Trip to Italy

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ThebakerandtheChef
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Trip to Italy

Post by ThebakerandtheChef » Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:29 pm

My wonderful mother, the original chef, broke the news to us last week that for her 80th birthday bash she wants to go to Italy and she wants my whole family to go. We were of course extremely excited. Reality then set in. Though she has always been very generous, she is going to pay for all our lodging and rental cars while were there, she told us we'd need to find our way there on our own. The trip is scheduled to happen in the summer of 2020 for two weeks. I just got my first credit card, Chase Sapphire Preferred, since I was in my 20's because Dave Ramsey said I shouldn't. My thinking is that through Credit Card Rewards programs I could save some money on the 5 round trip airfares I'll need to purchase for this trip. Any thoughts or suggestions about a plan to make this trip a wonderful experience frugally?

Chef

gretah
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by gretah » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:01 pm

There are some new airlines competing with the big companies on flights between US and Europe.

I just checked Norweigan.com for Los Angeles - Rome in June. $1,100 round trip.

Take a look at flights.google.com for other cheap airlines.

I hear Kayak.com is good, too.

Just book the flight directly with the airline, not with a third party site (like Kayak).

You could also try a cheap flight to Amsterdam or London and take a cheap puddle jumper to Italy. RyanAir.com is one but they have strikes. Look for a competitor.

Credit card reward points won't work with this short notice. There are only a few seats per flight set aside for mileage point buyers and they fill quickly.

Bon voyage!

MathWizard
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by MathWizard » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:18 pm

Look at lots of airlines, and lots of airports that are close.
Many of the cheap trips to the European continent go through Frankfurt.

With 5 people, you can afford to drive a bit to another airport if you can save say $200/ticket.

A trick to avoid parking costs for 2 weeks is to have someone drive you to the airport and
rent a car for one day to be returned to the airport. The next day, you drive the rental car to
the airport, and the rental car shuttle will take you to your gate. No parking fee.
You reverse the process on the way back. 2 weeks can rack up quite a parking bill.
Also, your car stays safe at your home garage rather than in a parking lot ready to be
hailed on.

If you are going to Rome, the Fiumicino airport (FCO) is generally cheaper, and has an express
train into town.

If you are trying to save money, you may not get the best seats. Typically the 4 or 5 seats in
the middle are not as desirable, so they are cheaper.

Have a nice trip.

HappyWorkerBee
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by HappyWorkerBee » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:22 pm

The most predictable time to buy inexpensive airline tickets is right after Thanksgiving (specifically the Tuesday after, though the whole black Friday weekend is heavily discounted from what I've seen). So if you've all got your dates picked out far in advance you could buy your tickets then. If the economy is in the tank, there will likely also be sales closer to when you're planning on going, but that's less predictable.

If your plan is to use points from a credit card to buy airline tickets, do the math and check that your normal spending will generate enough points to buy the tickets you want to get. From what I've seen, it takes a whole lot of spending to generate small rewards. 5 round-trip tickets from North America to Europe is a big reward.

aristotelian
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by aristotelian » Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:53 pm

It's going to be tough to use mileage bonuses to pay for this trip, since you probably won't find one for the right airline with cheap flights to Italy, and 30,000 or even 50,000 miles probably won't be enough for an international trip. I think you are better off getting a couple of cards with decent cash bonuses to help defray as much of the costs as possible. I just opened a Bank of America Cash Rewards card ($200 back for first $500 of purchases). I also highly recommend CapOne Quicksilver Cash Rewards ($150 back for first $500 purchases). The Quicksilver card also has no foreign transaction fees so it makes a great all purpose card for your trip as well.

Tdubs
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Tdubs » Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:31 pm

Try a lesser known airline like TAP Portugal where you can save with an extended layover. Drove a very long way to JFK to catch the flight, and did a brief layover in Lisbon of one day--found an apartment in the old section of the city for a hundred bucks online. Then flew on to Rome the next day. Saved $300 per ticket compared to any other airline. But I'll admit, it was an exhausting way to start the vacation.

From this, I learned that Lisbon is a great city and inexpensive. Want to go back.

