Iberostar Rose Hall Suites Wedding Review

6 Jul

Photo by Sandy May

Iberostar Rose Hall Suites Wedding Review

Wedding Coordinator (Nicole) – A

Prior to the wedding it took a long time to get answers. However, as soon as you meet Nicole you realize that you are in the BEST hands. She is so patient, sweet and organized. She was also there for us throughout our wedding weekend despite having weddings almost every day we were there. In fact, she was even with us the night before the wedding at 10pm to teach our guests how to light sky lanterns.

Ceremony Location: A

It’s right in front of Aunt Rubys, but at 4:30pm there were not many people at all in the restaurant or around that area. Also, something you don’t notice in the pictures is that Aunt Rubys is to the side of the resort in between Iberostar Rose Hall Beach and Iberostar Rose Hall Suites. What this means is that most beach goers are not in that area – they are more in the middle of their respective resort. Therefore, it still felt private even though it was exposed. Plus, the resort keeps people from walking behind your wedding so there were no random people in the back of our photos. Finally, my biggest concern about a beach wedding was the weather. It all held out. In fact, even the wind was fine because my hair was completely down but wasn’t blowing in my face.


The Ceremony: A

It was amazing. Nicole coordinated the entrances so well. Our officiant was amazing. If you are Jewish, you need to hire him!

Wedding Reception Location: A

We had our reception on the beach at Iberostar Rose Hall Suites under a tent. It was between Aunt Rubys and the pool. It was gorgeous.

The Reception: A

The reception was a ton of fun. It started at 6:30pm with DJ Kevan introducing the bridal party and then the bride and groom. Each bridal party member had their own intro song clip and then the bride and groom had one longer song clip. Then we went into the first dance. After the first dance everyone was seated and dinner began. Dinner was slow so we did speeches in between courses starting with the best man speech and maid of honor speech and ending with the family speeches. After the speeches and dinner the dancing started. DJ Kevan really knows how to keep the party going so there was always people on the dance floor. It was an awesome reception.


Dinner: B

The steak was really tasty. The chicken was just ok. The rest was ok, nothing special.

Wedding Cake: B

I tried both the vanilla and the chocolate (we did one of each). They were both good, nothing special.


Wedding Day Schedule

12pm Hair & Makeup for bride and 3 bridesmaids began in bridal room.

(Courtney’s comment: I would have moved this up one hour so that I would have had time to take more photos in the room. The makeup ended five minutes before the ceremony was to start so I was just rushing to get dressed. I wish that I would have had more time to enjoy the pre-wedding time with taking photos, having some champagne, etc.).

12:30pm Met our officiant to go over the ceremony and then signed the wedding document

4:30pm Ceremony on the beach

(Courtney’s comment: I would have moved this to 4pm so that I had more time to take photos, had time to see the cocktail hour, and would have been able to relax at the champagne toast)

5:20pm – 6:20pm Cocktail hour in the lobby terrace

(Courtney’s comment: I would have moved this to the Blue Moon Music Bar or cancelled the steel pan band for cocktail hour. Guests indicated that the band was too loud on the terrace and so many of them just went to the lobby bar. In addition, I would have had the cocktail hour go on for an additional half hour so that we may have been able to stop by and try the appetizers – this would have only worked if we moved the ceremony up to 4pm).

6:30-10:30pm Reception on the beach

(Courtney’s comment: Perfect! Sun was setting. It was gorgeous. And, the four hour reception was the perfect amount of time. I actually remember at the end thinking, “ok, I am ready for this to be over and take off the dress.”)

11pm – Whenever Nightclub at Iberostar Rose Hall Suites

(Courtney’s comment: This was a lot of fun. I changed into a lighter dress and a lot of the guests met at the lobby bar. We then went to the nightclub. Some of our guests ended up staying up until around 5am going to different parts of the hotel property. The party continued, continued and continued.)


Wedding Day Vendors:

Flowers – Floral Fantasies:

PROS: BEAUTIFUL flowers. They truly understood what we wanted and gave us a really great price. We also got to keep all the flowers and vases, which not all floral shops allow that.

CONS: None.


Officiant – Stephen Henriques:

PRO: If you are Jewish and want a Jewish ceremony, book him! He was amazing. Our guests loved talking to him about his family’s history in Jamaica and about the Jewish community in Jamaica.

