I love Tuscany. That’s not really a surprise, is it? But the first time I arranged a trip with our children to Europe, I was terrified!
Travel to Europe can be daunting. Dealing with a foreign language, transportation, accommodations, and yes, even the food, can present a seemingly unconquerable barrier. Here are four tips to start you on your journey to Italy.
1. Define your goals.
Do you want to see as many churches or museums or soccer games as possible? Do you want to stay in a “home base” for the duration of your trip or change lodging every night? Does the safety and ease of a tour group appeal to you or would you rather have the freedom of an independent trek?
Asking yourself a few candid questions like these and basing your trip off the answers is a strong foundation for a successful voyage.
The first time my husband and I toured Europe with our sons, they ranged in age from six to eighteen. As you might have guesssed, our visits to museums and churches were limited in number and scope.
We designed our European tour to include what my husband and I considered “nonnegotiable attractions”, such as the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, but also included a visit to a castle and an Italian beach.
And did I mention our a stop for gelato at least once a day?
2. Use public transit.
European public transportation is convenient, accessible, and usually the most affordable method of transit. It will immediately immerse you into the daily lives of the people who are sharing their country with you.
When I planned our first family tour in Europe, determining our method of transit was an easy decision—six people requires two taxis and would split up our family. We toured by foot, bus, and train.
Trains are efficient, usually run on time, and are my preferred method of travel between larger cities. Buses can be a better method to reach smaller towns, either not serviced by train or in places such as in Siena, where the bus service runs to closer to the center of the old city.
3. Find lodging convenient to public transit.
Did you notice I said “convenient”, which is not necessarily “by the train station”? The areas next to train stations in some of the large European cities can be convenient, but also may expose you to the unsavory sort of person who preys on tourists.
Recommendations provided by knowledgeable travel consultants, friends who have visited your destination, travel websites, and guidebooks are great resources to assist with your lodging selection.
In large cities, I like to stay within walking distance of a bus or metro stop, to facilitate connections throughout the area. In Florence, my favorite area to stay is in the old city center, where buses are available to reach outlying areas, and we can walk everywhere else.
4. Relax and have fun! Don’t you know that the food and wine tastes better when you’re on vacation?