You might be starting to think
that we're advocating profligate extra spending in all parts of
your vacation. Not so!
We're advocating a careful
balanced view to your vacation, encouraging you to recognize
that sometimes a little more expenditure will increase the
overall positive experience you're seeking.
But we temper these thoughts
with an understanding that you can go overboard, and so point
out that sometimes 'less is more'.
Balance Your Time and Money
unconsciously, we all have to make some trade-offs in planning a
vacation. One of the biggest is that most of us have a
reasonably fixed dollar budget for our vacation, and/or a
reasonably fixed limit on the amount of time we can be away from
Within those two limiting
factors though there is often an opportunity to trade-off
between spending more days with a lower daily budget, or fewer
days with a higher daily budget. For example, maybe you
can choose between 10 days at a $500/day total cost, or 12 days
at a $415/day total cost, giving you a total $5000 travel budget
(plus airfare) either which way. Which is the better
This is a very difficult
question to answer without looking at specific examples, of
course. On the face of it, squeezing
in two extra days by only a small reduction in your daily travel
budget might be a good idea. But it might also be a
mistake - remember your ultimate objective is not to maximize
your time away from home but rather to maximize your
experiences, your memories, and to come back home refreshed,
revived, and feeling positively good about the vacation you've
just enjoyed. Sometimes this can better be achieved with a
shorter but 'better' vacation than a longer but substandard
vacation. Less can sometimes be more!
Let's consider the
implications in the example above. Maybe the $500/day
comprises an allowance of $200 for a hotel, $125 for food and
drink, and $125 for sightseeing and general expenditures.
How will you take $85 off
your daily budget? Maybe you take $40 off your hotel, $25
off the food and drink and $20 off the sightseeing? But,
think about this - you'll have changed hotel grades from a
'nice' hotel that you're comfortable in to one that has some
quality/comfort compromises - and these compromises will become
all the more objectionable because you'll be in the hotel for 12
nights rather than ten. And your reduced sightseeing
budget - $105/day - means that in 12 days you have almost the
same exact budget for sightseeing ($1260) as you did for ten
days at $125/day ($1250). Meanwhile, you're going to be
carefully watching your expenditures, and not eating/drinking as
well as you otherwise would.
Plus, not included in the
costing above is the hidden opportunity cost of two more days
away from home and perhaps away from work.
Okay, you say, you won't cut
back on the sightseeing. But that means even bigger
compromises on food and drink and/or on your hotel quality, and
it means you're going to feel less 'indulged' upon your return
home, while having 'spent' two extra days of precious vacation
time. This hidden cost - your limited number of vacation
days (assuming you're not retired) is often the hidden part of
the 'iceberg' that is your total travel budget.
It is of course possible to
end up with a vacation that is too short and too
whirlwind/rushed as well.
The best thing is to decide
on a realistic time away, considering what you want to see and
do, and then set a realistic cost per day budget. If you
end up with the total cost being too high, consider cutting back
on your time away and the things you wish to do as well as
trying to cut back on the cost of each item while you're on your
vacation. Which leads us to the next two points that are
A Tempting Thought - Staying
So there you are, using our
earlier example, already up for a $6670 vacation. You
might think, if you're spending that much already, it makes
sense to stay another day. Let's consider the cost/benefit
implications of adding another day.
In terms of costs, you're
adding another hotel night, food/drink, sightseeing, travel, and
miscellaneous costs, plus probably using up another day of
vacation. Using the costs in Table 1, these total about
$900 for one extra day.
In terms of benefits, you're
getting another 24 hours at your destination. Using the
same time cost logic as in Table 2, you need to deduct 8 hours
for sleep, 3 hours for basic things like eating, etc, and 3
hours for other low yielding time costs, leaving you with ten
more quality hours.
So you're spending $90/hour
for the extra day. This is less than the $126/hour average
for the preceding days, so it may make sense to consider adding
another day, all other things being equal.
However, all other things
are not always equal, and that leads to the next topic.
