I love reading travel posts and travel blogs.

This one came to my inbox from the Hertz.com travel blog. (I actually do all my international car rentals with Hertz, but I don’t have any affiliate links or sponsorship with them.)

I was pretty happy to see that I already have, and always travel with, all 7 items that Hertz has on their list! I bought all of mine either at The Container Store or at Target, so have included links to all the products in the list below.

I recently wrote a post titled What You Need To Know About Renting Cars In Europe  that is full of tips and tricks that I swear by when I rent cars overseas. I’m sure you will find it useful!

7 Travel Accessories You Can’t leave Home Without.

essential travel accessories

This post contains affiliate links

 

Whether you’re embarking on a two-day business trip or a weeklong vacation, you want a smooth, enjoyable trip. Efficient travel planning requires ingenuity as well as organization. To arrive at your destination relaxed, rested, and with your belongings intact, don’t leave home without these handy travel accessories:

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes neatly compress clothing and allow you to fit more in a compact space. The fabric cubes protect garments from wrinkles, and those with mesh make it easy to see the contents. Use them for socks, undergarments, accessories, summer tops, and more.

Try Eagle Creek Packing Cubes, available online at The Container Store

Eagle Creek Packing Cubes

Compact Toiletry Bag

Stop stuffing personal items into zippered bags that easily puncture and split. A compact toiletry bag is more durable than a sandwich bag and far more stylish, and the zippered closure prevents accidental spills in transit that could ruin freshly packed clothes. Look for a TSA-approved, clear, quart-size travel bag to minimize airline fuss.

The image below contains toiletry bags available online at The Container Store

Travel Toiletry Bags

Elastic Laces

If you travel in comfortable sneakers, save precious time in TSA security lines by using elastic laces. Most brands use a plastic enclosure at the tongue that locks laces in place, and shoes slip easily on and off without tying and untying. Travelers standing behind you in line will thank you.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Even when you’re exhausted, circumstances aren’t always ideal for sleep. Deal with noise issues by investing in top-of-the-line headphones with excellent noise-canceling features. SonyBose, and other companies make both wired and Bluetooth versions. If you don’t need total silence, less expensive earbuds block lower levels of background noise. Pair headphones with a good set of earplugs for maximum quiet.

Find a selection of Noise Cancelling Headphones online at Target.com

noise cancelling headphones

image courtesy of Target.com

Compression Socks

For long drives and flights, compression socks ensure you arrive at your destination with fresh legs. These socks increase lower leg circulation, minimizing swelling and the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Even with compression socks, occasional standing is important on long trips. Moving and stretching keeps the blood flowing. You can find a great selection of travel compression socks online at The Container Store.com

Read about compression socks and Deep vein Thrombosis here

RFID Protection Wallet

Embedded in your passport and credit cards, an RFID chip transmits information wirelessly. Scammers with RFID readers swipe personal information from unsuspecting victims while standing or walking next to them. To protect yourself from identity theft, invest in an RFID protection wallet that prevents criminals from snagging your personal data. RFID Blacking Protection wallets, credit card sleeves, passport covers and travel accessories are available online at The Container Store.

High-speed Car Charger

Don’t fight over the power socket when you’re on the road. Charge numerous devices with a multiport car charger. Universal USB and other multiport chargers host up to five devices at once. Charge your phone, your daughter’s iPad, and your son’s MP3 player all at the same time. Check out   online at The Container Store.com

Related Posts:

What you Need To Know About Renting Cars In Europe

How To Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis When You Fly

Why You Should Travel Alone At Least Once In Your Life

1o Things You Absolutely MUST Do In Rome

 

Yellow Fiat

Readers often ask me about renting cars in Europe.

For the last ten years I’ve only been renting cars in Italy, so my experience is more Italo-centric, but the same  principles apply all over Europe, and were I to find myself renting a car in Spain or in France or anywhere else that I travel to, this is how I would tackle it.

Tips For Renting Cars In Europe

Before you book your rental car do some research on the places you are planning on going. Europe has a really fantastic rail system with networks of fast trains than run between cities and also from country to country, and they also have small regional trains. If you are staying in big cities cars may not only be unnecessary, but also a complete hassle.

Get An International Drivers License Before You Leave Home.

If you will be renting a car you normally will need an International Drivers License/Permit. You can get one at your local AAA office.

