Hi! Hey! What’s happening? How ya doing?
About a month or so ago I returned from one of my favorite trips to date; a whirlwind girls week in Italy and Croatia. After getting back, I knew I wanted to write about the experience… but instead of talking specifically about the trip and the things we did, I have decided to detail the planning and execution of the age old question “How did this happen?”. I have gotten questions about the feasibility of travelling abroad in the past and I think it’s time to share my secrets… Buckle up, in almost every facet of this story will be “INSIDER TIP” and “MINI TIP” inserts! These are the main ideas I use and follow in planning vacations.
Traveling abroad takes patience and organization but it is not hard. I repeat: You can travel internationally with confidence if you do the work.
Let’s start at the beginning… Like, way before the trip happened. The year is 2018, probably sometime in the fall. I am itching to get on a plane but have no reason to go anywhere other than for work (did you read my post about my trip to Cinci? If not, you can click here ! *shameless self plug, sorry*)
Anyways, back in the fall I was lamenting to my girl Francisca Berry (her IG is here, if you want to see who I am talking about!) about how scary it is that things move and change so quickly in life. She and I are what I like to call “new things” girls. Everytime there is a new restaurant, we are there trying it. New coffee place? Let’s test their lattes. New park? Let’s take a walk! New boutique, let’s go blow a paycheck there (this sounds like a joke but I’m looking at YOU, Birdbee Detroit.) Any time there is something new I want to try, Francisca is my go-to partner in crime. I promise we do more than sit and eat, but this particular story started with us sitting … and eating.
“We should take a girls trip. No boys. No expectations.”
“But where should we go?!”
The first thought we had was Iceland. WOW air recently had opened and started offering RIDICULOUSLY cheap flights there. We both had a number of friends who had been and loved it.
Sidebar: BOY AM I GLAD WE DIDN’T DO THAT. In case you don’t read the news, let me summarize what happened a couple weeks ago. Wow Air closed… With no warning and no refunds. A number of my coworkers were stranded with no way to get their money back. Thank HEAVENS that was not us!
Obviously when we were talking about this we didn’t know WOW air would go out of business. Iceland was thus, a contender in our trip idea list. She and I also discussed a Southwest USA trip, maybe a road trip! I want to see Arizona and Utah. I’ll be honest, I don’t know how we landed on Croatia exactly. Francisca certainly mentioned it first. While researching things to see and places to go, I noticed Pula, a smaller northern city in Croatia was very close to Trieste, Italy. I went to Trieste in 2016 and LOVED it and was dying to see it again. So we landed on Italy and Croatia, sort of by accident.
INSIDER TIP: Both trips I have made to Italy were to/from Toronto Pearson International Airport. It is SO much cheaper than flying from Detroit. Toronto is 4 hours from my apartment in Detroit, so it’s a big commitment…. BUT as my grandma always said “If you want it to happen, you have to MAKE it happen.”
So in February-ish, I booked two tickets to Trieste Italy for the end of May! The plan was to drive to Toronto, fly to Rome, fly to Trieste, drive to Croatia, then do it all in reverse order on the way home. We would complete a road trip through Canada, see Italy and visit Croatia all in one.
Once the day of travel arrived, Francisca and I packed our bags in my jeep and giddily set off kissing my mom and her nana goodbye. My neighbor yelled “We sure weren’t going to Italy when WE were 25, were we Cheri (my mom)?”. We all laughed. But the words have stuck with me. I am thankful to be living the life I am.
Four-ish hours, 250-ish miles, two Tim Horton’s stops and a full playlist of love songs later, we arrived and parked my Jeep at our prepaid parking spot. Mini tip: I find paying for parking before I arrive eliminates the concern of finding it when you get there! I have parked at an offsite lot and at an on-site lot. There are pros and cons to both. Personally, I like being able to walk to my gate and not wait on a shuttle.. so this time I chose a parking lot within walking distance to our terminal. We wandered to our gate, got coffee and camped out waiting for our first flight. Smooth sailing so far.
