A Summer Family Vacation in Italy

Regina and her family were overwhelmed with planning a summer getaway to Italy. With three kids (ranging in age from 10 to 18) and a very limited window of opportunity to get everyone together in one place, they needed to make the most of their time, without overdoing it. They wanted to see as much as they could, experience the art and history but also have some relaxing time by the sea to really feel that summer vacation vibe. We put together an adventure in Italy with spectacular views and a little bit of everything! Here is their report of the adventure:


We had many many highlights and favorite moments! Florence was literally steaming hot, but the kids surprised us by totally loving the two tours we had — the walking tour which ended at the Accademia, and then a short but awesome whirlwind into the Uffizi!

They are old enough and curious enough to have been utterly wowed by the history — and both guides we had were AWESOME! It was too hot to climb the Duomo, but no matter, we walked and walked and felt always in the orbit of that amazing dome. Of course, beautiful food and endless gelato helped keep spirits up too!

view from the florence rooftop

Plaza Lucchesi was fantastic — can’t tell you how much fun that rooftop pool was at the end of a dripping hot day, before heading out for dinner! 


We loved Sorrento. As you predicted, the location of the apartment was perfect. And we all enjoyed having a little more room to spread out. (you cannot overestimate how amazing it was to have a washing machine to deal with our very very sweaty clothes!)

We had some of our very best days in the orbit of Sorrento. The amazing joyful cooking class at Villa Pane, the drive through the Amalfi Coast with Carmine (who works with Fabrizio — we totally loved both of them).

I would say the boat ride — which we were able to salvage after the initial cancellation — was quite simply one of the most wonderful days we’ve had in recent memory.

So much fun! Such a great way to get glimpses of the gorgeous coastal towns without having to spend too much time amidst the crowds. I would recommend this small boat trip to EVERYONE!


But as amazing as all this was — our favorite 2 days of the trip were on Ischia! Seriously, we didn’t want to leave! I briefly pitched the idea to Jim that we could retire there! We loved the hotel (the Continental Mare) — here was the view from our balcony:

We had the most amazing experience at a hydrothermal park/beach – Negombo Thermal Park and Preserve. So so incredible.

We got there when it opened at 9, and stayed until 7pm. The first half of the day was spent going from one thermal pool to the next

… and the afternoon was spent floating in San Montana Bay. The kids made us promise to return — and truthfully, we could have stayed several more days there happily.


So by the time we got to Rome, we were wiped out! After Ischia, we didn’t have a lot of tolerance for the 100+ heat. But — we had dear friends from White Plains (one of whom was Roman born) who coincidentally were there the exact time we were. So we canceled our tours and spent the time with them roaming around Italy, having great food, and getting some wonderful views. Such a beautiful city — we will return some November! (We would totally return as well to our awesome Hotel Dei Mellini!)

Really, for us, it was more spectacular than we could have imagined. You took what could have been a chaotic and unwieldy trip to Italy and made it as smooth as it possibly could have been! And we are so grateful!!!!

A Honeymoon in Paris & Italy

Kelly and Chris were looking for an October honeymoon in Europe. Someplace romantic, with plenty of food, museums, and opportunities to explore on their own. The perfect combination of these? Florence, Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and Paris! Here is their feedback on their European Honeymoon:

We had such a great time on our trip! Everything turned out amazing! The transfers you set up for us were very helpful. The cars were all on time and it was nice to not have to worry about finding transportation. All of the flights and trains were on time and easy to navigate.

The Highlights

We loved all of the hotels but we especially loved Hotel Le Littre in Paris and Hotel Berchielli in Florence (the views and the locations)! All of the tours were great. The guides were all very knowledgeable and helped us see the main attractions in a short amount of time.

One of the highlights of our trip was the Semi-private wine-making experience and gourmet dinner. The vineyard in Tuscany was beautiful and we had fun at the wine and olive oil tasting. We also loved getting to blend our own wine to take home.

