I just returned from Italy this weekend and here are my dirty dozen observations of my travel.

I just returned from Italy this weekend and here are my dirty dozen observations of my travel.

1.  You can really see a drop in travel this month as planes are not full – This was especially true on international flights to and from Europe. While business class was full on our flights to Italy from NYC I noticed that a lot of people were using miles for upgrades and freebie tickets. Coach seating was very light with some flights having full rows of empty seats across the pond. Even domestic flights from NYC to Chicago were only about 75% full. CLICK HERE to hear more.

2. Using the CLEAR security pass to bypass long TSA Precheck lines is actually slower than just using TSA Precheck – For years I was under the impression that if I had a subscription to the CLEAR airport security system, I could speed myself to the front of the TSA Precheck lines at major airports. Last week I had people traveling with me with TSA Precheck but no CLEAR pass. They got through the security line much faster than I did on the two occasions that I used the CLEAR pass in Chicago and NYC. Basically, my advice to you is that most people should NOT pay the extra $189 a year subscription as I only see marginal if any advantage to using it. CLICK HERE to read more. Some credit cards provide Free CLEAR membership and that is how I have my membership as I would not pay for the service. CLICK HERE for more. 

3. You had better book your international travel ASAP as we are already seeing prices sneak up every week. – One month ago, we found $3000 business class airfares and $600 economy class tickets throughout Europe. This week many of those business class tickets have almost doubled and the coach airfares have jumped by 50% to some cities. The airlines are betting that the European travel bonanza will continue in 2024 and they will continue to ratchet up prices if reservations continue to build. CLICK HERE to listen to Paul and I discuss this more.

4. Having one single flight delay can mean you are stuck and can’t get home from Europe on the same day – Our flights to Rome took us through Chicago to Newark and then Rome. We had the same return flights as well with all flights having reasonable times for connecting flights. Upon returning to Newark this weekend we found out our flight to Chicago on United would be delayed by over 2 hours, thus making us miss our connecting flight from Chicago to Omaha. This of course was no fun to have to overnight in Chicago when everyone wanted to be in their own bed that night. To United Airlines’ credit they did provide us with a nice hotel voucher at the Rosemont Hilton, shuttle ride to the hotel and $40 per person in food vouchers. Actually, I felt much better getting to bed by 9:30 pm in Chicago than arriving late at night into Omaha and then driving and arriving home past midnight. CLICK HERE to find out more

5. Everyone should get a Global Entry pass if they are traveling internationally – Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved travelers when they return to the U.S.  The system works wonderfully and allows for speedy clearance of Passport Control. On my recent trip to Italy, I returned, and it took me less than two minutes to clear Passport Control while hundreds of people were lined up for wait times ranging from 10 minutes to 45 minutes. CLICK HERE to find out more about the program. Applying for the Global Entry pass also provides you with TSA Precheck for free. CLICK HERE for more. 

6. Americans have a difficult time slowing down in Italy  – Most lunches and dinners in Italy last 2-3 hours. You will never see a waiter in Italy bring you a bill until you ask for it. It is considered rude to try to push you out the door at a restaurant just so they can “turn the table” as they say in the good old U.S.A. There is an old song by Simon and Garfunkel called “Feelin’ Groovy” with the lyrics, “Slow down, you move too fast, You got to make the morning last, Just kicking down the cobblestones, Looking for fun and feeling groovy…”. That song ran through my mind several times this past week in Italy. To put this in perspective we actually saw several McDonald restaurants in Italy with NO drive through lanes. CLICK HERE to hear more.

7. Tipping is not expected in Italy but I sure got a lot of smiles when I added a nice tip to the bill – Over the last 5 years I have noticed that more and more tipping is going on in Italy. I saw more and more service charges being added to bills when traveling in Italy this year. Americans have tipping ingrained so much in our culture that many of us feel guilty if someone provides us with great service and we hold back on a nice tip. CLICK HERE to hear Paul and I discuss more.

8. Travel to Italy in December is now my favorite time of the year to travel – This year I have been to Italy in June and now December. June was so hot all I found myself doing was finding an air conditioned building to take refuge. December was cool temperatures (40’s) but the crowds were for the most part very low (except for the Christmas markets). CLICK HERE for more. 

9.  You can find the “real” Italy in the off season – One day we traveled to Gubbio and there were no tourists anywhere. We also found a local restaurant that provided our small group with the best lunch I have ever had. All local, all Italy. CLICK HERE to hear more. 

10. You must watch out for the local holidays – During our trip last week Italy had a national holiday, so all the museums were shut down. We were aware of this in advance, but it took away from the flexibility of feeling the full Rome experience. CLICK HERE for more.

11.  The wine experience in Italy is by far the most comprehensive in the world – You will be amazed that there are over 1700 wineries covering 20 regions of Italy. Each region specializes in their own varieties. I do not fancy wine, however I found myself really enjoying tasting the different wines from multiple regions, and wineries. One of the most amazing things I found on this trip was a private label balsamic vinegar. Dipping your bread in Italian Olive Oil and local balsamic vinegar provides an explosion of taste. I don’t understand why more wineries don’t produce balsamic vinegar to complement their wine. CLICK HERE to find out more. 

12. Umbria is the new up and coming area of Italy – Located just beside Tuscany many people who frequent Italy are visiting Umbria as Tuscany is being overrun with tourists. Umbria is located in about the middle of the country and has easy access to Rome and Florence. If you want to experience the real Italy put Umbria and the towns of Assisi, Gubbio, Perugia and Montone on your bucket list in 2024. CLICK HERE for more. 

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