I’ve always liked taking pictures. I remember when I went to Washington D.C. on an 8th grade trip with my school, it was my first time to go far away without my family. It was also the first time I got to be in charge of the camera! I took 800 pictures over a 4 day period. Most of them were bad, several were just while driving by on a bus – blurry and importance forgotten. But it was the beginning of something.
When I went to France a few years later, we were 7 days into a 10 day trip when my camera was stolen. I had over 1,000 pictures on there. My whole purse was snatched, and the “remains” were found about an hour later. My phone, my money, and my camera were all gone. I was fortunate though that they at least left behind my passport and a visa gift card. Still, I was heartbroken and crying. Firstly, because I was afraid of getting in trouble with my parents. I did not enjoy making that phone call, though they were sympathetic. But mostly, I lost all of the memories from my perspective.
Now that I have taken literally thousands of pictures abroad, I’ve been learning and developing my photography skills. I am most definitely an amateur since I have no formal training. But more and more often I am capturing photos that I am truly proud of and like sharing.
I started off mainly only taking pictures of buildings. I love cool architecture, and that’s why I enjoy sightseeing buildings and monuments in the places I go. I used to take just head-on shots. I’ve since discovered something called getting the “right angle.”
I also still take a million photos, just because the more I have, the more likely I’ll have some decent shots.
But the main thing I’ve discovered more recently, is that my favorite photos always end up being pictures of people. The pictures I take of people are always attached to a memory. Whether it was a conversation I had with them, or just simply observing a cultural custom – these photos bring along the joy of being in the moment. The tricky thing is though, that I’m pretty shy. I don’t feel comfortable always going up to people. Sometimes I’m afraid they will interpret what I’m doing in a negative way. So often, my photos are snapshots that I took with my camera still around my neck at my waist. My sneak shots. Oftentimes too though, the people I’ve met are the ones who started engaging with me, making it easier to take a great photo of them.
I have some below with a little story attached to each one. I want to start with the man that inspired me to write this post though. This man below was in the Old Town Market in Hyderbad, India. As I was walking through the market with my guide, I VERY clearly stood out. I was white. I was dressed in Western style clothing (as in American, not cowboys). I wanted to take pictures in the market because I found it very lively, interesting, and beautiful. All the foods brought out so many colors. All of the fabrics brought out colors in the saris, and the representation of different religions (primarily Islam and Hinduism) was very apparent. However, I didn’t want people to think that it was just another tourist attraction for me. If I snapped a photo of them, I was afraid they wouldn’t understand the amount of respect and appreciation I had for them. I remember going through a market in Haiti, and several people not wanting to be photographed. So I tried to take some of my “sneak shots,” and even those were few and far in between. As we were exiting the market for the main road, this man started talking to me in Telugu. I had no idea what he was saying, and I had actually assumed it was something negative about me being there or having a camera. Then my guide translated for me…”He wants you to take his picture.” It took me a second to process, but I then proudly and happily picked up my camera and snapped a shot. Then he smiled, we waved, and I continued on. It was so simple. And I don’t why he cared; he wouldn’t ever get to see it. Maybe he just noticed how few pictures I was taking and was helping out. Maybe he wanted to show off his lifestyle and culture to my people back home. I don’t know! But I’m so glad he reached out to me.
The following photos were from my most recent trip in Japan. Three of the pictures are from my experience observing the traditions of visiting and praying at the temples. The one with the two boys running was when school released for the day, and the kids were running home. The yellow hats were part of their uniform. Last but not least, the cute baby was staring at me the ENTIRE time I was watching the water parade at the DisneySea park. He was so adorable; I just had to snap a photo to remember him by.
I also visited India this year, and since the nature of the trip was very focused on meeting locals, I had many opportunities.
I have some others below.
I know the monkey isn’t a person….but he’s just cute.
I love food. The older I get, the worse my obsession is becoming. It’s what I like to do for fun. When I first started traveling on my own (as in, without my parents), I didn’t care about what I was eating. But over the years, I’ve increasingly dedicated more and more of my budget to trying different meals, desserts, food, tours, etc. while traveling.
