Planning Ahead

What? Again?


Even I can’t believe that I’m starting to blog about a third trip to Europe in three years.  But it’s true.


This time the plan is for Jane and I to go together to Rome for a week with nobody else.


When I wrote my first Europe travel blog in 2004, five of us were living at home.  Since then, two of our children have moved out, leaving only our twelve-year-old daughter, Casey at home.


We decided to attempt this while Casey on winter vacation from school to avoid having to find someone to take her to and from school every day.   Casey was invited for a week to visit her Aunt in San Diego, which would leave Jane and myself at home that week. 


When I first got together with Jane twenty-six years ago, she already had children.  In all of these years, we have never attempted more than a weekend getaway without at least some of the kids, so this will be new territory for us.


The first challenge for us was to find affordable air travel.  Our last two trips were taken with Air Tahiti Nui, and we felt very comfortable with their flights into Paris.  However, by the time we decided to do this, in mid-October, all of their dates were either sold out, or cost more than $3,000 per ticket!


We found flights into Rome with Swiss Air International for $799.00 round trip.  With taxes and other fees, the tickets ended up being $1060.44 each round trip.  In 2005 our tickets were $603.13, and in 2004 $571.91.   On the two prior trips, we watched for the price to drop in October and went at an optimum time.  This time, due to the child situation, we had to go during Casey’s winter vacation from school, which is right around Christmas and New Years.  So, we paid a premium.  At least it wasn’t for five people.


Another thing to take into consideration is that the fare this year will take us right into Rome.  Before we only flew to Paris, and then took the train.  Between our Eurail Passes, night train accommodations and food we spent quite a bit of money.  If we wanted to fly from Paris to Rome, there would also be additional expense of those plane tickets, so the comparison is not quite apples to apples.


The flight route we will take this time will be non-stop from Los Angeles to Zurich, Switzerland.  Then we change planes and fly into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci - Fiumicino Airport.


We will arrive in the evening, so we decided to take it easy on our aging jet-lagged selves and cash in some of my Hilton Honors points on a free room at the Hilton Rome Airport Hotel.  We also plan to spend our last night there to make it easier to catch our early morning flight back to Los Angeles.


The remaining part of the week, we will stay in the same apartment that we had during the last two trips to Rome.  At first we had decided to pick another property because the neighborhood this apartment is in is becoming more dominated by Korean immigrants.  Nothing wrong with that, I guess, but when you fly 6,000 miles to Rome, it’s just nice to be around Italians.


After looking at other properties on the website, we decided that with the short time we would be staying, we might be better off sticking to what we know.  The Principe Eugenio Apartment is steps from a Metro station.  Our favorite restaurant, Il Padellaccio 2 (formerly Noah’s Arc) is just down the street.  We know where to wash our clothes, and the Termini train station and the Coliseum can both be walked to and accessed via short metro rides.


The cost of the Apartment is 85 Euros per night making that our only lodging costs since the two Hilton nights are free on points.


To estimate meals and entertainment, I used our last trip.  I tracked every expense put on a credit card and every ATM receipt.  I took the figures for two people, divided them by the eleven days we spent last year, then multiplied it by the eight days we will spend this year.  I rounded it up, and the figure I came up with was $550.00 per person.


Trip insurance from Travelguard seems to be going up every year.  This time we picked a product called “Savvy Traveler”, which cost us $59.00 per person. 


The economy of scale works for us in this trip, since we are reduced from five people down to two.  I am estimating that with Airfare, lodging, meals, entertainment and trip insurance that we will spend less than $1,900.00 per person.  This is quite a difference from our first trip in 2004 when we spent $3,473.00 per person.


What’s missing from those two trips is a lot of travel to other locations like France, and Switzerland.  Eurail Passes.  Lots of expensive hotels along the way.  Trips to Disneyland Paris, etc.  This trip is going to be me and Jane in Rome.  We might buy a point to point ticket at some point and go down to Naples on the train and see Pompeii again, or we might just hang around Rome.  


It amazed me how quickly we were able to get the trip together this time.  We spent one might making reservations.  We have our passports, and it really becomes a matter of a limited amount of planning and just getting ourselves on the plane.


Update:  At less than two weeks out, I tried to pay for our Apartment at via PayPal.  They refused saying I have to bring cash.  I tried to argue that we have a limit on cash via our ATM card.  They suggested a wire transfer.  I checked with my bank (, and they charge $40 for an international wire transfer, and mention that the receiving bank might also have charges.  I’ve decided to just get the cash from an ATM the night we arrive in Rome.  Hopefully, the cash limit will reset before we need more money.  In the past they have been open to getting the money via PayPal, but not anymore.  Apparently, this has something to do with new anti-terrorism laws.  I would imagine that the limit on cash from my ATM may as well.


I also tried to book train tickets to and from Naples via to visit Pompeii. The trip from Roma to Napoli booked fine, but when I tried to book the return, it said my credit card declined.  I thought maybe I typed it in wrong, but it declined again.  Then I used a different credit card.  It declined again and locked me out!


I called the first credit card company, and they showed three charges equal to two people going to Naples from Rome.  Then, the second company called me to see if someone might be using my card fraudulently.  Afraid the tickets might sell out, or the “Due per Uno” (Two for One) special might not be available, I used yet a third card and was successful in booking the return.  Who knows what’s going to happen when we board the train, as we are instructed to show a copy of the email after we board.  Hopefully, they won’t throw us off the moving train.