Traveling to Italy might not be as expensive as you think…..

We’ve just returned from a trip to Lake Como where we spent an incredible 4 nights with one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen.  Go to Delta Airlines and check out their sale on tickets to Italy. You can get to Milan for less than 300.00 from some of Delta’s US hubs (or check out The Points Guy for more information).

Rain, planes, and boats…our trip was “on” the second we arrived!  We met in Paris (even though our destination was Italy) because, as I always tell friends and family traveling here, your destination may be in Milan but watch for cheap flights into any city in Europe then book a small, cheap flight from there to your choice destination. 

We had to kill a few hours in the Paris Airport but boarded an Easy Jet flight from there to Milan (127.00 pp).  When booking our rent-a-car I made sure to check on the arrival terminal so we could grab a car and go. We arrived in terminal 2 and to my surprise (but not a surprise to my husband and son) the rent a car was in terminal 1! What can I say, I’m dyslexic! MAKE SURE YOU BOOK A RENT-A-CAR THAT IS LOCATED IN THE TERMINAL YOU ARRIVE IN! It’s not super easy to get from one terminal to the other, you have to take a bus ride about 6-7 min to the opposite terminal, then lug all your luggage to the correct counter (we followed signs to rental cars but that was to the garage and learned the counter for payment was across the terminal).

Anyway, we were way late leaving the airport so I messaged the Airbnb manager to see if we should just get a hotel for the night near the airport and check into Lake Como the following day….Her response, “you don’t want to miss waking up to this view”.  She wasn’t wrong!

It took us about 1hr 10min and a whole lot of stress to get there!  I would recommend getting a small car because the roads are narrow (Bill upgraded us to a larger car and forgot to make sure it was an automatic…did I mention he didn’t pay the extra fee to add me as a driver so it was all on him to get us there!).  I would also recommend NOT driving those roads at night if at all possible, they are curvy and most are more like a lane and a half than two lanes.

We booked Tina’s House in the town of Faggeto, Sara (the caretaker) met us upon arrival.  She got us settled into the apartment then walked us down to the beach bar/restaurant to see if they were still serving food.  The kitchen wasn’t open but the wine and beer were flowing and the waitress was nice enough to bring us bowls of peanuts, olives and pretzels….that’ll do!

The next morning I opened the front door and tried to take in the enourmous mountains across the lake, the gardens, the buildings and of course the beautiful lake.  I honeslty can’t describe it in any other way but magical.  

Breakfast at the local hotel down the road of croissants and coffee, cheese and meat (great salami) $25.00 (2 breakfast buffets and 1 croissant to go)

Missed the ferry so we hired a boat to take us to the other side of the lake so we could hike a trail Kagen picked out for us (Moltriasio Trail). $100.00

Lunch at a great restaurant the boat captain recommended (we like local places so this was up the hill from the tourist areas). $50.00 3 meals 1 beer 1wine 1 coke.

We hiked for about 2 hours, the beginning of the hike was straight up cobblestone roads where I took a lot of breaks! Once to the top we entered the trailhead and enjoyed the views, the breeze and the history.  Kagen had picked an “easy” hike that went through an area where they cut rocks from the mountain and would haul them down the hill, there’s an info board located at the first lookout point. There were several forts made of rock and rock walls built into the landscape…just beautiful.  You have views of the lake almost the entire way. Our descent was on the road they used to haul the rocks down, it was hard to imagine how the cart full of heavy rocks didn’t get away from them on such a decline!

We caught the ferry back ($14.00 3ppl) and enjoyed a cold beer on the ride.

Dinner that night was at the local beach bar restaurant $35

We all slept hard that night and the boys woke ready to go again.  We did an 800 ft elevation the day before but today they were looking to go almost 1400 ft!  The hike itself left right around the corner from our Airbnb. Four hours later and a few skinned knees we all met at the beach near the Airbnb (you can read the story Bill posted about their hike).

We decided to use one of our “splurge” nights (where we go to a nice restaurant in the area) in Faggeto at the Hotel by the beach. It didn’t disappoint, lake fish appetizer, 3 meals, bottle of wine, 1 beer and two desserts only set us back $120.00…not bad!

Day 3 we took a ferry into Bellagio for some lunch and shopping.  The ride itself took about 1 hour 45 min with all the stops. You ping from one side of the lake to the other but it was a beautiful site to see!  Bellagio was way more crowded than the town we were staying in but there was much more to do so if you’re looking for a large selection of shopping, places to eat and nightlife, I would recommend you stay in Bellagio. The shops are pretty pricey and unfortunately we hit a tourist place for lunch (55.00 for ½ carafe of wine, appetizer and 3 meals that weren’t memorable).  

Our waiter forgot about us after he delivered the appetizer so we missed the ferry back, “no problem” he said “take the bus”….scary stuff!  The roads are super narrow with hairpin curves and steep drops. I would totally recommend doing both, I’m glad we got to see the view from the water and from the mountain side.  

We checked out of the Airbnb early Sat. Morning to avoid the traffic that might be coming to the beach that day.  Bill’s a great driver but none of us wanted to meet one of those busses rounding the curve on a road just wide enough to pass a small car (side mirrors folded in on all cars, lol).  We drove to Lake Maggiore for a two night stay.  