Below I am listing experiences I’ve had outside of the United States where either the food was absolutely delicious, or the experience was unforgettable. These are in no specific order.
1st Memorable Meal – Scones; Bath
When William and I were in the United Kingdom, we went on a tour by bus that took us to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath all in one day. While in Bath, we basically were just dropped off to do what we pleased with our time. Our guide, David, had mentioned on the bus ride to Bath that he would be spending his time in a scone shop right behind the Bath Abbey. He said he had already called in advance to make sure they had lots of scones. He also talked about how much he loved them, how they would be fresh, etc.. My priority was seeing the Roman Baths and the Bath Abbey, so I thought we would only get to try a scone if we had enough time. Luckily, we did (barely). David was in there and we joined him with a couple of other Americans. The American guy started to use a knife to break his scone apart, and David exclaimed, “No, no, no, no, no! Jesus broke the bread with his hands; you must break the bread apart.” Sure enough, it broke perfectly in the middle. Then he taught us that you spread the jam, but just put a “dollop” of cream on top. You don’t spread the cream. All of this was apparently symbolic, and the order mattered (upon further research though, I know other parts of England put the cream on before the jam). This scone was literally not only the best scone ever, but one of the best pieces of bread I’ve ever had in my life. I think about it all the time. The rest of my trip in the UK, I kept buying scones in other places but they never were the same. I tried to buy all the ingredients here back home but failed miserably at creating even a semi-close attempt to what these were. I did not remember the name of the shop, but after walking on Google maps, I believe it is the shop called The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
2nd Memorable Meal – Anticuchos; Lima
On my trip to Peru, I had read that anticuchos (cow heart) was a popular dish there. I wasn’t sure how I felt about trying that prior to the trip, but once I had been in Peru for a week and felt really comfortable, I wanted to test it out. The only problem was I was out of time and on my way to the airport. My group and I had an excursion in Lima at the Indian Markets, and across the street there was a little mall. We tried running around to see if we could find any place selling anticuchos but failed. Then we were on the bus going back to the airport, so as a desperate last attempt I asked the guide if he knew a good place in the airport to try it. Luckily, he did. He recommended a Peruvian restaurant in the food court just after security called Manos Morenos. My friend Randy and I ordered a meal’s worth, and it essentially just looked like steak on a kebab. It came with a sauce – I have no idea what it was. BUT IT WAS GOOD. The sauce was delicious. The anticuchos was delicious. If I ever go back to Peru, I will be ordering that a lot more often. It wasn’t the best meal of my entire life, but the fact that something that seemed scary and weird was so tasty, and that I was brave enough to try it, made it very memorable for me.
3rd Memorable Meal – Food Tour; Rome
In Rome, William and I went on our first ever food tour. I highly recommend this tour, but make sure you are starving when you arrive. We all met up at a metro station and then walked to our first stop, a Sicilian coffee shop. We tried coffee there, and even though I don’t care for coffee, I actually drank my whole cup. If someone forced me to drink coffee, I guess I would prefer Italian! We also tried a cannoli and it was magical and amazing (we returned to the shop later in the trip for one!), but more on cannolis in another post. Our next stop was Bonci’s, a “fast food” pizza shop. Bonci is a famous, TV featured chef, and one of his main beliefs for making his pizza is that you should always stick to just 3 ingredients on top. However, think more outside of the box than what Americans typically put on pizza. The ingredients varied from different types of greens to macaroni and cheese. And they all were so good. Each person in the tour picked a type of pizza available at the time, and then we all got to try each other’s. There were some that sounded gross to me that ended up being amazing. William and I returned to Bonci’s because we were so impressed. We wish we had one here! A good tip for ordering pizza from these places too, is when you ask for your piece, you need to tell them an approximate weight (or at least show how big of a piece you want with your hands). It’s basically just a giant rectangular pizza and they cut off however much you want, and weigh it to price it. Continuing on, we went into a little shop to try different jams, spreads, truffles, and cheeses. I learned about the importance and deliciousness of Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese. The cheese was so fresh (for cheese anyway), and I didn’t think I would like combining the truffles and jams with the cheeses but our guide knew how to make the perfect tastes blend together. We visited a butcher and cheese shop, and then continued onward to try different meats like prosciutto. I’ve never had meat literally just melt in my mouth the way these slices did. We continued onward again to a place where we tried various pastas. I wasn’t as impressed with the pastas (I’m a red sauce kind of girl and none of these were). However, William ended up discovering Carbonara pasta. He loved it so much, he ordered it for every meal on the rest of the trip. Finally, at the end we stopped by a legitimate gelato place that makes it fresh and had a wide variety of unique flavors. I tried a blueberry with some type of Southern American chocolate. This tour was amazing, and really filled you up. Our guide was kind too, as well as the Welsh couple that joined us. We even all hugged and kissed goodbye at the end. I also loved this tour because our guide was so knowledgeable about food, the Italian laws behind food, where food came from, what different regions of Italy were known for, etc. It was so much to take in, but so absolutely interesting!
