Tips and Procedures for Rome to London Tour
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- Get in shape by walking 30 minutes every day. The better shape you are in now the more you will be able to get out of the tour. This is not a marathon, but we will be walking more than you do at home.
- Learn about these places by doing some reading now. There are hundreds of books and internet sources to choose from, and it doesn't matter too much which titles you start with, but do get hold of something to read. It would also be helpful to read up on the art history, especially the Renaissance and Baroque periods, as we will see quite a bit of that in our travels. Don’t bring heavy books on the trip.
- Make note of any questions and bring them to the pre-trip meeting, or if they come up later, call Dennis.
- Pack one or two days before the trip! This proves you are well-prepared and can have a relaxing departure day instead of running around like crazy. The flights over are tiring so the better-rested you are on departure day the better you will handle the flights.
- Clothing should be comfortable and casual. You really don’t have to bring any formal clothes—the men don’t ever need to wear a tie, and ladies don’t need fancy dresses. Shorts are recommended – it will be warm: in Italy most likely, in the high 80s and perhaps low 80s in Paris and London. For evening warmth, one sweater and a windbreaker-style jacket. No heavy coat necessary.
- At the trip mid-point in Lucerne we can drop off laundry at a Laundromat, which will wash, dry and fold for us, then we pick it up at the end of the day (costs about $20 per normal load) If you need more, you can wash some laundry in your room every few days.
- It will probably rain sometime during the trip, so bring a small collapsible umbrella, or a rain hat, and carry it with you every day.
- Running shoes are the best for your feet, as you will be doing much more walking over there than you normally do at home. Make sure you break in your shoes and feet before the trip. A second pair of lightweight shoes or sandals is good to have in the hotel and for short, casual walks.
- One suitcase per person, no bigger than 25 inches in length. (It has to fit, with others, into taxi trunks and up on overhead racks in the trains) Many people get by with a 24” or even 22” bag.
- Also, bring one carry-on bag, backpack style if possible, or a shoulder bag, as they leave your hands free. A small backpack with wheels & extendable handle is OK as long as it is not too big, e.g. not a 22inch rollaboard suitcase.
JET LAG AND THE FLIGHT OVER:
- To minimize jet lag, avoid caffeine (coffee, colas, etc.) and alcohol during the journey until you land in Rome.
- Drink as much water or juice as you can - airplane cabins are very dry. You might want to wear a paper germ mask while on the plane to further prevent dehydration. Also try some saline spray.
- An eye shade and earplugs can also help you sleep, which you want to do on the plane as much as possible. Wear comfortable, loose clothing for the plane ride.
- When you arrive in Rome, take a short nap the first afternoon only if you have to. Staying up until bedtime will help reset your body’s clock. We will keep busy with an exciting walk the first afternoon, after a brief rest.
THINGS TO BRING:
- Bring a sufficient supply of prescription medications that you need, and copies of the prescriptions.
- Battery chargers for your camera will work with 220 voltage so you do not need to bring a transformer.
- You do need adapter plugs (one for the continent, on for England) for any electric appliance.
- Bring a laundry line and mini-clothes pins for washing a few things and drying them over the bath tub.
- Scrub towel and rubber slippers for the bath, for those who generally use them.
- It’s important to be on time, so bring a watch and portable alarm clock.
- Don’t bring expensive jewelry on the trip.
- Be sure to bring plenty of storage cards for your digital camera. Plan to shoot at your camera’s highest resolution and figure out how much storage you need for at least 1000 pictures. Delete shots you don’t want.
- Photo tip: when putting yourself or friend in the shot of a site, get close to the person and frame them to the side. “Environmental portraits” are wonderful souvenirs but hard to achieve. You will have many great opportunities for creating some, with a historic background and clear portrait in the foreground.
- If you have a new camera or one you haven’t used in a long time, shoot a bunch of pictures here to make sure it is working and that you know how to use it. Practice, practice, practice -- get good, shoot fast.
- Digital cameras have many features that can help, if you know how to use them. Study the manual and practice.
- Learn how to turn off the flash so that you can take pictures in museums. Also, learn how to use the night flash mode, which slows down the shutter and gives you some natural light in the background in low-light scenes.
- Learn how to “force” the flash on, rather than leaving it on automatic, when needed. This can be useful for flash fill outdoors when shooting someone who is standing with a bright background behind them, to light up their faces.
- When shooting in low light, such as all indoor locations and twilight outside, steady the camera by placing it against something solid like a wall, table, railing or chair. Don’t rely on the flash, which only covers the closest 10 feet, generally leaving the background black.
- When Dennis is shooting video, please ignore the camera. For example, if you happen to walk in front of the camera while he is shooting, just keep walking, rather than ducking away.
- If you do not want to be in the video program at all, please tell Dennis before the trip.
