2016 Med Cruise & Italian family trip
From late April to mid June (53 nights) we traveled throughout Europe. We spent 24 nights on a cruise ship and the other 29 days mostly in Italy. It was my son’s first trip overseas and he proved to be an amazing little traveler. Most people assume a 2 month European vacation will break the bank, but with a bit of forward planning and some travel hacking you can have an amazing holiday on a pretty small budget.
I’ll go over where we went and the total cost of the trip along with some highlights.
These costs are the costs for my family (me, my partner and our son). In total there were 10 of us that went on this trip and that did help make things like Airbnb’s cheaper.
|Travel Type||I Paid||Full Rate||I saved||Per day cost (53 days)||Notes|
|Flights||$266.00||$14,891.00||$14,625.00||$5.01||Business class return from Sydney to Rome|
|Car Rental||$302.58||$302.58||$0.00||$5.70||Popped Tyre - Insurance covered.|
|Cruise (24 nights)||$6,543.83||$12,923.00||$6,379.17||$123.46||Inside room (safer for Ollie)|
|Cruise extras (Internet, Tips, Laundry)||$1,492.96||$1,600.00||$172.04||$28.16||$200 On-board credit|
|AirBnB/Hotels||$2,026.58||$6,000.00||$3,973.42||$38.23||Shared with Family|
|Travel Insurance||$0.00||$500.00||$500.00||$0.00||Platinum Credit Card|
|Spending Money||$4,342.41||$4,342.41||$0.00||$81.93||Food, Entertainment|
I spent a total of just $15,635.58 for almost 2 months of travel. That is not far off what we spend as a family living in Australia.
I would never shell out the amount of money it costs to fly business class. A return ticket to Europe flying Etihad costs about $7,500.00 depending on when you travel. It takes around 23 hours to get there (46 return) which works out at $163 per hour just to be a little more comfortable. That same flight in Economy costs $1,400 or $30 per hour. Return flights to Europe continue to get cheaper and if you search hard enough you can find some flights under $1,000 return.
Until this year, it was easy to earn Frequent flyer miles by depositing into sportsbooks. This article shows how I used Credit card reward points and bookmaker offers to make a heap of Frequent Flyer points. I used some of those points to cover the cost to fly my family (parents, sister, partner and kid) to Rome in Business Class. It was awesome to be able to give my parents and sister an experience like Business class in an A380. These tickets would have normally cost $36,562.50 but by using points, my total cost was $0. Luckily kids under 2 fly free, so we also saved some points. Another bonus of flying Business class is that you get chauffeur driven to the airport and to your hotel when you land.
It’s still easy enough for anyone to sign up and get credit card rewards that will cover the cost of flights to wherever you want to go. Most banks offer a set amount of points to join up and spend a certain amount. Just sign up, spend the amount required and cancel the card. Rinse and repeat and you will have a heap of points you can use to travel for free.
The only flight I had to pay for was to get back to Italy from where our cruise ended in Barcelona. In total I paid $266 for flights.
I love cruising. It allows you to see so many unique places at a price that can’t be beat. Every night as you eat your 5 star meal, the ship is already on it’s way to the next port. When you wake up in the morning you are at a brand new location which you have all day to explore. By far the most expensive part of traveling is the travel (flights, trains, cars) and Hotels. Not only as a monetary cost but also a time cost. It takes forever to get through security, get on a plane, get your luggage and get to your hotel. Each time you move to a new location it can easily waste an entire day. Compare that to a cruise where the travel is done while you sleep.
We choose a Holland America Line 24 night cruise around the Mediterranean. The average age of passengers is about 105 on these ships, but the quality of service is amazing. As we only used the boat to eat and sleep, we didn’t worry that the ship was more for retired people. This is also where we saved another huge amount. We could have stayed in the rooms with a balcony, or its own living room, but we choose the cheapest room for a few reasons.
Firstly it was cheap. Our inside cabin cost $2,868.00 per person and $806.00 for an extra person. Sadly kids under 2 also have to pay. So all up our cruise cost $6,543.83. That worked out to $90.88 per person per night for all our food, travel, room service, entertainment and everything else. We did spend an extra $1,492.96 on extra such as laundry, tips, Internet, Casino and so on. That meant in total we spent $8,036.79 or $111.62 per day per person ($334.86 per day for my family).
We could have spent double that to stay in a cabin with a balcony or 5 times that to stay in one with our own butler. But as we had a kid, there was no way we would want a balcony (for safety reasons) and no way we needed to spend 5 times as much for a room that was just needed for sleep and showers.
