Travel Hacks

Europe Travel, Travel Hacks

Do You Have to Tip in Europe?

In the US, we’re accustomed to leaving a 20-25% percent tip when we’re out at restaurants and bars. In fact, tipping lower than the usual 20% can indicate poor service or offend your waiter.

However, in Europe, tipping culture is completely different. For most, tips are not expected in Europe, especially in more casual settings like bars and cafes. In most European countries, tipping is not the norm and a service fee is usually included already on the bill. Now, if you want to go above and beyond and leave a tip on top of this fee, by all means, go ahead! But know that it’s not expected.

Be sure to check the bill for a service charge or sitting fee, or words along the lines of “Service Included” to know whether or not a tip is already included. 

Is It Rude Not to Tip in Europe?

When dining in Europe, most restaurants and eateries will include a service charge or sitting fee in your bill. This means you don’t have to tip unless you really feel like you want to. If this service charge isn’t on the bill, you can leave a 5-10% tip without insulting your waiter as tipping is a bit more modest over in Europe. But before you shell out a tip, make sure you check the receipt for an extra charge or words like “Service Included” printed at the bottom.

Is It Ok to Tip in Europe With US Dollars?

It’s not like being in Mexico where they love to be tipped in USD! When you’re in Europe, you should tip with the local currency. If you want to provide a tip, withdraw local currency at an ATM so your waiter isn’t left trying to exchange your dollars for something more usable in their country.

Featured, Travel Hacks

11 Things You Should Always Pack in Your Carry-On

With all the stress of traveling, and trying to pack and prepare for everything along the way, it can be so easy to forget something.

Whether you’re going on a quick weekend escape or a big Europe trip, there are 12 things you should always pack in your carry-on. Make sure you don’t forget anything important, or leave one of these essentials in a checked bag that could potentially not arrive at your destination – it happens!

Pack these 12 necessities in your carry-on so you can travel stress-free and start your trip off on the right foot.

You May Also Like: 10 Amazing Travel Essentials For Long Haul Flights

See this power bank here.

1. Phone Power Bank

This is my #1 must have in your carry-on when you’re going on any length of trip! You would be amazed at how fast your phone battery drains as you’re checking flight information on your phone, checking emails, or using maps to help you navigate wherever you’re going. When we were in Rome, we foolishly forgot our phone power bank at home and almost had a really bad situation – we were out across the city, using our maps to navigate and taking pictures of all the cool things we were seeing. 

Suddenly, we realized both of our phones were at 10% and we had no idea how to get back to the Airbnb! I frantically used my maps app to get across town so we could charge our phones, arriving with one at 1% and the other completely dead. I didn’t even know the Airbnb address off the top of my head, it was on my phone! It was almost a compete disaster. Avoid it entirely by packing a phone power bank!

2. Phone Charger

On a similar note, make sure you bring your phone charger. If you luck out and your plane has outlets, this is a great time to make sure your phone is fully charged. Odds are when you land you’ll need to contact whoever is picking you up, call an Uber or make other arrangements requiring a cell phone.

3. Small Plastic Baggies

These are so helpful during your travels, but especially if you’re traveling with only a carry-on and have hygiene and beauty products with you! Even if you have your little travel-sized products ready to go, you never know when you might need another. Some airports even require you put each item in a separate plastic bag – we ran into this in Europe. They were mad that my hand sanitizer wasn’t in its own bag, and my sister had this happen with deodorant (a solid stick of deodorant!) as well.

You never know when you’re going to get into a bind and be dealing with a fickle TSA agent. Just bring a stash of bags in case you need them, that way you won’t have to part ways with any of your products.

I also bring a couple extra with me in my carry-on just because I’ve been on trips where one I’m using tears or I have a product that leaks and I want to put it separately. You never know when you’ll need one!

See this water bottle here.

4. Empty Water Bottle

Most airports these days have filtered water bottle filling stations. It’s essential you stay hydrated while traveling, so bring an empty water bottle so you can fill up at the airport! I usually just buy a bottle of water at the airport after I get through security, but this is a much more economical way to do it, and then you’ll have a water bottle at your destination too.

5. Valuables

It happens to most of us that our checked bag gets lost at some point. It’s always so stressful, and hopefully it gets recovered eventually. 

Regardless if this has happened to you, make sure you keep all of your valuables in your carry-on bag. That means jewelry, electronics, money, and anything else of value. You always want to keep your valuables on your person so you don’t have to worry about it going missing or being stolen when out of your sight.

6. Prescriptions & Any Other Medication

Similarly to keeping your valuables on your person, always keep your prescriptions with you as well. You never know when your bag might not show up, especially if your flight gets delayed or cancelled. You don’t want to be caught without something you really need.

See this organizer case here.

7. Electronics & Accessories Organizer

Stay organized with a little travel case that keeps your electronics, cords, and accessories all neat and in order. I loved this travel case for our Europe trip, I was able to keep my phone charger, AirPods, charging cord for my other, big noise cancelling head phones, Kindle charger, and keys for when I returned all organized and easy to reach instead of in a random tangled mess in my bag.

8. Sanitizing Wipes

I always keep a stash of sanitizing wipes in my carry-on, usually to wipe down my phone when I get to my destination but sometimes I’ll wipe off the arm rests and seatbelt on the plane if I’m feeling really germaphobic. I’m convinced they never actually clean anything on a plane, let alone the high-touch items at your seat. 

