Author Topic: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?  (Read 3918 times)

TOSkier

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Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« on: October 25, 2015, 01:54:24 PM »
Hi guys,

I'm new to the mustachian lifestyle. Over the past 3 months I've gone debt-free, moved from no savings to 50%, and made major changes to my investment strategy to improve my odds of early retirement.

About six months ago I got plane tickets to Italy for me and some friends. We leave in spring 2016 for 2 weeks. I'm worried about two things:

The vacation is a cultural experience, so I don't want to cut culture to save a few dollars. For example, we're planning to see the opera; I got cheap tickets for under $30 ea. I also want to discover Italian-cooked food, and visit the historic sites. My savings will definitely go down during this time, but I believe the memories we create will be worth the cost. Am I being reasonable to myself? What Would a Mustachian Do (WWMD)?

I also don't want to be a pain in the @$$ to my travel partners. If I say "Hey guys, let's go buy some groceries and pack a lunch today" to my non-mustachian friends, I'm imposing my values on them. On the other hand, it's a two week trip, and in Europe, there's no upper limit on dining costs. What's a fair way to handle this?

Any other tips?

clarkevii

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2015, 04:30:05 PM »
I travel to Europe almost every year and I have a +60% savings rate. I am traveling to Italy with my wife for 11 days this year. Honestly I would not worry about it as the biggest expenses are the plane ticket and logging. Prices in Europe are not crazy. You will spend more than what you do in the states but not by all that much. Dinner can easily be had for less than 10 euros. Sandwich shops are everywhere and lunch will cost you less than 5. Public transportation is everywhere. Take trains and buses. Do not rent a car.

Also use trip advisor to plan experiences. Pre download their City Guides. You will find that many sites are very inexpensive or free. Most cities in Europe have free walking tours that are sometimes even better than the paid. If you do not want to do a tour just do some research beforehand and go to the sites with friends and interact with locals. Traveling is literally the one thing we spent $$$ on. I spend less than 3K per year and it is part of my budget. I love it and it is very Mustachian if you do it the right way and immerse yourself in the culture rather than spend money at tourist traps.

Oh and learn some of the language before you go.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2015, 04:33:24 PM by clarkevii »

phillyvalue

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2015, 06:14:42 PM »
To me the food is a significant part of the experience, so I make no effort to really cut costs when travelling to a foreign country. Research beforehand is important so you can identify places that are not tourist traps (can be hard to tell by reviews though, especially in cities where every tourist goes like Rome) and thus to find where it is worth spending money.

Not sure where you are going in Italy but virtually everywhere you will find a great salumeria, and I think for lunch or occassionally for dinner going to buy some prosciutto, salami, cheeses, and a loaf of bread is a great idea and part of the experience. Prices on these items tend to be much lower than in the U.S.

Guizmo

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2015, 07:13:05 PM »
Where are you staying? I stayed in hostels and saved so much money that I could spend whatever I wanted for museums and dining. 3 weeks in Europe ran me only $1500 (flight paid with points, plus sign up bonus for travel within Europe.)

TOSkier

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2015, 08:22:40 PM »
Where are you staying? I stayed in hostels and saved so much money that I could spend whatever I wanted for museums and dining. 3 weeks in Europe ran me only $1500 (flight paid with points, plus sign up bonus for travel within Europe.)

We're going to Rome, Florence, and Venice (with some day trips to Pisa and Pompeii). Do you have any advice for where to stay or eurocentric lodging tools? My friends won't want to stay in youth hostels, but I think pensiones (like the moderately priced no-frills types found in Spain) would be completely acceptable for them.

Honestly I would not worry about it as the biggest expenses are the plane ticket and logging. ...
Take trains and buses. Do not rent a car.
...
Pre download their City Guides. You will find that many sites are very inexpensive or free. Most cities in Europe have free walking tours that are sometimes even better than the paid. If you do not want to do a tour just do some research beforehand and go to the sites with friends and interact with locals.
...
Oh and learn some of the language before you go.

I'm on it with the language and using public transit! Good ideas about the free tours. I've considered doing some of these on the first day we arrive in each city. And your advice helps alleviate some of my spend-guilt.

To me the food is a significant part of the experience, so I make no effort to really cut costs when travelling to a foreign country. Research beforehand is important so you can identify places that are not tourist traps (can be hard to tell by reviews though, especially in cities where every tourist goes like Rome) and thus to find where it is worth spending money.

Not sure where you are going in Italy but virtually everywhere you will find a great salumeria, and I think for lunch or occassionally for dinner going to buy some prosciutto, salami, cheeses, and a loaf of bread is a great idea and part of the experience. Prices on these items tend to be much lower than in the U.S.

Thank you for the ideas on food. I've always found the European tourist trap pricing bizarre. In Toronto there isn't a tourist premium anywhere except at, say, the Zoo, Canada's Wonderland, or inside of the CN Tower itself, which aren't good food venues to begin with. Will need to pre-identify some good restaurant options.

