As you know, I’m constantly trying to save money when I travel. From flight glitches to Groupon, I’m always in search of a way to make my money stretch. I’m constantly telling people that traveling with kids is not expensive and doesn’t have to be limited to the continental United States when you’re on a budget. That’s why I HAVE to share how we went on a family vacation to Rome and Milan for $1950.69.
You heard me. Less than $2000 for two people. Flights, food, EVERYTHING!
Here’s how I did it:
One day I was minding my own business and I get an email from secret flying.com telling me that there was a flight deal from Tokyo to Milan for $309 roundtrip. 309 US Dollars to get there and back!
I played around with the dates and realized that I could make something happen. The only thing was, it was on Momondo.com’s Italian site. I tried to change the language, but that changed the pricing. So what did I do? I opened that bad boy on Google Chrome and let the website translate it for me and booked that flight deal quick, fast, and in a hurry!
I was so hype. I had never been to Italy and the boy had never been to Europe. It was a win-win for the both of us. What was even better was that it came with a 24 hour layover in Abu Dhabi!! Another place neither of us have been. The boy was so excited and I was hype to visit another UAE city.
The thing was, I only had a few weeks to prepare for the trip. The deal was for the end of June and I had to work out the details and what to do in a few weeks AND finish up with work. But I’m a superhero, so it was no big deal.
Because I’m a geographic opportunist, there was no way that we would come all the way to Italy and NOT see the Colosseum. It’s one of the Great Wonders of the World and the boy and I are on a mission to see all of them at some point in our lifetime. So, I looked up train tickets from Milan to Rome and worked out the itinerary. The train tickets ended up being 312 euro for both of us, round trip. I could have possibly found these cheaper, but I waited until the last-minute to buy them, I didn’t purchase them as a roundtrip ticket, and purchased the tickets the day or two before. Rookie mistake, I know. I’ll learn one day.
Total costs: $983.90
I found an awesome Airbnb in Rome that was walking distance from the Colosseum, near transit, and close to restaurants and parks. I was sold! It was only $307 for the three nights. It came with free wi-fi, they had stuff in the kitchen for us to make breakfast and coffee each morning, and the hosts were amazing and informative. They gave us maps to find our way around the city, asked us about our plans and offered suggestions. They even told us that the Vatican is free on Sundays to save us money!
The hotel I booked in Milan ended up being a bust in a lot of ways. It was cute and eclectic, but had some issues. After arriving we found out that it is really far from the city and even farther from restaurants, so we were stuck with eating at the hotel (which wasn’t really that good) or walking to McDonald’s (which we ended up doing). But, for $76 for two nights, we couldn’t really complain. I found this deal on Hotels.com and had a credit from my hotel stays in Thailand that gave me a $56.86 credit. With taxes and everything, it came up to $86.16 with the fee they charged at the hotel once we got there. (they only charged us 10 euro instead of the 20 for some reason)
Total costs: $393.16
Budget for activities, food, and incidentals
Before I left, I set a budget of ¥10,000 a day (we live in Japan…) and I would only exchange that amount in cash when I got there. It’s also important to note that when we arrived in Milan, Brexit just happened, so the exchange places were not allowing any exchange of Euro or British Pounds until they figured out what was going to happen. I was able to use an ATM when we first arrived and then found a bank that would allow me to do so later when we got to Rome.
Because of my budget, I kept an intense account of what I spent, where, and how much I had left at the end of each day. Most often I had money left over for the next day that helped us splurge on a fancy lunch in Milan.
What I ended up spending for that entire time was $573.63 (according to the current exchange rate). For all of that, we took taxis and rode the metro, we ate huge lunches but small dinners and breakfasts, we saw the Colosseum, the Forum and the Palatine Hill all included in one fee, and the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum for free. We also rode the big bus tour to see more of the city and get off at the stops that interested us. We even capitalized on student discounts by using my good old ID from grad school (it also helps that my melanin keeps me looking young).
I’ll detail the itinerary in another post, but here is generally what we did each day so you can get an idea of how much we did and saw during our time in Rome and Milan. We definitely packed a lot into the schedule, but because of jet lag we didn’t see and do as much as we had hoped. It was still a pretty awesome time.
- Landed in Milan, took a shuttle bus to the city center
- Bullet train to Rome
- No sightseeing this day, completely exhausted from travel
- The Colosseum
- Roman Forum
- Palatine Hill
- Trevi Fountain
- Sightseeing bus tour to optimize our time and sights for the day
- Amazing lunch of carbonara, lasagna, and wine
- Refreshing gelato in the evening
- Breakfast at a local cafe
- Vatican City
- Vatican Gardens and Museum
- Sistine Chapel
- St. Peter’s Basilica & Square
- Metro adventure where we got lost (more on that later)
- Breakfast at a local cafe
- Piazza di Spagna
- Train to Milan
- Lunch at McDonald’s (more on why that was later)
- Breakfast at hotel
- Metro to center city Milan
- Sightseeing bus to optimize sights
- Santa Maria delle Grazie
- Milan Cathedral
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
- DaVinci Museum
- (probably more, but that day was a blur)
- Breakfast at the hotel
- Metro to center city Milan
- Bus to airport
- Flight back to Tokyo
Food, Activities, Souvenirs, Miscellaneous: $573.63
We ended up spending less than our anticipated ¥10,000 per day budget (roughly $95). It was sometimes challenging to stick with the budget, but I did it. I am really proud of myself to sticking to the budget and we had an amazing time.
I hope this gives you an idea of how I travel on a budget with the boy and still manage to have an amazing time. I’m not loaded with cash or have a sugar daddy financing these trips. With a little planning, budgeting, and preparation, you can travel like this too.