If you are flying during any busy time, from the holiday season to regular busy days/hours the key to avoiding stress and making it to the other end unscathed is to utilize these professional traveler, tried and tested airport travel hacks.
1. Always Check In Online
Checking in online 24 hours prior to your
flight gives you several advantages. You are less likely to be bumped from your
flight and you will already have your boarding pass. When you arrive at the airport
unless you are checking a full sized suitcase you can move straight to the TSA
Airlines will let you gate check oversized bags for free, so you can save yourself $30 checked luggage fee by doing it at the gate.
2. Arrive Early
You may be able to get away with arriving later for flights during non-busy times, but during high traffic periods plan on arriving at the airport 2-3 hours early. The most stressful parts of flying on busy travel days are getting stuck in long lines either at check in or at the TSA check point. It doesn’t hurt to have some extra time up your sleeve – worst case scenario you have a coffee or something to eat once you have gone through the TSA check point.
3. Use The TSA App
Use the TSA app to see how long the wait times are. If they are looking excessive you can leave home earlier than planned.
4. Pack Your Carry-On Properly
One of the reasons that TSA gets so backed up
is that travelers don’t think ahead when packing their carry-on luggage.
If you don’t have TSA pre check you know up front that your liquids and laptops will have to be taken out of your bag before going through the x-ray machine. Save yourself (and everyone else) time and aggravation by having your liquids/skin care/makeup products packed together in see through bags packed at the top of your carry on.
Another reason that lines get so backed up at the TSA checkpoint is travelers arriving not ready to proceed through.
don’t have TSA Pre Check be sure to wear shoes that slip on and off easily.
all jewelry, belts, small change from your pockets, jackets, hats, scarves
prior to entering the TSA line. Ideally do this before you leave home, and put
on belts and jewelry after passing through the xray machines.
bags and coats ready to go through the xray prior to getting to the front of
If you watch frequent flyers/professional travelers you will see that they have all of this thought out and prepared prior to arriving at the checkpoint.
6. Turn Left
Most people are right handed, so after having their I.D and boarding pass checked they turn right to the x-ray machines. The lines are always quicker to the left.
7. Bring Snacks
On busy travel days and busy flight times the lines at the terminal snack bars can get long. It is much easier and less stressful to bring your own snacks and just proceed to the gate.
Always arrive at the airport with a fully charged phone and a fully charged phone charger. You can’t rely on their being power socket/charging stations available, and even if there are phone charging ports at your seat on the plane there is no guarantee they will be working.
9. Bring A Refillable Water Bottle
Bring an empty water bottle and fill it at a filling station once you have cleared TSA. Should you encounter delays you will be glad you did!
flights now are fully booked which means they run out of overhead bin space.
Save yourself the hassle of wandering up and down the aisle trying to find
space for your carry-on bag by checking it at the gate.
There is no fee for gate checked bags and they get walked directly down to your plane, so unless you have a connecting flight you can be relatively certain your bag will arrive when you do.
If you are traveling to Italy anytime soon (or ever!) there
are 3 things you can pretty much guarantee you will eat at least one time while
you are away.
Pasta. Pizza. Gelato.
Some people are lucky enough to have a digestive system and a metabolism that lets them run wild with all three, others of us have to be selective as to how many times we can indulge while away. Whether you fall into the once only category or the multi times per day group, you have to make every time count.
Today we are talking gelato, Italy’s answer to but 1000 x
better than, ice cream.
So what’s so hard about ordering ice cream you say? Well, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.
It Starts With Where You Buy Gelato
This is in my opinion the most important factor when getting a
With tourism being so huge in Italy (it is one of the most
visited countries in the world) gelato chains started popping up everywhere.
Mass made, factory made ice cream with added color, added sugars, added
God-only-knows-what. Chain store gelato doesn’t taste as good and can be so
over sugared that it bites the back of your throat. As authentic as a Big Mac
and with a provenance and nutritional value equally as questionable, these are not the places to buy gelato in Italy.
Their gelato either ships in frozen or is made from a packet. This is not the gelato you traveled across
the world to eat!
Everywhere you go in Italy you can find fantastic, artisanal
or artiginale gelato shops. These are owner operated stores where gelato is
made freshly each day from fresh ingredients. The taste, texture and quality
are superb. Think of it as chain store gelato being like eating Kentucky Fried
Chicken versus artisanal gelato being like fine dining. Technically both will
fill your belly but the experience is drastically different!
Artisanal gelato flavors tend to be only what is in season.
You won’t find strawberry year round.
Some artisanal shops only make a handful of flavors each day. In Pienza my friend Nicola’ from Buon Gusto makes only 6 flavors per day. When I take my Glam Italia Tour groups to Pienza I have learned to take them to his store when we first arrive, because we only spend a few hours in town and everyone always wants to go back for another gelato before we leave!
