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2 weeks, Wengen & Naples & Rome, 4 inexperienced travelers...what are we forgetting?

We are flying from the US to Zurich. Spending 5 nights in Wengen. Then by train traveling to Naples for 4 nights. And finally to Rome for 5 nights. We have booked airfare and lodgings which are the big ones! (edit: dates are 23 Sept to 08 Oct).

But trying to identify all the other things we need to buy/plan/budget. Help please!

We have not bought travel insurance of any kind so far but airfare and lodgings are all on the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. So we may only do Medjet coverage and something like geoblue? (Airfare is not completely refundable, but if something happens we are ok with a travel credit. Wengen apartment is most restricted cancellation policy but if we cancel we have bigger problems!)

We have not exactly decided on which Swiss train pass we will do, but likely some combo of the half fare card for tourists plus either the Berner Oberland pass or Jungfrau pass.

We will need to buy train tickets from Wengen to Naples but it sounds like Naples to Rome would not be an issue?

For attractions in or around Naples it doesn't feel like we need to purchase in advance? But is this true of Pompeii? I feel like I see many posts of people turning up on the day and buying tickets and hiring a guide at the gates? What about the catacombs tours?

For Rome, we will need to still purchase Coloseum and Vatican tickets as we get to 60 days out.

What are some of the things we haven't thought of that need to be considered before the trip? Some minor things I've thought of are getting a phone plan/sim for data and getting some swiss francs and euros from our bank before departure. Obviously food/eating will be a big expense.

And for what it is worth we have already been having the discussions of packing light!

Thanks for any advice or tips!

Posted by
2462 posts

What are your specific travel dates? That will help folks answer questions as some advice will depend on time of year - peak summer for example you'll want to plan ahead for some things. A few random thoughts:

Travel insurance: I'm not sure what that credit card covers, but read the details. Insurance is up to you and what you feel like risking, including medical (your home insurance may not cover you overseas, also read the details there). You can compare various insurance policies on insuremytrip.com or squaremouth.com.

Budget: you'll need to eat, of course. Those costs can vary widely depending if you have an apartment or hotel, if you want fancy sit down meals, etc. Other costs include entrances to museums, daily transit costs, souvenirs. Switzerland is expensive in all things, depending on where you live now you might have sticker shock. Make sure you have credit cards that don't charge hefty international transaction fees and it really helps if they are contactless cards as that is a popular form of payment. Inform your banks of your travel plans so you're not locked out of your cards and also make sure to take the non-toll free phone number for you credit cards in case you need to call from overseas (US 800 numbers do not work). Many places in Europe don't use much cash any more, so you may be ok just getting cash from an ATM when you arrive.

Phones: much, much discussion in the forum about SIMs and international phone plans. Skim through there and your questions may be answered already https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tech-tips

Posted by
5007 posts

You have done a lot of research and committed to a reasonable (IMHO ) pace of travel. Kudos!
When is this trip?
Many travel insurance policies only cover pre-existing conditions if you buy the policy within a week or two of your first booking. Not sure if this is important to you. Travels insurance has been discussed here frequently, so do a SEARCH if you'd like to review this info. It's tedious, but reading the credit card insurance policy can save you many headaches later.

We used Mondo shared tours of Pompeii, which need to be booked about two weeks in advance, as they need to have a group in place. I think it about €10 cash plus admission, and it was a great two-hour tour. You don't need to buy admission tickets in advance. Bring plenty of water and food, as there's very little to buy inside of Pompeii, but there are several vendors outside the gates selling this. Also, Pompeii is much warmer than the coastline areas.

We found having at least one credit card in our Apple Wallet was a big help, as we tap paid for so much, rarely getting the wallet out. If you're new to this, set it up and practice before you leave home. For cash, I'd wait until you find a bank- operated atm in country. In many cases, getting cash before you leave can cost you more than an atm in country. Also always ask to be charged in the local currency.

You have a great trip planned, enjoy. Safe travels!

Posted by
11354 posts

Pompeii is awesome! Sadly our Mondo tour
of Pompeii was sub par so find another company if you want a tour.
We spent two more hours there on our own and that part was wonderful.