Matt in Akron

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2015, 07:02:51 AM »
We spend 10 days in Italy last month.  One of our biggest "wins" was finding a credit card with 0% foreign transaction fee.  We found a world mastercard issued by a regional bank (Huntington Bank in Ohio, also other states).  It also allowed us to pick a category for 3x rewards (=3% cash back) - we we picked "travel & lodging" then proceeded to book our airfare and accommodations.  Oh - we also got a $100 rewards bonus for signing up, which I wasn't even aware of until it showed up in our account!

So we saved 3% on foreign transaction fees on every cent spent in Europe vs. our standard credit card, another 1.25% in additional rewards vs. our "go to" credit card, and a $100 sign-up bonus.  Now that we're home, we selected "groceries" as our triple-rewards category and continue to use the new card for that exclusively.

Gondolin

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2015, 07:37:08 AM »
My only recommendation is to avoid eating at restaurants within 2-3 blocks of a major tourist attraction (this is easy in Rome but, much harder in the much smaller city of Florence).

All of the restaurants near the attractions will be overpriced and serve generic "for tourists" food... Going off into real city means you'll find a real eatery patronized by real Italians. Every time I've done this the food had been x5 as good and half the price.

mandy_2002

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2015, 11:30:49 AM »
Where to stay:  "Hostels" don't have to mean staying in a room with 9 strangers.  Most have large rooms that can be booked by groups.   I've personally stayed in several pensiones in Italy; they were fine, but would be about the same as a private room in a hostel. 

Food and drink:  Buy large bottles of water when needed and refill a smaller bottle throughout the trip to carry around(saves a good bit of money).  Get the daily menu at restaurants.  In Italy, wine is typically part of the menu for the day, so you can still enjoy a little local alcohol. 

When travelling with two non-mustachians around Israel and Turkey this spring, one of them told another person asking about the cost that I spent about half what she did.  The only time I wasn't with them was one late night trip to a hookah lounge.  Most times, they would get drinks and I would drink from the water in my bag.  I didn't miss out on anything, except maybe a little souvenir shopping.  My total out of pocket cost during the trip was just slightly more than my food budget for the time I was gone (this did not include flight, room, and one prepaid tour).   

Kitsunegari

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2015, 02:35:39 PM »
For the food, every city has little stores that sell casual food (think pizza by the slice) and it's often regional food. Bakeries are also a good option. Or you can just pop in a supermarket, go to the 'Gastronomia' section, and buy bread and cold cuts (they also change by the region or city). This is how locals eat on-the-go, so sell it to your partners as a cultural experience ;-)

john c

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2015, 06:14:37 PM »
I lived in Italy for a couple of years.  You can get GREAT food at low prices anywhere in Italy.  The trick is to stay OUT of the tourist areas. 

Almost every neighborhood has a restaurant where the locals go.  Look for a neighborhood with no tourist attractions, and then look around for a Trattoria or Pizzaria.  If it's packed full of locals, that's the place to eat.  The food will be as good or better than the swanky tourist joints, but for a very reasonable price.

Also, look for a Pizza Rustica.  This is a by-the-slice (not exactly, they slice how much pizza you want, rather than cut up the pies into pre-cut slices).  You order by how much weight you want (in etti, 100 gram increments), or by how much you want to pay (3 Euros worth).  They typically will have 8-10 different pizza slabs going at once.  They'll have pizza without toppings (pizza bianco or pizza rosso) to everything you can imagine.  This type of pizza has a thick, bready crust. 

A Tavola Calda is sort of a lunch counter, with hot food where you order cafeteria style.  This is also a good, cheap alternative.

Good luck!  Enjoy it!

GizmoTX

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2015, 08:00:46 PM »
In Florence, make sure you go to Trattoria Sostanza, Via del Porcellana, 25/r, 50123, & get the Butter Chicken, the best chicken we've ever had. This is a very small, very traditional trattoria, packed, reservations highly recommended. Euros only, no credit cards.

Dee18

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2015, 08:54:36 PM »
Perhaps rent an apartment?  I did that in Paris and we had a great time shopping at the markets and fixing some of our own meals.  I actually prefer eating out one meal a day and fixing two.

Captain and Mrs Slow

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2015, 02:47:11 AM »
We just did Italy, rented a car stayed in Sperlonga and took the train into Rome.

I love Italy, especially the Garder Sea region, Sirmione in particular. Rome is way to chaotic for me

Not sure if this is applicable to Americans but I always go for half board, eat a big breakfast and skip lunch. The big advantage me to me is you don't have to worry about finding a nice place in the evening. Generally speaking I get half board at the same price most pay just for the hotel (aldi and lidl reisen if there are any German readers here)

Kitsunegari

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2015, 10:56:28 AM »
Golden rule for restaurants: if they have "Spagetti Bolognese" on the menu, it's a trap for tourists.

