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Myself and 3 other family members want to visit Europe for about a week next year. The cities we want to see for sure are Rome and Venice so this means primarily Italy. In my mind a cruise is the best option from a cost perspective. However, one of the travelers works at a school so she needs to go in the Summer (mid June to mid August). This date constraint drastically reduces our options for a cruise unfortunately. Does anyone else know of any reasonably priced alternatives to a cruise? I've searched for website that offer all inclusive vacations but I've been unable to find what I'm looking for. So any idea are appreciated.

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Why do you need all inclusive vacations? I'd spend 5 days in Rome and 2 days in Venice. I made this trip in 2009. Get a 2-3 star hotel in Rome and explore the city for 4-5 days. Then take a train to Venice and spend the rest of your time there. Venice is extremely small so I would not spend more than 3 days there. You can try tripmasters.com to get an all inclusive price that includes airfare, hotel, and train tickets. I used them for my Italy trip and it worked out fine. You can save money though if you do research and book everything separately. I would book at minimum 3 months in advance to save the most money. If you plan to book everything separately train tickets are deeply discounted usually 3 months out and climb in price the closer you get to the travel date.

I have to echo the the previous poster--why do you need an all inclusive? Rome/Venice is very easy to book. Book each component separately, and buy trip insurance.

If there is any way you could add a few days to your trip, I would advise doing so. I spent 6 nights in Rome, and 5 in Venice on my first trip. Two years later, I went back and spent 3 nights in Florence, 7 in Venice, and I'm going back to Venice this spring.

I certainly hope you aren't planning to add more cities to your itinerary for a one week trip! You will probably be too jet lagged to do much your first day, and you will lose another day traveling between cities.

To really get to know a place, you need to spend time there. Please don't be one of those people who spend a few hours in a city and thinks they have "seen" it. Trust me, I've spent a fair amount of time in certain cities, and I still have plenty to see and learn each time I return.

If you like structured itineraries (not for me) you can check out this: http://www.tourvacationstogo.com/gate_1_travel.cfm?tid=34767 This is an example of Land Only @ 559 per person. I would personally take the trip independently though.

Well when I said all-inclusive I meant everything would be planned. For example, tours to see the major attractions and so forth. We don't speak Italian and won't be renting a car so I'm not sure how comfortable we would be getting around without having things planned. In Hawaii for example if you know where to stay the tour companies will come to the hotel and pick you up and bring you back when done.

Have you spoken to a travel agent? They would have access to a number of structured trip itineraries that would include tour guides.

You would be much better off cost wise to plan your own. Buy a good travel book (ie, DK top 10), and decide what YOU want to see. Tours give you little time, no flexibility, and a lot of added costs. If you are seeing Rome and Venice, why do you need a car? www.trenitalia.com will give you train prices. Book a vacation apartment rental through tripadvisor/flipkey. Take a hop on-hop off bus tour the first day to orient yourself. You can also book day tours from home or when you get there.

Excursions outside of the cities are easy on the train. For example, a tour company will want to charge you 100 euro from Rome. But you can do it yourself on the train for far less.

We used European Destinations a couple of years ago and visited Rome, Florence and Venice. In Florence, we used Sandra's Walkabout Tour, which was a great deal that took us to the Tuscan countryside, Pisa, Siena, and San Giancomo. We took the train between Rome, Florence, and Venice and flew home from Venice, connecting in NYC. It was a fabulous trip.

I would try European Destinations, Virgin Vacations (owned by Virgin Atlantic) or Gate1 Travel. They will give you lots of hotel choice at different price levels. Since you must go in Summer the air fare might be the most expensive part of your trip.

I agree with most of above...I've been to Italy twice....First trip to Venice for a week w one or two small train trips to Trieste Italy which is a hidden treasure! Highly recommend Trieste at some point due to it being only a 2 hr train ride from Venice. Second trip to Italy included Venice-4 days, Florence 2days, Trieste 1 day....one week is barely enough time for any one of those cities much less multiple...I do want to go to Rome but haven't managed to get south of Florence after two trips to Italy....be smart and definitely consider Rome-Florence visit or a Venice-Florence-Trieste visit if you are only there for one week....Venice and Rome in one week is just not enough considering you are spending an entire day on a train between cities plus traveling time to and from Italy....ESP if u have to make a return trip by train to Rome to fly out...if u fly into Rome and out of Venice then it will save you a day but costwise if you are spending tht much money,mthen make it a 9-10 day trip....definitely enjoy bc if I had the money, I'd go back in a heartbeat...

second trip was booked thru go-today.com.l actually got an amazing deal for airfare and hotel but it was in march 2010..

