When should I start planning my vacation?
Ideally, we ask for at least 6 months advance notice, especially in high season (May to September). So if you are traveling in the fall of any given year, contacting us around February/March is ideal. If you are traveling in the spring of any given year, then contacting us in September/October is recommended. Italy and France receive millions of visitors each year and even though we can plan in less time, we run the risk of missing out on the availability of our favorite hotels and guides. We always want the best for our clients and the more time we have the more we can guarantee just that.
Why should I go with Travels with Audrey over other leading brand names?
If you enjoy the value and convenience of escorted tours, but also crave a privileged, intimate, designed just for you, with a view of local cultures that larger groups cannot provide, then you will love traveling with us. Other than the size of the groups we offer: endless possibilities for your personalized escorted tour packages, hands-on service, company owner/tour manager/driver-guide who is a local expert and speaks the languages, our travel philosophy and exclusive experiences opportunities. The primary criteria for our selection of hotels, transportation and restaurants is authenticity, not how efficiently and inexpensively they can serve a large number of groups but in servicing the discerning traveler. A traveler who places knowledge and service ahead of price, doing something slightly different from everyone else....hmmm what else? Oh yes! you will never be on a large bus, you will never scamper after your tour manager who is 25 or 48 plus people ahead of you, and you will always be treated as a guest. Unlike large groups, we do not have flags, silly buttons, scarves or name tags. Leave the cookie-cutter itineraries behind!
What other countries do you offer personalized escorted tours to?
We offer personalized escorted tours to Spain, Portugal, Germany and South America (Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina). We can also customize your very own tour to those destinations and others not listed on the website within Western Europe.
We have recently added a new team member that can design and escort small groups of less than 16 guests to Scotland and Ireland.
To receive updates on upcoming pre-designed tour packages, please like us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletters sent out quarterly filled with useful information as well as recipes or check out our latest blog posts.
What can you tell me about the pre-designed tour packages?
At Travels with Audrey, we believe that you will find the heart and soul of a nation in its regions. Our pre-designed tour packages are unique for their itineraries, flexibility of choices, time to explore on your own, friendly atmosphere, offering an in-depth approach to the chosen locations's culture, gastronomy and history with more of a regional focus. Furthermore, our itineraries concentrate on one country only, unlike many other tour companies who offer multi-country tours. Our tours are created for those guests that like to discover one country and its regions, guests looking for something different in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. Our unique small group itineraries visit some of the most sought-after destinations. Each tour reveals the world to you in a whole new way...up close, intimate, and real. It's all thanks to our small group size, which allows you to truly immerse yourself in the cultural and natural beauty that makes your destination so remarkable.
Simply put, you'll delve more deeply into local culture. Our personally designed itineraries offer what we are most passionate about: cultural/social encounters with more interactivity, discovering historical gems, unspoiled nature, unique countryside accommodations, traveling to some off the beaten paths locations, as well as seeing famous landmarks. We also place an importance on local culinary experiences, like wine tastings. But above all you will have free time to create your own memories fulfilling your personal passions.
Our escorted tours include visits to well-known cities such as Venice, Florence and Paris, but also several less frequented places, off the usual tourist itinerary. Traveling as a small group allows us to visit small villages unobtrusively, find hotels in historic districts where room space is often limited, and dine in small restaurants where you will find the best food and ambiance. See demonstrations by local producers, enjoy cooking classes and walking through vineyards. In fact, the very nature of our tours means that you have the opportunity to interact with locals, as you leisurely explore towns and villages that are not on the usual tourist trail.
On our escorted tours you will be taken on a cultural, historical, gastronomic vacation through areas that showcase their history of more than 3000 years. We believe in taking you on each one of our itineraries not only to famous must see sites but also have the opportunity to go beyond the tourist facade.
If being active like walking, trying something new, tasting new foods, adding fun and adventure into your life are some of the things you are looking for, then you are in the right place. If you want to travel like an insider, a more in depth way of experiencing familiar places, but do not want to spend your valuable time researching and planning the details, you are in the right place.
We limit the number of participants to twelve up to a maximum of 16 so that you will receive personal attention and have the ultimate travel experience.
Please see our Sustainable Travel Philosophy
How much walking will I do?
To enjoy our pre-designed tour packages, you should be able to walk reasonable distances, often over unpaved and uneven surfaces. The countries we travel to are home to innumerable historic buildings and sites, many dating back to antiquity. Therefore roads, walkways and sightseeing locations may present difficulties for some guests with physical disabilities.
Some of the most memorable sightseeing can only be accomplished on foot. Cities like Venice, Florence to name a few are made for walking. you must be able to sustain extended periods of time walking and standing, especially when visiting museums, on our walking tours (anywhere from 3 to 4 hours), exploring historical sites, discovering medieval towns, as well as walking uphill and downhill in hilltop towns, getting in and out of vans. Often times you will be walking with your driver/guide from the parking lot up into the towns.
If you do not wish to participate in some of the scheduled activities, you may plan a different activity at your own expense. If for some reason you are unable to take part in a scheduled activity, you may stay at your hotel to relax. We will be glad to work with you on possible alternative activities if they are possible, but cannot guarantee them and you will not be compensated for this time on your own. Itineraries have planned time on your own, but is has been our experience that most guests would like to see and experience as much as possible while on vacation with us. Our tours are not races, we stop frequently for cultural intake, gelato and photo ops!
