle, Luxembourg Garden, Louvre, Orsay Museum, Tuileries Garden, Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, Eiffel Tower
- 2 Days in Venice: St. Mark’s Basilica and Square, Rialto Bridge, Grand Canal Tour, Galleria San Marco glass-blowing
- 3 Days in Florence: Bike Rental, San Lorenzo Market, Accademia, Duomo and dome climb, Mercato Centrale, Piazza Della Repubblica, Mercato Nuovo, Medici Palace
- 3 Days in Rome: Colloseum and Roman Forum, Arch of Constantine, National Museum of Rome, Vatican and Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica and climb dome, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Church of San Carlo of 4 Fountains
Just a note, list making is such a personal preference! Some people go to Italy and visit museum after museum or church after church, and for me, that’s not what I wanted to do. Of course, there are a few museums and cathedrals that would be a shame for me not to see, so we are going to the main ones and leaving the rest out. I am so excited to see some of the places I have learned about in my History of Design classes and only seen in slideshow presentations!
It is all very surreal still, even though this adventure is quickly approaching. I am sure it will continue to feel this way until I am packing my clothes and getting on that plane! Any last advice or places to go, see, do, or eat?