How To Save $3,313 on a Two Week Trip to Italy

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Each year we try our best to save up and designate a few weeks for a bucket list trip. In 2018, we spent two weeks in Hawaii on our dream honeymoon and loved every minute of it! ๐Ÿ˜

The moment we returned home from our honeymoon we had already decided on where we were going next: Italy! 

With a rich culture, incredible food and some of the most famous artwork in the world โ€” how can you blame us for wanting to explore all Italy has to offer?! 

However, traveling to Europe can quickly add up โ€” especially when you are heading to one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. 

In 2017 alone, Italy hosted 58.3 million visitors which marks Italy as the third most visited European country behind France and Spain. 

This travel hacking guide is a one-stop shop to learn how to save over $3,000 on a 15 night trip through some of Italyโ€™s most popular cities โ€” Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan.

Table of Contents

How to Get Started: Utilizing Travel Credit Cards

The key to saving thousands of dollars on your next trip is by utilizing travel credit cards. 

Yes, really. It is that simple! ๐Ÿ‘

In order to maximize savings through said travel credit cards, it is important to give yourself a few months to rack up bonus points. 

Travel credit cards offer lucrative sign-up bonuses if you are able to spend a certain amount of money in a dedicated time period (typically three months). We almost always accomplish this via daily spending, rent, and any other recurring payments you need to make.

We started planning our trip to Italy about six months in advance in order to capitalize on a variety of sign-up bonuses and cheap flights.

By opening the right credit cards we were able to save $3,313 on a two week trip to Italy. We currently hold the following travel credit cards in our wallets:

  1. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  2. Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

  3. Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card 

  4. American Express Platinum Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards credit card was a new addition to our wallet this year. 

As we started planning this trip, we discovered that hotels in Europe are ridiculously expensive and vastly different than hotels in the United States.

That said, we started looking for a travel credit card with points that could be redeemed for Airbnb stays.

Airbnbs turned out to be the cheaper accommodation option in Europe and our ultimate preference, as staying in local apartments would allow us to soak in as much Italian culture as possible. 

Pros of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card:

  • Large Sign-up Bonus: 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening โ€” equal to $500 in travel credit

  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases

  • $100 Statement credit for Global Entry/Preโœ” 

  • No foreign transaction fees

The best perk of the Capital One Venture Reward Credit Card is that you can use the bonus miles to erase any travel purchases made on your credit card. More details on how we leveraged these miles later on! 

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Chase Reserve Credit Card

The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card has been a staple in our wallets for the last few years since its launch in 2016. 

This credit card is consistently ranked as one of the best travel credit cards and for good reason. 

One of the best perks this card has to offer is the $300 annual travel credit. Additionally, you can receive a solid sign-up bonus and it is very easy to earn additional miles with travel and dining purchases.

Pros of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card: 

  • Large sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening โ€” equal to $750 towards travel if redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards 

  • $300 annual travel credit โ€” automatically applied to travel included Airbnb purchases 

  • Earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining

  • Priority Pass access to airport lounges around the world

  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry/TSA Preโœ”

  • No foreign transaction fees

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Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

Another new addition to our wallets in 2019 was the Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

Earlier this year Chase changed the reward payout for this credit card by offering 3% cash back or 3 points per dollar spent on all purchases for the first year (up to $20,000 in purchases). This is an upgrade from the previous payout of 1.5% or 1.5 points per dollar spent. 

Unlike the Chase Sapphire Reserve you are able to refer friends to this credit card to receive an additional 10,000 miles or $100 cash back (up to 5 times) per referral. 

The Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card has no annual fee, which is a huge win and therefore a no-brainer to have in your wallet at all times. 

Pro tip: Beware โ€” this credit card does charge foreign transaction fees! It is a great card to help you rack up points in the United States but leave it home during your trip abroad to avoid unnecessary fees. 

This credit card pairs perfectly with the Chase Sapphire Reserve as you can easily transfer points between accounts. Chase Reserve points are worth 1.5x when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Make sure your transfer all points to the Sapphire Reserve card before booking to maximize point value.

Pros of the Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card:

  • Earn 3 miles per dollar spent on the first $20,000 in purchases in your first year

  • $0 annual fee

  • Ability to refer friends to receive up to 50,000 bonus miles

  • Transfer easily to the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Cards

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American Express Platnium Credit Card

The final addition to our wallets for 2019 was the American Express Platinum Credit Card

The American Express Platinum Credit Card gives you a number of amazing perks, luxury travel amenities and the ability to earn tons of points when booking travel. For example, you can earn 5x the points when booking flights and hotels directly through the American Express travel portal

Pros of the American Express Platinum Credit Card:

  • Large sign-up bonus: 60,000 membership rewards points after spending $5,000 in purchases in the first 3 months

  • Earn 5x membership rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express travel and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com 

  • $200 airline fee credit โ€” receive $200 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees such as checked bags and in-flight refreshments 

  • $100 statement credit for Global Entry/TSA Preโœ” 

  • Complimentary hotel benefits with an average value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts 

    • Benefits include daily breakfast for two, room upgrade when available, property amenity valued at US$100, guaranteed 4PM late check-out, noon check-in when available, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

  • Access to the Global Lounge Collection with over 1,200 lounges across 130 countries 

    • The Centurion Lounge and The International American Express lounges, as well as partner networks, Delta Sky Club and Priority Pass Select lounges.

