Plan your Dream Trip to Italy and France

Determine The Countries

Our son, Mark, is in college and planned to study abroad during his Junior year in France. What a perfect time and excuse to visit France. Additionally, Mark was eager to visit as many countries as possible during his study abroad term and suggested a visit to Italy so he could meet us and vacation together. Yes, we picked up on that right away….a way for him to travel without expense is to invite your parents! So we will use our trip to help you Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – Trevi Fountain Rome

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Length of Trip

Now that we had the countries determined, we needed to decide on the length of vacation. We checked with Mark on his semester break and planned the Italy portion of our trip (1 week) during his break time. We both had the ability to take 3 weeks of vacation, which determined potentially how long we could stay. With the idea of trying to stay around 3 days in each area, we outlined the cities we’d like to visit in Italy and France—the list was long but needed to be narrowed as there is a limit to time and budget.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - Spanish Steps Rome
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – Spanish Steps Rome

Flight Details

Having traveled abroad before, we knew that optimally we’d prefer a direct flight. Looking at credit card deals, we decided to apply for the Delta Card which at the time have a very large frequent flyer mile bonus. Based on work commitments, Mark’s break and flight costs, we decided it would be best to book roundtrip tickets to Paris and an additional one-way flight to Rome at the beginning of the trip, with the idea traveling by train through Italy and much of France with return flight at the end of our trip from Paris. Wayne was able to get a free round-trip flight to Paris using his miles and by watching prices and being flexible on dates/days for departure and return we were able to get a pretty good deal on flights.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - Sistine Chapel Vatican City Rome
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – Vatican City Rome

Using A Travel Agent

With the outline of what we wanted to see and do and the main transportation costs paid for, we sat down to determine lodging and other transportation options. We didn’t know these cities and which parts were safe, or the languages that are spoken or the transportation systems, and we were soon overwhelmed by the choices we needed to make. We did have some recommendations from friends for some cities, but we decided to engage a travel agent to help us with lodging, train reservations, and car rental.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - Sistine Chapel Vatican City Rome
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – Sistine Chapel Vatican City Rome

We gave our travel agent our outline and lodging requirements and she presented us with a couple of plans based on our budget and timeframe. That was a great relief to engage a travel agent to ensure we were getting lodging in good safe areas, centralized to our activities, transportation on trains and car rental reserved and all booked and paid for before we set foot in the country. We were presented with vouchers for everything, printed itineraries, a digital copy on an app and contacts and phone numbers for folks in the country to assist if something went wrong during the trips.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - St. Peter's Basilica Rome
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – St. Peter’s Basilica Rome

Phone Apps

For each city that we were staying in, I downloaded the off-line google map to assist when we didn’t have access to wifi. I downloaded Rick Steve’s app and downloaded tours and talks he had on cities and places in Italy and France. I download a currency converter app, a translation app for language issues, the subway maps in cities that we might need subway for, the Train app for France, and searched for apps for other places of interest that we plan to visit during our stay. Additionally, I downloaded library audio books and ebooks to my phone and packed my earbuds. I was all set!

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - Vatican City Rome
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – Vatican City Rome

Other Supplies Etc.

We purchased an electrical converter for our electronics, inflatable travel pillows, locks for our luggage (which we ended up not using since our luggage was always close by), and Wayne got an international driver’s license. We picked up Euros at our local bank so that we’d have cash upon entry, we each had a different credit cards that offered no international transaction fee (hint make sure you don’t just have an American Express card, as many small businesses will not take AmEx card), ensure your credit card will allow cash withdrawal or take a debit card. Sometimes businesses will require minimum purchase when using credit cards or lodging may require that city/local tax is paid in cash, so have Euros on hand.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - The Colosseum Rome
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – The Colosseum Rome

What to Pack

We knew we wanted to travel light but questioned if we could travel without bringing large suitcases and checking luggage for a 3-week trip. Since we planned to travel by train and move from place to place often, we focused on trying to get all our essential travel gear and clothes into our carry on roller luggage. Looking back on that, it was one of the best decisions we made after seeing the struggles others with large luggage went through.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - Arch of Constantine Rome
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – Arch of Constantine Rome

Wayne had a camera bag filled with necessary photography items for his personal bag. I bought a Travelon day-pack that was lightweight but had security features with slash-resistant straps and body, RFID blocking slots and pockets, and locking compartments and straps. We used the day pack to bring a water bottle, travel guidebook, snacks, and needed items on our daily activities.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - Florence Italy
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – Florence Italy

We focused on packaging enough clothes for 10 days, planning to do laundry ½ way through the trip. We each wore a pair of boot shoes and each packed one pair of great walking tennis shoes. We each wore a rain jacket and packed a puffer coat, lightweight gloves and a hat, and a small umbrella. We focused on layers, taking short sleeve shirts, a couple of long sleeve shirts and sweaters. We bought travel size personal care items, packed only essentials and were able to fit all we needed into the carry-on luggage.