Please note that if you have a mobility concern, you may not find our tours suitable. Please contact us if you have any doubts. Please also check our Terms and Conditions for more detail.
What is your personalized escorted group size and costs?
Travels with Audrey will accommodate groups of 16 guests or fewer. All pre-designed tour packages (off-the-rack) are priced for groups composed of 6-16 guests. Some tour packages are priced on a minimum of 4 guests. Smaller groups of guests may incur increased costs. Travels with Audrey will explain such costs to the Guests well in advance of the tour.
Comparing with mainstream tour operators who boast of their "small groups" of 25 to 35 travelers. It simply is not the way to see Italy or France, or any country in Europe for that matter, unless what you are looking for is getting on and off large buses, shopping and being a tourist. That is not our philosophy at Travels with Audrey. All of our pre-designed tour packages have a minimum number of guests requirement to operate the tour. The average group size is 6 to 8, but we also have clients requesting personalized escorted tours for 2. With 6 or less guests, Audrey is the driver/guide. We limit the number so that a friendly atmosphere during the journey can be maintained, and so that everyone enjoys individual attention.
Can you help me with other travel arrangements?
There are several reasons why we do not offer airfare. Even though Audrey is a Tico Certified Travel Consultant, guests are welcome from around the world and so we work together with Travel Agents; therefore we would like to give our travelers the opportunity to choose their own flights. Many people have air miles they want to use to fly overseas or upgrade to first and business class.
Several guests choose to extend their stay and visit other locations, before or after the tour so we gladly assist with any pre-tour hotel arrangements.
When and where do I meet for each tour?
If yous chose to book a pre-designed tour package featured on the website, we strongly recommend that you arrive at least one day earlier than the start of your tour in order to get used to any time difference. Please make sure we have a valid email address and phone contact at time of booking, as we will be sending you a pre-tour information packet with all the details of your vacation as well as instruction on how to meet us and it is your responsibility to be there at the designated time.
On some pre-designed tour packages the cost and service of a transfer on arrival is not included in the tour price, but can certainly be arranged at an extra charge. The reason it is optional, is that some guests prefer to find their own way, or will be spending a few days on location before the start of the tour or at the end of the tour.
We always meet as a group though on the first official day of the tour which would be Day 1. Your travel date would be the day before if you are departing from the United States or Canada.
Extra tip: When guests purchase one of our pre-designed tour packages, and are arriving by air at the first meeting point, they are responsible for allowing sufficient time to deplane, gather luggage and travel to the designated meeting location to join the tour on Day 1 (start of tour day).
Travels with Audrey is not responsible for airline delays or cancellations and will not delay the departure of the tour for any delayed guest. Any guest delayed must contact Travels with Audrey and attempt to communicate their anticipated arrival time. If guests arrives at a different date, time and place than the specified one, it is their responsibility to meet up with the rest of the group (at their own expense)
What is a typical day on tour?
We rarely leave our accommodation before 8.30 am – in fact most days begin around 9 am. Each itinerary on our pre-designed tour packages (off-the-rack) is thoughtfully planned to avoid packing too much into a day. We prefer to make our discoveries at a more leisurely pace with time to socialize with the tour manager or local guide and appreciate the local settings or delve deeper into attractions on your own. Certain visits are pre-planned and are included in the price of the tour, and sometimes you’ll have an afternoon, a morning or even a day at leisure. We also try to keep long drives to a minimum. We want you to experience your destinations by walking, getting up close and personal. We travel on scenic roads whenever possible, and on some itineraries we enjoy taking the train or even the ferry!
What money will I need in addition to the cost of a pre-designed tour package?
Most expenses are covered by the price of the pre-designed tour package (off-the-rack) unlike some other tour companies. You will need money for meals not included on itinerary, spending money for buying gifts, alcoholic beverages at meals (wine on occasion and water are included), for covering personal expenses such as laundry or phone calls. Other items not covered in the price are: – airfare to and from the tour starting point – transfers if not included on the itinerary - single supplement (optional) – travel cancellation/foreign medical travel insurance – custom fees, excess luggage fees – personal expenses (telephone charges, mini bar, laundry expenses, etc.), gratuities for guides and drivers (at your discretion)
What does the pre-designed tour package cost include?
For all our pre-designed tour package itineraries there is a list of Highlights and Inclusions.
The price covers: Driver/guide or tour manager and driver depending on the tour, tour planning and operation, double occupancy lodging (single available at an extra cost), transportation, meals as per itinerary, sightseeing with local guides as per itinerary, site admissions and fees as per itinerary, taxes and in some tours the transfer, cooking classes on some, wine tastings and culinary tastings.
What does the pre-designed tour package not include?
