|Duomo in Florence, Italy|
I've been sitting here adding numbers and shaking my head in disbelief. Surely I must be wrong. Math and I have never gotten along very well, despite my best efforts at conviviality, so perhaps I simply miscalculated.
But no. I've checked five times now, and I'm confident I'm correct. The numbers are accurate. As astonishing as it sounds, some people are evidently willing to pay two, three, or even five times the amount David and I pay for a vacation.
For example, a San Diego radio station is hosting a nine-day trip to Italy, (That amounts to seven days in the country itself since two full days are spent traveling to and from Italy.) with five nights at a five-star hotel in Rome and two nights at another lovely hotel in Florence. Airport transfers are provided and there will be tours of both Rome and Florence, a tour of the Vatican along with a papal audience (A papal audience sounds impressive and costly, but it's not expensive as the tickets are free.), a day trip to Pompeii, a visit to a Tuscany vineyard, daily breakfast (Hotels at this price point almost always include breakfast.), and two dinners.
The cost of this trip, including airfare from Los Angeles, is a whopping $5850 per person! If you deduct the airfare, which I'm guessing, at charter rates, is no more than $850, the result is a trip that costs $555 per day per person! That's $470 more per day than David and I will pay for lodging, food, transportation, and museum/sightseeing costs. This is an astronomical price for a tour that delivers little in terms of sites or meals. The website says a portion of the trip fee will be donated to the radio station. They should be making thousands!
Another company that never ceases to amaze me with its pricing is offering vacation rental apartments for one or two weeks in Europe for independent travelers. The idea is that you can live on your own like a native although an expert is on-call should you need help. The company throws in some printed material, transfer assistance from the airport, a transit pass (or, in Spain only, a rental car), orientation from the local expert and one group event like a dinner party or a market tour.
Since David and I are also renting apartments in each of the locations we'll visit, I thought it might be interesting to compare their accommodation costs with ours.(For this comparison, I'm ignoring our other trip costs and focusing only on lodging expenses.) I priced this company's offerings for comparable lodgings, using their lower priced add-on-a-week-if-you're-already-in-the-country fee, and discovered they would charge two people these rates per week:$2698 in Rome, $1958 in Florence, $2758 on the Amalfi Coast, and $1998 in Costa del Sol, Spain. That is a mind-boggling total of $9,412 for a four-week trip for two people!
David and I will be spending a bit longer than a week in the Amalfi Coast and Costa del Sol areas, but if I prorate those costs, using a weekly rate as a means of comparison, we'll be spending these amounts for a week's lodging: $995 in Rome, $767 in Florence, $995 on the Amalfi Coast and $481 in Costa del Sol, Spain. Our total amount spent on lodging for comparable amounts of time is $3,238 for four weeks for two people. That is a difference of $6,174 between the travel company touting independent travel, and David's and my trip!
Money, of course, may not be your only consideration when planning a vacation. Increasing the coffers of your local radio station while enjoying a pleasant tour of Italy may be your preferred method of philanthropy. And, I suppose, if you're a reluctant traveler who approaches a foreign country with trepidation, perhaps the only way you can travel comfortably is with a safety net/contact person who can hold your hand in an emergency. But, if you're not timid or you'd prefer to make your charitable contributions in a more direct way, then there's no reason you, too, cannot travel for a whole lot less than these companies charge.
My numbers aren't wrong. It is possible to travel quite comfortably, feel prepared to deal with emergencies, stay in very pleasant apartments, and see everything you've dreamed about while spending only $85* a day. David and I do exactly that, and I'll tell you how to do it, too.
*These calculations are based on this exchange rate: 1.0 Eur = 1.42 USD