Don’t even get me started on those seat-back trays! Do you think they’ve ever been cleaned?! Not a chance.

Sometimes I don’t end up using them, but I appreciate having the option to keep my immediate area clean. It’s a great way to help prevent sickness on your travels as you don’t realize how much you touch, then touch your eyes, nose and mouth. 

9. Emergency Clothes

My husband started doing this on our long-haul flight to Europe and our flights while we were over there. Being on such a long trip, so far from home, we didn’t want to take any chances not having at least one or two changes of clothes just in case.

Now, we always throw a couple changes of clothes (especially a couple pairs of fresh undies and socks!) in a compression travel cube, zip it up and throw one in the bottom of each of our carry-on’s. Hopefully you don’t end up needing them, but if your bags get lost, I’m sure you’ll be glad to have a fresh change of clothes!

See these headphones here.

10. Noise-Cancelling Headphones

I almost always wear my AirPods but they’re not the most noise cancelling option. You can still hear pretty much everything going on around you – which makes them great for running, not so great for being crammed on a plane with a bunch of potentially annoying strangers.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve skipped out on bringing my noise-cancelling headphones just because they’re big and bulky and I don’t like dealing with them. But I usually regret it!

Whether it’s a crying baby a row or two back, loud talkers next to me, or someone that feels the need to watch a video on full volume, or let their kid watch a movie on their iPad without headphones… I almost always regret it. 

You can’t control what’s going to be around you when you’re stuffed in a plane with a bunch of wildcards! But you can give yourself a little peace and quiet through the discomfort

11. Snacks

Lastly, pack some snacks! There’s nothing worse than being thousands of feet up in the sky and you feel that rumble in your belly. In my opinion, the little bag of plane snacks just doesn’t cut it – whether it’s nuts or pretzels, it’s just never what I want or filling enough to be worth eating. I always bring a couple individually wrapped bags of trail mix, Belvitas, or my new favorite, Chomp beef sticks to keep me full and avoid any travel hanger.

Featured, Travel Hacks

10 Amazing Essentials You Need For a Long Flight

Let’s be honest, long haul flights can be SO uncomfortable. 

The seats suck, you’re way to close to other people, there’s usually at least one crying baby, and probably the guy behind you eats some really loud snacks behind you the whole time.

And as someone that deals with Fibromyalgia, getting as comfortable as possible is an absolute necessity for a long flight (or any flight for that matter).  Check out these 10 amazing essentials you need for a long flight to help you get comfortable on the plane (at least, as much as one can get comfortable on the sky tube) and start your trip off on the right foot!

Shop these headphones here.

1. Noise-Cancelling Headphones

As I mentioned above, there’s a lot of noise on planes no matter the source. You can’t control what’s going to go on around you, and when you’re on a long flight, you need to be able to block it out for your sanity’s sake! Bring a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs to make the voyage a little less irritating. 

I got this pair on Amazon and while they’re not the most expensive out there, they work great! The sound is awesome and they block noise really well – all for under $50! I like them so much, I got a pair for my dad and husband as well!

Shop this neck pillow here.

2. Neck Pillow

Never do a long flight without a neck pillow! If you want to sleep or just support your neck, a neck pillow is a must-have on any long flight. There are quite a few options out there, but I recently upgraded from the squishy styrofoam bead kind of neck pillow to this ultra-supportive cushioned one and I’ll never go back! It’s so much comfier and keeps my head and neck in a much more comfortable, supported position for all those hours on the plane.

Shop this charger here.

3. Phone Charger

Most long flight planes will have an outlet or USB charging port so you can charge your phone or other devices. Definitely bring a phone charger, even if you think you won’t need it. Your phone battery can drain rapidly and you’re likely going to need it right when you arrive to contact whoever is picking you up, call an Uber, access your maps, or otherwise use it for something important.

Shop this power bank here.

4. Phone Power Bank

You might think, hey I have my phone charger, what do I need a power bank for? I’m here to tell you, bring the power bank. Whether you need it on the plane or at some point on your trip, having it on hand will be very helpful to you. 

On our long haul flight to the UK from Atlanta, our charging ports in our row didn’t work and we arrived with very little battery life left on our phones – even after not using them for the entire flight! We quickly called my brother-in-law that was picking us up before they died, but wow that could have been a difficult situation – just bring the power bank!

Shop this eye mask here.

5. Eye Mask

Planning to sleep on your long flight? I envy you! I can never sleep on planes. Even if you’re like me, give yourself the best shot at sleep by bringing an eye mask. There’s lots of lights and screens on in the plane, even when they dim the cabin lights, that could easily disrupt your sleep. An eye mask helps you tune out from the world and relax in total darkness so you can get some shut eye.

These eye masks are so comfy, stay put without cutting off your circulation, and come in a three pack, I sleep with one every night now!

Shop these sanitizing wipes here.

6. Sanitizing Wipes

Planes are gross. We all know it. They don’t clean them much… they kind of pretend to. But there’s no way they’re wiping down your arm rest or your tray table, or your window shade… it’s just not happening! That plane lands, everyone gets off and then immediately everyone gets back on.

Keep yourself healthy on your trip and avoid any unnecessary germs and general filth and grime in your space by bringing a few sanitizing wipes to wipe down your hands and your area on the plane. You’d be so surprised how much you touch, then touch your eyes, nose and mouth without even realizing it! This is one of those simple hacks to stay healthy when traveling that really makes a big difference.

Shop these sweatpants here.

