Travel tips for Venice, Italy.

There are some travelers who love to travel without much planning, such as finding lodging or transportation on arrival instead of having it scheduled in advance.  I am not one of those travelers.  If I’m traveling to a locale I’ve never visited before, my perfect vacation includes reservations for hotels and transportation during the entire trip.  That way I can enjoy the experience of visiting a new place without the worry of how I get around or where I stay.

My most recent vacation included a stay in Venice, Italy and a cruise on the Norwegian Jade to Greece.  Planning for this trip began more than a year in advance.  The first reservation made was for the cruise ship.  Once that was done, I did research for lodging, transportation and for ideas of things to do in Venice.

AIRLINE FLIGHTS

Booking airfare is a little like a visit to a casino in Las Vegas.  The cost of airline tickets can change daily.  I started looking at airfare costs right before the holiday season.  The cost of air travel usually rises leading into the holiday season and that is what I saw this time.  But what surprised me was that airfare prices did not drop significantly after the holidays.  By February, I started to see a steady rise in prices, which is when I decided to buy.  I ended up at $1,900 per person round-trip from California to Venice, Italy.  In March, I noted the price had jumped to almost $2,300 per person.

If you live in an area where there is more than one accessible major airport, make sure your airfare searches cover all of your airport possibilities.  I live about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, so I had several possible departure airports.  One web site that was very useful to me when searching for flight possibilities was  http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ .  This site searches a number of different airlines all at once.  If you find a fare that looks good, you can go to the web site of that particular airline and check for prices and availability.  What I ultimately found was that I could fly from my local airport to San Francisco and then on to Venice for only $40 more per ticket than if I were to start my flights at San Francisco.  It was quite nice to drive only 30 miles to the airport instead of 250 miles.

If you choose to connect through Frankfurt International Airport on your way to Venice, you might check out my post about connecting through Frankfurt by clicking here.  I found that Frankfurt was an easy connection, which was contrary to a lot of complaints I’d read online.

MARCO POLO AIRPORT – VENICE

Marco Polo Airport is a small airport, relatively speaking.  When choosing an arrival time at this airport, consider what you plan to do once you arrive.  If you are going directly to a cruise ship, an arrival time anytime in the morning will work.  I planned my trip so that I had 2 days in Venice before boarding the cruise ship, so my arrival time just after noon worked perfectly.

When planning your return flights, you should consider the fact that Marco Polo Airport gets very busy during the day.  When we arrived at a little after noon, there were long lines everywhere on the departure level.  What a nightmare for travelers coming off cruise ships, who have to navigate those crowds at the end of their vacation.  I chose a flight departing Marco Polo Airport at 6:50 AM.  It was a breeze to get to the airport, drop off checked baggage, and zip right through security.  The departure level was much less crowded on my departure day than it was when I arrived.  The only way travelers coming off cruise ships can do this is to stay at least one extra night in Venice.

If you decide to take my advice and book an early flight out of Marco Polo Airport, you might consider staying your last night at a hotel right near the airport.  I chose the Courtyard Marriott.  It’s located so close to the airport that you could walk to the airport if you wanted to.  They have a complimentary shuttle that runs between the airport and the hotel every half-hour, beginning at 5:00 AM until 11:00 PM.  There is no shuttle service between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM.  You can flag this shuttle down on the departure level in the lane nearest the terminal.

ARRANGING TRANSFERS

It is so nice to arrive someplace that you’ve never been to before and have someone waiting to transport you to your hotel, or wherever it is you’re going.  During my research for transfer options in Venice, I found a web site called Viator.com.  The reviews I read were nearly all positive, so I decided to give them a try.  For my itinerary, I needed 4 transfers; a transfer from the airport to my first hotel, a transfer from that hotel to the cruise ship terminal, a transfer from the cruise ship terminal to my second hotel, and a transfer from that hotel to the airport.  Viator has 2 types of transfers; meet and greet transfers, and full-service transfers.  I booked a transfer only for the ride from the airport to the first hotel.  I chose full-service for the transfers to and from the cruise ship terminal since I had never been to this cruise port before.  Viator rates are quoted per person.  Your cost can be anywhere from $45 to $70 per person for each transfer, depending on the type of service you want.  Having never been to Venice before, this seemed acceptable to me since everything in Europe is expensive to people like me, who use the US Dollar.

Since I did not need a transfer to the airport at the end of my trip for a departing flight, but just needed a transfer to the airport so that I could pick up the Courtyard Marriott shuttle, I tried to book the final transfer with Viator.  However, they wouldn’t accept that transfer booking because I had to list a departing flight in order to use their service.  So, I had the first 3 transfers booked through Viator.  Now I had to figure out how to book the final transfer.

