Customized Vacations Exclusively Designed
for the Discerning Traveler

Photo Credit: Guido Adelfio

WHO WE ARE

Boutique Custom Vacation Specialists

With More Than 50

Years of Experience

Fully Personalized

Vacation Planning

 

DESTINATIONS

Ireland
Spain
Portugal
Germany &
Austria
Holland & 
Belgium
Czech Republic
Poland
Hungary,
Austria &
Czech Republic
Switzerland & Northern Italy
Greece
Israel
African Safari
France
England
Scotland
 

OUR SPECIALTY

With over 50 years of experience,

Bethesda Travel Center will custom-design your trip of a lifetime!

 

We offer carefully crafted personalized vacations custom-tailored to your interests, the ideal time of year, budget and energy level. Whether your vacation plans will take you to Italy (our favorite!), plus France, England, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Holland, Greece, Israel, South Africa and more,

together we can plan the Best Vacation of your Life! 

Either in person or over the phone, we invite you to share your dreams, wishes, style of travel, and of course the practical considerations: your preferred modes of transportation, finances and schedule. After a detailed consultation, Guido and the team will carefully plan your itinerary to tailor a fully customized vacation, taking all of your individual preferences to heart! We will create a personalized travel app for you, ensuring that you stay organized with all trip details at your fingertips! Before departure, you will meet with Guido to discuss the details of your trip, as well as helpful travel tips, and off you go!

Your homework? 

Check your passport, learn some colloquial phrases and plan your luggage as the excitement builds!

HOW WE WORK

Traveling with us is easy, it all starts with a conversation!

Planning

Creating a Vision

Itinerary

Schedule a consultation to launch your dream vacation

After our conversation, we provide your plan of action

Once everything is in place

we will prepare a personalized  mobile phone app for you

Bon Voyage!

Grab your passport and you'll be ready to embark on your very own trip of a lifetime!

OUR

STORY

Like many great vacations,  the history of Bethesda Travel Center started with a love story.

Once upon a time, Antonio, a law student from Palermo, and Margaret, an American working in Paris under the Marshall Plan, just happened to be vacationing in the same place at the same time... They met, fell in love, and not long afterward were married!  Seven years later, they settled in Bethesda, Maryland, and founded Bethesda Travel Center LLC in 1961 with the goal of providing expert travel itineraries to Italy, Europe and the rest of the world.

Today, their son Guido, who was born in Italy is a true visionary in the world of travel. He and his dedicated staff continue to carry BTC's legacy by delivering exceptional personalized service to our clients. After more than 50 years, our passion remains the same. It is to provide our clients with the trip of a lifetime where every moment becomes a joyful memory. 

Our privilege for these many years has been serving generations of individuals, couples, friends and families just like yours — it all adds up to thousands of satisfied and loyal clients. You have my personal promise; we call it Guido’s Guarantee!

 

We look forward to our conversation and can’t wait to get your vacation planning started! Grazie Mille from the Adelfio family!

 Guido Adelfio

Professionally, I plan enriching experiences for our clients. My hobby is photography, capturing images to inspire you. Most of the photos on this site and your very own personalized travel app are mine - hope you enjoy them. 

Your vacation is our passion! 

Growing up the conversation at the dinner table almost always revolved around Bethesda Travel, and now 50-some years later I’ve experienced 100 countries, logged millions of kilometers by plane, boat, train and car (hot air balloon too!), taken over 20,000 pic’s and spent 1,000’s of hotel and cruise ship nights. Truly, we hardly ever book a hotel I have not visited myself!

Ciao! Thank You for Visiting our Site
 

TRAVEL TIPS

Our Philosophy


  • Wander off the beaten path! Major cities like Rome and Paris are popular for good reason, but there are so many more destinations!​​
  • It’s all about the experience! Head out and explore!
  • Don’t over plan! The best moments of a vacation always happen when you allow room for surprises!​
  • Traveling to another country allows you to experience other cultures. Embrace local customs and foods—they are different from your own!




Packing & Attire


  • La Bella Figura, the traditional Italian fashion plate has gone casual!
  • Shorts and sneaks are acceptable during the day and at sidewalk trattorias & pizzerias, but generally in the evening at a ristorante, you’ll probably want to raise it up a notch
  • Churches require modest attire. That means no shorts and please cover your shoulders! Gentlemen remove your hats!
  • Best rule of thumb: PACK LIGHT! Less is best, especially for trains and rental cars!




Wifi & Electronics


  • Electricity in Italy is 220V and plug adapter shave 2 slender round (“snakebite”) prongs.
  • Most electronics are rated “INPUT 100-240V/50-60Hz” and may be plugged in with a simple plug adapter widely available in travel shops. A USB cable is useful for charging phones and cameras.
  • If your item has a motor (e.g. hair dryer) or is not rated “INPUT 100-240V 50-60Hz,” you will need a transformer or voltage converter.
  • Automobile charging ports are universal: your phone charger or Garmin will work in a rental car.
  • Always alert your US cellphone provider in advance that you will be traveling and ask about their international plans.
  • You can quickly burn through your data allowance, so go easy on the downloads!
  • Texting is usually the most cost-effective mode of communication.​
  • Use WiFi and WhatsApp whenever possible!




