Vacation Budget Blunders: 8 Ways Travelers Throw Money Away
Your vacation budget—like any good financial plan—should reflect your priorities and your aspirations. That said, keeping a lid on your travel expenses can be more easily said than done.
The good news is: Planning an affordable trip on a budget doesn't require financial wizardry. The first step is to understand the common pitfalls that can waste your hard-earned (and hard-saved) vacation dollars. Here, the eight biggest mistakes travelers make when planning a trip budget—and, most importantly, how not to make them ever again.
Mistake No. 1: Not Establishing Clear Priorities
Before you begin building a budget, you need to identify what aspects of your vacation are most important to you and your traveling companions so that you can allocate funds appropriately. To simplify that inherently subjective process into something highly actionable—and, we hope, even fun and inspirational)—start by separating your “must-haves” from your “wants." For example, is staying at a 5-star resort a must-have for you? Would flying coach instead of something tonier be a deal breaker for your or your friends or family? Just because you’re visiting, say, Southern California, is it really essential to your experience that you pony up for a pricey rented convertible?
Mistake No. 2: Not Reviewing Your Finances
Before you even start establishing a travel budget, you’ll want to assess how much you can realistically afford to spend on your vacation. This requires taking a close look at your finances, including your savings and credit card debt. If you don’t have enough cash squirreled away, you may want to adjust your priorities (in other words, return to No. 1, above), or push back your travel dates to give yourself time to save up.
Having trouble saving? Try budgeting software such as Mint, a free online tool that not only shows you what you’re spending each month but also suggests ways to trim your expenses. Month after month, incremental savings can add up to money for gelato, restaurant meals, and souvenirs, and maybe even plane fare and hotel rooms.
Mistake No. 3: Not Using a Spreadsheet
Sure, just hearing the word spreadsheet may slap a great big whomp-whomp on your trip-planning process. But compiling all of your travel costs in one place will help you figure out roughly how much money you’ll have to spend on your vacation—and the best way to do this is, indeed, to use a spreadsheet.
There are a number of travel-budgeting spreadsheets that are available online for free. Our favorite is thiseasy-to-use template from Vertex42.com. You simply plug in a quantity and unit cost for each item; for lodging you can enter the number of nights you’ll be staying and the cost per night, and the worksheet will calculate the total costs for you. As you enter your travel costs into the worksheet, the handy pie chart will show you exactly where your money is going based on spending categories (e.g., hotels, meals, flights). It’s that easy.
Mistake No. 4: Overlooking the Smaller Expenses
Though lodging, food, and airfare tend to be the three largest travel expenses, there are a number of smaller travel costs that are worth factoring into your overall budget—they have a way of sneaking up on you if you’re not paying attention. Some of the most common expenses people forget are:
- Airport parking
- Travel insurance
- Cell phone fees, such as data roaming charges when traveling abroad
- Visa costs
- Foreign transaction fees on your credit card (see more about this below)
- Gear (e.g., snow pants, ski masks)
- Taxis and ride-sharing services
Mistake No. 5: Not Factoring in the Exchange Rate
Researching your destination’s exchange rate might seem like an obvious step, yet some travelers forget to do it before departing for an overseas trip. Before you leave home, check exchange rates online. One way to save money is by obtaining currency from your bank or a currency exchange instead of waiting until you arrive at your destination, because airport kiosks, hotel desks, street vendors, and shops make extra money by charging an undesirable rate of exchange.
Mistake No. 6: Not Giving Yourself a Buffer
While a degree of discipline is crucial, you also want to give yourself a little flexibility. Take a cue from any responsible CFO and set aside a portion of your funds—about 10 percent of your total budget—to allow for the unexpected. On vacation, that can mean the occasional splurge or any unplanned or emergency expenses, such as a flat tire (road trips don’t always go as planned!) or medical care. Label this as “miscellaneous” on your spreadsheet.
Mistake No. 7: Forgetting About Foreign Transaction Fees
Some credit cards charge up to a 3 percent fee on foreign transactions, which is why we recommend that international travelers apply for a credit with no foreign transaction fees, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. One caveat about credit cards: There are some destinations, such as Cuba, that do not honor U.S.-based bank or credit cards at all—meaning you’ll have to arrive with cash.
Mistake No. 8: Not Understanding Hotel Fees
Last year, U.S. hotels collected a record-high $2.93 billion in fees, according to research by Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. Unfortunately for travelers, some hotel fees are buried in lengthy disclosure statements or tucked into bill summaries at checkout. But by knowing in advance what these hidden hotel fees are—and how much they cost on average—you’ll be able to set a more accurate budget.