Explore the Flavor Profiles
Artiginale gelato shops offer some really fascinating flavor
combinations. Don’t order the flavors you do at home – try something different!
Look for things like raspberry and rosemary, peach and sage, figs and honey.
They always offer samples so you can try before you buy. I
find the more unusual the flavor combination (unusual to us, quite normal to
them) the more amazing the gelato is. I always try anything with lavender,
sage, basil or rosemary as they give such a fantastic flavor to gelato.
On one of my tours one of the travelers tried orange,carrot and spinach gelato, the thought of which wasn’t overly enticing, but it was so incredibly good we all ended up going back and ordering one!
Mix It Up
Can’t decide which flavors to order? Try a scoop each of two
Don’t be surprised if they refuse to pair the flavors you want
or if they look at you funny. They get so invested in their creations and your
taste experience is so important to them that sometimes they won’t want to put
two flavors side by side.
One time in Sorrento a gelato guy refused to give me 2 flavors
together. It was pretty funny! I couldn’t decide between the two so in the end
he gave me 2 separate cups each with one flavor, then told me which one I was
to eat first. He wasn’t being a jerk, it was because he didn’t want me thinking
his gelato flavors were bad.
I go back every time I’m in Sorrento, which is multiple times per year, and now he just chooses two flavors that play nicely together for me. And I feel no guilt at having two scoops either, because the walk up the hill to the apartment I rent there is savage, so I’m convinced I burn it all off on the way home…
Most artisanal or artiginale gelato shops will proudly post signs saying they are artiginale/artisanal. You
can also just google artiginale gelato
near me and get walking directions, invariably just around the corner from
where you’re standing!
An easy way to tell if gelato is artisanal or not is to just
look at it. Chain store/mass made/made from a packet gelatos tend to have
punchy, bright colors, whereas artisanal gelato colors tend to be more dull.
Gelato made with fresh strawberries will be a slightly dull pinkish hue, whereas mass market strawberry gelato will be bright pink. Another one to look for is pistachio, a flavor you will find year round. Artisanal pistachio gelato will be a dull, mossy or grey/green whereas mass market pistachio will be a vibrant green.
The best gelato shops are like the best little local eateries
– heavily populated by Italians. Watch where they go, and buy your gelato
there! Sometimes you will see long lines of people stretched out across the
piazza waiting to buy gelato. At Dondoli Gelato in San Gimignano the lines get
crazy long and sometimes stretch beyond the well in the middle of Piazza
Cisterna, but the gelato is award winning and is definitely worth the wait.
Funnily enough the café across from it also sells gelato and never has a line.
Those in the know prefer to wait and have the good stuff.
This tends to be a really good sign, unless it is a bus tour
and that’s where the tour guide told them to go. Bus tour groups are generally
easy to spot though – if everyone in line looks like a tourist, this is not the
place for you to be!
If you can’t spot a good gelato shop don’t worry – ask a local. There is always a good gelato shop close by.
Today I want to tell you about a truly special place to add to
your Italy travel plans.
A few years ago I fell in love with Basilicata when visiting
the town of Matera. If you imagine Italy being the shape of a boot, Puglia makes
up the heel of the boot, Calabria is the toe of the boot, and in between the
two the instep of the boot is Basilicata.
For centuries Basilicata was somewhat cut off from the rest of
Italy, so it is lesser known than the other regions, and is possibly the least
touristed of them all too. Which puts it at the top of my list of must see
This summer at the end of my June Glam Italia Tour I snuck off to Basilicata for a few days of rest and relaxation before coming home. While there I didn’t see a single tour bus, flag waving tour guide or t-shirt shop. Instead I met the local people, had fabulous food and wine and travel experiences, visited some amazing sites and made a friend who it felt like I had already known forever.
The Lovely Martine
This photo caught my eye a couple of years ago, and haunted me ever since. It is from the Orangery Retreat in a town called La Rabatana in southern Basilicata. I became obsessed with the idea of taking a bath here, surrounded by candles. From the photo I couldn’t decide if it was in a cave of a giant fireplace, but it looked so incredible, so different, I just had to find a way to get there!
Through social media I tracked down the owner, a fun, gorgeous and incredibly inspiring lady named Martine, whose story is the stuff of dreams. We became social media friends, and funnily enough by the time I actually met her in person it felt like I had already known her forever. Some people carry that kind of magic in their pocket, the ability to immediately connect with other humans and make you feel as if you’ve always known each other.
Martine’s story is glorious. She is from the U.K, had a huge career in the wine industry as well as owning her own high end catering business, and gave it all away to move to southern Basilicata and pursue a dream.