Air Travel


  • There is no best time to book a flight. But normally 3-6 months in advance is about right
  • Your US passport MUST be valid 180 days beyond your return date
  • We highly recommend Global Entry (GOES): you’ll speed thru TSA security and skip the lines at passport control when re-entering the US!
  • Be sure to enter your Airline FFB and GOES numbers in advance!
  • Budget at least 90-120 minutes between connecting flights! (More at Newark!)
  • We recommend 2.5-3 hours for international flight check-in (less for internal or intra- European flights)
  • On a code-share agreement (when 2 or more airlines carry the same flight), it is best to book “same metal” flights, i.e. stick with the “operating carrier” as far as possible
  • Boarding Passes are best accessed on your airline app
  • 1 checked bag is free in coach on your transatlantic leg. Intra-European flights often charge for luggage, with size and weight restrictions posted (in kilos!) on airline websites. TRAVEL LIGHT!
  • Set your watch to the destination time BEFORE leaving! It’ll help you acclimatize to the new time zone!
  • Travelers must go through US Immigration & Customs at the first entry point (US gateway). Check the Department of Agriculture’s website for restrictions on importing that leg of prosciutto!
  • Always travel with Trip Insurance to cover a) trip cancellation, b) trip interruption, c) medical coverage and d) medevac. How much/when to purchase insurance depends on personal risk factors—please ask us!
  • Stay hydrated, stretch occasionally and sleep as much as you can on those long flights.




Currency


  • The Euro (€) is Italy’s currency and generally trades anywhere from ~1.08 to 1.20/US Dollar.
  • ATM Machines (Bancomat) are frequently found in the cities. Alert your bank & credit card issuers in advance and always carry more than one ATM card!
  • Always have cash handy and remember to break large bills every chance you get!
  • Most stores and restaurants require cash (Euros) for small purchases.
  • Not all museums accept credit cards.
  • Public lavatories often charge 50 cents (0.50€), so please carry some change with you!




Accommodations & Etiquette


  • One of the joys of travel to Italy is staying in charming boutique style hotels. "Location, location, location,..."
  • As a rule, Italians aren’t fans of air conditioning! Many establishments don’t turn ON their units until mid-May and turn OFF the central system by early or mid-October
  • Frequently buildings from prior centuries may not have reliable in-room air conditioning or controls
  • Italian elevators can be tiny. Do not pile on!
  • Wall-mount hair dryers are common
  • Use your hotel safe for passports and extra cash, and keep a shot of your passports on your phone
  • Tip at your own discretion. We generally suggest:
    • 7€/hour for guides and drivers
    • 2-3€/bag for porters
    • 5-7€/person per day to the staff & housekeeping (leave the cash tip directly with a reception at checkout)
    • For taxi drivers, round up!





Trains & Taxis


  • The Freccia (Alta Velocità or AV) is the highspeed train service between major cities. (It runs up to 250KM/hour!) Tickets are usually non-refundable and have preassigned seats. Luggage space is limited and overheads cramped!
  • Local trains are called InterCity [IC] or Regionale [R or RV]. Remember to validate paper tickets on the platform PRIOR to boarding! Open seating is the norm.
  • Taxis wait at taxi stands. You can also call a taxi, in which case the meter will already be activated. No UBER or LYFT in Italy
  • Never hand a taxi driver anything larger than a 20€ bill! (Remember to break larger bills!)​​​​​​
  • Pickpocketing can be an issue, especially in Rome. Take precautions on local subways/buses!




Behind the Wheel


  • Be sure you know when and where a car is necessary. Don’t need it; Don’t rent it!
  • An International Driving Permit (IDP) is mandatory when renting a car (issued through AAA)
  • Most cars use diesel fuel and are the stick shift. Great gas mileage!
  • In-town parking: Big cities are NOT car-friendly and smaller towns offer municipal “pay & display” lots on the outskirts of town
  • Small town car rental agencies usually close on Saturdays around 1 PM and reopen Monday morning. Plan accordingly!
  • On the Autostrada: Keep right except to pass! Passing on the right is a big no-no!
  • Avoid the TELEPASS and credit card toll lanes on the Autostrada. They may not accept your offshore credit cards!
  • The same goes for gas station credit card terminals! Best to gas up during normal business hours & avoid Sundays! (Or pre-purchase the “full tank guarantee”)
  • The speed & reliability of Google Maps depends on your data plan ​
  • We recommend a portable GPS with European software
  • Keep your headlights on—even in the daytime!
  • Sorry folks, NO right on red!
  • Familiarize yourself with European road signs: speed limits, ZTLs, etc. are commonly enforced by camera and fines are hefty! (Refer to BTC video)
  • Highway rest stops, notably AUTOGRILL & CIAO, are a cut above. Italians almost NEVER eat in the car. (Remember: dining is an art form!)