• Airfare is not included in the price of the tour
• Personal travel and Health Insurance
• Driver/tour leader/guides/ gratuity is at your discretion
• Lunches (unless otherwise stated), alcoholic beverages other than the included wine and water at included meals, meals on free nights, items of a personal nature and entrance fees when not listed in the itinerary inclusions
• Optional activities
• Incidental expenses, such as room service at hotels phone calls or laundry services. All expenses are to be settled prior to leaving the accommodation
• Pre and post tour accommodation
• Unless otherwise listed in the inclusions, transfers are not included in the tour price
Other items not included: airport arrival and departure taxes, visa fees and services, local city taxes for hotels that are required to be paid in cash to the hotel directly (usually never more than 4-6 Euros a night)
How much driving do we do?
On our pre-designed tour package itineraries (off-the-rack) we have tried to keep our time on the van down to a maximum of a few hours in one stretch, or one day. Our pre-designed tour packages are designed so there is as little time on the van as possible and plenty to see while aboard or along the way from one place to another. Inevitably there are some day when traveling between locations may involve some mileage. Generally we try to do at least two to three attraction stops, comfort and meal stops. It would be as if you had rented a car, without having to drive or concern yourself with directions, maps and the possibility of getting lost or not speaking the language. On some itineraries the train is used and even the ferry.
We choose comfortable vans or mini-buses depending on the size of the group. Their size allows us to travel along local roads, across breath-taking mountain passes to find charming villages and picturesque vistas which lie most time beyond the well-worn tourist trails where large motor coaches cannot go. For added convenience, we usually drive into the center of small villages and old towns to park beside charming accommodations and intimate local restaurants.
What are the benefits of traveling in a small group?
Small group vacations means unlocking the secrets of a destination. For some companies the term small group means 24, not us. Our average group size is 6 but usually not not more than 12. Small group means our smaller private vehicles access more off the beaten path areas like the narrow lanes of a small French or Italian village.
In a small group we can offer you a truly personal understanding as you explore the local regions in greater depth. You will meet like-minded friends and enjoy the convenience of your own personal driver/tour manager, who will share their local knowledge and ensure you visit sites that the mainstream tourist usually misses out on as well as famous landmarks (benefits of skip the line in most cases). Traveling in a small group, the schedule can be tweaked at times at the tour manager’s discretion, which in turn allows some flexibility to savor certain moments.
If you enjoy the value and convenience of escorted tours, but also crave a privileged, intimate view of local cultures that larger groups cannot provide, then you will love Travels with Audrey. We know that when you journey halfway around the world, you do not want anything to stand between you and getting to the heart of your destination, least of all the size of your group. Traveling with a small group of no more than 12, we will cover more ground with ease leaving the cookie-cutter itineraries behind, and meet the locals up close.
You will have time to explore on your own and will also have the benefit from the expert guidance of your tour manager. Museum visits are reserved and we skip the line at most venues. Unlike large groups, we do not have flags, silly buttons, scarves or name tags. We are travelers, not tourists!
We are allowed to act silly though, and be too loud over dinner because we are having too much fun laughing!"
Do you know if you are looking for an Escorted tour vs Independent Travel?
Our pre-designed tour packages are low stress, well thought through experiences for about the same price you would pay for independent travel. Travel expert Rick Steves points out about the well-organized tour that it is "important to keep in mind that much of the money an independent traveler might appear to save can be quickly lost to time-consuming hotel and transportation hassles, and inevitable mistakes."
Which meals are included on a pre-designed tour package?
Breakfast is included daily. Each itinerary will have a list of inclusions. Meals are noted by B (Breakfast) L (lunch) and D (dinner). Each itinerary differs on the number of included lunches or dinners. They are group events included in the price of the tour package.
Included lunch and dinner will be at authentic restaurants and guests order off a regular menu or in some cases we may have a set menu with several options available for each course. Bottled water, tea or coffee is included with all meals. Wine is only included with some meals. Beer, soft drinks and cocktails are not included.
For the optional lunches and dinners, you are free to make your own gastronomic explorations.
One thing to remember is dinner times in Europe are later than you might be used to, 7:30pm at the earliest and often later in some locations in France and Italy (Spain).
Character/Quality: Tasting the local cuisine should be an important part of any holiday, and Travels with Audrey ensures that an emphasis is placed on local specialties. Our included culinary experiences enable you to enjoy truly authentic, locally sourced and produced cuisine. Dine at iconic restaurants run by award-winning chefs, take cooking classes using regional ingredients, visit local farms, enjoy food and wine tastings at local producers. Furthermore, throughout our tours you’ll dine in small, authentic restaurants, frequented by the locals, and guaranteed to give a true reflection of the tastes of the region.
Some of our meals will be in towns we visit along the way, while others are in countryside locations with breathtaking surroundings.
What if I’m vegetarian / have allergies / require a particular diet?
Please notify us at time of booking and we will try our best to accommodate your dietary needs, but if any additional food items need to be purchased on an included group meal, those will be at an extra cost to the guest.
Note: Even though Italian and French specialties include salami, prosciutto, dairy products and savoury meat sauces, there will usually be plenty of choices without as well. French and Italians eat much more in season than we do most of the time. Of course, enjoying the local cuisine is a big part of our tours. We also have several wine tastings on each tour and visits for culinary experiences.
What kind of hotels will we be staying in?
