Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Pain In Planning For Italy

Some of you know about the upcoming Italy trip that QB and I have been planning for some time. We booked the flights a while back, and we also booked a few of the hotel nights then as well. And, recently we've been working on trying to book the rest of the nights of our 2-week trip. We decided not to do a packaged tour, because we really enjoy having a more flexible schedule where we can do as we please. It looks like that luxury will cost not only additional money, but some extra headaches in planning for the trip.

It's been a serious pain just doing something simple, like booking hotels. First off, a ton of these Italian hotels are tiny. By tiny, I mean 15 rooms or fewer. This makes it relatively easy for the better ones to sell out quickly. Also, to add to the difficulty, it is not wise to judge a hotel by its star-class. Based on reading a ton of reviews, a 3-star hotel can mean anything from an absolute crap hole up to a decent, clean place with no frills.

Additionally, you really have to pay attention to hotel location. Best bet is to go by the reviews on TripAdvisor. They seem to have a ton of reviews on most hotels, so I'm hoping that relying on what's said is as effective as the Ask the Audience lifeline in the Millionaire game show. Hotels listed as being a part of one city might actually end up quite far from where you want to be.

One other thing that is a bit annoying is that hotels aren't on all the travel sites. I've had decent luck finding hotels on Venere, Expedia, and Travelocity, but honestly, it's sort of hit or miss whether a specific hotel is on a particular site. Oh, and since I'm pretty much ranting now, a lot of these hotels don't have any sort of online booking system. So, if you can't find it on a travel site, you have to e-mail them and request pricing and availability. They then send you e-mail back and you go back and forth with them to reserve your room.

Anyway, I hope the trip is worth it. We'll be gone for a couple of weeks at the end of September. We've got a basic itinerary planned, and I think it'll work out well. We will be starting out in Rome, then hit Naples, Siena, Florence, Bologna, and Venice before we get to Milan and head back home. Hopefully, we'll find the time to stop by Verona and also do a day trip or two to check out other attractions like the Leaning Tower in Pisa. I hope the Euro takes a hit in the next few weeks, but I know that's seriously wishful thinking.

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