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Budget concerns

Hey everyone! My husband and I would like to take a trip to Italy next year and have been saving for what we originally thought would be a good budget: $5,500. However, after talking to some travel agents, I'm getting concerned that it still wouldn't be enough. From the airfare I'm seeing, we would probably spend $1,800 to $2,000 on that alone (we would likely go in April, as that seems to be when prices are lower than the high season but the weather is still good). I wanted to do 10 days, with about two days in Florence, one in Siena, two in some hill towns in Tuscany and four in Rome (I figure one day will get eaten up with traveling.) We'd take the train most of the time, except for the two days in the hill towns (Orvieto and Civita are the ones I'm most interested in) when we would need a car. We also don't need to stay in the nicest hotels, but my husband likely won't be open to hostels (we're both in our late 20s, btw). I figure we can eat a lot of our meals by just shopping at the markets and going simple. How realistic do you think it is to keep our hotel costs to about $1,500? I figure that would give us $2,000 for food, travel within the country and activities. Is this doable? Does anyone have any recommendations for decent budget hotels and/or places to eat? Or any other cost-savings tips? Our budget is pretty fixed.

Posted by
7737 posts

First, do you have the Rick Steves Italy 2012 book? If not, drop everything and buy it right now. He has lots of tips on how to save money AND recommends lodging in all price ranges. I second the idea of dropping the idea of renting a car. You really don't need it because the secret to enjoying Italy (esp. your first time) is to enjoy the towns you're staying in. Don't try to cram too much into your itinerary. Stay at least two nights in each town. Do find lodging in the historic center of each town. Do NOT try to save money by staying farther away. A huge part of the charm of Italy is being able to easily wander around the neighborhood you're staying in. As for saving money on food, there are also places called "rosticceria" that provide really good take-out food, like roast chicken with all the trimmings. Happy travels.

Posted by
7737 posts

BTW, I just checked on how much we've spent in the past. Here's what we actually spent last year for our trip in May: airfare + (lodging @ $120/nt times # of nights) + (Meals/Entertainment/Transportation @ $200/nt times # of nights) The low lodging expense came from some really great deals, only some which I would recommend for you guys. One I would recommend was an apartment in Rome just a couple of blocks from the Campo de' Fiori. Bollo Apartment You can't beat the location, but it's pretty small. It would be fine for a couple in their 20s and it cost us only 85 euros a night. And for Orvieto, I highly recommend this place: B&B Garibaldi. The pricing on his page is very confusing, so just email David, the owner, to get the actual price. Tell him Michael and John from Seattle recommended him to you. We paid only 75 euros a night for two nights in May for the two of us. April should be less expensive than May. He will probably be the best host you'll have on your visit. Find him on Trip Advisor as well, for more reviews. And we LOVED Orvieto. Here are some photos of our time there in May 2011 in case you're interested. Good luck.

Posted by
7737 posts

And stop talking to travel agents. :-) They're going to push you towards the more expensive places, in my experience.

Posted by
11613 posts

Teresa, I tend to think you can do it, but it will be tight. In Florence, check out Hotel Medici, just a couple of blocks from the Duomo. In fact, try booking.com for hotels in your price range for all cities. You don't need a car for Orvieto, you can either stay there overnight or do it as a daytrip from Rome. If you want to rent a car just for one hill town, it will be fairly pricey and I would rethink it. The train passes by Civita but I don't know if the station is still operating - if it is, it will be a regionale train. Siena could also be a daytrip from Florence by bus or train, since you are only looking at one night there. There is a little B&B in Siena called "Le Camere di Livia" with very reasonable prices (listed on booking.com), it's very near to the Campo. If you find prices better in Siena, you can make that your base and daytrip to Florence. Also keep in mind that in sit-down restaurants there's a cover charge and sometimes a service charge (menus are displayed outside the restaurants so you can have a good idea of how much you'll be spending). In 10 days, it would be a shame not to have one or two nice meals, but be careful of the "pizza, pasta and Coke" specials - usually not the best quality. In the larger cities there are "tavola calda" or "gastronomia" places that will either make you a sandwich or serve you hot food, either to eat there or to go.

