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Travel, Travel Tips

Summer Travel Tips

April 17, 2017

Summer Travel TipsSummer is fast approaching, and many people are planning their summer trips. Here are some tips to help you make the best of your summer trip!

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Beating the Heat

Summer usually means it’s hot unless you are going far north or far south and keeping cool is on everyone’s minds.

  • Stay hydrated – This may be obvious, but even I forget to drink enough water sometimes. The heat makes us loose water even faster. Staying hydrated will help keep you cool too!
  • Wear light colored clothing Dark clothes absorb light and heat. Light colors reflect them.
  • Place a cold cloth around your neck –  Usually, this means wetting the cloth, so this is best used at bedtime and will help you fall asleep even if it is roasting. This helped me a lot when I spent a few days in Italy during a summer heat wave and had no air conditioning.
  • Wear a hat – Another obvious one, but not something I see a lot while traveling. It will also help protect you from the sun.

Picking a Hotel

Since lots of people are on vacation during the summer, choosing a hotel can be difficult. You have to find a room and find one at the right price for you.

  • Near public transportation – This might help you save money. You should weigh the benefits of being far away from the sites and the cost of the hotel. It also depends on how long you have to visit. If you are staying longer than being a bit further might be okay.
  • Close to the sites – If you have limited time or prefer to spend a bit more to be closer, then pick a hotel closer to the sites.
  • Choose a hotel with air conditioning – Many hotels in Europe don’t have air conditioning. Which for some is fine, but other prefer to be cool when they arrive back from the heat. Most booking sites will have this as a filter option. Airbnb places might not have it, particularly in Europe and the ones that do might be more expensive.
  • Check the meal options – If breakfast being offered at the hotel is important, check to make sure your rate includes it. It may be better to pay for it when you book the room as the cost on the day can be outrageous.

Avoiding Crowds

I am not a fan of crowds, but in the summer they may be hard to avoid. This is how I keep my crowd exposure to a minimum.

  • Go early – Going to the popular sites early in the morning will help you avoid crowds. Most people don’t want to get up early on their vacations and will sleep in a bit. I try to be at those sites when they open to avoid the crowds. It will also mean the lines will be shorter.
  • Book in advance – Many popular sites will have advance ticketing options. Buy them in advance to avoid waiting in line. Just remember to print them out before you arrive.
  • Go to lesser known sites in the afternoon – While everyone is hitting the big sites during the day, you can go to less popular locations in the afternoon.
  • Find out when the cruise ships arrive – I was warned that the cruise ship passengers arrive at the Acropolis in Athens around 10 AM, so I made sure I was at the top by 10 AM so that I could avoid the big crowds going in. I also managed to get many pictures will no people in them this way! Your hotel might be able to tell you the schedule.
  • Don’t enter from the main entrance – Some places have multiple entrances and will have longer lines and more crowds. At the Acropolis, you can enter from the south side, and only about ten people were waiting to buy tickets, and I had most of the walk up to myself.
  • Walk I love public transport, but walking is the best way to avoid large overcrowded subways in the summer. You can also pick a less popular route if you walk and it will be less crowded. This may not always be true in cities, like Florence, that are walking cities and have little public transport.

What are your summer travel tips? Tell us in the comments.

Europe, Italy, Travel

7 Unique Italian Things to do During a Summer Visit to Italy

July 27, 2016
7 things to do in italy during summer

My trip to Italy this year was my third time and every time I go, I fall in love a little bit more. This was my second summer in Italy, and I have discovered that summer in Italy brings some unique things to do! While a few of things are enjoyable all year in Italy, the summer season makes them extra special. So here is my list of fun activities to do and things to eat in Italy in the summer.

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See the Infiorata in Umbria

Every summer in late May or early June towns all over Italy holds an Infiorata, which means literally “to decorate with flowers.” Depending on where you are in Italy, the Infiorata happens at different times. When I was there, it was to mark Corpus Domini. It was happening in both the towns I was visiting, Alviano and San Gemini the first weekend.

The artists plan their designs in advance and then the day before mark the outline with chalk. Then starting very early in the morning they start the decorating. I managed to get myself out of bed to see them in the process of decorating in Alviano at about 4 am. For some towns, it is a competition. In Alviano, they were made with sawdust, flowers, sugar and coffee. In San Gemini, I saw flowers, spices, sugar, and coffee. Some of them smelled amazing! Here is an article on some of the best towns to see Infiorata in Italy.