7. Comfy Pants

I’m just going to say it… I don’t trust people who fly long-haul flights in jeans. I don’t know how they do it. I don’t ever care to understand!

I am team stretchy pants through and through on flights of any length, but especially the long ones. You’re going to be sitting for a really long time so make sure you’re wearing clothes that aren’t going to feel too tight, bunch up, or otherwise make you feel uncomfortable. I also really like these leggings for travel and wear them pretty much all the time!

This goes for the guys too, wear some comfy pants! My husband is obsessed with these sweatpants that I got him for our last trip – they’re comfortable, fit really well and are a shockingly nice quality for the price, we definitely recommend them!

Shop this lower back cushion here.

8. Lower Back Cushion

When you’re on a really long flight, you may get more uncomfortable in the seats than you’re used to with shorter flights. You’d think with how expensive long flights are the seats would be a little better… but they’re usually not.

Having your lower back start to bother you 5 hours into a 9 hour trip is not going to make for very enjoyable traveling! Grab a lower back cushion to support your back and keep you comfortable on those super long flights so you’re ready to explore and take on the world when you land.

Shop this electronics organizer here.

9. Electronics & Accessories Organizer

Stay organized with a little travel case that keeps your electronics, cords, and accessories all neat and in order. I loved this travel case for our Europe trip, I was able to keep my phone charger, AirPods, charging cord for my other, big noise cancelling head phones, Kindle charger, and keys for when I returned all organized and easy to reach instead of in a random tangled mess in my bag.

Shop this footrest here.

10. Foot Rest

This one may be a little overkill for some people, but I absolutely love my foldable foot rest. Being a shorty, sometimes I get really uncomfortable on planes because the seats are putting so much pressure on the backs of my legs. If you’re taller, this probably wouldn’t be an issue, but at 5’3” it is for me!

Popping out this foldable foot rest keeps my feet elevated and lifts my legs a bit so they’re not smooshed into the seat, letting gravity have its way with my legs. It’s great for improving circulation as well, helps keep my feet from swelling, and even takes a little pressure off my back so I’m more comfortable all around. Even if I don’t end up using it, I always feel better bringing it and knowing I have it should I start to get really uncomfortable on a 10 hour flight.

Europe Travel, Featured, Home Page, Italy, Travel Hacks, Uncategorized

The Ultimate Rome Travel Guide: Rome Bucket List

From religious marvels like the Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, to iconic sights like the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum, Rome is one travel destination that has something for everyone. In addition to incredible landmarks and architecture, you’ll also fall in love with Roma’s cuisine and food-scene.

As one of Europe’s hottest tourism destinations, Rome doesn’t disappoint. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this beautiful city, as well as our recommendations on where to stay, eat, and see the sights – especially our favorite (secret) spot to see all the Roman Forum has to offer without paying for tickets!

Jump To:
What You Need to Know Before Visiting Rome
How Do You Get Around Rome? | Rome Transportation
What’s the Best Route For a Walking Tour of Rome?
What Are the Best Things to Do in Rome?
What Are the Top Tourist Sights in Rome?
What Tourist Mistakes Should You Avoid in Rome?
What Free Activities Are in Rome?
Are There Christmas Markets in Rome?
What Are the Most Important Rome Travel Tips to Know?
Where to Stay in Rome
Travel Essentials for Rome

While Rome is so stunning, you can easily find something exciting around every corner, it’s a large, tourist-filled city that is easier to see with a little planning! That’s why we’re writing the Ultimate Rome Travel Guide, to make your amazing Rome adventure just a little smoother and make sure you don’t miss out on any of the sights. 

Rather than cram all of this information into one post (and there’s a lot!), we’ve divided it into several posts covering different aspects of the city in-depth and compiled into this guide for easy reading. From food and photo spots, to tourist mistakes, this guide will cover everything you need to know about beautiful Roma! 

What You Need to Know Before Visiting Rome

When visiting Rome, you will typically arrive by train, bus or plane. There are many bus stations and several train stops throughout the city so you can find the one that is best suited for where you are staying. Rome also has two airports, which is surprising for a city of this geographical size, both a 30-40 minute drive depending on where your hotel/rental is. The most popular airport being the Rome Fiumicino International Airport, which you will likely be using if you plan to jump to another country from Rome.

Currency:

Like most of Europe, Rome uses the Euro. Credit cards are very widely accepted (we only had one instance where we had to use cash because their credit card reader wasn’t working). There are plenty of ATM’s throughout the city and it’s wise to have some euros handy, should your card not be accepted or there’s an issue on their part, as was our case. As a rule of thumb, we always had at least 50 euros on us in case we had a meal and there was an issue taking our card.

Climate:

Rome has a Mediterranean climate, meaning it has mild, rainy winters, and very hot, sunny summers. If you’re visiting in the summer, make sure your hotel or rental has air conditioning! We visited at the very beginning of November and it was still somewhat warm on sunny days, as well as many rain showers that moved out as quickly as they moved in.

If you’re visiting in the fall or winter, we recommend packing a rain coat or umbrella – it will not be uncommon for you to see the majority of people walking around with umbrellas for these somewhat-spontaneous rain showers the city gets periodically drenched in, in the fall months.

Languages:

Italian and English. Rome is an international city that is very accustomed to interacting with tourists from all over the world. Everywhere we went, we had no trouble speaking English and it being well-understood.

The only time it seemed to be slightly difficult to communicate was with our Airbnb hosts as they spoke some English but not as well as other places we frequented in the city like restaurants, transportation hubs, and tourist sights.

