“The slang term “the devil is in the details” has a number of different senses. All of the meanings for the term boil down to the fact that it is often the small details of something which make it difficult or challenging.” (wiseGeek.com)
I spent 18 months planning this trip. I went from not knowing where to start – to researching every detail, and agonizing over decisions! I believe the time spent preparing eliminated what could have been “difficult or challenging” situations.
Airfare and Airlines
I spent days and days researching airlines, routing, layovers, jet lag, and arrival and departure cities. I checked out Kayak.com, PicassoTravel.com, Momondo.com, Fly.com, itasoftware.com, sidestep.com, cheapair.com, farecompare.com, Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Hotwire, Sams Club, Costco, AAA, and followed up on every lead I’d glean from some message board. Some airlines are not included in the major search engines so I searched the websites of RyanAir, EasyJet, Virgin, AerLingus, SwissAir, JetBlue, Allegiant and Southwest. I was looking for the not-so-obvious routing – and a great price! I didn’t find either!!!
The first decision to be made was whether to fly non-stop to Europe from the West Coast or make a connection on the East Coast.
- Pros: Won’t miss the connection flight and lose a day due to delays. It is the shortest travel time.
- Cons: It’s a long flight.
The second was whether to leave in the morning or evening and therefore arrive in the morning or evening.
- Pros: Leaving in the evening leaves you less rushed to get to the airport. I never sleep well when I have to set the alarm for an early flight. I’m afraid it won’t go off or something! Arriving in the evening we could go to bed, get good night’s sleep and hit the road the next morning hopefully combating jet lag. I don’t sleep on airplanes. Eliminating that zombie jet-lagged first day of sightseeing (without any sleep) where they recommend you don’t go to bed until it’s bedtime in the local time zone. Husband can sleep on plane AND get a good night’s sleep in Rome and be a “happy camper.”
- Cons: Pay for an additional night’s lodging by leaving Sunday evening instead of Monday morning. I didn’t want to lose a single day in Italy.
I opted for the evening flight! It worked for us, but that non-stop flight from SFO to ZUR was a LONG flight! Maybe I’d do it differently by breaking up the trip as long as there weren’t long layovers. Even better – fly Business Class for the lay-flat-bed-like seating!!!
There are message boards about shoes – and I read them! Personally, I don’t like to wear closed-toe shoes or socks and tennis shoes. From the reviews I decided on two brands of shoes for the trip that didn’t cost $100. I wanted to get them worn in – so months before the trip I bought a pair of brown “FitFlops” in a mule design and a pair of black “Crocs” sandals from Macy’s and practiced walking in them! I never had a single blister or moment of discomfort. Unfortunately, my feet swelled on the flight and never returned to normal due to all the walking. My feet were miserable and I got blisters!!! But, hey! I packed moleskin.
Next time: Research how to prevent swelling!
Swiss Airlines’ allowed 17 pounds for carry-ons. And they were weighing passengers bags at the gate. Thankfully, they didn’t weigh mine.
There is a an abundance of information in favor of packing light. I decided to try it and am so glad I did. It felt extremely liberating having everything in one bag and to be able to handle it myself. I used a rolling backpack and an over the chest purse. (We packed a fold-up duffel and one of those small sport back bags for a day bag.) When traveling, I tend to want to wear what’s comfortable, not tight or fussy. The majority of my clothes were knits which packed well: solid color bottoms, solid color tops, plus a few sundresses, a knit shawl, and 2 different weight zip-ups. Often, we’d go back to our room to rest, clean up, and I’d change before going out again for dinner.
We did laundry twice, not because everything was dirty, but because carrying around clean clothes is more pleasant.
Adding the cruise to our itinerary caused me some concern about having enough clothes since I usually like to dress up for dinners. My husband packed a sports jacket for the cruise instead of a suit. (Tux Rental onboard the ship could have been preordered, but that would have required ME to have a dressy dress and shoes, of course!)
- ziplock bag of toilet seat covers, toilet tissue, hand cleaner
- water bottles
- extra batteries
- coin purse
- zip purse with the day’s allowance of money
- maps/guide-book pages torn out/reservations
- pen and small notebook for notes/tracking expenses/food diary
- comb and lip balm
- cell phone
- extra cash
- flash drive with copies of important documents
Bonus: At REI I found a stretchy – soft wristband with a zipper compartment that is great for carrying a few credit/debit cards and some currency. It’s not obvious and a great protection from a pick-pocket.
Extras: neck pillow and blanket (didn’t need), small pair of binoculars (never used), duct tape (used once!), cable and padlock for securing our bags on the train (unnecessary), extra ziplock bags (yes!), rain ponchos (the 1 day we needed them, I forgot to bring!)
- Don’t pack for every contingency!!!
The online advice was about buying “unlocked” phones, or renting phones, etc. I called AT&T, our cellular service provider, and added an International Calling and Messaging plan for less than it would have cost to buy a phone and SIM card. I placed the cancel order for a few days after we were due home (in case of being delayed or something.) I was warned to keep my phone “off” or in “Airplane Mode” to keep from receiving calls (something about paying for the minutes if a person calls and leaves a voice message.) It was always fun to take if off of “Airplane Mode” to send text messages and photos and receive texts from friends and family! Another advantage was being able to call ahead to our B&Bs with our ETA. I took my cell phone charger and was always able to borrow an electrical currency converter at our B&Bs when necessary.
Coming soon: Planning the itinerary!!!