$$$ — Do you need to go at peak travel times, when costs are highest? Hotel costs, as well as flight costs, are lower between November and March. Hotel costs also go down in the big cities of Italy during the middle of summer, in August and the last half of July. This is a great time to travel and helps with saving money. See our tips about When to Travel.
$$$ — Work out your itinerary BEFORE buying your airfare, because it might cause you to choose different airports so as to save money on ground transportation. Don’t just book roundtrip flights through Rome or Milan without looking at how that will affect your itinerary in Italy.
$$$ — When searching for airfare, don’t assume that you’re getting the best airfare at the so-called discount airfare websites. Be sure to check the airline websites too, because sometimes the best fares and also the best schedules are only available directly from the airlines. Also, don’t forget to check the international carriers, like Air France, Lufthansa, and Iberia.
$$$ — Take a quick look at hotel availability BEFORE committing to air tickets. You could run into an event — such as a trade fair or a holiday celebration — when few hotels are available. You could be forced to take a high-cost room.
$$$ — Do not assume that a rail pass is the cheapest way to use the trains. For trips within Italy, we rarely find that the cost of a rail pass can be justified. Individual tickets are usually cheaper. Rail passes tend to be best when taking bigger trips, such as when traveling broadly in Europe through several countries.
$$$ — Don’t buy unnecessary transfers. When booking hotels, consider whether you really need a transfer (see our trips about Transfers). For example, if there are only two of you, and the transfer in question is between your hotel and the train station in Florence, we think that a prepaid private transfer is overkill, costing you three times what a taxi would cost. And there is not a big convenience factor to help justify the added expense of the transfer.
$$$ — We hesitate to recommend it, because we really like central hotels, but if cost is the big issue, and you’re willing to sacrifice convenience, look at hotels that are located outside the historical centers, or even in nearby cities. Just be sure that you won’t be spending the savings on transportation, or losing too much vacation time getting back and forth.
$$$ — NEVER go into a restaurant without studying the menu outside, and computing the cost. Once we get inside, and realize the cost, most of us are reluctant to walk out.
$$$ — Avoid hotel restaurants in the big cities, unless you’re splurging. In small towns, it tends to be different, but in the cities, we usually find that hotel dining tends to be an overly formal experience, prompting us to order too many courses and spend too much.
$$$ — Stuff up on breakfast (usually included in room rate), and eat small at lunch, especially avoiding restaurants for lunch.
$$$ — OR…use lunch as the opportunity to eat your fancy meal of the day (when it will cost less) instead of dinner.
$$$ — Substitute some “picnic” meals for restaurant meals at lunch or dinner…go to a market and buy cheeses, cold meats, bread and wine, and head for a park or scenic viewpoint.
$$$ — Having beer and pizza for some of your meals — instead of wine and fancy dishes — works wonders in averaging down your food cost.
$$$ — Don’t drop 20% tips at restaurants. Yes, they’re starting to expect tips now (though the guidebooks try to deny it), but 20% is still too high, and 10% will usually suffice where a tip is expected at all.
$$$ — Don’t use cell phones for calling home (you can rack up BIG charges) — use phone cards instead. Or better yet, communicate using your laptop or Ipad using the Wi-Fi available at your hotel or at internet cafes.
In today’s travel news… History of the Vatican Museums The Vatican Museums originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and placed in what today is the Cortile Ottagono within the museum complex. The popes were among … (read more)
The ItalySource “Top 8 or 10 or so” list. We love these trips, of course, but we’re not sure why they’re selected more than others. Maybe one of these will become a fave of yours?