Venice, Italy

 

Venice Italy –  Before traveling to Venice I had heard mixed reviews from others who have traveled there in the past.  Anyone that gave a negative review of Venice, boy were they wrong! This city is nothing short of spectacular, beautiful and simply romantic. Like any other popular touristy city you have the crowded main squares with vendors trying to sell you anything they can, but steps beyond that you find yourself getting lost in the maze of little streets, going up and over waterways, and finding a perfect photo op at every turn. My husband Steve loves to take pictures, so you can only imagine how many steps we would get before I had to stop again for him to take a photo. I always get annoyed in the moment, but when I look back at some of the photos he took I’m usually like “ok that was worth it”!

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Where to Stay

I will have to admit that Venice is not an inexpensive adventure, however if you book a hotel far enough in advance you will probably be able to find a great hotel at a great price.  There are so many little quaint places to stay that I had such a hard time finding the perfect spot.  The city is completely walkable, so any location I feel is a great location.

I always like to read reviews on TripAdvisor before booking a hotel anywhere I go.  The one thing I wanted in a Venice hotel was the ability to take a boat right up to the front entrance, so I searched for places with a private dock.  We ended up staying at this amazing hotel named Splendid Venice .  A lot of the hotels in Venice have that old Venetian look and feel, which many people love.  If that is what you are looking for, then this hotel will not give you that, but it will give you modern luxury.  Like all hotels in Europe the rooms are small compared to hotels in the US, however our bathroom was floor to ceiling marble, wifi and breakfast were complimentary, there was a rooftop with seating, and the decor throughout was beautiful.  This hotel is nestled in between a small canal and a busy street only steps away from San Marco Square and the Rialto Bridge.  Our canal view room made me feel like I was in Venice, especially when we would hear the singing from a passing Gondola echo off the buildings. One thing I do have to say is if you are going to treat yourself, get a room with a canal view!  It is completely worth the upgrade.

* Tip on hotel bookings – sometimes if you book directly through the hotel instead of a third party site you will get a better deal. If they have a membership/rewards program, you can get a discount on your stay by signing up.  Also if there are any upgrades or extras they are usually given to guests who book directly with the hotel vs. a third party site.

 

IMG_3729IMG_3456View from our room

What to Do

No matter what your interests are there are endless possibilities in Venice.  From museums, art galleries, architecture, shopping, site seeing, and tours, there will always be something to do in this beautiful city. Here are some of my favorite moments from our trip to Venice.

  • Enjoy the Rialto Bridge at Sunset – get your selfie stick ready for a great photo op!  Don’t have a selfie stick, there are plenty of people selling them on the bridge (ha!)
  • Find a happy hour spot, usually a small walk up counter selling drinks and small bites, and enjoy a Spritz
  • Explore the fresh food market – Rialto Market
  • View Venice from atop – amazing views of Venice from the top of St Marks Basillica, San Marco Campanile, and San Giorgio Maggiore
  • Take a water taxi ride through the Grand Canal. In my opinion I would do this over a Gondola ride. The Gondola is just as expensive and it just seemed like a gondola traffic jam in every canal.
  • Enjoy the music in St Marks Square at night.  A few of the restaurants will have live Quartets playing beautiful music, grab a seat ( you’ll have to pay a sitting fee) and order a bottle of wine and enjoy the sounds.
  • Visit the Florian Cafe in St. Marks Square – the oldest cafe in the world

We didn’t have enough time to explore the neighboring islands and I wish we did.  Next trip to Venice we will be sure to add that to the itinerary.

 

Mangia!

When you think of Italian cuisine you think of pizza and heavy pasta dishes.  Venice, being surrounded by water, has more of a seafood cuisine.  You can still find pizza and pasta however, it wasn’t the same as it was when we visited Rome.  The seafood dishes we had the entire time we were there were amazing!  Spaghetti and clam sauce, lobster, whole fish deboned table side to just name a few.

When looking for something quick and cheap, don’t pass up the corner “deli”.  Such a great selection of Italian staples.  Be aware that if you sit down at a deli or cafe they will charge you a sitting fee vs. just grabbing your food to go.

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I wish we had more than 4 days in the beautiful city, as it wasn’t enough to take in all it has to offer.  I’ve heard that 3-4 days is enough, however we love the Italian culture and people and could just wander around forever.

