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Monograms & Independent Travel: Lessons From My Second Experience

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Rome and Paris the Easy Way

October 19, 2017

How to Plan a Stress Free Trip to Europe

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Posted to Heleneinbetween.com

Every week I get messages with people asking me questions about travel in Europe: Where should I go? What should I do? How do I skip the line? The truth of the matter is, while I feel my travel to Europe is pretty extensive, it’s definitely not exhaustive. I have so much I’d like to see and do. The thing about travel is that it’s completely personal. Everyone has very different wants and needs. Everyone does travels differently. So, how can you make sure that your trip is best for you? And, how can you make sure your trip feels like a vacation or that your travel to Europe is stress free?

Well, I think I might have that answer for you.

My travel style tends to be go-go-go. I don’t know why I can’t break my habit of wanting to see and do EVERYTHING with very little downtime, but I blame Michael. We get so worried that we won’t see it all that our travels are never vacations (ie, not very relaxing.) The reason being is because travel takes effort. You have to spend lots of time researching, planning, organizing, and then strategizing. But recently, I went on a trip to Italy and it wound up being easy and made me realize that I could travel without feeling overwhelemed. This came in the form of a company called Monograms.

To help illustrate this I want to tell you a quick story. Recently, a friend traveled to Europe for her first time. She wasn’t exactly sure what to do, so she worked with a travel agent. Instead of asking her personal preferences or giving her an understanding of the transportation system, the agent booked her a very odd trip. They had 3 days in Paris, and one of the days they spent going to Bruges, Belgium. Now, that’s a 4 hour train ride there and back. So 8 hours of their 12 hour day was spent on a train! While train rides are lovely, you don’t want to eat up a travel day going to some place completely out of the way. The beauty of Monograms is they KNOW the destinations. They work with local guides, so you’re able to plan a trip that’s not only practical but easy.

Honestly, there is nothing quite like Monograms on the travel scene. As someone who loves traveling but has limited time this is the perfect solution. It’s a company for people who want to travel independently, and without headaches. They put together the plan, research, and organization, and you go, knowing your preferences will be met. When I travel, I want to experience the city like a local. Monograms offers a personalized vacation that lets you have time to do what you want with streamlined transportation, sightseeing, hotel, and personalization. Basically, Monograms is the answer for the perfect trip.

One of my favorite features is the survey before you book the trip. This way they are able to help figure out how to execute an ideal plan. And I know what you’re thinking, this sounds expensive! But they have packages in ALL price ranges. And, as someone who has traveled extensively in Europe, there are so many add-ons, it gets pricey quickly. Because they are already working with guides and tours, the price is reasonable. Basically, this service is a no-brainer to me. You want a great trip to Europe without stress, along with sightseeing based on what you love. Monograms just gets it.

With that said, here are some tips to making sure you have stress-free vacation.

Prepare in advance

When I plan big trips, I make sure I have the big things checked off in advance. Things like: my dates, passport, flight, hotels. Those things need to be done in ahead of time. The rest can pretty much be done in transit or on the fly. But knowing when and where you’re going is a huge deal.

I recently asked on my Facebook page how you planned trips and many people said they like reading reviews and getting personal recommendations. Sites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com are where most said they turned to. These offer personal reviews and recommendations for things to do and what to see.

What I love about working with Monograms is their travel experience. They have 90 years of expertise. So you can say they’ve been around the travel block. One thing I get perpetually frustrated with is when I read a guide that clearly wasn’t there to really explore. With places like Rome or Paris, you need some knowledge because there is just SO much to see. That’s why I can put my full trust in Monograms because they’ve explored so much of the city, they know what they’re talking about when they offer suggestions and excursions.

Keep a flexible itinerary

As I’ve mentioned, I want to see it all. That often means I pack my itinerary. Which doesn’t always make room for delays, weather, or mishaps along the way. I remember once in Madrid we got caught up at a museum because we couldn’t get enough and it made us miss a tour. At first I was totally bummed, but then I realized if I didn’t have that time at the museum, then I wouldn’t have that memorable experience.

I suggest having one to three key “must dos” for every day. But make sure to leave room for wandering. When your schedule is flexible, you’re not rushing to complete everything on your travel wish list. Again, Monograms nails this. They offer excursions that cover the highlights, but they also leave you time to just enjoy the city you’re in.

For example, when I was in Sorrento, Italy recently, I took a tour of the highlights of the city, had a break in between, then went to dinner and a show. During the break I tried limoncello, walked the quiet side streets, and picked up a new pair of hand crafted earrings.

See the highlights

You don’t want to go to Rome and not see the Colosseum. Better yet, you don’t want to go and not understand it. Our Monograms guide for the Vatican and the Colosseum was one of the best parts of my trip. He told us the intricate and often misinterpreted history of the gladiators. For instance, many of them actually didn’t die in the ring! Gladiators were extremely profitable, so they could be spared if the audience cheered for them to stay alive.

A good guide can really make or break a trip. They tell you things as you go along that helps you visualize what you’re seeing. Especially for a place like Europe, where the history is amidst every cobblestone, you need someone there to help explain your surroundings and the history behind it.

Go off the beaten path

One thing I always do when traveling is to get the inside scoop on some not-so-touristy places. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the top attractions, but I want to carve out my own memories.

The absolute best part of booking with Monograms is the local guide. You have a person on site, at the hotel, who gives you on the ground knowledge about the place you’re traveling. To me, this is priceless.

When I traveled to Rome I let the guide know I had been before but that I loved museums. I told her I had already been to Borghese and Capitoline (two of the popular museums) and she recommended Palazzo Massimo which I would have never gone to had she not mentioned it! It was absolutely incredible and a great mix of art and culture.

RELAX

I have to tell myself to relax before a trip. It’s hard to not think about real life. But you know what? You deserve it. You deserve to clam down and just enjoy your vacation.

Really want a stress free trip? Here are some benefits of working with Monograms at a glance:

  • Travel transfers
  • Excursions that you choose based on your interests
  • Downloadable guides to know what you need before you go (such as: phrases, weather, customs- like tipping, etc)
  • A local guide to give you tips and recs
  • Hotels you know have a good reputation (Ever booked a bad hotel?! I have…)
  • Top attractions built into your schedule, and flexible

My trip with Monograms was not only memorable, it was stress-free. I certainly can’t say that about all my travel. I hope these tips will help you plan your next vacation.