CON: He booked a wedding for right after ours so there was no wiggle room for any delays.


Tent – Cover Me Up Event Rentals:

PROS: Conrad (owner, I believe) was extremely helpful sending us photos of the different tent options and pricing for each. He had the tent set up the night before the wedding and was there the day of the wedding to make sure all the rest of the details were correct including the dance floor, curtains, etc.

CONS: None.


DJ – Kevan Stewart:

PROS: AMAZING! Book him! He was our DJ and did our lighting too. He was incredible. He totally created the party.

CONS: Absolutely none.

Hair & Makeup – Rashel Edwards’ Company:

PROS: They are really good and they come to your room. Her hair person did exactly what I dreamt of for wedding hair but never thought would be possible – beach waves with a small braid on both sides (coming together in the back) that kept the veil secure.

CONS: They didn’t finish my hair and makeup until two minutes before our ceremony. Therefore, I had no time to take any pictures with my family or bridal party before the ceremony. I also didn’t have time to make any changes to the hair, makeup or dress because we were so rushed.

ADVICE: Book really early – like a year in advance. She fills up quickly. Also, have them come earlier than you think you should have them come. This will leave some wiggle room for any things that come up and gives you plenty of time to relax and take pictures before the ceremony.

SAM_6504Video – RG Weddings/Roxroy Gough:

PROS: Super professional. He had multiple cameras, special lighting, microphones, etc.

CONS: We are still waiting on the video so I can’t speak to that just yet.

Extra advice for future IRHS brides:

Please “Like” CourtneyMara.com!

29 Jun

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General Wedding Recommendations

25 Jun

1)    Learn about and use Vistaprint early on.  There is so much you can do on Vistaprint.  We made our welcome brochures, wedding programs, and stickers for our wedding welcome buckets all on Vistaprint.  Some brides even use Vistaprint to make their invitations and save the dates.  And, with all of the coupons for Vistaprint, mixed with the frequent Groupons/Living Socials, Vistaprint is super cheap!


2)    Divide the tasks early on between you and your fiancé.  And, truly trust your fiancé to get his tasks done.

3)    Early on in the planning process, create a time line of wedding tasks and try to stick to it.  Keep it in a visible place where you and your fiancé can check off completed tasks.

4)    Make wedding tasks/chores a fun time for you and your fiancé.  For example, only discuss the tasks at a weekly lunch at your favorite restaurant.  Bringing the wedding stress home can lead to fights.

5)    Early on have frank conversations with your families about finances to find out who is willing to pay, what their willing to pay for, when are they willing to pay, and how they would like to pay (e.g., a check to you after you pay or do they want to be the one that pays the vendor).

6)    If you plan to change your name right after the wedding/honeymoon, don’t book any trips for after the wedding/honeymoon.  In particular, do not book airline tickets.  It seems that most airlines make you cancel your reservation if your name changes, which means a cancelation fee (South African Airways wanted to charge me $600 to cancel the flights and then rebook them).

7)    Make a thorough vendors list that includes the vendor’s name, contact person, phone number, email address and the time arriving.  Keep this organized so you know when and where your vendors are supposed to be.

8)    Find a day of coordinator even if it is just a friend.  The last thing the bride should be worrying about is vendors.  The bride should be enjoying the day.  Have someone else coordinator the day of and make sure that everyone and everything are in the right place.

9)    Really enjoy the day.  Don’t worry about the small things.  Everything will come together or at least it will be some funny story you will tell your kids about.

10) Find a photographer that you LOVE, not just like (or worse, sort of like), but LOVE.   These are the photos that you will look at throughout your life.  Do not skimp on them.  Choose a photographer that knows wedding photography and fits with the kind of photography that you want (e.g., artistic, traditional, etc.).  Even better is if the photographer has done a lot of shoots at the venue so they know where to get the best shots.  Finally, find a photographer that you get along with and that is flexible with their day with you.


12) Get your bridesmaids and groomsmen on board with helping you out the day of the wedding.  Tell them about any concerns you have whether it be about a vendor not showing up or a drunken relative.  Have them take care of your concerns.