 

 

 

Top 11 Carry-On Essentials

What you pack in your carry-on bag for a long haul flight can make a big difference between an enjoyable flight vs. an uncomfortable flight.  Below are my must-haves to survive a long flight along with items you should always pack in your carry-on.

First lets talk about your outfit (from a female perspective).  If I am on a flight 5+ hours, especially an overnight flight, I want to be comfortable.  I’m not saying wear your pajama pants and an oversized sweatshirt, but a nice pair of black leggings with layered tops (think tank top, long sleeved shirt, and fitted or stylish jacket) and a pair of nice sneakers is my go-to outfit.  The sneakers I wear will usually be a pair that I will work out in, and the jacket is something that I will wear around on the trip as well.  I try to have my carry-on bag serve a dual purpose such as a beach bag or a tote to carry my stuff around in during the day while out being a tourist 🙂 .

 

My Carry-On Bag

  1. Change of clothes – Always pack a change of clothes in your carry-on!  You never know what may happen with your checked luggage!  I have been separated from my luggage for various reasons before and the times I didn’t have a change of clothes were not pleasant. Also if you are on an overnight flight you will want to feel refreshed once you get to your destination.  I’ll usually change in the plane bathroom after breakfast or in the airport. If you are going to a beach destination put a bathing suit and a pair of flip flops in your bag.
  2. Scarf  – A scarf can dress up your outfit a bit and work double duty as an extra layer for when it gets cold on the plane.  I am always cold!
  3. Your favorite electronic devices –  Phone, tablet, e-reader etc.  I love having a Nook so that I can have various books on one device for reading. Don’t forget to download any movies/podcasts/music before you leave home.
  4. Chargers –  What good are those electronic devices if they are dead. Depending on the plane and/or cabin you are sitting in you may have outlets in front of your seat to charge your devices.  If traveling internationally don’t forget your converters!
  5. Noise cancelling head phones –  There is nothing worse than trying to watch a movie on the highest volume and all you hear is the sound of the engines.  Trust me, invest in a set of noise cancelling headphones and it will change your in-flight movie experience forever. My favorite are the Bose QuietComfort.
  6. Snacks – Don’t ever depend on the plane service having enough for you to eat, unless you are flying Business/First Class.   I always pack something like trail mix, protein bars, chips, etc. in my carry-on.  Something that will not go bad and can fill you up a bit.
  7. Water bottle – Just like the food, I don’t want to be dependent on a little glass of water when the flight attendants are able to get to me with their drink cart.  I usually either pack a water bottle that I can fill up at the airport, or purchase a big bottle of water at one of the airport vendors. Brita Hydration stations (or something similar) are becoming more popular throughout airports.
  8. Toiletries –  Especially useful on an overnight flight: toothpaste/toothbrush, deodorant, face wipes, and touch-up makeup.
  9. Neck pillow – Nothing is more uncomfortable than trying to sleep upright for hours.  Grab a neck pillow so you at least have somewhere to rest your head besides your neighbors shoulder!
  10. Plane socks – What are plane socks?  They are the socks that I don’t care about that I take on the plane to put over my bare feet or “nice socks”.  If you have ever traveled business class you usually get a pair of these in your amenity kit. After sitting on the plane for a long period of time your feet tend to swell and having your shoes on is just uncomfortable.  I’ll take off my shoes and put on these “plane socks”.  But please put your shoes on when going to the bathroom!
  11. Valuables – This category covers so much and may be the most important!  Anything that you do not want stolen/lost should be put in your carry-on bag.  Money, travel docs, camera, electronics, jewelry, nice handbags/shoes, medicine.  Always put these items in your carry-on bag, no question!

 

What are your essential carry-on items?  Comment on this post to share your essential carry-on items with everyone!

 

Europe via Norwegian Air

I have been following @TravelandLesuire ‘s articles regarding Norwegian Air’s flights to Europe and they have finally received the thumbs up to start operating cheap Europe flights from a few select small airports in the Northeast!  This is great for travelers looking to save some money on their vacation.  I played around with some flights for my upcoming trip to Italy and for me to get from NY to Naples Italy (with a stop) i would be paying $1000 less than the flights I’m looking at currently on Delta, United etc.

If you live in the Northeast and you can get to these airports then its a no-brainer!  However someone like me coming out of Baltimore would still have to get there and it could be more cumbersome than its worth.

Check out the article with Travel and Leisure.

Affordable Flights to Europe

If you are in the Baltimore area Norwegian Air already offers direct flights at a great price to the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.