The Sorrento Farm Experience was another activity we really enjoyed. It was nice being able to try their different olive oils and cheeses and even watch them make fresh cheese in front of us! 

Good to Note

We just had a few things to note: When we landed at the Paris airport it took us over an hour to get through customs. Luckily the driver was still there when we got through so it wasn’t a problem. The other thing was the private tour of the Amalfi Coast. The driver was so great and he recommended an excellent place to eat.

We got to visit Positano and Ravello which were beautiful but we spent almost 2 hours in traffic and were not able to stop at Amalfi due to crowds and timing. Totally understand that traffic can’t be predicted and we had a great time at the stops we did get to make! That is really the only feedback we have!

We had an incredible honeymoon thanks to you! Your planning was a great help and took a lot of stress off of our plate and the Pocket Travel app made everything so easy and accessible. We will definitely use your services again when we plan another big trip.

5 Movie & TV Inspired Destinations

Have you ever watched a movie or tv show and thought you really wish you were there? Of course you have! Especially during the last few years, when we were all binge-watching our favorite shows and using them as an escape into another world. 

We’ve rounded up five cool destinations that were catapulted into fame and put on countless bucket lists because of movies and TV shows. Whether you’re looking to visit the exact spot where your favorite actors stood, or just want to experience the vibe of the worlds they created, these destinations are unforgettable additions to any must-see list. 

New Zealand

This is perhaps the place that has capitalized on “set-jetting” tourism the most.

New Zealand is, of course, well known for the Lord of Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. And how could you not want to visit these incredible landscapes, lakes, mountains, and rivers? In addition to the over 150 filming locations of LOTR, New Zealand was the backdrop to other famous films like the Chronicles of NarniaKing Kong, and Avatar. The country exudes an other-worldly, larger-than-life atmosphere, and is well worth the long trip.

[Photo Credit: Nate Johnston via Unsplash]

If you are going to see Hobbiton in Matamata then you can expect crowds, tickets, and a bit of over-tourism. But the great thing about New Zealand’s on-screen inspiration is the wide open spaces and the multitude of locations utilized by different films. There are a wide variety of destinations within the country where you can explore filming locations and make the most of your stay.

If you don’t want to brave the crowds at Hobbiton, you can make your home base in Wellington for some of the most accessible LOTR locations, including Tongariro National Park. Skull Island (Lyall Beach & Shelly Bay) from King Kong is also near Wellington. If, instead, you’d like to step through the wardrobe into Narnia, base yourself around Aukland for the incredible forests, or on the South Island where you’ll find Elephant Rocks.  There’s plenty of space to enjoy it all.

[Photo Credit: Dario Mueller via Unsplash]


We’ve had a lot of requests for this incredible Italian destination thanks to White Lotus season 2. Much of White Lotus takes place in Taormina with picturesque seaside vibes, luxury villas and hotels and incredible Greek ruins. But Sicily is the Mediterranean’s largest island, with a rich history all its own, and there’s lots to explore.

We would recommend staying in two locations – Taormina (or the larger Catania) in the shadow of Mt. Etna and then Palermo on the other side of the island. This way you can enjoy the beach clubs and a few well-planned day trips to the quaint local seaside towns along the coast. While you can use a train to get across the island, having a car is extremely helpful for day tripping.

[Photo Credit: Flo via Unsplash]

While Sicily is not quite as packed with tourists as other parts of Italy yet, it is seeing an increase in travel over the past five years. If you’re looking for a similar vibe without the crowds we recommend Sardinia. An Italian island with stunning landscapes and unbelievable beaches. Or, Puglia for the quaint seaside villages and unforgettable food. Or you could try Crete for all the Mediterranean island flair and nightlife with a Greek twist.

[Photo Credit: Flo via Unsplash]


From fictional worlds like Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and Dungeons & Dragons to real-world stories like Derry Girls, Once, and Vikings. Ireland is a very popular filming location! Lush green forests, dramatic cliffs, and seascapes combine to offer viewers unforgettable scenery. 