You Don't Have to See and Do
A big problem many people
encounter when planning their trip is 'featuritis'. This
takes the form of 'Well, if we go to this place, we have to go
to that place too because they are so close' or perhaps 'If
we're traveling all that way/spending all that money, we have to
stay long enough to make it worthwhile'.
In both cases, and in other
cases of creeping featuritis as well, the net result is that the
vacation ends up being too lengthy and too costly, and so the
travelers end up indefinitely deferring the trip they really
want to take, while instead traveling somewhere less satisfying
(or staying at home and not traveling at all).
You need to examine the
assumptions which underlie an attack of featuritis. The
key thing to consider is that you don't need to see and do
everything, and - yes - you can indeed always go back somewhere
to see more of a place if you liked it sufficiently the first
An adage to keep in mind is
'The Excellent is the Enemy of the Good'. Don't spend too
many years of your life planning for an excellent vacation -
instead consider taking multiple good vacations.
A real-life example
Consider these three
different scenarios :
A couple go to
A couple go to
A couple go to
If you're going to Mexico,
most people tend to go for a week or so, and will typically stay
in one place. Perhaps they'll travel to a resort on
Mexico's Pacific Coast, or maybe to one on the Gulf of Mexico.
Mexico is a huge country, but people don't feel compelled to
visit all of Mexico in a single visit. If they want to see
more of Mexico, they'll go back again for another visit.
Now, if you're going to
Europe, people are less likely to spend just one week, and stay
in just one place. You'll probably go there for somewhere between one and
two weeks. Yes, of course some people go for longer (and
a few people go for less) but most people travel to Europe
for about ten days or so, and may visit one, two or perhaps
three different countries. Even though you're not staying
in one place, like Mexico, you're
also not seeing all of Europe. This would be close to
impossible - there are 27 countries in the EU
alone, and many more that are not in the EU. If you want
to see more of Europe, you'll simply go back another time.
But, what about the couple
going to Australia? I've lost count of the number of times
people have told me 'We've always wanted to go to
Australia, but we don't have the time to see and do it all'.
These same people are happy going to see only one place in
Mexico, or a handful of places in Europe, but then strangely
assume that a trip to Australia requires them to see all (or at
least most) of the
country in a single visit lasting three or four weeks. This is often because they feel
Australia to be a very long way away, or very expensive to get
Both perceptions are wrong.
Yes, the flying time to Australia is more than the flying time
to Europe, but the actual time on a plane is only part of your
total travel time (which starts from packing your bags at home,
driving to the airport, checking in, waiting for your flight,
then at the other end, going through Immigration and Customs,
waiting for your bags, and traveling on to your hotel, checking
in and unpacking your bags). What seems like a 'short'
five - ten hour flight somewhere may actually cost you 15 - 20
hours of total travel time.
And so while a 14 hour
flight to Australia is twice as much as a 7 hour flight
somewhere else, the total travel time is perhaps 24 hours vs 17
hours and then all of a sudden, the extra 7 hours doesn't seem
disproportionately all that much more. It doesn't take
twice as long to travel to Australia, it only takes one third
Besides which (depending on
where you are at home) you might have fewer time zones to adjust
and so less jet lag, enabling you to more quickly enjoy your
time in Australia than if you traveled, eg, to Europe.
Maybe a ticket to Australia
is twice the cost of a ticket to Europe. Perhaps this is $500
more. But what is $500 when considered with the total cost
of your vacation? And consider also that Australia is a
less expensive country to vacation in than Europe - your hotels
and meals will be lower in price - so the extra cost of the
ticket will be at least partially offset by the savings in
I used to send countless
couples to Australia on one week vacations to a single
destination (typically Sydney) and ten day vacations to two
destinations (typically Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef area
around Cairns). These people all had a wonderful time at
an affordable time and monetary cost, and many of them would
travel back to Australia again the next year to see and do more
of it. Isn't that a better strategy than delaying a visit
to Australia for year after year?
Part four 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
28 Nov 2012
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.