For our independent travel packages by train or car, many people ask us, “How exactly does this work?” Please read on for an explanation on how it works, or skip to one of the subject headings by clicking on one of the following links…
Complete list of recommended itineraries. Click here to see the trips we do most….the plans that work well and get requested a lot. You are not restricted to what you see here, since we can make certain changes, such as how much time you spend in each location and what services are included. You can also do some mixing of these plans. Be sure to note what is included in each of these recommended packages.
Choosing your trip. It’s best to start with a broad look at where you wish to go in Europe, how much time you will spend at each location, and what per-arranged services you want us to provide. We suggest you start by reviewing our page How to Choose your Europe trip for some key background information about your main choices.
What’s included. Each of the recommended itineraries in our complete list includes hotels and essential transportation, usually trains between the cities, in the price shown. Some packages also include local transfers, popular sightseeing tours such as to the Vatican Museums, private guides, or cooking classes. If it isn’t shown in the package description, it isn’t included in the price, but it can probably be added at extra cost. Please be sure to tell us everything you want included in our price quote for your trip.
Get a Quote. Each of the packages offered on our website, you will see the button “Travel Responder“. When you click this button, you’ll get a brief form. On this form, you tell us which of our proposed itineraries you have selected, when you want to go, how many are in your party, changes you are considering, and so forth. This is where you can advise us to add any services you want that may not be included in the standard package, such as an airport arrival transfer, or a Vatican Museums tour. After reviewing your submittal and considering whether we can make changes you may want, we will respond to you by email or phone.
Our Quote is one number, a total. We will provide the best package price we can for a total set of hotels and services. That number includes all compensation for us, and there are no separate fees for our time. We do provide a payment schedule, and we break out the portion paid in advance versus what will be paid in Europe. But we do not itemize the components of your package price.
Right the first time. Frankly, a lot of work goes into each quote that goes out of our offices. In the final analysis, each trip is personalized. Even if you make no changes to the ItalySource itinerary you select, the trip will still be customized for your specific dates, for the best hotels where we find availability for your dates, room arrangements or type of transportation appropriate to your traveling party, and so forth. The way our business is designed, we don’t just pull a product off a shelf. We work with individual components and crunch numbers on every single trip we do. And because we spend this significant amount of time on each quote — before asking you for any money — it’s really important that we understand your requirements and get it right the first time.
We will prepare one Quote for you. After you receive the Quote, we can do some tweaking. But telling us, after the Quote, that instead of going in the springtime you’ve decided to go in the fall, is not tweaking. Nor is telling us, after the Quote, that three more people have decided to go, or that your budget has changed. Big changes like that would require that we start over, from scratch, which is often not something we can offer to do. So it’s to both your advantage and ours if we have a clear understanding from the outset as to how we can plan your trip to serve you best. Specifically, we must know your dates, number of people, the package you have chosen, your budget (if your trip is different from one of our packages), plus any hotel nights, transfers, guides or other services you wish to add.
Changes require a budget. If you make significant changes to one of our suggested itineraries, or if you ask for a trip that really doesn’t fit one of those established plans, we must know your budget — the total $ limit we should stay within for whatever services you want us to include. We CANNOT use daily budgets, or hotel costs, or hotel categories in place of a total budget. Our starting point for planning any trip is our package price OR, if different from a package, the budget we are given. We cannot guess about your budget, because people come to us with all kinds of requirements. We may talk to one person who can spend $4,000 on a trip, and the next person who calls us can spend $20,000. The main reason we have so many itinerary options shown on our website is that you can see what you can get for a certain price. The very last thing we want to do with your quote is to work it all up, crunch the numbers, and check hotels, only to learn belatedly that the price is off the charts from your expectations. So this part is absolute — we cannot offer to quote your trip without either… (1) choice of one of our established itineraries, as is, or… (2) a total budget for whatever we are quoting for you. Please note that we no longer offer to sell air tickets, and we do not provide lunches or dinners. So the budget you give us should not include airfare or any food except for breakfast.
