Hey guys! I hope that you are all doing well amid the lockdown. Things do not seem to be getting better, but I hope that we can see some change in the next few weeks.
As regards to this blog, with the semester rapidly coming to an end, we thought that it would be helpful to give you more specifics about our trip. So, today I will talk about budgeting for your trip to Italy.
Before I left for Europe, I had an array of things to take care of in terms of finances. First, I had to take care of paying for a visa application ($62), cost of transportation to and from the Embassy (I am not a big fan of driving around DC)($30), the plane ticket, and how much money I would need to bring with me on my trip. Figuring this out was probably the most stressful part of my trip to Italy, for sure. But fear not, I have some great tips to help ease your journey in the future, may you decide to go on a study abroad trip with the school.
Now, my first piece of advice is that you always keep a little journal and pen handy when trying to organize a trip. You never know when an idea will come to you, that you will need to write it down before forgetting. I found that writing down my plans helped me think more clearly and reduced my stress. I always kept a checklist of tasks I needed to accomplish. And when it came to budgeting, I always looked up the exact price or a ballpark estimate of how much an activity might be and wrote it down. I did research on how much I might be spending there, and wrote it down for reference, and that was a true help.
One of the first things that I suggest you do as soon as you’re sure about going on the trip is to start looking for plane tickets. The earlier you do it, the cheaper it will be. Also just helps get the big tasks out of the way. I started looking around for tickets to leave at the end of January around October/November. Back then, the prices were around $600 for a round trip ticket to and from Italy. I did not get them then as I was still unsure about going. By the time I got them, I paid close to $800 for my plane ticket. I know some students paid more for their tickets even though they got them earlier. The price depends on you and your budget. I wanted to spend the least amount of money and I was not too picky on airplane seats or sections.
If you are an American citizen, you will not need a visa but in my case I did. I want to make sure that people who find themselves in my situation are aware of this: you must apply for the visa months in advance and make sure that you have the right documents to the letter before you show up for your appointment! The embassy asked that I have $3000 in my personal bank account to travel to Italy. I did not think that I would need all of that for just three months, but I did as I was told. I can say that I spent around $650 in the month and change that I spent in Florence. This all includes grocery shopping, emergency fund for sickness (I had to buy some medicine at some point), eating out (I did not do this very often), and my trip to Spain. Remember that the Euro holds more value than the US dollar, so you should know how to convert your money so you’re not short.
I went grocery shopping once or twice a week, and I would spend around $40 or less. I noticed that things were a lot cheaper in Florence. Milk was cheaper, cheese, bread, oil, meats… but that also depended on which grocery store I went to. I used to go to Conad. Although it was the same brand, some Conad stores around touristic spots were more expensive, so I tried to avoid those. Eating out is also cheaper, you could eat a good meal with an entrée and dessert at a fairly nice place for 12 euros, which is around $14. Medicine is also cheaper, getting cough medicine, ibuprofen costs around $10. Overall, deciding how much your budget is depends on you and how much you’re willing to spend. I wanted to spend the least amount and use my remaining money on travelling. Given that I spend $650 in a month or so, I would have spent close to $2000 on my trip to Italy. Including travel to other countries.
This was a longer blog than usual, but I wanted to tell you as much as I know. I hope that you stayed until the end and found it informative.
Don’t forget to check out the other blogs coming out this week for tips on getting ready for a trip abroad! Make sure to tune in next week for more on budgeting, this time budgeting when traveling around Europe once you’re already there!