Dining


  • Italian espresso is corto e forte (short and strong!). An Americano is basically an espresso with hot water added
  • Italians are growing accustomed to the American-style all-day cappuccino, but traditionally drink it only in the morning! Take cream in your coffee? Order a CAFFÈ latte! Asking for a latte will get you a glass of milk!
  • Italians don’t like ice and hotels do not have ice makers in the hallways
  • Tipping at restaurants is generally optional, but we suggest leaving a 5%-10% tip in cash–there is no gratuity line on credit card slips
  • Some restaurants add a mandatory tip–perfectly legit. No need to tip beyond that
  • Many restaurants charge a “coperto,” or cover, typically 2-3€/person
  • Expect to see a BAR on every corner; they’re Italy’s version of a café. Prepay the cashier (cassa) then order from the barista by showing your receipt (scontrino)
  • When using a bathroom (bagno) in a BAR, it’s a courtesy to make a purchase – a coffee or a bottle of water should suffice! (Also: Please travel with handy pocket tissues!)
  • Some BARs have dining tables. They may be reserved for table service. Ask before sitting down!
  • The evening stroll (passeggiata) is a lovely Italian tradition, great people-watching, and a good excuse for a pre-dinner gelato!!
  • Another lovely tradition is the aperitivo. BARS serve light snacks to accompany a glass of wine or Italian-style bubbly!
  • When ordering vino, try locally grown vintages!
  • At restaurants, ask what’s in season. Italians pride themselves on fresh ingredients and have proscribed the use of GMOs, antibiotics and steroids in food production!
  • Dining Hours: Lunch is generally served from ~12:00-2:00 PM. Most eateries close for the afternoon. Show up for a late lunch/early dinner at your own risk!
  • Italian meals traditionally consist of several sequenced courses:
    • Antipasto (starters or samplers)
    • Primo (a starch, like pasta or risotto)
    • Secondo (usually meat or fish)
    • Dolce (dessert)
  • Europeans don’t do sweet ‘n’ sour. Traditionally savory (salato) precedes sweet (dolce)
  • Someone gluten-intolerant is celiaco/a




Shopping


  • Retail stores and offices, including small-town car rental agencies, often close for lunch. The duration of lunch-breaks varies, but can be 2.5-3 hours
  • Many boutique shops are closed on Sunday and occasionally on Monday mornings
  • Carry cash for smaller purchases
  • Sales tax (VAT) is already included in the price . The VAT refund (look for a TAX-FREE decal in the window) can be a big savings on major purchases (above ~750€) but be prepared for paperwork




Culture


  • Many towns have fun annual festivals (a festa, sagra, or in the case of medieval festivals; palio). Festivals normally occur in summer/fall and often revolve around a theme (handcrafts, saints, or local foods like truffles or olives)
  • Many towns and villages also have weekly markets, which can include (fresh!!) food, clothing, accoutrements and more!
  • Specialty markets (antiques, furniture, etc.) occur less frequently (every month or so). Keep an ear to the ground!
  • Day-month-year: In most of Europe, the month appears AFTER the day, e.g. 07-11-18 stands for November 7, 2018
  • Italians also use military time (24-hour format), e.g. 18h00 is 6pm! (One easy trick to convert: subtract 12!)
  • Italy has a slew of holidays: 01JAN, 06JAN, Easter Sunday & Monday, 25APR, 01MAY, 02JUN, 15AUG, 01NOV, 08DEC, 25DEC & 26DEC
  • Towns and cities also celebrate their patron Saint’s Day, e.g. 24JUN in Florence, 29JUN in Rome
  • Italy uses the metric system; start converting!




Italy Fun Facts


  • Italy is a mountainous peninsula about 1,600KM long from top to bottom – that is about 1,000 miles and a lot of shoreline ​
  • The country is divided into 20 Regions and subdivided into 100 Provinces
  • The population is about 60 million
  • Other than in German-speaking Alto Adige, Italian is the official language. This charming and expressive language also features multiple local dialects!
  • Most of the year Italy is 6 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone. (Exceptions are the transitions to/from DST in March and October)
  • The climate in Italy varies considerably. Northern Italy is generally cold in winter and hot & humid in summer. Southern Italy has mild winters and hot summers. The climate of central Italy is comparable to the DC area





 

Corkey & Scott D. 

The research you’ve done and the relationships you’ve built are quite extraordinary. From the drivers, to the guides and the hosts, each person and place was genuine and full of personality. All of the small details added so much to our experience, and each leg of the journey was beautifully curated. It was a trip of a lifetime. We are now officially spoiled!

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

When is your next vacation?

Start planning today! 

4422 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814   

Tel: (301) 656-1670  |  Email: ciao@bethesdatravel.com 

Let's Talk

4422 East West Hwy, Bethesda MD 20814   

Tel: +1 301.656.1670 | Email: ciao@bethesdatravel.com

Office Hours: 

  • Monday - Friday: 9:00am - 5:30pm 

  • Saturday: By Appointment 

4422 East West Hwy, Bethesda MD 20814   •   +1 301.656.1670   •   ciao@bethesdatravel.com

Monday - Friday: 9:00am - 5:30pm   •   Saturday: By Appointment