  • $200 in Uber savings per calendar year 

  • $100 in statement credit to Saks Fifth Avenue 

  • Gold Status at Marriott and Hilton hotels 

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Scoring Cheap International Flights

For this trip to Italy, we booked four round trip tickets and four one way tickets to get ourselves from Salt Lake City, Utah to London, England, around four cities in Italy and back!  

By opening various travel credit cards and capitalizing on their lucrative sign-up bonuses, we were able to save $1,189 on these flights. 

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Pretty crazy, right?! Learn how we booked each flight below: 

Flights from Salt Lake City (SLC) to Boston (BOS) 

We started our journey to Italy in Salt Lake City, Utah. Now all we needed to do was get halfway across the world without spending an arm and a leg.

After a lot of research and playing with different departure dates, we were able to find extremely cheap round trip flights to Europe. But there was one catch โ€” the flights departed from Boston, Massachusetts. 

In order to get to Boston, we booked flights through the American Express website to receive 5x membership points on the flights. 

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By booking through the portal, we scored an additional 3,870 points to use on other flights later on in the trip. We paid $773.20 out of pocket for these flights โ€” probably the most expensive part of our trip.

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Flights from Boston (BOS) to London (LHR) 

With the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card you can redeem points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Here Chase points are worth 1.5x times more than if you were to transfer them to a travel partner or for cash back. 

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Remember that the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is the only card that offers 1.5x the point value unlike the Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Sapphire Preferred cards.

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After some digging on the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, we found a deal for two round trip tickets from Boston to London for only 49,052 points! By using Chase rewards points, we saved $735.78 for these flights across the pond. We just scored free flights to Europe. 

Yes โ€” you heard that right. Free! ๐Ÿ˜

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Flights from London (LHR) to Rome (FCO)

Chase rewards points are very easy to earn by using your credit card on dining and travel purchases where you earn 3x points per dollar spent. The points stack up without any effort at all!

We used Chase points to book two one way tickets from London to Rome. Again, we utilized the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal to purchase these flights for a total of 24,298 points saving us $364.48. 

That is our second free flight for this trip! ๐Ÿ™Œ

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Flights from Milan (MXP) to London (LHR) 

For our last flight of the trip, we booked with American Express points which we eared by opening the American Express Platinum Credit Card earlier in the year.

Through the American Express travel portal we redeemed 8,939 points (of which 3,870 were earned by booking flights from SLC to BOS).

By using American Express points we were able to save another $89 dollars on two one way flights from Milan, Italy to London, England. In the end, these flights only cost us $70!

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Overall, we saved $1,189 on flights to and around Europe by redeeming points through our travel credit cards.

Without these travel credit cards, we would have spent $2,033 out of pocket!

Now, wasnโ€™t that a piece of cake?! Do you have travel credit cards in your wallet? If not, you better sign up now and start planning your dream vacation! ๐Ÿ˜Š

How to Book Accommodations Without Breaking the Bank

Not only can you save thousands of dollars by booking flights with travel credit cards but you can also utilize points and various credit card perks to save on accommodations. 

Trying to find 15 nights of accommodations sounded like a beast to tackle. Especially, when trying our best to save as much money as possible in such an expensive country. Below we break down how we saved $2,124 on accommodations throughout Boston, London, Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan:

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Boston: 1 Night at the Boston Hyatt Regency 

  • Booking Method: Transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt 

  • Credit Card Used: Chase Sapphire Reserve 

  • Cash Price: $559

  • Paid Out of Pocket: $0 

  • Money Saved: $559 

  • Points Used: 20,000

Chase travel credit cards have some amazing transfer partners when it comes to hotels including Hyatt, Marriott and IHG.

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Boston hotels are quite expensive so we definitely wanted to use credit card points to book our one night in Boston instead of paying for it in cash.

One night at the Hyatt Regency Boston would cost us $558.61 โ€” ouch!

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Through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, the Hyatt Regency Boston was available for 27,933 points or $419 per night.

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But if we transferred our points directly to Hyatt, we could get the room for only 20,000 points saving us hundreds of dollars and almost 8,000 points! So that is exactly what we did.

We transferred 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and ended up with a free night stay at four-star hotel in Boston saving us $559.