What hotel fees should you watch out for? Check out our article “Beware of These Hidden Hotel Fees.” Some hidden fees can be quite expensive. Daily resort fees, for instance, can cost up to $50 per night, and they typically appear only after you have selected a room and are about to pay for the reservation, warns Randy Greencorn, co-founder of ResortFeeChecker.com, an online tool that, as its URL suggests, allows users to look up resort fees at more than 2,000 properties around the world.
TALK TO US:
How has a travel budget helped you save money for your trip priorities? We’d love to hear your tips—or blunders!—in the comments below.
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Flying Tip: How to Guarantee an Empty Seat Beside You
We all love when the seat beside us is left free on a flight, but one airline has introduced a new fare that guarantees an empty middle seat beside you on a short-haul trip. There will be no elbows encroaching on your space with AerSpace, the new fare offering from Irish airline Aer Lingus, and this new premium travel experience can be booked now for flights commencing on September 1. A Roomier Flying Experience AerSpace guests flying to select destinations across the UK and Europe will be guaranteed an aisle or window seat on the first row of the aircraft, with the middle seat left unoccupied for a roomier travel experience. They will also enjoy reserved cabin space in the bins directly overhead, as well as complimentary lounge access, Fast Track security, and priority boarding. They will get to bring a free bag up to 44 pounds, and enjoy a complimentary snack and beverage from the in-flight menu. The new fare offering promises a seamless travel experience for those who require more space and comfort, whether it be for business or leisure purposes. “We are proud to launch AerSpace in response to feedback from our guests seeking a more premium and spacious travel experience when flying short-haul with Aer Lingus,” says Susanne Carberry, Aer Lingus’s director of network revenue and loyalty. Book Now AerSpace is available to book now for travel from September 1, and you can visit Aer Lingus.com for further information.Get inspired to travel everyday by signing up to Lonely Planet’s daily newsletter.
NYC Pride Parade: 6 Things to Know About WorldPride 2019
Pride in the greatest city the in the world is going big this year. Record-setting big, with LGBTQ WorldPride events across New York City already starting to roll out on the way to a blowout late-June weekend that’s part commemoration, part celebration. Why all the gusto? Because 2019 marks a half-century since the Stonewall uprising, when lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer citizens fought against police raids and harassment—and in the process, galvanized the LGBTQ civil-rights movement. The riots ignited late on June 28, 1969 outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and lasted several days. A year later, the very first “Gay Pride” parade was held, celebrating what was then known as Christopher Street Liberation Day. Commemorations of NYC’s Stonewall protests took root in cities across America and Europe, eventually becoming common in most major cities around the globe. Since 2000, WorldPride has served as a kind of Olympics of Pride. It takes place in different cities around the world every other year, and in June 2019 will streak New York in rainbows with its American debut. For a city that’s already home to the country’s biggest LGBTQ Pride festivities—with around two million attendees and participants—WorldPride NYC and Stonewall 50 promise to potentially double the headcount over the big weekend. Beyond the annual march, which sets off Sunday, June 30th at noon, the city and state are ringing in June Pride month with a bevy of events to jumpstart the gaiety in May. Here’s a rundown of WorldPride highlights across New York. 1. NYC WorldPride Basics New York’s tourism office, NYC & Company, has been a driving force behind WorldPride. Its 2019-worldpride-stonewall50.nycpride.org website—built collaboratively with Heritage of Pride (the city’s Pride organization) and the state’s I Love New York tourism bureau—is an ultimate resource for information about the wide array of events ahead. Plus it’s a great place for visitors to find tips on partner hotels (there are many), transportation and airline info, and an impressive interactive map showing everything from events to historic LGBTQ+ sites. Unmissable events include the Opening Ceremony on June 26; the Stonewall 50 Commemoration and Rally on June 28; Pride Island’s nightly concerts June 29–30; plus many more family and community events throughout the season. June 30 is the mega day that starts with the Pride March, follows with the Pridefest streetfair, and wraps up with the WorldPride Closing Ceremony in Times Square that evening—with Melissa Etheridge and many more luminaries slated to perform. 2. One City, Six Prides The WorldPride NYC extravaganza culminates on June 30, serving as citywide pride in the borough of Manhattan. But don’t miss the chance to catch the outer boroughs’ distinct and amazing celebrations, each with full schedules that include concerts, sports, parties, and more. Here’s a rundown of their march dates: Staten Island PrideFest on May 18; Queens Pride on June 2; Brooklyn Pride (with a fun night parade) on June 8; the 1 Bronx Festival on June 23; and Harlem Pride June 29. 3. America’s LGBTQ Monument The Stonewall National Monument was designated in 2016, and encompasses 7.7 acres of Greenwich Village where the uprising took place in 1969. It stretches from Greenwich Avenue to W. 4th Street, and W. 10th Street to Waverly Place, and will serve as the city’s crossroads for all things LGBTQ throughout Pride month. Be sure to visit little Christopher Park, home to George Segal’s 1980 Gay Liberation sculptures of two same-sex couples—they’re the city’s only public art dedicated to LGBTQ rights. 