13) Choosing bridesmaids/groomsmen:   My #1 rule is to choose people you truly think you will be friends with for a lifetime.  How many times have we opened our parents’ wedding photo albums to have them tell us that they are not friends with their bridal party any longer or they don’t know where these people are nowadays?   The way I believe you can overcome a lot of this is not having a bunch of ladies from different areas of your life, but instead choosing the ladies that are in your close group of mutual friends.  It is harder to lose contact with one of your girlfriends if you are all part of one group.  Also, this makes it easier on everyone since everyone knows each other already and are close. I chose three of my closest girl friends from college.  We were all part of the same sorority.  I think it worked out beautifully and our friendship really shines through in the photos.



Do you have any good suggestions for brides?   Please email me at MsCourtneyMara@gmail.com or write them in the comments section!

Destination Wedding Recommendations

20 Jun

1)    Choose a resort that is well recommended and not just a resort that it super affordable.  You may think you want a lot of guests and thus choose a cheap resort, but if all those guests are only having an ok time because the resort sucks, then you will be sorry.  Better to be at a great resort and have fewer but much happier guests. 


2)    Make sure that you are not entertaining all weekend but actually enjoying the activities.  I realized that I was more focused on making sure everyone else was having a good time that I completed missed out on enjoying a lot of the activities I planned.

3)    Our welcome buckets were well received.  The sunglasses from DHGates.com were used by almost everyone throughout the wedding weekend.  Our guests loved them.  We also put sunscreen and aloe in the buckets, which we saw our guests using on the beach.  The snacks we got from Costco were good munchies to have in the room between meals.


4)    The sky lanterns were also well received. Justartifacts.com has them for really cheap.


5)    Join BestDestinationWedding.com.  I think it is the single best source for planning a destination wedding.

6)    See if there is a forum specific to your resort.  Iberostar Rose Hall Suites has a few popular groups on Facebook.  These forums can be really helpful especially if you are at a popular resort with few wedding coordinators lending to delays in responses to your questions.

7)    Plan daily optional activities for your guests on non-wedding days.  These can even just be “wedding couple will be at the beach next to ____ from ___am to ___ pm.”  I found that many guests wanted to know where we were going to be so that we all had more time together.  One thing I would have done differently is to tell all our guests where we were going to go to dinner each night and at what time.  They could then make reservations at the same restaurant if they so pleased.

8)    Have everyone stay at the same resort.  People seemed to really bond and we got to spend a lot more quality time with each of our guests.

9)    Stay organized.  Make an Excel chart with (a) vendors, (b) guests, (c) gifts, (d) budget, (e) tables (place cards), (f) wedding songs, (g) schedule, (h) wedding tasks, (i) packing list, and (j) miscellaneous.

10) Book your vendors early!  The best ones get booked early!  Don’t miss out!

11) Pack envelopes to put any checks/cash presents into.  The envelopes make it easier for keeping track of presents and the money.

Have any suggestions for wedding couples planning a destination wedding?  If so, please put them in the comment section or email me at MsCourtneyMara@gmail.com!

Excel Chart for Destination Wedding Planning

15 Jun

I have created an Excel chart that is a good starter for organizing your destination wedding.  See attached:  Excel Chart for Destination Weddings.  Please send me your thoughts, comments, questions and suggestions!

Happy planning!

Courtney Mara

P.S. The packing list is information I collected from other brides on BestDestinationWedding.com.


How to Plan a Destination Wedding

7 Jun

So, you want to have a destination wedding…


Here’s how to begin:

(1)  Work on your budget. How much do you have to spend on your wedding?  Talk to your family to see if they are willing to help and, if so, how much, for what, and how do they want to pay (e.g., directly to the vendor, give you a check, etc.).

(2)  Join BestDestinationWedding.com.  It is the best resource for brides considering, planning, and returning from their destination weddings.

(3)  Find a few different travel agents.  Get their opinion on locations if you haven’t picked one.

(4)  Pick a location (city/state/country).   To figure out your location, answer a few questions.  What feel do you want the wedding to have?  Do you want warm weather or cold weather?  Do you want a mountain, garden, indoor, beach or cliff side wedding?   Are you getting legally married in that location?  If so, make sure to check the country’s marriage restrictions and whether you can abide by the laws/regulations to get legally married there.  Some countries even require blood tests or have in-country stay requirements.  Also, are you fine with a marriage certificate in another language?  If not, make sure to choose an English-speaking location or find out if they have the option of having the certificate in English.  Finally, how far are your guests willing to travel?

