Essential Travel Gadgets


There are many who believe that bringing gadgets on a vacation can detract from the overall enjoyment of the experience. While we certainly understand the rationale behind this belief, we believe that gadgetry can be a great way to enhance one's traveling experience, not detract from it.

Every once in a while we will highlight new gadgets that we believe will make your traveling experiences easier and more interesting. In this post, we will talk about gadgets that we have found particularly useful on our travels throughout the world. 

For us, the essential technology and gadgetry that we regularly rely on while traveling include the following:

Digital SLR Camera
A digital SLR camera is a must-have for travelers wishing to capture great pictures. Digital SLR's are perfect for capturing fast-moving subjects, portraits, wide-sweeping landscapes and people.Not all SLR's are bulky and quite a few are very portable and light. A terrific site where you can get all sorts of reviews and information is run by Ken Rockwell who offers expert advice on everything a consumer and prosumer could want to learn about when it comes to photography. For the novice and family photographers we would recommend the following: 
  • Nikon D40/D90/3100
  • Nikon 35mm AF-S f/1.8 DX lens (or standard kit lens will do)
  • SB-400 flash

Nikon D3100 (image: Ken Rockwell)

Pocket Digital Point and Shoot Camera
It is always a good idea to bring a backup camera. It is also very useful to have a point and shoot camera that you can bring with you to places where a digital SLR might not be as convenient. Really, any point and shoot digital camera will do. It is important to make sure that your digital point and shoot camera has a video recording option as we have found this to be quite adequate replacement for lugging around a digital camcorder. 30 second clips of video are excellent for creating a video montage when you get home and allow for much greater viewing enjoyment for both friends and family later on. 

We are huge fans of the Canon brand and particularly the Canon S95 which is possibly one of the best point and shoot camera's ever made. We have shot most of our pictures with Canon Powershot models but are thinking about moving to a Canon S95 in the upcoming months.

Nikon S95 (image: Ken Rockwell)

iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad
Sure, one doesn't really "need" to bring an iPhone, iPod or iPad on a trip but from our experiences doing so really does make traveling more fun and convenient. Each on of these devices have built-in WiFi which means that you can get connected online wherever you can find an paid or open WiFi source. Many restaurants, hotels and business establishments offer WiFi which makes using your WiFi enabled devices a breeze. While we're on the go we use our iPod Touch to check our email or to make notes. Many of the smart phones and Apple devices have useful Apps that make traveling easier too. We would err on the side of caution and suggest that you leave your iPad at home though as it is not very travel-friendly and could break fairly easily.

iPhone 4 (image:

Power Converter & Plug Adapter
Many of the electronic gadgetry that is being produced these days have built-in power converters that enable your gadgets to work abroad making only a plug adapter necessary. Plug adapters are typically very inexpensive and world-use sets can be purchased airports or pharmacies. Similarly, a power adapter can be purchased at airports and pharmacies too and allow you to use your gadgets that do not have built-in power converters to operate abroad. Always make sure that the electronic gadgetry you are using with the power converter is does not require higher amounts of energy then the converter can convert. Hair dryers, curling irons and other gadgets that require lots of energy should be carefully examined before use to make sure they are compatible with the power converter you have or are using.

Laptop Computer
Our family laptop has become a necessity for all of our family trips. We use our laptop (big wide screen) for many uses such as movies for the kids, storage for our pictures, a place to write about our travels and a way to stay in touch with our friends and family back home through skype and other useful programs. It is very possible to enjoy your trip without bringing a laptop but we believe that bringing one does enhance the enjoyment of your trip, especially if you have children.

Portable GPS
It is possible to rent a portable GPS from a car rental agency and we suggest that you do so if you don't already own one. However, purchasing one before you go on your trip might be a better idea as the cost of the GPS rental basically amounts to slightly less then if you were to buy one of the lower end Garmin or TomTom GPS models (which are perfectly sufficient to get you around). We prefer models that speak the names of the streets (helps to keep your eyes on the road) and that have traffic service alerts bulit-in (to make quick detours).  Many places throughout Europe do not have physical addresses (instead using a P.O. Box at the nearest town) but do have GPS addresses (longitude/latitude) making having a GPS really handy as you can simply plug in the coordinates.

