Trip Planning: Rome and Florence for 90% Off!

Rome and Florence for 90% off? Yeah right! Actually, it’s not that far fetched.

This is the next post in my series detailing the framework that goes into planning a trip. These write-ups should act as guidelines, and are not a promise that you can find these exact trips; however, I hope they are close enough to show that you really can do “expensive” trips for much less than you think. With that aside, let’s look at a weeklong trip to Rome and Florence in August 2016.

First up, getting there! Searching the United website, there is a Newark – Zurich – Rome flight that leaves Newark 8/13 at 6:45pm and gets into Rome at 2:15pm for 30,000 United miles and $24.70 per person.

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United Airlines EWR-ZRH-FCO

This flight would normally be $2,647 per person, or $5,294 total. If that sounds ridiculous–it is! All flights on United that day were that price or more!

Once you land, head to the Hilton Garden Inn – Rome Claridge, where you’ll be staying for three nights. For this hotel, you’ll be using a Points+Cash reward, which works out to 72,000 points and $328 dollars.

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Hilton Garden Inn – Rome Claridge rate

This hotel is a few kilometers from some of the places you’ll want to see, like the Spanish Steps, the Vatican, and the Colosseum.

On the 17th, you’ll take the train to Florence. The hotel is about 3 kilometers from the train station. The trip takes just over an hour and a half and can be had for as little as $22 per person. Make sure to put both train trips on the Capital One Venture, as you’ll be using points from the sign-up bonus to reimburse these expenses.

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Once in Florence, head to your hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn – Florence Novoli, where you’ll be staying for three nights. Much like the Rome hotel, you’ll be doing a Points+Cash redemption, which comes to 24,000 points and $151. Again, the hotel is a few kilometers from both the train station and the major sights you’ll want to see–I would recommend staying out all day so as to not waste time going back and forth to the hotel.

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Hilton Garden Inn – Florence Novoli rate

On the 20th, you’ll get back on the train and take it directly to Rome Fiumicino Airport. Again, this train ride will cost $22 per person and take about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

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At the airport, head to the Delta check-in area, as you’ll be flying them back to New York. We’re going to splurge a little and take a nonstop flight, which will set you back 65,000 miles and $199 per person. This same flight paid in cash would set you back $1,895 per person, or $3,970 total.

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Delta Air Lines FCO-JFK

So there’s your whirlwind of a trip! Sounds bellissimo! So what is it going to set you back?

Items Points Used Cash Value of Points Cash Spent
2x United tickets EWR-ZRH-FCO 60,000 United MileagePlus miles $5,492.00 $49.40 ($0.00 after Capital One reimbursement)
3 nights Hilton Garden Inn – Rome Clardige 72,000 Hilton HHonors points $548.35 $328.00
2x Italiarail tickets Rome – Florence n/a n/a $44.00 ($0.00 after Capital One reimbursement)
3 nights Hilton Garden Inn – Florence Novoli 24,000 Hilton HHonors $336.88 $151.00
2x Italiarail tickets Florence – Rome Fiumicino n/a n/a $44.00 ($0.00 after Capital One reimbursement)
2x Delta Tickets FCO-JFK 130,000 Delta SkyMiles $3,970.00 $398.00 ($262.60 after Capital One reimbursement)

Cost of trip:  286,000 miles/points and $741.60

Cost of trip without miles/points:  $10,435.23

Savings:  $9,693.63 or over 90% off

So, which cards make this trip possible? You’ll need 6 cards:

Card Annual Fee Spending Requirement Bonus Points Notes
American Express Premier Rewards Gold $0 first year, $195 after that  $1,000 in 90 days 50,000 points After spending requirement, you will have 51,000+ points

Transfer 2,000 to Hilton

Transfer 26,000 to one Delta account, then transfer 13,000 miles from one account to another

American Express Hilton Surpass $75 $3,000 in 90 days 85,000 Hilton HHonors points After spending requirement, you will have 94,000+ points

After transfer from Premier Rewards Gold card, you will have 97,000 points

American Express Delta Gold $0 first year, $95 after that $2,000 in 90 days 50,000 miles After spending requirement, you will have 52,000+ points

After transfer from Premier Rewards Gold card, you will have 65,000 points

American Express Delta Gold $0 first year, $95 after that $2,000 in 90 days 50,000 miles After spending requirement, you will have 52,000+ points

After transfer from other Delta account, you will have 65,000 points

Capital One Venture $0 first year, $59 after that  $3,000 in 90 days 40,000 points ($400.00) After spending requirement, you will have 46,000+ points

Use this card to pay for all your flights and train tickets and use the points for cash reimbursement

Chase MileagePlus Explorer $0 the first year, $95 after that $2,000 in 90 days 55,000 miles (50,000 from bonus, 5,000 for adding an Authorized User) After spending requirement, you will have 57,000+ points

You still need to come up with 3,000 United Miles, either through spend or from miles already in your account

I would HIGHLY suggest staggering these credit card sign-ups, unless you feel like you can handle spending $13,000 in 90 days (hey, more power to you if you can!). I would stagger the cards two at a time, and spread the spend out over nine months (which means you should start planning your trip for 2017 now!).

So there you have it–Rome and Florence for under $800. Ciao!

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