4. Arts & Culture Expect to easily fill your June visit with a fabulous selection of LGBTQ-centric entertainment and art. Among the brightest are the New York Public Library’s Love and Resistance: Stonewall 50 exhibition; Leslie-Lohman Museum’s Art After Stonewall; the Guggenheim’s Robert Mapplethorpe photography exhibit; and NYC Opera’s Stonewall (The Opera). Official WorldPride events also include Family Movie Night on June 21 and OutCinema screenings. Upstate New York is luring musical-theater fans for the free “Sing Out, New York” music festival (in various locations, May 28–June 9); and the renowned Forestburgh Playhouse’s summer staging of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (July 30–August 11). 5. LGBTQ Local Fun There are staples of LGBTQ community and culture all over the Big Apple, in the Village and beyond. Don’t miss visits to The Center, Bluestockings Bookstore, the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the Alice Austen House, as well as legendary piano bars like Marie’s Crisis, Monster, The Duplex, and Townhouse. Of course, iconic (and innumerable) gay and lesbian bars are also well worth grabbing a tipple, from Stonewall Inn and Julius’, to Henrietta Hudson and Cubbyhole; plus the great outer-borough lounges like Ginger’s, Excelsior, Metropolitan, Albatross, Friend’s Tavern, and Harlem’s Alibi Lounge. For drag fans, don’t miss fabulous weekend drag brunches like the weekend shows at La Pulperia HK and Lips (both in Midtown), and the special June weekend shows heading to historic Oscar Wilde restaurant in NoMad. 6. Take a Pride Tour LGBTQ history runs deep in NYC, so consider a tour with the gay professor behind Oscar Wilde Tours, who explores different neighborhoods and queer art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both Walk About New York, and lesbian-owned Local Expeditions lead LGBTQ and other fascinating city tours (walking and biking) in a variety of neighborhoods. There also are a few specialty tours gearing up for June, like Madame Morbid’s Victorian trolley tours, with drag queen Miss Sinister Strawberry guiding guests through Brooklyn’s macabre side on June 20 and 27. Don’t miss the free self-guided tour options of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, where you can customize your preferred themes and neighborhoods with a downloadable map, and discover amazing queer history across all five boroughs. For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.
Lost Luggage: What You Need to Know
Is the threat of lost luggage putting a damper on your vacation plans? Given the extra fees and the uncertainty surrounding checking a bag, it's no surprise that many travelers prefer to go carry-on only whenever possible. But according to a new report on lost and missing baggage from LuggageHero, a network of luggage-storage sites around the world, there might not be as much cause for concern as we think. The company took a deep dive into seven years’ worth of mishandled baggage reports from the U.S. Department of Transportation and determined that on average, airlines are receiving 30 percent fewer lost-luggage complaints than they were in 2012, and 12 percent fewer than they were just last year. The Odds of Losing Your Bags Of course, the problem hasn't been completely eradicated. Though the report estimates that, statistically, just two or three out of every 1,000 travelers' bags will be lost or damaged throughout the year, LuggageHero predicts that some 676,000 suitcases will go missing or suffer damage during the busy summer travel season. Some Airlines Love Your Luggage More Than Others Historically speaking, regional carriers SkyWest, ExpressJet, and Envoy Air are the worst offenders. Among the bigger players, Delta has mishandled the least amount of luggage since 2012, followed closely by Frontier, Spirit, Hawaiian, and JetBlue. United, Alaska, and Southwest are running in the middle of the pack, but if you’re flying American, resist that gate-check tag—of the major airlines analyzed, this one gets the lowest marks. The Social Media Effect New for 2019, LuggageHero is now looking at social media—and Twitter, in particular—to examine how the general public interacts with these airlines online. Tweets are categorized by tone (positive, negative, and neutral) and ranked accordingly; to date, Delta has the most positive audience engagement, with American and United not far behind. Meanwhile, JetBlue receives the most disgruntled feedback, with a ratio of negative to positive tweets that's more than double what Delta records. The Best Time to Fly If you know you have to check a bag, try to avoid traveling during the peak summer months and around the holidays, when luggage is most often misplaced. But we know that's easier said than done, so if that doesn’t work with your plans, you'll need to brace for the worst-case scenario. Preparing for the Worst Before you go, check your travel insurance policy to see if lost or damaged luggage is covered. If your stuff is MIA when you land, be sure to file a report with the airline immediately, while you’re still at the airport. Don’t leave the premises until you have a copy for your personal records, and document, document, document—you’ll have to show proof of loss to get reimbursement from the DOT, so take pictures and save your correspondence with the airline. It's also never a bad idea to document everything you pack before you head to the airport. Be Your Own Advocate Obviously, you should get your money back for any fees paid to check a bag that goes missing, but you’ll probably have to advocate for a refund, as well as reimbursement for the costs of any essentials that were lost in the process. Luck, it's been said, favors the prepared.