Ztx
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Ztx » Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:42 pm

Play the credit card sign up bonus game to help fund the trip if you can meet the credit score and minimum spending requirement (often like : spend 3,000 in the first 3 month to get 60K miles bonus etc). See what airline has a hub at the closest major airport and sign up for several credit cards (for American Airlines, for example, there are at least 2 cards you can sign up for and get 120K miles - _could_ be enough for a roundtrip in economy).

Don't worry about booking the flight directly to Italy if it's expensive. Looks flights to other major airports : Paris CDG, Madrid, London, Frankfurt. There is a lot of inexpensive flights within the Europe on discounts airlines (think EasyJet and other airlines)... Once we flew from US to Paris and then just caught a cheap flight to Venice.

Good luck!

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Watty
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Watty » Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:50 pm

If you don't mind sharing where you would be flying from you might get better suggestions.

If you don't already have them then start applying for your passports. If there is some glitch like you need to get a copy of birth certificates it can take a while to get all the paperwork together and get your passport. If you already have passports be sure to check the expiration dates, some countries required that your passport is valid for six months past your expected return date. Kids passports expire sooner so check the dates on the paper passport, I have heard of families getting to the airport only to find that one of the kids does not have a valid passport.

For five people you are also looking at over $600 just for the passports if you don't already have them.
ThebakerandtheChef wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:29 pm
Any thoughts or suggestions about a plan to make this trip a wonderful experience frugally?
One of the ways that I am able to travel on a reasonable budget is to see where I can get great deals on flights and then decide where to go based in part on where the best deals are that year. If she is flexible in where you go then you might see if there would be a less expensive place to go.

You can look at the Google Flights map and just enter Europe as the destination and it will show you the airfares to most of the major cities.
ThebakerandtheChef wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:29 pm
Reality then set in.

.....The trip is scheduled to happen in the summer of 2020 for two weeks.
Another reality check, Italy is pretty hot in the summer and air conditioning is often not up to American standards so be sure to research that. That could be pretty challenging for an 80 year old, or younger kids.

As I recall late spring and early fall are the best times to go to Italy. If possible try to do this in early June if you do go in the summer.

She will also need to travel insurance and you typically need to buy that within a week or two of when you make the first payment for the trip so that preexisting conditions are not a problem. There have been threads on that which you can lookup. Part of the reason for this is that Medicare is not valid outside the US, a supplement may have some coverage but she would need more and evacuation insurance in case she gets sick overseas and needs special transportation to get home.

It sounds like she is well intentioned but you might want to see if she would like to do some other family trip that might be more practical. I am not a "cruise person" but many people like cruises and you can often find good deals on the Vacations To Go website.

https://www.vacationstogo.com/

aristotelian
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by aristotelian » Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:59 pm

Also, check out WOW and Icelandair. We were able to get tickets to the UK for $400 in June.

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Watty
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Watty » Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:05 pm

Ztx wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:42 pm
Don't worry about booking the flight directly to Italy if it's expensive. Looks flights to other major airports : Paris CDG, Madrid, London, Frankfurt. There is a lot of inexpensive flights within the Europe on discounts airlines (think EasyJet and other airlines)... Once we flew from US to Paris and then just caught a cheap flight to Venice.
Be careful with the discounts airlines, a couple of possible problems;

1) Your flight from the US could be 8 hours late and you might miss your discount flight. Since it was booked seperately you may have to buy all new tickets.

2) Their luggage limitations are minimal and strictly enforced so you can get stuck with lots of last minute luggage fees.

3) They often use secondary airports that are far from the main city or the main airport. The transportation fees and time to get into the city or the main airport can add up.

That said using discount airlines like that can be done and I done it.
Last edited by Watty on Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

HornedToad
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by HornedToad » Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:05 pm

Where do you live/Where is the closest regional hubs that you would fly out of.

http://www.awardhacker.com/ Shows flight paths available between destinations and how many miles it takes to redeem on which mileage programs, routes that are taken and what else transfers to the airline.

From there you can then see about getting the points with the respective airlines and checking their availability. Economy is generally available for most, but business class is very tight.

Ztx
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Ztx » Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:39 pm

Watty wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 10:05 pm
Ztx wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:42 pm
Don't worry about booking the flight directly to Italy if it's expensive. Looks flights to other major airports : Paris CDG, Madrid, London, Frankfurt. There is a lot of inexpensive flights within the Europe on discounts airlines (think EasyJet and other airlines)... Once we flew from US to Paris and then just caught a cheap flight to Venice.
Be careful with the discounts airlines, a couple of possible problems;

1) Your flight from the US could be 8 hours late and you might miss your discount flight. Since it was booked seperately you may have to buy all new tickets.

