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Is 2010 your year for travel?

2010By pretty much any account, 2009 was a rough year for travel. The economy made it so many people postponed or canceled trips altogether, and that in turn meant that travel companies already struggling found it even harder to make ends meet. And economic troubles aside, the year ended with an attempted attack (thankfully thwarted) on a plane bound for Detroit.

Yeah, I think I’m not alone in saying I’m happy to see 2009 in the rearview mirror.

One interesting thing to note, however, is that although news outlets were telling us all year long that fewer people were traveling, we saw more traffic all over the BootsnAll network of sites. That’s partly due to the fact that we have always had as our target audience serious budget travelers and non-traditional travelers. The economy forced more people to get smarter about traveling on a budget, and we were there to help those folks, too.

But in addition to that, the truth is that even if some people couldn’t afford to take a big vacation in 2009, that doesn’t mean they’ll never travel again. They may need to save a little longer to take their dream trip, and they may adjust their travel style overall to more closely match a new budget, but they’re still going to go. There is, after all, only one Rome in the world – and if that’s on your lifetime to-do list, you’re not going to miss it.

Since I’m the resident Italophile at BootsnAll, I’m all about helping more people realize their Italy travel dreams with BootsnAll’s Italy travel guide – whether that’s in 2010 or beyond. And since Italy has a long-held (and justified) reputation as an expensive destination to visit, people have been adjusting their travel budgets for Italian vacations for a long time – economic downturn or no. So here are a few thoughts on making 2010 the year you take that trip of a lifetime to Italy (without spending your life savings).

  • Generally speaking, tickets to Rome are the cheapest of any entry point in Italy. But recently, I noticed that flights to Rome were more costly than flights into Venice. That kind of thing changes all the time, but it just shows that it pays to look at all your options even if you think you know the answer.
  • Some parts of Italy are always going to be more expensive to visit than others. Many great cities in southern Italy get far less tourist traffic than northern Italy, so you’re more likely to find softer prices the further south you go.
  • After airfare, your biggest expenditure is going to be accommodation – so it’s important to seek out budget-friendly lodging wherever you can. Whereas you might be able to find a great 2-star hotel in the old center of Naples at a bargain price, cities like Venice or Rome are going to be much harder on your bank account (especially if you want to stay in the historic center). Rome has plenty of hostels to choose from (see this Rome hostel blog for some good options); Venice is surprisingly bereft of hostels, unfortunately, so many of the “hostels” you’ll find listed in this Venice hostel blog are really 1-star hotels (or they’re located on the mainland instead of the islands).
  • Traveling through Italy by train is still my favorite way to go, but sadly it’s not always the best bargain anymore. With the rise of so many European budget airlines, it can sometimes be cheaper – by a lot – to fly from one city to another in Italy. This is especially true if the two cities are more than a couple hours apart by train. You’ll miss out on the romanticism of the landscape zipping past your train window, but you could save quite a bundle.
  • For many independent travelers, the idea of a package tour is anathema to their being. But in a country like Italy – where there are more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than in any other country on earth, more important historic and artistic attractions than most people can hope to see in a lifetime, and more excellent food than there is ever time to eat – choosing an Italy travel package may not be such a bad idea. If you’ve got an endless amount of time to spend in Italy, then you’re probably better off meandering on your own. But if you, like the vast majority of Americans, are limited to a scant couple of weeks every year, then it’s definitely worth considering a vacation package for Italy in order to maximize your time in the country.

These tips are Italy-specific because that’s my area of expertise, but there are money-saving tips like these for every country around the world. Sure, some places are going to cost you more than others – but even the ones with reputations for being the most expensive don’t have to be out of reach. I think I speak for many people when I say that I’m feeling optimistic about what 2010 will mean for travel. And if 2010 is your year to get out there, BootsnAll is here to help you do it for less.

photo by Julie Danielle