Getting Married in Italy

This topic is near and dear to our hearts as simply talking about getting married in Italy brings back very fond memories of our own wedding in Italy.  For many, planning a destination wedding can be a very daunting and intimidating task. Planning for a destination wedding, however, does not have to be challenging. In this post we hope to provide some basic information for anyone thinking about getting married in Italy with the goal of assuaging any anxieties and trepidations one might have about having a destination wedding in Italy.

Hand-made chupa

Initially, the idea of having our wedding abroad seemed like a foolish one. As one can imagine, we had so many questions. How could we choose a venue sight-unseen? How could we afford the cost of a wedding in Tuscumbria? How many of our guests could afford the airline tickets, accommodation costs and all other travel associated expenses? Did we really want to pay several thousands of dollars for a wedding planner and even more for a videographer & photographer? As you can tell, we had so many questions and concerns but after doing a little research, getting some invaluable help from our parents and a family friend of ours (Elizabeth Wholey) who lived in Italy and letting go of a lot of our concerns that we knew we had no control over we were able to have our dream wedding that we had both envisioned.

Our ceremony inside the walls of Castello di Montegualandro

String Quartet
We decided to get married in Tuoro Sul Trasimeno in a small but beautiful castle called Castello di Montegualandro. The rich history of the castle is only rivaled by its fantastic views of Lake Trasimeno and beyond. We said our vows before seventy-five of our dearest family & friends underneath a hand-made chupa which was adorned with grape vines and local flowers. The setting was simply perfect and our hosts, Mr. & Mrs. Marti, were so accommodating and they made sure everything went as planned.

View of Lake Trasimeno from Castello di Montegualandro

Some of our guests enjoying the spectacular views
hors d'oeuvres

We held the ceremony inside the castle walls which allowed for better acoustics for the music and the ceremony. We hired a string quartet to play music during the ceremony and dinner which seemed to be a perfect compliment to the festivities. After the ceremony, we had all of our guests go outside the castle walls to have hors d'oeuvres and local prosecco all while catching a magnificent Tuscumbrian sunset. The food was top-notch and a local band really ended the evening nicely.

Tuscumbrian sunset

We knew very little about how to plan and organize a destination wedding before we planned our own but we believe if we could do it that anyone can plan a spectacular and memorable wedding in Italy.  Below you will find some information to help you with your wedding planning. Good luck!

Marriage laws in Italy  
Destination weddings raise both legal and logistical questions for anyone looking to get married abroad.  Many countries have their own distinct marriage requirements (and some even have marriage pre-requisites) that make getting married in that country pretty difficult. 

According to Italian law, civil weddings must be performed in a Town Hall or on a property purchased by the local government only. Most Town Halls are located in historical buildings, unique palaces, villas and manors and offer a lovely setting for a wedding. The ceremony lasts about 30 minutes and is conducted in Italian by the Civil Registrar. An interpreter will be provided during the ceremony if needed. You may personalize the ceremony however you desire using music, personal vows and readings. 

Depending on which municipality the marriage is to take place in, you are required to sign a Declaration of Intent to Marry two to four days prior to the wedding.

Marriages in Italy have many guidelines that one must follow including some beaurocratic steps that can make the entire process especially tedious for foreigners who have only a fixed amount of time in Italy. Also, things are slow there and it is difficult to tell whether one will receive important documents in a timely manner. If you are a couple that wants to do your civil ceremony in Italy (the legal part) then the best bet is for you to go with a company that actually makes all of these arrangements for you (cost probably $1500+ euros). 

Please note that according to Italian law a divorced woman or widow cannot remarry unless 300 days have elapsed from the date of the Decree Absolute or decease of the previous spouse. Those documents have to be supplied, if applicable.
There are several possibilities regarding a wedding abroad in Italy. We have listed the options below. We chose option 3 as it made the most sense and was simply the easiest thing to do. For readers outside of the United States please check with your own country's marriage requirements.
  1. Obtain the marriage license in the U.S. and perform civil ceremony in the U.S. Easiest option.
  2. Obtain marriage license in the U.S. and perform civil ceremony in foreign country with a U.S (state specific) licensed Officiant. Essentially, find an officiant abroad who is licensed to perform the marital ceremony (sign marital certificate & affidavit) in the state in which couple is getting married. This can be difficult but not impossible to do. 
  3. Obtain marriage license in the U.S.(or your country of origin) and perform a civil ceremony in the U.S. followed by a marital ceremony abroad (purely symbolic). This gives the most flexibility to the couple. The couple can choose who they want to be their Officiant (a family friend?) and they are not restricted by the marital laws in either country.