2) Their luggage limitations are minimal and strictly enforced so you can get stuck with lots of last minute luggage fees.

3) They often use secondary airports that are far from the main city or the main airport. The transportation fees and time to get into the city or the main airport can add up.

That said using discount airlines like that can be done and I done it.
Thanks Watty! Those are all very good points.
I've traveled on discount airlines few times in Europe and while definitely not the greatest experience it's often quite a bit cheaper so was worth for us.

Pacific
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Pacific » Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:38 pm

Having spent a month in Italy earlier this year, and realizing you have two weeks, I hope you consider, in order, the following regions: 1. Tuscany; 2. Sicily. For cities, you can't see them all, so, in order, 1. Florence; 2. Rome. In Tuscany, there are so many cities and places, I hesitate to make recommendations, but we stayed a week in Montepulciano and used it as our center. It was unbelievable.

You also might consider a 2-week land tour with Tauck or a 1-week tour with Tauck and then a week on your own.

http://www.tauck.com/search.aspx?destin ... gth=1+week
http://www.tauck.com/search.aspx?destin ... =1-2+weeks

Rick Steves also has tours which are less expensive. https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/italy

I spent most of my life traveling without a "guide." However, once you experience a great guide, you will never go without one. Most of the well regarded tour companies have only the best guides. They are invaluable.

HereToLearn
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by HereToLearn » Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:47 pm

As others have commented, using frequent flyer points to book five tickets may be impossible. You have a year and a half to save and plan, so you might want to consider opening CC that offer 50K points after spending $3000 in the first month. Those 50K points can either be used to pay for $500 in airfare or converted to gift cards. See The Points Guy for current offers.

I purchased tickets in mid-April for an early June departure. I would not leave your purchase that late, especially since you need to coordinate your travel dates with your mother's plans. I had some flexibility so I booked a Monday departure, as it was the lowest fare.

I had to fly in and out of Rome and then take trains where I wanted to go within Italy, but the tickets were only $780 each on American. Could not obtain aisle seats on the outbound so I paid extra for the emergency row seats.

I saw that you mentioned renting a car. The trains are amazing and so easy. If you book early, they are also quite reasonable.

Enjoy!

Jags4186
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Jags4186 » Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:50 pm

ThebakerandtheChef wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 7:29 pm
My wonderful mother, the original chef, broke the news to us last week that for her 80th birthday bash she wants to go to Italy and she wants my whole family to go. We were of course extremely excited. Reality then set in. Though she has always been very generous, she is going to pay for all our lodging and rental cars while were there, she told us we'd need to find our way there on our own. The trip is scheduled to happen in the summer of 2020 for two weeks. I just got my first credit card, Chase Sapphire Preferred, since I was in my 20's because Dave Ramsey said I shouldn't. My thinking is that through Credit Card Rewards programs I could save some money on the 5 round trip airfares I'll need to purchase for this trip. Any thoughts or suggestions about a plan to make this trip a wonderful experience frugally?

Chef
5 roundtrip tickets will cost you $5000-$6000. You and your wife should open Venture cards with $750 bonus after $4000 spend, that will be worth $1660. Then both of you open Arrival + cards for $700 bonus after $5000 spend. That’s $1600 total more bucks. You have a Sapphire Card with hopefully $500 bonus after $4000 spend, that’s $540 total, have your wife do the same that’s $1080 total. 2x Capital One Savor cards should get you another $1080, and then you can do 2x BOA Premium Rewards cards for another $800 or so.

All that taken together should buy you 5 tickets. Don’t worry about points or getting maximum value—it will be very difficult if not impossible to find 5 award tickets on the same flight for the exact days you want them.

billfromct
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by billfromct » Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:53 pm

Do you have to go in the Summer? Hot, crowded & more expensive.

The best time would be April or May, but not the week before or after Easter.

You will have (it's required) to buy insurance from the car rental agency; credit card won't cover anything. Also you should get an international driver's license. It may not be required to rent the car but I believe it could cause problems if you don't have one & get stopped by the police. Check "the Google".