24 Best-Ever Budget Travel Reader Tips
One of the things I love about working at Budget Travel is that nobody—and I mean nobody—has a more engaged, travel-savvy audience than BT. Our mission is to dispense the smartest travel advice around, and our readers often feel compelled to return the favor. Here, some of their best tips for saving money, time, and hassle on your next vacation. 1. Sip Affordable Airport Joe Coffee chains in airports sometimes charge twice what they do at home. And in-flight coffee is a dicey choice. So, I join the chains' rewards programs and save my free drink redemptions for my overpriced java at the airport. —Byron Flitsch, Los Angeles 2. Get Mexico's Best Exchange Rate When traveling in Mexico, I get the best exchange rates at the supermarket. All you have to do is buy a few groceries, pay in American dollars, and you will receive your change in pesos. On a recent trip I got more pesos for a dollar while most other places gave much less. —Sophie Pascard, Burlingame, Calif. 3. Save on a Cruise Spa (Ml12nan/Dreamstime) I've been on many cruises with various lines, and I've learned that the spas usually offer discounts on days when the ship is docked. So while one parent takes the kids on an excursion, the other can sign up for a massage! —Rhonda Grabov, Philadelphia, Pa. 4. Pssst! Learn a Family Stateroom Secret Families have trouble finding affordable staterooms that sleep more than four, and connecting rooms usually require you to book two rooms of the same category. Well, here's what we do: My husband and I stay in an ocean-view cabin, and our three kids are in a cabin across the hall. I bring a baby monitor that I bought at a garage sale and use it to listen to my kids' room. I can sleep knowing I'll be in their room the minute I hear a "Mom, I need you!" Plus, we get two bathrooms, extra closet space, and plenty of room to road. —Penny Laschanzky, Lincoln, Neb. 5. Get free Admission to Some of London's Historic Sites If you're heading to London and plan to spend time touring castles, it pays to become a member of the not-for-profit Historic Royal Palaces (hrp.org.uk). You'll get in free to five of the city's most impressive landmarks, including the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, and Kew Palace. Flash your card to bypass long lines and visit unlimited times within a year. —Tarryn Rivkin, San Jose, Calif. 6. Get free admission to 70 of Ireland's historic sites (Martin Mullen/Dreamstime) Admission to many of Ireland's historic sites can really add up. Buy the Heritage Card, good for unlimited admission for one year to more than 70 heritage sites across the country (including Dublin and Kilkenny castles). Buy them in advance at heritageireland.ie. —Nuala Banner, Westwood, Mass. 7. Eat Cheap in Italy If you're looking for a place to eat in Italy, check to see if the restaurant has a coperto, or cover charge. If you want only a light breakfast or lunch, skip the sit-down places, buy a pastry or a panini from a bakery, and picnic by a fountain or sightsee while you eat. —Blair Sechrest, Cary, N.C. 8. Save Euros and Skip the Lines at Florence's Top Museums Buy a Friends of the Uffizi Gallery pass before you go to Florence (florenceforfun.org). Membership is good for a year and covers the entry fee to the Uffizi and several other attractions, including the state museums of Florence, the Pitti Palace, the Medici Chapels, and more. The best part is that you get to skip ticket lines. —Mary Davis, New Port Richey, Fla. 9. Learn a Smart ATM Technique In France, ATMs sometimes distribute €50 notes, but many shopkeepers won't break them—especially when you're buying a €2 pastry. However, if you make sure your ATM withdrawals aren't divisible by 50, you'll get €20 notes. Fees add up, so you don't want to take out just €40 each time. Instead, request €130. Save the €50s for museum shops, which have no problem breaking large bills. —Shelby Foster, Fremont, Calif. 10. Avoid Airline Baggage Fees by Mailing Your Stuff Ahead of Time Now that most airlines charge a fee to check even one bag, we pack a box with our bulkiest items and send it to our destination a week before our trip. If the box is going to a hotel or a time-share, we attach a note asking the front desk to hold it for us until we arrive. —Jane Scott, Beverly, Mass. 11. Find Theme Park Discounts at Costco If you're a member, check Costco's website for discount tickets to theme parks. You'll find more park options on the Web than in your local store. Have the tickets mailed to your house—just be sure to allow at least a week for them to arrive. —Kati Knudsen, Lake Oswego, Ore. 12. Get Free D.C. Tours If you're planning tp spend time in Washington, D.C., always