If you want something different from one of our packages. The very first thing we do is decide if we can offer to do your trip. Unlike a typical travel agency, which tries to respond to your specifications for a trip, we function primarily to sell our own travel plans (our suggested itineraries). We have carefully designed itineraries and time allocations that we think make sense. We have learned to be very careful when we change those itineraries. Some changes fit right in with what we do. Others do not. And we stick to what we know. If we don’t have experience in what you wish to do, we probably won’t attempt provide it. If we cannot offer to do your trip, we will try to refer you to other companies that may be better suited to serving your needs.
When we know what you want. We make preliminary inquiries, such as checking hotel availability for the time you require. Then we will either confirm that we can supply one of our packages for your dates, or give you a quote if you have requested additional services to modify a package.
Securing hotel rooms. Sometimes, if your trip is coming up very soon or you’re going at an especially peak travel time, we need to address the hotel situation right away, early in the planning process. We may propose to block hotel space for you, just to be sure that it is still available when the planning and authorization process has been completed. Timing is often critical in booking lodging in popular Europe.
About your flight arrangements. Typically, the fly dates should be in place before booking hotels, transfers, guides, trains, etc. So we will want to know if you have already arranged your flights or know when and where you will fly in and out of Europe. We no longer sell air tickets. However, we need to coordinate our land travel plan with your own flight arrangements. In particular, we can help you decide where to fly in and out of Europe. Also, it’s important that you know about your flight options before you make a final choice of a land travel package or before you give us a budget. The airfare may be more — or less — than you anticipated, which can certainly affect what budget you have remaining for the land trip in Italy. So when you first determine the kind of trip you want, and where you will fly in and out of Europe, we recommend that you check some of the major airfare websites, such as Orbitz, to get an idea of that cost.
Paid in advance — or — paid in Europe. Depending on how your trip will be booked and what services are included, which varies from itinerary to another, you may pay the entire trip cost in advance or you may pay a significant part of it in Europe, during your trip. The portion paid in advance is called the prepayment. Click here to read about payments in Europe.
Payments and authorizations. To reserve one of our land packages, you make a deposit, typically $200 to $500 per person, if your trip departure is more than 60 days in the future. For trips which depart in less than 60 days of the authorization date, the entire prepayment will be due instead of a deposit.
Payments are made by credit card. We take Visa, Mastercard and American Express. Before any charges are made, we fax or email our authorization paperwork to you, which includes three pages we’ll ask you to sign and send back to us: (1) an authorization form so that you can authorize the credit card charges, (2) our Terms & Conditions so that you may acquaint yourself with our policies such as important timing considerations, revisions, cancellation, trip insurance,etc., and (3) the basic itinerary for you to approve so that there is no question that we’re using the correct dates for your flights and hotel bookings.
Upon receipt from you of the payment authorization, Terms & Conditions, and itinerary approval, we commence getting the reservations in place for you–hotels, train, car, sightseeing, transfers, private guides.
Approximately 90 days before you depart on your trip, you’ll receive from us, by email, our TIPS and the request for any museum reservations you might desire. The receipt of the TIPS signals that final processing has begun on your trip. Approximately 75 days before your departure date, you’ll receive, by fax or email, the authorization form for the final prepayment amount to be charged to your credit card. At the same time, we will ask your preferences for train departure times as well as an address for your documents should be shipped.
Travel documents. We prepare a detailed itinerary for you, including the flight schedule you send us along with all key information for the services we have booked for you, such as hotels, train numbers and times, transfer arrangements, guides, museums reservations, and important telephone numbers. For any services which are to be paid in Italy, we provide statements or confirmations to make it all very clear. Your documents are shipped to you in one package by 2nd day express delivery, with signature required for proof of receipt, about 10-12 days before your departure. Then, you have a great trip! And our finest reward is to hear back from you telling us you had a terrific time in Europe.
Small company, big service…that’s ItalySource.
In today’s travel news… History of the Vatican Museums The Vatican Museums originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and placed in what today is the Cortile Ottagono within the museum complex. The popes were among … (read more)
The ItalySource “Top 8 or 10 or so” list. We love these trips, of course, but we’re not sure why they’re selected more than others. Maybe one of these will become a fave of yours?