Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to visit Italy. Aside from the obvious reasons I would want to go, one thing that put Italy on my radar is the fact that my mom went there after college. She’s told me dozens of stories about her trip through Europe and the time she spent in Italy, and she remembers everything – where she stayed, what they ate, and funny things they saw.
Anyway, since I have basically wanted to go forever, I decided to make it happen this year. Here’s how we did it:
Using Travel Rewards to Italy
To pay for our airfare, we used a surplus of points from our two Citi AAdvantage credit cards. To save points, we decided to travel off-peak, which happens to be October 15 – May 15th with American Airlines. Off-peak to Europe on American only costs 20,000 one-way, with the only other costs associated with airfare coming in the form of government-mandated taxes and fees.
Sometimes finding the best flights can be a pain. Fortunately, I finally found an itinerary that made sense with where we really wanted to go. Finally. After over a month of searching, I found two round-trip flights with only one stop from Indianapolis to Rome in late October 2015. Our return flight is from Venice and also only has one stop. The cost: 80,000 American miles and $109 in taxes and fees. BAM!
We did things a little different when it was time to book hotels. Hotels in Italy are notoriously expensive – even in points – so we opted to save our points and book bed-n-breakfasts instead. Using cash-back from one of our six Capital One Spark Business cards, we paid for seven nights at Bed-n-Breakfasts in Rome, Florence, and Venice.
Our Plans in Rome
When planning any trip to Italy and especially Rome, it would be shame not to see some of the surrounding area. That’s why we booked an epic day trip to Sorrento and Pompeii. I can’t wait to see the country’s coastline and the haunting sights at Pompeii, the ancient city that was buried in ash by an erupting Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.
The bed-n-breakfast we’re staying in is near the Piazza Navona, and within walking distance of the Colosseum and Vatican city. In addition to completing our day trip and seeing the Vatican and the Colosseum, I also want to see a bunch of historic art and some specific pieces of history stored at the Vatican museum. Specifically, I would like to see love letters written by Henry VIII to his second wife Anne Boleyn, which are supposed to be on display there. I am absolutely obsessed with that period in English history. And yes, I have seen The Tudors five times!
Our Plans in Florence
Once we take the train to Florence, our plan is to take in as much as we can. What I really want to see is the Duomo, the Baptistery of John the Baptist, the Ponte Vecchio, and many of the famous pieces of art that are scattered throughout the city.
We’re staying at the Globus Hotel, which honestly looks like a hole in the wall. That’s okay, though. For us, it was more about the location. It’s right by the train station and within walking distance of plenty of sights and sounds.
Our Plans in Venice
I’m probably most excited about our last stop – Venice. But since we only have one day there, my excitement may be short-lived. Regardless, our plans include seeing St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s palace. Hopefully Greg will take me out on a romantic gondola ride too.
We’re staying at the Hotel Arlecchino, which we chose due to its location right near the public transportation hub that will bring us to the city. Plus, it was only around $100 a night, which is a price I could live with.
Obviously, there will be other costs associated with traveling on rewards to Italy. Just because our hotels and flights were free doesn’t mean we are off the hook. In addition to a budget for food, we will also need to bring money for train fares (both within and between cities), entry fees to museums and exhibits, and anything else that pops up.
I plan to schedule and pay for some of that ahead of time, but that doesn’t mean it won’t sting a little. Since we’re staying only at hotels that offer free breakfast, I am planning to budget around $1,000 total for this trip.
That’s a lot of money for sure, but it is nothing compared to what we would pay if we had paid for everything out-of-pocket. Our two coach tickets to Italy would have cost $1,200 each on their own.
And that’s what I love about credit card rewards. It doesn’t make everything free, but it helps put international travel into a price range that I can actually afford. Check out these awesome Chase Sapphire Preferred benefits for more!