How to Visit Rome on a Budget with the Family
More than any other city in the world, Rome is a city that you can visit time and time again and still never see and experience all that there is to see. We have visited Rome as a family a few times and my husband I have visited as a couple and whenever we leave, we always say to each other, we have to go back! The people, food and history keeps drawing us back to the eternal city.
PLANNING YOUR VISIT IS KEY
How much money you should budget for Rome depends on a number of factors; how long will you be there? What do you want to see and do? Will you stay in a hotel or rent an apartment? Do you plan on visiting a lot of sites? What about shopping? And of course one major cost is food. All of these factors should go into the planning of your trip. I have found that because there are so many things to see in Rome, you really have to prioritize the places you want to visit, then do research to find out prices for each. The prices may vary and can get quite expensive depending of course, on the number, of people in your family. Some days we would see one site that cost money (for example, the Coloseum which costs 12euros for adults and free for children under 18), then we would go and visit a park like the Villa Borghese gardens (one of Rome's most popular gardens and is free to visit and enjoy but you have to pay to enter the museums on the property). Mixing up our days with things that cost money and things that were free really helped us to keep costs down.
RENTING AN APARTMENT VS. STAYING IN A HOTEL
The first time we visited Rome it was just my husband and I so we stayed in a boutique hotel close to the city center which offered a European breakfast included in the price (pastries and coffee/capuccino). When we brought our three kids and mother-in-law with us the next time, there was no way we would be able to find one hotel room for the six of us and booking two rooms would be very expensive so we decided to look on AirBnB for an apartment. We were able to book a three bedroom apartment in the beautiful Prati district. The apartment was in a beautiful historic building right across from St. Peter's square so the view was amazing! The apartment wasn't cheap but compared to having a hotel room vs. a three bedroom/three bathroom apartment with kitchen was so worth it. We were able to go to the grocery store and pick up some staples for breakfast and some dinners. I would make breakfast before we ventured out in the morning, buy lunch and then sometimes we would go back to the apartment and make something quick for dinner or pick up dinner and eat there. Renting an apartment was the perfect option for us as a large family.
SHOPPING ON A BUDGET IN ROME
Shopping in Rome can be quite expensive so we did a lot of window shopping which was also fun! If you're around the Spanish steps area, you'll find the high-end shops like Prada and Gucci which we never went into but even the display windows around this area are works of art! If you want a mix of little boutiques and flea market stalls we found the Prati district to have a great mix of that kind of shopping. The kids enjoyed going into the Nike store just outside the apartment and I enjoyed the street shopping and shoe stores. My suggestion is to make a budget for shopping and try to stick to it! It's hard staying on budget in such a captivating city, but if you divide your money up before you leave for the day you'll find that it's much easier to stay on track.
The good thing about visiting Rome is that a lot of the attractions are close to each other, which really reduces transportation costs. Taxis can get quite expensive and when your'e travelling with five or six people like us, it'll be hard to find a minivan taxi so sometimes we needed to get two regular taxi's. This didn't happen often because we walked to many places everyday and also took advantage of the transit system which is very easy to navigate. When you plan out an itinerary for everyday of your vacation, it will make it much easier to decide what you want to see in any given day and what sites are closeby. I use a website called https://www.visitacity.com/ which has a great tool for planning out what sites to see and their distance from each other. Since I found this website, I use it to plan all of our trips.
FREE WALKING TOURS
When we travel to a new city, I like booking tours just to get acquainted with the city with someone that knows the lay of the land. We have found this very helpful, especially in a city like Rome where there is so much to see. When I found out there are many cities that offer free walking tours, I just couldn't believe it! At first, I was hesitant to try a free tour because I thought that they may not be good quality but once we tried one, we were hooked! So far we've booked at least three free walking tours in Rome that are usually 2-3 hours long. They have a variety of tours you can choose from and they bring you to sites in the city where you don't have to pay such as Piazza Venezia, the Monument of King Vittorio Emmanuele, Trevi Fountain, and Capitoline Hill to name a few. We had tour guides that were students of history and art and are very passionate about their beautiful city. We were so lucky to have tour guides that knew so much about their city and were eager to tell us about the history of many places. I would highly recommend doing your research about free walking tours and mix this in with the paid sites to see.
No matter what your budget, you can find something exciting to see and do in Rome. It's such a beautiful, vibrant city it's easy to get caught up and spend more money than you expected, but if you plan your trip, create an itinerary and make a budget, it will help you better manager your money in the eternal city.