Lady Fordragon

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2015, 11:56:21 AM »
Perhaps rent an apartment?  I did that in Paris and we had a great time shopping at the markets and fixing some of our own meals.  I actually prefer eating out one meal a day and fixing two.

I second renting an apartment.  My family and I did this last year in Edinburgh, Scotland and had an awesome time.  We stayed in the downtown area within walking distance to so many sites.  We bought food at the local grocery store for a good portion of our meals (eating local food as much as possible).  The apartment was also near train and bus stations, which we utilized several times.

Jouer

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2015, 12:21:53 PM »
I concur with others: move a block or two away from the main piazzas when eating dinner. Especially in Rome.

There are many water fountains in Italy where you can refill your bottle. This was especially useful in Rome when it was 35 degrees Celsius.

For accommodations: rent an apartment using AirBnB or VRBO. Usually cheaper than hotel rooms, especially with larger groups. (economy of scale) Also great for cooking-in some nights. If you are worried about being seen as cheap, sell it as a fun way to cook some Italian food on your own using fresh ingredients from the market. Add wine. Guarantee you'll have a more memorable, and talked about night, than if you went to a restaurant for the 9th night in a row.

Pro Tip: get lost walking around Rome. Just walk around the area around Piazza Navano. Don't eat at Navano, walk an extra block. So great!

If you like steak: try Trattoria Cammillo in Florence. Many locals suggested it. I had the greatest steak of my life there. I wasn't sure from the menu what to order so I asked for "I've been told I can get the best steak in Italy here. I would like that please" and they knew what I was asking for. It's massive and feeds two for only 32 euro. Make a reservation that afternoon. 
« Last Edit: October 27, 2015, 12:30:43 PM by Jouer »

norabird

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2015, 12:22:57 PM »
I found food incredibly incredibly cheap when in Rome this summer, for amazing quality.

wberkgal

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2015, 05:54:30 PM »
We spent a week in Rome, a week in Florence and 3 nights in Venice in the spring of 2013, so your post brought back some nice memories! We travel a fair bit and usually use airbnb, but for some reason used another service for the Italy trip: http://www.cross-pollinate.com/ You might find better deals on airbnb, but on the other hand, you are just booking now so some of the best deals may be gone. We usually look for places to stay that are just a bit way from the main tourist areas and if possible near a university. For example, in Rome, we stayed near via Tibertina between the train station Termini and a large cemetery, below the university of Rome. In Florence, we stayed near Piazza Santo Spirito, across the Arno from most of the sites. In Venice, however, we got a place on one of the main islands back from the main canal. We didn't try to save money by staying on the mainland and visiting Venice during the day, rather staying for a shorter time and having that immersive experience of Venice in all hours. We usually stay in apartments because then we don't have to go out for breakfast if we don't want to and we can keep water bottles cold and it's fun to go to the local markets--in addition to saving some money.

That said, eating in Venice was, we felt, expensive for the quality. We had the most fun eating at cicchetti bars. Cicchetti are like tapas and the are served in bars usually between 5 and 8 pm. In Rome, as another poster mentioned, the long pizzas where they cut what you want are fun, and the neighborhood where we stayed had some relatively inexpensive places to eat. In Florence, we ate at the central market, amazing food if you are an adventurous eater. It used to be open only until 2 but now it seems to have undergone renovations and is open much later. Not sure if the prices are higher and the food is still as good although we've usually had good luck finding good, inexpensive places near the markets. We also found some nice places near Santo Spirito.

We usually put a bottle of water and some fruit in a daypack so we don't stop to eat something just because we get hungry. Unfortunately many cultural sites are near pricey, touristy neighborhoods. We try to plan where we are going to eat before we set off for the day to avoid eating expensive, bad food. We don't necessarily pick the exact restaurant in advance, usually the area (a piazza, a street, etc.) and we usually plan on a "real" restaurant a couple of times a week and the rest of the time in bars or street food or at home.  We filled up quite a few times at aperitivo time (around 7-9 pm) in Florence where bars had tapas, some substantial.

snuggler

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Re: Travelling to Italy for a wannabe mustachian?
« Reply #18 on: October 27, 2015, 06:20:59 PM »
Have you checked out AirBnB? It can have some fantastic deals sometimes.

I would casually mention that you want to save money to your friends, and see what their response is. Whenever I've done that on a trip, my friends are usually also trying to save money, and agree that we should stick to a budget. That makes it much easier to suggest skipping something that is overpriced, because you know they are probably thinking the same thing.

I also try to eat big breakfasts, carry my own water, and bring snacks along (that I've bought at local grocery stores) when I travel. This cuts down on restaurant costs. You can still have the food, but you'll likely buy the smaller portions and save some serious dough.