Travel Insurance

It is wise to get general travel insurance anytime you leave the county for those crazy unforeseen circumstances. For example, someone gets very ill or your hotel burns down or whatever.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - The Florence Baptistery Gold Doors
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – The Florence Baptistery Gold Doors

After doing some research we went with World Nomads because they were the best value for what you get and they came highly recommended.  In general with all of our insurance, we tend to get a higher deductible knowing we can cover some of the cost of a crazy event but we want to be covered for the very expensive cases.

Rental Car Insurance

Normally when we are in the states we turn down car renters insurance because we know our normal car insurance covers us when we rent a car. So we thought we had turned down the car rental insurance for this trip.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - David Gallery of the Academy of Florence
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – David Gallery of the Academy of Florence

When it came time to turn in our car, the rental people showed us a scratch on the car that was not on their records. Frankly, it felt like a scam to us. But, then they told us we had the rental insurance so it was covered. We thank our travel planner for doing that because that could have caused a significant delay and headaches.  We would highly recommend getting the car rental insurance.

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - The Florence Baptistery Ceiling
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – The Florence Baptistery Ceiling

Our Actual Itinerary

Departure en route to Rome Italy

  • Thursday · October 25th Flight from Minneapolis to Paris (8 hours, 7 minutes) +1
  • Friday · October 26th Flight from Paris to Rome (2 hours, 5 minutes) Transfer · Euro Travel 2004 FIT The Baileys Hotel (3 nights)
  • Saturday · October 27th Big Bus Premium 2 Day (48 hours) Hop on Hop off and 4 walking tours (2 days)
    Skip The Line Vatican Entrance AM: 10 am.
  • Sunday · October 28th Skip the Line Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum Morning Tour (3hr)
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - El Duomo Florence Italy
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – El Duomo Florence Italy

Departure en route to Florence Italy

  • Monday · October 29th Rail · Italo Rail: Roma Termini to Firenze SMN (1hr 31min)
  • Palazzo Ruspoli Bb (3 nights)
  • Tuesday · October 30th Hop On, Hop Off | Sightseeing Tours (2 days)
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - Ponte Vecchio Florence Italy
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – Ponte Vecchio Florence Italy

Departure en route to Cinque Terre Italy

Thursday · November 1st Rail · Florence S M N to Monterosso via La Spezia (2hr 25min)
Hotel Margherita (3 nights)

Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France - Manarola Cinque Terre Italy
Plan Your Dream Trip to Italy and France – Manarola Cinque Terre

Departure en route to Nice France

  • Sunday · November 4th Rail · Monterosso to Genova (1hr 21min) – Rail · Genova to Nice Ville (3hr 3min) – Rail · Nice Ville to Marseille St Char (2hr 39min) Rail · Marseille St Char to Montpellier St Roch (1hr 37min)
  • West End (3 nights)

Departure  en route to Montpellier France

  • Wednesday · November 7th Rail · Nice Ville Via Avignon to Montpellier St Roch (4hr 50min)
  • Pullman Montpellier Centre (1 night)

Departure en route to Paris France

  • Thursday · November 8th Rail · Montpellier St Roch to Paris Gare Lyon (3hr 29min)
  • Royal St Honore (4 nights)
  • Friday · November 9th The Big Bus- Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour Paris/2 day pass (2 days)

Departure en route to Normandy and Mont Saint Michele France

  • Monday · November 12th Rail · Paris St Lazare to Caen (2hr 9min)
  • Rental Car · EUROPCAR (9hr)
  • Terrasses Poulard (2 nights)

Departure en route to Chateaux Country France

  • Wednesday · November 14th (2 nights) Hotel Le Choiseul Amboise, France

Departure en route back to Paris France

  • Friday · November 16th Hotel Mercure Paris Cdg Airport & Convention (1 night)

Departure en route back to Minneapolis MN USA

  • Saturday · November 17th Flight from Paris to Minneapolis (9 hours, 40 minutes)

How to Plan Your Trip

Planning a trip like this can be very daunting. If you would like help planning your trip I would recommend you contact the leaders.   That is, of course, Travel Leaders.  Tell them Wayne sent you!  A great travel team can make every detail of your trip just work!

Take a Look at the Actual Trip

Now that we have discussed planning the trip, let’s look ahead to the results of an actual trip.   We will break the results down into two parts of the trip. First, time in Italy. Secondly Exploration in France.

10 Days in Italy – The Perfect Italy Itinerary

Best of France Itinerary – 2 Weeks in France

Conclusion

Well as you can see an amazing dream trip is possible.  It takes considerable focus and planning to make it all happen, but it is certainly worth it.  We had an amazing time!  Start saving for your trip and start putting everything together to make it happen. You will be glad you did.

The next posts will be the actual adventure and experiences we had while visiting historic and amazing Italy and France.

If you have any questions at all about this trip, please reach out and contact me!

And until next time, get out and capture the adventure!

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Written by Wayne Moran - Visit Website
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