Some further searching brought me to the web site for VeniceLink.com.  VeniceLink also sells transfers, but their pricing structure is different than Viator.  On VeniceLink, whether you have 1 person or 4 persons, the transfer is the same price.  But I had the same problem with VeniceLink that I had with Viator, which was they wouldn’t accept a request for a transfer to the airport unless I could provide the departing flight information.

I reasoned that, since the transfer would just be taking me to the dock at the airport, it should not matter what flight information I entered.  What I needed was information about a departing flight that was going out at about the time that I wanted to be taken to the airport, so that I could catch the shuttle to the Courtyard Marriott.  I searched for flights departing from Marco Polo Airport on the afternoon that I wanted to go to the airport.  I found a British Airways flight that was departing at about 5:30 PM going to London.  That would be just about right, since I wanted to get to the airport no earlier than 3:00 PM.  I booked that transfer, which cost €90.

Once I got to Venice, all of my transfers worked well.  There was a slight mis-communication on the morning that I left the first hotel to go to the cruise ship terminal.  I had received a fax confirmation from the transfer company in Venice the afternoon before that said my taxi would be at the hotel dock at 11:30 AM.  It said nothing about being met at the hotel, which is what I paid for.   The next morning at 11:00 AM, I was checked out, but there was no one at the hotel to meet me.  The hostess showed up late at the hotel dock.

When it came time to take the last transfer, a water taxi arrived promptly at the hotel dock and transported me to the airport.  When we arrived at the airport docks, the taxi operator told me to get a porter to help with my luggage.  There was a porter right on the dock ready to load my luggage.  The porter’s smile disappeared when he asked me what flight I was going out on and I told him that I wasn’t going out on a flight.  Once he found that I wasn’t going out on a flight, he turned around with his luggage cart and walked away.  So much for having someone take my luggage to the airport terminal.  I found a luggage cart and I pushed my luggage to the terminal myself.

I learned an interesting thing about the 2 companies, Viator and VeniceLink.  Both companies use the same water taxis for transfers.  So, if you are planning to arrange your own transfers in Venice, you will save money by using VeniceLink instead of Viator.  And if you want a transfer to the airport so that you can spend the night at the Courtyard Marriott, book the transfer on VeniceLink using information for a departing flight that goes out about 2-1/2 hours after the time that you want to be at the airport.  You do not have to be going out on a departing flight to use the transfer service.  Just be prepared to get some odd looks from people when you tell them that you’re actually going to another hotel.

If you are walking your luggage from the airport docks to catch the shuttle to the Courtyard Marriott, you will get to a point in the sidewalk where the path will split, one going to the right toward the arrival level and the path to the left goes up an incline to the departure level.  Choose the left path because you need to be on the departure level to catch the Courtyard Marriott shuttle.

LUGGAGE CARTS AT MARCO POLO AIRPORT

You can find luggage carts at several locations around the Marco Polo Airport and at the airport docks.  The carts are frequently found chained together.  On the handle, you will find a coin receptacle with printing on it showing €50 cents, €1, and €2.  If you look hard enough, you can find a placard that explains how the carts work.  The placards are not easy to find.  What you do is get a coin, either €50 cents, €1, or €2.  Push the coin into the slot and the chain will release allowing you to take cart.  When you are done with the cart, find a place where the carts are stacked, push your cart into the end and replace the chain from the cart in front of yours into the coin box.  Once you do that, your coin will be released and you can retrieve your coin.  Use of the carts is free if you return the cart to a stack.

WHEN TO VISIT VENICE

Venice is a very popular destination during the summer.  I found that the city was very crowded from about noon on each day, with the weekends being the worst.  It was also quite warm with high humidity.  The next time I visit Venice, it will not be in the summer.  I would choose either spring or fall.  Anytime that is outside of summer vacation time.

WILL A GPS WORK IN VENICE?

I spent a fair amount of time on the city of Venice virtual tour web site, so there were a lot of the streets of Venice that looked a little familiar to me.  So many people talk about the joy of getting lost on the streets of Venice.  To me, it is not fun being lost in a foreign location.  During my stay, I got turned around a couple of times, but I was fairly well oriented to the city because of the time I spent on the virtual tour.

Some of the best restaurants are not on the main tourist routes.  It is a challenge to find locations that you are specifically looking for.  Maps are good as a guide, but they are not perfect.  I tried to use my Garmin 3790 in Venice.  I had done some searches on the Internet before I left on my trip and I found very little written about how well GPS would work in Venice.  I found out that, because of the tall buildings and narrow streets, GPS is not very useful.  The most you can do is to use it to identify a location where you are standing if the location has a good view of a lot of sky.  The GPS did not track my location as I walked because it wasn’t getting a good enough view of the satellites.  I decided that using a good map and just keeping track of my location was an easier way to navigate.

VENICE – A WONDERFUL PLACE TO VISIT

I enjoyed my trip to Venice more that I imagined.  I would love to go back again some day.  However, I will not be going back during July or August next time.

If you have questions about Venice, feel free to contact me.

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