How Do You Get Around Rome? | Rome Transportation

No matter where you are in Rome, or where you want to go, there’s a bus for that. While we chose to walk everywhere (one day walking over 12 miles!), we saw many people riding the buses throughout the city.

The bus lines run everywhere you would need to go and can really save your feet from the walking. It’s not a very large city when considering the major tourist attraction locations, but it is congested, and you can expect it to take at least 20 minutes to get completely across it by bus. 

Another option for those who don’t walk to walk everywhere is the metro subway system. This underground subway is currently the smallest metro system in Europe, and we really didn’t see people taking it much. However, it is an option if you wanted to get from Prati all the way to the Colosseum in just a few minutes!

Lastly, you can take Ubers, private shuttles and taxis very easily in Rome. However, this is the most expensive option on the list! The bus system and metro system are much more economical, but I will say it was very nice just taking a taxi to the airport when it was time for our trip to end.

Direct and smooth, with no stops was our preferred way to stay on time for a flight! That being said, you could have easily taken a bus for the 40-minute ride to the airport.

What’s the Best Route For a Walking Tour of Rome?

Read: Rome Bucket List: A Self Guided Walking Tour of Rome

As I mentioned above, we exclusively walked in Rome. It was by far our favorite city to walk around because there was a beautiful fountain, sculpture, monument, or otherwise stunning building facade around every corner! We had never seen so much beauty and I feel like we would have missed a lot of the little sights if we were taking public transportation.

The best way to see Rome is by walking, at least as much as you can. It is mostly flat with some gentle hills sprinkled throughout, so it is not a strenuous walk at all. While you can join a paid walking tour, we recommend you follow our tour or create your own. Not joining a group is a great way to experience the city at your own pace, and allows you to stop into a shop or cafe along the way if you see something that grabs your attention! We loved touring the city on foot and then popping into a restaurant for lunch or just a mid-day Aperol Spritz!

See Rome at your own pace and don’t miss any of the best sights (and lesser known spots) by following our self-guided walking tour of Rome here!

What Are the Best Things to Do in Rome?

Read: 11 Best Things to Do in Rome (For First-Time Visitors)

There’s so much to do and see in Rome, it can feel overwhelming trying to make sure you don’t miss a thing! From shopping (local vendors and designer) to taking in the sights, to exploring the food scene, there are so many options. Read our top 11 things to do in Rome for first-time visitors here so you can make sure you enjoy all this beautiful city has to offer!

What Are the Top Tourist Sights in Rome?

Read: 15 Can’t-Miss Tourist Sights in Rome

Rome has many iconic tourist sights, and some stunning, but lesser known ones that are still very much worth a visit. To name a few, in Rome you have:

  • Vatican City
  • The Colosseum
  • Trevi Fountain
  • The Pantheon
  • Spanish Steps

Read our post the 15 Can’t-Miss Tourist Sights in Rome for more!

What Tourist Mistakes Should You Avoid in Rome?

Read: 10 Rome Tourist Mistakes to Avoid At All Costs

When you’re visiting Rome for the first time, there are definitely a few mistakes to avoid. There are many tourist traps in this city, as well as the very real threat of pickpocketing in crowded public areas (I felt someone try to grab my bag in a crowd in Rome). Be mindful and prepared for the city by reading our post on 10 Rome Tourist Mistakes and things to know before traveling!

What Free Activities Are in Rome?

Read: 21 Free Things to Do In Rome

Rome is such a beautiful, walkable city, and offers so much culture and experience just by walking around, looking at the sights! While you’ll have to pay for tickets if you’d like to go into any of the sights, viewing them from outside is completely free. There are also opportunities for free entrance to some of the museums and sights on certain days of the month, and we break that down in our post: 21 Free Things to Do In Rome

You can absolutely enjoy and experience Rome without breaking the bank!

Are There Christmas Markets in Rome?

Like many cities across Europe, Rome does have Christmas markets. The most popular Rome Christmas market is at Piazza Navona from December 1 until January 6 in 2023. This market was not held in years prior because of the pandemic, so it’s very exciting that it will be back in full swing this year!  You can expect lots of stands selling Christmas ornaments and trinkets, delicious food stands, and even a carousel in the Piazza Navona.

What Are the Most Important Rome Travel Tips to Know?

Read: 20 Essential Tips For Your First Visit to Rome

If you’re a first-time visitor to Rome, there are a few things to know to make sure your trip is as smooth sailing and enjoyable as possible! Prepare for your first trip to the Eternal City with the 20 essential tips we outlined in this post.

Where to Stay in Rome

If you’re looking to be in the heart of Rome and walk most places, we can’t recommend enough staying near the Trevi Fountain or Pantheon. This is the best, most central location that allows you to walk everywhere or easily access public transportation. There’s also loads of amazing restaurants (our favorite here was Il Chianti Vineria), cafes, and shopping here, so you have everything you could need!

Photo courtesy of Booking.com

U-Visionary Roma Hotel

4-star hotel offering room service, a 24-hour front desk, luggage storage for guests and free WiFi. This hotel also boasts air-conditioned rooms with a closet, a coffee machine, a minibar, a safety deposit box, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with a bidet. Some rooms even have city views, and the hotel receives a rating of 9.1 out of 10 on Booking.com!

