Frugal, Family Friendly Travel in Rome, Italy

Simply adding up the costs for entrance to some of Rome’s historic sites is enough to make you reconsider your trip to this Italian destination. However, there is no shortage of affordable ways to experience Rome, many of which are completely family friendly. Whether you need a cheap place to stay or you’re looking for frugal and free ways to explore the Eternal City, this guide has you covered with excellent insider knowledge.

Finding Affordable Accommodations

Since Rome’s many luxury hotels don’t exactly fit your budget, it’s best to check out the city’s many affordable options for accommodations. There are tons of hotels in Rome which are both cozy and affordable. Plus, the city offers plenty of alternative options which can help you save money. Check out these top options for affordable Rome hotels:

  • Budget hotels: Rome has plenty of budget hotels outside the city center. If you’re not within walking distance of the top attractions, you can easily take the bus to reach your destination. Research neighborhoods for safety conditions and transportation options.
  • Bed and breakfasts: Unlike in the States, B&Bs in Europe are often less expensive than hotels. They often have an informal feel, so you won’t get the luxury amenities of a hotel. However, many families enjoy the personable atmosphere and don’t mind skipping the fancy hotel room for something more affordable.
  • Apartment and villa rentals: If you’re traveling as a family, it’s important to think about how much you’ll be spending on food. Renting an apartment or villa can save you money by giving you access to a full kitchen. Just stop by the local market and pick up some food to save money on meals throughout your stay.
  • Hostels: Most hostels focus on attracting solo travelers and aren’t exactly family friendly. However, Rome has so many that you can actually find a few that can work for a family on vacation, like those that offer private rooms. This is the cheapest accommodation available, but you need to carefully consider the possible downsides, like using a communal bathroom or bunking with loud travelers. Also, make sure to find out whether the hostel even allows guests under 18.

Cheap Meals in Rome


Image via Flickr by dahzeeh

Keeping your brood fed during your travels can quickly add up. Between trying local restaurants and buying the occasional snack or water bottle on the go, you don’t want to squander your whole travel budget on food. That being said, Rome also has some absolutely delicious cuisine, so it’s important to find a happy medium between saving and savoring.

I’ve already suggested one of the best tips for saving money on meals: if you can manage to snag accommodations with an equipped kitchen, you’ll save a significant amount of money on dining while you travel. Use the kitchen to make at least one of your meals per day so you can save on dining out. Also, you should visit the local market to stock up on overpriced snacks and drinks in touristy spots, like crackers, cookies, and water bottles. Take these with you as you explore each day so you won’t waste money on impulse purchases.

When it’s time to eat out, it’s best to avoid the tourist traps. A restaurant that’s around the corner from the Spanish Steps can easily charge more for the same food being served a few blocks away. If you’re willing to go a little out of your way, you can often find cheaper prices on those incredible pasta dishes and wines that will make your Roman experience more authentic. Rome restaurants with fewer tourists may be less likely to feature English-speaking staff or multi-language menus, so bring along a translation dictionary so you can order like a local.

Frugal Activities for the Family


Image via Flickr by dalbera

Experiencing Rome does not have to drain your budget. The Eternal City city offers an incredible number of cheap and free activities for visitors. The following are some of the top options for checking out Rome on the cheap with your family in tow:

  • Cathedrals and churches: While not every house of worship is free to visit in Rome, there are still enough to keep you occupied with astounding architecture and incredible artifacts. For example, you can visit the Basilica Santa MAria in Piazza della Bocca della Veritas for free to see the skull of Saint Valentine.
  • Parks: It’s free to explore Rome’s lovely public parks, including the fabulous Villa Borghese. With free art displays and film screenings going on all the time, parks like Villa Borghese offer more than just green space.
  • Museums: If you search hard enough, you’ll find a few Roman museums with free or very cheap admission. One example is the Museo Andersen, which features works by Norwegian-American artist and former Rome resident Hendrik Christian Andersen. His works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries include over 200 sculptures, 200 paintings, and 300 graphic works, all available to see for free. Another free option is the Burcardo Museum, which features costumes and artifacts from Italian theatre history.
  • Scenic spots: A great photo op can make for a wonderful family experience as well. Head to the Tiber at dusk to see some incredible views of the bridges and buildings along the river. You can also head to Gianicolo during the day to see an incredible view of the entire city from above a hilltop.
  • Tours: Not all the guided tours in Rome are expensive. In fact, several smaller tours are quite affordable for a family. Take a tasting tour of Roman cuisine and your free samples will double as lunch for the day. Or go on a tour of ancient Roman sites to get a truly educational experience that includes admission to several locations you want to see.

What sites are on the top of your must-see list for Rome? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Author Bio: Ashley Henshaw is a freelance writer based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on sites like Hipmunk, The Huffington Post and USA Today.

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