Lake Maggiore was pretty but it just didn’t wow me as much as it did Bill.  The hotel we stayed in was family owned and nice enough (165.00 a night) but I wouldn’t tell them we sent you as I’m sure there is a “most wanted” poster with our faces on it!  There seems to have been some confusion on how to check out before staff arrived, Woody thought they said “go out the back door” so around 5am we opened the door and set off ALL THE ALARMS!  We looked for management but couldn’t find anyone and with our flight leaving soon we didn’t stick around. As we drove away I saw the sign post with a picture of the security camera on it, if I didn’t feel so bad about waking everyone up it might actually be funny picturing us running out of the building…me fussing at Woody, Woody trying to figure out how to shut off the alarm and Kagen yelling at us to “run!”, lol!  

https://www.hotelristorantebelvedere.it/en/

We took the Motarone Cable Car, big fun and well worth the crowds! 

(https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187847-d1751014-Reviews-Mottarone_Cable_Car-Stresa_Lake_Maggiore_Piedmont.html)

We also rented some paddle boards and canoe, I recommend this but try to do it when there is less boat traffic (ie. Not on a sunny Sat. Afternoon), I came off my board about 100 times (boats were passing really close and the turbulent wakes were tossing me off my board…must have looked funny) and was nearly run over by a few boats! 

TAKE SOME ADVICE FROM A DUMB BLONDE, DON’T ASSUME INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL IS TOO EXPENSIVE, WATCH FOR AIRLINE DEALS AND THEN BOOK AN AIRBNB WHERE YOU CAN COOK SOME OF YOUR OWN MEALS TO SAVE MONEY.  RENT A CANOE NOT A POWER BOAT, YOU STILL GET TO SEE THE COAST LINE WITHOUT SPENDING A “BOAT LOAD” OF MONEY…BONUS, YOU GET YOUR WORKOUT IN FOR THE DAY!

Sent from my iPad





Flights from the US to Italy under 300.00!

Full disclosure: I just woke up, it’s 530am and haven’t had my first cup of coffee yet so I’m posting without proofing but I wanted to get this out to my besties with a baby moving to Italy….Points Guy just posted trips to Italy for 286.00. Not sure of the details but for that price I’m thinking everyone should book a flight into Milan and drive over to Lake Como! I’ll try to get my post up on our trip to Como with the place we stayed, where we ate and money spent ( we’re traveling today so it might be tomorrow before I have it posted) for budgeting purposes.

Deal Alert: Flights to Italy From $286 Round-Trip

Premium Economy on Sale to Europe!

Just read that British Airways and American Airlines are offering discounted fares in Premium Economy to Europe.  I just Google Flights and found cheap flights through Christmas!  If you want to hit the famous Christmas Markets here in Germany for a long weekend you could catch a flight out on Dec. 6th Newark to Paris (who doesn’t want to see Paris at Christmas!) stay one night, rent a car (for as little as 70.00 3 days/unlimited miles) and drive over to Germany.  I’ve driven from Bad Godesberg Germany to Paris 5 times now and door to door (my door to the airport hotel) is about 5 hours…its shorter if you drive faster on the Autobahn 😉 .  If you want to experience the Christmas Markets but don’t want the long drive, you can hit Strasbourg France (Alsace France) in about 2 hours from Paris and from what I’ve read, it has an amazing Christmas Market (one of the oldest in Europe).

Take some Advice from a Dumb Blonde, Make this year’s Christmas present a trip to Europe, it might be a hectic 4 days but I like the gift of travel…it is the kind of gift that lasts a lifetime! 

https://www.europeanbestdestinations.com/christmas-markets/strasbourg/

Credit to the Points Guy for alerting us of the discounted fares! 

Munich

In true “Travel Snob” fashion (traveling off season), we hit Munich about 90 days before the start of Oktoberfest 2019.  We visited many Bier Gardens in the area trying the different wheat, dunkelweiss, and Keller Biers…didn’t find any we didn’t like ;).  

The tents were going up in preparation for the upcoming Oktoberfest Celebration and while we didn’t experience the crowds (the bad) we also didn’t get the rides and vendor experience (the good),    BUT great food, great weather and GREAT BIER without the crazed crowds and high(er) prices made it a decent trade off.  There were several places to buy Drindls (for women) and Lederhosens (for men) within a few blocks of the train station, but be aware, all stores are closed on Sundays in Germany.

Don’t forget to stop by the cathedrals and churches, you’ll be blown away by the architectural detail and history of these grand buildings. 

Take some Advice from a Dumb Blonde, put on some comfortable shoes and start walking! The city is full of palaces, museums, cathedrals and churches…probably best to slip a few stops in between the beer halls!

 

REVIEW OF AIRBNB’S AND HOTEL:

Our decision to stay in an Airbnb’s paid off but there was the good and the bad.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/34337311?source_impression_id=p3_1563261146_NJHDl3xvnLBy0nxv

Good: less expensive, we paid 121.00 for the first night stay.  The cab ride to a local bier garden was 14.00 each way and our meal (with a few biers) was 70.00 for a grand total of 220.00 for the night.