*** If you want to rent scooters while you are on vacation make sure that your International Drivers License specifies that you are permitted to drive one. Scooter rental places often won’t rent to you without this on your permit.

 

Rent Directly From The Company

Be careful not to unwittingly book your car through a third party company. A couple of years ago I thought I had rented from Hertz because I had rented a Hertz rental car. When I arrived at the  Hertz office in Milazzo, Sicily to pick up my car, there were none. Cars hadn’t been returned, and it was high season, so none of the rental companies in any of the surrounding towns had cars available. When I called the Hertz customer service number they said they couldn’t help me because I hadn’t booked through them, but instead had booked through a third party company.

Luckily for me there were other travelers in the office, yelling and screaming at the poor boys working there (it wasn’t the employees’ fault that there were no cars!) and I have a personal policy of always being really nice, even when things are going horribly wrong, so the boys at Hertz tried to help me and managed to get me the last available car at Catania Airport, and helped me to get to Catania.

Always, always be nice to people, no matter what is going on!

Don’t Pay In Advance

In the situation in Milazzo I noticed that the other travelers who were stranded had all paid in advance for their cars. This put them all in a space where they had to try and recoup their money when they got home, as well as not having a car while away. If you are paying at the counter and for some reason there is no car for you, you at least still have your money intact.

The discount for paying in advance is tiny anyway, so you’re not really saving anything much.

 

 Pick Up And Return Your Car At the Airport

You have easier access to the freeways, and the non airport locations often close for the day if they don’t have many bookings, which can leave you stranded! (which happened to us once in Florence)

Airport car rental offices tend to both be open and have cars. This is also a benefit when returning your car. You don’t want to be leaving a car in the street outside the rental office if it’s closed.

 


Rent A Diesel

Diesel cars in Europe are amazing! They get brilliant gas mileage and cost much less to run. Gas in Europe is very expensive, often as much as $7 per gallon. (although they measure in liters).

Rent A Small Car

Rent a small vehicle, not a U.S. sized bigger one. Cities, towns and villages over there have smaller, narrower roads and tiny parking spaces. On my last trip we rented Fiat 500 XLs, Fiat 500s and little Citroens which were so fun to drive and you can park them anywhere! The year before I had an Alpha Romeo that was faster than the devil.

Buy The Super-Cover Insurance

Seriously, buy the maximum insurance. I’ve read about people having their passports withheld until they come up with €3000 deductibles. The locals aren’t necessarily likely to crash into you, but other travelers are!

Allianz Global Assistance Travel Insurance. Get a free quote.

Don’t Trust Siri

Don’t rely on Siri for GPS. She is relatively good, but misses some big stuff. The highway exits over there are miles apart, so missing your exit can take an hour out of your trip.

If you do use Siri read the next instruction ahead of time – they have shorter distances and more cars, so you need to know which direction you are turning a while before you get there, or it can be a mess! Also, street signs over there can be tiny and very hard to find/read/decipher. I always use the “in 400 feet turn left” rather than “turn left on via Scandacci” option.

HP Commission

Keep Coins On Hand

Keep lots of coins on hand. You go through many toll booths on the highways there, and they sometimes only take change not cards. Also the exchange rate fees and international fees on your credit cards make it totally not worth while.

Don’t Leave Anything In The Car

When you park your car and go exploring town or head into a cafe or restaurant, or any time you are leaving your car, keep everything out of sight. Put all bags, phones, sweaters, shoes – anything and everything, in the trunk. Depending on where you are in Europe there are gypsies, tramps and thieves who will break into your car for the stupidest things. You may think a sweater and a hat is nothing worth stealing, but it is if you have nothing. The same with food and drink – if someone is hungry or can’t feed their family and there’s food inside a car, chances are they may break in to get it. It doesn’t hurt to be careful just in case!

Rent A Stick Shift

In Italy they seem to automatically give Americans cars with automatic transmissions. I always get a manual/stick because they are far more fun to drive over there. Here in the US I drive an automatic, but when I’m in Italy I love buzzing around in a stick shift!

If you have any extra tips for renting cars in Europe or if you have any experiences you’d like to share, please leave me a comment!

Related Posts:

10 Things You Absolutely MUST Do In Rome

10 Things You Absolutely MUST Do In Florence

A Secret Lunch Spot In Paris

It’s really important to me that you love Rome.

Really important.