The biggest (and really only) negative experience Francisca and I had actually happened before we even got out of Canada. Our flight took off from Toronto to Rome at 9:30 PM and for the first 10 minutes or so after take off, the plane VIOLENTLY shook. There was one particular dip in altitude that left the entire cabin gasping and clinging to their seats. Francisca calmly looked at her phone and asked me about connecting to the wifi. I was pretty sure I was going to vomit but breathing deeply to try and not. I chewed a motion sickness pill. Francisca held my hand. I normally love flying, but I found myself thinking “I am never getting on a plane again. We CAN’T keep going if it’s going to be like this. They have to turn around!” But, alas after the longest 8-12 minutes of my LIFE the ride smoothed out. PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW. The calm stewardesses started handing out dinner almost immediately after. Unfortunately at that point my appetite was gone and I was just trying not to lose the starbucks frappuccino i had at the airport hours earlier. Francisca then admitted (while giving me her bread to help settle my stomach) that she downloaded the wifi and paid for it to tell her mother and her boyfriend goodbye. She was *mostly* joking. It was a SCARY way to start the trip.
INSIDER TIP: Have your affairs in order before travelling. And make sure you are good with God 😀
THANKFULLY none of the other flights were like the first one. I’ll be honest, I had horrific anxiety for the rest of the flights. Thankfully, after 10ish hours we made it to Italy. It was like walking into a familiar dream.
When I traveled in Italy before, any location transfers I needed to make were done with a cab company called GoOpti. For this trip I did the exact same thing and booked 4 total cab rides with them! GoOpti is reputable, helpful, very nice and best of all, their website is EASY to use. They give you a ton of information about who your driver is, their arrival time and phone numbers and they verify themselves and you when they pick you up. As a self identified anxious personality type, I like to feel safe and wanted Francisca to feel safe too! (This careful planning will be a theme throughout this post, did you notice that?) We caught our first GoOpti cab and stopped at our first stay, a cutie patootie apartment in a residential district of Trieste.
INSIDER TIP: If you are traveling to a country in Europe, it is worth picking up some basic language skills outside of English. Truly, most local residents will have some grasp of English but it is worth either studying up on or having an app handy! I downloaded an Italian translation app for my phone and used it quite a lot, particularly during our GoOpti transfers.
Francisca is a self professed AirBNB addict and total reservation making queen. She booked us the CUTEST places in both Italy and Croatia. The first place in Trieste was in a residential neighborhood, about a 10 minute walk from the waterfront with a balcony and beautiful interior.
INSIDER TIP: AirBNB’s are usually cuter and almost always cheaper than staying in a hotel. I know some people I talk to about this feel nervous about renting someone else’s home – I get it, I was that way too! After this trip however, I am addicted. As a renter, you can see owner’s ratings on AirBNB and of course, make sure you protect yourself with knowledge and awareness of your surroundings! I had the emergency phone numbers for local authorities in my phone and knew a couple people, by proxy in the area for emergency contact.
The first night we were there we explored locally and rested the best we could. It was HARD to sleep. Mini tip: Francisca and I both love white noise, so we ended up downloading white noise apps to help us rest. They worked AMAZING.
The second day we booked a sailing tour of the Adriatic through AirBNB. It was originally supposed to happen the night we arrived but due to weather, we ended up going the next afternoon.
Meeting someone we didn’t know for a private sailing tour was scary. As two women travelling alone, I think Francisca and I did really well staying aware and making smart decisions but this was a step outside of what we knew. BOY OH BOY was that risk worth it. Our boat captain was named Alberto (his IG is here) and he was very kind, helpful and funny. If you are ever in Trieste, we highly recommend boating with him!
That night Francisca and I ate our weight in pasta and other local goods, wandered through the streets shopping with vendors and taking it all in. Mini tip: Remember you will need cash sometimes, especially for smaller street shops but VISA is generally accepted everywhere with a storefront! You just need to alert your bank that you will be travelling abroad. I think this is common knowledge, but it’s worth repeating!
So! Yes! That was the first leg of our trip! I think that is PLENTY of information for the first half of this two part blog series – if you made it to the end THANK YOU FOR STAYING. I hope you find these tips helpful in your globe trotting adventures. I will have part two out soon, detailing Croatia and our adventures (& lessons learned) there!