So, this post is about how you can travel to Italy for one week for less than $1000 bucks* for airfare and accommodations. Look, I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, “Bullshit, lady, it’s impossible to travel to Italy for so little.” And you’re right, it sounds impossible, but it isn’t.
This requires a few tricks, it will require at least one year of planning, but it’s totally worth it. It’s basically how most of the people that I know travel for free-ish. If you’ve dreamed of visiting Italy you’re whole life but it just seems too expensive with your kids or whatever, well, my friend, I’m the babe for you. Platonically. Because I’m married, to a majestic Italian heartthrob who I adore (despite the fact that he sheds like a Husky in the summer time).
I got the idea for this post because ten minutes ago I was talking to a customer service rep at an agency that manages one of my massive student debt. During the conversation I told her to NEVER, EVER go to graduate school at an American school in Italy. Then she was all, “It’s my dream to go to Italy but it seems so hard to ever get there!” And that was a bummer because I get that, it is hard, and she was nice and I wanted to help her, so I launched into a bunch of friendly advice on how to do it for super cheap (I also mentioned that hostiles are not really full of murderers). After we hung up it totally occurred to me that I could share the same information with all of you out there who want to travel to Italy for cheap.
Now, here’s who it won’t work for: People with terrible credit. So, if you want to take advantage of this, you need to clean that shit up. Make payments, write love letters to bill collectors, or whatever else you need to do.
GET ONE OR TWO TRAVEL CARDS IMMEDIATELY
Why? A bunch of them have massive sign-up bonuses, and most have dollar-for-dollar point matching. What does that mean for you? Every dollar you put on it gives you points towards travel. The Best One For Airfare? American Express Delta. Get that shit and get it right now. Seriously. GET IT. They offer like 30K points as a sign-on bonus, plus other fancy things like priority boarding, etc. The Best Card For Hotels? In my opinion, the Chase Saphire Preferred, but you can check this site for other options (or run a Google search). After you get your two cards, USE THEM FOR EVERYTHING. Utilities, groceries, any and all normal, regular bills as possible.
You’re thinking that this is a terrible idea because getting into debt is dumb and why the hell would you want to do that? I agree. Debt is dumb. So don’t use your card to live above your means. Do. Not. Do. That. Instead, use your card for things that you already pay for every month. Rent, electricity, groceries. If you really want to go for it, use it for every expense you have all month. Then, at the end of the month pay your credit card (s) off in full. Pay the entire balance. Every. Month. If you do this you won’t have to pay interest on the card and you’ll get all of those damn travel points. Yes, it’s that easy. Free shit for simply running your money through the credit card. How did I not know about this when I was younger!? Everyone that I know does this. They use their credit cards for all of their expenses every month, then they pay the card off every month, on time, and they never make payments. If you want to be super careful, put your card on auto-pay so the money is pulled out of your account on time, every month, without hassle. I do this, because I am super forgetful. I literally forget how to get home sometimes. Even when I’m sober. The most important thing here is to keep your monthly credit card spending way below what you make every month. If you go overboard it will totally screw the whole thing up.
Keep doing that until you have enough for airfare. Depending on your monthly spending and income, it could take a few months to one year or so.
CHOOSE YOUR TRAVEL MONTH WISELY
September, October and April. If I’m being honest these are nice months anyhow. The winter in Italy is rainy and depressing and the summer is super hot and very few places can afford the luxury of air conditioning (cafe’s and even some restaurants are often without cool air).
GIVE HOSTELS A CHANCE
Depending on your spending habits it’s totally possible to get enough points for airfare and hotel stays by using your travel cards. However, for most people that’s probably unlikely. I’m a writer, so, if I did it on my income alone there’s no way in holy hell. If you’re like most people, you’ll probably only be able to spend enough for your airfare. And that’s ok. Hostels are amazing in Europe. I’ve stayed in a bunch all over Europe and they’re kind of my favorite. I’ve had one weird experience in Spain but otherwise every hostile I’ve stayed at has been really nice, super clean, and way more fun than a hotel. Hostiles are not full of scary murderers. Many of them are even nicer than (European) hotels for 1/4 of the cost sometimes. I found some awesome hostel’s in Italy that range from $26 bucks per night to $48 in September. You can find even cheaper hostels than this but these are some of the nicest out there.
ANOTHER OPTION FOR CHEAP/FREE ACCOMMODATIONS
I had lived abroad for quite a long time before I found out about wwoofing. A very close friend of mine did it in Tuscany for a few months one summer. He called it a “unique and amazing,” experience. It’s for singles, friends, or families. Yes, some people even take their toddlers with them and the kids have the best time of their lives while learning about where things come from and how much work goes into it. Ah, life lessons.
Basically, you sign up to become a member then you stay on farms in Italy for free and in return you help them with their work. Don’t worry, it’s not all backbreaking farm work. My friend worked at an essential oils farm where they picked lavender to turn into oil. Food and an amazing nights rest on a beautiful farm is what you can expect. And? So much fun. The host families are usually very sweet and fun.
From what I’ve heard it’s very safe but just to be extra safe I’d always go with a friend.
Pros: What’s not to love about a free place to sleep and amazing farm to table food?
Cons: It has to be during a season when there is a lot of work to be done. And you have to work usually five days per week. But weekends off!
MONEY SAVING TRICKS AND TIPS
Once you’re in Italy here are a few tricks to save as much money as possible.
1. Do not sit down with your coffee. In Italy they charge for this in many places. More on that here: (Link coming soon)
2. If you go out for Aperitivo you’ll pay for a drink (between 7-10 dollars) but get food for free. These things vary depending on where you’re located. In Florence you can make a full meal of it at places like Kitch. In the south they’ll usually just offer a little plate with various things on it like sandwich squares, salami, chips, and other things that are basic.
3. Buy train tickets in advance or for even cheaper rent a car to get around Italy. If you have the American Express Platinum then you’re car insurance is already taken care of. Get a car that uses both normal gas and Metono (fuel made with garbage. basically) for optimal cheapness while cruising around.
4. Avoid tourist areas for food. They will always hike up the price for shit food. It’s nasty, it’s expensive, and it’s never worth it. Research restaurants before going so you always know where good/affordable places to eat are located.
5. If you want to get tipsy on the cheap, grab a bottle of alcohol from a store and just head to a piazza with some paper cups. It’s legal and everyone does it. You can buy decent wine for like 3 euros.
*Not including taxes or fees. Every card, reward program, airline is different so factoring all of those possibilities in would be a nightmare. You’d have to figure that cost (sometimes almost nothing, sometimes high) depending on your specific card, airline, etc.