How I Planned and Budgeted for a Week's Vacation to Italy on a Budget
August 17, 2018 •9 min read
Planning a week long vacation to Italy on a budget started with the budget I had in mind, and the locations I wanted to visit.
I had a total budget of $5,000 for the two of us, with an additional $500 allocated for a pet sitter. The budget for the pet sitter was very rough, but was essentially the estimate for twice daily visits for nine days for thirty minutes. As a concerned cat mom, I was worried about him getting too lonely without plenty of human contact while we were away.
I wanted to visit Rome, Florence, and Venice, since I had never been to Italy before and those are the big three. I would be flying into Rome and leaving from Venice.
Step 1: Googling
The first step in my planning adventure started after the tickets were purchased and I had budgeted about $2,000 for tickets, bags, seating selection fees, etc. This was about three months before the trip.
I started Googling, a lot. Everything from weather, to Italian customs, food, public transportation, best neighborhoods to stay in, how others had planned week vacations ... For several weeks I had scores of tabs open in my browser on my computer and phone. I created and Excel document to begin building out the budget, complete with categories of expenses (and activities). These categories were: airfare, accommodations, food, transportation, activities, travel insurance, credit card/ATM fees, tips, souvenirs, and the pet sitter.
Step 2: Building a Trello Board
I built a Trello board for planning the trip. Initially I built out lists for categories of expenses, above, as the searching and information gathering was underway. I built out cards for different AirBnB's I was considering and train travel plans I was creating. As a rough itinerary began to take shape, I modified the board to have the following lists: To Do, Travel to Italy, Rome, Florence, Venice, Travel to Austin, Notes, Done.
The To Do list held cards of things I had to get done before the trip, with due dates and checklists within each card. As I completed cards, they moved to the Done lsit.
The Travel to Italy and Travel to Austin lists simply held cards with booking information for the flights to and from Italy.
In the Rome, Florence, and Venice lists, I added cards for each day we would be in that city, with the activities that would be ideal to complete on that day. I also noted transportation information on days we would be traveling between cities. I added a card for the accommodations in the city as well as places to eat as I gathered information from other bloggers about the best places to eat in a city.
Step 3: Finalizing a budget
As we were going to be traveling on budget airlines (Norwegian Air, Vueling, and easyJet), I took seat selection into account for the long cross Atlantic flights, as well as the flight from Venice on easyJet due to a short layover I wanted to help out by sitting closer to the front of the aircraft. It turned out that booking through Kiwi didn't allow us to choose the ideal Upfront Seats on easyJet that would have allowed us to carry a personal item.
Googling didn't help me much in estimating the cost of airport/airline food for two long flights and one long layover in London. I estimated about $200 for the two of us, but we'll see if that's way off.
Due to the short layover we would have in London on the way home, I went ahead and budgeted for Premium Gatwick Passport Control and Premium Gatwick Security.
I budgeted $85 for Uber transportation to and from the airport. I didn't want to have to deal with jetlag and finding our car and driving home when we got back in Austin.
In total, the air transportation budget came out to $2,358.85.
I opted for AirBnB accommodations to cut down on the cost and enjoy a more authentic Italian vacation. I initially under-budgeted for this portion of the budget. After a quick look at AirBnB about three months prior to the trip, it looked like $50 a night would cut it. After Googling and figuring out neighborhoods and how close we would want to be to not spend a long time every day on buses to get to our activities, the budget ended up about double that amount. There were also several features I looked for in an AirBnb: must have air conditioning, washer (except the last two nights of the trip in Venice), close to public transportation and the sites, kitchen (for Rome and Florence) so we would have the option of cooking to save money, WiFi, no shared spaces, and great reviews.
The cities of Rome and Venice also require a tourist tax that must be paid in cash at arrival.
The final updated budget came out to $740.12 for eight nights.
Food and Tips
I assumed $100/day for food, trying to be generous in my budgeting. This is a category where we could save a lot of money by being frugal, or spend way too much enjoying the Italian cuisine. Tips at restaurants aren't common in Italy, but I added $100 for miscellaneous tips to the budget.
The final budget for this category was $1100.
We would not be renting a car, so any transportation was going to be by public transportation. I budgeted $32.38 for the train from the airport in Rome to the city itself, as well as $18.50 in Venice for the transportation from the hotel to the airport. I looked up the cost of train ticket from Rome to Florence and Florence to Venice, and add it to my trip budget. Unfortunately, the cost on the Trenitalia site was lower for a special type of ticket we would not be eligible for, so the budget wasn't quite accurate there. Just a note to look deeper when building your own budget. I then looked up the costs of 3- and 2-day travel cards for public transportation in the three cities. Depending on how much we use it, it may make more sense to buy individual bus passes, but the travel cards were useful in getting a quick price estimate.
The final budget for transportation was $300.24
This category was hard to budget for because when we travel we like to decide at the time what we felt like doing, instead of being too tied down to a budget and itinerary. So I added all the activities we realistically would like to do and could do in the time frame we had. The activities budget may end up being lower or higher depending on what we end up doing.
The activities budget came to $579.79
Travel Insurance and Credit Card/ATM Fees
I estimated $100 for good medical travel insurance coverage. A comprehensive policy would cost more.
I called my credit unions to determine if they had foreign transaction fees, and they do not. My credit card also has no foreign transaction fees. So we should be good as long as everything goes according to plan and my husband doesn't need to use a card with foreign transaction fees.
As far as ATM fees, I estimated 7 transactions at $5/transaction. If I had to use a cash advance on my credit card instead of being able to use my debit card for some reason, I would have to pay an additional fee.
The final budget came to $135.
I initially budgeted $300 for souvenirs, and then lowered it to $100. But I kept going above budget that at a certain point, I set it to 0. If I buy souvenirs, I'll count it as shopping or treating myself or something - and not as part of the budget.
I set the budget for the pet sitter to $540.00 for nine days, twice a day, for thirty minutes per visit. I could definitely save money here, but furbaby deserves the best, just look at this adorable guy!
The final budget was gasp! $5754, $254 above budget. To get back in budget, I would cut out the seat selection and plan on cooking a few meals during the trip instead of eating out all the time.
Step 4: Planning the packing
Finally, I took the plan and itinerary I had created and condensed it into what I needed to take and what I would need to buy before the trip. We were planning on taking carry-ons only, so I had to be frugal in planning just the essentials. I will be writing a separate post on what I packed for this trip, so check back later for that.
Planning the trip started three months before the trip. About two months before the trip, I finalized accommodations. About three weeks before the trip, I started purchasing train and activity tickets. Between these timeframes I was learning as much as I could about Italy, building out my packing list and to do items, and buying stuff I would need.
The most important thing I learned from the process was reasearch, research, reasearch and plan, plan, plan. It helped to calm my anxiety about travel outside the country. I used to travel internationally quite a bit growing up, but all the planning and research was taken care of by my parents. I never had to worry about anything. Now my mind races to find all the what if scenarios and situations that could go wrong. By having a plan about everything, I can convince myself it will be all right.
What about you? Are you more of a planner or the spontaneous type? Do you get anxious traveling or are you an old pro?
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