The Logistics of Planning a Destination Wedding
Logistically, there are many important things to think about in terms of planning your destination wedding. Some key things to think about include the wedding planning itself, accommodations for your guests and family members, transportation and activities for your family and guests before, during and after your wedding. We will outline some of the most important things to think about below.
  • Define a wedding budget - It is very important to define your wedding spending budget. Try to determine how much you believe you realistically can allocate for the wedding and then subtract about 20% of the cost and you'll have a better idea of what your wedding budget really is. By doing this, you allow yourself 20% spending cushion that stays within your realistic budget. The costs for weddings always run higher then one anticipates as unexpected costs invariably come up.
  • Research & book a venue for the ceremony & reception - This is really one of the most important steps to do first. Picking a venue for the ceremony & reception will take time and patience. Ideally, you will be able to find one venue for both. Once the venue is chosen you can then start selecting food, music, entertainment and other particulars. The venue will likely have someone on hand who will be able to offer you options in regards to food, entertainment and other wedding-related things.
  • Research & book a restaurant for your rehearsal dinner - If you are asking friends and family to travel half way around the world for your wedding then it is a very good idea that you invite everyone in the bridal party and who attends your wedding rehearsal to come to dinner after the rehearsal. It is in very good taste to invite guests who are not involved in the ceremony to come to dinner too in our opinion. Make sure that you agree on a per person price beforehand and have it in writing, preferably email or written and signed by the manager. Some restaurants on occasion have been known to disregard the agreed upon price once all your guests arrive so having a written confirmation goes a long way in avoiding trouble.
  • Research & book a restaurant or space for your guests for breakfast the day after the wedding - Since most of your guests will be staying for several days it is appropriate, in our opinion, to have a breakfast for your guests the morning after your wedding. If possible, have the breakfast in a lounge in your hotel or locate a restaurant nearby that will serve breakfast to you and your guests for several hours. Your guests will appreciate this and it is a great way for them to see the newlyweds.
  • Send out "Save the Date" cards to all your guests - As soon as you have a venue booked make sure to send out "Save the Date" notices. You can do this by email or snail-mail. Many people need to book vacations in advance due to job constraints or other obligations so giving them advance notice allows your guests to make vacation arrangements.
  • Contact airlines, car rental agencies & hotels to determine if any will give you special rates for your guests - If you are super wealthy and can afford to pay for the airfare, car rentals, hotels and tour costs for your guests then that is great. They will love you more for it. However, if you are like us, then paying for everything is simply not an option. You can, however, get discount rates for your guests and they will certainly appreciate it. Another option is looking into Agriturismi. Multiple guests can share the expense of an Agriturismi and it can be a wonderful experience.
  • Look into Tuxedo rentals & bridesmaid dresses - The easiest and least expensive way to ensure your grooms look great is to rent tuxedos for them. Places like Joseph A. Bank offer great prices for tuxedo rentals. Bridesmaids dresses should be shopped for early on to ensure that there are sufficient quantities of the dress you desire. Groom and bride are expected to pick up these expenses.
  • Do research on activities for your guests in and around the area where you will have your wedding - Spending time doing research on the area where you will be getting married is very important for both you and your guests.
  • Prepare an information packet for your guests -  Prepare an information packet for your guests which can be sent to them once they RSVP that includes important travel info such as passport/visa info, map of the area, restaurants recommendations, activity list, hotel info, airline & car info, emergency contact info, etc.
  • Create a wedding website - This is a very good idea in our opinion. The website is a place where guests can go to for updates and wedding information. Wedorama is just one example of a website where you can sign up and create a wedding site. The cost is minimal and your guests will stay informed and be impressed.
  • Send out invitations - This is where your creative side comes into play. It is possible to spend a ton of money on hand-made invitations from stores like Papyrus. However, it is also a chance for you to get back in touch with your arts and crafts side and make your own invitations. Either approach will do as long as the important invitation is included. It is very important that your guests know that this is a destination wedding or they may fail to RSVP in time to make vacation arrangements. Make sure to include a pre-stamped RSVP envelope!
  • Look into party favors for guests - We think it's preferable to buy party favors abroad to avoid having to carry more stuff with you. See below for some suggestions.
  • Look into gifts for bridesmaids & groomsmen - This is important in our opinion. There are a multitude of sites that offer gift suggestions. We like traditional gifts. Flasks for the men. Jewelry for the women.
  • Look into thank you cards - Thanking is very important to us and having cards ready to send out when you get home makes it all the easier for you and your guests will be thoroughly impressed.
  • Research videographers & photographers - Videographers and photographers can run you a pretty penny (or Euro). Picking the right one is the trick. Try to request samples of each person's work so that you can make a better informed decision. For many hiring a photographer is enough. However, some feel that if you're going to trek all the way to Italy then you want to capture the experience from every angle and on every type of medium. We suggest that you just have friends and family take mpeg videos on their cameras or camcorders and then have them send the footage to you. Then you can use a simple video editing software to stitch the footage together. Add some music to this and you have a personal, home-made video of your wedding!
  • Prepare and write your vows - Do not leave this to the last minute. Try to at least write an outline of your vows before you get to your destination.
  • Plan your ceremony - This is a chance for you to be creative or to stay traditional. If you are of mixed religious and ethnic backgrounds then the ceremony is a real chance for you to include various aspects of your backgrounds into the ritual itself.
  • Prepare a thank you speech to you guests and family - Thanking your guests is a must and having a prepared speech is a great way to show your guests how thankful you are that they came this far to celebrate your special day.
  • Research musicians and/or bands for the ceremony and/or reception - The venue you select might have someone who will be able to make recommendations for you. Follow their suggestions and make sure you get samples to choose from and listen to. 
  • Prepare a music list of special songs for specific traditional dances - This is important to do so that the band you hire will know what songs to play and when. Also, if the band or DJ you hire does not have the songs you like you can bring them with you in mp3 format.