Colosseum Rome

 

This post contains some affiliate links

I often talk to people who have traveled to Italy and when I ask them if they just loved Rome, one of my 4 favorite cities in the world, (along with Sydney, Paris and Florence), they say no. And then they tell me it was expensive, overcrowded and dirty.

If I ask them where they went in Rome, where they stayed in Rome, what they did in Rome it’s normally the same things. They stayed in a high tourist area, went to just the main tourist sights (which are always crammed with cruise ship and tour bus travelers) and ate in those same areas.

 

Forum Rome

The Forum, Rome

 

Don’t get me wrong, you have to go to the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, while you’re in Rome. You have to climb the Spanish Steps and throw coins in the Trevi Fountain, but there is so much more to Rome that you need to experience!

I love Rome. I know that if I spent the rest of my life there and went exploring every day I would still never get to the end – there is just so much on offer. When I take ladies to Rome on my Glam Italia Tours they are always blown away by how incredibly cool Rome is, and how much truly fantastic stuff there is to see and do.

 

Piazza Navona Rome

 

Some of my traveler’s have been to Rome before and not liked it, but when I show them my Rome they end up loving it to pieces and can’t wait to get back.

That’s what I want for you. I want you to experience the magic of the city that created civilization as we know it. I want you to see the side of Rome that isn’t full of tour buses and tourists. I want you to enjoy amazing meals that cost less than €10, surrounded by locals.

I want you to love Rome.

 

 10 Things You Must Do In Rome

 

We’ve already established that you are going to see the main sights, but here are some other cool experiences to garner while you’re there.

Firstly while you are around the Colosseum:

 

Domitian’s Palace

You Colosseum ticket also gives you entry to the Forum and the Palantine Hill. If you are walking from the Colosseum, take the entrance beyond the triumphal arch and wander up into the Palantine Hill and up to Domitian’s palace. Domitian was emperor of Rome from AD 81 until AD 96

When I bring my tours here I have a local tour guide, Daniella, with us to explain everything (because it’s so amazing!) but if you are going alone I recommend you at least google it beforehand so that you can understand some of what you are seeing. 

The palace is enormous and quite brilliantly designed. The entry alone must have been overwhelming to Domitian’s guests.  The scope of his private “rec room” alone is just crazy. 

 

Statue at Domitian's Palace, Rome

All that remains of this giant statue is a piece of the foot and it’s little toe.

 

There is a chunk of statue of what is left of a foot, with only the little toe still intact. When you stand beside it you get a concept of how outrageously huge the entire statue must have been. 

I don’t even know how many times I have been to Domitian’s Palace at this point, but I will still keep going back! The views are astounding and the palace itself with it’s windows into Roman life is just sensational.

 

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Lunch In The Monti

Okay, so here are the rules of eating in Rome (or anywhere in Italy). Firstly never eat around the major tourist sights. The locals don’t eat there, and for a good reason – the food is expensive and low quality, churned out for tourists who don’t know any better. When you are hungry just turn your back to the tourists and walk 5 minutes and you will find fantastic places to eat, they will be full of locals, and they won’t be expensive.

Second rule is never eat anywhere with pictures on the menu! Again this is low quality and mass marketed to tourists, and that’s not what you traveled all the way to Rome to experience!

Once you are done with the Colosseum and Forum (and hopefully you’ve gone to Domitian’s Palace on the Palantine Hill) wander up to an area called Monti for lunch. If it’s a boiling hot day you can grab a taxi at the bottom of Via Cavour. The Monti is one of those fabulous old cobblestoned pockets of Rome. It’s a little boho but also super well heeled, which makes a nice mix. It’s beautiful, the shopping is great, and it also has fabulous places to eat, both for restaurant/bistro eating and also street food. You will love it!

I want to keep you in this part of town for one more thing, and that is a visit to one of my secret places in Rome:

 

Visit The Basilica San Clemente

This is one of my absolute favorite secret spot in Rome. I haven’t written about it on the blog before because I’m always scared I will go back and find tour buses parked outside and a million tourists lining up to go in. So you and I are keeping this a secret, okay?

After lunching in the Monti, wander back to the Colosseum. With the Colosseum on your right I want you to walk maybe 1/4 of a mile across the intersection and along a quiet street called Via Labicana. There will be thousands of people behind you back at the Colosseum, but pretty much nobody here, which will blow your mind!