4th Memorable Meal – Grilled Cheese; Copenhagen
I visited Denmark in January, and on this particular day I had spent a lot of time outside. In the morning, I caught a bus to visit the Little Mermaid statue just off the river. Then I wandered along the coast through a park, back into the city, visited a castle, and then had been walking on wards for about 15 minutes to reach the SMK Art Museum. I was hungry, I was cold, and I was praying that the museum had food inside because I didn’t see any restaurants near me. They luckily had a café next to these giant glass windows overlooking some beautiful scenery. I ordered a grilled cheese and hot chocolate. It was such a relaxing meal. I was at peace, I was warm, and the grilled cheese is the best I’ve ever had. I think they used several different types of cheeses. The hot chocolate was on par as well.
5th Memorable Meal – Kawaii Monster Cafe; Tokyo
The Kawaii Monster Café is really touristy, I’ll admit. It is located in Harajuku in Tokyo. The food was not that great and it was expensive. However, the theming and experience were awesome! We were fortunate enough to go during a time that was not too crowded at all. The concept is that you are entering through the monster’s mouth. Then once inside, there are 4 different themed rooms you could be sitting in: Mushroom Disco, Milk Stand, Bar Experiment, or the Mel-Tea Room. We sat in the Mushroom Disco area because it looked the coolest in the pictures. They do allow people to wander the restaurant to take pictures though, so you can definitely see all the spots. There is also a giant carousel in the middle, and the various workers there are “Monster Girls” who are dressed in crazy costumes. They put on a dance like show on the carousel every so often. It wasn’t super impressive, but still fun to watch. The food and drinks are also very colorful and neat looking. William ordered a green monster burger, and I got pasta that was rainbow colored! William also ordered an alcoholic beverage that came with blue and red phials, and he had to pour them in to mix his drink while looking like a mad scientist. The Kawaii Monster Café is definitely cool to check out at least once.
I’m hoping to have several more amazing food experiences in the future. Specifically, I’ll be in Thailand next summer. If anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!
Last week I went into depth about how I booked the flights, apartments, and hotels for our honeymoon in Italy in 2016. Due to the length, I broke this budget analysis into 2 parts. This week, I’m giving a glimpse of what we spent on transportation (in Italy), attractions, and food. If you missed last week’s post, check it out here!
First, I will start with Naples. From the airport, there is a special bus called the Alibus that only runs between the main train station, the port, and the airport. It is only 3 euros in one direction, but it’s difficult figuring out if you don’t look anything up in advance. You have to buy the ticket inside of a tobacco/gift store in the airport near the exit. Then you have to walk out to the left for a bit. There was a sign, however the area was under construction! We quickly learned that apparently, the temporary stop had been moved across the street. We managed to figure it out with the help of other tourists and made the bus. It was a quick, direct ride. We got off at the train station because our hotel was about 1 minute away by walking.
For the rest of Naples, we mainly traveled on foot from site to site. It was A LOT of walking. Naples does have a subway system consisting of a few lines, but we only hopped on once during our 2nd day to get to Castel Sant’Elmo. The one way ticket was 1.50 euros.
