Pack light, pack light, pack light! I heard this a billion times and STILL could’ve done better. Scarves are a handy accessory. Also, pack a light umbrella or get one from the many street vendors that appear at the first sight of rain. (keep it for the rest of your trip)
Splurge for a huge memory card. You do NOT want the hassle of having to back up your photos on a disc. You also run the risk of the disc breaking. (You may opt to back them up just in case…but you don’t want to be forced) Nowadays, they are much cheaper. I got an 8GB memory card from BestBuy for $25 on sale and after a month of snapping EVERYthing…I still had plenty of space.
Take the time to visit (at least) the best gardens in the cities you visit…they are almost always worth it in Europe. Beautiful!
Immersion makes learning a new language 310 times easier. Also, be sure to at least attempt the local language rather than assume everyone speaks English. (even though most do)
In Florence, go to the Accademia to see David an hour before the museum closes. (5pm) There should be NO lines and you will have the David almost to yourself. Thanks Rick Steves! This worked great for us!
In Venice, to avoid lines at the Basilica in Piazza San Marco, simply check your bag (free of charge) at the Ateneo San Basso directly around the corner (to the left if facing the front doors of the Basilica, a few yards down Calle San Basso.) You will have to anyway if carrying a large bag/purse. They will give you a number; hand it to the man at the front door and he will let you in directly in front of the line. VIP! 🙂
Remember! The Sistine Chapel closes at 4PM!
If you are even MILDLY claustrophobic, do NOT take the climb to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. The walkway is extremely narrow and is a tight spiral straight up. There are a bunch of people directly in front of you and behind you and the windows are super skinny. (shudders) Nevermind the 523 stairs! *The view is amazing though, but trust me…just give your camera to another friend going up that is NOT claustrophobic.
Save time by making any necessary departing train reservations when you first arrive in a city and are still at the station. (Assuming you know when you are departing.)
Have coin in euros, so you are able to buy tickets at the Metro when you arrive. Most the machines don’t take bills and there often isn’t a ticket stand with a person.
If staying in a hostel, it helps to lay out your PJ’s BEFORE going out for the night so when you return at 2, 3, 4 or 5am they are easily accessible, thus avoiding blindly digging through your locker or backpack in the pitch black trying not to wake up your roommates. Those Ziploc baggies are ultra-amplified in the middle of the night/morning!
Grab a business card for your hostel right when you arrive. It comes in handy if you need a cab or if you get lost and can’t remember your street name when looking at a map.
Oh yeah…also grab a map right when you arrive. Your ho(s)tel will have one. Don’t bother buying one.
Rick Steves’ self guided tours are SO worth doing, especially the “Rome NightWalk.” It takes you along many of the key sites. They are surprisingly close together.
Unless you are a major wine connoisseur, opt for the house wine everywhere in Italy, rather than splurging on something you think might be better. It’s good AND cheaper than water almost!
Be open to changing your plans if fun things come up. The experiences are usually great. Unless of course it is your last day to see the must-see sights of course.