Two things annoy me when exploring a new city: 1) Lugging a cumbersome map while toting a camera, purse/bag, water bottle, and a gaggle of other seemingly necessary items; 2) looking like a tourist with a large paper map spread out before me. What is my solution for avoiding these irritations? Streetwise maps.
Available for most major U.S. and international cities, Streetwise is my choice of map when visiting Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. The accordion fold eliminates the dreaded multi-folding operation required for most maps and is small enough to easily slip into a coat pocket or purse. These maps are lightweight, making them a perfect fit for today's luggage limits and toting around the town. The best part: they are laminated!
Streetwise city maps are fully indexed and offer insets of historical areas or downtowns. Where applicable, metro maps are also provided.
Although I have found better options for regional travel, my vote is for Streetwise when it comes to exploring Italy's major cities. Maps can be purchased from most major bookstores, streetwise.com, or from my list of recommendations in the right sidebar.
I find it helpful to navigate Italy's cities and towns when equipped with some knowledge of how streets are named.For example, in the U.S. we often use a classification such as boulevard, avenue, road, court, etc. This gives us some indication of whether we will be traveling down a large street, small road, dead-end street, or maybe even a country road. The same is true in Italy:
Via (means way) is used for most roads and streets.
Vicolo (means alley) refers to streets barely big enough for pedestrian or scooter traffic.
Corso describes a main street, an avenue.
Largo (means wide) may be used for a wide, broad street.
Calle (used in Venice) is a narrow street--often no bigger than a sidewalk.
Street signs are often abbreviated: "V" for via; "Vc" for vicolo.
Pack these definitions with your map on your next trip to Italy. You will less likely get lost or miss an address with an understanding of street names
In today's struggling economy, it is more important than ever to budget our money wisely. Even in better days, I found I could be a staunch penny-pincher when it came to saving money for something I wanted, especially travel. Here are my top ten tactics for saving money for an upcoming vacation:
1. Make a monthly installment into a vacation fund -- Along with regular monthly commitments such as my mortgage, tithe, and savings, I make a small monthly payment into a separate account, a.k.a. the Vacation Fund.
2. Deposit bonus monies or increases in salary into the vacation fund. These events are rare these days, but when they occur, the extra money goes directly into the vacation fund.
3. Set up a coin jar. My husband doesn't like carrying coins in his pocket, so we invariably have a pile of coins laying around and stashed in our car's cup holders. I set up a coin jar in our closet more for organization than savings, but have found it to be a viable resource. One year I deposited $420 into the vacation fund from the coins saved in that jar!
4. Have a garage sale. I purge regularly, and once a year I have a garage sale. The proceeds benefit my vacation fund, of course! Last year I made over $600 from selling items that were collecting dust in my closets!
5. Save on grocery expenses. This is a newer tactic for me, and I'm loving it! I have always clipped coupons, but now I combine that effort with the Grocery Game, a database system that tracks product prices, coupons and sales, and gives members a weekly list of products at a local grocery or drug store that are at "rock bottom" prices. I have saved an average of 52% on my grocery bill each week and expect that to rise as I become more proficient in the Game. As a reward for my efforts, I deposit the amount I save each week into the vacation fund.
6. Cut back on luxuries. I was in the habit of cutting my hair once every four weeks and getting my nails done once every two weeks. I realized that I could actually get by with stretching my hair appointments to every eight weeks and my nail appointments to every three weeks. Tweaking my schedule saves me as much as $725 each year--a nice deposit into the vacation fund!
7. Cut back on or eliminate addictions. For me, it's Sonic Diet Coke; for my husband, it's Starbucks coffee. For fun one day, we added up the amount we spent in a month on these addictions and were stunned. We agreed to cut back on these splurges and put the savings into the vacation fund. Fortunately for me, Sonic now offers a daily "Happy Hour" with half-priced drinks!
8. Eat out one less meal per week. Let's face it, we are an eating-out society. For me, Friday nights became "date nights," which equated to eating out at nice restaurants. Now, we eat in most Fridays and use the time to create a meal together, all the while putting that savings towards our next vacation.
9. Snag the sale item. Anytime I'm fortunate enough to catch a sale price on an item I was prepared to pay full price for, I see it as an opportunity to put the savings into the vacation fund.
10. Ante up. OK, this one is a little silly, but, it works for us. My husband plays golf several times a month and participates in friendly wagering with his buddies. I agree to acquiesce to these outings as long as our vacation fund is the recipient of any winnings he brings home. I like being married to a good golfer!!
In less than a year, I have lost two associates to death: one, a beautiful and talented 34-year-old woman who died suddenly from a brain aneurysm; another, a 33-year-old father of two, who died from a heart attack. These sudden unexpected deaths only affirm my belief in living every moment as if it's my last.
These events fuel my desire to see more, do more, and experience more--to travel more!! Too often, I hear people say, "We plan to wait and travel when we retire." I choose not to. There are no guarantees that I will live to retirement, or if I do, that I will be healthy and able to travel. I don't live by "what if's," yet I don't believe in putting off to tomorrow what I can do today. I want to have the energy to travel, the youthfulness to try new things, and the endurance to do it more than once.
Seeing other parts of the world, tasting their foods, and being a part of their lives has enriched my life wholly. So much so, that I have become purposeful about revisiting places I've already been, and making new discoveries in new locations.
So why wait? Select a destination, set a date, and go! Either way you look at it, life is too short not to.