- Even though Dennis is videotaping, don’t hesitate to bring your own video camera along. Dennis is way behind in editing his programs and it will probably be a year or two before any of this video is ready to view.
- On the average, tour participants spend about $1300 during the course of the trip, mostly for meals. You will also be spending on souvenirs, museum admissions, optional trips, public transportation or taxis, etc. This is for average/minimum spenders. If you are a serious shopper, or gourmet eater, that is extra.
- There are many ATM machines from which you can get foreign currency with your bank card, so be sure to bring your bank ATM card, and it must have four digit pin number. If you don’t have an ATM card, GET ONE!
- Don’t use your credit card to get money from an ATM machine – it’s too expensive. Debit cards are OK.
- We recommend taking about $200 in back-up currency (in 20s or 50s) per person if you are going to be using ATM machines for getting the bulk of your money. If you don’t have an ATM, bring $600. You might consider buying a money belt when traveling with large sums. Also bring 40 one-dollar bills for tipping as mentioned below.
- Put as many purchases as possible on your credit cards, for this gives you a good exchange rate.
- You can change money in the banks but it can be time-consuming and a hassle if you have to bring your passport with you to the bank for ID.
- If you need to change money in the evening or on the weekend, when the banks are closed, you might have to change money in the hotel or at a currency exchange, both of which will give less advantageous rates than banks, but the difference is negligible.
- Only carry what money you need for the day, and split that into two and keep each part in a different pocket.
VALUABLES and SECURITY:
- Don’t bring valuable jewelry or anything else valuable along on the trip.
- While you’re in a hotel, keep your passport and any other valuables in a hotel safe deposit box or the in-room safe.
- Whatever you do, don’t ever carry your passport around with you -- it’s much safer in your room.
- Bring a copy of your passport photo/information page, which helps getting a replacement and can also be used as ID in some banks when cashing travelers checks.
- When you are traveling between cities, carry your valuables with you in your carryon or (better) in a money pouch.
- Don’t put valuables in a backpack, which can be easily opened from the rear.
- The most important rule is always BE AWARE. There are pickpockets in Europe, especially in Rome and Paris, but as long as you are careful there should be no problems. Pickpockets are most prevalent on buses, subways, and other very crowded places.
- Bring some large safety pins to pin your pocket shut, or to secure the zipper on a fanny pack. And remember, what you don’t have on your person while you are out walking around during the day can’t be picked.
- Don’t be worried. Pickpockets will not pull a knife or gun on you like might happen in America. When you take these precautions you will be very safe.
DAILY ROUTINE and TOURS:
- Breakfast usually starts from 7:00am, and the day’s activities begin at 8:30am. Most people are usually down to breakfast no later than 7:15.
- In each city Dennis will lead a walking tour. We do the city tour by bus in Paris and London, and walking elsewhere. We walk a lot, which is the best way to see these cities, so be sure to get in shape.
- On the walking tours we don’t go fast, and stop frequently to take pictures and talk about the sights. Generally, every hour we sit and rest for a few minutes. It is very rare for someone to get too tired to continue on the walk, but if that happens. don’t hesitate to let Dennis know, and then you can peel off from the walk, maybe take a taxi back to the hotel.
- On some days the afternoon is free, but your escort is available to offer suggestions or do something with you.
- Various additional activities will be suggested in each place. Most of them are free but please don’t feel any obligation to do them. This is your vacation and you do what you want – we are just providing suggestions and will not be offended if you reject them and go off on your own – it is always up to you.
- We will provide a map of each walking tour route and suggest you bring this with you on each walk, so you know where you are and can get back to places of interest, such as hot shops, that you might want to revisit.
- To cross the street while we are walking together, follow the tour conductor. Often we will cross at traffic lights, but sometimes it is much easier to jay walk. In this case we all cross together. We line up along the curb side-by-side rather than one behind the other, and cross when the leader signals.
- While crossing streets, do not simply follow the person in front of you without looking for yourself. Look to both sides to make sure it is clear. You are always responsible for your own safety at all times.
- When you are out walking on your own and crossing a street, once you have waited for a break in the traffic and have carefully made your start, don’t speed up and don’t slow down, for that will confuse the drivers – just walk normally across. You can make it easier by standing next to a local and go with them.
- In London the traffic drives on the opposite side, so you look right before crossing. It is easier to just look both ways to be sure.
- Don’t go into stores while we are on a tour or you’ll get left behind. Should you decide to leave a tour before the end, please let your guide know.
- There are very few public toilets on these walks, so make sure to use the facilities just before you leave.
- During the walk if you feel an urgent need for the toilet, let it be known about 15 minutes ahead so we can find one. The stealth technique for finding a toilet is to walk into a restaurant and walk straight to the back of the main room, without rotating and periscoping your head in an obvious search for the toilet sign. Once you are in the back, the sign should be visible—perhaps saying “WC” and if you still don’t see it, then you can ask and they’ll perhaps assume you belong there since you are in there already.
