March Volleyball Gazette Jr age Tour Italy

Airline Schedule.... We have finalized your fight arraignments for your trip ....  

Some of our tour members (traveling with parents) have a flight itinerary that is more direct and will not need to meet up with the group meeting point prior to our international departure. Individual travelers will all meet at the international meeting point and fly to Italy together... with our staff.   We will return together from Italy to our international arrival city ... we will put you on your flight home.... where you will be met by your parents.

How much money do I need? The Real question is - how much do your parents want you to spend?

Most of the basic expenses have already been taken care of by The Volleyball tours.  Players will only need to bring money for  their lunch and dinner $10 - $15 per meal is normal yes food is a little more expensive in Europe).  Additionally; money for souvenirs, snacks, tee shirts etc. will  very from person to person.  We have suggested players budget about $25.00 - $30.00 per day for food and miscellaneous expenses.  

Many of the places; museums, galleries, cathedrals etc. there is no charge.  The following will give a brief overview of some of the OPTIONAL activities and their approximate fees. 

 Venice;

Most attractions are free, you can enjoy the San Marco square, look at all the beautiful architecture, even take in the incredible mosaics outside the Dome of the St. Marks  Basilica all for free.  To enjoy the view from the top of the Basilica it will cost about $6.  A tour of the Grand Canal by boat will cost about $7.  A private ride on a Gondola could cost as much as $75 per 1/2 hrs.  P.S. Most of the exploring in Venice will be by foot (there are no cars … because there are no roads) you will no doubt walk and walk AND get lost —  not to worry Venice is on an Island all you have to do is follow the signs on the corner of the buildings pointing to San Marcos square (all roads lead to and from San Marco square).

  Rome;

Admission to the outside grounds of the 2000 year old Colosseum, the Pantheon is free, as well as many other of the famous landmarks. We will walk outside the grounds of the Ancient Roman Forum on our city tour.  To get inside the Colosseum and other sites the fee is about $10.    The fee into the National Museum of Rome is about $6.  The Vatican City — Is actually an independent country within the city of Rome.  Within the Vatican City we will find St. Peter’ Basilica which is reported to be the richest and most impressive church in the world.  The main floor of the Basilica is free of charge, and would take you a lifetime to see everything (no exaggeration).  The crypts below the floors are also free.  The Dome of the Basilica is 450 feet height (that's 1 and 1/2 football fields tall) was Michelangelo's last work.  Be sure to take the long walk up 330 steps to see the top of the dome, it’s well worth the effort.  Looking down onto the floor of the Basilica is not for those with vertigo.  For the more advantageous— continuing our walk upward inside the Dome of the Basilica (between the inside ceiling of the Dome and the outside roof of the Dome we reach the top of the Cupola (top of the Dome).  We are rewarded for our exhausting and courageous adventure by a breathtaking (literally) view of Rome.  (I don’t recall how much the fee was (bit I think it was about $6 - $8 ) oxygen deprivation must be the reason for my lack of remembering) this side trip is well worth it.  The Sistine Chapel is part of a tour of the Vatican Museum. The Vatican Museum is considered to be one of the top 2 - 3 art museums in Europe. Covering some 4 miles of exhibit you will eventually get to the Sistine Chapel.  The fee for the Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel is about $15.

 Where and when can we go shopping? Just about everyday there will be opportunities to have 2 - 4 hours of free time to go shopping or to go and explore parts of the various cities/attractions that you choose. There are strict rules to follow during the free time.

First — players  will need to discuss with their parents prior to departure regarding how the players are to spend their “free time”/ “shopping time”.

Players will have 3 choices —

Basic Option 1.  during “free time” all players will be required to travel in groups of 4 or with adults.  Players will get permission from the chaperone / coach as to where they are planning to go; and find out when they should be back.    Players not following the rules of option 1 will be subjected to option 3. 

Restricted Option 2. Parents who are not attending the tour, may want their - players to stay with the chaperone / coach or other adult the entire time - where ever the coach goes the players will go too. 

Room Restriction Option 3. player will not have any free time because of rules violation and will spend the free time at the hotel.  Most parents and players  opt for  option 1.  We have had very few problems in the 35 years of conducting tours.  Players will need to exercise GOOD COMMON SENSE!  

