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 such purchases because we have more carefree attitudes about spending while on vacation than we do in everyday life. But we shouldn’t let a vacation mind-set completely derail our money goals with overspending. What if you could tweak how you spend on your vacation and have just as much fun? It’s completely doable!
Here are seven of the silliest ways we blow money on trips, along with suggestions for putting that cash to better use.
1. Souvenirs you don’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 for things that will clutter a shelf or get buried in your closet?
A better idea: Buy a keepsake you’ll use like a coffee mug or Christmas tree ornament.
2. 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 $120.01 a night for a hotel room—makes it tough to fully enjoy those last few days of the trip.
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A better idea: Return home after four or five days. You’ll leave when the fun levels off, get extra time at home to rest, and pay a smaller hotel bill.
3. Buying expensive treats.
Theme parks overcharge for treats because they know you love the convenience of grabbing a soda or ice cream cone between roller coaster rides. They also know you are willing to 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 to keep everyone hydrated until the next meal.
4. 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. Collecting information gets you excited for the trip and can give you ideas for new adventures!
5. Eating all meals at restaurants.
The average cost of the cheapest chain restaurant in America is $12.17 per person. Imagine spending that much, or close to it, 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 and pick up bread, fruits, pastries, lunchmeat and drinks. You can relax while eating and save your energy for the day’s activities.
6. 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.
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.
7. Purchasing plane tickets to nearby destinations.
We fly to save time. But if your vacation spot is just six or seven hours away by car, then spending an average of $377 per plane ticket only saves you a little time, but it costs you a lot of money.
A better idea: Drive. It’s less expensive—which leaves you more cash for the actual trip—and some of the best family-and-friend bonding happens when you have a few extra hours on the road.
Related: How to Pay Cash for a Vacation in 90 Days
It’s fun to be silly on vacation, but don’t let things get so cuckoo that your money slips away. Plan ahead and be a little practical in your spending. You’ll be glad you did—because it’s a lot more enjoyable to eat lobster than to buy a hat that makes you look like one!
Regardless of how much you decide to spend on your vacation, make sure that you do it intentionally, and with cash. Budget for your next vacation with our free budget tool EveryDollar!