Driving in the cities, along the Amalfi Coast & around Sorrento can be very stressful but the small towns & countryside is no problem.

bill

traveler901
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by traveler901 » Wed Dec 12, 2018 12:22 am

With the Chase card you will probably be able to book two of the five tickets using points. For best redemption value transfer to an airline partner (like United) and book it that way.

And stop listening to Dave Ramsey.

criticalmass
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by criticalmass » Wed Dec 12, 2018 1:46 am

aristotelian wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:53 pm
I also highly recommend CapOne Quicksilver Cash Rewards ($150 back for first $500 purchases).
I like the $200 Quicksilver bonus for the first $1000 in purchases (3 months) better.

CMD1
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by CMD1 » Wed Dec 12, 2018 1:55 am

Maybe we were lucky but we got $600 tickets from the west coast to Paris last August. Do you have more than one airport within a few hours of you that you could fly out of?

For credit cards, seems lots of cards are offering $200 bonuses these days. 2% cash back from Fidelity and others is good if you want cash rewards.

02nz
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by 02nz » Wed Dec 12, 2018 2:13 am

aristotelian wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 9:59 pm
Also, check out WOW and Icelandair. We were able to get tickets to the UK for $400 in June.
Wow is likely to go out of business soon, so I wouldn’t buy a ticket on that airline.

02nz
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by 02nz » Wed Dec 12, 2018 2:16 am

billfromct wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:53 pm
Do you have to go in the Summer? Hot, crowded & more expensive.

The best time would be April or May, but not the week before or after Easter.

You will have (it's required) to buy insurance from the car rental agency; credit card won't cover anything. Also you should get an international driver's license. It may not be required to rent the car but I believe it could cause problems if you don't have one & get stopped by the police. Check "the Google".

Driving in the cities, along the Amalfi Coast & around Sorrento can be very stressful but the small towns & countryside is no problem.

bill
Totally incorrect on the insurance. One of the major benefits of a card like the Sapphire Preferred is the car rental insurance. You have to decline the rental comapny’s coverage for the credit card benefit to kick in.

And there’s no such thing as an international license. There’s an international “permit” which is of little value. I’ve rented cars all over Europe and elsewhere, no one ever asks for anything but the US license.

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Hyperborea
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Hyperborea » Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:13 am

02nz wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 2:16 am
Totally incorrect on the insurance. One of the major benefits of a card like the Sapphire Preferred is the car rental insurance. You have to decline the rental comapny’s coverage for the credit card benefit to kick in.

And there’s no such thing as an international license. There’s an international “permit” which is of little value. I’ve rented cars all over Europe and elsewhere, no one ever asks for anything but the US license.
The rental agency in Florence wanted to see it and so did the cops who stopped us outside Sienna at the roadside traffic stop (they were stopping everybody and checking documents). I've also needed it to rent a car elsewhere in the world (i.e. Japan). It may not be enforced everywhere but I'd sure hate to destroy a driving trip in Italy over $40.

The Chase Sapphire card only covers collision damage but not liability. In Europe that's ok since by law the rental cars come with millions of Euros of liability coverage. That's not so in other parts of the world (i.e. the US).

The OP should also make sure that he is ok with driving a manual transmission. Most of the rental cars are manual and even if you book an automatic they may not have one when you arrive. Get as small a vehicle as you can get away with since the streets will be narrow. If you go to any of the small towns (i.e. hill towns in Tuscany) leave the car outside the city unless it is small and you are confident with your driving. If leaving the car make sure that nothing of value or apparent value is left in sight and hide anything before you get to the parking area.
It’s hard to win an argument with a smart person, it's damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person. - Bill Murray

friuli_croatan
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by friuli_croatan » Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:47 am

Fly to Ireland first. Get in the EU then take cheap flight from Dublin to Italy. Down side to this is concept is baggage.

rich126
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by rich126 » Wed Dec 12, 2018 8:34 am

Here are just a few things to consider (I'm assuming you haven't done much international travel).

1. I think people should always travel with two different credit cards and two different ATM cards. At times things go wrong, cards get canceled for possible misuse, etc. and fixing that while overseas is a headache.

2. Ideally the cards should be Mastercard and Visa. American Express is a bit less accepted and Discover much less. Also a number of credit cards now will not charge any foreign transaction fees, in the past it often was in the 3% range.

