My whirlwind tour of Italy approaches. I’ve had about 8 months to get ready, and here’s how I’ve spent it (exclusive of non-travel things)/what I’ve learned:
- I signed up for Duolingo and Babbel, both language apps. Duolingo is free, fun, and gamified, but I think Babbel has provided me with information I will use more and better learning pedagogy (which I care about because it’s what I do, but you don’t have to.) Which is good, because it’s a paid subscription. I was really good about this from March-June, and wish I had done more about this since then. I started again earlier this month, but haven’t been regular enough about it.
- I ordered an adapter. Italy uses two adapters. Here’s hoping I picked right!
- I went through the TSA Pre-check process. Not terrible, though there’s some expense involved. I tried to go through Global Entry’s process, but couldn’t get it done in time. Here’s the takeaway: if you want to get approved for Global Entry, start at least six months in advance. In truth, I could possibly have done it on my timeline, but it involved devoting huge amounts of time to monitoring and rescheduling my appointment.The earliest non-rescheduled appointment was at least seven months out. If I had done Global Entry correctly, I would not also have had to do TSA Pre-check. And since they each come with a separate fee, and Global Entry’s was payable at application, I paid double what I should have paid, and will not enjoy the benefits of GE on this trip. Plan. Ahead.
- I researched changing money. This rivaled the TSA/Global Entry thing for hassle. Here’s what I recommend. I’m hearing people say don’t change money at the airport or at Travelex bureaus. One of my banks would do it, but charged $17 in fees. I was able to do it at AAA without a fee (because I’m a member and committed to changing a particular amount).
- Think through credit cards. Tell your credit cards when you’re traveling internationally, so that they don’t shut down your credit while you’re abroad, and know what they’ll charge you for international transactions, if they even allow them.
- My BFF/ travel buddy wants to try to do a trip of more than a week in late fall/early winter without checking bags, so I’ve spent a lot of time refining my plans and packing list. I feel like I can manage it on the going to side, but possibly not on the “coming home” side. So that’s taken some thinking.
- My life got a lot better when I tacked down an itinerary that mapped out meals, tips, and activities on our schedule. It made money decisions easier, packing decisions easier. I haven’t planned every minute, but I know what has been planned for us, when our excursions will be, and when we’ll have time to do our own thing.
- I started making arrangements for things at home to be covered back in August. As a result, I’ve got a lot of details mostly arranged and/or on my radar. Think through “What will I be rushing around trying to do at the last minute?” and “What am I likely to stress about/forget to do just before I go?” “What am I going to be too exhausted and broke to deal with after” and take it off the table sooner rather than later. I bought birthday cards early, have plans to pay bills early, and set regular appointments (haircuts, vet visits) so they’d be already arranged when I’d be most harried. I even started making holiday items early, to account for time I’ll miss when I’m away. (A saner person would adjust their holiday baking ambitions. We know I’m not that person. I just have my pie crust, puff pastry, and some kinds of holiday cookie dough made and frozen.) I’ve also started thoroughly cleaning the house and fixing a few things so things are in good shape when I get back during crunch time.
- I started reinforcing my plans with colleagues a month ago, so they know when I ask them for something now, it’s because I can do it for them now, but if they don’t get it to me before I go, they’re on their own.
- I’ve been reading books and watching movies and things to get me in the mood. Some of the things:
- I watched “Under the Tuscan Sun” this weekend and will be watching “Eat, Pray, Love” before I go.
- I re-read *The City of Falling Angels* (about Venice) by John Behrendt. I also read *The Monster of Florence* (a true-crime book about Florence), *Daisy Miller* (Henry James, partially set in Rome), *Chasing Francis* (a spiritual novel about St. Francis of Assisi and his approach to spirituality).
- I’ve talked with a lot of people about it, and heard what they recommend. I don’t know how much it will change things, but it gave me a great point of connection.
- I’m Catholic, so a lot of the sites I’ll visit are regarded as holy in my faith tradition. So I’ve asked for loved ones’ prayer intentions to carry with me. I’ve also looked into what it is to be a pilgrim, and will participate in some of the ritual aspects of that. It’s a nice way to share what I think will be a big trip for me.
What am I forgetting/missing? Anything I’m off-base about?