Posted by
1994 posts

Teresa, if you buy your train tickest months ahead, you can get tickets for as little as 9 E, although you lose flexibility. The car, with insurance you'll need, may be hard to work into the budget. And it should be easy to stay within your lodging budget with some early planning. My requirements are clean, safe, and very central, and I rarely pay more than $90/night for a single room, usually far less. Convents and religious guesthouses are a great option; I've stayed in very central locations in Florence, Venice, and Rome for 40-50 E/night, including a filling but simple breakfast. However, you need to be OK with no/little English and a curfew (often 11 or midnight), as well as quiet decorum. Monasterystays.com books such lodging, although you can save their fee by just booking yourself via email (and help from Google Translate). If you end up in Asissi, I really like Camere Annalisa Martini, a guesthouse a block or so off the central square; I paid 25 E/night for a single room last October (no breakfast). Airbnb is also a great source of budget lodging; you can check their website. Also, in addition to the RS guidebooks, you could check the EuroCheapo website.

Posted by
57 posts

Thanks for recommending Booking.com! I've never used it before. I did a couple of quick searches and saw that there's a good selection of hotels in all the cities I want to go to (although your hunch was right, Siena seems much cheaper than Florence!) that come in under my budget, so that will help me out a lot.

Posted by
15640 posts

I think you are in good shape budgetwise. I just analyzed 2 trips we did and our budget for the next trip. Looks like the formula is ($AirlineTicks)+($370)x(#ofDays)=($TotalCost) I know this is a rough back-of-the-envelope estimate, but it tells me if I have the means to go. We diligenty search for cheapest acceptable flights. stay in nice, simple hotels, many RS rec's, others on our own. We picnic a few times, but having a really nice dinner with some good wine is an important part of the experience, so we do that one night at each stop. We search out deals on local transit passes and museum passes, use advance booking of trains to get amazing deals for travel between stops. This does not include diamond studded broaches on the Ponte Vecchio, or "to die for" Manolo Blahniks on the Via Veneto. That stuff is extra. (Never actually bought any of that stuff but, hey, its there!) Foreign exchange is a variable, but not one you can do much about unless you want to play games in foreign exchange trading. I will also say that Venice is a wild card. Most expensive place in Europe as far as I have seen. Just factor that in.

Posted by
1168 posts

Agree with Michael. With planning you may even spend less. We have stayed for 17 to 19 days spending your budget or less. We also use booking.com and sort by price for a double room. We stay in nice, clean hotels walking distance (10 to 15 min) from the train. In our two trips we have always used public transportation. We ride 2nd class or the regionale trains and have met some very nice people. After a good breakfast we found that a piece of pizza and some fruit was usually enough for lunch. Or proscuitto and cheese from the local markets. In 2009 we stayed at Albergo Cannon d'Oro in Siena. It's in a 800+yr old building and less than 5 min from the bus stop. If you decide to spend more tine in Siena you can also take a day trip to San Gemignano. If you stay in Florence you can check out Hotel Bretagna but it's pricier than Siena. To appreciate each place you need 2 to 3 days. You may want to pick just 3 places and enjoy them and actually get the sense of them rather than spending your time rushing between places. You say you have 10 days and you list the number of days for each town. But two nights in Florence means only 1.5 days there as you won't get there till mid day or later. It seems you want one night each in Orvieto and Civita but that means less than one day in each when you consider getting there and checking into the hotel. Your budget is reasonable but you may want to rethink your itinerary to really enjoy your trip.

Posted by
57 posts

Thanks for all the tips! I definitely feel better about this trip and think we can afford it. As for the schedule, I agree that spending time in cities is good, but I also have been to other places for just one day and don't regret getting to see them, even if it wasn't indepth. As for Florence, we'd actually probably get there in the afternoon on our first day and then spend another two full days there, so I'm not too concerned about missing out. The cities and towns are all pretty close to each other, too, so we won't lose much time to travel. If they were more spread out, I'd be more concerned.

Posted by
15640 posts

I'll second Michael's comment about staying where the action is. Ref my comment about Venice, you can always find cheap digs in Mestre and ride the train in every day like a commuter, but then that's what you become. Definitely worth extra $$$ staying inside the lagoon and watch it clear out in the evening and turn into a quiet, mellow place.

