Have you ever wondered how to travel to Italy on a budget?
Or better yet, have you ever wanted to just pick up and go without having to plan and plan and plan and save and save and save?
I know the feeling! I’m such an impulsive traveler that when I decided to treat me and the S.O. to an Italian vacation, I knew I needed to stick to a budget to even make the trip possible.
I ended up booking the 8-day Italian adventure for less than $850… TOTAL! That’s two people with flights from the U.S., lodging, and transportation throughout Italy for less than $850.
Here’s how I did it:
Step One: Getting There
They say half the fun is getting there. Well, I knew that if I had a way to get us to there, we would the be committed to going (and the S.O. would have a harder time arguing with my impulsive trip booking).
So ,the first thing I did was hit the web looking for the best deal on flights to Italy.
Given I was already set on Italy, I based my research around the cheapest airports in Italy to fly into and the cheapest airlines to fly abroad. I primarily used Skyscanner to test different routes and times. While I didn’t end up booking with Skyscanner (I’ll get to that in a minute), I was a big fan of how easy the platform was to use and how many different options it gave me. If you’re looking for a quick way to analyze multiple airlines (without a billion pop-ups destroying your browser), I recommend their platform.
By using Skyscanner, I was able to nail down Delta as the airline of choice. Full disclosure: I’m a frequent flyer of Delta. If they’re the best option, I’ll choose them over someone else. However, I’m not above using a cheaper alternative, especially when traveling abroad. In this case, Delta was on par with the other airlines, so I decided to roll with it.
Once I got to Delta’s website, I used their planner to further analyze dates to travel, given we were flexible about when we could go. Overall, I just wanted to be sure I was getting the best bang for my buck.
This is where things got interesting. I knew from my own account, I had the 30,000 miles I needed to cover my plane ticket and some left over. However, I didn’t have enough to cover both tickets, which was going to be 60,000 miles. So, I turned to my credit cards.
Given I use my credit card for to pay bills in order to garner points (and then pay off the card each month—points for travel aren’t worth credit card debt), I had more than enough credit card points saved up to get the other ticket. I transferred the 30,000 points to my Skymiles account for $18.00, which American Express describes as a Excise Tax Offset Fee. It amounts to $0.0006/point transferred to loyalty programs.
The transfer happened immediately, so I reserved the tickets that night. Delta charges a reward ticket fee for when you book a flight using skymiles, which was $75.25.
So all in, an international, non-stop, roundtrip flight for two people cost me $93.25. Not bad, eh?
Step Two: Picking a Route through Italy
This was by far the hardest part of planning the trip — deciding where to go. I read guides on guides on guides about the best places to visit in Italy when you only have eight days. The consensus?
There wasn’t one.
Some said to stick to one area and go all in. Others said try the big three (Rome, Florence, Venice) to get the ultimate “Italian Experience”. Others talked up North vs. South. And others said to park it at a villa and drive around to hill towns.
Out of all of that, my advice can be summed up as such: do whatever the heck you want — as long as it makes sense for your budget.
Given I had been to Italy before, I asked the S.O. where he’d like to go. His one request was Rome, which we were flying in to, so that was easy. I desperately wanted him to see Florence, my favorite place in Italy, so that had us going north. The next logical place of those we were evaluating was Venice.
Given this route is typical by train, it didn’t cost us much to get from place to place. We netted out at $183.85 total for three train trips by using RailEurope: Rome to Florence, Florence to Venice, then Venice back to Rome. That’s about $45.96 per person per train trip.
A few things we tried to keep in mind while evaluating locations, which may be helpful for you if you’re trying to scout out where to explore in your country of choice:
- Keep your budget in mind. We were all about the Amalfi coast until we started looking at how much an average dinner would cost us.
- Look into typical transportation routes. Are there cities that are typically linked by train, bus, etc.? If so, you may be able to save time (and money) by traveling a well-traveled path.
- Check out accommodations as you look at locations. We found areas where it was super hard to get a place to stay, which automatically ruled it out for us for this trip.
Step Three: Booking Accommodations
I’ve heard nightmare stories about AirBnB abroad. I’m talking everything from hosts cancelling reservations getting last minute to people being scammed into booking an apartment that wasn’t even there.
Trust the reviews.
After we had our locations nailed down, we were ready to pick places to stay. We had done some initial research on accommodation pricing while we were scouting locations, which was helpful—we weren’t trying to break the bank, and any location that looked unrealistic (like the Amalfi Coast) was ruled out for this trip.
However, we really started paying attention to different accommodation options once we committed to the areas of Italy we were going to visit.
We started by comparing hotels to AirBnBs. Honestly, there wasn’t a comparison. Even if we had used points to book our hotel rooms, it still didn’t outweigh how affordable renting an AirBnB for a few nights in each city was.
Here are two main considerations we kept in mind when looking for lodging:
- Location: How central was the hotel/AirBnB? We wanted to be within walking distance to the main areas of each city we wanted to see. We also needed somewhere close to the train stations we’d be using (so we didn’t have to lug our luggage for miles).
- Number of Reviews: Great AirBnB reviews are a good sign, but if there are only two people who stayed there, how much can you really rely on the account? We made sure each place we booked at at least 15+ reviews so we got an adequate account of a stay.
Here’s where we netted out in terms of cost per location:
- Rome, 2 nights: $111
- Florence, 2 nights: $132
- Venice, 2 nights: $219
- Rome, 1 night: $64
- Total lodging for the trip: $526
With every AirBnB, we were central to some of the best sites in city. In fact, in our first AirBnB, we were tucked away on a side road that was right next to the Colosseum — and it was our least expensive stay per night of the whole trip (shout out to B&B Rione Monti for being amazing. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Rome, I couldn’t recommend a better place).
Wayward Tip: you can receive $40 in travel credit when you sign up for AirBnB!
The Trip Total
If you’re great at math (I’m not) or have been keeping track throughout the post, then you already know the total for booking an 8-day trip to Italy for two came out to $803.10.
That’s $401.55 per person to fly directly to and from, travel throughout, and stay within Italy.
Is that the cheapest price ever? I doubt it. I’ve read so many articles about “how to travel to X for free”. I’ve never been able to nail that down. If you have — great! I’d love to hear about your adventures.
The point is, you don’t have to spend a fortune to travel. By using some creative thinking and some research, you can get there faster (and for cheaper) than you’ve ever imagined.
Have your own travel hacks to share or questions about traveling to Italy for cheap? Holler at me in the comments!