What We Wish We Knew Before Our First Trip to Europe

By Maggie Reimherr

If you follow Derek or me on any form of social media, you are probably aware that we went to Italy over Thanksgiving. Neither of us had been to Europe before, and this is the first of several upcoming posts about our trip! We’re planning to share our itineraries and recommendations for each of the 4 cities we visited - Rome, Florence, Venice, and Verona. To kick things off, we wanted to share some travel lessons we learned along the way.

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1. Budget for your own stupidity.

When we hopped off the plane in Rome, I truly believed I had our trip planned to a T. Then immediately upon exiting the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, we fell for a tourist scam. Turns out, I was a little underprepared re: the actual details and logistics of traveling in Italy.

When we walked out of the airport, we were greeted by nice men in suits asking if we needed a taxi. Why yes! We certainly do! They escorted us in an extremely roundabout way to a parking lot full of black vans and loaded our luggage and us into one. We sat and waited for a few other passengers to join and off we went toward Rome.

As soon as I realized we weren’t in a licensed taxi, I knew we’d messed up. My first thought was, “We have been kidnapped and are on our way to be murdered.” So, doing what any millennial would do, I shared our location via iPhone with my sister and my friend Jennifer and texted saying, “If we’re not at the Infinity Hotel in Rome within the next hour and a half, please call our moms.”

After a quick Google search, I realized we weren’t in grave peril - we had just been tricked by a run of the mill tourist scam. See, taxis from the Rome airport have a fixed fare to the city center - €48. If you’re not driving an official taxi, you can charge whatever the hell you want.

Our bill at the end of the ride? €155.

We spent 175 US dollars on a CAB RIDE because we didn’t know any better. Thank goodness we’d budgeted extra in the HIGHLY LIKELY IF YOU’RE A TRAVEL NOOB event of mishaps.

2. Only ride in licensed taxis.

Read the above story again for good measure so you don’t repeat our mistakes.

3. Budget as if your flight will be cancelled, and you’ll spend 48 hours unplanned hours in a foreign country.

Never in a million years did we think this would happen to us, but our flight out of Rome got cancelled due to mechanical issues with the plane. The airline couldn’t rebook us for another 48 hours. Luckily, the airline provided accommodations. They also provided meals for everyone displaced by the cancelled flight. Turns out, this entailed bad 3-star chain hotel buffet food. Thank u, next.

We spent our first night of the delay wallowing in our hotel room, watching whatever TV show or movie we could find in English, eating overpriced room service burgers, and drinking one of the prized bottles of wine packed in our suitcases to take home. The next day, we decided to make the most of the extra time in the country we’d fallen in love with. So we took a shuttle bus into Rome and saw some sights we hadn’t gotten to see yet - including the most amazing view of Rome that pictures will never do justice.

Do I look tired at this point in the trip or…?

Do I look tired at this point in the trip or…?

Overall, the delay cost us around €150 extra between food, wine, and gelato. Again, really glad we had extra room in our trip budget for contingencies.

4. PACK LIGHT.

If I could go back and redo this trip, I’d bring smaller luggage. We took the train to 4 different cities in Italy, and let me tell you, you don’t want to ride a train with giant suitcases like we did. We were in Italy for 10 planned nights + 2 unplanned nights, and we packed accordingly. But next time I go to Europe, knowing there will be train travel involved, I’ll definitely be more strategic about a capsule wardrobe.

The one advantage of giant suitcases? Room for the souvenir wine.

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5. Meat & cheese are breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods.

Do I even need to elaborate on this one? All our hotel breakfast buffets had a selection of meats and cheeses to start your day. I’m still adjusting back to my usual diet of turkey sausage and eggs instead of brie & prosciutto.

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Stay tuned for part 2 coming next week with more lessons learned!