Our Budget Italian Getaway
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As I mentioned earlier this year, we’re headed to Italy this October for 8 days of fun and sightseeing. This trip wouldn’t be possible without all the airline miles and points I collected over the last 18 months. Thanks to some cash back that I used to book cheap bed-n-breakfasts and the fact that I was able to use 80,000 American Airlines flights for our round-trip flights, this trip is pretty dang C-H-E-A-P so far. You feel me?
Now that it’s T-minus 40 days until we get up out of here, it’s time to get serious about exactly what it is we’re going to do while we’re there. I mean, Lord knows we don’t speak Italian or anything. Heaven help us if we land in Rome without some sort of plan.
Related → Credit Card Rewards: Our Budget Travel Plans for the Rest of 2015
My Plans for Italy On a Budget
With that in mind, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to see as much as possible during our Italian getaway…without paying very much for anything. Here’s what I’ve figured out so far.
After a stop in Philadelphia, we’ll hop on a 9-hour flight to Rome. And since it’s an overnight flight, we’ll land in Rome at around 8:00 a.m. I know that sounds brutal, but the overnight flight really wasn’t that bad when we flew the red-eye to London last year.
Anyway, we’ll have to hit the ground running. Because I booked an excursion (more on that in a minute), we only have 2.5 days to do the whole Rome thing! With that being said, so far we have purchased the Omnia Vatican & Rome Pass to simplify the process. For our passes, which were around $85 each, we get:
- Unlimited transportation around Rome using the underground and bus system for three days
- Entry to the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel
- Entry into 2 of the top Rome attractions, including The Coliseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill, Capitolini Museums, Borghese Gallery and National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo.
- Unlimited pass for a hop on bus tour all around the city (I love these!!!!)
- Fast Track Entry to St Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel & The Coliseum – save over 4 hours at each attraction during busy periods
- A guidebook
- Discounted entry to 30 Rome attractions
Since the stuff we want to do adds up to more than $85, this was a good value for us. And as a bonus, we get unlimited public transportation and the ability to skip the lines. The last thing I want to do in Italy is queue up!
In addition to all of those plans, we also booked an excursion to see Pompeii and Sorrento. Since I’m writing a review in return, I’m comped for that…but it’s still going to be awesome!
To save money on food in Rome, I booked our room at a hotel that offers a free breakfast. We’ll probably eat quick lunches on-the-go since there’s so much to see, but I plan to have at least one sit-down Italian feast.
Surprisingly, our two train tickets to Florence were just $40 total. We only have two days to spend there, so we want to see as much as we can. Here are the main Florence attractions I plan to see (fortunately, some of them are free):
- See and shop on the Ponte Vecchio (free)
- Uffizi Gallery with guide (around $50)
- Eat some gelato. Yasssssssssss. ($10?)
- Il Grande Museo del Duomo (This could cost a million dollars for all I know. I don’t read Italian!)
- Academia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s “David” among other famous pieces of art ($40)
There are a few other things I want to see and do in Florence, but those are the main priorities. I also hope to find (and take a picture of) the hotel my mom stayed at in Florence 40 years ago. That will be a fun adventure, I think, and I’m sure my mom would like to see what it looks like now.
Our train trip from Florence to Venice only set us back a total of $79, which is pretty sweet. But since we only have a day in Venice, I don’t want to make a bunch of plans. Here are the top things I want to see and do:
- Ride a water taxi
- Go to a mask store
- Check out St. Mark’s Basilica
- See the Doge’s Palace
- Walk through St. Mark’s Square
- Take lots of selfies
Other than food costs, our stay in Venice shouldn’t cost much at all. What I really want to do is walk the streets and passageways, eat some yummy food, and just take it all in. I have a feeling we’ll fit Venice into another European tour if we like it, so I’m not too worried about seeing everything this time. I just want to relax and enjoy the scenery.
The Bottom Line
I’m getting more and more excited for this trip with each passing day. And as it gets closer, I hope to have a few more of the details ironed out. Like I said, we don’t read or speak Italian, which could be a problem. I always tell myself I’m going to learn a few words before we go somewhere new, but I never do. Somehow, I never find the time!
Fortunately, my husband is some type of navigation genius. No matter where we are and what language they speak, he can find his way around. And if I were to get lost, I suppose there is no one else I would rather be lost with. Wish us luck!
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I am really amazed that you are able to go to Italy because of credit card rewards. I wonder how often you use your cards and the amount you spend before you obtain this privilege.. That being said, it’s all worth it because of the trip! You deserve it. Enjoy your trip!
Thanks! We put all of our spending on rewards cards and pay them off each month (or a few times each month) so we never pay interest.
Sounds awesome! I am positive you will have a great time in all three places! Your pass is a great deal also. I can’t wait to get your take on things 🙂 .
I will write reviews! I can’t wait!
That sounds rough! What do you guys usually do with the kids?
My mom is staying with them. Grandma time! =)
From what I remember of Venice, it’s incredibly easy to get lost but one of the most fun things about the city. Sounds like you’ll have a blast.
Oh, I’m 100% sure we’ll get lost!
Sounds like so much fun, and a great bargain on such a trip. My only regret from our trip to Italy is that I didn’t eat more gelato. Enjoy!
Ha! I’ll try to eat some for you.
Congrats on the points! This is going to be the trip of a lifetime. I’m looking forward to seeing photos!
I’ll definitely post some!
Sounds like a great trip, enjoy it!
Thanks =) Have to get through FinCon first!