Photo courtesy of Booking.com

I Tre Moschettieri – D’Artagnan

An elegant building near the Trevi Fountain, offering free Wi-Fi and large, modern rooms with parquet floors, private bathrooms, and air conditioning. In the lobby, you’ll find it uniquely decorated with antiques!

Photo courtesy of Booking.com

Casa Fabbrini Fancy Suites

With air-conditioned rooms in the Spagna district of Rome, this hotel is just a 2-minute walk from the Spanish Steps. Rated 9.1 by guests on Booking.com, this hotel features private bathrooms, beautiful interior design, and an A+ location.

Travel Essentials for Rome

Cell Phone Power Bank

This is a must-have for any trip abroad, and one that we should have had on our trip to Rome! Using maps and apps on our phones all day severely drained the batteries, and we almost ran out of juice trying to find our way back to our Airbnb apartment! We had no idea where we were and we were running through the city trying to get back before our phones completely died! Don’t be like us, pack a power bank for your phone that you can easily tote around the city. We will never make that mistake again!

Pocket WiFi Device

Say goodbye to crazy roaming charges with a portable WiFi device! Stay in touch with loved ones, look up history or information on the fly, and easily share your pictures and travel adventures on social media. It’s also super handy if you need to do any blogging or work while you’re abroad, you don’t want to have to rely on public Wifi.

Slash-Proof Purse

As a woman traveling, I needed to carry a few things – including my collapsible selfie-stick (see next)! With pickpockets and thieves throughout Rome and the rest of your European travel hot-spots, you want to be very careful with the bag you choose to travel with. I chose a slash-proof purse that had zippers that clipped to the bag, making it more secure and less-likely to be pickpocketed.

When in Rome, I felt someone in a crowd grab at my bag, and was very thankful I had the zippers clipped so no one could quickly grab my wallet or other belongings inside. This is the bag I used and it was the perfect size to carry everything I needed – even a small water bottle! I’ll be taking it on all of my future travels.

Collapsible Selfie-Stick/Tri-Pod

We used this selfie-stick everywhere we went on our travels. You can make it as long or as short as you want, it has a remote that attaches to the base of the stick or you can pull off to make snapping pictures a breeze, and it also is able to be set up as a tripod if you want some further away shots!

Say goodbye to asking strangers to take your picture, you can easily do it on your own with this set-up. And it collapses nice and small so it can fit in your bag!

Europe Travel, Featured, Home Page, Italy, Travel Hacks

20 Essential Tips For Your First Visit to Rome

Are you planning a trip to Italy and looking for travel tips for Rome? In this post, we’ll talk about 20 essential tips for your first Rome visit so you can have a more enjoyable trip and soak up your time there! 

After our visit to the Eternal City for the first time, there were definitely a few things I would have loved to know ahead of time to really maximize my time there, and make it as smooth sailing as possible. From where and when to go, where to stay and what to wear, find out all you need to know when planning your trip to Rome!

You May Also Like: 11 Best Things to Do in Rome For Your First Visit

1. Pack a cell phone power bank

This is one travel tip we almost learned the hard way in Rome! After spending an obscene amount of time packing, I still managed to forget to bring our cell phone power bank and it was something we wished we’d had every step or our trip. After exploring the city all day, using our phones for maps, pictures and videos, both my husband and I found our phone batteries extremely low. After hightailing it back to our Airbnb to charge them, we arrived with one phone dead, the other at 1% and so much relief that we weren’t almost in a terrible situation! We would have had no idea how to get back to our rental, even the address of it was – you guessed it – only on our phones. 

Avoid a stressful situation like that one and make sure to bring along a cell phone power bank! We like this one

2. Book Tickets in Advance

Even when we visited in November, tourist attractions were busy and had long lines. We wanted to go into the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, but were unable to get tickets after waiting too long to book. When we arrived and walked around Vatican City, we saw why – there was a line probably 500 people long waiting to get inside!

Pro Tip: If the tickets you want are sold out, you can often still visit the place by joining a guided tour. Most tour companies have access to additional tickets or pre-book tickets for their tours.  While a more expensive option, this is a great way to see the sights if you miss out on tickets, or if you just prefer a more guided experience. 

3. Get “Skip the Line” tickets

To piggyback off our last tip, booking your tickets in advance, we recommend you get “skip the line” tickets. While it may hurt a little to spend the extra money upfront, we promise you’ll be so glad you did when you arrive and see the massive entry lines to get inside! If you only have a few days in Rome, you want to give yourself as much time as possible to see all the city has to offer, and you can’t do that if you’re standing in line half the day!

Another way to avoid lines is with guided tours. Many offer a “skip the line” experience and often even enter through a different entrance than the main line. It can feel “touristy” and cost you a few extra euros, but it can really help you maximize your time and give you a deeper understanding of everything you’re seeing.

4. Get the Keys to the City: A Rome Tourist Card

Make seeing all of the tourist attractions easier with timed entrances to Rome’s most iconic attractions, using the Rome Tourist Card.

This digital card is simple to use and pretty much gives you the keys to the city! Once you purchase it online, you get a digital pass sent straight to your phone. You can then choose the date of activation and the individual tickets and time slots for each activity. There’s no time limit on the card once it’s activated, so you can spread out your time slots as much or as little as you need.

The card also helps you to skip the lines at each attraction and head right inside where a guide will meet you at the specified meeting points. You can learn more about the pass here. 