3. When you use your ATM card to get cash, it is usually best to get as much cash as you think you will spend since the fee is usually a set fee and not based on the cash you withdraw. Usually I just get it from the airport since I may need it for a cab ride, train station, etc.

4. I don't do the car rental thing but you need to do some research here with insurance since Italy is one of the countries that a lot of credit cards will not provide insurance for. Apparently Chase does but double check. And personally, there are a ton of places in Italy I would never drive (Rome, Naples, etc.) due to the traffic and crime.

5. With one credit card bonus you aren't going to get enough points to make a big difference for 5 people. Not to mention if you want to use points you will be limited to availability. Economy flights to a lot of Europe this year have been pretty low at times.

6. I'm not sure how agile your 80 yr old mother is but Italy can involve a lot of walking up/down steps and over uneven terrain. And you really need to minimize luggage. I see too many naive travelers bringing huge bags and trying to carry them in train stations, through airports, into small hotels, etc. Travel light, you'll be glad that you left a lot of supposedly necessary stuff at home. Not to mention baggage fees if you have no status.

7. Since this won't happen until 2020, once you figure out what airline you will fly, you might want to sign up for that airline's credit card since some will give you free baggage for yourself and at least one traveling companion (and some cards will give you a couple of bags to check for free).

8. Make sure you notify your credit cards and banks (for the ATMs) that you will be traveling overseas, otherwise they may view charges overseas and fraud and cancel the cards.

9. If you have an iPhone/Android you can insert the credit cards into their Wallet apps. Even if you may not use the phone form of payment, it could come in handy if a card is stolen. I've been told (hopefully correctly) that someone like Chase can quickly send you an electronic card update instead of you waiting for a delivery service to deliver you a card physically while out of the country. (Never had to do this so I may be completely wrong here!)

10. Make copies of your passports and store them separately. Some people will scan them and email the copies to themselves but that depends on your comfort level with storing that kind of data online.

theplayer11
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by theplayer11 » Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:03 am

02nz wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 2:16 am
billfromct wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:53 pm
Do you have to go in the Summer? Hot, crowded & more expensive.

The best time would be April or May, but not the week before or after Easter.

You will have (it's required) to buy insurance from the car rental agency; credit card won't cover anything. Also you should get an international driver's license. It may not be required to rent the car but I believe it could cause problems if you don't have one & get stopped by the police. Check "the Google".

Driving in the cities, along the Amalfi Coast & around Sorrento can be very stressful but the small towns & countryside is no problem.

bill
Totally incorrect on the insurance. One of the major benefits of a card like the Sapphire Preferred is the car rental insurance. You have to decline the rental comapny’s coverage for the credit card benefit to kick in.

And there’s no such thing as an international license. There’s an international “permit” which is of little value. I’ve rented cars all over Europe and elsewhere, no one ever asks for anything but the US license.
Italy and Ireland require you purchase collision damage waiver. Some credit cards do cover this, but very few.

edit--apparently Chase cards cover this

Shallowpockets
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Shallowpockets » Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:53 am

5 people in a small rental car. Plus luggage. Keep that in mind. Look up some cars you might rent and maybe you all can do a trial run on getting into the car, all 5 of you, with your bags.

I would not want to travel with five people. Keep in mind, when do we eat? Where? Where to go? How far will/can I walk? When do people wake up or want to go back to hotel. Times you need to be somewhere. These things every day you are there. All the little things of life, all trying to be done together in the same time frame.
Another note on the use of the low cost airlines mentioned here. You are flying with an 80 year old. Many of the low cost flights may well entail a much longer overall time to get to the destination. Could be 30+ hours using 2/3 stops. You need to think of that when booking. I am a frugal traveller and even I am willing to pay a couple hundred extra to get somewhere in 15 hours verses 30 hours plus all the nickel and dime stuff on WOW, Spirit, Frontief, Norwegian.
If you are trying to fund this with points and miles it seems like some financial shenanigans. In BH world you would be best to afford it without maneuvering your finances around like that.

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Watty
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Watty » Wed Dec 12, 2018 10:28 am

billfromct wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:53 pm
Driving in the cities, along the Amalfi Coast & around Sorrento can be very stressful but the small towns & countryside is no problem.
For six people and their luggage you would need some sort of van which would be even more challenging.