Kylemore abbey Ireland

Depending on which film or show you find most inspiring, you’ll either head to Northern Ireland (Derry Girls, Dungeons & Dragons), the craggy cliffs and stunning roads along the west coast ( Star Wars: The Force Awakens/ The Last Jedi, Game of Thrones, The Princess Bride), the forest of Wicklow County (Vikings, P.S I Love You), or the quintessential city vibes of Dublin. Each area of Ireland has something incredible to offer, but the more popular sites will also come with crowds at certain times of the year.  

[Photo Credit: Lori via Shared Adventures – read about her Scottish and Irish Honeymoon here]

Here are some more off-the-beaten-path suggestions, if you prefer. Instead of The Cliffs of Moher, you can try the Sliabh Liag Cliffs in Donegal in the far northwest. Or, the Cliffs at Loop Head Kilkee in County Clare. If you’re looking for Star Wars vibes but not wanting to battle the crowds at Skellig Michael, you can try Malin Head in Donegal ( where many of the scenes were filmed). And a great alternative to the famous Ring of Kerry is the Skellig Ring Road just to the northwest of the Ring of Kerry, but with nary a tour bus in sight. 

[Photo Credit: Alicia & Jay via Shared Adventures — read about their Irish Adventure here!]

the cliffs of Moher Ireland


The city of light, art, and romance – Paris has been glorified in movies and tv since the beginning of film and has certainly inspired many travels.

a photo of the Amelie cafe in Montmartre Paris

Whether you’ve recently been inspired by Emily in Paris or Lupin, or you were inspired years ago by Midnight in ParisAmelie or countless others, the list of movies set in Paris is never ending and it certainly merits a visit.

[Photo Credit: Nicole & Paul via Shared Adventures — read about their Paris Anniversary Adventure here!]

While you won’t ever find the bustling city lacking crowds, visiting in the shoulder or off seasons will certainly help. Spring and Fall are beautiful times to enjoy the romantic narrow streets, wide boulevards, fabulous food, and unique architecture.

[Photo Credit: Kim & Paul via Shared Adventures — read about their first time in Paris here!]

Overlooking Paris at sunset from the Arc du Triomphe


If you’re looking for the Parisian vibe without the crowds, there are two other cities you can enjoy. Strasbourg is near the German border. It features a stunning cathedral, gothic architecture and narrow streets. And Lyon used to be the capital of France and has retained its remarkable heritage. You can take the tramway to glide above the Rhone river, or head underground for secret covered passageways. Lyon also boasts several Michelin starred restaurants and gourmet food. A perfect destination for a chic city break.


The Greek Islands have an undeniable visual appeal. Incredible turquoise waters, white-washed buildings, and charming seaside villages populate the movies as much as social media. Perfect for a beachy holiday, the Greek Islands provide every bit of those Mamma Mia vibes you’ve been craving since 2008. 

sunset over the ocean santorini greece

If you’re inspired by the wealthy private island from Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, then you’ll want to head to Spetses. With luxury and tradition, this is a favorite island of the rich and famous. Close to Athens, the Saronic Island is a perfect addition to a mainland Greece adventure. And those inspired by Daisy Jones & The Six can explore the quaint port and serene alleyways of Hydra – another of the Saronic Islands in the Aegean. 

On the other side of the Aegean, Mamma Mia fans will be taking a ferry to the Sporadic Islands of Skopelos and Skiathos, which are ideal for a peaceful laid-back vacation. With gorgeous nature, small fishing villages, and idyllic emerald waters, these islands are a bit more difficult to reach, as there’s no ferry from Athens. You’ll either need to take the ferry from Agios Konstantinos in central Greece or Volos in Thessaly. Or fly into Skiathos directly. 