Curfew:
The normal curfew for everyone is 11:30 pm.  Parents attending the tour, will be excluded from the rule.. however some of our accommodations, i.e. Venice group hotel does NOT differentiate between Adult and Youth, and LOCK their doors at 12:00pm! NO EXCEPTIONS .... no one gets in a after that time.....

Problems:
If — for some reason there is a minor discipline problem it will be dealt with by taking away some of the players personal freedoms.  Such as the freedom to choose whom the sit next to on the train, freedom to choose where you would like to visit on your free time.  

If there is another occurrence, or if the problem is a major disruption, the player will be required to call their parents “collect” to discuss a resolution to the problem with the tour director.  

If the problem cannot be resolved the player will not follow the tour safety rules, the player be SENT HOME at an additional expense to the parents.   (parents will be required to provide a credit card number prior to departure)

Sending a player home has happened only two times in 35 years, and I trust this years tour we will have no problems.  Mature choices and decisions equal freedoms and trust, Immature choices equal loss of freedoms and no trust.

 Safety:
The travelers safety is our utmost concern.  The players will hear the phrase USE GOOD COMMON SENSE many times on the tour, and is a good phrase to follow.  All cities (perhaps even your hometown) have safe and unsafe areas in which to visit.  We will be traveling to some very LARGE cities.  There are persons in these cities, who make a full time occupation of taking money from young unsuspecting / trusting tourists.  I say this to inform you not to frighten you.  Not everyone has a heart of gold, like in you.  Pay attention to your surroundings follow the group leaders instructions!  When we arrive in each city you will be told what areas of the city you should avoid, and stay away from.  DO NOT WANDER INTO THE AREAS OF THE CITY THAT ARE OFF LIMITS TO YOU!

We have never had a problem of this nature — and we do not want to start this year.  I credit our good fortune to good kids making mature choices.  I am sure this years players will keep up the tradition.  

Money Belt or Neck Pouch REQUIRED:
Each traveler (Mom’s and Dad’s included) are HIGHLY ENCOURAGED to bring a money belt or neck pouch, to keep their money, passport, credit cards, and vital information safe UNDER their shirt.  These  money belts available at most travel stores or you can pick one up at the airport prior to the start of the trip…… These are a MUST!! 

You WILL have pick pockets approach you… this is a certainty…. BEFORE YOU PANIC……. The pick pockets in Europe are not a physical threat like in the USA.  The European pickpockets are some of the best magicians in the world…. Most of the time you don’t even know when, how or where it happened.  It is NOT A MUGGING (like here in the USA) it is AN ART FORM….. a magicians slide of hand….  We will teach you more about what to look for on the tour.

Why pickpockets .... select you..... because you are …

  1. A tourist

  2. An American tourist

  3. A naive American tourist

  4. A naive American tourist that has money

  5. A naive American tourist that has money and does not want to make a fuss  

  • A naive American tourist that has money and does not want to make a fuss and who is clueless about what is going on around them

I will spend more time on this issue in future issues of the Gazette…  You will be able to spot about 80%-90% of the pick pocket BEFORE they can get to you.  (yes that does leave 10-%20% that you cannot see…. But the odds are in your favor, and that is WHY you put your valuables in a money pouch…. Inside your shirt….)  The pick pockets in Europe are very good…. But lazy… They will select the most easy “MARK” to perform their MAGIC on….

Luggage what type and how much?   
In a prior newsletter I suggested a backpack.  It is the BEST way to carry your belongings on a tour to Europe, and it is.a good way.  However — you will be allowed a MAXIMUM of 30 pounds of STUFF. It is best to use ONE suitcase with STRONG, WIDE wheels.  You will also be allowed one carry on - i.e. like an athletic bag.  YOU ! will need to carry your luggage up to 15 –20 minutes at a time (Rome train station to the Hotel is a 10 minute walk) (Venice Train Station to the Hostel is a 10 minute walk including 52 steps up and 52 steps down various canal bridges).  PACK LIGHT WASH OFTEN… DO NOT OVER PACK!!  

The BIGGEST "issues" every year is.... LUGGAGE … TOO MUCH LUGGAGE

 Choices, Choices, Choices:
One measurement of maturity is the quality of our choices.  When we were young an immature we needed to be taken care of all the time (baby sitter) and because we were young and immature we were given very few freedoms.  As we mature and learn to make better CHOICES we are allowed to have more freedoms and trust.  Our tour is based upon the premise that everyone will make mature choices, and will be given freedoms.  

