Friday, July 8, 2011

Italy and Spain on $85 a Day - The Bottom Line

Resist a restaurant's lures and buy carry-out instead.

Never again will I promise "Paris on $70 a Day" or "Italy and Spain on $85 a Day." As soon as I calculate costs in January for David's and my proposed trip in the spring and I am sure every item is included down to the penny, the euro changes and all my projections are increased by 10-15%.

That's what happened again this time. We knew in January we could take this trip for $85 a day, but the dollar did not hold its value and we ended up spending, in May, closer to $98 a day. From now on, I'm simply going to promise "Travel on the Cheap" because I still believe David and I travel more frugally, and comfortably, than is possible any other way.

Our lodging cost averaged 72 euros a day or 36 euros per person. (See the article below for details.) This is as cheap or cheaper than a private room in a hostel!  By cooking our own food or buying inexpensive carry-out from delis, and by preparing our own drinks, we spent very little on meals per day. Yet, despite these economies, we did not stint on sightseeing -- we saw all the museums and sites one goes to Europe to see.

Still. as I said, even though our trip exceeded our budget and cost us $98 a day, it was a bargain. I know this because I have compared similar trips with tour companies and we come out hundreds of dollars a day ahead!

While waiting in the long restroom line at the Colosseum in Rome, I talked to the woman in front of me who was heading the next day to the Amalfi Coast (where David and I planned to go in another two weeks). She would take a Classic Journey tour along the Amalfi Coast, walking every day to a different destination where the group would enjoy a regional culinary feast and first class lodging. She told me the trip wasn't cheap.  Her six-night vacation cost $665 a day!

Back home again and curious to know if the company, Travel Off the Beaten Path, which was advertised in the New York Times, could possibly beat David's and my trip cost in 2009 to the Dordogne area of France, I checked their website. A five-night vacation cost a whopping $699 per person. Yikes!

Surely a company known for its low-cost tours would have better prices. I looked at Cosmos, a tour group that bills itself the cheapest in the industry. A vacation to Rome and Sorrento was much more reasonable than the other two companies, but they still charge $172 per day for a six-night trip. That's almost double what David and I paid.

So, although I am disappointed we spent more than we'd budgeted, I still believe David and I had a wonderful trip for a relatively modest amount of money.   It wasn't Italy and Spain on $85 a Day, but it was mighty close!

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