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Why We Went to Rome & India

I never would have guessed that I would fall madly in love with traveling. But y’all, I’ve gotten bitten by the bug and I can’t ever go back.

The things you experience, the ways you are stretched, the people you meet, the hilarious situations and the hard situations, the opportunities to exercise patience, the interesting food and culture you are exposed to… the things you learn firsthand that you could never fully learn from a book or movie, the new perspective you glean… It powerfully changes you.

I’m so grateful to be married to a man who adores adventure and is willing to go along with my crazy ideas — like my recent suggestion that we tag along with our good friends on a big trip they were planning.

(Side note in case you were wondering: We aren’t the type of people who just invite ourselves on someone else’s vacation! Jamie and Drew are really close friends of ours and Jamie and I had both chatted about the crazy idea of us going to India as couples. We didn’t actually think it would happen. But then I ended up going to India earlier this year and my trip sort of set this ball into motion and by a week after I had gotten back home, we decided that we’d go with them — IF a number of things fell into place. And somehow they all did — and so we said yes to the trip!)

Why We Went on This Trip

Drew is an optometrist and has a real heart to use his skills to help other people — especially those who can’t afford eye care. He had some contacts in India who told him about some pressing needs at orphanages to provide eye exams and glasses to kids who couldn’t afford them. So Drew and Jamie decided to plan a trip to India to help these kids. They wanted to take their oldest two kids (ages 13 and 11) with them and they really wanted us to come, too.

As they were mapping out details for the trip, they realized it would only cost a little bit more to buy tickets to Rome and that it might be a great way to acclimate to the time change. I was ALL OVER the Rome idea for two reasons, 1) Jesse has never been to Europe and 2) I got to visit Rome a few years ago and loved it and really wanted to go back with Jesse.

So it was settled. We’d go to Rome for a day and a half on the way to India and then we’d spend 7 days in India and then fly back home.

I’ve been documenting our trip on Instagram Stories and so many of you have expressed interest in me sharing more details, so I thought it would be fun to do a  series here on our time in Rome and India (and some ways we saved money on the trip and lessons we learned along the way!).

I’m writing this while we’re still on the trip, so it’s very fresh! But sometimes that’s the best time to write about our experiences!

The Airline We Chose

We flew American Airlines and British Airways for this trip. We looked at a lot of different ticket options and these were by far the most reasonably priced with the best flight options. If we were heading straight India, Air India would have been a more economical choice, but not by that much.

And honestly, I wouldn’t recommend flying Air India. I flew Air India the last time I went to India and the reviews online are pretty bad. My experience was fairly similar to the majority of reviews online.

The planes were older (one of the planes had a number of seats that had Duck tape on them; I’m not joking!), the planes were dirty, and the food on the flights was — for the most part — very unappetizing. The only plus of flying Air India was that I thought the flight attendants were fantastic and very warm and welcoming.

After a lot of research and price comparison, we decided to skip Air India this time and go with American Airlines/British Airways. I’m so glad we did. We almost always fly American because I am able to get gift free cards on Swagbucks for American airlines, so because we fly with them so often, we have status on their airline. This gives us perks like better seats, faster check-ins, and more.

We had never flown British Airways before, though, so we didn’t know what to expect. Well, let’s just say we were blow away by the service and graciousness of the flight attendants on the international flights.

We flew from Nashville to Chicago to London to Rome and then back to London and then onto India. On the way home, we’re supposed to fly from India to London to Dallas to Nashville.

(Note: The shorter flights from London to Rome had subpar service and all of the food and drinks cost extra money. We were able to get a cup of water for free on one, but on the second one, they never even came by long enough for me to ask for a cup of water. I know that Jamie asked for a cup of water and they never brought it to her.)

My Thoughts on the London Airport

We had never flown into London before and we were excited to get to be in a city and airport that we’d never been to before. We even went outside to ride a bus to the other terminal and then we had to ride a bus to our plane. So, I can actually say I’ve stepped foot outside in London — even if I haven’t gone outside the airport. I have breathed outside air in London… does that count for something??

The London Heathrow airport was quite massive, but everyone who worked there that we encountered was so kind and warm and helpful. We had to go through security again in order to get on the Rome flight and, since they don’t offer TSA Precheck, we had to take all our liquids out and put them in baggies. The guy at security was super helpful and gave us baggies to use + pointers on the best way to get everything into the bag and maximize the space.

One thing that caught us off guard was the fact that they don’t assign gate numbers for flights until pretty close to the departure. This might be common practice in many countries, but it’s not something we’ve encountered before and it took a bit adjustment for us mentally to just have to go to the correct terminal and then wait for the gate to be shown on the board.

I also cracked up about this sign for the restrooms. I’m not sure what the designer had in mind when the ladies’ hips/body shape was drawn like this, but I had to walk quite a long way to go get my phone and go back and take a picture of this for you all. Are there a lot of bathroom signs like this in London or is it just at the airport?

Are there any specific questions you have or topics you’d like for me to cover as I share about our trip? I’d love to know!

