Back in May, my mother, brother, and I went to England for an 18 day trip. When we returned I told my sister how much I enjoyed the trip and would love to go back for a week. In July she called and asked if I would be interested in going to London over the Thanksgiving holiday. We could take advantage of one of the GoToday.Com specials and the trip would only cost about $800. Also, since it was over Thanksgiving we could do the trip while only using two or three days of vacation time.
This sounded wonderful and I immediately began planning the trip. As I looked at the specials from GoToday.Com I noticed that a "Paris-London" trip they were offering during the summer. This greatly interested me and I hoped they would offer the same trip during the fall. Unfortunately, they did not. I also noticed that they were offering a week in Rome for just $100 more than a week in London.
Having just returned from London I was more interested in seeing Rome (not that I wasn't eager to return to London). So I called my sister and proposed that we go to Rome instead. She was agreeable with this idea so I started planning.
First we had to figure out who all was going. Initially it would be my sister, her husband, a family friend, and myself. After some convincing my brother and mother, also decided to go. In late August I made our reservations with GoToday.Com. The cost per person was $828. This included airfare from Birmingham, Alabama, 6 nights lodging, and transfers to and from the airport in Rome.
I live in Madison, Wisconsin while the rest of the group was leaving from Birmingham, Alabama. I decided to fly down to Alabama a couple of days early so that we could all travel as a group. This also gave me a chance to visit some with my grandmother at Thanksgiving. This extra ticket cost me $220 on United Airlines.
As I was doing research on Rome I found mention of the Necropolis beneath St. Peter's Basilica. I sent off an email requesting a reservation for 6 people and received a prompt reply. I also made reservations online for the Borghese Gallery. And finally, I contacted Scala Reale as recommended in Rick Steves book to arrange for tours while we were in Rome. I will write more on each of these below.
As time approached I made two purchases for items to take on this trip. First, I purchased a carry-on bag (the kind with wheels and a handle). I was determined that this would be my only piece of luggage. After carefully packing it several times I was able to pack everything into this carry-on. I also took along a smaller bag in which I had kept my cameras and a few other items. I figured if I had more items than I could pack coming back I would get a box to pack the additional items in.
I also purchased a digital video camera. I had been looking at these cameras for the last couple of years but could not justify the cost. The camera I wanted was a palm-size JVC. These are very small and will actually fit into a pants/jacket pocket. A few weeks before leaving I walked into a store and saw an "open box" camera on sale for half-price. After looking it over I decided to splurge. I called the salesman over and said I would like to buy the camera. He said, "Great, let me get you one out of the back. Follow me."
I was thinking I would buy the one on display but I followed him into the back where he brought out a brand new camera in an unopened box. The camera also included a 3-Year replacement warranty. He explained that they were trying to get rid of last years models. The current model included a flash to take still photos and a "memory stick" to store them on. This was no loss to me as I already own a digital camera. The model I bought also has the ability to take low resolution digital stills but stores them on the tape itself. I was very pleased with the performance of this camera. Not only is it very portable (weighs only 1 pound), the picture quality is very good and I am able to dump the video into my computer, edit it, and then burn up to 1 hour of great quality video onto a CD or send it back out to a VHS player. For those of you more interested in this please drop me a line.
As the trip approached I believe everyone became excited. My brother and sister took a 6 week Italian class at a local college. While my sister speaks Spanish fluently and my brother knows some Spanish, they both felt the Italian class was helpful. There were times in Rome where they were able to use a combination of Italian and Spanish. While this making things a little easier we got along fine just using English and a few Italian phrases (hello, goodbye, restroom, etc.). Don't let the language be a barrier. You will get along just fine.