How To Travel Italy On A Really Tight Budget

Do you want to travel to Italy (or pretty much anywhere) but think it’s out of your budget? There is no better time than now to travel. None of us know what is right around the corner, from unexpected illnesses to international turmoil, to the price of oil going up astronomically making air travel unaffordable.

I have been traveling all my life, sometimes with money, often without. As a single mom for several years my only way to travel was on a really tight budget. But I would always rather travel at a lower cost than miss out.

And let’s face it, the monuments, ancient buildings an incredible views stay the same whether you are doing a 5 star trip or a budget adventure.

Venice canals and rios away from the crowds
Venice, away from the crowds

If you want to travel to Italy but can’t see how to afford it, these tips make a huge difference!

It Starts With The Best Flight Deals

I go into this in depth in my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy, and I recommend reading that section of the book before even starting to look for flights so that you don’t get airlines and consolidators tracking you and pushing the prices up.

Get Creative

There are some creative ways to being the cost of flight way down. For example flying from Phoenix to Rome normally prices around $1300-$1500 round trip. But if I fly out of Los Angeles instead, the price drops closer to $800. A one way flight to Los Angeles is around $80, so I still save hundred on my ticket.

One time a friend and I got a rental car in Phoenix and drove it to the airport in L.A. It cost $20 in car rental plus a tank of gas. We had loads of fun on the road trip and saved money while we were at it!

Seek Out Cheaper Airports

Internal flights in Europe are not expensive. Sometimes you can save hundreds more dollars by going to a different airport then catching an internal European flight. For example, I have found flights on Air New Zealand (one of the top 5 international carriers) from Los Angeles to London Heathrow for around $450 round trip. Heathrow – Rome round trip can be done for under $200, so in this case for a total of $650 you can fly to Italy. There are always deals to be found if you spend the time clicking around.

Oh Canada!

You can find killer deals to Italy out of Canada. One of my Glam Italia Tour travelers flew out of Windsor airport which is only 8km from Detroit. Using Air Canada she got an incredible round trip deal, again in the $600s.

There are great prices on flights out of Toronto too. Sometimes you can get a really good deal flying into Toronto and from there winging your way to Italy.

Avoid Peak Season

For the most part the busiest travel season doesn’t offer the greatest deals, although I often find fantastic round trip flights in June and September. It takes some patience, but spending time researching can pay off. The shoulder season normally has better deals though.

Use Miles

I wrote about how to score free flights using frequent flier miles in this post.

You can do something as simple as running your life through a credit card that has a strong mileage program, like Capital One Venture card, and get more free flights than you would think. In the last 10 years I have done 5 round trips to Europe on frequent flier miles, 1 round trip to Australia and this past year 1 round trip to New Zealand. Suffice to say that a good mileage program is a game changer.

I never, ever waste miles on domestic flights, choosing instead to save them for international flights. If you can pay as many of your bills as possible with a good travel card, and do all your groceries, gas/trains – everything possible on that card you will be amazed at how fast you can accumulate enough points for a flight.

2. Don’t Stay In Hotels

In general hotels are the most expensive way to go. Vacation rentals, Bed and Breakfasts and home stays can save you a small fortune when you travel.

Splitting the cost of an apartment with a couple of friends not only saves you money on the overnight costs but also lets you prepare some meals at home.

A cozy bed and breakfast can be much less expensive than a hotel, and frequently is much nicer anyway.

I have a friend who travels to Italy for a month at a time with her husband and is able to do it because they do home stays. Basically the rent a room in someone’s house. Not only has this method meant they can travel more often and for longer, but also they have made some fantastic friends along the way!

3. Don’t Stay In The City Center

Normally the most expensive accommodation is in the heart of town or if near the ocean, the places with a view. Most tourism is focused right in the center of town so staying one neighborhood back can save you a significant amount on your nightly expense, while still being in walking distance to everywhere you want to go.

side street in Rome's Trastevere district
Trastevere, Rome

Just be careful not to make your trip more expensive by staying too far out and incurring large transport costs!

4. Choose A Less Expensive City

The most touristed cities have the highest costs. You can often save a huge amount on accommodation by staying somewhere less touristed.

scooter in Arezzo, Tuscany
Arezzo, Tuscany is just 40 minutes by local train from Florence

For example in the Amalfi Coast area staying in Salerno, a gorgeous medieval town on the water, will cost about 1/3 of the cost of staying in Positano or Sorrento.

If Florence is pricing too high look at Bologna, another absolutely beautiful city that is also on a main train line. Italy has so many unbelievably beautiful towns and cities to choose from, so don’t just look at the most well known.

5. Travel By Train

Italy has a really fantastic train system that lets you go almost anywhere, for a comparatively low price.

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

When I am traveling on a super tight budget I save lots of money by staying only in towns and cities that are easily accessible by train, and then getting around by train. This saves an enormous amount of money on rental cars, super cover insurance, toll roads and gasoline.

I have also used Flix Bus in Italy, although only once. The trip from Genoa to Florence cost 20 euros, the bus was modern and well equipped (it was super nice!) and we even got a coffee break midway through the trip.

6. Eat Where The Locals Eat

In Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy I have a chapter on how to choose a restaurant in Italy. (Well worth reading) Restaurants and eateries that are geared towards tourists are guaranteed to separate you from your money quickly, and normally with substandard food.

trattoria in Trastevere Rome
Trattoria in Trastevere, Rome

Italians take food seriously and wouldn’t be caught dead in a tourist restaurant. Save your money and go eat where the locals eat. The food will be fantastic and the price will be reasonable. For example, one of my favorite trattorias in Rome is always packed to bursting, but a pizza costs 4 euros and a half liter of wine costs 4 euros. So for under 10 euros you can have a full belly and be happy as a clam! (I tell you the name of the restaurant in my book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome)

7. Book Online Before You Leave

Most of the places you need to buy tickets for really aren’t expensive at all. If you make a list of what you are interested in seeing and then book tickets online ahead of time you can not only save money but also budget more easily. Most of the tickets cost between 10 and 20 euros. Picking and choosing a few things ahead of time and purchasing them online can free up money while you’re away. Most of us can squeeze out an extra $10 here and there for an entry ticket without noticing it, rather than having to budget another $100 all at once.

Colosseum, Rome
outside the Colosseum in Rome

Be advised that many tickets in Italy now have to be purchased online ahead of time, including the Colosseum.

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1 Comment

  1. January 30, 2020 / 6:31 pm

    These tips don’t only help you cut cost but experience the city profoundly. I’ve never been to Italy, but I’ve traveled to Dubai twice and the second time I went, I stayed in a place not too far from the city’s centre. I got to interact with a lot of locals because I ate food where they ate, I took the bus and walked if it was close enough. I had a more thrilling time than when i stayed as a ‘tourist’

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