If you are uncomfortable booking your own hotels, flights, tours, etc. then definitely talk to a travel agent. There are a lot of organized tours and you can pick how much you do or do not want included in a tour. However, you'll probably have to be a bit flexible about your itinerary - you may not find a tour with exactly the number of days in Rome and Venice you mentioned (but maybe you will!). My first trip to Italy was an organized tour (a deal I couldn't resist) but since then all my trips have been on my own.

Are you certain that a cruise wouldn't work? A number of cruise lines have itineraries that visit various ports in Italy throughout the summer. Again, a travel agent - one who specializes in cruises - can help.

Good luck.

PS - Stick with your plan to NOT rent a car.

Another thought - book your flight and hotel and your train trip between Rome and Venice. Once in Rome and Venice, there are tours that will pick you up at the hotel and return you to the hotel. A number of tour operators offer city tours. Google, Tripadvisor.com and the Internet will help you find the options.

Before booking hotels, ask if they have someone who can help book tours of the city. Or you can select tours and ask them for a list of hotels where they pick up. As long as your hotel is on the list of hotels where they pick up (and they typically have a long list of those hotels) you should have a worry-free tour.

In Rome, spend at least one day wondering on your own. Take a business card or matchbook from your hotel. If you get lost, you can give it to a taxi driver who will get you back there. In Rome and Venice, don't worry about not speaking Italian. Learn a few phrases (hello, goodbye, please, thank you, where is the bathroom) but language should not be a problem in these cities.

No car needed, don't get one for this trip at all.

Fly open jaw. Into Rome, and out of Venice, or reversed. This might cost a few extra dollars on the flight, but will save you most of a day in additional travel time.

I'd say you could do 4 days in Rome, and the rest in Venice. With only a week, you're pretty limited to those cities unless you want to be rushing around a bit more. In that case, stop in the hill towns somewhere along the way. Either use a day there, or make it quick stops along the way, something like that. Just have to check what you can do with the trains really. Additionally, short hop flights between Rome and Venice are pretty reasonably priced, and might save you some time if you can time it right.

With 3 and 4 day stays, you can rent an apartment pretty reasonably. Try VRBO.com, tripadvisor, etc.

Not really a need to speak Italian, although, you should always learn, and USE, the local niceties (please, thank you, excuse me, yes, no, I don't speak..., sorry). You might also brush up some some menu items so you'll at least be able to navigate a menu in Italian with relative confidence. We've always done much better abroad knowing at least some passing words, etc.

Shoot for closer to the shoulder seasons if you can, So for you, beginning of summer, or end of summer. Note, summer will be busy and hot in Italy.

Personally, I wouldn't use a travel agent for this. You're going to be in heavily touristed areas. All sights, hotels, attractions are going to have english reps there, and websites in english. In Rome, you can buy or reserve tickets for most attractions online before you leave home. Rome has a good network of public transit, so learn how to use that, and you'll be fine.

I recommend Rick Steve's books for most of Europe. Combine the relevant portions of his books with research online, and you'll be fine.

OP,

Having been to both Rome and Venice myself, I'd recommend following the advice of other posters. Fly into Rome and out of Venice if possible -- this will maximize your time.

Spend more time in Rome -- there's more to see/do. Someone else said that 3 days in Venice would be sufficient (or more than sufficient). I'd agree. With 3 days there, you will have a chance to see Murano and all of the other worthwhile things at a leisurely pace.

Most of all, I'd recomment *NOT* trying to have someone else manage and plan oyur schedule. My advice is to WANDER. You want to get lost in Venice. Wander around the small streets from one piazza to another. You can't truly get lost -- the town is far too small for that.

Along those lines, Rome is much smaller than you think. A Rick Steeves book and a little bit of time and wanderlust can pay huge dividends.

