This was originally posted in February 2016.
A couple of weeks ago a friend asked if I wanted to tag along on her business trip to Italy. I hadn’t left the country since my Africa trip in 2013 and my travel itch desperately needed to be scratched, so I jumped at the chance to freeload part of my trip Italy. I knew I had enough points, so I booked my trip to spend two days in Rome, four days in Florence and three days in Milan. This is one of the times that being self-employed and SWNKPP (single with no kids, plants or pets) pays off. You can do last minute trips and many other things that marrieds and parents can’t do.
I’ve often traveled with friends on their work trips. It’s clearly a more economical way to travel since you don’t have to pay for the hotel. I have the best of the travel worlds with a part time companion and a free room to crash in. So, off I went with no plan on what to do when I got to Italy. But my usual tendency to wing it when I travel kind of backfired on me. My (over) confidence that I can figure things out on the fly in most situations proved to be a bit of challenge for me this trip. Though I had a great time, I regretted not being more prepared for the trip since I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what to do, where to go etc.…I even waited until the last minute to pack and didn’t even buy a guide book (yes, I’m old school and like to use guidebooks instead of apps). When I arrived in Rome, I hadn’t figured out what to do with my cell phone and how I was getting from the airport to the hotel. I ended up in an expensive cab that dropped me off at the wrong address with two over packed suitcases. In Florence, I made no dinner reservations assuming I could just go sit at a bar for dinner during one of the busiest times in city. I was wrong and missed out on eating a few of the iconic restaurants in the city. Therefore, I offer to you the following dos and don’ts for last minute trip whether you are traveling with a friend on work trip or not.
#1 – Do – Jump in on last minute travel plans with a friend, especially if the hotel will be free for you because their company is footing the bill. Hopefully, you’ve banked enough points for a free or nearly free flight. Just be mindful of any room charges or inappropriate behavior that could get the friend in trouble with their job.
#2 – Don’t – Wait until the last minute to pack or research the destination. Get the guidebook, download the app, ask for recommendations from friends and print them in case you have phone problems. Also, check to make sure you have the right electronic equipment if you make it a working trip like me. I didn’t bring the right adaptor for my laptop which I hastily bought a day before the trip, so I could work will I was away. I know. I’m the worst.
#3 – Do – Bring snacks, oatmeal packets, meal bars for breakfast or whatever keeps you feeling together. I’m a weirdo about my breakfast and know I can’t eat ham, cheese and pastries for 10 days straight. I didn’t bring any of these things and after a couple of days eating the aforementioned, I had to head to a local grocery store in Florence for rations.
#4 – Don’t – Expect to eat dinner on the fly in a city like Florence. After a full day of sightseeing one day, I just wanted to grab the quickest dinner at a bar and figured that it would be no problem since I was dining alone. Wrong. The restaurants are small, and the Italians don’t eat on the fly the way Americans do. Especially, when there was a big trade show in town and all of the restaurants were booked. I finally found a place to eat and had dinner around 10:00 pm.
#5 – Do – Be super accommodating to your friend who’s there for work. Let them get to bathroom, closet, desk what-have-you first. Whatever they need to do to get themselves organized and ready for their work day.
#6 – Don’t – Take for granted that everyone speaks English when you travel. Though this seems like a no brainer especially since I’ve traveled enough to know better than to adopt this type Western arrogance. I forgot my good travel manners and didn’t even bother to learn simple phrases in Italian. If you’re blessed enough to be able to visit different cultures, be a gracious guest and learn how to say per favore, grazie, buona sera, bon journo, buona notte etc…
#7 – Do – Last, but not least get as much work done before you leave the home, so you’re not sitting in a hotel room when you should be out exploring. On that note… Buona sera and arrivederci!