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Traveling 1st time to Europe

Hello, I'm looking for advise and/or encouragement. I'm a 52 year old female planning a trip to Europe(settling on Italy I believe) alone and will be out of the country for the first time without my family. I am considering the Rick Steve 13 day My Way. My concern is that I will be very homesick. My other option is planning and making reservations myself using the guide book and maybe only plan on 9 days instead of the 13 + the extra day before and after tour. Does this sound like a reasonable amount of time for a first time trip to Italy? I am considering that same route as the 13 day just cutting a night or two here and there. Thanks, Mother of 3 from MN

Posted by
3574 posts

It will fly by either way--go for it!
If you are nervous about being alone, the tour will give you camaraderie. And if you are worried about the length, nine days is still a nice amount of time. Just consider this a gift to yourself.
I have a traveling companion, but just to reassure you, I would have no qualms about traveling through Italy by myself.
You might consider one of the shorter tours if it works out. I would not do the My Way itinerary with 9 days, but if you start planning independently, the things you want to see most will become clear.

Posted by
241 posts

Some of the advantages of traveling alone: go where you want, stay as long or as little as want, eat where you want, go back to the room when you want, and locals take more time to interact with a single person. The disadvantages of traveling alone: where you go your suitcase goes too (in the airport or train bathroom for example) and there is nobody to watch your back when using an ATM machine so use ones located inside a bank. I love to travel with good friends/family and I love to travel alone. I cannot image being homesick in such a short amount of time, don't cut your trip to 9 nights, a 13 night trip is so short for the amount of time/money it takes to fly to Europe. A first trip to Italy deserves 3 weeks. I wear a wistle on a chain around my neck and have blown it twice in Italy, works like a good luck charm. I'm not saying this to scare you, but to help you feel more at ease. I love Italy and have been at least 10 times and I"m returning next October. A map only works if you have a compass and lucky for us phones do. I make books with all the paperwork in the order I will need it, for example I print (in very large print so no glasses are necessary) the name, phone number and address of where I'm staying to give to the cab driver those go on green paper. The next item would be Airbnb or hotel reservations on yellow paper. Keeping organized keeps me from stressing. For me planning is almost as fun as the trip, so I don't use a company to do the leg work. But for others they perfer just to show up, usually those people have stressful jobs and lack the time to plan out the train schedules etc. Have a wonderful trip, J

Posted by
23132 posts

I don't think you necessarily need to take a tour, though I understand why a new traveler would like the idea of one. Italy has been hosting foreign travelers for centuries; it's not a hard country to travel in. For me the trick is to allow plenty of time at each stop so I can respond to spur-of-the-moment opportunities (a cute side street, an interesting shop window, gelato).

Whatever you do, don't start trimming the length of your stays. That's a way to have a very frantic trip, even for experienced travelers. I can assure you that very, very few of the experienced travelers on this forum would travel to Italy to hop through all these places (2 nights each--eek!) in thirteen days: Venice, Lake Como, Riviera/Cinque Terre, Florence, Assisi (after driving through rural Tuscany) and Rome. I think that's way, way too rushed. Even with the tour-provided transportation (which I admit is helpful), 2 nights in one city means only about 1-1/2 days there. How much of Venice, Florence or Rome do you think you could see in 1-1/2 days? It would be exhausting to try to see even a portion of the top sights in those cities in 1-1/2 days.

Posted by
1852 posts

I’ve done several solo trips with Rick Steves tours. It’s a nice “safety net” to travel with a (small) group and still have free time to see or do what interests you. Personally, I’d take a regular guided (not My Way) tour for a first trip. It will give you the skills and confidence to venture out on your own. The guides are very knowledgeable and helpful, and I found my tour mates to be welcoming to a solo traveler.

Posted by
6848 posts

Hi Tina,
I am so glad that you are willing to set out and do something new and explore Europe! I travel in multiple ways, sometimes with a tour and sometimes independently. I had to learn how to travel as a solo and I know it can seem a little daunting at first, but you can learn the skills to do this and have a great time!

I would suggest doing the Rick Steves 13 day tour. I think a guided tour might be my first choice in your circumstance because of the structure and the guides are always teaching. They teach about where you are the background of that place, the practical aspects of travel, and travel skills. The My Way tour would still provide some of these aspects as well, but with a bit more free time and less guiding.

You are less likely to be homesick if you are traveling with a group. There are also other ways to stay in touch with family. Make sure that you are texting and sending a picture of what you are doing each day. Your hotels should have wi-fi. Even the most rural hotels I have stayed in with Rick Steves have at least had wifi in the lobby! Use this to keep in touch with family.

You can also feel free to use those of us on the forum as points of contact. We love nothing more than hearing from people on their trips and how things are going for them. Post a daily trip report on the trip reports forum and you will find people interacting with you.

Once again, however you decide to do this in the end, good for you! Keep stepping out of the comfort zone and exploring new places. Take it step by step and you will be a confident world traveler in no time. Feel free to send me a private message any time you'd like someone to talk to about solo travel.