I’ve been waiting for this post since you first mentioned you were going. Reading your blog definitely fuels the wanderlust fire. Sounds like you’ve crafted a budget-friendly plan (and a trip earned with rewards to boot!) that will take to many of the must-see sights. Can’t wait for photos!
I hope to take lots!
Your trip sounds like it’s going to be amazing. Reading about people’s experiences like yours on how they were getting trips paid for using credit card rewards is what got me started in travel hacking. Mr Budgets and I have already gotten to take a few smaller trips for free but I’m planning a big trip to Spain next year.
Spain is definitely on our list as well.
Sounds like a pretty sweet trip Holly! We just booked our trip for Cancun for next year and doing it all on points – can’t wait. 🙂
Nice! I’m jealous of that one!
Sounds like fun. I spent a semester in Venice (in 1989). The Vaporetti (water buses) are a great way of seeing the city.
One good Venice tourist hack: You CAN take a gondola ride called a traghetto super cheap. Basically, it just takes you across the Grand Canal from a couple of designated spots. It used to be around 70 cents, but I think it’s around $3.50 now. It was the only way I could afford a gondola ride on a college student budget, but at least I got to ride in one!
Yeah, that’s the only way I can afford it too. I’m not paying $100 for a regular gondola ride!
Italy is great! I ate gelato twice a day when I was there but I actually lost weight because you walk so much. The architecture is amazing and the food…!
Sounds SO fun! Italy is one of the few overseas places I want to visit. Can’t wait to hear all about it!
I hope you have an amazing time on your trip and can’t wait to hear about it when you get back. We almost always fly overnight to and from Europe. I feel like going there I usually have some form of adrenaline that keeps me going – but then coming home I crash hard ha.
I am SO excited for you!!! I went to Italy with my family 13 years ago, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. We visited Rome, Florence and Venice as well and you have all of the big highlights checked off. My hubby and I are currently in the process of credit card hacking our way back to Italy to take my son. We are hoping to go next summer so I am actively following all of your posts on this. 🙂
Sounds like it’s going to be an amazing trip! Hopefully you’ll get to squeeze in some time to learn a few words before you head out.
I can’t wait for a recap! My mom and I travel hacked a flight to Italy for April 2016 for $70 each. It will be her FIRST time out of the country and I WILL be debt free!!!! It’s not for a while, but I’m so excited and looking forward to it.
Sounds like the perfect getaway, Holly! When we went on our Disney Cruise a few summers ago, it stopped in Rome, so gorgeous. And yes, the food there is divine! The good thing is you do so much walking so you don’t feel bad for indulging yourself. 🙂
Oh boy, I LOVE Italy. Chase Ultimate rewards paid for a good portion of our last one and I hope to swing a fully funded trip in the next few years. Have a wonderful time!
In case you never get around to learning much, some useful phrases I got a ton of mileage from:
Ciao! – Hello, goodbye
Per favore (pear fah-vor-ay) – please
Grazie (gratx-ee-ay) – thank you
Mi dispiace (me dis-pee-ah-chay) – I’m sorry
Dove il bagno? (do-vai il bah-no) – Where is the bathroom?
Posso averre [insert the thing you want here] (poh-so ah-var-ay) – Can I have ….
il conto (il cohn-to) – the check / bill
due biglietti (doo-way bil-liet-tee) – two tickets
Andiamo! (an-dee-ah-mo) – Let’s go!
Hope that helps 🙂
Sounds like a great trip, I love Italy! But I was wondering why are your 2 Uffizi tickets cost $50? And the 2 Accademia tickets $40? Per the official website, the tickets for each museum are 8 euros each, plus a 4 euro booking charge (total of less than $14 for each ticket). http://www.b-ticket.com/b-ticket/uffizi/default.aspx
Rick Steves has some excellent free audio guides for Italy, including ones for the Uffizi and the Accademia, that can be downloaded in advance to a phone or tablet. https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/audio/audio-tours
Also, water taxis in Venice are pretty pricy, especially if it is just for two of you. The vaporettos (water buses) are a much more economical way to get out on to the canals. Single trips are about 7 euros, but a 24 hour pass is 20 euros.
Have a wonderful trip.
We ended up doing a guided tour for each, which is why it costs more. With only one day to do the museums (our other day in Florence is a Monday, so the Uffizi and Accademia are closed), we want to hit the highlights and not waste a lot of time!
In Venice, we might do a water taxi anyway – or a water bus. I don’t have any plans in Venice so I’ll just have to see what happens! We may not do any of the above. Thanks for the tips!
Sounds like you have a great trip planned! I love hop-on hop-offs too! I think they’re the best way to get around a new place. AND I’m all about count-downs, too! Lol I have several on the front screen of my phone–they keep me motivated. 😛 Looking forward to hearing all about the trip! 🙂
Can I go with? I’m willing to stuff myself in a suitcase if needed. Please? 😛
You’ll have plenty of flight time to brush up your vocab, but everyone there speaks english anyway 😉
Your trip sounds like a lot of fun!
I’m sure you’ll enjoy your italian holiday
Love Italy! You should download the Rick Steves audio waking tours for Italy. When my wife and I went we loved these audio tours. They\’re for museums and walking tours around cities. The tours are great with lots of little tidbits that you\’d normally not notice/appreciate. Check it out!
We love Rick Steves 🙂 We’ve been watching him a lot lately on our Hulu Plus package. Thanks for the tips on the audio tours. We may have to do that, since I understand there are no maps/guides available at some of the historical sites.
We’ve enjoyed Italy immensely, even getting engaged 9 years ago at the Trevi Fountain! We’ve been back a few times since then, with the kids in tow! I hope that you’re able to take your kids with you on a future trip! Ours love Italy!