It was the day we had been anticipating for the last two months. Friday, March 27th had finally arrived. On this beautiful, sunny day which barely required a fleece, I couldn’t help but reflect on how perfectly everything had seemed to fall into place leading up to this point. The weather bolstered our optimism and bode well for our next two weeks. It was as if Baltimore was gifting us with a going-away present before reverting back to its wintery, sub-freezing ways after our departure.
Our bags were packed with all the necessities, and only the necessities. In order to avoid delays, baggage fees, risk of lost luggage, and risk of damage during handling, we both decided to pack everything in our own carry-on backpacks, along with a camera bag in the form of a large purse. After we finished packing and weighed our bags, we were nervous because both of our bags were over some of our airlines’ weight limits for carry-ons. However, we decided to take the risk and we would check in if we were weighed. Thankfully, none of the airlines weighed or even measured our bags. Since our carry-ons were backpacks, the check-in agents didn’t seem to worry one bit about them being too large or heavy at any of the airlines (Emirates, Aegean, or Vueling). A couple of the agents even remarked that we were traveling light for an international trip.
In order to conserve space, we packed only enough clothes for about a week, along with a small travel laundry kit and clothesline. We planned to use the kit for washing our laundry in a hotel sink or bathtub halfway through our trip, and to dry our clothes outside our window. For organizing and tightly packing our clothes, we used eBags Packing Cubes ($29.99), which served us extremely well. With these cubes, we were able to keep our shirts, pants, and underwear separated and organized. When you’re packing and unpacking every couple of days at multiple hotels, this saves a lot of time and frustration.
For the backpacks themselves, my wife bought the eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible ($79 with a discount at the time) in the “Tropical Turquoise” color and I bought the Cabin Max Metz Backpack (Black) ($45). While my backpack got the job done, my wife’s backpack had a much better build quality, more space, more compartments and organization, and was all-around better designed. Looking back, I wish I’d spent the extra money to get the eBags backpack, but the Cabin Max bag is by no means a bad pack for the low price.
In Italy and Greece, pickpocketing is a major problem. Gypsies and career pickpockets roam the streets, particularly in the more congested areas, looking for unsuspecting victims. Knowing this, Ambrey and I took a money belt she already owned from a previous trip to Zambia, and I bought a Lewis N. Clark Neck Stash ($12). These are wallets that hang under your clothes to prevent pickpockets from stealing your money, credit cards, and passports as you walk down the street. It’s best to keep your valuables in your hotel room once you’re there, but when traveling between hotels and airports, your money belt is the safest place to keep those items. Always try to be discrete and check your surroundings when accessing your money belt, too. You don’t want a pickpocket seeing your stash and following you.
We picked up the Rick Steves Italy and Greece guidebooks from the library before we left. These were popular, so we had to put them on hold a few weeks in advance. His books are extremely helpful and have great insights both for preparing and for reference while you’re there. Out of all the research we did, these books were by far the most helpful resources.
We also packed a couple of Type C Plug Adapters ($7). You need these in order to connect any of your electric plugs in Italy, Greece, and many other European countries. Just be sure that any devices you plug in are compatible with 240 volt outlets, as that is the standard in Europe. Here in the states, we use 120 volts. Most electronic devices these days can handle either one, but it’s a good idea to check the labels on your chargers or batteries/devices so you don’t fry them, anyway.
Lastly, in addition to all the typical toiletries, we packed rain jackets. You never know what kind of weather you’re going to get.
Driving up the highway from work around noon, I was headed to meet my wife at her parents’ house. Exhibiting the selflessness and graciousness that is characteristic of them, they were ready to give us a ride up from Baltimore to JFK airport in New York. We performed our last-minute checks to make sure we had all our critical belongings and then took off.
After a few hours of typical New York traffic, we arrived at the airport, thanked our parents, said farewell, checked in, and boarded our flight. We were off to Milan!