Over the years, I've helped
tens of thousands of
people design their travel itineraries. And
while I've sometimes had people return home
unhappy with their vacation experience, this
unhappiness has never been because they felt
the hotels were too good, the rental car too
comfortable, the tours too interesting!
Even if they didn't express it
this way directly, without exception,
travelers who were unhappy felt that way because they
chose to inappropriately economize on the costs
of their vacation.
Here then is the distillation
of what I've learned - vicariously from others, and directly
Our Philosophy - Spend a Little
More, not a Little Less
An international vacation is
probably the most expensive 'non-tangible' item you'll ever
spend money on. This is not a reason to cut back on all
possible costs, for fear that 'you'll have nothing to show for
it' - because in reality you will have things to show for it.
You'll have souvenirs, you'll have pictures, and you'll have,
most of all, memories.
Instead of saving money for
fear of it being wasted, ensure that you spend enough to be
certain that the memories you will be acquiring will be good
memories. If you spend too little money, it will be
wasted, because you'll end up with a bland and boring travel
experience that you quickly forget. But if you spend a
little more, you'll end up with a memorable highlight of your
life that you'll treasure and remember forever.
A vacation is supposed to be
your personal reward to yourself, and is your entitlement, your
return, for all the hours, days and weeks you spend working and
leading your normal life. You save up for a vacation, and
taken them only rarely. So, when you are taking a
vacation, make it the positive, rewarding, and memorable
experience it should be.
This will usually end up
costing you a bit more money, and the purpose of this article
series is to help you understand and appreciate that spending
more on a vacation is both appropriate and sensible.
The chances are that during
your normal life at home, you don't buy the cheapest car, the
cheapest bottle of wine, or the cheapest tickets at a concert.
So, please - use the same good sense when planning your vacation
Do I need to add a
disclaimer here? I haven't been paid/bribed by any
airline, tour operator, hotel, or destination marketing service
to encourage you to spend more money on your travel! The
comments below represent the distillation of what I've seen and
learned not just from my personal travel experiences, but from
those of the tens of thousands of travelers my travel company
helped on their vacations.
The Ultimate Budget Travel
When I had my travel
company, I'd sometimes be confronted by people with such an
unrealistic approach to budgeting their vacation that I'd
suggest to them the ultimate budget vacation. This would
sometimes make them laugh and help them to better appreciate the
For the ultimate budget
travel experience, don't leave home. Instead, borrow a
travel book from the library on the destination you want to
experience, rent a travel video about that place, and cook
yourself some distinctive regional food. Then spend an
evening reading the book, eating the food, and watching the
The total cost of this
travel experience? Probably less than $20.
A Suggested Vacation
The whole idea of a vacation
is that it is a special treat and reward for yourself.
While that doesn't mean you need to abandon good financial
sense, it does mean that you're negating the concept of your
vacation if you end up staying in places that are less pleasant
and comfortable than when you're at home, driving in cars
inferior to your car at home, and eating in places with
unpleasant food that you'd normally avoid.
And if you go somewhere, but
then don't experience the major tourist sights and activities
due to their cost, you'll leave unfulfilled and with your
This is perhaps the most
important thing to keep in mind. Your vacation is intended
to be a special treat for yourselves, something you want to
enjoy, during which you want to be relaxed and comfortable, and
enjoying convenient and pleasant experiences that are different
from what you'd have at home, and which have - to a greater or
lesser extent - a degree of self indulgence and 'reward' to
Of course, we all have very
different budgets to work with, but we find there are six
reference points to use in determining the appropriateness of
travel expenditures :
Understand the true cost of
each day and hour of your vacation and spend appropriately
Spending a little more can
sometimes get you a lot more enjoyment, but beware of the
'vanishing returns' where spending a lot more no longer
brings matching quality enhancements
Balance your time and money
You don't have to see and do
everything - there's always next time
Try to maintain or exceed the
same standards that you have at home
Ensure you create some
The following pages in this
article series consider each of these six points.
Part one of a five part
series on how to budget and plan for a vacation. See
also the other articles in this series :
An introduction to the philosophy of travel cost budgeting
Understanding the true cost of your vacation and what this
Using the true cost figure and knowing when you should spend
a little more on travel costs
Balancing the time and cost of your vacation - how less can
What quality level to choose, and the importance of
including a special highlight in your vacation
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14 Nov 2008, last update
19 Dec 2013
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.