Italy trip costs: Planning Fees vs the Travel Agent Model

“How much should I expect my Italy trip to cost?” is a question we get from most of our clients. My answer (as with most Italy questions) is that it depends. But also: our trips are completely custom, so we work within your budget. And also: costs are transparent. You’ll make the call to decide where to allocate your vacation dollars. And yes, we charge planning fees.

Amalfi Coast, Trip planning

Comparing costs of a packaged trip to a fee-based trip

The reason we can offer so much flexibility, transparency, and customization when building our clients’ dream vacations is because our planning fees are separate.

Sometimes, travelers who are not familiar with the fee-based business model perceive us as more expensive compared to the travel agent model, which is a one-price package. Below, I’ve taken a packaged trip that I found online and I broke down all the costs so you can see what the same trip would cost when booked with Italy Beyond the Obvious. Guess what?


The Italy Beyond the Obvious trip below is $500 cheaper per person compared to the package trip.

Let’s dive into the details!


Italy trip cost

Comparing Italy Trip Costs of a Packaged Trip and an Italy Beyond the Obvious Trip

The Rome-Florence-Venice itinerary below is a very standard 6-night itinerary that I found online. Here’s the trip description:

Rome Florence Venice itinerary Day 1-4

Rome Florence Venice Itinerary Day 5-7

I broke out all the costs of the trip into the table below as if I were booking this itinerary for an Italy Beyond the Obvious client, using the exact dates (July 12-17, 2020) listed in the brochure.

Italy Trip Costs

Italy Trip Costs

Italy Trip Costs

The “Total Trip Costs” line shows the total of the actual costs of this trip if you booked everything yourself. So that means no markups, no middlemen, but also no trip planner helping you with recommendations or advice. For this trip, the costs add up to $7,048 for 2 travelers.

When we add in our Platinum planning fees ($350 per travel day) of $2,100, the total cost of working with Italy Beyond the Obvious for this exact itinerary is $9,148, or $4,574 per person for a 2-person trip. And, since our fees include up to 6 travelers, per-person costs go down if there are more travelers.

The tour operator is selling this trip for $5,095 per person, or more than $500 per person higher.


Italy trip costs


Now, I’d like to note that comparing a packaged trip to a custom Italy Beyond the Obvious trip is not comparing apples to apples. Travelers we work with usually do not like group trips, are well-traveled and don’t want a tour leader with them. They also value our custom itineraries and deep destination expertise. Nonetheless I’d be remiss in not highlighting the differences between the package trip and our itineraries:

  • The packaged trip is a group trip where people buy a spot (or four) on an existing tour, scheduled to depart on a specific date. We create only private trips, although we do lots of families and private groups.
  • The packaged trip also includes a tour leader – someone who is with the group 24/7. While we provide on-trip support 24/7, and our clients have front desks, local guides and drivers to help, our trips do not include a tour leader (which is a job I used to have!)
  • The packaged trip cannot be customized. Our trips are all created based on the interests, pace, and budget of our travelers.


The Travel Agent Model vs. the Fee-Based Model

If you’ve read this far, it might now make sense to you that we’ve chosen to charge fees. The way travel agents make money and the way we make money at Italy Beyond the Obvious are different approaches. We’re both businesses. We’re both providing valuable services, resulting in priceless memories and a stress-free holiday. One approach is not better or worse than the other, they are just different.

Advantages of the Fee-Based business model:

  • Complete cost transparency
  • Trip flexibility and customization
  • Travelers works directly with a destination expert
  • No middlemen or mark-ups (this is why the packaged trip is more expensive – there are layers of mark-ups)
  • Support small local businesses (in Italy)
  • Book any activity, hotel, driver, etc based on the traveler’s preferences not based on a limited existing portfolio
  • Leverage experience and personal relationships
  • Choose sustainable travel
  • On trip concierge service provided by the same person who planned your trip

It comes down to this: I’m getting paid, so I don’t mark anything up. I can create a trip for you the way I’d create it for me. We’d love to help create your Italy dream vacation! Contact us.

Advantages of the Travel Agent package model:

  • One price
  • No decisions
  • Work with the same travel agent every year, regardless of destination
  • Travel agents usually have trusted suppliers that they work with (but limited products)
  • Book spots on a group trip, with a tour leader

Do you have niche expertise? Learn to set up your own online business as a fee-for-service travel expert! We can teach you how. 

Stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll discuss more in-depth on the costs of each piece of an Italy trip: hotels, tours, logistics, and restaurants.

Italy Beyond the Obvious will help make your trip truly memorable. Take advantage of our Italy trip planning services for a customized itinerary, or get coaching assistance with our Italy travel consulting services. And if you like what you read, why not subscribe to the Italy Beyond the Obvious blog and get free updates?

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Posted by on Oct 3, 2019 in Planning Your Italy Trip | 3 Comments


  1. Clarona
    January 7, 2020

    This was very interesting read read because I have been hesitant to charge fees. I am frustrated when persons use my expertise and take the information to book their trip themselves. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Madeline
    January 7, 2020

    Thanks for your comment Clarona and that’s why I wrote this post. Fees are actually a win-win for everyone, but often customers misunderstand that they are in addition to other costs, which isn’t so.

  3. Wayne Kivi
    March 7, 2020

    Hi Madeline,
    I found your site on Pinterest and have bookmarked it into my Italy Trip file. My wife and I took a Perrilo trip almost 20 yrs ago and enjoyed but were disappointed with eating “tourist” every dinner (we’re foodies and very good cooks). We’re older now (79 y/o) but still very active. We have our adult kids and 3 granddaughters who will be 8,11, and 13 y/o making it a party of 8. I’m a retired educator and do parttime work for a local college. My dream is to take my family to Italy but have some restrictions, namely the time of year and of course, the budget. I’ve been doing informal research for the trip and trying to determine if it’s viable. My idea is to leave Boston on 4/17/21 and return on 4/24/21 (school vacation). I have checked the flights in previous Aprils and they range from $375 to $450 R/T. I have also communicated with a few agriturismos and have been quoted prices ranging from a low of $650/wk to $850/wk for the 8 people. Obviously the time of the year is a major factor in the various costs, also for April because of the GD’s sports schedules. I realize that one week is very limiting but it is what it is. I want them to see the antiquities of Rome and spend time seeing Florence and some of the hill towns. Looks like Venice will not make the list on this trip. A couple of questions. How much time to spend in Rome? Are we better off trying to find a central location with easy train access or split it up into two locations? Obviously, we’ll have to rent 2 cars. The best source to find local guides? I’d be paying for the plane fares and splitting most of the other costs. My initial plan was to do the trip this coming April but some medical issues required a change, in retrospect, with the coronavirus scare in Italy, we were fortunate. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on my ideas. Thanks
    Wayne Kivi
    Cape Cod, MA


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