Even though it does add to the cost of the tour, we pride ourselves in seeking and selecting unique accommodations and not working with chain hotels. Our accommodation (whether a villa situated in a stunning location in wine country, a boutique hotel, a castle hotel, a property in the historical heart of cities) is carefully selected to always reflect the character and charm of the destination you are staying in. We prefer basing our choices on quality, warm hospitality, location, rather than going only by the official star grading (based solely on facilities rather than the standard), and so that is why our tours do not offer a deluxe or budget option. Our guests always stay at one hotel, unlike other tour companies, including the tour manager.
The hotels we select in cities will be in the historical centers, within walking distance of major sights, shopping and museums and most are historical buildings dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries. On most of our tour itineraries we have also opted to stay in country villas/inns or castles to better appreciate the region itself and savor the countryside. All of the rooms have private bath and air-conditioning. In some of the country estates, villas or castles, there are spas and swimming pools for you to relax and enjoy.
At time of booking, please let us know whether you would like a twin room (two single sized beds in a room) or a double room (one standard sized bed for 2 people) or single room. While room sizes in older buildings may vary, each room will have its own unique style and character.
We include porterage wherever possible in the hotels. Please contact us if you have questions about the accommodations included in your vacation package. Hotel names and contact information will be emailed to you about 60 days before your departure.
Note: At hotels considered historical sites, the strongest intent during renovations was to respect and preserve the original structure as much as possible. So we ask for your patience and flexibility as most rooms will be a different size, layout, and view (which is not guaranteed) Also, if you are staying in a hotel located within a city center, please know that there may be a certain degree of noise that is higher compared to other accommodations in more remote areas (Cars, pedestrians, mopeds) Lifts, if any, are usually very small, due to space constraints in older historical buildings, and your shower may not be as big as the one at home. In many cases this is due to regulations concerning protected buildings, but this will be more than offset by the charm, unique character and history which can be uncovered in these locations. Most hotels will have air conditioning but will not run as cool as in North America, and may not run all day. In regards to bathrooms: sometimes you will have a large bathroom with shower and bathtub, sometimes just a small shower stall that you can barely turn around in. This is just helpful to know in advance, knowing what to expect when traveling to European countries, but that will certainly not take away from your enjoyment.
NOTE: We do please ask not to communicate directly with the hotels, as it could cause misunderstandings. If you have particular requests or concerns, please let us know and we’ll make sure to notify the hotels. Thank you for your understanding.
NOTE ON ACCOMMODATION TAX: The local governments passed an accommodation tax, and the rules of this imposed tax are that they must be paid in cash by the guests directly to the hotel upon checking out. Therefore we are unable to include it in our tour prices. It will range between 1 to 6 Euro per person per night.
What type of transportation will be used during the tours?
Travels with Audrey hires licensed professional drivers and private transportation on most itineraries, unless we are using the train. The size of the van holds 6 or 7 guests. With more than 8 guests we operate either 2 vans or a mini-bus. In Italy especially, any vehicles larger than a mini-bus will not be able to enter small towns or historical centers. This allows us to access areas of towns and cities that other larger vehicles would be restricted to.
On some itineraries and dependent on group size you may have a driver/guide, who is insured, licensed, and knowledgeable. Sometimes your driver/guide is Audrey so you are in good hands!
No smoking is allowed on all vehicles.
Separate travel arrangements and airport transfers can be arranged for guests before or after the tour, but additional fees will apply (if not included in the itinerary price). Contact us if you need private transportation or if you decide to extend your stay.
How much money should I budget for meals and items not included in the tour package price?
Our pre-designed tour packages include A LOT, so you will find yourself spending most of your money on personal purchases. In general, we recommend calculating about 20-30 Euros per person for each meal that is not included. On the nights where optional dinners are indicated, your tour manager will always invite you to join him/her at one of her/his favorite restaurants.
Do you include entrance fees to attractions?
We specify on each pre-designed tour package itinerary what is included as part of your tour. Unlike other tour companies that charge extra, we include a number of entrance fees as part of the price. Any other entrance fees will be at your own expense. Because of our small group size, we are able to offer skip the line access to most of the important sights we visit while on tour.
Will there be time to do things on your own?
Although we have listed a day to day itinerary, we have ensured that throughout the tour you will have some free time to explore on your own or to choose some optional activities and optional dinners where you are welcome to join the tour manager or discover your own little gem.
When we are in a location for more than a few days, you may opt not to join the planned activities and choose your own activity, but this will be at your own expense. Please remember there will not be any refund for unused portions of the tour, or for included meals a guest wishes to have on their own.
Do I need a Visa for the countries we visit or a passport?
It is your responsibility to obtain any visas (if required) which might be necessary to enable you to visit and travel to Europe and to have a valid passport. Make sure to check with your local consular office as to any visa requirements for the countries you are visiting. Please visit either the U.S Department of State’s website or the Canadian traveling abroad government of Canada website for more information.
NOTE: If you are a U.S. citizen traveling internationally, you will need a passport valid for six months beyond the completion of your vacation for entry into France or Italy. You are not required to obtain a visa for the short duration of your tour.
If you are a citizen of another country traveling internationally, you should contact an embassy or consulate to determine what travel documentation is required.