For just two weeks you could easily spend all your time in the major cities where you would neither need or want a car so I don't see any need to rent one. If you have not been to Europe before it is had to appreciate how good their public transportation is in most cities and urban tourist areas. Even in smaller towns the train station will usually be located near where you would want to go as tourist.

One advantage of not having a car, much less a van, is that you can stay in hotels that are located in the old parts of cities where there is a lot more character. If you need a hotel with parking you may need to stay in the outskirts of the old parts of the cities. Many hotel do not have parking or charge a lot extra for it.

Even if you are not religious if you go to Rome be sure to see the Vatican, but you should get your tickets as soon as you know your travel dates. The Rick Steeves books are very good and will have suggested itineraries and will tell you which tickets you should buy ahead of time.

michaeljc70
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by michaeljc70 » Wed Dec 12, 2018 11:18 am

friuli_croatan wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:47 am
Fly to Ireland first. Get in the EU then take cheap flight from Dublin to Italy. Down side to this is concept is baggage.
This is similar to my advice. Get to whatever major city you can the cheapest and then take a cheap flight on something like Ryan or EasyJet to Italy. Or if the international flight brings you close to the area in Italy you are going to, you can take the train.

Even if you get enough miles for some of the tickets, those flights might be much more expensive (than competing flights) to buy for the remaining tickets if you all want to fly together. Getting multiple tickets to Europe on one plane in the peak season probably won't be easy even if you have the miles.

Super Hans
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Super Hans » Wed Dec 12, 2018 11:44 am

Flight costs are an empirical question for Kayak or the like, but I never tried pairing a mainline transatlantic flight with a low-cost carrier for continuing intra-European flights. From New York and Washington, I've found that the best deals almost always have been a single ticket with one connection, such as British Airways to Rome via London or Air France to Prague via Paris. Sometimes I've forced short stopovers for free bonus sightseeing, but usually quick connections have worked out easily. The direct flights usually have been significantly more expensive.

Fares have seemed really good lately. I suppose it's too early to know for 2020, but I've booked a couple of 2019 trips already.

rjbraun
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by rjbraun » Wed Dec 12, 2018 1:19 pm

Air Italy (fka Meridiana) has low-cost fares from US to various cities in Italy. We have visited Italy annually for the past few years but have never flown Air Italy and can't speak to service or reliability. In my experience, fares into Milan (MXP) can tend to be cheaper than to Rome (FCO), ymmv. That said, as a general matter I would prefer to fly into the airport that makes the most sense in terms of travel logistics than try to save on airfare and then spend precious time on the ground in Italy to get around. In my opinion, this would be especially true if traveling in a party of five and an elderly traveler.

https://www.airitaly.com/en-US

Hockey10
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Hockey10 » Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:15 pm

Shallowpockets wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:53 am

I would not want to travel with five people. Keep in mind, when do we eat? Where? Where to go? How far will/can I walk? When do people wake up or want to go back to hotel. Times you need to be somewhere. These things every day you are there. All the little things of life, all trying to be done together in the same time frame.
I once travelled to Italy with a group of 8. We managed to survive, but it was challenging at times (and something that I would never do again).

Here is an example of a typical problem. One day we were all supposed to meet in the hotel lobby at 0900. Seven of us were there on time. Not everyone had a cell phone, so one of us went looking for person number 8. As soon as #7 went upstairs in the tiny elevator, # 8 arrived in the lobby via the stairwell. By 0915, we were all finally in the lobby. Meanwhile, 3 separate cars (driven by extended family members who lived in Italy) were waiting for us outside the hotel, all blocking traffic lanes on a busy street.

Other times there were disagreements about where we would go and how long to spend at a specific tourist attraction.

The cars are smaller there, so with a large group, the transportation choices are important. We hired a limo company with an 8 passenger van to get to/from the Rome airport, and this worked out very well.

p.s. my wife and I returned recently from a trip to Italy. With just 2 of us on this trip, it was very relaxing and enjoyable. :happy

Glockenspiel
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Glockenspiel » Wed Dec 12, 2018 4:30 pm

Pacific wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 11:38 pm
Having spent a month in Italy earlier this year, and realizing you have two weeks, I hope you consider, in order, the following regions: 1. Tuscany; 2. Sicily. For cities, you can't see them all, so, in order, 1. Florence; 2. Rome. In Tuscany, there are so many cities and places, I hesitate to make recommendations, but we stayed a week in Montepulciano and used it as our center. It was unbelievable.
Montepulciano was fantastic. When I think of Italy, I think of that small town. My wife and I went to Italy 4 years ago and also spent time in Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza, and Siena. All were great. I loved these little towns at the top of a hill, with great views, amazing charm, great people, and great wine.

