In this, the last of our five
part series on how to plan and budget your vacation, we give you
some important guidelines on what level of quality to target.
Lastly, we end up with the
suggestion that every vacation should include at least one
special experience that makes the vacation stand out in your
mind for the years that follow.
Maintain or Exceed Your At Home
Most people go on vacation
as a 'feel good' reward to themselves. You work hard for
most of the year, and in return, you truly deserve a reward, a
If you're on an expedition/safari
in some uncivilized remote and desolate corner of the world,
different issues apply, but most of the time, we want our
vacation to be a relaxing and comfortable experience.
When you're traveling, you
should generally use, as a rule of thumb, the concept that you
want to enjoy a life style comparable to or better than your
life style at home. This is perhaps best exemplified when
renting a car.
Car rental considerations
It has always been a puzzle
to me that people will own a nearly new car at home of moderately
size, capacity, and quality, and then seldom drive it more than
an hour a day, traveling to and from home, work, and the
local shopping mall; but then when they go on vacation, they'll
choose an inferior car that they'll be traveling potentially
long distances, many hours a day in.
This makes no sense at all.
If you own a mid size six cylinder four door car at home, why
would you want to rent a compact four cylinder two door car on
vacation? The answer is, of course, because you've
obsessively focused in on the obvious costs of a vehicle that
you rent for a week while ignoring the similar costs of the
vehicle you own all year at home.
Remembering the calculation
that shows how much each hour of your vacation is worth to you,
why not do a similar calculation to see how much your car rental
is costing you per hour of 'in car' time, and then compare the
difference in cost between an inferior to your own car and a
comparable or superior to your own car.
Say, for example, you are
choosing between a compact, a mid-size, and a full-size car, and
the rates are either $40, $60, or $80/day. Perhaps you'll
average three hours in the car each day (ie 50 - 150 miles of
travel), and there are two of you traveling.
So the cost, per hour in the
car, is $6.70, $10 or $13.40 per hour for each of you.
Wouldn't you pay an extra $3.30
an hour, as a passenger, to be in a more comfortable car, one
with more leg room, a better seat, more space for luggage, and a
quieter smoother ride?
Wouldn't you as a driver pay
an extra $3.30/hour for a car with more power to overtake when
needed, a car that is more solidly built and perhaps safer if
something goes wrong?
Remember also that the cost
per quality hour of your vacation is probably something over
$100/hr. When you're already paying that much per hour,
surely spending another $10 to change your experience from
neutral or negative to positive is money well spent?
Or, look at it another way.
If you're renting the car for five days, the total cost is $200,
$300 or $400. What is the relative importance of an extra
$100 or $200 in terms of a vacation that has a total cost to you
somewhere way over $5000?
Don't be penny-wise and
A hotel example too
People will often say 'Oh,
we're happy to stay somewhere cheap, because we're only going to
be staying in the hotel to sleep; we'll be out sightseeing all
Well, yes, on the face of
it, that is a fair and maybe even a sensible statement.
But let's think more carefully about this.
You're going to spend
somewhere between a third and a half of your entire vacation in
the hotel. Yes, sure, much of that time will be spent
sleeping, but your sleep is important too. Indeed, it is
even more important that you can sleep well on vacation than at
You may be wrestling with jetlag and the last thing you want to
do is be in a hotel room with walls so thin you are woken up by
the person in the next room snoring, and you can clearly hear
every intimate detail of their time in their bathroom (and,
ahem, vice versa).
You want a comfortable bed
in a quiet room,
and while you don't need a spacious multi-room suite, you do
need space to put your suitcases down and be able to walk around
them, and hopefully a
comfortable chair or two to sit in, and a good workable bathroom
with a decent shower. These things all cost money, and if
you choose the most budget hotel, you're going to be risking bad
sleep and uncomfortable time awake. You'll fall asleep on
tours or at evening plays and concerts, and you may end up in
arguments with your traveling companion because neither of you
are comfortable, relaxed, or happy with your hotel choice.
There's another hotel issue
as well. Hotels in the best locations, or even in merely
good locations, are closer to the center of the place you're
visiting. This means you waste less of your valuable
time (keep remembering the cost per hour of your quality time)
traveling between the hotel and where you want to be.
It means you can return to
the hotel at lunchtime if you wish for a break, and to drop your
morning's purchases before going out again after lunch.
You will even save money by not having to spend as much to
travel between the hotel and the places you want to visit.
You'll of course pay extra
for a hotel in a better location, but this immediate and obvious
extra cost up front will be returned to you in the form of
greater comfort, greater convenience, and time savings.
There are plenty of other
reasons to consider a better than basic hotel. For
example, a basic hotel will not only have very small
uncomfortable rooms, but might have no elevator. If you're
lucky, a bell boy will take your bags to your room when you
check in, but you'll still have to climb 30, 40, 50, even 60 or
more stairs to go up to your room every time. And after a
long day of sightseeing, the last thing you want to do is to
have to climb 60 stairs to get to your room.
A basic hotel might have no
restaurant. Sure, you'll often wish to eat meals
elsewhere, but you might also want to occasionally take it easy
and just eat something at the hotel, whether it be a breakfast,
or a dinner, or anything else.
There are so many reasons
why even the person who says 'I'm only going to be sleeping in
the hotel, I'll be out all day sightseeing' should consider a
better than basic hotel.
Create Some Special Memories
We suggest that every trip
should include at least one highlight - something you'll
remember for years and decades into the future.
We've all been on vacations
where, within a few days of returning, the memories are already
fading, and within a few months, it has disappeared away into
nothing but another generic travel experience with vague and
fuzzy memories of not very much. That is regrettable and
surely not your objective - the whole idea of a travel
experience is to have some memorable and out of the ordinary
For example, you might
travel to Europe many times, but you want to be able to say 'Oh
yes, that was the trip when we did/saw/enjoyed (insert some
special memorable component of your trip here)'.
Special memories can be
anything out of the ordinary. Maybe it is buying top
priced tickets to a concert. Maybe it is an extravagant
meal in the city's best restaurant with a bottle of expensive
wine to go with the meal. Maybe it is a private tour, just
for the two of you, with a personal guide and chauffeur driven
limousine. Or a helicopter ride over a city or area of
great natural beauty. Perhaps it is spending a couple of
nights in the Presidential Suite of an upmarket hotel. Or
maybe staying in a wonderful castle or stately home for a night
Maybe it is getting tailor-made clothes or shoes. Maybe it
is an early morning balloon flight with champagne breakfast.
There are any number of
special things at most places you might go to. The point
isn't so much which one you choose, but rather, that you should
consider including at least one special experience as part of
any vacation. Yes, sometimes the entire vacation might be
a special experience, but when that is not the case, be sure to
include something memorable as part of your trip.
Special experiences need not
necessarily be extravagantly expensive. For example, I
still vividly remember on one of my very first visits to London
(and I've been there more than 100 times subsequently) the
highlight of the visit was attending the Ceremony of the Keys at
the Tower of London one evening. The event is free, and
also a memorable experience that became that trip's special
Except for those rare
occasions where the entire trip is the special event (for
example, perhaps a trans-Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2),
you want to have a single special defining moment for the entire
vacation. This is as true if the entire vacation is a
dream/deluxe vacation or if it is a budget saver style vacation.
You need something to define the experience and lock it in your
There are lots of ways to
create special memories. We recommend, however, that you
take the steps outlined in this article series to ensure that
your most memorable experiences are consistently good
experiences rather than bad ones!
Part five 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 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.