September 24, 2020 at 8:45 AM
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November 21, 2019 at 6:00 AM
Greece has always been an ideal Mediterranean vacation destination. Located in southeastern Europe, with over 2,500 islands (230 inhabited), it can be hard to choose which one to visit first. Greece is a country with great, ancient history, one that gave birth to the concepts of democracy and philosophy, the Olympic Games, and drama.
The landscape offers a picturesque variety, from whitewashed homes and blue domed churches to 18th century architecture and traditional authentic villages in the mountainous areas.
Hopefully, these eight guidelines will inspire your decision.
November 15, 2019 at 7:49 AM
Italy is one of the most visited countries and it tops almost everyone's bucket list. It's a busy tourism place all year long. The hot spots are Venice, Florence, Rome, Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre.
Positano is a precious little town with a finite number of hotels that sell out years in advance, particularly for groups of 6 or more. The same is true for other towns along the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre. If you are planning to travel to these towns in the summer or fall, it's not uncommon to plan and book a year in advance. Not only is space limited, but pricing is usually tricky. The further in advance that you book, the more accommodation options you will have at better values.
Italy is typically a destination you would not want to wait until the last minute to book. We have great partners and can be sometimes pull a rabbit out of the hat, but planning 9 months to one year out is ideal for you.
Enlist the help of a professional when booking your hotel in Italy. A 5 star rating in Italy is not the same as a 5 star hotel in the United States, star rating in Italy may not be the best measure to go by when booking your hotel. Also, don't assume there will be air conditioning or elevators. Sometimes you may think you are getting a truly "luxury" experience, please pay close attention to the location of the accommodation. "Steps away from Trevi Fountain" does not mean there won't be a busy intersection between accommodation and Trevi Fountain. Hotels can be complicated ... wouldn't you prefer to work with professionals that have personally visited the hotels and know the staff.
Surely, you have heard that Rome was not built in a day and it can't be seen in a lifetime. Most travelers that I work with want to see 6 or more Italian cities in 8 days or several countries in 10 days. While you can sometimes fit it all in, I hope you will reconsider. Changing hotels every day or 2 days will leave you exhausted and you may well miss the most special things that make ITALY the best travel destination. Relax and enjoy the authentic parts of each city. Never underestimate how much time it takes to pack, transfer, unpack from one destination to the next--that usually takes about 1/2 day.
Tip 4: Allow enough time to book tickets well in advance to major sites of interest
Skip the line tickets to places like Vatican City in Rome, the Uffizi and Accademia galleries in Florence and Cennacolo where Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper resides requires reservations approximately 6 months in advance, maybe longer if you are traveling with more than 4 people.
Tip 5: Private drivers and private tours
For groups of 3+ travelers, we recommend a private driver and private tours for the best experience. Many of our clients return to tell us all the tips and tricks their drivers gave them and how much it enhanced their stay.
Tip 6: Avoid the Tourist Menu
Part of the fun is finding cool little spots for dinner, but please beware. Big photos of pasta or multiple choices on a menu is a sure sign that it is a tourist trap. I would venture a couple blocks to the back and look for a restaurant with one main meal written on chalkboard in Italian. Where you dine, who you dine with and the neighborhood you dine in makes a big difference in your experience.
Plan on an hour or two for dinner. Scheduling in advance wine tastings and cellar tours with a "lite lunch" is a golden opportunity. You will not only dine, but have a truly cultural experience.
Tip 7: Know where to avoid driving
Some of the most popular cities are the most difficult to and dangerous to drive. I honestly can't think of any town on a first visit that I would recommend driving. Parking is very expensive (sometimes 100 Euros a day) and leaving your car unattended is not a great idea. It is very confusing getting around, even for the locals, and many areas prohibit driving, even locals. And never drink and drive, there is zero tolerance.
Tip 8: Know before you go
Cruises can be great fun, but consider what you want to see and do. After much discussion, most travelers realize they would like to have a more immersive, authentic experience while visiting one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Consider that you may only have 5 hours in a particular town along with hundreds of other cruise passengers all trying to see the same iconic sites at the same time. Cruises can be perfect for some destinations, but I HIGHLY recommend a land experience for Italy.
For more relevant information about your next vacation, we would love to help you.
October 17, 2019 at 1:05 AM
October 3, 2019 at 9:33 AM
October 1, 2019 at 7:55 AM
I have written many times about the importance of using a local guide or local English speaking driver. It's just one of the many we encourage our clients to give back to the destination they are visiting. It's so important that we support the local communities that we enjoy visiting. Otherwise, there won't be anyone to driver or guide when we need them. Beyond that, we encourage the use of a local guide or driver is to make the most efficient use of your precious leisure time. There is no lost time and expense of parking, finding the best route and in most countries there is zero tolerence of driving under the influence. You are too important for us to risk any of these situations hendering your time away with your traveling companions. Wouldn't it be better for everyone on the trip to enjoy their time relaxing and enjoying the scenery? You probably can't even imagine the things that CAN go wrong while driving in another country. Is it worth flying back for a court date? Believe me, these things happen and sometimes you don't know until you have returned home.
Do you have a tight connection in Rome? We have you covered... we have meet and greet partners to meet you & escort you through passport control in record times.
I know sometimes you have to experience it to understand. Here is what a few of our clients have shared with us:
"We saw wonderful places and the views were so much better and I know we would not have been able to see as much as we did, if we had tried to drive ourselves!!" Sara
"Our favorite part of the whole trip were the drivers! They were all awesome!! Especially in Ireland our driver searched for 3 days to get the perfect authentic shillelagh” -Linda
"Thank you for suggesting the private driver in St. Thomas/St. John." We saw so much more than we imagined AND hearing the stories and suggestions of local, good eats--great value!" Lynn
Having a driver serves multiple benefits from punctuality to the ability to seamlessly handle rough weather with a drivers’ years of experience, hiring a professional driver for your next trip could change the way you feel about transportation to the airport, make a country side tour much more insightful, an exploration into hidden gems only the locals know about, and with that one on one experience that lets you decide what you want to do and where you want to go offering wide range of other locations off the beaten path waiting to be explored. Another added bonus is that they love their home, they will share much more about local restaurants, non-touristy places for you to visit, even AFTER the drive.
As I hope you can see by now, hiring a professional, vetted guide or driver has many diverse benefits. These are just the few reasons we want to help your next experience in a new land something that you’ll always remember and to adventure somewhere you’ll never forget. So call VIP Travel Experience the next time you need a stress free vacation.