Top 5 tips for traveling to Rome on a budget

Top 5 tips for traveling to Rome on a budget

by Courtney Woodruff

The opportunity to live in Europe is a dream come true for many military families, but the reality of traveling overseas on a tight budget can be challenging at best. We learned this the hard way when planning our long-awaited trip to Rome.

But don’t worry. It is possible to walk through gladiator tunnels at the Coliseum, take in breathtaking views of the Eternal City from the top of Palatinate Hill, and enjoy delicious, authentic Italian dishes on a military family budget.

Here’s how…

1. Fly with budget airlines.

Shortly after arriving in Deutschland, we heard about a company (RyanAir) that offers inexpensive hops from Germany to countries all over Europe. When we found round-trip tickets from Frankfurt to Rome for $22 a person, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Shop around to find budget flights departing from an airport near you. The sacrifice of airline amenities is well worth the savings.

2. Instead of booking a hotel room, consider renting a small apartment on AirBnB …

... Away from the city center, but near a metro station.

Even if your budget-friendly apartment rental is located on the outskirts of Rome, a nearby metro station can get you to top sites around the city in 20 minutes or less. For us, it was definitely the most efficient and cost-effective way to get around with two little ones in tow.

... In a safe neighborhood with a market …

Restaurants are expensive in Rome. Renting an apartment with a friendly neighborhood market helps take the strain of eating out for every meal off your budget. Every afternoon, my husband and I would take turns walking to the Italian supermarket to shop for our evening meal, as well as breakfast and snacks for the next day. These trips were wonderful cultural experiences all by themselves that we wouldn't have had if we'd chosen to stay in a hotel -- not to mention the amount of money we ended up saving. It is also comforting to know you could just run down the street to grab extra toiletries, diapers or medicine if you need to.

... And a stocked kitchen.

With our grocery store goodies, we made simple breakfasts (cold cereal or pastries with cheese, fruit and hot Italian coffee) every morning before we headed out for the day, and we sat down around the small table for a home cooked meal (fresh pasta, a meat dish, vegetables, a dessert and a bottle of local wine) every night.

3. Purchase a Roma Pass.

If you plan to be in the city for at least 48 hours, the Roma Pass is a great deal. It offers unlimited rides on public transportation (buses and metro system, not including airport transfers), museum entry fees, special events, and services. However, please be sure to read all of the fine print.

4. Split meals at restaurants, and bring plenty of snacks.

To save a little extra money, when we did eat at restaurants, we shared family-style entrees so we could splurge on things like an extra glass of Italian wine. It also helped to have a backpack full of snacks and beverages to have throughout the day to help ward off any hunger-induced meltdowns (for both me and the kids; "hangry," anyone?).

5. Fill your itinerary with free sites.

Many of Rome’s top attractions can be seen without spending a euro. Play the quiet game in the Pantheon, make a wish at the Trevi Fountain, enjoy the lush gardens of Villa Borghese, and stop for a photo in front of the Spanish Steps. If you plan to be in Rome on the last Sunday of the month, certain museums, including the Vatican and Musei Capitolini, offer free admission.

Following these tips gave us the confidence to say this about our trip to Rome: “Veni, vidi, vici.”

We came. We saw. We conquered … our budget.

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