Martine discovered the town of Tursi, and the mostly abandoned
town of La Rabatana that sits above it. Built by the Arabs in the early 800s
and abandoned by them 400 years later, this little town on the hill has had a
fascinating history. Life unfolded across the centuries here, and at some point
in the late 1960s/early 1970s the inhabitants moved down the hill to the new,
modern town of Tursi, leaving most of La Rabatana empty and falling into ruin.
Martine fell in love with the place and bought an old house
that was missing walls here and there, didn’t have all of the roof, and in some
places had no floor. It was 1000 years old and was in need of some serious love
When I looked at the “before” pictures I just couldn’t see how Martine had been able to envision the home she went on to create. It is phenomenal! She keeps doing this over and over too, rescuing old, run down houses and turning them into vacation rentals and homes that are so special, so unique, so wonderful that it is impossible to only think of staying there once!
The Orangery Retreat
While her other properties are in various stages of restoration, Martine has two vacation rentals available, the Bergamot and the one I stayed in, the Mandarin.
Both share a breathtaking view across the gorge to an
abandoned monastery and beyond that to the piercingly blue Ionian Sea. Both are
a combination of modern convenience (dishwashers and washing machines, well
appointed cook’s kitchens and chic bathrooms) with ancient history.
Rough stone walls, floors made of centuries old local tiles, old fountains, very old concrete sinks, freshly plumbed and offset with faucets found in estate sales across the region. An attention to detail that I will never possess but was astounded by each day.
One of the things I adored about the Mandarin was in addition to an indoor bedroom there was also an outdoor one.
Inspired by Moroccan Riads and painted in local colors, with a fountain and pink and white tiled floor, this beautiful space gives you the option of sleeping under the stars, under the beautiful Basilicata sky, the midnight blue of which has become the screen saver when I close my eyes at night.
Evenings at the Mandarin were spent enjoying fabulous local wines from an estate in nearby Montalbano paired with Martine’s divine cooking, looking out over the candlelit Arab archways on her property.
Morning coffee was sipped here too, as no matter how hot the town was below, the soft La Rabatana breeze cooled the patio and channeled its way through the arches.
It was like being in heaven.
So lovely in fact that Vogue has been there and featured it, weddings happen there and are photographed there, even advertising campaigns have been shot here. This place is unique.
Most days at least one of the neighbors would pop in to see Martine with a bowl of fruit from their garden, some wild asparagus, or even freshly picked wild capers from the surrounding hills. It was like living inside Under The Tuscan Sun or Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence. Everything we ate was local and fresh and in season.
The next door neighbor made homemade sausage for us to snack on when I arrived, another evening a neighbor dropped by with a bottle of Prosecco for an aperitivo and some of Martine’s fabulous antipasti. I think one of the reasons staying the Orangery Retreat has resonated so deeply with me is that quite apart from its staggering beauty and history, you feel like you are living inside the local life, not just observing it from the outside looking in.
On top of that you sleep your deepest, truest sleeps at the
Orangery, the weight of the world falling from your shoulders long before you
tumble into the most comfortable beds in the world. It isn’t hard to see why
the Orangery has a 9.8 rating on Booking.com!
Reading through the comments in the guest book I saw that everyone feels the same way I do about the experience, and apparently all of us are planning our return.
There is so much to see and do in the area, some of which will find their way into upcoming blog posts.
Although The Orangery Retreat and Martine had been on my radar
for ages, I had somewhat stupidly put off going because I thought it would be
tricky to get to. Not so at all!
Basilicata doesn’t have an airport or a major high speed train
hub. Some guests arrive on regional trains and are met at the station. Others
arrive by car.
In a quirky twist of fate my Glam Italia Tour ended in Venice
instead of Rome, so I traveled from the north of the country down to the very
south. In a different set of circumstances I would plan my Basilicata adventures
to begin from the Amalfi Coast, Puglia or at least Rome!
My route involved flying to Bari and driving 90 minutes across
Puglia and Basilicata on velvet roads that run between fields of olive trees,
some of them hundreds of years old. It was so beautiful! My other thought had
been to take the high speed train to Salerno and rent a car there.
Before you get panicked about driving in Basilicata – this is
not at all like driving anywhere else in Italy! The roads are wide open, well
signed and perfectly maintained, and it is a very easy drive. You won’t find
much traffic as this is not a densely populated area. I was surprised at just
how easy it was to drive there.
See more about the Orangery Retreat in Basilicata on Instagram here and on Facebook here. Visit the website and blog here. You can also find them on Booking.com
Do you need help planning your trip to Italy? Or maybe just need some help when you get there? My first book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) helps you with everything from finding great flights, deciding how long to stay in each location, using the trains, shopping tips and much, much more. It has become a best seller and has helped people all over the world create the trip of a lifetime. You can order your copy anywhere in the world on Amazon.com