Yep, it's my favorite time of year - time to plan our next vacation! Surprisingly, I'm ahead of schedule by anyone's standards, even my own, due to a series of fortunate events that happened last summer while we were on our Germany/Belgium vacation. We were lucky enough to get bumped not once but twice last summer, meaning that we each ended up with $1600 to put towards our airfare for summer 2014! As an added bonus, we decided that since the airfare would cost us less than $100/each out-of-pocket, we'd to upgrade to business class for the flight TO Italy, thus allowing us the chance to actually get some sleep and not arrive as zombies. And because those upgraded seats are limited, we booked our flight as soon as we could - as in September - for a flight nearly 10 months away! And that meant we had to decide on dates: when we wanted to depart, how long we wanted to stay, where we wanted to go, etc. So, in effect, we had our entire vacation planned by the time we booked our flights.
We'll be flying into Rome and out of Venice for this trip, and we'll finally get to visit Slovenia - a country that's been on our radar for several years now. We'll pick up our rental car in Chiusi to avoid the ridiculous airport surcharge - which I hope was not a mistake. The cost of the train to Chiusi isn't prohibitive, but now that I think about having to take the train from the airport to Roma Termini, then connect to the train to Chiusi, dragging our luggage with us, well, let's just hope those lay-flat seats in business class really are as comfortable as everyone says and that we arrive well rested. UPDATE: After realizing that we're scheduled to land at 9:30 instead of our 'usual' 8:45, and checking train schedules for various options, I changed our pickup to Fiumicino (the Rome airport). My timing must have been good since it's only going to cost us an additional $53 - probably equal to what it would have cost us to get to Chiusi by train, so I'm very relieved!
We'll spend 3 weeks in Umbria, staying in a friend's apartment in Piegaro, not far from the A1 and the Umbrian/Tuscan border. We'll be a little further away from most of our friends, but the days will be long and having the confidence of knowing our way around will allow us to travel to places both old and new. We plan to explore much more of the Tuscan countryside during this trip, as well as make a visit to San Venanzo, hopefully for a festa or two.
After Umbria we're heading north. (another update: we're spending one night in Volterra before driving on to Modena/Verona. Art really wants to visit Volterra, but it was about a three hour drive from Piegaro - and three hours back - so we just decided to spend the night there.)
We'll stop in Modena for lunch at Hosteria Giusti. We ate here in the fall of 2010 and honestly it was the BEST meal we've EVER had, and we've longed for an excuse to eat there again. After that we'll drive to Verona, where opera will be in the air. We'll spend two nights in Verona, seeing an opera in the Roman Arena, and taking a day trip to a place yet to be decided. We thought we might drive up along Lake Garda, but now think we might just take the train to somewhere closer, like Vicenza, giving Art a day off from his duties as driver.
After Verona we'll head to Slovenia for ten days in 3 different locations, then we'll head back to Italy for 2 nights north of Venice. We'll drop off our luggage at our airport hotel, turn in our rental car and spend our last afternoon and evening in Venice before flying home.
So far, in addition to our airfare, we've also booked a rental car through AutoEurope, and taken advantage of a special promotion they had for GPS. Although AutoEurope will match any lower price, so far we seem to have gotten the best deal, which, for Italy, means it's still pricey. We looked at several options, considered taking the train from Chiusi to Verona, considered doing multiple car rentals, but so far I think
we've picked the best option for us - except for that nagging doubt I have about picking up the car in Chiusi instead of the Rome airport. Our rental for 36 days, with a small car, will cost $1280, which includes a $40 charge for the GPS. That comes out to about $35.50 per day, but it also includes a zero deductible, just because you never know. I'm still checking with AutoEurope on a regular basis to make sure the price doesn't drop. Maybe I got lucky this time and started at the low end, but last year I changed rates 3 or 4 times, saving over $300 in the process. UPDATE: As of mid-March I've changed our car rental three times (so far!) and, as mentioned above, I've also changed the pick-up location to the Rome airport. The car rental is now at $906, plus a $20 charge for the GPS unit - which is now ours to keep. I'm sure it's an older model, but it'll be fine for us. So, at $926, that takes our daily car rental down to $25.72 per day.
The opera in Verona is prepaid - no sense waiting since we knew our dates, and we got the seats we wanted, or at least the seats I hope
we wanted, based on the advice of several friends. Our two seats cost an astounding (at least for me) $265, but everyone says this is an amazing venue, and it's our big splurge for the trip.
Three of our accommodations have been prepaid. We've booked two apartments in Slovenia: one in Ljubljana for three nights, and one near Lake Bled for four nights, both through Airbnb.com. The costs are $268 and $295, respectively, and our last night hotel will cost $66. (Grand total $629)
I know the costs of our other accommodations, but the prices are in euro, so the final costs will be determined by whatever the exchange rate is at that time. I'm not sure what our apartment in Umbria will cost because our host hasn't yet determined what our multi-week discount will be, and we don't know if we'll pay in dollars or euro, but I think we'll end up spending about €1200 for our three week stay. So for the remainder of our accommodations we're looking at about €1700, more or less. At todays exchange rate that €1700 equals about $2326, plus the prepaid amount of $629 totals, let's say, $2955 for 37 nights, which averages out to around $80 per night. I was hoping for a lower per night average, but that's the best I could do, trying for the best locations with the most affordable price. After our three weeks in Umbria our stays are at 3 apartments, 2 simple bed and breakfasts, and 3 hotels.
With airfare, car rental, some hotels and the opera, we've already laid out $3000! My vacation savings account has been filled, emptied, refilled and emptied again. Of course we'll have expenses while we're there, for gas (which won't be cheap!), tolls, and food, of course, but probably not much else. We're not even planning to visit Florence this time, just because it'll be hot and jam-packed with tourists. Instead we'll concentrate on visiting friends, making day trips to locations both new and old, and just enjoying each day as it comes. We've tried not to structure this vacation too much, knowing that expecting the unexpected is what makes travel so fun!