Some Suggestions
Do not be shy about enlisting a couple of close friends and relatives to help you. Having friends and family help to ensure that things go the right way will alleviate much of your stress. They will be flattered that you asked them. Just make sure to thank them and to reward them with a generous gift afterwards. We relied heavily on several of our friends and family and without them our wedding might never have happened.

Many of your guests will see your destination wedding as a chance to celebrate with you but also as an opportunity to have a wonderful vacation too. The wedding celebrations might last a couple of days, at most, so your guests will have time on their hands and it is customary for the bride & groom to either set up activities for their guests or provide their guests with activity options.

Putting disposable digital cameras on each table is a great way for your guests to get involved and for you to get extra pictures of your wedding.

If you have friends or family who are avid photographers and have decent cameras (digital SLR) then ask one or two of them to take pictures before and during your wedding ceremony. This could save you from having to hire a wedding photographer which could be upwards of $5,000 dollars.

Favors for your guests do not have to be expensive as long as they are meaningful. Here are some of our suggestions:
  • Wine bottle -  We purchased local wine and designed our own labels with our wedding info on it.  Just make sure that your guests do not receive the bottles until the conclusion of the wedding.
  • Local olive oil - This is also a nice favor because it can be consumed and is a reminder of the area the wedding took place. 
  • Putting together a CD of your wedding music - This is an easy and inexpensive gift. Music is a wonderful way to remember a special event.
  • Put together an organized activity - one thing all guests love is to attend an organized (and free) activity. Some ideas might be taking your guests to the beach, on a vinyard tour, a city tour or some other type of activity that you think the majority of your guests might like to participate in.
  • Gift certificates - Giving gift certificates to local restaurants, activities or shops is a terrific idea as many of your guests surely will enjoy buying souvenirs of their trip.

We think that creating a wedding website make great sense and is an efficient way to send out updates and give information to your guests. Many of the wedding websites currently available (e.g. Wedorama) offer really nice designs at a nominal fee. Simply upload your pictures, type out your information and you're good to go. You can include your wedding venue information, directions, a blurb about the wedding couple and anything else you wish.

Here are some marriage planning resources:
United States Government website:
Italy Weddings -
Getting Married in Italy -
Italian Destination Weddings -
Italy Weddings -
Go Italy -
Elizabeth in Umbria -
Rick Steves -
Summer in Italy -
Castello di Montegualandro -
Wedorama -
Marry Me in Tuscany -
Some suggestions on when to get married: 

If you have any suggestions, advice or specific venues you'd like to mention please do so by leaving a comment or submitting a review.

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