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  • Amy says:

    The sign shows a lady wearing a dress, those are not her hips 🙂
    A true lady wears dresses, not pants (according to the British).

  • Paula says:

    Yes, the holding area for flights and trains is common in London. It is a little nerve racking. Once a gate or track it assigned, it is placed on the large screen. As for the trains, it is only at the large train station heading out of town (not the regular underground). I have also seen this in Paris at the train station. (Again, the large train station), not the metro.

    • I was grateful that they at least told us when we could expect for the gate to be announced… and I’m guessing that it helps avoid the rather annoying gate changes that are so common at the US airports!

  • Carol D. says:

    LOVED the pic of the English guard donned in his busby! 🙂 We lived in England for three and a half years–LOVED it! Wish I could attach a pic of the toilets at Heathrow–they were very unusual looking as well as the toilets at Harrod’s. 😮

  • Leah says:

    Sounds like a great trip!! In addition to hearing about the trip itself, I’d love to hear about how you pack for trips, what kind of backpack you use, etc. (I’m planning a budget backpack-only Europe trip for our family of 5 next year…so all travel and gear tips are welcome! I’ve been to Europe but not recently and not with husband/kids.)

  • Brieanne says:

    Just the signs at Heathrow! Glad you had such a fab experience at the airport! I feel strangely proud of everything London/uk (I’ve lived here for more than 12 years!)

    And yes, flights between most European cities, while not technically domestic, are terrible. The standard is set by budget carriers and everyone else seems to bow to that level! When travelling within Europe always pack everything you would need/want on the flight for yourself!!

    • We LOVED Heathrow even though I’ve heard from some people that it’s not a great airport. I completely disagreed with them! 🙂

      That’s really good to know about flights between European cities — and thank you for mentioning my mistake of saying “domestic”. I finish the post after 3 a.m. in the morning and my brain wasn’t functioning quite up to speed — as evidenced by the many typos I discovered in the post when I re-read it today! Whoops!

  • Priscilla says:

    If you see the Air India plane itself covered in duct tape, then run! ?

  • Rebekah says:

    “Drew is an optometrist and has a real heart to use his skills to help other people — especially those who can’t afford eye care. They had some contacts in India …” ha ha, get it? Optometrist? Contacts?

  • Jessie says:

    We’re headed to India next month! First time for us there. Can’t wait to read more about that part of your trip. We also went to London for a couple weeks earlier this year and I am anxious to go back. We’ll spend a day there on the way to India, but honestly there is so much to see, it’d take living there in order to really experience it all. But if you take your family, consider a bike tour. Such a fun way to get exposure to a city. 🙂

  • Jen Obstein says:

    Thanks for sharing! When you plan your trip to London, you should consider Wow Airlines for your flight. They are an Icelandic based airline that offers bare bones, but comfortable, travel to Europe. All flights go through Reykjavik and a layover in Iceland is easy to do and relatively inexpensive.

    We used the airline for our honeymoon in 2015 when the company only had nine planes and we were super impressed. Our flights were $1,100 less than the next lowest fare for round trip air for two people from BWI to London and Paris to BWI. They regularly have $149 flight deals to Europe (not including fees like seat selection, baggage, etc). 🙂

  • Diane says:

    I love the reason you and your friends went to India. My son serves in the Peace Corps in another part of the world where people don’t have access to eyeglasses.
    As someone who has worn glasses since second grade, his stories make me feel so fortunate to have easy access to eye exams and glasses here in the U.S.
    Without glasses, there are so many things I wouldn’t be able to do: drive my car, read small print, work in my job as a nurse.
    We are richly blessed by so many simple things we take for granted!

    • YES! There have been a number of kids so far that have very poor eyesight — some that he said he’s not even sure how they are functioning in school and many of the kids said they have really bad headaches — which are likely related to poor eye sight. I’m excited for them to all get to get glasses so they can finally SEE!

    • Aimee says:

      If you don’t mind me adding on to this, many, many people in the United States also do not have vision insurance or care. We regularly donate glasses to a local organization that then provides the frames and prescription lenses for those who cannot afford glasses. Also, very few states in the US require parents to have their children vision checked before kindergarten. I found that crazy! We had both of our children examined before school to ensure there were no vision impairments that hinder their ability to be successful. So please look around here in the States, too, for opportunities to provide the gift of vision!

  • Dara says:

    I’ve only been to Europe once with work and our travel services group mainly uses Lufthansa for intercontinental trips. We flew on their flights 4 times during the trip and I thought they were all good experiences.

  • Carla says:

    My mom and I spent a couple of weeks in September in England. British Airways now has a direct flight from Nashville to London. Our tickets were less than $800 each, which is a bargain for a trip overseas. Keep an eye on their sales, maybe these prices will pop back up. We too were really impressed with BA’s flight. Best one I’ve been on in years!

  • Diana Lilly says:

    Leaving next Friday for 3 weeks in Myanmar and India. We have been to India a dozen times because our daughter lives in a little village there but when we leave the airport in Bogdogra I have been known to say, “I hate India.” Then we spend time with the people and I’m always sad to leave. I’m glad you went back for another experience.

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