Posted by
3178 posts

Wengen to Naples by train is 12-13 hours. I see from your other thread that you considered various options for the journey and rejected flying as too expensive. But did you check the budget airlines for flights from Zurich to Naples? Easy jet, Ryanair, regional airlines like Air Dolomiti, maybe iTA? There must be something under the $250 you saw when you searched. That 13 hours on a train sounds brutal.

Posted by
26 posts

CL and Pat: thanks! I edited to include our dates.

Still investigating the travel insurance. Probably should have done that a little bit more last week. We booked our airfare on May 9th, so we're hitting the 14 days where pre-existing conditions may not be covered. On the other hand, even though 3 of us our diabetic, we are all controlled, with good A1C and none of us are on insulin. So really, our concern is just about
'what if someone falls and breaks a leg or gets a concussion' during the trip. And no, the credit card doesn't cover everything, but it is something.

The lodging in Wengen is an apartment so as many people advise, we will use the local grocery for some meals but likely will eat out too. The other big expense in Switzerland will be the transit passes but since the BO pass would cover almost everything (except Jungfraujoch, Schilthorn, and "adventures" like the Grindelwald flyers or carts), the pass seems worthwhile.

In Naples and Rome, of course we'll have other entry fees to places on top of Vatican and Colosseum. Part of the reason we got the Chase Sapphire card was to have a 2nd card with no foreign transaction fees. Our primary/daily card does have forex fees and we had only one other card without them.

I will definitely check out the tech tips forum re: phone plans. Last time I checked, AT&T wanted something like $20 per DAY to add international to our plan, but I need to double check that.

Posted by
787 posts

Hi there, as I was writing, I saw others had said some things I may be repeating. AH! dates are 23 Sept to 08 Oct), that's much better than high summer for Italy! You've definitely come to the right place, keep researching & looking at guide books, videos, and reading up on the places you're visiting on the Forum! I will leave the trip insurance questions for others but would definitely check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred card coverage, I seem to recall it's pretty good for travel. You mention being inexperienced travelers - There's a LOT on the Forum for the beginners! Have a look at this 2-month ahead of travel thread. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/what-do-you-do-two-months-before-your-trip.

I'm assuming Wengen to Naples is a LONG day, best to look at the train schedule. Naples Archaeological museum (yes, you will want advance tickets) as well as Pompeii, LOTS written on that topic on the Forum, use the Search bar above, here's a taster from Rick - https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/italy/naples. And good overview by Rick here - https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/tv-show/naples-and-pompeii
Plus use the search bar above for whatever you need to know, try ‘Pompeii guide’ perhaps. Bummed to hear Mondo tours was disappointing for someone above, personally I wouldn't show up at the gates and expect a good tour guide, but that's just me, I've just spent a lot of time and energy to get that far and would want to go with a recognized outfit.

I'm assuming you mean Roman Catacombs tour, which probably doesn't need to be booked that far in advance, maybe a week. I would consider an e-bike tour, don't recall the name of the recommended company. That gets you a bit out of the center of Rome, along the Aurelian Walls, and a bit of exercise as well.

FOOD - We definitely go to Italy to eat! I do a lot of research on the Forum and elsewhere to gather restaurant suggestions in a saved Google Maps, just easiest for us, and when you're hot and tired near a landmark, it's good to have some ideas. Have enjoyed Eating Europe's walking food tour of the Jewish Ghetto & Trastevere & separately of Testaccio in Rome. This is not a first-time visitor's guide for Rome, but here's our Dec TR with some restaurant ideas - https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/rome-was-jammed-over-ny-but-still-fun
I would also take a look at a Naples walking food tour, as Naples is more chaotic, congested & could definitely benefit from a helping hand searching out restaurants. The guides are great at local history as well so you're tasting treats as you're absorbing culture. I'd try to do this on first or second day, so you have a chance to use the suggestions a second time. Good luck, I'm sure there will be many, many more suggestions coming your way!

PS, AT&T is $10 a day, you have to sign up on line ahead of time, personally I have it because sometimes I want to use data or make a call, but you're only charged for the days you use it, max $100 per billing period.

Posted by
26 posts

@Sasha:

Wengen to Naples by train is 12-13 hours.

It's actually more like 9-9.5 hours. Still long, yes, but not quite as bad. It was pointed out that trains are not on the schedule yet for our dates, but if you put in a closer date, like this week, you can see the travel.

Leaving Wengen at 10:42 and arriving Naples at 7:48p isn't so bad. But I will continue to watch other options.