(5)  Once you pick the destination, pick the resort and/or location for the ceremony/reception.  Ask travel agents for their recommendations for weddings in that particular city/state/country.  Then check the pricing of the resorts to see which ones are affordable for your guests.  Also, check reviews of the resort on TripAdvisor, BestDestinationWedding.com, and other websites.  Finally, make sure to find out the cost of a wedding at the resorts/locations that you are looking at.  Pricing can really differ at the resorts and also ask if you can use outside vendors if you have particular vendors you want to work with.

(6)  Talk to the resort/location and get a date locked down.

(7)  Get price quotes from a few travel agents and pick whichever travel agent gives you the best quote, mixed with the one that you work well with (are they easy to get ahold of?),  and that gives you good benefits (e.g., free stay for the wedding couple, champagne in the room, etc.).  Sign a group booking contract with your travel agent.

(8)  Once you have your particular location of the wedding weekend, see if your travel agent has any past brides that you can talk to.  Also, look for the forums for your location on BestDestinationWedding.com and if there are any on Facebook.  For example, Iberostar Rose Hall Suites, the resort where my wedding was held, has three forums on Facebook and a few on BestDestinationWedding.com.  These forums can be very helpful since it can be hard to reach wedding coordinators at popular resorts.

(9)  Talk to vendors.  Read their reviews.  Check WeddingWire, Facebook, Google, and BestDestinationWedding.com.  Find out if their price point fits your budget.  Book them early.  10 months prior to my wedding, a lot of vendors were already booked.  Really talk to vendors early and book them!

(10)    Make a thorough Excel chart with (a) vendors, (b) guests, (c) gifts, (d) budget, (e) tables (place cards), (f) wedding songs, (g) schedule, (h) wedding tasks, (i) packing list, and (j) miscellaneous.  Get organized early on!

(11)    Lastly, tell your guests early on about your plans to have a destination wedding.  Send out save the dates, create a wedding website, and get your guests in touch with your travel agent.

Stay tuned to CourtneyMara.com for more wedding and travel planning advice…

Iberostar Rose Hall Suites Review

1 Jun


Arrival/Check In – B

We never got a welcome drink!  We also arrived at 1pm and were not able to check in until 3pm.  This is one of the few times where a resort really has not allowed us to check in before the designated check in time.  However, you are allowed to enjoy the resort (including the restaurants) until check in time.  You just leave your luggage at the front door with the bell hop.

Resort – A

Beautiful grounds, beach was beautiful, lazy river is super lazy, but still a ton of fun to go around with a big group, the pools were awesome, there were always activities going on from dancing next to the pool, volleyball on the beach, volleyball in one of the pools, etc.  The lobby and other areas inside the resort are very classy.


Room (Oceanfront) – A

The beds were comfortable, the balcony was huge and had a gorgeous view.  I only turned on the TV once but was able to find our home baseball game on and the show “Friends.”  The shower and tub are big.

Nightclub – A

Best all inclusive night club I have ever been too.  Good music, fun lights, big bar.


Breakfast Buffet – A

Lots of choices and really good.  Great fruit, bacon is crisp, and LOTS of fresh juice choices.

Lunch Buffet at Aunt Rubys – B+

Food was good, just not so many choices.   Although, my brother was able to get a huge turkey sandwich one day, which I don’t think is that common at all-inclusive resorts.  Convenient location (next to beach).

Dinner at Aunt Rubys – B

My pork was ok.  My husband and his mom didn’t like the tenderloin.  Most everyone else seemed to order the rib eye and really enjoyed it (it was HUGE).  Plus, the dessert was the best for any of the restaurants.  I LOVED the apple pie.

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Dinner at Calabash Gourmet Restaurant – C

My husband’s steak was really good.  The lamb was only ok.  The appetizer of asparagus soup was really good and so was the salad they gave us.   My husband who is the pickiest eater and doesn’t like to try new things even liked the asparagus soup.  The dessert they gave us was some chocolate soft thing – it was terrible.


Dinner at the Mexican Restaurant – A-

Loved the special tacos.  The appetizer bar is really good with a lot of Mexican and non-Mexican options that I almost didn’t need to eat the meal.  The dessert table was really lacking.  Nothing I wanted to eat.