The Basilica named for Saint Clement, is an unassuming building from the outside, but is just staggering inside. You enter at street level into a church that was built around 1100. The golden apse mosaic and the frescoes alone are worth the visit, but it keeps getting more amazing. Once you’ve explored the street level, head down the stairs to the middle level. This is a church built in the 4th Century, with art work dating into the 9th Century. There is so much art down here, in fact it houses the 2nd largest collection of medieval art in Rome! as well as sarcophogi, pieces of ruined plaques and statues, mosaic floors – all kinds of amazing treasures. The last time I was there I ran into a dude with a masters degree in Latin something (I can’t remember the last part of his degree). He wandered around with me and deciphered some of the Latin text we were seeing. He told me that Latin abbreviations are super hard to figure out, but he could explain enough of the words we were seeing to make it an even more brilliant experience. (I’ve written before about why you should travel alone at least once in your life, and this is one of the reasons why! Had I been with friends I wouldn’t have ended up talking to him, and would have missed out on something really fantastic).

But it doesn’t stop here, there’s even more! There is one more level below. It was a private home built in the 1st century with running water and a mithraeum. It is honestly just incredible.

Rome as we know it is 25 meters higher than it was during Julius Caesar’s time.  The Romans didn’t knock down good buildings, they would fill them up with dirt and sand and build on top of them. This city is full of treasures!

I don’t know what hours the basilica is open during the mornings, but I think it opens around 3pm so it’s a good spot to go after a long, Roman lunch.

The Jewish Ghetto

If you’re not out of steam yet you can take another lovely stroll back past the Colosseum, the Forum, past the Wedding Cake, and down to Teatro Marcello and into the Jewish Ghetto. If you are taking a cab, get it down by the Wedding Cake. If you get a taxi up by the Basilica San Clemente the driver has to go the long way and it will cost much more.

 

Jewish Ghetto Rome

Dinner in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome

 

Depending on the time of day you can wander through the Jewish Ghetto and have a glass of wine or a spritz and some of the world famous Jewish artichokes, or stop for dinner. Once again while there are thousands of tourists around the corner there are almost none here in the uber chic ghetto.

I’ve written about the Jewish Ghetto several times. You can read a more in depth post about the Jewish Ghetto here

 

 


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There are many more things to do when you are in the vicinity of the Colosseum, but moving on, here are some things to do that are not far from the Colosseum.

Visit The Caravaggios

I am a little bit (a lot) obsessed with Caravaggio. he is perhaps the most influential Italian painter since Michelangelo during the time from the Renaissance to the Baroque. In my opinion anyway.

Caravaggio’s work is so moving. He paints real life into his stories, taking religious themes from the purely ethereal and delivering them to the people in the street in an identifiable way. He pioneered the art of chiaroscuro, using shadow and light to create more mood.

I read a fantastic book on Caravaggio by one of my favorite art historians Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham Dixon. If you have watch the Italy Unpacked and Sicily Unpacked series you will know Andrew.

I definitely recommend going to the church of San Luigi dei  Francesi (near Piazza Navona) and see the St Matthew series.

 

Caravaggio St Matthew and the Angel, Rome

Caravaggio’s magnificent St Matthew and the Angel, at the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in rome

 

 

Here is a list of where to find Caravaggio in Rome. Just make sure you check the hours each place is open each day.nna of the Serpent; Young Bacchus, Ill; David with the Head of Goliath, others)

  Go See The Pyramid

cestius pyramid rome

Did you know there is a pyramid in Rome? It’s such a great spot to go visit, and once again you won’t find many, if any tourists there.

Back in 12 BC when all things Egypt were madly in vogue Gaius Cestius built himself a pyramid outside of Rome. It was his burial place. Rome grew and grew and before long the pyramid was inside the city. It takes about 30 minutes by foot from the Jewish Ghetto, 5 minutes by taxi, along the side of the Aventine Hill in a neighborhood called the Testaccio. If you are walking take Via Mamorata. You can’t miss it – it’s the only pyramid around! Read my post about the Pyramid of Cestius here

While you are in the area try out some restaurants. Testaccio is known to be one of the most fabulous dining areas in all of Rome. Private culinary tours always come through here because the restaurants are so wonderful and authentic (and inexpensive).

Check Rome hotel rates! Read reviews & find the lowest prices at TripAdvisor!

