An overpriced bowl of oatmeal from room service. A hula-dancer accessory for your dashboard. A hat shaped like a lobster. These are just some of the silly ways we waste money on vacation.
We make purchases like this because we typically have a more carefree attitude about spending while we’re on vacation than we do in our everyday life. But we shouldn’t let a vacation mindset completely derail our money goals or lead to overspending.
What if you could tweak how you spend on your vacation and still have just as much fun? Well, you can!
Here are seven of the silliest ways we blow money on trips—plus some suggestions for putting that cash to better use.
1. Purchasing plane tickets to nearby destinations.
If your vacation spot is just six or seven hours away by car, and you’re thinking about buying plane tickets for your family of four . . . you might end up shelling out $500 to even $1,000 after taxes and fees.
A better idea: Drive. Filling up your gas tank a few times is cheaper than buying a lot of plane tickets. Then you’ll have more cash for the actual trip. Besides, some of the best bonding happens when you spend a few hours together on the road.
2. Taking vacations that are too long.
Have you ever felt ready to go home near the end of a weeklong getaway? Probably. Staying anywhere for too long— and paying an average of $149 a night for a hotel room—makes it tough to fully enjoy those last few days of the trip.1
A better idea: Come home after four or five days. You’ll pay a smaller hotel bill and get extra time at home to rest—and savor sweet memories of your debt-free vacation.
3. Eating every meal at restaurants.
Even at the cheapest chain restaurants, meals have gotten ridiculously expensive (thanks, inflation). Now, imagine spending way too much for food 21 times during your stay. That’s enough to make you lose your appetite!
A better idea: Eat at least one meal a day in your room. Stop at the grocery store to pick up bread, fruits, pastries, lunch meat and drinks. And when you do go out to eat, make sure you’re prepped with all the latest ways to save money at restaurants.
4. Buying expensive treats.
Theme parks overcharge for treats because they know you love the convenience of grabbing a soda or an ice cream cone between rides. They also know you’ll pay more if the kids are getting hungry and cranky.
A better idea: Eat a big breakfast and make frequent trips to the water fountains (or ask for a free water cup!) to keep everyone hydrated until the next meal.
5. Buying souvenirs you won’t use.
Sombreros and rubber frogs are fun to pose with while taking a selfie in the gift shop. But do you really want to spend a chunk of money on things that’ll just clutter a shelf or get buried in your closet when you get home?
A better idea: Buy a keepsake you’ll use long after the vacation, like a coffee mug or a Christmas tree ornament.
6. Not checking for attraction discounts.
Museums, tours and aquariums are great ways to fit a little culture or nature into your trip. But paying full price for tickets quickly adds up, especially if you have kids.
A better idea: Do some pre-getaway research for discounts and coupons to local attractions. Also, check for more deals at the visitor center. Finding travel hacks to help you save money can get you excited for the trip—and will give you ideas for new adventures!
7. Doing too much.
It’s tempting to cram as many activities into a getaway as possible, especially if you go to a big city with a lot of famous landmarks. Just don’t try to do too much. You’ll wear yourself out and pay for things you won’t fully enjoy.
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A better idea: Do one or two activities a day. When you’re done, you can either schedule something else or take the rest of the day off. Either way, you win.
It’s fun to be silly on vacation, but not to waste money in silly ways. Ever.
So, plan ahead and be a little practical in your spending. Start saving up for your next vacation with EveryDollar, our free budgeting tool.
And remember: Vacations are for creating memories. Not debt!