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Nestegg_User
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Nestegg_User » Wed Dec 12, 2018 5:20 pm

other threads on Italy have noted:

get an international permit, Italy has sections (Tuscany, etc) that check/require it

Be VERY aware of restricted areas, areas that are restricted to ONLY residents and have no parking— particularly in Florence (we had a lot of walking to do there, you must park a long way out of center) but also significant parts around the Vatican City (...and BTW, getting a guide there can be very valuable, ours was a curator and allowed us to bypass the HUGE lines, pass through areas that normal tourists could never get through, and could also move ahead of other lines (wink, wink to other employees, so obviously she must have been well regarded) — it was a big win and well worth it and saved a huge amount of time)

be aware of any international permits needed if traveling outside of Italy; the permits can be obtained when crossing into Austria, France, or Switzerland (didn’t go to Slovenia, so don’t know there) but the fines can be huge if you don’t have them (and often need to be paid by CASH not credit card)

pickpockets are everywhere, especially around tourist spots in tourist areas- - expect “grandmotherly” elders, mothers with babies, and hordes of kids to approach. Use a money belt and keep purses close. (cameras are a sure sign of a potential mark for them)

Read up on specific areas, for example in St marks square in Venice you will be charged if you avail yourself of the chairs, and download a map of the area (while some areas might have english subtitle signs, few do, and you will want to know how to get around or how to get back to your hotel or vehicle). we found that a lot of italian towns require a lot of walking; narrow streets with limited parking (if you are allowed into the town) but generally pedestrian friendly, except Rome. The main highways are easy to navigate but smaller roads can be more challenging, especially roundabouts...careful, the talk about italian drivers is true.

Some areas might have more limited service hours (we found San Remo to be limited, but it’s not really a “tourist” location, but rather more a typical small italian city). Larger typical tourist areas might have longer hours but also suffer from throngs of people trying to get through (often in large groups as the tour group hits).

WhiteMaxima
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by WhiteMaxima » Wed Dec 12, 2018 5:57 pm

Summer time in Roma? Better think it twice.

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legio XX
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by legio XX » Wed Dec 12, 2018 8:45 pm

Just came back from my third trip to Italy this year and may be off again in a couple of weeks - depending on when they finally get the date set and if I can find a cheap enough flight. Would really hate to try that for five people so you might consider splurging on the flights. How often will she turn 80?
A few thoughts:
- You do drive a stick,right?
- Yes on Int'l driving permit; I was asked for mine for the first time just last month, and if Bogleheads hadn't mentioned this I wouldn't have had it.
- Italy is tough on those with any kind of mobility issues. How will she do with ladder-like steps to get onto the train? Plenty of places with no elevator, no place to sit, etc. The lovely bumpy streets of Florence plus the long lines for everything tourists expect to see could be tough on an elder. Walking shoes are a necessity.
- Why take a train? Parking! Makes New York look like almost open prairie. Restrictions up the wazoo. And if you're not used to driving in very narrow streets . . . or with people who know just how much wiggle room they have with the the suggested traffic rules, or . . . just how flexible can you be when things are not quite what you expect?
- Last summer the temps were in the mid-30s centigrade, meaning 90s Fahrenheit. I was lucky to be able to stay in the hills - had to bail from Lucca because the heat made me feel like I was going to barf - then ran into a photo opp hailstorm back in the hills while driving on "tornante" roads. Translation is "hairpin turns - literally - with steep grades, and stay on your side of the road because there are 18-wheelers that fold in the middle like city busses on these mountain roads." But they're fun to drive.
- Food? Toscana. (OK, never been to the Mezzogiorno; no offense intended.)

Seriously, what does she want to do? Why did she pick Italy? Art? Performances? Scenery? I've met backpackers in their 80s in hostels. Food? Wine? Once you know that, you have time to plan. And learn some basic tourist Italian . . .

Should be a great trip - have fun -

timewarp
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by timewarp » Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:06 pm

Rich 126 has some very good points.