Wander The Trastevere

This is my neighborhood in Rome. I love it so much I can barely breathe. This is the Rome of the narrow cobble-stone streets, darling little restaurants and shops. Sometimes you see tourists in the heart of the neighborhood in the area around Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, but not throngs of them. This is the Rome where locals go out to eat and drink. It is bustling and full of fun and excitement, but also just beautiful and timeless. Trastevere has it all.

trastevere at night

The Trastevere at night

While there make sure you go inside the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. It is truly remarkable and is one of the oldest churches in Rome. The sanctuary dates back to the 3rd century, the floor and structure was built in the 340’s with the rest of the structure being built in 1140-1143.

mosaic ceiling Santa Maria in Trastevere

The ceiling is breathtaking, and the 13th century gold mosaic apse is breathtaking. Interestingly it shows Mary sitting at the right hand of Jesus, something you don’t see too often! You can read the Wiki on Santa Maria in Trastevere here

There are so many restaurants with the best food you’ve ever eaten for next to nothing. On Via Dondoli we had a carbonara that was so incredible you wanted to weep. And it only cost 8 euros.

I always go eat at Carlo Mente, another restaurant that is packed with locals all night long. I often go alone and they find me a seat at the table of some family or group of fun young people. I get to make new friends while I eat my pizza with rocket (arugula) and drink my 1/2 liter of house red wine, each of which cost 4 euros!

Pizza at Carlo Mente, Trastevere, Rome

Read  more about the Trastevere here

Sunset At The Janiculum Hill

The Trastevere backs onto the Janiculum Hill, one of the very best places to take in the sunset. It is the second tallest hill in Rome, so the views are insane. Because it sits across the Tiber river (Trastevere!) it isn’t one of the proverbial 7 hills of Rome, and somehow tourists don’t seem to know about it. This past summer while in Rome I went up there every evening to watch the sunset. It was all locals walking their dogs and taking in the view, and it felt like another wonderful secret place in Rome!

You can find your way up there via any of the staircases along the hill. I took the big stairs at the end of via Glorioso. There are a couple of spots to take in the view, the best being a little further round, by the statue of Garibaldi on his horse.

Janiculum Hill, rome, sunset

looking out over Rome from the Janiculum Hill at the end of the day.

Walk The Monuments At Night

This is one of my favorite things to do when I’m in Rome. Some of my tour groups want to do it every night because it’s just so beautiful and feels a little surreal. Walking around the monuments at night is a wonderful way to get a different view of Rome. The tourists are gone, the madness of the city has calmed down, the monuments are lit up and you feel like you are in a different world.

St Peters at night from the Garibaldi bridge

St Peters at night from the Garibaldi bridge

We always stay in the Trastevere, so we walk across the Garibaldi bridge, stopping to look down the river to St Peters, then wander up through the Jewish Ghetto to Teatro Marcello, then up to the Forum and the Colosseum.

Colosseum at night

My travelers taking in the majesty of the Colosseum at night

We also go to St Peters Square/ Vatican at night. It’s just magical! You will see homeless and those on a pilgrimage sleeping on the sidewalks as you walk into the square, which is a little unsettling, but there always seems to be lots of people around , so I’ve never felt unsafe. St Peters is hauntingly beautiful at night – you will think back to it over and over when you return home.

St Peters at night

See more about the Monuments at night here.

The Palazzo Barberini Art Museum

This might just be my favorite art museum in Rome. They have an entire wing dedicated to recovered stolen art. Each piece has a plaque describing where and how the piece was stolen and recovered. There are paintings from all different eras, Renaissance paintings, impressionist and post impressionist, Baroque – you name it. There are statues and Etruscan sarcophagi and just so many fantastic pieces, each with a double story – one of its creation and one of its theft and rescue. 

 

Estruscan Sarcophagus

Etruscan sarcophagus from the 3rd century BC

 

Estruscan Sarcophagus

Etruscan sarcophagus from the 3rd century BC

 

Rupestrian fresco

12th Century rupestrian fresco, recovered in the USA in February 2015

Stolen Gauguin

Me telling the story of this stolen Gauguin. There is a fascinating story that goes with this painting. It is for sale, and I have been asked to help find the buyer.

The grounds are wonderful to walk around too.

Palazzo barberini

Inside the Palazzo Barberini

I hope you will go see at least some of these places while you are in Rome. I would love to hear from you about your Rome experience, the places you enjoyed and any extras you think we should add to this list.

Happy travels!