Please note that longer stays abroad for any purpose may require additional travel documentation.
We recommend that you make at least two photocopies of all the travel documents that you bring with you. Include copies of the photo page of your passport that contains the date of issuance, the date of expiration and your citizenship. Secure one set of copies in the safe of your room while sightseeing and leave one set behind with someone at home who will assist you in the event your documents are misplaced, lost or stolen.
Can I extend my stay or arrive a few days earlier?
To avoid jet lag and possible flight delays, we highly recommend you arrive a day before your pre-designed tour package start. As a service we will book additional nights for you on a space-available basis. Hotel room charges will be added to the total tour cost.
Whether flying in a few days before the tour or extending your stay afterwards in the same location or others of your choice, we will be more than happy to assist you in making those arrangements for you. To ensure availability please let us know at the time of booking with the number of nights, dates and locations so we can provide you with a quote and take care of the reservations for you. Airport transfers can be added at an extra charge.
As most of our tours start and end in major European cities, it is often nice to book a few nights’ accommodation before and after your tour so you can explore the city at your own pace. Some of our itineraries finish in locations that would be ideal for additional time spent in country. Please check with us for more information.
Is there a limit to the luggage I am allowed to bring?
Although oversize bags and wheeled carry-on luggage are popular for airline travel, they are often not convenient or appropriate for mini-bus/van travel or for many on-tour flights and train travel. Most of our transportation offer limited space for numerous or larger items. Space under seats or in the overhead rack is typically small, and designed to accommodate items like coats, hats, purses and small camera bags.
Space is limited even on our mini-buses and vans so for the comfort and ease for all members of the group, we ask that you please limit your checked luggage to one suitcase per person weighing no more than 50 lbs (23 kg) and with overall dimensions (length + width + height) not exceeding 62 inches (158 cm). When our transportation is a van, luggage allowance is one roller bag (this can be no larger than 26x17x11 including rollers). For your day to day travel while on tour, we recommend that you limit your hand luggage to a small, soft-sided carry-on piece, and that you bring only those items you need handy during the day such as make-up, medications, cameras, etc. We must stress that available space in our vans is very limited! On some itineraries, you will be responsible in handling your own luggage, such as traveling by train, loading and unloading the van (if we have a mini-bus this would not apply). In some cases you may have to pull your bags a short distance to your hotel and a possibility of stairs.
If you exceed this limit there may not be space in the van or mini-bus to transport your excess luggage and will need to be stored at your own expense.
Suggestion: you can purchase an inexpensive bag in your final city for all your new purchases or ship them home.
Besides complying with the Travels with Audrey restriction noted above, you should also be sure to research and comply with all airline baggage restrictions relating to your flights to and from your destination. Airlines have become much stricter in enforcing size and weight limits in recent years, and luggage exceeding airline standards for size or weight may result in expensive fees.
Airlines are free to revise luggage policies without notice, and certain airlines have different baggage allowances for different classes of service. Researching and complying with airline luggage restrictions is the responsibility of the guest, and Travels with Audrey cannot be held responsible for any costs or disruptions to travel caused by the failure to research and comply with airline policies.
Although every effort is made to handle your luggage carefully, we cannot be responsible, assume liability or accept claims for loss or damage to luggage and personal effects due to breakage, theft, or fair wear and tear through hotel, airline and private transportation handling. It is important for your own self-interest and protection that you make certain you have adequate insurance to cover for these eventualities.
Lost luggage is an unfortunate possibility in today's world of airline travel.
We suggest the following:
• Pack at least one change of clothing in your carry-on bag
• Split your items between your suitcase and a traveling companion's suitcase
• Do not pack any vital medications or valuables in your checked luggage
• Confirm that your luggage is checked and tagged to your final destination at airport check-in
• Place your luggage claim tags in a secure place for your flight
• File a claim for any missing luggage immediately before leaving the baggage claim area at the arrival airport
• Secure a case number and contact information for follow-up communications
Make certain that the airline has your onward itinerary
• Your tour manager may assist you with airline and other carrier communications, if there is a language barrier, but has no inside contacts to guarantee or expedite recovery of lost luggage.
• All recovery costs, including communication costs, are your responsibility. Check your travel protection details for covered expenses.
What should I pack?
Bringing the right clothing for your vacation is important. Dress for comfort and convenience with a wardrobe that is adaptable and allows for layering. Generally during the day, casual, comfortable, cotton clothing is recommended. In Europe, especially in finer restaurants, it is generally customary to dress somewhat formally. Slacks or a dress for women and a jacket for men are acceptable dining attire. It is advisable to avoid wearing old Jeans, sneakers or shorts for dinner. You may also wish to dress up for the welcome dinner and farewell dinner, but by all means be comfortable. A sports jacket is not required.
The times that you might want to wear something a little more elegant would be in cities like Paris, Malaga, Florence, Venice, Turin, Rome to name a few (larger cities) where people are more fashion-oriented.
Please note that you will not be able to enter any of the churches if you wear pants or skirts above the knee, and/or sleeveless shirts. The same goes for men! So, if you are wearing a tank top, you may want to bring a light sweater or scarf that you can put over your shoulders so you can get inside the church.