5. Plan Your Transportation

As Americans, most of us aren’t accustomed to taking public transportation or really giving it much thought unless you live in a large, dense city. As suburban dwellers ourselves, we were a little mystified when it came to figuring out buses and trains to get around! When visiting Rome, decide if you’ll be walking around the city or taking the bus or metro, and get acquainted with where the stops are that will be beneficial to you. 

6. Give Yourself Time to Wander

Rome truly is a city unlike any other. Every street, church and building is so full of history, it feels as if there is something to see around every corner. While I created a walking path for us to follow in Rome, we often found ourselves straying from it, being distracted by a beautiful street, monument, or fountain. While you can follow my walking plan, a guided tour, or your own custom creation, give yourself time to wander off the beaten path and explore this stunning city!

This is especially fun because Rome is very crowded, especially during peak season. It feels as if everyone on the planet is visiting Rome when you are! Visiting the major sights is amazing (they’re popular for a reason), but exploring a little off the traditional path will allow you to get away from the crowds and have quiet experiences mixed in with the loud, craziness of the crowds.

7. Plan For the Heat

Rome gets exceptionally hot in the summer, and the vast majority of places will not have air conditioning. Some hotels and restaurants may (this is something you might consider checking ahead of time), but most will not. And those that do, are probably not going to be as efficient at cooling the space as we’re used to in the US.

Don’t underestimate the heat and sun exposure while waiting in long lines to get into the Pantheon or Vatican or any of the other sights, where shade is not plentiful. Wear light, loose clothing, sun block, shades, and consider bringing along a small portable fan to help cool-off.

8. Eat the Pizza How You Want To

This tip is for those that are visiting for the first time and afraid about making some major food faux-pas like I was! Everywhere I looked online and everyone I talked to told me no one eats their pizza with their hands in Italy, as it is common in the US.

And like a good little tourist, I tried to cut my pizza with a knife and eat it with a fork, before very quickly abandoning the idea as it was taking so gosh dang long to eat. I picked up my pizza with my hands, folded it over and ate it like an American… and to my surprise, not a single person cared. Or if they did, I didn’t notice!

The rest of the trip, I never bothered with a fork and knife again. So eat how you’d like to eat, be polite about it, but don’t expect a big reaction like so many people convinced me was coming!

9. Meal Timing

On the topic of food, it’s important to know that the meal timing over there may be different from what you’re used to. This was something that presented problems for us throughout the trip and could be very frustrating at times!

In Italy, lunch seemed to begin around noon and wrap up around 2-3 PM, before dinner being served at places no earlier than 7 PM. While this isn’t the end of the world, after lunch at noon and walking around all day and becoming ravenous by 5 PM, there were definitely times of frustration and hanger.

We frequently found ourselves in that awkward time of 3 PM – 7 PM, starving and unable to find anywhere to eat! My tip to you is to have a solid lunch and plan for snacks if you need them before places open for dinner. You can then fill in the time with wine, Aperol spritzes, and aperitivos.

10.  Avoiding the Crowds

One common complaint for those visiting Rome is how busy and crowded it is – we even felt it in November, when it was supposed to be “off season!”

It can feel difficult to enjoy the sights when you’re being swarmed by people in every direction. But if you plan well, you can minimize this frustration as much as possible. Do this by visiting during the less busy season like we did (between November and March), and visiting the popular tourist sights at less busy times of the day.

See the colosseum first thing in the morning before you grab your coffee, or pay the Trevi Fountain a visit while everyone is getting ready for dinner or in the late afternoon as most people will try to do their sightseeing between 10 AM and 3-ish in the afternoon.

11. Bring Earplugs

No matter where you’re staying, you will likely encounter some degree of noise while you sleep. There are quieter streets that hotels and rentals are on with limited traffic and crowd noise, but there’s always the possibility of loud neighbors or people stomping around above you. If you’re a light sleeper like I am, a pair of ear plugs and a white noise machine is your friend!

Everywhere we stayed in Rome and throughout Europe, there was usually someone stomping around in the unit above us and I was very grateful for my ear plugs!

12. Bring a Selfie-Stick

While it may feel a little silly when you’re packing it, you’ll be glad you have it! I cannot tell you how much we used our selfie-stick throughout Rome, there was always something we wanted to grab a picture in front of and we didn’t want to be asking strangers to take our picture everywhere we went. 

We loved having this selfie-stick that could also double as a tripod if we wanted farther away shots. It was super easy to collapse and fit right in my bag!

13. Stay in the Trevi Fountain or Pantheon Area

If your budget allows, we found the best place to stay in Rome is near the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon. It is so central, it makes it so easy to see all of the tourist attractions by foot! There’s also a lot of great restaurants and shops in this area, making it easy to find delicious food any time of day. 

While we stayed in Prati for our first trip to Rome, we frequently wished we had stayed in this area instead. It was much more central and would have made it so much easier to see all of Rome without needing public transport. We also found it to have the best restaurants during our November visit.

14. Book Airport Transfers in Advance

With the airports being so far out of the city center, it’s a good idea to book your airport transfers in advance if you are arriving to Rome by plane. There are two airports in Rome, both being a 35-45 minute drive depending on where you’re staying. You can also take a taxi, Uber, train or bus to the airport but you’ll usually find a private transfer is the most comfortable and time-efficient option.

Pro Tip: If budget is a concern, the cheapest way to travel between the airports and the city center is by bus. Though, you’ll want to plan for it having to stop along the way. 

15. Explore the City’s Churches

Whether you are a Catholic or not, the churches of Rome are something amazing to behold. So full of rich history, artistic detail, and an overwhelming peace the moment you walk through the door, taking a peak inside a church as you’re out and about is something that can’t be missed!