Posted by
26 posts

@Sandancisco: Thanks! I had tried to edit my original post with dates but I may not have been quick enough. Dates are 23 Sept - 08 Oct.

We do want to go to the Naples Archaelogical Museum, so I will add advance tickets for that to our list.

I said catacombs in re: Naples but what I meant was the Underground tour? I think I saw that somewhere anyway. I will have to look that up again. We are considering one of the Naples street food tours though!

Not sure we will do an ebike catacomb tour in Rome. I'm interested, but one of our group is 70+ year old mom and not sure that would be for her. We're considering Ostia Antica or Tivoli as a "get out of the center" of Rome, but we'll see!

Thanks!

Posted by
26 posts

PS, AT&T is $10 a day, you have to sign up on line ahead of time,
personally I have it because sometimes I want to use data or make a
call, but you're only charged for the days you use it, max $100 per
billing period.

ah, thanks! good to know! will keep that in mind. we've been considering leaving AT&T postpaid for a cheaper wireless plan, but might delay that a bit longer. I have some research to do I guess!

Posted by
3178 posts

Actually I did use a date next week, on bahn.de, which shows the schedules for cross-border train travel all over Europe. For May 30 they do not show a 10: 42 train at all. But they do show one departing Wengen at 12:42 that takes 8h 51 minutes, which I did not see before as I didn’t check departures after noon.

I did check other dates on both sides of June 30, up to June 20 and none show a 10:42 departure taking under 9 hours like you found. On June 18 there is a 10:12 departure but it takes 12+ hours. And the 12:42 train sequence is up to 10.5 hours, reflecting the bus link on the route between Domodossola and Milan. That will be finished by the time you travel, but the schedules for your actual dates are not complete yet. So who knows.

Posted by
26 posts

interesting. I didn't use bahn.de; I've only been checking sbb.ch. For this Sunday, 26.05, there are 2 routes at 10:42, one takes 9h6m and the other 9h21m. I'm seeing the same options on 02.06 also. But as you say...if the Stresa-Arona works are not completed as scheduled, it could impact our particular dates, so it's a bit of a guess right now!

Posted by
787 posts

Ah great, good progress! Yep, October will be much nicer than earlier in the year... I didn't know about the underground tour in Naples but sounds fun, & thanks for the heads up! https://www.lanapolisotterranea.it/. I found a few underground places in Rome, by far the most interesting was the walk through an aqueduct near the Trevi Fountain, the Vicus Caprarius, you need to Whatsapp them 24 hours ahead for reservations. https://www.vicuscaprarius.com/

Since you're going to Pompeii, I would suggest Tivoli to get out of Rome, especially the Ville d' Este gardens rather than Ostia Antica, which is more similar to Pompeii. I absolutely loved these gardens, would go again and probably skip Hadrian's Villa to spend more time at the gardnes. Somewhere in my TR is info about transport to Tivoli.

Since you mentioned a 70-year old, I’d add a note about just how many miles you will put on each day, no matter how many taxis you take. We're quite fit late 60 year olds, bike a lot and walk daily, and we pretty much wear ourselves out walking in Rome. We always wear hiking boots, even in cities and especially in Rome. A second pair of light weight shoes for evenings, dinner whatever but cobblestones are hellish on feet. Here’s an interesting discussion on why walking in Pompeii isn’t for the faint at heart, look down below in the feed. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/italy/upcoming-pbs-show-on-pompeii. And this documentary is also wonderful...

Posted by
3178 posts

I did not compare what I saw on bahn.de with the Trenitalia schedule. But in past trip planning for Italy I found that bahn.decshowed different connections and I realized it was to allow more time between train. In other words they did not trust 5-6 minute connection times in Italy, especially with regional trains, snd accordingly used different trains with longer connection times, like 10-15 minutes instead of 5 or 6.

Posted by
3178 posts

Ok, it looks like that 10:42 train is a Saturday-Sunday thing, but it disappears on June 9 and thereafter due to the Stresa-Arona closure. I presume it will be back in September. Is your travel day to Naples on a weekend?

Posted by
729 posts

We did Basil to Milan to Naples by train which also was long. We enjoyed the scenery and the chance to relax. Do allow enough time to transfer if you need to. Also be cautious when getting on train ...pickpocketd