Our Trip to Italy 2018-2019


Christmas day, my wife had a surprise for us all. She had been tracking the price of upgrades for weeks and the day before, they dropped 75% and there were only 4 left. She told the kids that we’d all be sitting separately, and God bless them, they tried to act like they cared.

Everyone was thrilled. I have never flown coach for an international flight, and the thought of 12 hours on United had me on the verge of a panic attack. I don’t have a fear of flying, but I do have anxiety about long flights and being bored and uncomfortable. I couldn’t get 100% excited about the trip until my feet were back on solid ground. Finding out we had business class seats was like a cloud had been lifted. Now I was as excited as everyone else.

Everything was going so smoothly, and our stress levels were at zero. Then my sister-in-law called to wish us a Merry Christmas. She told my wife a story about a friend whose passport only had a few months left until it expired and was held up at customs.

Back in the summer, everyone renewed their passports…except me.

My wife had suggested, more than once, I get mine renewed just to be safe. I didn’t listen and figured I’d be fine since mine didn’t expire until June 30. Besides, I had never heard of such a rule.

While she was still on the phone, I started Googling. Sure enough. There it was. The Six-month Passport-Validity Rule, aka the Schengen Treaty. Your passport must be valid 6 past your entry into a European country to be allowed in. No exceptions.

I was shitting bricks.

It’s Christmas day. The federal government is shut down, thanks to shithead Trump, and we are leaving for the airport in 45 minutes. I had visions of me getting turned away in Frankfurt and having to go back to the states while everyone else went on without me. I didn’t know what to do. So I packed up the passport application I filled out earlier in the year with the pictures I had taken and grabbed our checkbook. I tried to act like everything was cool and returned to the living room.

At the Airport

The first good sign was the ticket agent issued us boarding passes. The second, one of the ladies in the airport lounge told me it should be fine since I’d have 6 months left on my passport going in, and coming home they won’t care since you’re leaving.

We grabbed some seats in the lounge and I grabbed a drink. I was officially on vacation.

The new Polaris lounge at SFO is brand new. So it’s still nice and has yet to develop that United grunge all their planes have.

They couldn’t find the equipment to pull our plane from the hangar to the gate so we were about 90 minutes behind schedule.

The flight was really smooth once we got past the Sierras. We landed in Frankfurt 11 hours after take off. Fortunately, there was just enough time to catch our connecting flight to Venice.

Arriving in Venice

Venice has always been a mystery to me. I could never picture how it was laid out if the whole city is canals and no streets. I didn’t realize it’s an island. It’s about a mile out into the Adriatic Sea.

Most people get there by boat from the airport. There’s literally a dock there with water taxis. The island is also connected to the mainland by a long bridge that carries trains and some cars. But if you drive, you have to leave your car in a parking garage.

We took a public water taxi that sounded like it was dragging its bottom on the sea floor. We sat below deck and the water line was right about neck-height. So it felt like we were floating in the water, not on it. The trip took about 40 minutes as elegant private water taxis zoomed by us and left 5 foot wakes.

It was about 3 in the afternoon and damp when we got to Venice. Our AirBnb host sent a friend to meet us at the dock. Thank God she did too because we never would have found the apartment dragging our rolling suitcases over the cobblestone serpentine alleys.