When we were exploring near the Colosseum we came across several churches along quiet streets that had their doors open, ready to be viewed by anyone who had an interest.

They were probably one of the highlights of our trip, though we opted not to take any pictures out of respect. With jaw-dropping ceiling paintings, intricate sculptures, and a peaceful presence I have not otherwise felt in my lifetime, I will forever remember spending the 10 minutes to admire and appreciate those little Roman churches!

16. Eat Where You Want to Eat!

So many travel websites and “gurus” say you have to eat where the locals eat and anywhere touristy is not going to be good. I call BS!

Some of the best food we had in Rome was in the “tourist” areas of the city and the few times we ventured off the beaten path to more local establishments, we were left a bit disappointed. There’s also something to be said of the busy, tourist-focused restaurants having the freshest foods because they’re going through much more than a restaurant that sees a lot less traffic.

The point is, eat where you want to eat. My husband and I would walk near the tourist destinations, check out the menu and do a quick Google search of the reviews and make our decisions that way and we had much better meals doing that than when we tried to find the “local” favorites sprinkled outside of the tourist epicenters.

17. Join a Food Tour

Explore the city and taste some of its famous flavors by joining a food tour. Not only is it a great way to learn about Rome, but trying all of the little bites throughout the city can give you some ideas of where you’d like to have lunch or dinner later in the trip.

18. Have Some Cash On You

While most places will accept credit cards, it’s always a good idea to have some Euros on you in the event you need them. Almost everywhere we went in Rome accepted card payments, until we got somewhere where their machine wasn’t working! We were very glad we had Euros to pay. As a rule of thumb, we always tried to carry at least 50 Euros in the event we went to a restaurant and had a meal, and our cards didn’t work. Though, this never ended up being the case.

19. Wear Comfortable Shoes

Rome is not the place to break out your heels or adorable sandals. With cobblestone streets and uneven sidewalks anywhere you go, your feet will be hurting in no time without the proper foot attire.

I wore my favorite pair of Asics and they were absolute champs – my feet never even hurt, even after a 12 mile day in Rome!

20. Get the Gelato

Whether you’re visiting in the dead of winter or on a scorching summer day where there’s a line out the door at the gelato shop, always stop and enjoy some gelato! Enjoy this delicious dessert any time of day and try new flavors each time. We were freezing in the rain in November and still enjoyed every bite of delicious gelato (and we could hide inside from the rain for a few minutes while we savored it!)

The best gelato shops we found were Grom – a chain of authentic Italian gelato stores. By far the best tasting gelato in our opinion!

You May Also Like: 15 Can’t-Miss Tourist Sites in Rome

Europe Travel, Featured, Italy, Travel Hacks

10 Rome Tourist Mistakes to Avoid At All Costs

Heading to Rome for the very first time? Be sure to avoid these common tourist mistakes so you don’t feel like a total rookie, get taken advantage of, or are stuck in a bad situation because you weren’t prepared.

The Eternal City is one of the most popular and iconic destinations in the world, and frequented by about 10 million tourists each year. It’s easy to see why, with stunning architecture and legendary sights like the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain – not to mention the food! But as with any other tourist destination or big city, it’s common for visitors to make certain mistakes.

Avoid as many hiccups as possible with these 10 common mistakes you should avoid in Rome so you can enjoy and soak up all this beautiful city has to offer during your trip!

You May Also Like: 21 Free Things to Do in Rome

1. Not Pre-Booking Tickets For the Major Sights

One of the most important things you’ll do when planning your trip is booking tickets ahead of time. In Rome, there are so many tourists at all times of the year, leaving it up to chance isn’t the best course of action. Between the long lines and most attractions selling out, especially in the peak travel months, your time is better spent exploring the city than waiting for hours and crossing your fingers you’ll be able to get inside.

Even in November, we waited until two weeks before our trip to try to get tickets to see the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, and could not get tickets, they were sold out. I figured that time of year, we wouldn’t need to plan so far in advance (especially with my husband’s work schedule, we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to make our trip altogether and didn’t want to book tickets too early). What a mistake! We couldn’t get any tickets at all, and when we walked around in Vatican City (which you can do for free, without tickets), we saw line probably 500 people deep waiting to get into the Vatican!

2. Not Packing a Cell Phone Power Bank

When my husband and I were in Rome, we forgot our cell phone power bank and it was almost a complete disaster! Using our phone maps to navigate and explore the city, in addition to taking photos and videos, rapidly drained our phone batteries.

We hurried back to our Airbnb rental across town to charge our phones, with my phone dying and his being at 1% when we found our way back to the Airbnb (once again, having to use phone maps). We were almost in a serious pickle. Don’t be like us, plan ahead and bring a cell phone power bank just in case! You can see the one we recommend here.

3. Not Bringing a Secure Purse

Having a bag is so helpful on those long days out exploring Rome (and any other destination for that matter). We carried our collapsible selfie-stick, a small water bottle, my wallet, hand sanitizer and phone all in this bag.

But it’s not just a regular cross-body purse, it’s a travel purse. Featuring slash-proof material and zippers that clasp together and to hooks on the bag, this bag while looking like any other purse, is actually much harder to pickpocket and steal. When it comes to protecting your belongings, the name of the game is time. Pickpockets and thieves will move on to other less-difficult targets if your bag is more difficult to slash or open.

