Avoid These Budget-Busting Traps on Your Next Vacation, Part 1
It doesn’t matter how much we budget and plan our vacation, we almost always go over the amount we planned on spending.
I don’t just mean me and my family, I mean all of us. If you’ve planned and taken a vacation, I’m willing to bet your rainy day fund, that ultimately you spent more than you planned. It hardly ever fails.
To help you avoid overspending on your next vacation, here are two budget traps to watch out for. We’ll have two more next week for you.
1. Eating Three Restaurant Meals Every Day
Eating in a restaurant three times a day can be a real drain on your wallet, especially since most restaurant portions are oversized to begin with. But most Americans have been taught that we “need” to eat three meals a day. And if you’re staying in a hotel without a kitchen, chances are you’ll eat three restaurant meals.
But do you really need to?
Space out your meals so you eat two larger meals in a day — say, a late breakfast and a normal dinner. If you get hungry in the middle of the day, have a snack, not a full-blown lunch. I’ve started carrying peanut bars when we visit the amusement parks to get me through the day. It’s certainly cheaper than a $10 mediocre burger, and we save a little money so we can instead spend the GDP of a small country on dinner!
You can also ask your hotel for a refrigerator (if they don’t already have one), and store milk and fruit in there, and keep some cereal in your closet. You can also pick up cheap bowls and silverware at a lot of grocery stores. Then just eat a quick morning breakfast before you leave, and enjoy lunch and dinner out.
Or just stay at a hotel that has free breakfasts, like a Hilton Inn or a bed-and-breakfast. Then, the price of the breakfast is included in the hotel price.
2. Surprise, spur-of-the-moment activities
You know what sounds fun? A helicopter ride. But it can cost anywhere from $20 to $350 per person, depending on how long your trip takes. And the $20 option barely pays for enough time to enjoy the ride, so you opt for something around $80 or $100.
Now imagine three or four of you going up on that fun helicopter ride. That’s anywhere from $240 to $400. Not a terrible price to pay for a bit of fun, but the problem was, it wasn’t in the plan. So you plopped it on your credit card, and forgot all about it until you got home.
“We could have stayed for two more days for that price!”
That’s the danger of choosing spur-of-the-moment activities on your vacation. While you don’t need to plan out every minute and every dime of your trip, I encourage you to at least plan your general activities for each day so you don’t get caught up in the excitement of an impromptu plan and blow your budget.
Also, book your major activities and buy your tickets in advance. For one thing, you might get a discount if you book in advance. For another, it’s less tempting to cancel your plans in favor of something new if you already have tickets in hand.
Have you ever been caught in any budget-busting traps on your vacation? How did you avoid them, or how did they snare you? Share your experiences and memories in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.
Photo credit: J o (Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation)