My husband and I spent April 2012 touring through Italy, France and the Netherlands as a belated honeymoon. Before we set off, it seemed everyone had indispensable advice to give. We were warned against anything from pick-pockets in Rome to the cost of coffee in Paris, and then some! Coming from South Africa, we knew to take most of these with a pinch of salt and instead remember to take a good deal of common sense with.
Having said that, I do believe that we identified three things that I’d not consider leaving home without in the future. So, here is my own “don’t leave home without it” list.
1. Comfortable, waterproof shoes
I packed three pairs of shoes: flip-flops to shower in, black ballet flats to go out in, and a pair of Merrell Mimosa shoes. They’re not all that pretty, but my feet stayed dry through rain and snow and that was incredibly important. We spent a day road-tripping through the Tuscan hills in relentless rain, and as we were planning on spending most of our time safely in the car, I opted to wear my ballet flats. We stopped in Orvieto and Sienna to visit the beautiful landmarks, but my little black shoes were quickly exchanged for the far more practical Merrells.
2. A three-in-one jacket
I get cold really easy, so before we left I invested in a three-in-one K-Way Atlas jacket. At the time I wondered if I’d get much use out of it, but I quickly realized that this was the best decision I could’ve made. Though my research and all reports told that we could expect temperate weather, we saw three countries covered in grey cloud and persistent rain. My jacket kept me warm through all of these situations, dry in every city, and free of snow in Chamonix. No regrets here!
3. Book tickets and tours for major attractions online
In Rome we sauntered past the lines to the Colosseum. We had coffee while others stood in the rain waiting to gain entrance to the Vatican. In Florence we got up late to visit the Uffizi, and in Paris we had croissants for breakfast and lazily made our way to get into the Louvre. As the old saying goes: “Time waits for no man”, and you will never be able to make up the 2 – 4 hours one could spend standing in line. We gladly paid the administration fees for online bookings when there were any, and gleefully enjoyed every moment we could spend NOT standing in queues for hours. Most every major tourist attraction allows for bookings to be made directly beforehand, and none had a problem with an electronic copy showed on my phone. Invest a little of your time before departing home, and it could save you a lot at your destination.