Planning and budgeting for a trip to Italy

Many people asked me how did I plan for the trip to Italy in 2010 and how much it costs. Firstly, for those who know me and those that are familiar with my blog would have probably realised that I fall into the group of independent budget traveler. Therefore I make my own travel arrangement and look for bargains and best value for money where possible.

Planning
Planning for the trip started in 2009, after deciding on Italy as our next vacation destination, I started searching for information and used the internet a lot. Example of websites that I found useful in my initial planning and research are:-
For general overview – http://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy, http://www.frommers.com/destinations/italy, http://www.goitaly.about.com
For getting specific travel information from fellow travelers – Lonely Planet Thorn Tree travel forum, Tripadvisor travel forum, Rick Steve’s Europe Travelers Helpline
For Transportation – Trenitalia Home Page ( http://www.trenitalia.com )

There will be high tendency that during your research you get excited and get overboard with a long list of places you like to visit and things to do. I remembered a much younger me 25 years ago would do a dash across Europe 11 countries in 30 days. But looking back I didn’t really see much of the country i visited because I end up spending so much time moving from one place to another. In recent years, I realised a slower paced itinerary provides a more fullfilling travel experience. So do try to narrow down your wish list. This is how I do it now.
a) I prioritize and rank them as MUST SEE, nice to see and OK not to see.
b) I categorise them into type of attractions such as museum/archaeological sites,arts & galleries, architecture, scenery, culture, food and shopping.
Then I will only pick on the MUST SEE. Strike out one or two if there are too many with similar type of attractions because you don’t want to be doing and seeing similar things over and over again. Based on the shorter list, I try to draft an itinerary.

Mode of transportation
It’s important to identify the mode of transportation into the country and how to move around the country. Transport could be a significant component in your budget. In my case, coming from Malaysia I have no choice but to take the flight to Italy. I prefer a direct flight and when possible avoid flights involving transits. Knowing the airlines which meet my requirement I will go into their website and find out when they offer cheaper fares. In most cases they would have blackout time during peak seasons and have special fares during low seasons. For that reason, I have decided a trip during autumn. To get the cheapest fare I bought the flight ticket 8 months ahead during the airline travel fair.
Italy’s public transportation is very good. Train is the most convenient way to move around from one city to another. Trenitalia has on-line ticket purchasing service but I chose to purchase the ticket just before departing as I would like some flexibility in my itinerary. You could print the schedule and fares to assist you in your planning and budgeting. Depending on how long you are staying in a particular city, I sometimes find passes can be a cheaper option if you plan to travel extensively. During our trip to Italy, we bought the Roma Pass which entitle the holder to free use of public transportation for 3 days and entrance to 2 museum/archeological site. In Venice we bought the Vaporetto Pass and use the ferry a lot to get around Venice including to the island of Murano.

Taking leave from work
I normally applied my leave 3 months ahead so I could finalised my travel itinerary. Once you have your leave approved, it’s time to revisit your draft itinerary. With the additional information on your transportation choice, allow for travelling time in your itinerary. Add queuing time for attractions that is likely to have long queue. You may need to narrow down your list further to fit in the available time for sightseeing. Now you can finalised your itinerary.

Accommodation
I normally stay in independent hostels, guesthouse or pensions. In Italy this could cost between 30 – 40 Euro per person per night. My favourite sites for bookings are http://www.hostelbookers.com and http://www.worldhostel.com.

Meals
Most of the independent hostels, guesthouse or pensions in Italy provide a basic breakfast included in the accommodation price. I only eat out once a day and uses the guest kitchen to cook for other meals. For 15 Euro could get you a descent meal excluding drinks.

Attractions
It’s worthwhile to check the attraction’s website. I would normally find out the opening/closing time and entrance charges. Some would offer discount for tickets purchase online. Some would offer reduced entrance fee on certain day or after certain hour. Posting a question in travel forum for information can be useful as others would share their own experience and give feedback on what’s doable or not. Knowledge is power and can save you time and money.

Shopping
This is quite subjective because it vary from one person to another and how much budget one has for some retail therapy. For the trip I have allowed €800 but didn’t get to finish it :).

In summary, in 12 days we have covered Rome, Pisa, San Gimignano, Florence, Venice and Lake Garda. We spent about €750 for accommodation, €400 for meals, €250 for transportation and €100 for entry to attractions. Excluding flight tickets and shopping money, we spent about €1,500 in total for two person. It’s about €65/day/person. I had used my Air Miles and only paid €186 for the return tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Rome, whilst my travelling partner paid €627. You may like to view my photobook here: Italian Escapade 2010

Please do take note that the above was amount actually spent. For example I have skipped visiting galleries and attending an opera due to time constraint so these activities are not included in the expenses. Hope the above help for your own planning a trip to Italy.

3 thoughts on “Planning and budgeting for a trip to Italy

  1. Nice advice, and you’re absolutely right about slowing down a bit to take more in. Although I have to say my experience with trains in Italy doesn’t put their transport system at the very top of my list! We always got where we wanted to go, but not always on the day we expected… But you have to go with the flow!

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