Bad: it was an extra 15 min train ride further to the town we were staying in. We had to do a major bag drag searching for a very obscure door to the Airbnb.  The room was nice but all the sounds echoed in the concrete building

 

Second night was in a more “German” style Airbnb (I like rustic) in a really hip little area.

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/36621642?source_impression_id=p3_1563261231_IwalT9EveDCemAlx

Good: great location, we walked to everything! The little town has a fantastic bike/walk trail that leads to the famous Chinese Bier Garden.  Our dinner that night was some of the best Italian food we’ve ever had. The cost for our Airbnb was 151.00, dinner (plus 2 beers) 70.00 for a total of 221.00.

Bad: the Airbnb was located on the second floor of the theater and there was a play that night so noise was an issue.  I would stay there again but only if I had a good set of ear plugs! 

The third night we stayed at the Sofitel Hotel, 330.00 for the night…pricey but you can’t beat the location.

 

Good: location location location, this hotel is beside the train station and just a few blocks from the Oktoberfest set up.  Comfy beds, quiet room, heated toilet seat and a/c! 

Bad: pricey! As “travel Snobs”, we don’t like the high price of a hotel and being spoiled to the attention Airbnb hosts put into stocking their rentals, we were disappointed with the lack of coffee, water, etc. in the kitchenette.  

Would we do it the same way next time?  We enjoyed being in different towns around Munich but there is a trade off, what can I say……. hindsight is 50/50

 

A Beach in June….

 

On our return from Spain this year, we swung out to the coast of France partly to avoid the mountains during the winter storms but mostly to visit Normandy.  We walked the beach that first day overwhelmed by the size of the mission our troops faced that day. We spent a few hours in the rain reading some of the names of those that had fallen, I opted out of going to the gravesites and in hindsight I regret it.  Woodman was so moved by the sea of white crosses that he requested we return the following day so he could run the beach.

 

A short tribute after a long run….

 

http://combinedops.com/Poetry.htm

 

50k Sign on bonus…..

This morning The Points Guy talked about Dad’s taking vacations alone with their kids, can’t say I’m on the same page as he on this one.  I’ve spent years traveling with our 2 now grown children and I can say I had tons of fun with them but it was always wayyyyy more fun when we would met up with Woody! Look, kids go to bed early, it’s nice to tuck them in and then enjoy a glass of wine on the veranda partner.  

 

Woody and I were always awake before both kids so we would quietly make a cup of coffee and sit in the bathroom of whatever hotel we were in and plan our day/life…not the most comfortable nook to chat in but good memories.

 

I’m not saying don’t do it but rather look at a trip that focuses on the children but still allows ALL of you to share the moments and the memories….then enjoy some quiet time with your partner when the kids are down for the night.

 

Points Guy did have a credit card worth mentioning, the Capital One Venture Card is allowing you to transfer points to ANY AIRLINE.  Interest rates are a little high but you earn 2 points for every dollar and 10 points for every Hotel.com stay. Here are the terms:

 

Earn unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase, every day – plus 10X miles on thousands of hotels through January 2020

Learn more at Hotels.com/Venture

Redeem miles for any airline, any hotel, rental cars, and more.

TRAVEL CREDITReceive up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fee

ANNUAL FEE$0 intro for the first year, $95 after that

PURCHASE APR17.99% – 25.24% variable APR

TRANSFER INFO17.99% – 25.24% variable APR; No Transfer Fee

 

Take some Advice from A Dumb Blonde, don’t pay for your life expenses on a debit card, ABE….“always be earning”, earning points to travel!

HANG ON THERE’S MORE!  35% PREMIUM ECONOMY ON UNITED FOR JUNE….Point’s Guy on it again:

Deal Alert: United Offering 35% off Economy Plus in June

 

Woke to some good travel news this morning!

Points guy alerted us to bogo (buy one get one) deals for Mother’s Day on Amtrak!  Check out some their fares at:

 

https://thepointsguy.com/deals/amtrak-launches-2-for-1-mothers-day-sale-on-routes-nationwide/?utm_term=Editorial&utm_campaign=FACEBOOK&utm_medium=social&utm_content=56D599A4-7283-11E9-B110-11F2984234C2&utm_source=FACEBOOK&fbclid=IwAR3pp4Hito0J7uPcmr3lAgwWeKa7vt6LGbzDKy_8Da43eHae0Yw536nCIgM

Or go straight to Amtrak.com and book now May 9 through May 13 for travel June 1 to Sep 30th.

 

Anyone wanting to visit us in Germany, now’s your chance!  Points Guy is on it again with alerts to Europe on Delta using points.

 

https://thepointsguy.com/deals/flights-to-europe-from-34000-miles-round-trip/?utm_medium=social&utm_content=F0C05644-7279-11E9-B243-EEE839982C1E&utm_term=Editorial&utm_source=FACEBOOK&utm_campaign=FACEBOOK&fbclid=IwAR11Ou9g5uEP6qa2fYC7SdYRPPWOy34-fC7fJN1Y6UznbKOBdgJqEZW95eg

 

Happy travels!