Purchasing the flight took a lot of time. First step was to decide on dates! Took a lot of thought because we wanted it to be as early as possible in the summer but we couldn't finalize until I got my summer rotation schedule. I requested July for the rotation, which is likely why I got my first choice. No one wants July!
Some things I learned in the process:
1) It's cheaper (if not cheapest) to fly from JFK in NYC. We booked the cheapest possible to JFK and back, instead of using search engines from Orlando to Rome.
2) Analyze your layover times, try something "off-label" (i.e., not Delta, AA, United, etc.) to get the cheapest flight. We picked a Russian airline that goes to Moscow then Rome. But because the arrival/departure dates were the best, we get to Rome at 10AM and leave Venice at 11PM giving us nearly a whole extra day!
3) You must be patient to find the ticket that fits the best for your trip. However, once that moment comes, you must have the courage to make the leap! If you plan right, your credit card can handle it. Mine did... just barely!
Next step: Housing