It’s been a year since our one month trip through Europe. We’re seated at a busy pub in Parsons Green sharing an overpriced bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (forever pretending to be ladies of leisure), recalling and laughing at some of the crazy adventures we had 12 months ago. Half a bottle down, I ask Kelly to help me come up with three things we learnt/would change about our trip. This is what we managed to come up with!
1. Say NO to Suitcases
Oh, you think you’ve packed light? Think again. Being ladies of leisure, we wanted to do this trip with one suitcase and one backpack each. The idea was to jam as many outfits as we could into our suitcases (I managed to pack three coats somehow) and then use our backpacks for carry-on essentials. Ok, so we knew we weren’t packing “light” but we thought it would be manageable enough, surely! Yeah, nah. We stuffed up there.
It didn’t take us long to realise this! Day one, actually. The first Air BnB we booked was up six flights of stairs with no lift access. We then realised we absolutely did not think about how ANNOYING it would be to not only lug our suitcases from the taxi (usually over cobblestones, snow, icy paths and hills) but also up several flights of stairs, back down again, back into a taxi and then repeat every three to four days of our trip. I mean, we developed a system as a team and got pretty good at it but in hindsight - I’d rather wear the same three outfits for a month than give myself a hernia!
2. A Host gives the Most!
We booked all of our accommodation through Air BnB and we did pretty darn well! We stayed in some beautiful locations for very affordable prices. We also made sure we booked places with cooking facilities to save money on food. Well done us! However, we both agreed that the absolute best experiences we had were when we stayed with a host.
Having a host there to guide you, give recommendations and even drive you around is invaluable. Some of our hosts really went above and beyond for us. Shout out to Euginio in Milan who, on our first night, picked us up from a restaurant he’d recommended (so delicious) and drove us to some of the best sights in Milan. No crowds, beautiful night lights and hilarious commentary! He also had fresh coffee (to die for) and fruit for our breakfasts, plus he’d arranged a mouth-watering home cooked dinner for us! If you can stay with a local, you’re much more likely to get a unique and eventful experience! We wish we had a host for every location.
3. Don’t book 6am flights to save money!!
It might seem like a good idea at the time when you’re looking at saving €60 on a flight. BUT, in all honestly, from ACTUAL HORRIFIC experience, you NEED to trust me on this - IT’S NOT WORTH IT.
We really did try to prepare. We knew this would be the most inconvenient part of our trip. We took a risk and we booked a 6am flight from Naples to Malta even though we were staying in Sorrento and needed to drop our rental car off at the airport - and fill up the petrol tank because it’s an hour and a half drive to Naples. Yeah, that was a choice.
We had called the rental car company prior and asked where to drop off and if they would be open at that time. The lady on the phone said yes, no problem, we just had to leave the key in the letterbox. Ok, cool. We could do that. We’d leave super early, fill up the tank, drop off the car and allow plenty of time to catch our flight.
So up we got at God knows O’Clock. Two hours of driving, multiple roadworks and three closed petrol stations later, we realised that maybe petrol stations are closed at 4am. Luckily, one of the stations had a self-serve cash machine. Phew! I popped in a €50 note and squeezed the trigger. Nothing came out of the nozzle. Great. The receipt it gave me was in Italian. Great. Picture me with my iphone out, attempting to use google translate with two local Italian men who couldn’t speak English but were passing through and tried to help. 20 mins of frustration later, no petrol and €50 poorer, we decided to bail and just take the car back. Not the end of the world, right?
Well, as it turns out, Google maps had let us down and taken us nowhere. We could not find the rental car drop off. 40 minutes later, we’d asked three strangers for directions, phoned the rental company several times and had driven around in circles. At one point, in the passenger seat, I let out a ten second sort of noise/scream of frustration which Kelly found particularly amusing. The amusement came much later for me.
Finally, we spoke to someone who told us where to go! Apparently, we had to drop the car off at a completely different rental company, which the lady on the phone neglected to tell me. The problem was at that point, we only had 15 minutes left to check in for our flight. We parked the car, dropped the key in the letterbox, threw our luggage out and RAN what was supposed to be a 20 minute walk to the airport. Pushing our suitcases, sweating with our coats, scarves and backpacks on, plus I was carrying a big bag of dirty laundry (I didn’t have time to put it in my suitcase, alright!).
15 minutes later, two sweaty hot messes ran straight up to the check-in desk. We looked at the check-in lady with our bright red faces and puppy dog eyes, held our breath and hoped she’d let us check in. She looked up at us with a smirk and said “you’ve just made it.”
NEVER AGAIN. On the upside, we happened to book priority for that flight which meant we could skip the boarding que! Move aside common folk, two unfit girls with sweaty red faces and a bag of dirty laundry coming through!
So, my friends, please learn from us. Even though we had an amazing trip (we actually did!), there are always lessons to be learnt which luckily, tend to make for a good laugh - because what else can you do!