- In Italy, and sometimes elsewhere, you might need a few coins to enter the toilet, so be prepared with small amounts of money. Ladies might want to bring some toilet paper.
- If you have a problem with your room, speak to the hotel desk clerk.
- Use the hotel desk to arrange extra tours, tickets to concerts, other information, and if so, please tip them.
- The hotels have business cards or brochures at the front desk. Take one along if you are going out and might take a taxi back - just hand the card to the taxi driver. If you’re going out in a taxi, write down your destination, or have the hotel clerk do so - cab drivers do not always know their city intimately, except in London, where they are legendary.
- Always carry in your wallet the hotel list we will provide.
- A good breakfast at the hotel is included every day of the tour. You pay for your dinners and lunches. (We will supply you with a list of restaurants near our hotels that we have enjoyed in the past.)
- The tap water is safe to drink in all the places you are going.
- Be prepared to pay for water in restaurants. While it is sometimes possible to obtain free tap water in restaurants, it is awkward to ask for it—bottled is more usual. Remember to order it with or without “gas.”
- At night everyone is free to go off on their own dinner, but sometimes you might meet in the hotel lobby for those who would like to get together for dinner at a restaurant in walking distance from the hotel.
- European waiters generally will not split up a check for a table, so if you are eating in a group you will each need to figure out how much you owe, and you will need to pay in cash. When dining with a group it is best to write down your own itemized prices while you are ordering to make things easier at the end.
- Restaurants in Europe are non-smoking, inside, but smoking if sitting outside.
- If you are picking your own restaurant, use the special map we will provide as a starting point. Look inside, and if you see a lot of customers still waiting to be served, with no food on the tables, go somewhere else.
- We can occasionally pick a nice restaurant for a group meal where most of us can join in.
- If you want to eat with the local folk, eat your evening meal at 8 or later. Europeans eat both lunch and dinner later than we do. Seven o’clock is early for dinner. Some restaurants won’t be open until 8pm.
- Another reason for eating after 8:00pm is that the early evening, 6-8pm, is the perfect time to be strolling on the shopping streets. Stores are open, locals are out walking, temperatures have cooled down, lighting is nice, ideal conditions for people-watching, taking pictures, shopping and just enjoying the ambience.
- One of the best ways to pick a restaurant is to look in the window and see if there are locals eating there (good), or if it’s empty (bad), or if there are only tourists there (maybe).
- Make sure there are not a lot of people sitting in the restaurant waiting for service, with no food on their tables, for you will have a long, long wait if you go in there. Take a good look by walking inside before you sit down.
- You will find the menu posted in the window of all restaurants. Prices and selection are similar in all but the most expensive restaurants, so you have to get a feel for ambiance, and sniff the place out to make your decision on where to eat. We will have plenty of good recommendations for you, based on our past experiences and many happy meals.
- Be sure to try different foods. Remember you’re traveling halfway around the world to have different experiences. Prices will be similar to Honolulu: $10-$15 for lunch and $30-$40+ for dinner.
- Even the casual eaters often like to try at least one very good restaurant in each city (a splurge!). There are many wonderful food experiences waiting for you.
- It is often hard to get your check quickly after the meal, so ask for it while you are eating. If you are not ordering anything after your main course, speak to the waiter when he brings your meal and tell him you want the check now, which might shock him, and you might need to remind him in 5 minutes. Even if the restaurant is not busy when you get your food, by the time you are finished eating it will be hard to find a waiter because they are busy serving all the people who have just arrived. This takes practice, so you might remind yourself before the food arrives. Then you can pay early, and when you are finished eating, stand up and walk out. It will save you time at this late hour when you are tired from a busy day.
- When purchasing anything, always count your change. (It may be a bit confusing, but you don’t want to give your money away. At the very least, when they give you change, don’t immediately walk away, for the rest of the change might be a bit slow in coming, so keep your hand out. Some European clerks have mastered this art of pushing only part of the change at you in hopes you will walk away “satisfied”).
- If you purchase expensive items during the trip (generally $100 or more), ask the store clerk if the shop gives a VAT refund. If they do, be sure and get an itemized receipt and an addressed envelope. You will turn this in to customs at the airport in London after going through security. If plan on getting a VAT refund, it’s best to pay with a credit card, as the refund is then credited right to your card.
- Swiss VAT refund purchases must be declared when changing trains en-route to Paris.
- Dennis will have his laptop computer available at most breakfast rooms which you can use to make free calls home. If your friends here have SKYPE video, they can see you and you can see them. Get their connect info.
- Many travelers don’t bother to call home. Just tell your friends you’ll be fine and contact them on returning home.
- Using the hotel’s long distance service is easy, but expensive. Don’t put your credit card in a telephone.