Immature CHOICES result in NO FREEDOMS, NO TRUST,  ——— BABY - SITTING.  The CHOICES are YOURS.  

The US Dollar and the world economy.  The value of the US dollar is always in a state of  change just look in the local newspaper on a regular  basis and you will see the daily change.  Despite this fluctuation in the US dollar it is not anticipated that there will be any change in the price of this years tour.

The Euro:

How much is it worth?
Today .. if you paid 1 EURO for a Coke, that coke it would cost you about $1.15 US Dollars.  Another way of looking at it is, for $1.15 US dollar you should get about  one Euro.

Here's what we need to know: Euros come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 banknotes. Coinage is issued in amounts of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50. Fractions of a euro are called cents.   

Beyond the logistics, why should we care about the euro? The answer lies in a very simple rule of frugal travelers: change money as little as possible.

We will now only change for US Dollars and THE EURO. Managed properly, the savings is significant. 

Most European ATMs do work for visitors from other countries. Use them if at all possible. Virtually all of them are now converted to euros.

Credit card purchases are a great idea, because you are accorded the preferential exchange rates reserved for big banks. Look carefully to assure that they are accepted before heading for the checkout line.

Exchange rates; If you think the US dollar will fall in value it would be best to purchase foreign currencies now, prior to leaving.  If however; you think the US dollar will increase in value it is better to wait and purchase the local currency in Europe.  (get out your crystal ball no one know for sure) The amount of money you will be spending will not adversely affect your transactions. 

Storefront exchange bureaus, do not have the best rates and they will charge a transaction fee.  The best rates are at the bank, the Thomas Cook office or the American Express office.  Even these locations will charge a transaction fee but it will not be as much. 

Credit Cards / Debit Cards  “are accepted all over the planet” and you don’t have to worry about figuring out the exchange rate — the bank will figure out what the exchange rate is at the time of the transaction. (and you don’t get the shock until the end of the month when you statement arrives) (if you can “predict” the future please let me know I would like you to buy my next lotto ticket).

Plumbing  viva la difference;

In Italy one of the first things you will notice is the difference in the  - - bathrooms.  One  of my first trips to France, I was sitting at a little sidewalk cafe having a cup of coffee and a ham and cheese sandwich (ham and cheese is very popular in France - and that’s the only thing I could pronounce in French).  After eating the sandwich and drinking the coffee “nature” called.  I decided to use the “facilities” at the cafe.  I walked into the cafe and looked for the international “stickman” sign for the men’s & women’s rest rooms — there were no signs —  just one sign "WC" I know NOW that "WC" stands for “water closet” but at that time I was not sure.  The extra strong European coffee that I had began to percolate inside (as coffee does) I became desperate and decided “what the heck, give it a try”.  I was somewhat relieved (no pun intended) when I walked inside to discover, several floor to ceiling toilet stalls. Looking inside one of the stalls was something that looked like a toilet.   With no time to waste I proceeded to “take a seat” and take care of business.  It was just about then that I heard the door to the WC open and two French WOMEN'S voices chattering away.  I glanced up to see if my door was locked, (at that time I was not wishing to entertain anyone) no problem my lock was securely fastened.  The two Woman continued to chat away one sitting to my left and the other to the right.  Many thing crossed my mind as I quickly finished my business and proceeded to “sneak” to the exit.  One ... of the many thoughts entered my mind was ...I wondered if I was in the Women’s WC, I wondered if I was going to be arrested, I wondered what the heck those two women were talking about.  Just as I reached for the “exit door” a large man pushed the door open, we  both stood there for a moment in silence.  I was expecting to be arrested.  HE SAID “PARDON MONSIEUR” as he rushed past me to the nearest stall. (it was obvious he had too much afternoon coffee too)  You can imagine how relieved I was (in more ways than one) to find that it was a common WC and I really was in the right place ...

Many European rest rooms are not as — hygienic as the one’s we are use to.  Un-like my previous experience, most restaurants will have separate WC’s for men and women.  The cleanest rest rooms are in the McDonald's and the Burger King.  Expect to pay for using the toilets however there will be an “attendant” there to collect a few “cents” (.25) of your money. 

Next Newsletter   April.  Airline and Train Schedules, VB playing schedules, Parents Housing and optional housing questions, General Questions and Answers, details of when and where to meet, a final check list of what to bring (and what not to bring)

Volleyball Tours to Europe and Brazil

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