Yesterday morning I spent some time hashing out (or trying to…) some details for the “Rome” portion of our upcoming trip. We’ll only be in Rome for a few days, which makes it a bit more important, in my opinion, to do at least some advance planning.
Rome is actually fairly straightforward. Luckily, the old emperors or whoever did a nice job of designing their ancient city in a pretty compact area. Most of the main sights are quite close together- a nice perk that makes it all very “walkable”. (Except Vatican City, but that’s still only ~1 1/2 mile or so from the Colosseum.)
However, there are a few places that they say advance tickets are “highly recommended”. Advance tickets are always the thorn in my side when trying to plan travel. Here’s why:
1- On the one hand, it’s great to secure your tickets for those important/must do places. It would be very uncool to say, not be able to see the Colosseum because we couldn’t get tickets on the day of. (I do not think this is a likely scenario in this particular case, anyway, but you know what I mean. In some destinations, hot spots truly DO sell out.)
2- In Rome, it seems like the biggest issue is that if you don’t have tickets in advance, you could potentially end up waiting in very long lines to GET your tickets (plus then another, second security line, in the case of Vatican Museums). Time spent standing in line is time you are not doing other, much more interesting things!
3- This is the part that always gets tricky.
- Do you go ahead and buy the advance tickets, securing your spot/ skipping the ticket line? The concern with this option is that now you are “locked in” to doing X activity at X time on X day. What if something else comes up you want to do instead? What if whatever you do prior to the timed entry activity takes longer than expected, and now you’re running late? What if it rains, and it turns out you booked the only “indoor” museum for the sunny day??
- Or, do you decide to “wing it”/ not buy tickets in advance….and risk either a) (worst case)- not getting in to a key attraction! or b) wasting a bunch of precious time standing in a line. *I feel it’s less of a concern if you have a longer trip/ have more time available to “waste” standing in line. Or if it were, say, just me and Ivan traveling alone- I’d be more inclined to take chances, because 2 people can roll with the punches more easily than 6 people (including kids…).
4- Of course, there’s no way to actually know what the real situation is on the ground, either, until you get there. Maybe you show up without a ticket, expecting this “huge line” you read about on TripAdvisor….and it’s only a 5 minute wait. Or maybe it’s a 2+ hour wait! No way to know.
Generally, I’d rather err on the side of caution, so, I try to read some stuff online/ gauge the situation the best I can and then make a decision. For this trip, I decided on getting advance tickets to the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums, only. Those seem like the “biggest ticket” activities that have the highest demand/ greatest potential issues with running out and/or long lines.
Then, we just hope for the best… (i.e.- that I picked reasonable times that actually work out!).
I usually go around and around in my head trying to envision different potential ways the days might look, and then attempt to pick a time that seems relatively practical and logical. When we travel I RARELY (probably never) schedule an actual detailed minute-by-minute itinerary- that never seems to work for us. We’ll have a tentative/ loose plan of things to see/ do, but will mostly play it by ear. I like the flexibility. Trying to follow some schedule in a militant fashion on vacation sounds horrible to me.
However, sometimes having at least a couple of anchor events scheduled actually does help to give the trip just a little bit of structure. If you know you have tickets scheduled at a certain time, you can fill in other activities around that. So, it’s not all bad. Ideally, I’d never have advance tickets though, if I didn’t feel it were necessary!
Are you pro-booking tickets in advance when you travel? Or are you a total free spirit/ “take a chance” type person? (I think it depends some, too, on how much you care about said activity. If it’s something you feel kind of “meh” about or could “take it or leave it”, I think NOT getting tickets is totally reasonable. If you can’t get in, so be it. But if it’s a MUST DO for you- then it gets trickier to make that call.)
I am grateful for getting most of my clothes packed already yesterday!! (well, all laid out.) The hard part for me is deciding what to take, so I’m glad to have that mostly done now! yay.