What matters is that you have a good time and that you are comfortable, so the strongest memories of your trip are those of beautiful places you visited and not the pain that the cobblestone streets gave you while wearing the wrong shoes. Think lightweight, comfortable, quick drying, soft and nothing that will feel tight or not let your skin breathe.
Many people ask us what to wear so they can fit in and not stick out like a tourist. Just wear what is "you" and what makes you comfortable. As a general rule, French and Italians do not typically wear bright colors or patterns, but stick to neutrals like blacks, grays, whites, navy.
Note: most accommodations provide hair dryers. If you bring any electrical appliances (hair dryer, flat iron, electric razor, etc.) you will need an adapter. The electricity supply is 220 volts, which means your appliance should have a switch that you can turn to the correct voltage. If it does not, you will need a converter because an adapter alone will not be sufficient. Laptop computers, camera chargers, cell phone chargers, iPods, and other electronics usually switch automatically to the right voltage.
Additional information: We recommend that you pack an adequate supply of your prescription medication in its original container to last through the entire vacation, together with a copy of your doctor's prescription or a letter from your health-care provider on office stationery explaining that that the medication has been prescribed for you, a list of the generic names of your medication, your travel documents and a change of clothing in your carry-on bag to avoid any inconvenience in the event that your flight or luggage is delayed.
For electrical appliances and what to pack we have blog articles that you might find useful and Travels with Audrey will also provide you with the information in your pre-information packet provided to you 60 days prior to the tour.
It is best to arrive with clothing that will allow layering and provide protection from changing weather conditions. Most of your clothing should be comfortable, with some options for elegant evening wear.
Following is a list of recommended items to pack for your trip:
• Casual daytime wear – shorts, slacks, long and short-sleeved shirts
• An optional jacket and tie for men
• Casually elegant evening wear for ladies
• Sunglasses, sunscreen, hat
• Gym wear
• A light sweater or jacket for higher elevations or a breezy night
• Insect repellent (depending on time of year)
• Camera, lenses, batteries, memory cards
• Lightweight, comfortable, sturdy walking shoes that have already been broken-in
• Battery-operated travel alarm clock
• Rain poncho and collapsible umbrella
• Daypack for camera equipment
• Sundries and toiletries that may be difficult to find en route
• Copies of your travel documents that should be secured in the safe in your hotel room while traveling
What is a single supplement?
We normally charge 10-15% extra to the listed tour price for single rooms. We always try to provide a double room for single use unless not available or possible--
How far in advance should I book my flight?
If you are planning on using frequent flyer miles, the sooner the better. The longer you wait, the more you will run into black-out dates, seat unavailability, or having to make multiple connections. If instead you are buying your ticket, the typical “ideal window” for best airfare deals is between 5-3 months prior to departure. But please ensure you have travel insurance in case you need to cancel your tour with us for any reason, since Travels with Audrey will not refund airline tickets should you need to cancel your tour. Please see our Terms and Conditions.
IMPORTANT: All flights from the U.S.A. and Canada to Europe are overnight flights, so you will arrive the day after your departure. Make sure to book your flight accordingly. When you return, you’ll arrive back in the USA or Canada on the same day you leave Europe.
Example: to arrive in Italy on Sunday (the first day of the tour) you will need to leave Saturday from the US or Canada. On the way back, let’s say the tour ends on a Friday (last day of tour) you will depart that day to arrive in the US or Canada on the same day.
Also, keep in mind that some tours start in one city and end in another.
Should I insure my vacation?
At Travels with Audrey Insurance is highly recommended. Please see Terms and Conditions for more details. Please ensure that details of your insurance are carried with you at all times. You may be asked to provide details of your medical insurance or a payment guarantee in some counties before medical assistance will be provided.
If you have a medical condition that might limit your participation in activities, please consult your physician for pre-departure health advice and notify us as soon as possible.
Please check with your health insurance provider to determine whether you are covered while traveling. If you will not be covered under your current policy, we strongly recommend that you arrange for adequate coverage while on tour.
If you are a resident of the U.S. traveling internationally, no vaccinations are currently required for Europe. For complete vaccination and inoculation information, contact your physician, the public health service in your area, or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. The Traveler's Health Section of the CDC operates a 24-hour Traveler's Health Hotline at 800-232-4636 (toll-free in the U.S.)
If you are a resident of another country traveling internationally please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you are traveling to to determine what vaccination may be required for your travel.
What happens if my flight is delayed and I miss my pick up time?
Unfortunately, sometimes flights are delayed, and even when they are on time, your luggage may still be a few hours (or sometimes days) behind you. As a preventative measure, make sure you have at least 2-3 hours between connecting flights. If your flight is cancelled or you have arrived to the specified meeting point after the pick-up time, please be in touch with your Tour manager (you will receive their name and contact information by email prior to departure). We will do our best to assist you, but it will be your responsibility to get to the accommodation from wherever you are and pay for any associated expenses. You will be given the addresses, phone numbers and emergency numbers before you leave home, so make sure to keep those handy as you travel. Travel Insurance is strongly recommended for any unexpected or emergency expenses.
What about the payment?
