I’m finally in the process of adding up the vacation expenses to throw in the monthly budget spreadsheet. Although it sounds boring, it was actually quite fun to look back at the receipts and remember the fun associated with the cost. I did come to a conclusion though. As the title says, spending money during a vacation can happen a little too easy.
I’m a fairly frugal guy, I get teased on occasion from my friends about it. There are times though when I’m quite fine with spending some dollars, and vacation is one of them. Vacations don’t happen often enough so I believe it is important to live a little. A funny thing happens when you start plopping that credit card down though. A normally painful experience turns into pretty much a non event. Maybe it was the slight influence of adult beverages? Whatever the case, the wallet opened up a bit and with some frequency. For a couple of weeks throughout the year, I can relate to the consumers who have bad spending habits for almost the whole year. I can see how the addiction can happen.
The number one expense on our excursion, aside from airfare and lodging, was food and drink. Most food items on the menu run $12-17 so it was hard to even have a light lunch for under $40 with a couple of beverages and tip figured in. We did save from not spending on breakfasts though as the hotel we stayed at provided some fruit, muffins, and granola. The fun tropical drinks were around $8 so they were enjoyed in moderation. At first the prices seemed steep but as the days went on, it was like a normal thing. I no longer balked at spending $50 for the evening meal. It was the new normal.
After all was said and done, we did save about $1k from doing a Caribbean vacation we were looking at and a place we have been before. Aside from those savings, I was glad to spend the money in the US and we did do and see a few more things than we would have if we left the country. You can read about that here. Plus we visited a new area and one that I would be excited to return to again. There were ways that we did save money though and some improvements that can be made for next time.
Here are some ways that we saved some coin throughout the trip.
1. We used Uber instead of getting a rental car for the week. The cheapest rental car I could find was $350 for the week. Obviously we didn’t need to drive every day and we got around mainly on foot. The times that a ride was needed was to and from the airport, and to the baseball game that was 35 minutes away. The Uber tally totaled around $90 with tips included. Considerable savings there.
2. After the initial sticker shock for mixed drinks, we picked up our own off sale. We brought our own 30oz tumblers for the beach and had Long Island Teas and margaritas at a fraction of the bar prices. Technically you aren’t supposed to have alcohol on the beach but you’d be kidding yourself if you think most people aren’t doing the same thing. Especially the spring breakers of course! Speaking of tumblers and saving money, check out Walmart’s Ozark Trail vs the popular (and expensive) Yeti. The knock off brand compares quite favorably and worked awesomely in the heat!
3. With some planning and learning the nearby locations, a person can do better on the food costs by paying attention to the daily specials. We didn’t do the best job of this but did hit it a few times. I think we can improve on this next time. I hate to be constricted on what to eat though because as I mentioned above, you have to live a little. Of course, for even better savings, you could buy groceries and skip a few expensive meals. There is always that option.
4. Purchasing a beach canopy instead of renting one on the beach can save big money. On Clearwater Beach, they charge around $25-40 per day to rent shade basically. This is kind of important for us Northerners with delicate skin. We opted to check out a beach shop that sold them for $40. So basically after one day, we made our money back. Now we have one that can be used at any time and also makes a fun little tent for our toddler. Provided that he doesn’t destroy it which is a legitimate concern!
5. Find a hotel that will give you a discount on a return stay. Our next stay, if we return within 2 years, will be at a 20% discount. This is a nice little perk that they offer and very smart on their part to drum up returning guests.
As you can see, there are a few ways to beat the tourist money trap situations without being overly tight. Every now and then it is fun to stimulate the economy but I am glad to be returning the budget to its normal state. Even though I loved every second of being in that Florida heat! I can see however how people run into problems with finances. Those that eat at restaurants 3-4 times per week, man that adds up after awhile. The convenience factor of it alone makes it especially inviting. That is one thing to be said for having a young child. Those temptations to spend money dining away from home aren’t there!
Question to the readers- Do you let your hair down and spend money more liberally while on vacation?