In Rome, in a crowd down by the Roman Forum, I felt someone grab at my bag and as quickly as I turned around they were gone. It was the slightest touch, but I felt whoever it was reaching at the zippers on my bag and quickly moving along when they couldn’t open it in the few seconds required to snatch belongings undetected. I was very happy to have this bag and not a regular purse in that moment!

Another option is a money belt that you can wear under your clothes or a zip-tied fanny pack – though the latter isn’t going to be protected if the thief plans to slash the strap and grab your bag. On our trip, we brought all three options (the travel bag, fanny pack, and money belt) and only ended up using the travel bag – it was perfect and fit everything!

4. Trying to Do It All In One Day

It can be tempting to squeeze everything into one day, especially if you’re just stopping in Rome on your way to another destination. But Rome had so much to see and experience, it’s best to give yourself at least two days to explore!

We spent 2 full days in Rome and even after seeing the major tourist attractions, still found so much to see off the beaten path. Beautiful building facades, stunning fountains that don’t seem like they could have been man-made, monuments, and fabulous little restaurants abound in this city, give yourself the time to explore it all!

5. Not Wearing Comfortable Shoes

Of all the places we visited on our trip, Rome was the destination I was most happy to have comfortable walking athletic shoes in! Walking on Cobblestones is no joke, and even after a day of walking in my athletic shoes my feet were crying. Skip the cute sandals, flip flops, and heels and opt for a comfy pair of sneakers to explore the city in – even if you plan on taking the bus and metro!

6. Not Being Aware of Scams 

With about 10 million people visiting Rome each year, the city is a prime location for pickpockets and scammers to prey on distracted, unsuspecting victims. While we touched on securing your valuables with a secured bag or under-clothing belts, you need to be on the lookout for scammers as well.

There are quite a few common scams in Rome to watch out for, especially in the more crowded areas like the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum. Watch out for these scams:

Free Rose/Flower

Men and women will walk around, trying to hand out a free rose or other flower to women at the busy tourist sights. Initially, they act as if it’s a free, kind gesture. But will very quickly demand payment, some even making a huge scene and screaming until they’re paid, even if you try to hand the flower back.

Sign a Petition

While I didn’t see this one in Rome (I saw it in Paris), I have heard of it happening here. Someone, usually a woman, will try to encourage you to sign their petition, offering a clip board and pen. While you’re signing someone may try to pickpocket you as you’re distracted, or they will ask for/demand money for their “cause.”

The Bracelet Scam

Similarly to the free rose or flower scam, someone will try to put a bracelet on you as you are walking by. They will then demand money or make a scene in an attempt to embarrass you into complying. 

Fake Police Officers

While the most intimidating of the scams, and the hardest to recognize, fraudsters will sometimes pose as police officers. They will come up to you for an impromptu “security check,” demanding your passport, wallet, or money. Never hand over your belongings in public, ask to be checked at the nearest police station.

Taxi Scam

Some drivers, especially at airports and train station, may try to get more money out of passengers when they can. Tricks can range from giving back the wrong amount of change if you pay in cash, to meters “not working” or even meters switched to pricier weekend or holiday rates for weekday rides. Avoid scams by taking the official white Roma Capitale taxis, or even booking a taxi with the Uber app (this is what we did, and we always knew ahead of time what each trip would cost us). Most taxis will also have their rates and fare information on the windows or sides of the vehicle so you can see what your trip should cost.

7. Having Exposed Knees and Shoulders in Church

While this isn’t a mistake you will probably have to worry about in the colder months, it’s something to be mindful of in spring and summer if you plan on exploring the Vatican or any churches you may see along your walking paths. There are many churches that are open and free to enter throughout the city (we found two when we were just wandering around and they were probably one of the highlights of our Rome trip!)

Whether you’re looking to check out the incredible painted ceilings and sculptures, or want to feel the peace (or even just the air conditioning), you should be aware that you may be turned away at the door if your knees or shoulders are exposed, or you don’t remove your hats. Whether there’s someone checking at the door or not, aim to be respectful either way. 

8. Not Looking Both Ways Before Crossing the Street

I have never seen such crazy driving until I visited Italy! Between the gobs of tourists wandering around and the drivers making Rome their race track, be sure to look both ways before crossing the street and maneuvering around town. While many drivers will stop to let you cross the street, many will not even slow down a little so be mindful as you traverse the city and use cross walks when you can.

9. Forgetting to Validate Train & Bus Tickets

For buses and overground trains, you must validate your ticket at the machine before boarding. This validating takes just a moment, but ticket inspectors will look for the punch in your ticket and you should keep the ticket on you for your entire journey as it can be asked for at any point (and a hefty fine can be given out if you don’t have your ticket when asked for it, or if you don’t have it validated).

The only exception is if you buy your tickets online ahead of time. We purchased train tickets from Venice to Rome and they were already validated, as it expressly said on our mobile tickets. 

10. Expecting Air Conditioning

While Americans love their air conditioning (myself included!), Italians apparently do not. Don’t expect to walk inside to cool off. Many restaurants are even warmer on the inside than the outside, and is likely why many Italian opt to eat outside.

This can be true of lodging as well. Many hotels and rental properties do not have air conditioning. And if they do, don’t expect them to create a crisp, cool tundra like our units do back home in the states! Before your trip, adjust your thermostat a bit higher to try and acclimate before you arrive.

You May Also Like: 20 Essential Tips For Your First Trip to Rome