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London: 2 Nights at the London Marriott Hotel Regents Park 

  • Booking Method: Marriott website

  • Credit Card Used: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Cash Price: $349

  • Paid Out of Pocket: $349

  • Money Saved: $0

  • Points Earned: 1,047 

We were able to find a great deal at the London Marriott Hotel Regents Park where we could put our Gold Status to use thanks to the American Express Platinum card. Given the cash price was within our budget, we decided to book using the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card to earn 3x points for use on future trips (I hear the Maldives calling our names ๐Ÿ˜‰).

Rome: 4 Nights in an Airbnb

  • Booking Method: Airbnb website 

  • Credit Card Used: Capital One Venture Rewards 

  • Cash Price: $632

  • Paid Out of Pocket: $32

  • Money Saved: $600

  • Points Used: 60,000

We knew going into this trip that we wanted to stay in Airbnbs in order to experience the Italian culture first hand. 

Airbnb also allows you to rent apartments from locals at a discounted price compared to hotels. 

We specifically opened the Capital One Venture Rewards card in order to use the 50,000 sign-up bonus on Airbnb stays throughout Italy.

The Capital One Venture Rewards credit card will erase any travel purchased on the card! It truly is that simple.

With two clicks on the Capital One website you are able to redeem points for travel. We used 60,000 points to redeem our Airbnb stay in Rome, saving us $600 out of pocket.

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Florence: 1 Night in an Airbnb

  • Booking Method: Airbnb website 

  • Credit Card Used: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Cash Price: $163

  • Paid Out of Pocket: $108

  • Money Saved: $55

  • Points Earned: 324

For our Airbnb stay in Florence, we used two unconventional ways to save $55 off our Airbnb.

We signed up for an Airbnb account using a referral link which scored us a $40 credit. You can get this same $40 credit by clicking the button below!

Additionally, we saved $15 by redeeming one Chase Ultimate Rewards point on Amazon to purchase an Airbnb gift card. This was a special offer that Amazon was running for Chase credit card holders. 

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In short, we saved $55 through the Airbnb referral link and earned 324 points by booking the remaining $108 on our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card.

Venice: 2 Nights in an Airbnb 

  • Booking Method: Airbnb website 

  • Credit Card Used: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • Cash Price: $423

  • Paid Out of Pocket: $423

  • Money Saved: $0

  • Points Earned: 1,269

For our two nights in Venice, we booked directly through the Airbnb website using the Chase Sapphire Reserve to score 1,269 rewards points. Along with the flights from SLC to BOS, our stay in Venice was among our top expenses for this trip.

Milan: 3 Nights in an Airbnb

  • Booking Method: Airbnb website 

  • Credit Card Used: Chase Sapphire Reserve 

  • Cash Price: $490

  • Paid Out of Pocket: $190

  • Money Saved: $300

  • Points Earned: 570

Three nights at an Airbnb in Milan quickly added up to over $300 total โ€” so we decided to apply our $300 annual travel credit from the Chase Sapphire Reserve to this reservation. This dropped the price from $490 to a very manageable $190. As always, we booked this stay using our Chase Sapphire Reserve card to earn 570 rewards points.

London: 1 Night at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London Heathrow Airport

  • Booking Method: Hilton website 

  • Credit Card Used: N/A

  • Cash Price: $134

  • Paid Out of Pocket: $0

  • Money Saved: $134

  • Points Used: 28,000

For our last night in Europe, we scored a good rate at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London Heathrow Airport using points that I earned on work trip a few years back. We spent 28,000 points on the room which covered the total cost and saved us another $134.

Boston: 1 Night at the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor 

  • Booking Method: Transferred Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt

  • Credit Card Used: Chase Sapphire Reserve / Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Cash Price: $476

  • Paid Out of Pocket: $0

  • Money Saved: $476

  • Points Used: 15,000

For our final night of the trip, we once again transferred points from the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to Hyatt. This option was much cheaper than booking in cash and saved us thousands of points by transferring directly to Hyatt (instead of booking through the Chase portal). We were able to score a free night stay at the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor and save $476 to end our trip on a high note!

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Overall Savings and Key Takeaways

Without any travel hacking or deal hunting, this 15 day trip to Italy would have cost us $5,258. Yikes! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

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However, by utilizing travel credit cards we were able to cut the cost of this trip by 63%. In the end, we ended up saving $3,313 and paid less than $2,000 for a major trip to Italy that we have been dreaming of for years. 

Travel credit cards are the easiest way to save thousands of dollars on your next dream vacation.

If you have a dream destination or trip in mind, be sure to plan ahead! We started planning our trip to Italy about 6 months prior to departure date.

This year we opened two new credit cards: the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the American Express Platinum Credit Card.  Both essential to our traveling hacking this trip!

By utilizing all of the travel credit cards in our wallet, we were able to spend under $2,000 for a 15 night trip to Europe. 

Now it is your turn to make your dream vacation a reality! ๐Ÿ˜Ž What travel credit cards will you use to help get you there?!



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