Dinner at Iberostar Rose Hall Beach’s Japanese Hibachi Restaurant – B

The atmosphere and experience deserve an A, but the actual food deserves a C.  The chicken was really good, but the rice was burnt and the steak was terrible.  SAM_6370Pool Bar – A

The drinks were great.  I recommend the Dirty Banana.

Beach – B

Beautiful.  I just wish there was more room to swim out and around.  There are a lot of parts with seaweed or maybe it was coral – but where you couldn’t swim too easily.   Lying on the beach is awesome though.  Lots of shade and sun areas.


Pool – A

Multiple pools.  Lots of activities.  The pools really made my husband and me into pool people.


Water Activities – B

The kayaking is fun and relaxing.  Just reserve it in the morning for your afternoon time.  Parasailing was $120 per couple.   Our friends liked the sailing which was free.


Spa: A

Get a long massage!  I had the best massage I have ever had and I tend to be picky about massages.  Plus, the atmosphere they have in the room and rest of the spa makes you feel that you are at a five-star spa.  Also, they have spa pools that are free to use.  Check them out.

Fitness Center:  C

We didn’t use it because I like to run with a TV and they didn’t have it set up so you can do that.  I remember there being one TV, but either you couldn’t see it from the treadmills or there was no noise.

Our Destination Wedding Timeline

27 May

Spring 2012 (1 year + to wedding):

Set up account on bestdestinationwedding.com

Pick location

Pick date

Find travel coordinator

Book block of rooms

Book photographer

Book officiant

June 2012 (11 months):


Wedding budget

July 2012 (10 months):

Find a wedding dress

Buy wedding dress

August 2012 (9 months):

Birth certificates

Find out about travel documents, visas and vaccinations

Tell bridesmaids about their dresses

September 2012 (8 months):

Book catamaran cruise

Research photo shots & talk to photographer



October 2012 (7 months):

Book hotel rooms & flights

Notarize copies of birth certificates and passport

Order invitations

Get travel insurance

November 2012 (6 months):

Mail invitations

December 2012 (5 months):

Buy yamukle and glass for breaking

Get our wedding rings

Book a DJ

January 2013 (4 months):

Mail required documents to resort

Start to get dress altered

Look at groomsmen outfits

Buy bikinis

Pick up groomsmen and grooms outfit

Pick up rings

Call people who haven’t RSVPed

February 2013 (3 months): 

Plan table decor

Call floral shop

Dress alteration

Order sky lanterns

Attendant’s gifts

Grooms outfit altered

Give out groomsmen outfits

Send final list to resort

March 2013 (2 months):

Organize a slideshow of pictures & order equipment – if want

Plan first dance

Finish ceremony programs

Write welcome letter

Check resort has required documents

Music list

Wedding toasts

Finalize escort cards

Complete welcome bags

Email guests: itinerary, food requests, etc.

Finalize trip schedule including wedding party day of itinerary

Reserve a tent, curtains, dance floor, and lights (beach reception)

April 2013 (1 month):

Pick up any prescriptions or travel stuff need from CVS

Write vows

Call credit cards

Make photo copies of credit cards and passports

Choose all music

Make thank you cards for family

Pick up dress

Email photographer: final payment, itinerary, confirmation, list of shots want

Pay photographer

Email videographer: confirmation, itinerary

Email DJ: confirmation, payment, music list

Pay DJ

Email officiant: confirmation, itinerary, payment

Email Makeup/Hair: confirmation, itinerary

Email florist: confirmation, itinerary

Email tent vendor: confirmation, itinerary

Email resort with finalized list

May 2013 (THE MONTH):


Check insurance policies, health benefits, etc.

Sell extra stuff on BDW

Finish honeymoon plans

June 2013 (-1 month):

July 2013 (-2 months):

Wedding photo book for self and family

Check on wedding certificate

August 2013 (-3 months):

Make an appointment at travel clinic for honeymoon prep

September 2013 (-4 months):

October 2013 (-5 months):

November 2013 (-6 months):


December 2013 (-7 months):

Start name change –> New passport, driver’s license, SS card, etc.

