Budget, Italy

How we budgeted for Italy

February 9, 2017


Take two fresh graduates working for pennies and throw in an impromptu trip to Italy, sounds fun huh? Part of what I want this blog to be about is the planning that goes into a trip. I envy my friends who are efficient at packing, but what I lack in my ability to pack, I make up for in budgeting!

I’m so type A that it’s hard for me to take a leap and do something spontaneously. Don’t get me wrong, I still break out of my control shell and do it, but when I reel myself back in there’s a lot of planning that happens. When 2012 came and I still hadn’t seen Europe, the spontaneous Natalie freaked out and decided that a trip needed to be planned right this second.

I don’t know what compelled me to go to Italy first, but I’m so glad I did. I was nervous about planning the trip on my own, so I reached out to an online travel agent. Steve @ RP Travel and Tours was great and even put up with me jumping on Tripadvisor and undoing some of his work. Steve showed me the possibilities out there and was on call when we arrived in Italy, which was helpful because we did run into a few snags. He sorted things out quickly and efficiently!

For purposes of this blog post, however, I’m going to plan out how we would get to Italy as if we were going for the same dates all those years ago.

I’m learning Photoshop!


Since we were broke, we wanted to keep our costs under $1,600 a person. Steve came right under that and got us to a little over $1,500 a person after all was said and done. This included flights, hotels (with breakfast), a tour and trip insurance.

For this exercise, we’re assuming we’d want to get to Italy the week before Christmas. When we did our trip during these dates, all the major landmarks and sites were almost empty. To give you an example, our tour guide at the Vatican was taking photos because she had never seen it so empty. Hotels were also relatively cheap because just as we were leaving Italy on December 23rd, people were flying in to celebrate the holiday.

Vatican Museum

The glorious ceiling over empty hallways!

So we’re adjusting our budget to fit the itinerary we did in 2012, where we will fly into Rome and fly out of Venice.


I use skyscanner and airfarewatchdog to keep an eye on flights and am notified when sales come up. So far, these sites have given me an edge in my year of actively watching flights.

Helpful tip: Use an incognito or hidden search on your web browser when you’re searching for flights or hotels. I have noticed a slight change in price when I’m not careful and use a regular browser window.

The travel costs based on booking today, February 9, 2017:

Departing on December 15, 2017 / Returning on: December 23, 2017

Eeek, long waits in both Chicago and London!

O_o I guess you could learn to love a travel pillow? Let’s find something a little more reasonable.

Not too shabby and you get to see the Swiss airport!

You can weigh the option of getting some more time in Italy and perhaps more sleep for just a couple hundred extra!

I’d pick the 2nd option for two tickets at $1,978. (I’m definitely going to do a follow-up post going more into detail about flights and upgrades.)

Now onto hotels!


I haven’t found a more creative avenue to research hotel costs outside of hotels.com, so if anyone has any suggestions, I’m open.

My search options parameters were: $100 a night or below and guest reviews 3.5 stars and above. This lead me to some great finds once you weed out the sketchy looking ones.

We did 3 nights in Rome, 2 in Florence and 2 nights in Venice.



It has breakfast included, and it’s a 9-minute walk to the Spanish Steps. It also had 391 reviews from Tripadvisor, so there’s something! Plus the price is pretty awesome.

Rome hotels (with taxes and fees) for 3 nights: $208.29

Running total (flights+Rome Hotels): $2,186.29



Florence had some really interesting options, but this one stood out as the best IMO and included breakfast. It’s about an 8-minute walk to the Accademia Gallery.

Florence Hotels (with taxes and fees) for 2 nights: $179.74

Running total (flights+Rome hotels+Florence hotels): $2,366.03



I’d be willing to pay a little more for this hotel; it looked super cheerful and friendly and it was right on the water. It had great reviews and includes breakfast! Plus, at this point in the trip, I was getting a little burned out and a good hotel room can make all the difference.

Venice Hotels (with taxes and fees): $227.04

Final total (flights+Rome hotels+Florence hotels+Venice hotels):

 $2,593.07 or $1,296.54 per person!  

Well, there you go. We came under! Granted, we booked our trip with Steve with only 5 months til our intended date and I’m looking with a 10-month head start. It goes to show how timing is everything. I would also argue these hotels are higher rated than the ones we stayed in. I also thought it was helpful to have a hotel that included breakfast just in case you wanted to head out early and grab a quick bite. Obviously, it’s wonderful to try local cafes around, so it’s totally up to your tastes!

I also booked a couple tours which I felt were some of the best parts of the trip. I use viator.com to find some good deals, but again, definitely open to suggestions.

Right now, you can book a Vatican Museum tour for $101 per person or do a cooking class in Florence for $106 per person. Just a thought if you wanted to add them on!

I hope this was helpful, I love doing this sort of thing and I am always happy to share what I find. I’m excited to play with different formats of how to showcase the finds as well, so stick with me as I try new things out. ‘Til Sunday!

1 Comment

  1. Mandy Noack Barr

    February 13, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    While I’ve never used it, I’ve heard Trivago is useful for comparing hotel prices 🙂 Although I’m also a hotels.com addict, plus their rewards program is pretty good!

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