I have always had the heart to travel, but never really the bank account to do so. When most people think of traveling to Europe, they most likely see a lot of $$$. It’s easy to see why when the price for tickets alone can be around $1,500. Then, you have to pay for your stay, food, transportation, and things to do. After doing a little research, I found that it is usually costs around $3,000 per person for a 9 day trip to Europe, and that’s if you’re still trying to stay on the cheaper side.
For my graduation present to myself, I decide that I would take a trip to Italy for 9 days. Being a very recent college graduate, I didn’t have a lot of money to blow, so I really needed to find some ways to plan this trip on the low. By the end of my trip, I was able to spend $1,300 per person for everything, for a 9 day trip in Milan Italy, while visiting Lake Como Italy, and Lugano Switzerland. You may be thinking, “Well $1,300 a person isn’t chump change,” and that is true but, if you’re trying to have a good time in a foreign country, you have to be realistic. Through my research, I found that this is an extremely frugal amount to spend. In this post, I will go over the major expenses of our trip and how we managed to spend so little.
Plane Tickets- $700 Per Person
This is probably going to be the biggest cost of your trip. I was able to find round trip tickets to Milan for around $700 a person. One of the main reasons that we decided to stay in Milan was that the plane tickets to there are much cheaper compared to other places in Italy. If you’re eager to travel overseas, but don’t mind too much on the destination, look up places that are more affordable to fly to. Another way to save money, are apps like Hopper. This app watches for flights and notifies you when a flight has dropped in price. It also lets you know if you should wait a little longer, or if this is the best price it will be. We used this app to watch the prices for about 6 months. The price consistently stayed around $1,200, however the Hopper app predicted prices would go down and told us to wait. One day it notified us that it went down to $700, and I was able to buy the tickets before the prices changed. I actually did not buy the tickets through this app. Instead, I bought them from the actual plane line that the app showed the tickets were from, which was American Airlines. I did this because it charges you a finding fee when booking through them. Ultimately, Hopper saved me $1,000 for two round-trip tickets for two people. I have heard that there are many different apps like this, but this is just the one that worked for us.
Lodging- $150 Per Person
When you think about how much hotels cost per day, the number starts to become a little scary if you’re taking a long trip. If you’re trying to be frugal, I would not suggest staying in a hotel. For a reasonably priced hotel, you’re looking at around $100 per night. Multiply this by the amount of days your staying somewhere, and this can easily blow your budget. There are also hostels that are very cheap, but you usually do not get your own room, or your own restroom. We decided that we were going to book an Airbnb for our trip. If you haven’t heard of Airbnb, then you might be living under a rock. This website is where people rent out their properties for people on vacation. You can find a beautiful place all to yourself, for less than $50 a night for almost anywhere in the world. Airbnb is also great because the hosts can help you a lot with getting around in an unfamiliar place, especially is you do not know the native language. This website allows you too see reviews from people that have stayed there previously. Some of the hosts are called “Super Hosts,” which means that they have had all positive reviews and are verified by Airbnb. If you are nervous about staying in someone’s house, you can always make sure to book with a Super Host just to be extra safe. The place that we booked, was a loft that was all to ourselves, was a 5-minute walk to the metro, had a beautiful balcony view, had all the amenities you could need, and was $35 per night. We only ended up paying about $300 for my husband and I to stay there for the 9 days. I honestly don’t think you can find a better deal, and with a company like Airbnb out there, I have no idea why people waste money on hotels anymore.
Food, Transportation, and Entertainment- $450 Per Person
I grouped these three things into one category because I honestly don’t know how much I
spent on each. When I write it out I feel like $450 is kind of a lot to spend on these three things, and I probably could have cut the cost. For the first few days of our trip we ate out for every meal. We started to realize that the food is a little bit more expensive than it is in the States. For example, I got a sandwich for about $20, and to me, that’s an expensive sandwich! We then decided that we would only eat out one meal a day. We went to the grocery store and bought food for breakfast, we usually ate out for lunch, and then we would usually eat dinner at home. This seemed to work out pretty well, and I wish we had thought of this from the beginning of the trip. We were still able to try all of the delicious food, but doing so, in a more affordable way.
The transportation in Milan is awesome, and you can basically get anywhere you want to go in a short amount of time. The airport we flew into was an hour away from our Airbnb and we were able to take a bus for $10. We didn’t even have to book the bus in advance, there was just one there every 20 minutes, it was amazing! The metro cost about $5 a day and you are able to get anywhere in Milan. They also have two train stations in Milan. One day we traveled to Lake Como for $16 each round trip. Another day we traveled to Lugano Switzerland for just $35 round trip. If you are planning to go to Milan or somewhere in Italy, I would not worry about buying your train tickets in advance. Our plans changed a lot because of weather and other events that were going on, so I am glad we waited until the day of to purchase our tickets. You can basically go to the train station at anytime, and there will be a train leaving to where you want to go, within the hour. Overall, the public transportation was very inexpensive, but it can definitely add up over a period of time. If you’re looking for somewhere to travel to, I would recommend choosing a place with great public transportation, like Milan.
While we were in Milan we visited a lot of museums and historical buildings. A lot of these museums had times during the week that had free admission. I would recommend looking up where you want to go on your trip, to help you plan around the days where they are free or discounted. A lot of places, also offer student discounts, and we didn’t even have to show them a student ID, we just said “Yeah we’re students.”
When you’re in another country shopping is usually a must. However, around all of the tourist attractions, they really hike up the prices. Luckily, we found some street markets during the weekends that had many vendors selling clothing, souvenirs, and produce. We learned about these street markets from our Airbnb hosts, which I think is another great reason why choosing to stay in a Airbnb is a good decision.
Overall, there isn’t much we would do differently on this trip. I believe that going to another country is a great way to expand your understanding of the world. Being able to experience another culture and language really helped me think more critically about my day to day experiences. I would definitely recommend that everyone travels, because hey, it’s not that expensive after all!