For any Greek Island adventure, we recommend a little island hopping. While places like Santorini and Mykonos have gotten a bit crowded, there are plenty of islands to explore that have yet to gain a huge influx of tourism.  Why not get creative and check out Milos, Folegandros or Naxos instead.

Wherever you’re inspired to travel to, whether from the latest tv show or movie or a simple Instagram post – let us know! We’re always excited to help you realize your travel dreams and can offer options to fit the perfect vibe. 

Top Tips for Your First Trip to Europe

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First time traveling to Europe? There’s a lot to consider for your first big trip abroad! If you’ve reached out to us to help you plan, you know most of the details are already taken care of. All that’s left is to pack, get on the plane, and enjoy your adventure! But even with a trusted travel agent by your side, it can feel a bit daunting heading to a completely unfamiliar place. Aside from preparing for the extra-long flight, what else do you need to know before you go? As seasoned European travelers, here are our top tips:


What to Pack: No matter where you’re going in Europe, you will be guaranteed to need three things: comfortable walking shoes, layers, and adapters. Your favorite dress shoes might look amazing, but if you’ve never walked farther than from the restaurant to your car in them, they need to stay home. Generally, the weather is constantly changing throughout the day. Fresh mornings give way to sweltering midday before cooling down again into beautiful evenings. To cover these changes you’ll need to bring some lovely light layers. Finally, you’ll need to select an all-purpose adapter to allow your US plugs to fit into a European outlet. Plus a converter if you’re bringing a US appliance (like a hairdryer) that can’t handle their stronger voltage.

Pack Light: Even with careful planning, at some point on your adventure you’ll need to lift your suitcase. It won’t be over your head, perhaps just a small step into your hotel, up and over the bridges of Venice, or simply over the gap between the train and the platform. But you want to be sure you pack a suitcase that you can manage and maneuver. Check out our packing it all in a carry-on guide – even if you don’t plan on fitting it all in a carry-on, you’ll find some good tips to help you minimize. 

[Photo Credit: Liz via Shared Adventures]

Important Items: Make sure you pack all medicines, important phone numbers, a change of clothes, and expensive items/ electronics in your carry-on bag. Anything you need in the first 48hrs goes in the carry-on in case your luggage is delayed or lost.

Your Phone

Check with your provider: Communicating while abroad is important – whether with other people in your group or with your friends and family back home. Or, if you need to access maps, use handy travel apps, post on social media, or check other internet info. Check with your mobile phone provider in advance to see what their international plan is, how to set it up, and whether it’s worth using. 

Offline: If you decide you don’t want to use your provider’s international plan, you must put your phone into Airplane mode to avoid roaming charges. Even if you’re not actively using your phone, unless it’s in airplane mode, it’s using data. It’s also worth looking up how to download offline maps. This will help you so much when you’re jumping from wifi to wifi. 

[Photo Credit: Angela Compagnone via Unsplash]

Connecting: Most crucially, when you’re abroad, you’ll need to dial the country code to contact anyone. Here’s how to do that (works for both iPhone and Android). Secondly, we cannot recommend WhatsApp enough. Everyone in Europe has and communicates through WhatsApp. That includes your tour guides, your drivers, and even some restaurants. Imagine trying to make a dinner reservation when you don’t speak the language. Instead of struggling to communicate, you type out the request in a translator app. Then, simply send the translation to the restaurant via WhatsApp text! Easy, simple, and with no misunderstandings! WhatsApp also works off of the wifi/ mobile data. So even if you decide not to set up an international plan, you can communicate! 

Money Matters

Check With Your Bank: You’ll want to check your bank’s foreign transaction fees and currency conversion rates. Be sure to let them know you’re traveling so they don’t flag any card purchases by mistake. If you have a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees (like a Capital One or Chase Sapphire) now is the time to use it! Also, be sure to bring a Visa/Mastercard since many places won’t accept Amex or Discover

In Belgium Beth showing off her chocolate- shopping bags in the Brussels Shopping Mall

Cash vs Card: It’s not necessary to get a huge amount of foreign currency before you leave, but you’ll need some pocket money. The general rule is: anything under 10€ should be paid in cash. Some places won’t accept cards if it’s under 10€ and sometimes it’s more polite to pay for tips, taxis, cups of coffee, etc in cash. Plus, public toilets will only take 1€ coins. Remember: 1€ and 2€ are coins so don’t just get rid of “spare change”! For larger purchases in shops and restaurants, you can use your card to get the best exchange rate and some added protections. 