We are a small tour operator and work hard to create great itineraries; to be fair with our hotels and other suppliers, our deposit, cancellation and supplement policies are designed to accommodate everyone's needs: our supplier's, our guests’ and ours. Thank you for your understanding. We request a 30% of the overall tour price per person deposit for pre-designed tour packages and an initial $700.00 per person deposit for customized vacations. For customized vacations, once we have determined the total price of your vacation, a further 30% of the overall price per person deposit is required. Balances are due 90 days prior to tour start date and for our cancellation/refund policies check out our Terms and Conditions for more information.
We make decisions based on your booking your vacation with us: we assign guides and vans based on tour numbers; we tell hotels how many rooms we need. Remember you have the option to get travel insurance and if you choose not to purchase this, you are taking a risk.
Note: Physician documented emergency medical reasons or police documented cases of accident, flood, fire or crime are required for refunds.
We do not provide refunds for: non-medical personal problems
At Travels with Audrey we would like for you to travel with us again. Here is a thank you discount for previous guests:
When you purchase your first vacation with us you receive a credit of $200.00US dollars to be used towards your second vacation with us.
• 2nd tour-$200.00US dollars discount (credit received from traveling with us once before)
• 3rd tour-$250.00US dollars discount
• 4th tour-$300.00US dollars discount
Should I be concerned about the pre-designed tour package price?
Tour prices are in US dollars and per person
Price is a legitimate concern on any major purchase like this, and it is an excellent concern! Essentially, our pre-designed tour packages (off-the-rack) are nearly all-inclusive (you can see on each itinerary what each vacation includes) and competitive (actually some of our tours are less expensive with more inclusions for more days that the average package). We are not the cheapest and we are also not the most expensive. But when comparison shopping, keep in mind the size of the tour group. The more guests, the more the common expenses are lower for each guest, bringing down the tour cost per person. Four of the biggest advantages you receive when participating in one of our tours is:
1.) You simply need to show up. You don’t have to spend time planning, booking, or trying to determine the best places to stay, eat and see. We have spent countless hours doing this for you, so you can just arrive, and have an awesome time!
2.) Spending time with your group of friends or family is an experience that most people are simply unable to create on their own. Those who have never been on a group vacation do not realize how important this aspect can be…until they’ve experienced it.
3) Please check our Sustainable tourism philosophy for as to why we keep our tours much smaller than most tour companies. The benefits you enjoy traveling with a smaller group like ours, outweighs the cost, which is quite competitive.
4) You have your very own Tour Manager, who speaks the local language and is an expert in everything Italy and France. You are in good hands with Audrey!
What happens if I need to cancel my participation?
As much as we hate to have our guests miss out on such a wonderful and unique experience, we understand that unexpected things can happen. Regardless of reason, cancellations result in costly charges from our hotel providers covering penalties and fees incurred by cancelling confirmed bookings. Please carefully review our Terms and Conditions regarding refunds in the event of a cancellation on your part.
Purchasing a Travel Insurance policy is highly recommended with Travels with Audrey for unforeseen circumstances such as cancellations, missed flights, inclement weather, health emergencies, etc. This will not just cover the cost of your trip, but it will also give you peace of mind. There are many companies out there and we strongly recommend that you shop around and research the coverage that is right for you.
When is the balance due for the tour?
All balances are due 90 days prior to the tour. An invoice will be sent with the final amount due and the due date. If you have requested additional nights or other services, the charges for these will need to be settled with your balance payment.
What is and what does a tour manager do?
Traveling with a tour manager means you have a built-in concierge during your trip so that you can relax and enjoy your vacation!
The tour manager makes sure the logistics of your vacation go smoothly, helps you with special requests along the way, offers cultural information and travel tips, orients you in each city/town, walks you to that market or site that might be hard to find on your own, recommends favorite restaurants, helps you arrange your free time plans and shares with you invaluable information.
Cell phone usage
Some wireless companies offer an international calling plan, which you h ave to request before you leave. Please check with your own provider to see if this is an option. We do recommend taking a cell phone with you so your family and friends can contact you while you are away, but check with your provider to see if they offer coverage overseas as well as the charges, which can often climb up quickly when roaming. If you own a smart phone, make sure to turn your data plan off and turn it to airplane mode when you are not using it to avoid a painfully expensive bill. Many of the hotels on tour have Wi-Fi (some charge a small fee) so you will be able to take advantage of this if you have a laptop or smartphone as well to check your emails or get online.
ATM and credit cards
We recommend that you contact your bank in advance of departing on your vacation to determine whether you will be able to use your ATM and credit cards while traveling (you will need cards with PIN numbers and a chip) When contacting your bank, notify them of your travel dates so that they will anticipate charges being made outside of your hometown and do not suspend your cards for what may appear to them to be suspicious charges. We also recommend that you make a photocopy of the front and back of your ATM and credit cards to leave behind with someone at home who will assist you in the event your cards are misplaced, lost or stolen.
What about money?
Italy, France, Spain, Germany are members of the European Union so they use the Euro. The exchange rate changes almost daily.