write in advance to your state's congressional representatives, requesting passes to attend sessions of Congress, and even discounted tour tickets. —J. Morrill, Alexandria, Va. 13. Find Out Where the Dollar Is Worth the Most If you want to find out where the U.S. dollar goes the furthest, go to the Office of Allowances page of the U.S. Department of State website (aoprals.state.gov). Click on the Foreign Per Diem Rates link. The site lists the daily travel expenses allowed for U.S. government civilians who travel overseas. The expenses are in dollars (they represent the maximum amount government civilians will be reimbursed per day), are updated monthly, and include hotels, meals, and incidentals in more than 1,000 locations around the world. —Barbara Zalot, Rocky Hill, Conn. 14. Enroll Your Kids in a Frequent Flier Program You're never too young to be a frequent flier. Register your kids with the airline's loyalty program when you pay for their first airfare. But not that many mileage programs will erase your miles if the account is inactive for 18 months; before that happens, donate the miles to a charity at miledonor.com —Laura Hunt, Chicago, Ill. 15. Save on Rental Cars If you Google "rental-car discount codes," you'll find a number of websites offering consolidated lists of these codes. You just may discover you're eligible for a load of reductions. —Lawrence Spinetta, Poquoson, Va. 16. Beat the High Cost of Highway Food When you're exploring the United States, you can avoid busting your road trip budget! Deli counters in grocery stores are great mealtime alternatives to restaurants and fast-food fare. The food is fresh, there's a good variety (hot and cold), and economically it's a great break. I've bought a complete hot meal, including beverage, for a few dollars from a local deli. —Teresa G. Barcus, St. Paul, Minn. 17. Keep Restaurant Coupons in Your Car I clip restaurant-chain coupons and store them in the glove compartment. On car trips, when my family and I eat most of our meals on the road, we enjoy the discounts. —Rebecca Ayala, Houston, Tex. 18. Rent From an Off-Airport Car Company When you rent a car at an airport, you often have to pay extra taxes and fees. Instead, rent from a location away from the airport and have the rental company pick you up (many offer this service for free). We once saved more than $50. —Diane Ketcham, Naples, Fla. 19. Get a Gas Station Charge Card Get a credit card from a company with gas stations nationwide. Many offer a percentage rebate, a gift card, or a certain percent off for an introductory period. —Amy Sutton, Farmdale, Ohio 20. Rent a House Instead of a Hotel Room For us, the ideal way to take a family vacation is to rent a house or condo. We've done it several times in Maine as well as in England. Cost-wise it works out to be less than a hotel, and you get space to run around, plus a kitchen, so you can have breakfast in your pajamas and actually relax. —Sara A. Ward, Fairfax, Va. 21. Get the Most Out of Resort Day Passes Even if you're staying at a standard resort hotel, take advantage of the day passes sold by many all-inclusive resorts. The passes—which give visitors access to the facilities, such as restaurants, swimming pools, and beach chairs—are primarily designed for cruise passengers on day trips, but anyone can obtain them. —Mandy Vieregg, Waco, Tex. 22. Get a Last-Minute Deal on a Condo Booking condos last minute can yield incredible bargains. ("Last minute" generally means a month or less before your stay.) Here's the best strategy: Buy your plane ticket and book a refundable hotel room you can use in case you can't find that bargain condo. Then, a month or so before your trip, start looking for a last-minute condo rental. If you find a deal, simply get a refund on the hotel room and pay the cancellation fee, if there is one. Using this technique, I found a great beachfront one-bedroom condo on Maui for hundreds less than my first booking. —Joan Chyun, Irvine, Calif. 23. Get a Multi-City Museum Membership If your travels take you to American cities large enough to have museums, zoos, or botanical gardens, consider buying a membership in your home city's counterpart. Many have reciprocal privileges with institutions elsewhere. A membership at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, for example gains entry to zoos in Los Angeles, Des Moines, and Jackson, Miss., all at no charge. —Alice M. Solovy, Skokie, Ill. 24. Give Your kids a Travel Allowance To avoid the "Can I have…?" questions, set a trip allowance and stick to it. Upon arriving, we give our kids their souvenir money for the whole trip, and it's up to them to spend it wisely. —Nadine MacLane, Seattle, Wash.