Friday, November 25, 2011

Packing for Italy

"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money. "   - Susan Heller


I love going on trips, but I dread the packing.  I'm getting better at it I must admit, but I still dread it.  I find myself planning way in advance of the departure date, virtually coordinating and packing outfits in my head and wondering how many days those little bottles of travel shampoo will last.

As I looked at the calendar this morning I was struck with a mixed feeling of anxiety and excitement - we are leaving for Italy in 10 days from now!!  I have to start packing and planning this weekend and be ready by this Sunday night - even though our departure date is Monday December 5.  I need to be ready ahead of time since I have a major project wrapping up at work this next week and I'll be flying to Newark, New Jersey December 1-2 to present it.  UGGGHHH!  Now, I'm really feeling anxious.  What if the weather in Newark is bad and my flight home on Friday night is delayed?  What if I don't get home at all?  What if I miss my flight to Italy?  What if.... what if .... what if.....  The list could go on and on and on.  Deep breath. Calm down.  Okay -  think logically.  What do I need to do today, in order to be prepared and relaxed by Monday, December 5?

Let me explain the purpose of this next trip.  My wonderful husband and our dearest friends have planned a get away for all of us for my "milestone birthday", occurring on December 10.  We are renting a farmhouse in Tuscany for 7 days and then transferring to Venice for 4 days before coming home on December 16.  I can't believe we are going to do this - it's really a dream come true.  As I've explained in this blog, I'm a bargain shopper and I travel on a shoestring budget.  That translates to finding the deals (I comb the internet and select sites), traveling during the shoulder or off seasons (luckily, my birthday is during the off season for most destinations -- pre-Christmas, post-Thanksgiving) and using frequent flier miles, hotel points, car rental points, etc.  When Tom and our friends first brought up the idea of a trip to me, they were recommending a Christmas market tour through Germany.  This really did sound wonderful but as I researched and planned, I realized that the trip would be very expensive, difficult to navigate in bad weather, and honestly, how many gingerbread men can you really look at it in two weeks?  So I began my research and planning for a trip in December that all of us could enjoy.

I came upon a trusted website that I had used with great success before,  Tom and I had used this group earlier this year for a trip to Ireland and the entire experience was perfect, from the pricing to the accomodations.  It was on their website that I found our destination -- Il Borro Estate (   The package included airfare from New York, a 7-day car rental, and a 2-bedroom, 2-bath farmhouse for 7 nights, for 4 adults.  It looked beautiful, tucked in a small medieval village in Tuscany with olive groves, vineyards and a full restaurant with the option for private cooking lessons with the chef.  This would be our vacation destination - we all love Italy and the idea of a peaceful Tuscan farmhouse in the countryside between Florence and Siena represented my idea of heaven on earth.  I called Sceptre, added airfare to/from Denver and a side excursion to Venice for after we checked out of the farmhouse.  The price nudged up a bit, but not much and after calling my friends and my husband, I booked the trip.  We were going!  Now, to find a hotel in Venice for three nights.  For this part of my itinerary I turned to another trusted advisor,  I researched Venitian hotels in the approximate area I knew we wanted to stay and came up with a lovely option, Hotel Canal Grande (  I emailed them directly and due to the off-peak timing of our stay, they offered us a special rate that included extras such as a full daily breakfast and gondola transportation.  We were set!

But alas, back to the packing.  I've been checking and so far the weather looks pretty promising -- highs in the 50's, lows in the 30's.  Some sun, some rain.  I'll take 3 pairs of nice jeans, 2 pairs of black pants, sweaters to mix and match, a scarf, a light jacket and a trench coat.  Good walking boots and a pair of tennis shoes and workout clothes - I'm set!  It sounds so simple when I describe it like this but I know that the process will take alot more time and energy.  "The devil is in the details" when it comes to packing - ensuring the clothes all mix and match, a few select pieces of jewelry that will work to dress up or down any sweater and matches with them all, and then those little nagging "things".  Shampoo bottles, makeup containers, kleenex packets and medicines/vitamins/aspirins, etc.  Then, what comes on the plane with me and what can go in checked baggage?  In other words - what can I live without, should it not appear in Pisa when I do?   It's the little things that drive me crazy, but when I start to lose my mind counting daily vitamin doses into miniature containers, I'll pull up the website for Il Borro, sip a calming glass of Italian wine, and dream about how it will feel to be there in just a few more days...... 

Travel Tip:  Pack a few days ahead of time if at all possible.  This helps to eliminate that last minute stress and the risk of forgetting something important.  It also allows you to free your mind and enjoy your time leading up to the departure - keeping everyone more sane and calm in the process.