Vacationing on a Budget

Being in a financially healthy situation is very important to all of us and for most of you reading this article, you are probably big savers as well. But, what’s the point of saving everything if you don’t spend some of it to relax or do something that you enjoy.

Today, I’m going to give some ideas on how to vacation or relax in a way that does not break the piggy bank of your retirement.

Of course, a budget vacation is all relative so the most important thing is understanding what you are trying to get out of a vacation. Is it to relax? Is it to learn about new cultures? New foods…

Once you figure out the focus or purpose of the vacation, that’s when you can figure out where to cut out on some costs. For example, if you are trying to just relax and get a stay at an all inclusive resort, get the cheapest plane tickets possible and spend more on the stay because that’s where all the real relaxation is going to be. In fact, I typically recommend getting the cheapest economy tickets for a flight because you want the destination to be where the bulk of the budget goes.

Transportation around where you are staying also eats into budgets so do a cost analysis of how much it would cost to get from the points you are trying to see. What you will typically find when visiting cities is that renting a car is a poor choice for the entire duration of a stay. Public transportation will usually be your best friend and if you need to go off the beaten path, rent a car through a car sharing service like Turo or Zipcar.

Whenever you are traveling, finding a place to stay is also very important because the location can help with your trips convenience. But, as much as everyone wants the best location to stay, by moving your accommodations to a lesser know area or a hub a little outside of the place you want to be, you could save yourself a lot of money. Staying in the centers of large cities such as New York and London can be very expensive, but by moving to outside Burroughs from the centers of those cities, hotels and other accommodations see large decrease in price. If you’re more adventurous, you could even consider renting a camper or RV if it makes sense such as going on a road trip.

Budgeting Vacation (My example)

Since we are currently in the middle of a pandemic, a road trip was fitting to social distance as much as possible and I wanted to do a trip under 1grand.

I did a road trip from Illinois to California with most of the time being spent in California. The purpose of my trip was just to get out of Illinois and get a change of scenery (instead of seeing cornfields all day). Saying that the experience was LIT would be an understatement as California was on fire with smoke everywhere during the time I was there. But, besides that, the trip was fun and the costs were kept low. I used my car (Honda civic) as my shelter on the 2 day trip from Illinois to California and used a pack of 20 cleaning wipes that cost just $2 from Walmart to keep relatively clean.

The smoke from the fires had the sun glowing blood orange

I know some of you may be thinking a car is an unacceptable place to sleep in but in all reality, it’s fine for a temporary solution and can easily save close to $100 that would be spent on a hotel room. But, if the car is truly not for you, a budget motel room is a solid choice.

So what did my costs break down to in California for 2 weeks?

-Gas: $488

-Food: $40

-National Parks Passes: $90 (probably should of got the yearly pass)

-Lodging: $322 (used 4 nights)

Total: $940 or $68 a day 

Keep in mind, I did use both LA and San Francisco as my home bases (albeit in cheaper suburbs) during the stay and got to see places like Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and Yosemite National Park. And with California gas prices, it made sense that gas was one of the highest expenses. I cheaped out on food because I just cared about spending as much time in the parks as possible. And as you probably saw in a previous post, Geoff and I baked $1.50 pizzas in the Death Valley sun to cut costs.

Key Point

Just remember, everyones version of a fun vacation is different. Do not get distracted by spending on stuff you don’t really care about but rather focus on the stuff that will bring you the most joy. In economic terms, it’s all about getting more marginal utility and the better bang for the buck you get, the better your budget vacation will be no matter what you decide it to be.

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