We walked up a giant staircase of death, not realizing in advance that this castle was on a mountain. It took about 30 minutes. I don’t really recommend anybody ever do this, so if you want to visit – know that there is a funicular that can take you up! It’s worth the fare.
Said Staircase of Death
View from the top
We only took a public bus once, with a transfer. I can’t really advise people on the bus system there because we had NO IDEA what we were doing. I had looked up routes in advance on Google Maps, but then nothing matched up. I couldn’t find the stop I had looked up back home, so I bought fare at a different stop and they gave me a confusing map. None of the routes even had the same names as what Google told me. So then I was trying to figure out where we were on the map, and what routes seemed to take us to the museum we were going to. Of course, I only have like 30 seconds and a bus pulls up so we decide to hop on and hope for the best. I realize which direction the bus is going and follow the route on the map, trying to figure out when to make the transfer and where that transfer will be in real time. A man noticed that I had been looking at the map intensely, and spoke some English. He started up a conversation with me, asked me about where I was going, and told me he was making the same transfer so I needed to follow him. Then we had small talk, started chatting with a woman next to us who only spoke Italian (so he became our translator), etc. When it was time, we all got off together and realized our bus was already here, except it was around the corner and across the street. They all start running so we just started running with them! We all make the bus, and then we find out he has to get off before us. He keeps counting “1,2,3 OFF!” So that we know how many stops to wait through. However, at one point he starts yelling at the bus driver and lots of people became upset. We thought it was because the bus driver had missed a stop, so we took that into consideration when we counted when to get off. We ended up getting off at the wrong spot, but the Italian lady literally came off the bus to get us and put us back on. Sure enough, one more stop and we are RIGHT in front of the museum.
Literally would not have made it without the nice Italians!
Needless to say, that was our only journey on the bus in Naples. The fare was also 1.50 euros per person.
We did go from Naples to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius in a day trip, but transportation was included in the package we booked. I will be counting that money towards attractions.
When we transferred to Sorrento, we took a cheap train that made several stops just like a subway all the way there. This only cost 4.50 euros. This train is called the Circumvesuviana. This train is notorious for pick pocketing (as is the Naples train station, Naples in general, and Italy in general). Be very, very careful with your things. I personally feel like I had a couple of people eyeing me closely and we met a tourist that had her phone stolen. It gets very crowded just like subway trains too.
In Sorrento, we could walk everywhere in the city. We did take one taxi from our hotel back to the train station because we were running late to the train station that morning. Even though the Circumvesuviana runs several times each hour, we had to make it to Naples pretty early in order to make our other train taking us to Rome. This was a very short taxi ride though, and only cost about 20 euros.
When we went to Capri, we went on an excursion that included the boat travel to the island. On the island, since we were short on time and wanted to see Capri and Ana Capri, we took a taxi between the 2 cities. The taxis there are convertibles too! And it’s so beautiful and mountainous; it’s very much worth it at least one way. They do have public buses, but those obviously take longer. We barely had enough time to fit in everything we wanted so take into consideration how much time you have on the island. The taxi fare was exactly 20 euros each way.
We toured the Amalfi Coast on an excursion that included minivan travel to the cities of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. You can also take public transportation, but then it is not realistic to expect to get to all 3 of these cities and back to Sorrento in a day. In each city, we only walked around.
Now Rome…..Since we were in Rome for 6 days, and it’s much larger, we bought an all-inclusive week long public transportation pass. It was 24 euros, and it was WELL WORTH THE MONEY. We used public transportation so much. Rome has 2 subway metro lines, lots of buses, as well as a couple of other trains (we didn’t understand what they were even at the time). We did indulge in one taxi ride after a late night, which was about 20 euros.
Our apartment was about a 30 minute walk away from the closest metro station, which was just north of the Vatican. There was a bus though from that station, but since it ran less often than other buses, it only came by once every 30 minutes. We know, since we tested it several times. There was a Serbian lady who could not believe the wait times and asked the locals about it, and that’s how we found out it was a less-used route. Other buses run more consistently, especially ones tourists normally will be using. To be honest though, we did not use the metro very often. It’s not actually that convenient. We either walked or took buses for the most part. What I love about Rome buses is that all of the stops are easy to see and well labeled with the route listed out, as well as all the buses that stop there. So I could just walk to a bus stop and figure out my route from looking at the sign. We actually got home that way once!
We also took a couple of regional trains, but just through a couple of stops in Rome. There were no ticket scanners so we just hopped on and hoped that the passes were valid on those trains (the train station was closer to us than the metro). Finally, on our last ride, we had a person coming through the train checking tickets. We discovered that our passes were valid on those trains as well!
We also took a train from the Rome suburb Ostiense to get to Ostia Antica. It was the Lido train, and it was still included in the weekly pass as well.
To get from Naples to Rome, and from Rome to Pisa, we took regional trains that I had purchased fares for online. The gamble is, even though you guarantee your seat and prices are better, apparently Italy has train strikes a lot. Sometimes, it is better to be flexible and see what is going on once you get there. I’m such a planner though, I hoped for the best and it worked in our favor. Naples to Rome was about $25 a person, and Rome to Pisa tickets were about $35 a person.
Finally, in Pisa we just walked everywhere. We only got on a bus once to take us to the airport. The ticket was 1 euro.
So to calculate my transportation total, I’m counting the euros the same as US dollars since they were so close to being equal when we were traveling.
Cost of transportation per person: $140
In Naples at the train station the first morning we “set off,” we went to an office in the train station to buy the Campania Art Card. There are different options, but we bought the 7 day pass that gets us into 5 of the included sights free, and the 6th one at ½ off. I had done the math though and was very strategic about where we used it, and where we would just pay a fee separately (use the pass for the more expensive places). We used ours to get into the following: Royal Palace (12 euros normally), the Bourbon Tunnel (10 euros), Castel Sant’Elmo (10 euros combined with Museum), Certosa e Museo di San Martino (10 euros combined with castle), and Teatro di San Carlo (7 euros). The Castle and the Museum were supposed to be combined for one entry, but we somehow screwed it up and got it counted twice unfortunately. The Naples National Archaeological Museum (12 euros) ended up being our ½ off one, but the original plan was to get into this one as well with the card for free, and then getting ½ off of Villa Cimbrone (7 euros) in Ravello a few days later.
The card was 34 euros a person. We would have otherwise spent 58 euros a person.
We did splurge on tours for this trip. We did one taking us to Mt. Vesuvius as well as Pompeii. This included round trip transportation, a guide for Pompeii, and lunch. It was $105 a person. You could use the Circumvesuviana train from Naples to get to these locations, and then pay the 11 euro admission at Pompeii, and the 10 euro admission at Vesuvius. It would just take a lot more time and be more difficult to do all in one day.
We did a tour that included our boat transportation to Capri, as well as a sail along the coast, a stop for swimming, beer and limoncello, and transportation to the Blue Grotto. This was $93 a person. If you were to do this one on your own, it is about $55 round trip for the ferry alone. Then getting to the Blue Grotto would have taken additional transportation on the island.
Finally, we also did an Amalfi tour to help save time. It was mainly just direct transportation to Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. We got dropped off in each city to do what we wanted. Our driver also stopped for many photo ops, was very knowledgeable about the area, and lunch was included in Ravello. Since it was William’s birthday, he even surprised the group with some Prosecco. This tour was $87 a person. Bus tickets are very cheap, but then you would probably need to have an additional night in the area to see everything we saw (which adds up in the end).
In Rome, for all attractions we either bought tickets online in advance or paid at the door. I had looked into the Roma Pass, but it simply was not beneficial for what we were doing. In addition to just admission to places, we did do an underground Scavi tour in the Vatican, as well as the underground and third ring tour at the Colosseum.
In Pisa, everything was free except the main things by the Pisa tower. We were able to buy this in a combo ticket for $23 per person including the tower climb.
So our grand total per person does include some transportation costs and meals since it was combined in tours.
Cost of attractions per person: $477
I LOVE Italian food. So we cut back so much on airfare and lodging, I will not lie – I did not hold back on the food here.
Breakfast – In Naples, every morning we walked to the train station. I would always just get a couple of pastries from the bakery and William would always get something from McDonalds. In Sorrento, food was included with our hotel stay. Our Airbnb provided food for breakfast in Rome. So we only bought a breakfast meal in Pisa our last morning in addition to Naples.
Breakfast Total per person: $40
Lunch and Dinner – When we did sit down in a restaurant, we usually spent about 40 euros on a meal for both of us. However, sometimes we were tired in the evening and just grabbed fast food or groceries to eat in our room. Sometimes, we kind of skipped lunch and just snacked throughout the day. This is the hardest one for me to estimate, but I believe we probably spent around $300 a person on all food other than breakfast and what I’m about to mention below. Could have definitely spent less. But I wanted gelato and pasta everyday!
While in Rome, we also did a food tour which was money WELL SPENT. We had coffee, cannolis, meats, cheeses, jams, truffles, pastas, pizzas, and gelato. I had SO MUCH FOOD I literally got so sick later but it was so worth it. Wow. Our only regret was not doing the tour sooner on the trip. This was $99 a person.
We also signed up for our first Eat With experience at Barbara’s. We went to an Italian’s home in Trastevere, and enjoyed her home cooked meals with wine and company all night long. This was $75 a person, which helps to supply all of the ingredients, wine, and Barbara herself!
Cost of food per person: $514
The grand total is $2,041.50!
AK, THAT’S TERRIBLE. That is not saving money at all!
It was my honeymoon, give me a break. It’s also important to take the following into consideration:
I went into this trip knowing that I had honeymoon gifts and money from the wedding to cover things (included in the total above). About $800 of that per person was covered for us – bringing the cost down to almost $1,200 per person total for EVERYTHING.
I didn’t have to pay for hotels. I could have booked airbnbs, hostels, or used hotel points (potentially reducing the cost by $835.50 per person).
I also got so many miles from the hotel bookings that I have enough for a free one way flight in the states.
Time is money. I splurged on tours to mainly save on time that would be lost if I got everywhere myself. You could cut back several hundred just from that. If you do want to do a tour though, you could look into using certain credit card points to cover those as well.
I love food. We ate all the food we could ever want and more. If you stick to grocery shopping, just getting a light pastry in the morning, making your big meal of the day lunch as opposed to dinner (more expensive), being okay with standing to eat, etc. you can definitely do it for cheaper than we did. Also, don’t pick places with pictures of the food or where the menu is translated. If you are near a super touristy area, walk a few blocks away before looking for food. We were bad about this because we always waited until we were starving and on our death beds before looking for a place to eat. Therefore, we settled quickly. Some research in advance or looking on yelp could help too. Obviously, skip the food tours too if you are on a tight budget.
We did every attraction under the sun in these parts of Italy. A lot of them start to feel repetitive. If you just stick to what you really care about seeing, and what is free, that will also help. You can have an amazing time in Italy just wandering around for free.
I know this post is lengthy, but there is really good advice and ideas you could use on your trip. A lot of these things I had to really dig to find, or didn’t find out until I was there. I know quite a few people have already been to Italy too, so if you have anything to share, PLEASE do.
This blog post’s purpose is not to solely provide entertainment, but to present a realistic breakdown of expenses spent on a trip. The goal is to help create ideas on how to cut back, help set expectations, and to see how my money was spent based on airfare, lodging, transportation, attractions and meals.
Italy is at the top of most people’s lists for places they want to see the most. For me, I remember seeing the pictures of when my former youth pastor and his wife went on their honeymoon there. I couldn’t believe it – how could anything be more romantic than honeymooning in Rome? Especially since I had thoughts of riding on the back of a moped with a handsome man just like Lizzie McGuire did in her movie.
Well, dream accomplished. I had told William from the get-go this is where I wanted to go, and he was onboard with the idea. We went in April 2016. I have our general outline of how the trip went below for reference.
04/15/16 – Flew out of DFW
04/16/16 – Arrived in Naples after a layover in Frankfurt AND a layover in London (that required us to switch from Heathrow to Gatwick airport in 3 hours – yikes) – evening
04/17/16 – 04/18/16 – 2 full days exploring Naples
04/19/16 – Day trip from Naples to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius
04/20/16 – Train to Sorrento in morning, full day in Sorrento
04/21/16 – Day trip from Sorrento to Capri
04/22/16 – Day trip from Sorrento to Amalfi Coast (Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello)
04/23/16 – Train to Rome in morning
04/24/16 – 04/28/16 – 5 full days in Rome
04/29/16 – Train to Pisa in afternoon
04/30/16 – Pisa, leave for airport in evening. Fly to London for overnight layover
05/01/16 – London to Madrid, then finally home
Because it was our honeymoon, my gracious, thoughtful, awesome in-laws gave us miles to book the flight with! William’s dad flies multiple times a month for work so he racks up a lot of American Airline miles. We went with the Economy MileSAAver redemption, which is the lowest amount of points possible that you can use to get from point A to point B. They are not available every day, so you have to be flexible with your dates. At the time, this was 20,000 miles per person each way. So for both of us, this would total to 80,000 miles. American has increased this award to 22,500 miles each way now though (90,000 round trip for 2 people).
Even when you book with miles, you will still have to pay various taxes and fees associated with the ticket. When I currently looked this up on a similar flight, this was about $150.
Keep in mind, if you book through American Airlines, avoid long flight segments that are on British Airways. In my case, I had to make sure my flight going over the ocean was not a British Airways flight. They charge you the fuel surcharge on top of the miles redemption, so this can change that $150 fee to a $600 one.
If you don’t have people in your life with tons and tons of miles to spare though, you can sign up for a credit card with a good bonus. Some examples are:
Starwood Preferred Guest – currently a 25,000 point bonus, and the annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. Every 20,000 points that you transfer (at a time) to American Airlines racks up an additional 5,000 mile bonus. If you would like more information on this card, send me your email on my Contact Me page. I have a special referral email I’ll send to you!
Make sure though you are careful with your credit, and have a score of at least 700 before applying.
Cost of airfare per person: $75
As a honeymoon present, we were able to upgrade for a bit of our stay in Italy as long as we kept it under $200 a night, and I used Rocket Miles to book these hotels. Why? Because they bonus me extra miles to the account of my choice just for booking through them. The prices for the hotels are similar to other hotel booking sites; the only difference is there are not as many options. The bonuses are always at least 1,000 miles but can go up to 13,000. Keep in mind, this is for the reservation (not per night).
In Naples, I found the Ramada Naples conveniently right next to the train station. After all taxes and fees were factored in, this cost $172 a night for 3 nights. I earned 516 miles through my credit card for making the reservation, and then I got a bonus of 9,000 American Airlines miles deposited to my account; 6,000 for the actual reservation and 3,000 for it being my first booking.
In Sorrento, we stayed at the Hotel Corallo for 4 nights at $183 total a night with all taxes and fees. So in addition to earning 731 miles on my credit card, I also earned a bonus of 6,000 American Airlines miles.
For the rest of the trip, we were on our own so I chose to book our lodging through AirBnb! In Rome, we stayed 6 nights in an apartment located within walking distance of the Vatican. It had a full kitchenette, a patio with a garden, neighborhood cats, and it took a million keys to get inside (very secure!) The host was very kind, even though she didn’t speak much English. There was also food to make breakfast and many guide books inside (and a map)! You can check her place out if you are looking at Rome here.
We paid about $61 a night, totaling $365 for the whole stay.
Finally, in Pisa for one night we also stayed at an AirBnb location. It was $58 for the grand total. Never met our host, but it was a great location.
Cost of lodging per person: $835.50 (but also earned 16,247 miles just through 2 hotel bookings. More than enough for a one way domestic airline ticket).
All of my Italy budgeting, especially transportation, ended up being some rather lengthy writing. I’ve decided to end this post here, but next week I will include more information on the cost of transportation, attractions and food. I will also reveal the grand total!