7 Unique Italian Things to do During a Summer Visit to Italy

See the Sunflowers in Bloom in Tuscany

The girasole, Italian for sunflower, bloom from late June through August. When I was there last summer in the middle of July, they were everywhere. I was driving and could see them from the highway. A few times I was driving along the back roads, and you could have gotten out of the car and walked through them. To get up close, you do need a car and an adventurous spirit to venture off the beaten path. However, getting up close is totally worth it!

7 Unique Italian Things to do During a Summer Visit to Italy

Have an Aperol Spritz In Venice

Sitting in the Piazza San Marco in Venice may seem like a very touristy thing to do, but it was one of the best things I did in there. Venice in July is hot and humid, and you will be dripping with sweat by the happy hour. Pick the shady side of the Piazza and sit at one of the many outdoor cafes. Order an Aperol Spritz and you will be brought olives and chips as well. The drink and snack are the perfect combination to refresh and revive your sweat weary soul. (You should be forewarned that it is expensive, and there is usually a fee for sitting there.)

See the Calico Storico In Florence

While walking close to the Santa Croce in Florence, I noticed burly men dressed in historical type pants and no shirts. I also saw tons of people in white and green shirts. The square in front of Santa Croce had what looked like a stadium. Intrigued, I asked the bellman at my hotel what was going on. That is when I learned of the calico storico of Florence. The game is a cross of football (soccer) and rugby played in the sand. It is known to be a particularly violent game. The Guardian called it the most violent game. The final match is always played on June 24, which is San Giovanni’s Day, the patron saint of Florence.

7 Unique Italian Things to do During a Summer Visit to Italy

Eat Gelato Everywhere

As mentioned in point #3, it is hot in Italy in summer, and nothing is better to cool off with than a gelato! Of course, you can eat gelato at any time of the year, but it is a true treat in the heat. This year I tried pistachio flavored for the first time, and it is now my preferred flavor of gelato. What is your favorite flavor?

People Watch In Venice

People watching is one of my favorite activities in Italy and even more so in Venice. While most of the people you will be watching in the summer will be tourists, it is still fun to guess where they are from and to try to hear what language they are speaking. To do optimal people watching, I sit outside at a restaurant or near the window. Sometimes sitting at the bar is also good people watching.

7 Unique Italian Things to do During a Summer Visit to Italy

Rent a Car and Drive the Amalfi Coast

Renting a car is the best way to see Italy and I have done it twice now. Driving the Amalfi Coast is one of the most scenic drives in the world. The road twists and turns all the while giving you stunning views of the Mediterranean.

Have you done any summer Italian activities that you loved? Share with us in the comments.

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Things to do in Italy During Summer

Europe, Hotel/Accommodation, Prep, Travel

European Summer Travel Tips

June 17, 2015

TEXTBetween last summer and this summer, I have traveled to Europe in the summer twice. Each time I go, I discover something I wish I had known before. I am going to share with you some tips that I think will help you enjoy your experience a bit more.

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1. Bring earplugs – You may be asking, what?! Many hotels and most apartments in Europe do not have air conditioning. This means sleeping with the windows open for air circulation and cooling. It also means hearing everything that goes on outside! Usually I am fine once I am asleep, but if it is noisy outside while I am trying to fall asleep it won’t happen.

2. Layering clothes – Currently, I am sitting in Paris where the temperature is about 60° F. Last week the high during the day was around 82° and very humid. Bring clothes to layer. Yesterday is was overcast the whole day and I was chilly at some points. I usually bring cardigans and scarfs to help layer. This way I can remove them easily.

3. Changes of shoes – This may also seem like a given to you, but I see tourist walking around in the same shoes day after day. If your feet start to hurt, you may need a different pair of shoes. This is especially true if you have developed blisters. Your feet will appreciate the change and hopefully get some relief.

4. Lightweight suitcase – Between hauling your suitcase on public transportation and climbing the stairs in hotels or apartments, you need to have lightweight suitcase. I don’t mean that you have to pack light, but that your suitcase should weigh very little empty. I have a 25″ lightweight suitcase that weighs less than 7 lbs empty. I definitely noticed a difference this year when I went to lift it on and off the Paris Metro. My apartment also does not have an elevator and every ounce made a difference. Some smaller hotels may also not have elevators or you may have to go up one flight of stairs to get to it, as was the case in my hotel in Istanbul.

5. Patience Summer is the busiest time to travel in Europe, so you need patience. Probably because kids are out of school. Yesterday the line at the Louvre was an hour wait! You can get around lines in some places, but not always. Make sure you have a cool drink and something to entertain yourself if you are stuck in a line. Also, realize that many tourist sites will be crowded. Go early in the morning or right at opening time when crowds might be less.

What are your tips for traveling to Europe in the Summer?