The cruise started in Venice, and went to a heap of Greek Islands (Corfu, Katakolon, Nafplion, Mikonos, Santorini) as well as Athens and Kusadasi (Turkey) before making it’s way through Italy (Naples, Rome, Livorno) and then to Monte Carlo, Saint-Tropez, Ajaccio, Almeria, Ceuta, Marseille, Sete and finally ending up in Barcelona.
The only negative of cruising is the cost of the Internet and it’s speed. At $250.00 for 1000 minutes and slower than dial up speeds, it was a real hassle to place my AFL bets. In the end I gave up and used the Internet when we were on dry land. The unlimited amount of food can also be an issue and putting on a few kilos a week is pretty easy. Luckily we walked over 20,000 steps each day and that kept our weights fairly stable.
We spent 5 days before the cruise traveling from Rome to Cinque Terra and onto Venice. After the cruise ended, we spent a few days in Barcelona before flying to Catania and making our way back up to Rome over the next 20 days. My parents were both born in Italy and moved to Australia when they were young. We managed to head back to their villages and see where they lived and meet a heap of relos.
It really meant a lot to see where my parents & grandparents came from. I even had lunch in my dads old home and Ollie played in the same backyard that my dad did over 60 years ago. I also saw the church where my grandparents were married and the house where my mum was born. They both lived in amazing locations.
So after arriving in Catania, we made our way through Sicily to Calabria and onto Nicastro (where my mum is from). While my parents and aunties/uncles stayed there for a week, I took my family for a little holiday away from the relos (it was needed) and we went to the beach side town of Tropea. I did pop the rental car tyre and needed a tow (damn small Italian roads) which ended up costing a fair bit, but thanks to my platinum credit card, everything was covered for free. It did take a heap of effort for the insurance to pay, but in the end they did. Just one more perk of having a rewards credit card.
We then took the train to stay just outside of the Amalfi coast in Salerno. We stayed there for 10 days and used it as our base to see other places nearby. Airbnb was amazing here as hotels in the area for 8 people were all in the $10,000 range for 10 days. Even most of the Airbnb’s were a similar price. I was just about to give up and look for cheaper towns when a new rental popped up. It was right on the main street above all the local restaurants, 15 minutes from the train station and 10 minutes from the port. It was the perfect location and the total cost for 10 days was $2,595.00. By splitting this between my parents and relos, it came to just $742 AUD for 10 nights on the doorstep to the amalfi coast. If you are traveling with more than 3 people, it makes sense to rent on Airbnb over Hotels. The price difference is incredible and you get to live like a local.
For the 29 nights we were not on the cruise, we ended up spending just $2,026,58 on Airbnb’s and hotels. Just $69.99 per night for my family. If I were to stay in hotels only, the cost would have easily been triple that.
The most expensive travel expense ended up being the trains we took, but we did travel all over Italy. We spent $661.22 on trains. The final expense was Spending money, which meant food, entertainment, and all the other extra stuff. On the cruise we would usually eat a big breakfast and only have coffee and a snack onshore, so there was very little extra spend on the cruise. The rest of the trip we would eat at restaurants 90% of the time. In total we spent $4,342.41 which worked out to around $82 per day. This is the one area I don’t really think about when traveling, I try and be a tight arse on the big things and spend whatever it costs when it comes to food and entertainment.
Issues and fun times
I had never traveled with extended family before and it has its ups and downs. The first part of the trip was fine as we were on a cruise and caught up at dinner and pretty much all did our own thing. The second part was a lot more difficult for me as the others were not seasoned travelers so I had to do all the planning on the fly. There were so many funny little moments and all the hassles are forgotten when you get home.
This trip will always be special as I proposed to my partner at our favourite little town on the Amalfi coast. After giggling for an extended period of time she did eventually say yes and an old Italian lady who had been watching from her balcony started clapping and yelling “Bravo, Bravo”. I hadn’t planned it, but fireworks were also going off in the background at the time.
Where to next?
As soon as we got back we started planning where we could go next. We want to spend 6 months away during the Australian winter. April 2018 is likely when we will be off on our next big adventure. We plan to rent out our place and spend 2-3 months in Asia (Thailand, Japan) before heading back to Europe (Portugal, Spain, Hungary) for 3 months. We will be staying in locations for at least a month which makes things much cheaper and the rent we get from our place will cover 80% of our costs. I’m so fortunate that I can work anywhere with an internet connection.
This was an amazing trip and a blog post does it no justice. Travel for me is the one thing I hope to do until I am a very old man. Just like with betting, there are lots of little tricks and tactics that can be used to get the best value out of it. While travel will always have a monetary cost, the return on investment is the best way for me to spend money.