Posted by
248 posts

"First, do you have the Rick Steves Italy 2012 book? If not, drop everything and buy it right now. He has lots of tips on how to save money AND recommends lodging in all price ranges." You might want to hold off on that as the 2013 edition is out next month. Just get the 2012 from the library and wait to buy the 2013.

Posted by
27 posts

In Rome I would stay at a convent again for sure. It is affordable and clean. We stayed 4 nights in Rome and thought it was $100 a night at the convent. When we went to check out, it was only $60 a night because not enough occupancy or too much. They didn't offer to tell us which it was. We stayed at one near the Vatican in RS book. Can't remember the name. It was not fancy but we were hardly ever in the room. By the time we made it back to the room we passed out so beds didn't even need to be cozy. Also close to that area we found a very affordable Asian restaurant. Was the best Asian food. Avoid eating at the museums...Very expensive. Get off the beaten path to find the affordable eateries and tastier too.

Posted by
7737 posts

The airfare you mention ($1800 to $2000) is for two people, right? If so, that's not too much. You'll probably end up paying around $900 to $1000 each, per Yapta.

Posted by
143 posts

I also recommend religious guesthouses and convents. We stayed in one in Cortona and Volterra, both of which were fine and centrally located. Also stayed in a farmhouse accommodation within walking distance of Montepulciano which was nice. All were very reasonably priced. We try to usually fly on frequent flyer miles to save on airfare. Check one of the websites that list "best credit cards" and see which one gives you the most miles the quickest. Perhaps you can cut back on airfare that way. Good luck!

Posted by
1568 posts

Get rid of the Travel Agent and save lots of money. Plan your own trip. Do you homework. Air fare you mentioned is way over what it should be. You do not have to stay in expensive hotels. Google Bug Europe for reviews, Hostelz.com. Posters on this board can adivse you in all areas of planning your own trip.

Posted by
57 posts

Just wanted to let you all know that thanks to your advice, I did a lot of research this weekend, decided we can definitely do Italy on our budget and took the plunge - I scored two plane tickets for $1800 (yes, that is for two, not a piece)! I figure yes, there's a chance they will go down sometime, but there's probably an even better chance they'll go up, and this fits in our budget. Your advice was great and reassuring, and I'm looking forward to planning this trip so that we can really enjoy Italy but NOT blow our budget. (P.S. There's a bonus on our plane tickets - we'll also get to spend a day in Copenhagen because of a lay over. I'll take that!)

Posted by
17 posts

I was about to chime in, but then saw you figured out how to make it work on your budget. Yay! We have a similar budget, and are traveling to Zurich and Gimmewald before we head over to the boot for a week and a half. Booked most of our places months ago and got good deals. Plan to eat cheap for breakfast, and then make either lunch or dinner a big meal splurge. Also, for what it's worth, try looking into buses vs. trains. We found we're saving quite a bit by bus-ing it where it makes sense (time efficient). Happy travels! Kate

Posted by
282 posts

Congrats Teresa! In July we stayed at B&B Al Centro di Roma and loved it. Budget place but was very clean, quiet and centrally located - we walked everywhere from our hotel. No front desk but continental breakfast at a bar across the piazza is included. I think the price was around $120/night, but would likely be even cheaper in April. I looked at staying at convents, etc., but didn't like the early "curfew" that most of them had. Have fun planning your trip!!

Posted by
7737 posts

Cool. We did a 23 hour layover in Copenhagen in 2008 and got to get a little sampling of the city. Kind of fun, but you may find that Copenhagen is ridiculously expensive. We stayed at a modern budget hotel (CABINN City) right by the train station, with tiny rooms like on a ship and with bunk beds. Here's the link: CABINN City

Posted by
15640 posts

Teresa, have a good trip. SAS does a good job, very comfortable even if you get stuck with middle seats. BTW on the way home from last trip to Italy, we tried to "volunteer" for a bump in Copenhagan. The gate agent just smiled and said we'd have to come back another time to see Copenhagan.