[Photo Credit: Beth & Bob via Shared Adventures Travel – check out their Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris Adventure here! ]

Tipping: While in Europe, resist the urge to tip the way you do in the US. In restaurants check to see if a service charge is already on the bill. If not, and if you’re inclined to tip, don’t leave any more than 10%. Tip tour guides and drivers 2€ -10€ per person. For taxis, you can round up to the nearest Euro. European service workers, in general, make a living wage and do not need/expect a generous American-style tip.


Language: Of course, they speak a different language! In major cities, a lot of the service industry at least speak English related to their jobs. But it’s always nice for you to try to meet them halfway. Always try to learn “hello & goodbye”, “ please & thank you”, “ do you speak English?” and “Where is the toilet?” These all go a long way. Don’t forget all the signs will be in the foreign language as well! Luckily, in transport areas like train stations and airports, you’ll often see English in small letters underneath.

Dining Times: Throughout most of Europe the dining times are more specific. Many places, especially in Italy, Portugal, and Spain, close down for an afternoon siesta between 2:30 pm – 7 pm.

To avoid only finding sad sandwiches for lunch, make sure you’re getting lunch before 2 pm. Similarly, many restaurants don’t serve dinner until 7 pm. Certainly, there are a few open earlier, and in big cities, some are open all day. However, you’ll limit your choices if you’re trying to eat dinner before 7 pm.

[Photo Credit: Hilary and Zackary via Shared Adventures Travel — read about their Rome & Amalfi Coast Honeymoon here!]

delicious meal in southern Italy

Finally, in Europe, water doesn’t come automatically to the table. If you want water, you’ll have to order it and it usually is only available by bottle without ice.

Rooms: Unless you’re booking a suite, most of the hotel rooms and beds tend to be smaller than typical American standards. And that includes the bathrooms. 


Be Informed: To keep yourself informed, you can enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This is a free service that allows you to pre-register your travel plans with the US State Department. This way, they can keep you informed of safety conditions at your destination(s). Plus, the US Embassy will know how to reach you in the event of an emergency (including a family emergency at home). To enroll in STEP, visit https://step.state.gov/step/. To keep others informed – make sure you leave a full itinerary with a reservation number with a friend or family member. 

Overlooking Paris at sunset from the Arc du Triomphe

Keep Tabs on your Belongings: As with any crowded city or location, you want to make sure to keep an eye on your belongings. Don’t leave your phone in your back pocket, and have a bag that goes across your body and has zippers/ multiple pockets. 

[Photo Credit: Kim & Paul via Shared Adventures — read about their Paris Adventure here!]

Standard Precautions: Even though you are on vacation, please follow the same health/safety precautions you would if you were closer to home. Don’t drink to excess (especially in the hot sun), and never leave a drink unattended. Don’t wander around alone at night; practice the buddy system. Lock your hotel room windows and doors (and use the deadbolt provided, or bring an inexpensive door wedge or travel lock of your own). Leave expensive jewelry and electronics at home, and keep valuables in a safe and secure place (such as the in-room safe). If you run into legal trouble or are the victim of a crime, reach out to the nearest US Embassy for assistance. Your rights/responsibilities are different in foreign countries. 

While there will always be new things to discover on each adventure you take, we hope this blog has helped you feel more prepared to tackle your first big trip abroad! Now you’re ready to step off the plane and enjoy your European Adventure stress-free. Bookmark this page for later and if you would like some help planning your next adventure let us know!

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)