I add:
Dress well, the Italians take great pride in looking sharp.

Watch out for pickpockets especially the train stations and subways, its rampant in Europe they wont hurt you but they will pickpocket you, anytime someone gets in your personal space be very aware, I got pickpocketed on the subway after getting jostled about in a crowd and they got my wallet out of my back pocket and I never felt it.

Italy is a great Country, had a lot of fun, take many pictures.

Traveler
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Traveler » Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:10 pm

I would strongly suggest going in September or October. The crowds will have died down, the prices will have dropped and the weather will still be nice. There's no way I'd go anytime between June 15 and Sep 1, and I vacation in Europe a couple times a year. The last two weeks of May are a good alternative to Sep/Oct.

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GoldStar
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by GoldStar » Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:17 pm

Be careful with the budget airlines - you don't want to get stuck with useless tickets like Primera-Air customers did in the fall:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/f ... 488338002/

Plus - personally - I don't trust the bottom tier discount airlines (older planes; suspect maintenance; etc.).

If you can get a couple of free tickets on points between now and then - its possible to buy additional tickets on the same flights and join together the two bookings together (or simply don't). Of course - sometimes in the past when I looked at this the price of the 3 tickets to get on the same flight as 2 free tickets was higher than the price of 5 tickets on a different routing.

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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by westie » Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:40 pm

was in Italy beginning of November, the weather was great.

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GoldStar
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by GoldStar » Wed Dec 12, 2018 10:00 pm

westie wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:40 pm
was in Italy beginning of November, the weather was great.
Unless you were in one of the flooded area (dont think venice flooding subsided until Nov 1 or 2nd).
I've been to Italy in March and November - best months - nice weather for walking and less tourists crowding up things. I can't imagine being in Rome, Venice, etc in the summer.

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Hyperborea
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Hyperborea » Wed Dec 12, 2018 11:22 pm

GoldStar wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 10:00 pm
westie wrote:
Wed Dec 12, 2018 9:40 pm
was in Italy beginning of November, the weather was great.
Unless you were in one of the flooded area (dont think venice flooding subsided until Nov 1 or 2nd).
I've been to Italy in March and November - best months - nice weather for walking and less tourists crowding up things. I can't imagine being in Rome, Venice, etc in the summer.
Yeah, travelling shoulder season is the best - the sites are still open but maybe with slightly reduced hours, the costs are sometimes lower, the lines are much shorter, the weather is as nice or better. However, the OP said that there were 5 going on the trip. That's him, his wife, and his mother for 3. I'm going to bet that the other two are his kids so that rules out shoulder season and leaves them with high season. The only saving hope is to go just about as soon as school lets out - should be a little bit less crowded and might not be quite as hot.
It’s hard to win an argument with a smart person, it's damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person. - Bill Murray

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cruzbay
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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by cruzbay » Thu Dec 13, 2018 5:18 pm

If you are searching for flights on the Internet, use the Incognito window on Google Chrome or some type of anonymous setting on other browsers. This type of browser does not relay any personal identifiers to the websites you access. It seems that if your 'cookie' is captured by the websites and they know that you are seeking a specific flight, the price will go up and up. Google Flights is a great research tool as you can enter the destination as "Italy" or "Europe" and they will provide a map with the prices to many airports. They don't cover all the airlines but have many and will give you an idea of the rates. Also, they have calendars that show different departure/return date combinations so you can choose the most economical dates for travel. Best of luck!

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Re: Trip to Italy

Post by Small Law Survivor » Fri Dec 14, 2018 10:06 am

MathWizard wrote:
Tue Dec 11, 2018 8:18 pm
A trick to avoid parking costs for 2 weeks is to have someone drive you to the airport and
rent a car for one day to be returned to the airport. The next day, you drive the rental car to
the airport, and the rental car shuttle will take you to your gate. No parking fee.
You reverse the process on the way back. 2 weeks can rack up quite a parking bill.
Also, your car stays safe at your home garage rather than in a parking lot ready to be
hailed on.
this is very clever! I'll keep it in mind, thank you.
68 yrs, semi-retired lawyer, 50/40/10 s/b/c, 70/30 dom/int'l. Plan: 4% WR until age 70, 3% after social security kicks in. Boglehead since day 1 (and M* Diehard before that) under various other names

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