Posted by
5438 posts

Instead of the My Way tour, consider the Best of Venice, Florence, Rome guided tour. It’s 10 days (3 in each city), and it’s about the same price as the one you’re considering.

Since you stated upfront that you’re worried about being homesick, this tour with fun activities like a cooking class and gondola ride will keep you busy with the group and no stress for you as a first trip.

You mentioned a longer number of days. So, arrive in Italy two days before the day your tour begins. This trip has you meet in Venice. Fly into Venice and take the train (easy to do & popular transportation in Europe) to Verona. Stay in Verona for those two days. It has a pretty historic center, and the town is an easy one for tourists. Or, if this is more appealing, fly into Milan and go to Lake Como for two days. But I think that might make you more homesick than going to Verona.

Posted by
22 posts

For your first RS tour consider a city tour. My first was the Paris city tour. However I recently did the Rome city tour. It was wonderful. You could stay extra days in Rime or take a train to Florence, a very walkable city, for a few days. You will meet great people on a RS tour.

Posted by
1059 posts

Say some more about what you mean by "homesick." Will you miss your family? Miss the comforts and familiarity of your house and where you live? Miss being where you know the language? Maybe feel worried about navigating train stations, restaurants, etc in foreign places? Miss sharing your experiences with another person who is with you? Do you simply not like being alone in general? These are all different feelings, with different "solutions."

It occurs to me, for instance, that, in thinking about how I would feel about traveling to Italy completely alone, I would not like it! Your post made me realize this! This is despite having spent almost 365 days in Italy already and despite loving to be alone while at home and despite never being homesick in my life. I so admire people who travel by themselves, like my husband does, but I I would think seriously about a tour or at least one person to travel with rather than go by myself. Looking back on the various minor travel "disasters" I've experienced (having flu three times, getting off trains at the wrong station, serious flight delays, transportation strikes, having to find a bathroom in a hurry, being lost for a couple hours in some woods in the rain, etc.), I'm pretty sure that no amount of feeling self-reliant or adventurous or proud of myself for coping during these things (or afterward) would make me choose to go through them on my own.

So, if you think you're like me and this is how you'd feel, yeah, do the Venice, Florence, Rome tour (the least hurried one), and if you want to add on a few days, spend them in Venice where you can get over jet lag and wander around without dodging cars and motorcycles and without ever getting really lost. Oh, and if you possibly can, choose the tour that's in very early spring or very late fall, since you'd be going to some of the most popular cities on planet earth.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you so much to everyone who has responded. This is my first time in the Forum and I feel like I have connected with a great group of people who have a multitude of experience to share with me. Maybe that is exactly what I would expect with doing the. "My Way" tour rather than going it alone. I guess in response to a couple of the comments my worst fears are being away from my family and the Comforts of home but also as one person stated finding a bathroom fast!😁 It sucks getting old but I can't let that stop me from my travels. A like being alone and I've traveled independently here in the US.I love having the challenge of learning new things and the trains and language barriers do scare me. We don't have that type of Transportation in Minnesota so it would be completely foreign. I appreciate the comments and would love to hear anymore thoughts.

Posted by
12610 posts

If you look at the menu in the upper left of this website--not the forum--you will see a section called "Travel Tips." You will find articles there on many aspects of travel in general in Europe--transportation, money, languages, etc.

For language, spend a some time learning a little Italian. You will find English speakers in most areas of Italy but it is also good to know a little. Also download Google Translate and learn how to use it before you go. It will come in handy.

Trains are really not that difficult. There is plenty of information on using trains, and specifically Italian trains, on this site.

Lastly, come back here and ask questions. You may get different opinions in your answers but you probably get a good consensus.

If you have not problem traveling in the US by yourself, you will be find in Italy. It's pretty much the same just with more pasta.

Posted by
656 posts

In addition to the list that Frank provided, set up your phone with an international calling and data plan. That way if you get homesick just call or even better face time. My wife calls our children and grandkids all the time when we are traveling. Since this is your first venture on your own don't worry about getting a sim card for Italy or Europe. Come back with more questions or thoughts, folks on these boards will be happy to help.

Posted by
355 posts

I think the 13 day My Way looks wonderful for a first trip. You won’t need to find your hotel on your own nor have to wonder about getting from one place to another, yet your days are your own. Having other tour members will make it easier as you can bet they’ll ask you to join them and/or will also be able to help in the what to see department if you haven’t quite figured it out for yourself. It also means you may have dining options so you don’t feel you have to dine alone, but can always do so if that is more comfortable.
Traveling to a foreign country alone can be a bit daunting at any age, but if it were me and at 52 I decided to go it ‘alone’, I’m pretty sure I would have liked the idea of this type of tour.

And -Good For You!- too many put off a dream trip because no one will go with them or whatever comes up and the opportunity soon fades. You will love it. Even though you may have a twinge of homesickness, I’ll bet it goes by the wayside pretty quickly with all there is to see and do.