Saturday, April 30, 2011

Travel Planning: How to budget for a holiday in Italy

Dreaming about an Italy holiday is easy, you just close your eyes and let your imagination work. Reality sets in when we try to figure out how much you need to spend for an Italy trip. Going to Italy has never been cheap and some even skip this travel destination because they want to stretch their budget during a tour.
You budget for an Italian holiday really depends on how you want to travel. You can splurge and spend a fortune or you can make things happen even with a limited travel budget. There is no way we can come up with a formula for an Italy travel budget but we lay out some of the things that you need to consider so you can enjoy your trip to Italy.
Airline tickets
One big chunk of your travel expenses will be the airfare going to Italy. The amount will really depend where you are coming from and when you are going to Italy. The further away your home is from Italy, the higher the cost of course. Timing is also very important, the peak season for an Italian holiday is between May through September or during the summer months.
The airline tickets will be at their lowest form January through February or during the cold months. If you do not want the winter weather to get on your way, the best months will be October, March, and April when you can get a good balance of good weather and lower airfares.
If you are from the US or Canada, notice that the airfare to Italy is pretty expensive compared to the other travel destinations in Western Europe. If you want to stretch your dollars, you can first take a flight to another city like Frankfurt, Paris, or London then get a budget flight going to Italy.
The internet is also your best friend for your Italy flight. Subscribe to your favorite booking website so you will get an email whenever they are running a promotion or when the prices go down. You can also consider checking the prices and compare if landing in Milan will be cheaper compared to landing in Venice.
Transportation
Going around Italy is easy. There are several options depending on your destination and the number of people you are travelling with. If you are backpacking you will do fine with trains r buses. If you are going to Italy with your family and you have your kids with you, it will be wiser to rent a van or a car to bring you around.
The train tickets are pretty affordable and it is still the best mode of transportation if you are thinking of a tight budget. Plan well ahead so you know if you can save more getting the Rail Pass or tickets that will bring you from one point to another. Some places can be best reached by bus. Bus fares are even cheaper but take note that they cannot bring you to all places since their routes are not nationwide.
You might have heard how difficult it is to drive around the cities in Italy but on the countryside, driving might be your best choice . Remember trains will be perfect for the city but renting a car in Italy is a good option if you want to discover places like Piedmont, Sicily, or Tuscany. The cheapest car rentals will give you manual transmission while automatics would cost more.
The train passes vary in price depending on the number of days you will be using it. You can also get some discount if you are below 26 years old.
Italy accommodation
Your accommodation in Italy is another holiday factor which you can control. It is up to you which hotel or hostel you want to stay in. The prices of the accommodation in Italy also springs up and down depending on the season. During the peak months and important holidays like Christmas, Easter or the during the Venice Carnevale expect the prices to sky rocket. You also have to take note of smaller festivities around certain regions which can also make room rates go up.
Of course the kind of accommodation you want will also dictate the slice of the budget you need to allocate. A bed space in a dorm will really be cheap compared to a suite complete with a balcony and a bathroom. The range of places where you can stay in Italy range from the hotels, hostels, pension houses, vacation rentals, bed and breakfast, or camp sites.
A bed space may cost your around $20 to $50 per night while a 3-star accommodation may range between $80 and $200. If you want to stretch your budget avoid staying in hotels near the popular Italy attractions. You can also pick a city which is less popular so you can a bigger margin for your other expenses.
Food
What is an Italian holiday without trying the best of its flavors–pizza, pasta, wine! You do not have to spend a fortune to try their best foods and that is one good news for any traveler. It will be best to make most of the free breakfasts in your hotel. Another great experience will be going to the local market to buy some food and setting up picnic lunches. You will certainly enjoy seeing the local products and produce being sold in the Italian markets.
If you decide to eat out, you might want research ahead so you can order dishes within your budget. If you are on a tight pocket, avoid restaurants or cafes with fancy ambiance or those with menus that are translated to different languages. The prices tend to be lower also during lunch so you might want to make it your biggest meal of the day. By the way, you do not have to order something from every section of the menu, if you do not have a big appetite, it will be okay just to have an appetizzer and the main course. Salad is also considered as a separate item and it might be served before or after the main course.
It will also be a good thing to explore the local food vendors who serve their specialties on the sidewalk or right from their windows.
When you ask for water, make sure you clear say you need tap water so you will not be charged. It is a custom to serve bottled water when you just ask for water so be ready to see that on the tab. The house wine is usually excellent and affordable.
The cheapest meal will be breakfast which may range from 2 to 4 Euros. A serving of pasta may cost around 8 to 15 Euros depending on where you are eating. A main course of meat may cost around 15 to 20 Euros. For a cup of gelato, you will be spending around 2 Euros while a cup of espresso will be around 1.5 Euros.
Most restaurant will clearly declare that they have a certain cover charge per person when you dine. When you go on a sit-down place, a typical tip will be around 2 Euros tops but you can leave more if the food and the service are extra ordinary. Take note too that there are restaurants which do not except credit cards.
Things to do and best attractions in Italy
Now that we have an idea of the basics for an Italy holiday budget, you need to think of the things that you need to do and places to visit in Italy. Plan your list well by browsing the internet and getting an idea of how much it will cost you to visit some tourist spots or off the radar destinations in Italy. You can also check guidebooks to know which museums are the best, which landmarks are the must sees, and where to eat to taste the best Italian dishes.
There are tourist hot spots like the Duomo in Milan, Basilica of St. Mark, and St. Peter’s Basilica which are free. Most churches in this country also have their art collections which you can also see the for free . Some may ask for a small donation.
Every city in Italy has their set of best attractions, make sure you make most of your stay by seeing the best ones like in Naples, Rome, and Venice. You might also get a special tourists pass if you are staying for at least 24 hours so you can save a lot on your transportation costs. In case you decide to join a tour, make sure you bring some extra money so you can tip the travel guide.
Some of most common destinations include the Collosseum (12 euros), Leaning Tower of Pisa (15 euros), Vatican museum (13 euros), and Pompeii (11 euros).
Shopping in Italy
It is really up to you how much you want to allot for buying souvenirs and gifts for friends and loved ones. The choices are endless and you must really have a strong sense of control since you will see a lot of beautiful stuff offered by vendors or those encased in the galleries and stores of Milan.
In most cities, you will hear of outdoor markets which open on specific days of the week. You will be able to find good buys like bags, clothes, shoes, and trinkets.
Before your flight to Italy, be sure to research well on which cities it will be wise to spend your money. You will find goods in Italy which may be more expensive back home. Also check if you will not have any trouble with the customs when you try to bring these things home and also consider the tax that you need to pay.