Off To Italy: Basic Trip Planning and Safety Tips

Posted May 30, 2023 by Prairie Wife -

I’ve had numerous emails and messages from readers wanting more information about traveling overseas. The majority of the questions revolve around the topics of Basic Trip Planning and Saftey Tips.

I’ve chosen a question-and-answer format for this post! If you want to know something you can’t find below, please leave your questions in the comment area below, and I’ll answer them as soon as possible.

I recommend reading this post about traveling alone if you’re traveling solo.

For packing information for your family (and links to videos for what I packed) click here.

Click here to see my favorite apps to use when traveling.

woman listening to books on audible

Can you use your cell phone overseas?

Yes. BUT you need to change your regular cell phone plan to an international one. There are multiple ways to do this. I have Verizon, and I can pick an international plan online and tell them the start and end dates. If you’re overwhelmed with the idea of taking care of it yourself, stop by your local store where you purchased your phone and plan, and they will help you. Pro Tip: Go into your settings and turn off all of your apps except the ones you HAVE to use, or you’ll be out of data in the first 48 hours.

Everyone speaks English, right?

Americans have a bad rap overseas, and based on some things I’ve seen, I can understand why. One of the main reasons to travel abroad is to experience other cultures, and a huge part of that is the language. When I traveled to France, I could have halting conversations in French thanks to 3 years of French class in high school. While some locals quickly switched to English when it became apparent I was not a native, they ALL appreciated that I at least tried. I speak absolutely no Italian, but I have learned the basic polite phrases. The polite thing to do when traveling in another country is to try and speak their language. It WILL be awkward. It WILL be humbling. It WILL be embarrassing. You may have to go somewhere else for help. But you WILL make it through. And do NOT get upset with them if they can’t understand you! After all, if someone came up to you in Walmart and spoke to you in Hebrew and you didn’t understand them, it would be silly for them to be mad at you. Part of the adventure is figuring out how to get through brand-new situations. If you’re kind and polite and patient with yourself and others, I promise you’ll be just fine.

Is Europe really that different?

Yes. But really, so is anywhere you travel! Even in the United States, customs vary widely. We wear jeans and hats to everything in Wyoming, and wearing a baseball hat inside is normal. But, East of the Mississippi and in the larger cities it would be considered rude and unprofessional to attend a board meeting in jeans and a baseball hat. The main difference I’ve seen overseas is what volume level people use when talking (in England, we are all loud Americans), what physical contact is acceptable (not everyone shakes hands when they meet), and what is socially acceptable in public spaces. The best way to figure out how you should behave is to hang back and look around you for a bit. Pro Tip: Meals are a much longer and more social experience in other countries. Your waitstaff will not be checking on you often. This is not poor service. Rather, it allows you to enjoy your food and the company around you. Also, pay close attention to whether the tip is included or if you need to provide it.

How do you decide where to go?

Every family is different, so it’s essential to consider who will accompany you. If it’s a trip with only The Cowboy and I, we can do a few things we wouldn’t with the Cowkids, and the same budget will allow for many more activities and a more luxurious hotel experience. We have active kids fascinated with world history, so Italy was a great fit for us. It allows us to go to historical places and museums that have impacted the world we live in, and as practicing Catholics visiting the Vatican is a big deal for us. We live in a very cold state, so we tend to gravitate towards warm locations. The Cowkids won’t be bothered by the miles of walking that come with this kind of trip, and they are all old enough to handle some longer, busy days without having a mental breakdown. Pro Tip: Make a list of all the places you’ve always wanted to see, and then vote as a family on the one you go to. Click this link to see our Itinerary

How do you pick what sites you want to see?

Thank goodness for Google. If you know you want to travel to Isreal but aren’t sure what to do there; you only have to Google “What can families do in Isreal?” Take the time to read through multiple resources and then start narrowing down your list to your must-see activities. Then start creating an itinerary for the trip.

Things to think about when creating an itinerary:

  • Make plans for one day at a time.
  • Look at the location when you pick your activities. Don’t plan two activities in one day on opposite sides of the city.
  • Most museums and historic sites have tickets you can purchase ahead of time, do it.
  • Leave some downtime to wander and explore the local culture.
  • Ask friends that have traveled to the location before for tips.
  • Better to have some free time than to have everything planned down to the minute.
  • Ask locals for recommendations.
  • Consider travel time when making your plans.


If the thought of creating your itinerary overwhelms you, consider handing the project over to your spouse or an older child. Or hire a travel planner or travel agent to take care of everything.

How expensive is it?

I can’t give you a straight answer to that question. It all depends on what kind of experience you want. We fly coach and stay in Airbnbs to cut down on cost. With 5 kids, eating at Mcdonald’s can sometimes cost well over $50. If you are on an incredibly tight budget, I suggest saving for another year so that when you go, you can do so without worrying about the cost of every little thing that crops up. Some museum tours are free overseas, while others cost $25 per person. You’ll likely need a larger meal budget if you plan to drink a bottle of wine with every meal. Pro Tip: When staying in an Airbnb, we stop at the local store or market and get food for breakfast and a few lunches. This saves us time and money and is always a great experience.

What about pickpockets and crime?

This IS a concern, especially if you travel on public transportation. There are no 100% sure answers to ensure you don’t lose your cash to a pickpocket. BUT there are a few things you can do that will help! Wear a crossbody purse close to your body. Hanging by your hip won’t be secure enough. For men, keep your wallet in your front pocket. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t have your face in your phone. Don’t keep all your money and cards with you at all times. Only take what you need for one day. That way, if you are a victim of theft, you still have most of what you need back at the hotel.

What do we do with our Passports?

You only need your passports when exiting one country and entering another. You will need it at the airport or the train station if you travel by train to another country. Other than that, you do not need to have it with you. Your driver’s license will offer enough information if there is an emergency, and it’s not worth taking it with you around town and risking getting it stolen. That being said, I make a photocopy of each of our passports, and I keep the unofficial paper copy with me just in case.

A few more passport tips:

  • It will take at least three months to get a new passport. Do NOT wait too long to do this.
  • It’s worth getting a passport card. It has all the necessary information and looks like a driver’s license. You’ll still need your passport book to cross the border, but it’s another way to always have the information you need with you.
  • Hide or lock up your passport(s) in your hotel room or Airbnb.
  • Make a list of everyone’s passport numbers, full names, and birthdays and send it to a few close friends or family members, just in case.


Ultimately, there are no guarantees that you will have a perfect trip. But the unknown and how you handle it is often what makes trips like this memorable!

Make sure you follow us on social media to see how our trip to Italy goes! Instagram Facebook TikTok Twitter

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