- Calling home using a phone card you purchase in each country can give good rates and is quite convenient and easy to use. Don’t buy a calling card here before you go – wait until we are there.
- Calling home from discount telephone shops can be the cheapest of all, about $.10 per minute.
- Your cell phone will not work there unless you have special international GSM service, or an unlocked phone with a SIM card. You can purchase SIM cards there in telephone shops.
- It’s a bit of a hassle but you could use a calling card provided by your long-distance service provider, whether GTE, SPRINT, MCI, or whatever. Each of these companies will be glad to explain how to do this. Just dial 00 from home to call them now, well before you leave to set up an account.
- Tipping is always OK and always optional. It is not included, so it is up to you. Use local currency when possible. You should bring along about 40 US one dollar bills, for they come in handy.
- Please leave a tip on the table every morning at breakfast, equivalent to about one dollar per couple.
- In restaurants in Italy, Switzerland, and France, the “tip” is generally included, but you should still leave 5% for good service for the waiter doesn’t really get much of the included “tip.” Never leave 15% on the continent.
- The tip is not included in most London restaurants, so add 15%. Check the menu to confirm their tipping policy.
- Hotel maids should get the equivalent of US$2.00 per day per room. Leave it on the pillow so they know it’s for them. And taxi drivers should get some loose change or 10% of the fare (Italian taxis have a surcharge at night, so the price will be higher than during the day.)
- When traveling by train, we will assemble in the hotel lobby with our luggage, and physically arrange ourselves and our suitcases into the taxi teams. Then we board taxis to go to the train station. Taxis in Italy take 4 people, but in Paris, only 3 people, so you will form teams to go in the taxis.
- When we arrive at the station we will assemble again outside. Once we are all assembled we will move inside and stay together.
- Remember, everyone must carry their own bag. This is why we urge a good medium or small suitcase with wheels, for it is generally 200 yards from the front of the station to the train door. Never let your suitcase or your carry-on out of your sight.
- Some of the group will “volunteer” as the baggage crew, and will load the baggage into the compartments.
- When you board the train, those not in the “baggage team” will board first and take their seats. A few of the non-baggage people will stand on the platform and watch the bags for security. Your suitcase will not necessarily be loaded into your compartment, but it will be in with some group members.
- When leaving the train, those not in the baggage team will get off first and watch the bags as the baggage team unloads them. Don’t put anything down behind you here, for you should keep your eyes on things.
- Once we are all off, and everyone has their bag, we will move, as a group, to the front of the station. We will assemble once again just outside the station, where you will meet your transportation to the next hotel. It’s very important that everyone stays with the group, and doesn’t wander off to the toilet your snack stand while transiting through the station, without prior clearance.
- Each taxi team will have a captain who will be given an envelope with local money inside and the destination on the front. There should be more than enough money to pay for the fare, so do not just hand it all to the driver.
- At the very least, try to greet the local residents in their own language. (A “Buon Giorno”, “Ciao”, or a “Bon Jour” will help a lot, even with shopkeepers. People in other countries appreciate your speaking even a little of their language. Remember that residents of most other countries know at least two languages).
- Most Europeans you deal with will speak enough English, so don’t worry about it.
- Don’t ever be reluctant to ask a question about anything during the various tours and throughout the trip. Any and all suggestions are always welcome.
- If there are any problems or concerns during the trip, or complaints, please bring the matter up with your tour conductor so that matters can be resolved. Don’t keep it to yourself or just grumble quietly to someone – bring it into the open so we can deal with it to make sure everything is going well for all.
- Please try to be an active participant, looking out for each other, helping when you can, pitching in, rather than expecting everything to be done for you. Your escort, Dennis, is there to lead and help at all times, but he can’t do everything and always welcomes some assistance.
- We ask two simple things: enjoy yourself, and be flexible.
- You are going on this tour to have a good time, and learn about some fascinating cultures. It is an adventure to throw yourself into a series of far-away foreign places--and we will all be there to help each other out.
- One of your biggest challenges will be to absorb the many sights we are experience. Human vision and perception are quite limited – we have a small “cone of vision” and not much peripheral vision. We will walk slowly and stopping frequently to look around and discuss what we are looking at to give you a chance to take in as much as possible and snap a few photos.
- While we have carefully planned the trip, and have done it many times before, new and unexpected things always do happen, every day. That is part of the fun and excitement of travel, so we hope you can go with the flow, and be ready to adapt to the little surprises along the way.
- While we’re on the trip our tour group will be an ohana. We’ll use first names and do our best to watch out for each other. With all this in mind, we are all going to have a great time!
- This is the Trip of a Lifetime! We are visiting the world’s top cities and seeing them in a unique way that will reveal their authentic character and numerous attractions. But it will be up to you to get the most out of the trip by being in top condition, remaining alert and staying aware of the beautiful and stimulating sights around you.
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