Would you rather discover things yourself or have someone tell you what's important? (There's no wrong answer to this question -- it's up to personal preference)

Plenty of good advice in this thread. Spent 17 days in Italy with the wife and was able to convince her to only bring a carry-on acceptable back pack (roll up Space Bags FTW). Best decision we ever made. I can't tell you how many times we saw people lugging huge suitcases up cobblestone roads. I plannned it all in advance via email and web and had zero issues booking rooms. Rick Steves' guides were our bible (don't use his maps unless they have improved since 2005). I "live blogged" it before blogging was even cool. PM me if you want the link to it. As was said, know some key phrases and you will be fine.

It's really not that hard to plan the trip yourself. For the most part, Europe is all about walking the streets and exploring the city. Subways are pretty easy to navigate as well. If you have a smartphone or tablet, most hotels have free wifi for you to plan your day ahead of time. Planning your trip also makes you learn the customs of the cities you visit and enjoy your stay much more. Rome and Venice are probably some of the easiest cities to plan for. Search any trip planning site and there will be numerous guides on what to do and see at those cities. If you want something in your hand, go to half price books and buy a travel book.

I've only skimmed the other replies, but my quick thoughts are --


1. If you are the type of folks who instinctively feel you'd rather be on a guided tour, than you should do that. It can be very complicated and stressful to travel on your own (without a leader or an itinerary) in a foreign country if you are not the type of person who enjoys that kind of thing. You will already know if you are the type of person who is attracted to that sort of thing, or not. It sounds like you are NOT. Therefore, just go on a package tour of some kind.


2. If you only have a week, and you will have several family members with you (of possibly varying ages and energy levels), you won't be able to see much, so it is smart to only want to see 2 cities.


3. If you are going to spend all of your very brief time in only 2 cities, one of them being somewhat inland, I'm not sure why you'd want to do a cruise. My thought would be to take a normal package tour that is by air and land travel.


4. I think that Italy is WELL worth 2 weeks, and it is WELL worth seeing places like Florence, Pompeii, the Alps (if you haven't been to the Alps), Tuscany, the little country of Monaco, and/or other places there. If you are going to pay the high price for the air ticket, you can fit SO much more in to your experience if you stay 6 extra nights.

In fact, any extra night and day that you can spend there (on a planned tour itinerary) will give you so much more in terms of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. [If it's not a once-in-a-lifetime trip and you do this sort of thing relatively frequently, then "nevermind". ]


5. As many have said, just go to a reputable travel agent and see what your many options are.

I have never taken a package tour, but in the past I've used Rick Steves' tour itineraries to give me some ideas - I expect that his company still runs tours, and they've been very popular for the last several decades -- ricksteves.com.

I found his many books and tv shows to be very good for novice American travellers.

A couple of years ago, I found out that most of his tv shows were free on Hulu - I don't know if that is the case anymore, but it's definitely worth trying to find them and watching the ones about the places you want to go to.


6. I think that I listed the places I'd recommend visiting in Italy in this thread:
http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/travel-discussion/983138/


7. Not all American credit cards and payment habits work entirely smoothly in Europe, so do check out threads like this one to prepare yourself for that side of things:
http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/finance/1259789/


8. Watch movies about these places before you go (if you like movies) - like "Three Coins in a Fountain" and that lovely Katharine Hepburn movie set in Venice.

NantucketSunrise said:   ...
1. If you are the type of folks who instinctively feel you'd rather be on a guided tour, than you should do that. It can be very complicated and stressful to travel on your own (without a leader or an itinerary) in a foreign country if you are not the type of person who enjoys that kind of thing. You will already know if you are the type of person who is attracted to that sort of thing, or not. It sounds like you are NOT. Therefore, just go on a package tour of some kind...
Agreed, some people like structure, others do not. It's like cruises -- if someone isn't a "cruise person", no amount of arguing is going to make them enjoy it.

My SO and I normally would just go somewhere and figure out our plans when we get there; many times when we go to Mexico or Central America, we don't even bother making many hotel arrangements. We just decide on the fly where we are going, start driving, and find a place when we get there.

That said; we did do an organized tour a few years back when we went to Croatia and Slovenia. We were travelling with parents and family and they wanted to do a tour. We tried a little to convince them to just get a minivan and do our own trip, but that wasn't going anywhere, so we relented.

We went through Gate 1 for the tour and it actually was much better than we expected. It was not a forced march from sight to sight; generally short drives on a very nice touring bus, followed by a quick overview of location, relatively short formal tours scattered throughout the day, and a good amount of free time. In the end, it probably was the right decision for that trip.



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