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pizz
post Oct 27 2009, 07:54 PM
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My wife and I have just begun to plan our first Italy/Sicily trip, for next May. She is 55, me, 63. We are healthy and active. We are planning on being there between 2 and 3 weeks. We are budget conscious. Any of your informed opinions and information will be greatly appreciated.

Do you recommend a travel agent for flights? We live Hawaii.
Will it be alot more expensive to fly into say Rome and leave from some other city?
We want to spend some time in Tuscanny and Sicily, would you recommend driving, flying, train between those areas?
Can anyone give a range of what we might be spending on places to stay, so that we might have a ballpark expense estimate?
Do you recommend trying to book rooms before we arrive, or can we do well making daily decisions when we are there?
Generally, is a prepackaged tour more or less expensive than seat of the pants making one's own arrangements?

I know that's a lot to ask. But, truth is I will probably have more questions later.

Thank you
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jeremystravels
post Oct 27 2009, 08:39 PM
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Do you recommend a travel agent for flights? We live Hawaii.

You can find cheap flights on search engines like kayak.com for cheap. Check other major hubs as stop over points to make it possibly be cheaper. I am thinking London and Paris may be a cheaper connection with a combination of a local carrier.

Do you recommend trying to book rooms before we arrive, or can we do well making daily decisions when we are there?


I would book rooms before I arrived if it were a 2-3 week trip, but that is me. Finding hotels in Europe last minute is not the easiest of things from what I have heard.

Generally, is a prepackaged tour more or less expensive than seat of the pants making one's own arrangements?


They are always more expensive but sometimes you can find some that fit within a reasonable limit for having the extras that are provided.


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suz123nj
post Oct 29 2009, 08:54 AM
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How exciting to be going to Italy for the first time. But there is a lot of planning that goes into a 2-3 week trip. I used a travel agent the firt time for a European trip but was not as happy with her selections as I was with the 4 trips i planned my self. If you are comfortable on the computer you can find good flights tht are the same prices. Hawaii is a long way from Italy. How do you plan to break up the flights.? you will betravelling for between 20-23 hours. The fee to leave from a different city is not an issue. It may help you decide whether you want to do the research on the flights your self or use an agent. Kayak is a good site and easy to use ; punch in a sample set of dates and see that they suggest. As for booking hotels. I think yo need to decide whre you actually want to go andwht you want ot see first. Divide it into number of nights and then you can get a better idea about the locations and the route you should take. I would look at the brochures from the tour operators and look at the route they suggest. Using a tour is up to the individual;you are on a regularated journey and I have always felt a 2-3 week tour was like getting hors D'ourves. I would be a happy to help in any way to make this a joyful adventure.

Suzan
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suz123nj
post Oct 29 2009, 08:55 AM
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Sorry bout the typos! sick.png
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suz123nj
post Oct 29 2009, 07:52 PM
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More thoughts--
One clear advantage to booking your flight directly through the airlines is the control you gain over your schedule and itinerary -- you decide which airline you fly and when.
Air prices available to the general public increase as the departure date approaches, while the prices offered through a TOUR tend to stay the same. If you have time you can follow the flights you want on www.yapta.com. They will email you if there is a change in price. I followed a few airline flights to Denver on different airlines before choosing the right one for us.

Don't try to do too much because you haven't been before. Ask yourself what are the most important things I want to experience. Is it sights, art, food people? Where are these things in relations to each other? It is hard enough for people our age to fly from the east coast to Europe but you have a long haul but Italy is worth it.

If you want to get me with out the forum email me at rollintoitaly@gmail.com -- planning and advising for trips to Italy have become fun hobby for me and I like to share experiences with fellow travelers.

Suzan
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jacquesl
post Oct 30 2009, 03:06 PM
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Don't forget you can book your flights and hotels through the links right here on Travelpod... and that way, you even support our site, the site that brings you this wonderful blogging engine...all for FREE!


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fjrizzu
post Oct 31 2009, 01:51 PM
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I'm sure you're more than excited about your upcoming trip. I hope I can help with a couple of answers. Using a travel agent can be of valuable assistance. You should however make certain that he or she has experience with/knows the destination. Unfortunately, many travel agents today or simply computer operators and you don't want one of those. They can assist you with flights, hotels, train tickets, etc. Yes, you probably can do it yourself, but ask yourself how valuable your time is, and weigh that against the cost of using an agent. Travel agents charge a fee which often starts at approx $25 or $50 per person for basic services, (Airline, hotel reservations) and move up from there for complete itinerary planning, more complex travel plans.

Packaged tours, in spite of what some one has said here in another post are often cheaper than doing it on your own. The tour opeartors get preferential rates from airlines and hotels and pass them on to their clients. Packaged tours can offer value for money; you may get more bang for the buck. I myself don't care to spend two weeks or so with a bus load of people I've never seen before, but that's me.

Depending on the cities, you can fly into one place in Italy and home from another. The term the airlines use for those cities is common rated. Let's say Rome, Florence and Venice are common rated. That means you can fly into any of them, out of any of them at no additional cost. You could not however, fly into Rome and out of Milan or Naples at the same fare. Things like this may be something a good travel agent can help you with. I would suggest that you fly into Rome and out of Venice as they are at opposite ends of the country and you don't want to be back tracking. Also, Venice is magical, a great place to end your trip and a lot more relaxing than Rome and I happen to love Rome. You will probably have to connect someplace if you leave Italy from Venice. To the best of my knowledge the only airline with nonstop flights between Venice and the USA (New York City) is Delta.

I would suggest that if you go to Sicily you fly there; go into Palermo and out of Catania or vice versa. Sicily is actually an area you may want to consider driving or using a package tour. Several tour operators offer one week (or less) escorted tours of Sicily. If you opt for driving in Sicily, DO NOT get a rental car until the day you actually leave the city you are in, either Catania or Palermo. Traffic in either city is unreal and you couldn't use a car there any way. Pack you bags, check out of the hotel and then get the car and leave for your next destination. Another word on renting a car; do it before you leave the States, it will be a lot less expensive then getting one locally in Italy.

As for driving, while I love to drive any time, any place, you have to keep in mind that this is your first trip to Italy, there are tons of things to see and do and do you want to spend your time looking out the windshiled for road signs, exits and traffic or seeing the sights? Also keep in mind that gas is almost stupidly expensive, many areas in city centers are closed to cars (central Florence for example) and that parking at hotels is NOT cheap. Another thing to keep in mind about driving in Italy is that the Italians drive MUCH, MUCH FASTER than we do. I'm not saying don't drive at all, just think carefully about it, weigh your options. One of the places you may want to drive a while is in Tuscany. THere are a lot of small, charming towns and cities where a car is the best way maybe the only way to get to them.

I would make hotel reservations in advance. If it were my first trip to Italy, I would not want to wing it, hope I could get reservations at the time of my arrival in a strange city.

I hope this helps. Have fun planning your trip and buona vacanza!
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