There are several ways to get Euros before your vacation:
1. You can buy them before you leave from most banks in the U.S. It is convenient, but you do pay a higher exchange rate compared to using an ATM at destination. It is still cheaper and easier than exchanging dollars for Euro at a currency exchange place. It does help to have some Euro when you arrive for taxi, water, coffee, tips, food.
2. The easiest and fastest way is to use ATM's in Europe. They are everywhere and you usually get the best exchange rate. There is usually a limit on how much you can get at each transaction. It seems to be about 250 Euro. Be sure that your ATM card PIN is numerical.
3. You can also use credit cards in most stores and cities. There will be some places however, that only accept cash. Sometimes you can get better deals with cash as well. Traveler's checks are no longer widely used and we would recommend this only as a last resort.
Italy is mostly a cash based society and items such as coffee, snacks, and small purchases cannot be charged. MasterCard and Visa are the most commonly accepted cards.
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A DEBIT CARD
Nowadays, you can easily get a pre-paid VISA and charge it with the amount you think you will need during your trip. You could also open up a temporary checking account to use for your vacation, then close it once back home. This is good for security reasons as well, in case your card goes missing, it is not tied up to your main checking or savings accounts.
If you would like to see the latest exchange rates go to www.oanda.com
VAT or value added tax-A 20% sales tax is already included in the price of merchandise in Italy, Spain and France. If you purchase on average more than 155 Euro worth of goods at a store that participates in the VAT refund program, you are entitled to get most of the tax back. Unfortunately not all stores provide this service, but it is worth looking for the Tax Free sign. You will have to fill out a form (must have passport with you) and keep your receipt. Most merchants will fill out most of the form for you. In order to get your refund you will have to present the paperwork at your airport departure customs agent that deals with VAT refunds. One thing to remember is you will have to show the merchandise and it must be unused, so we recommend checking in after doing this. The refund is given in either cash (Euro) or credit card. Do plan to give yourself extra time at the airport for this. Depending on how much of a mad shopper you have been, it can really add up.
Note: France and Italy in general do not use air conditioning, and that is because they believe it is bad for your health, so please do not expect it in restaurants and other public places. Generally Europe does not adhere to the same levels of luxury or spacious rooms or even customer service that one might be used to in Canada or the United States. They are also, along with some other European countries, some of the most environmentally conscious countries in the world.
The south of France has a warm Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. Strong winds, known as the Mistral, can occur in the Côte d'Azur, Provence, particularly in winter and spring. Northern France, including Paris, has a temperate climate similar to southern England with warm summers, cold winters and rainfall throughout the year. From April through October, the average high temperature in Paris and Nice ranges from 60 to 80˚F (16 to 27˚C) and the average low temperature ranges from 50 to 70˚F (10 to 21˚C). In Arles the averages are 5 to 10˚F (2 to 5˚C) higher. Although Nice has 50% more rainfall per year than Paris, the summer months are much drier.
Italy is not considered to be a large country, especially compared to the USA: about the size of the states of Georgia and Florida combined.
The weather in Italy is temperate and unpredictable. Generally, spring and fall average high temperatures in the regions explored on this journey range from 53 to 81°F (12 to 27°C) and summer high temperatures range from 76 to 88°F (24 to 31°C), though temperatures are frequently over 90°F (32°C) in summer. Rain falls evenly throughout the year in Venice, but more seasonally in Rome, where summers are dryer than winters. Venice experiences very high humidity, with hot weather in July and August. Due to its location on the Adriatic coast, Venice often experiences thunderstorms and rain showers which, particularly in spring and autumn, tend to cause flooding, known as the 'acqua alta’. Rainfall in Florence is twice that in Rome.
The weather would be very similar to the weather in Maryland or Virginia. Spring is a lovely time of year, but can still be rainy. It can also be a little cool, especially in the evening. Be sure to bring along rain gear and a light jacket. Late spring can be warm during the day. Spring is especially beautiful in the countryside where wildflowers such as poppies and Iris may be in bloom. Summer like anywhere can be HOT, so come prepared with cool clothes and sunscreen! You will have a lot of daylight during this period which is great for sightseeing. September and October are also wonderful times to visit Italy. It usually is cooler than in the spring and you will definitely need to bring a light jacket. October can be rather warm some years, so be prepared and check out the forecasted temperatures before you leave to pack appropriately. Everything is green and the grape vines may have begun to turn to their fall colors. It can really be spectacular. Even if it rains in Italy, it is still so beautiful! The daylight hours do get shorter in the fall. Also, just a note on air-conditioning: Italy regulates its usage and it is usually only allowed between June through September. By law, hotels cannot provide A/C (or heating) outside of summer (or winter). Temperatures can vary during the day, but typically both late spring tours and early fall tours enjoy warm temperatures in the high 70’s during the day, into the high 80’s. At night time, the temperature can go down to the mid-50’s.
Will I get to see the grape harvest or olive harvest?
If you go on most Travels with Audrey Tours during the month of September, you will definitely see farmers everywhere in the region harvesting grapes. Each winery decides when it is the time to pick the grapes, but this typically occurs during the first 2 weeks of the month for white wine, and the last 2 weeks of the month for red wine. The olive harvest occurs towards the end of November, which can be rainy.