Posted by
1525 posts

Teresa, Now you are commited. Great fun and these trips will become addicting. I would advise using sites like booking.com, expedia, or trip advisor to look for options, prices, and reviews. But, before making reservation through them, contact the hotel directly via email asking about availability and prices. For our next trip I've been able to save a couple hundred dollars due to 1) special Rick Steve rates 2) paying cash upon arrival. In addition, you can be ask the hotel specific questions with the hotel (view, balcony, bed size, private bath, late/early check in, walking distance to xxxx, etc.) Many of the online booking services require you to pay in advance and may have different cancelation policies than booking direct.
In addition, since your itinary will likely change multiple times between now and your trip, you can book rooms, then revise your dates/cancel if needed as you nail down your trip. Easier to do via email directly with the hotel as well. I've found that many of the Rick Steve's recommendations book many months in advance, and have not been disappointed yet.

Posted by
1525 posts

Teresa, Looked at our budget for next April, if this helps (for 14 nights). We tend to pay more for the larger rooms, room with a view or balcony, in a great location ($$$ in RS books) as well as dining out once a day with a bottle of wine. That being said, I think your $5500 is definitely within reach. Airfare-miles+ $200 Hotels=14 nights -$2300 (1 night using points) Trains- $400 Car rental/gas - 4 nights $400 food/admission/etc.- $200/day=$2800
As one of the regular posters has stated, when you are on vacation, you are not spending money on what you would normally spend at home, groceries, dining out, gas, etc, so you can subtract that from the total cost of your trip (or just call it bonus money for your trip). Also, you tend to spend much less in smaller towns than big cities for the same type of room or better.

Posted by
25 posts

hello!
Teresa, where did you find such a great rate on plane tickets? i'm planning my and my fiancé's honeymoon in May 2013 and he just told me the budget - it's pretty much the same as yours. this posting has a been a great help! happy travels :)

Posted by
14036 posts

There are big savings to be had on the Florence-Rome train if you book in advance. I haven't done it . . . yet, but the details have appeared here. Do a search. In Rome there are supermarkets everywhere (Despar) that have lots of things you can buy for picnic lunches and dinners, and reasonably priced wines that are often surprisingly good. Bring a corkscrew along. I know you said he wouldn't go for hostels, but this one in Florence is different. Look at their website for prices (and booking) - Archi Rossi. Only look at rooms in the annexe, which used to be a hotel and still feels like one. They have queen-size beds (very comfy) and private baths. If you stay there, you can take the free walking tours in the morning (there are two, both with excellent guides). They also sell a small range of food and drink at cost. They also have coin-op washers and dryers, which is nice in the middle of a trip. Very well located. Except for the breakfast, it's nicer than many of the 2-star hotels I've stayed at in Italy.

Posted by
11613 posts

Teresa, good for you for working this out! Regarding monastery stays, the curfew is usually 11pm or midnight, but if you are looking for affordable lodging in Venice, I think a monastery is the way to go there (use monasterystays.com to research places but deal with the monastery directly, monasterystays.com charges a fee). Booking.com does not charge you a fee, the hotel or B&B pays them a commission. I use them for reservations unless I'm returning to a place I've stayed at before. I've also been able to get a cash discount for rooms even with a booking.com reservation (I usually make the reservation with a credit card and pay in cash when I check out). I'm a fan of this booking site because I make a lot of reservations at one time (usually 20 per trip), and it's easier than dealing with 15 or 20 separate establishments.

Posted by
6 posts

Last April my brother, best friend and I spent 2 weeks in Italy starting in Venice 2 nights, Florence 2 nights both in 3 star hotels(Marconi hotel in Venice & Hotel Kursaal Ausonia in Florence) then Rome for a week and Sorrento for 4 nights renting apartments in both places.You should definitely look into renting a place in Rome we found it much cheaper then a hotel and much nicer accommodations but start looking early the good ones book up fast. I had a little over 3,000 to spend on everything and it ended up being more then enough. We bought our plane tickets in February and paid only 730 per person. We spent no more then 40 per person per night at any of our hotels or apartments. We stayed in the heart of the city in each place except Sorrento but it was worth it for the views we got there. I found both of our hotels on expedia then just researched the hell out of the places. It helps to wait to about a month or two till your actually travel dates. We found we actually didn't really eat lunch just a little snack which helped on saving money. We had the time of our lives, we splurged on a few expensive dinners and even a winery tour in Tuscany which was worth every penny. I had more then enough money for gifts for my family and a few for myself of course and even came home with a few hundred left over. To make it work all you have to do is lots and lots of research there's nothing worse then a stupid tourist.