Note:  Over the next few months, I will be posting some helpful tips and information that can hopefully help brides planning destination and U.S. weddings.  I will also post this information on http://courtneymara.com/wedding/.   If you have any questions, suggestions, or tips, please send them my way by emailing MsCourtneyMara@gmail.com or posting in the comments section.

Minot, North Dakota

15 Apr

Matt and I spent Thanksgiving in Minot, North Dakota. We spent most of our time just relaxing, but we were still able to see a few attractions. Below is a list of some of the attractions in Minot, ND.



  • State Fair grounds. There seems to be a market, fair, or some sort of expo there quite frequently. Check out the schedule here. However, if you are in Minot, ND in July, make sure to visit the North Dakota State Fair! This year the fair is scheduled for July 19-27, 2013.
  • Dakota Square Mall, which features 4 department stores, many more stores, and an indoor water park!
  • Eat at Sakura – Japanese Steak House. If it is your birthday, the restaurant has a fun song for you! If you like sake, well, get ready to drink!


For a listing of more attractions in Minot, ND, go to TripAdvisor.com.

Enjoy Minot!

One Week in Italy

1 Apr

In November of 2012, Matt and I spent 8 days in Italy. I have already posted our recommended TO DOs for each city (Rome, Venice, Florence, Tuscany), but below is our detailed itinerary. I hope that it shows that you can really see a lot in Italy in just 8 days!

Friday: We had a 9:05pm flight to Rome.

Saturday: We arrived around 2pm in Rome. We took the train from the airport to the main train station. We walked straight to the hotel (Hotel de Monti) and dropped off our luggage. We then changed into running clothes and ran around the town to explore. In particular, we ran to the Colosseum and Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II. Afterwards, we got dressed up and decided to walk around more on the way to get dinner. We walked to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and then got dinner on the way to the Pantheon. After dinner we walked to the Pantheon and then back over to the Colosseum. Seeing the Colosseum at night is a MUST.


Sunday: We ran in the morning and then went inside the Pantheon. Afterwards, we had our scheduled Colosseum tour. Our tickets included admission to the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. We then had gelato at Giolitti and then went to the hotel and rested. Later that evening we went to dinner at the best pizza place I have ever been to, Pizzeria Baffetto, and then went to an Irish pub, Scholars Lounge, to watch American football.


Monday: We had a morning Vatican tour. Afterwards, we had pizza and gelato outside the Vatican wall. The gelato place is a MUST and is called Old Bridge. It was so good and cheap(er)! At night, we had dinner outside the Pantheon at Scusati il Ritardo. Great food and amazing view! After dinner we went to visit the Trevi Fountain again since it is just so magical.

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Tuesday. We spent our last day in Rome visiting the Aventine Key Hole (MUST) and getting a tour of the main synagogue in Rome and the Jewish ghetto. We took a 7:20pm train to Florence and arrived in Florence by 9:25pm. We checked into our hotel, Botticelli Hotel, and then went to have pizza. We still had time to see the Duoma (from the outside), ride the carousel at the Piazza della Repubblica, see the Ponte Vecchio, and see the David replica.



Wednesday: We spent this day exploring Tuscany with WalkAbout Tours, which we booked through Viator.com. I posted information about our tour here. Afterwards, we came back to Florence. We ate dinner, walked around some more, and went back to the hotel.

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Thursday: We took a 9:25am train from Florence to Venice that arrived in Venice at 11:33am. We checked into our hotel, Abbazia Hotel, and then did our normal routine – ran around to see as much as possible. We got lost a bunch of times, but we were just awe struck by the beauty. Afterwards, we continued to explore and ate a lot! This town is really great for walking, exploring, window shopping, and eating. We ended our evening having prosecco and tiramisu next to the water and Piazza San Marco.

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Friday: We spent all day in Venice. We rode a gondola, saw the Jewish ghetto, visited Piazza San Marco again, shopped, and ate, ate, ate! We had a great dinner at Hosteria al Vecio Bragosso.

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Saturday: We left Venice for the United States at 7:40am. We arrived back in the U.S. that same day.


  • Because our time in each city was short, we stayed near the train stations.
  • Literally run around the city to see as much as possible.
  • Don’t waste money on hotels in Italy, instead, “waste” the money on food!
  • Bring good walking shoes.
  • Pack light so that you can travel around easily.

Enjoy Italy!